As everyone can guess from the content being produced for this month and the name of this blog, you may get the impression that I love mecha series. And yes, yes I do. I love everything about giant, humanoid robots. I love seeing the angsty pilots learning how to cope with themselves and their situations as they pilot them. I love seeing them fly in space firing laser beams and having laser sword fights against other mechs in cool bouts of combat. Also, seeing these sky scrapper sized robots on land fighting it out and sometimes taking the skies by jumping or flying on giant sleds is amazing.
Here is the truth though, giant robots aren’t realistic at all. Super robots are obviously unrealistic because they can break the rules of thermodynamics whenever they want to. To be honest, real robots aren’t much better. They might have technological and performance stats and everything, but those are b.s. stats that barely make any sense at all from a real world perspective. Let’s break down why. Believe me, writing this post hurt me on some levels that I don’t want to talk about, but I think this still something interesting to discuss.
(I feel like this is the part where I can say things like “I have a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineer and Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, believe everything that I say” stuff. I guess that would be enough authority to say how unrealistic giant, humanoid things are, but I don’t think that’s fair. I did some research in order to get the points I wanted to get out about everything in some logical manner.)
Industry and Weight
As a lot of scientists have figured out, there is a certain rule in nature when it comes to sizes of animals. It’s called the size square-cube law. A creature that is x times the size of you requires all of their body attributes to be x times of any reference creature while other attributes are cubed or x^3 the value. Body length and height are proportional to size differences, so say ten times, but the weight and other attributes like the weight and volume of the body in question are 1,000 times the size of the reference creature in question. You get where this is going right? The bigger a creature is and the more it weighs, the more limitations are placed on an animal body for it to even exist. And you may ask yourself how this connects to technology. I’m pretty sure technology works in a similar way. A small robot vacuum takes up a smaller economic square then any moving vehicle for example. A car has a lot more moving parts, moves faster, is a lot heavier, and requires a lot more engineering to design and put together, and requires a lot more industrial capital to produce. So think about busy and more complicated it gets with the leap from vehicles to giant robots.
Can you imagine the sort of infrastructure it would take to produce entire military forces of giant robots? I am not talking about gundams, because those are usually experimental units, but standard, grunt mechs? Those are still as tall as buildings and possibly, sky scrappers. Think about all the resources that it would take to engineer, put together, and operate a giant robot. In my head, I keep thinking about how long it takes and all the materials it takes to continually build skyscrapers. That is about the level of consistent construction that is necessary to build a workable army of robots. I mean, these things are being produced after all. That’s an awful lot of money, resources, man power, capital, and who knows what else just to put together skyscrapper robots that have nothing to fight for now.
So lets say that with the technological level that humanity is right now, we are able to produce these robots on a solid enough level to mass produce sky scrapper sized robots. All of them would be too slow to combat anything besides other giant robots and buildings anyway. These giant robots would be too heavy to move the way they do in gundam, Pacific Rim, or other mecha shows and movies. The square-cubed law is in place when it comes to these giant robots as well. Just walking forward would be too slow and too ineffective for the mech to be useful for land purposes. Not to mention what it would take to get the robot to jump in the air or fly. Who knows how many gallons of jet fuel or rocket fuel it would take to make this multi ton monstrosity to fly. Man, why would people these? They sound like hugely uneconomical death traps.
Simple Body Functions
So, can we talk about how walking is complicated to replicate? Even more complicated to replicate from creatures that walk using only two legs? Think about the amount of bones, muscles, cartilage, and other things that are in human legs? It’s a complicated system with very precise placements and movements. There is a reason why damaging legs can be so easy. The human body is fragile after all and the human walking motion is so unique and varied from almost every creature on this Earth. With all that in considering, let’s talk about how scientists and engineers still haven’t been able to make robots walk like we do yet. There is Honda’s Asimo and other robots that have been able to walk, but they still don’t work in the same way we do or can walk anywhere near as efficiently as we can. Try making a giant robot walk. Yeah, that’s kind of impossible right now. All the complications of making a small robot walk are only magnified when they are skyscraper sized.
At the same time, why do giant robots need hands? In Gundam and other mecha series, they hold weapons like beam sabers, other hand held giant weaponry, giant guns. Not exactly the most efficient way for a giant robot to have weaponry because you are relying on complicated robot hands to hold other pieces of machinery. What’s wrong with giant robots just having weapons as arms instead? It takes slightly little less engineering skill to do and is more solid engineering design because there are less weak points. Of course, why not just have a lot of weapons lodged into the body instead? All definitely anti mecha things that are more in the realm of western robots.
All in all the humanoid robot form is terrible for any sort of mode of transportation and war. Even smaller ones that have wheels on their feet, because what’s the point of having a humanoid giant robot when you drive it like a normal car? Besides, having wheels pop out of robot feet wouldn’t make sense because they are smaller and can’t probably can’t handle the weight as much as bigger wheels do. There is a reason why things like vehicles tanks, airplanes, and ships are used in military and civilian applications instead of humanoid robots. They use they are much better easy to engineer and much more efficient method of travel and fighting them what a giant robot, which would be a huge target for these other things, can do.
Even if bodies that fly in space don’t have to face aerodynamic problems thanks to wind and other fluids on a planet’s atmosphere, why would you want to fly around in space piloting a giant, humanoid robot? Without even talking about the complicated matter of using arms to aim and fire weapons at other objects in space, a humanoid shape still isn’t the most efficient design to put thrusters on. A giant mecha would need such strange amount of tiny stabilizing thrusters just to keep it’s movements linear enough to pilot. Where would you put all the weapons? An airplane design in space still has a much more efficient design with how it flies in space and how to aim weaponry. Humanoid designs in space or anywhere else just don’t make any sense at all.
So once again, Mecha are just made out of the rule of cool. The only reason why the are in anime in the first place are because the creators of those anime wanted to make them better, stronger, and faster then everywhere else out there. How else would they be able to sell to you how awesome giant robots are? Rule of cool is a good reason to do anything and I am glad that these giant robots exist in some form. Even if they are fictional Seeing these insanely crazy designs with so many cool abilities is just another reason to these watch science fiction and war stories. (Or fantasy if you want to go the Escaflowne and Broken Blade routes).
To me, they speak a little more to my imagination then just spaceships. I’m pretty sure that must have been the same reason why so many people like Hideako Anno and such wanted to create their own mech and space shows. Besides, it’s not like everything in fiction needs to be realistic anyway. It’s fiction. Do people fly around and fire laser beams in real life? Not as far as we know. Giant Robots don’t need a reason to exist in fiction, they just do and that is absolutely fine. More then fine, I love them! Finally I can stop crushing my own heart with this post. Mecha March continues on Friday with a review of Giant Gorg.
(I’m going to be honest, I kind of bsed a lot of this, haha, but it was fun!)