A Brief Look At: Mecha in Manga and Anime
We see mecha in anime and manga all the time. They are bigger, smaller, have different purposes and builds. In particular we see the armor based mecha, which is basically a power suit that any character can get into.
There is also the incredibly large ones we see more so in anime. Mecha comes in many different shapes and sizes but they all arguably have limbs on them. They’ll also have machine like things such as wings, wheels, and treads.
The mecha seen in anime and manga are vehicles which are controlled from an onboard cockpit by either one person or a group of people. Remember Power Rangers? They had single cockpits and a larger one. There are also mecha who are controlled from the outside via voice commands, motion controls, and other ways.
There are even mecha who are a military base on wheels such as the ones seen in the anime and video game God Eater. The crews are obviously numerous, having dozens maybe even hundreds of people on them.
So what about the dividing line between the idea of a robot and mecha? Well the line between the two is very blurred. It can be argued that this is also part of the use of mecha as it takes a look at the blurred lines of what is controlled by humans and what starts pushing the boundaries of sapient and living.
But you can look at mecha as usually being far bigger than their robot counterparts. Robots are usually human sized (give or take a little smaller or taller) and mecha tend to bigger than life.
Mecha as a term comes from the English word “mechanism,” and it’s seen by many to be a term that’s of Japanese origin. For Japanese culture, their mecha tend to be more humanoid, larger than life, and generally just…LARGE. They’ll wield handheld weapons from giant swords, bows, and other iconic weapons. There have even been moments in mecha narratives that mecha have been argued to have a soul, or something unexplainable that ignites their existence into action.
They tend to be linked to their owner or linked to the most recent person in their bloodline, being activated once something drastic happens. Maybe their person is in trouble, or the world is ending. They resemble a human soldier in a lot of ways. Some of them are also associated with ancient civilizations, and are responsible for being the reason why the good guys are able to get leverage against the unknown threat coming out into their world.
The symbolism for mecha is broad and we invite fans to consider what they love about them and decide what they mean to them personally. Some scholars have considered mecha to be commentary on the relationship of humans to technology. Sometimes it’s one of harmony, but in other narratives it is one of chaos.
Mecha tend to be humanity’s desire to reach godhood, by making something that’s literally bigger than us.