Ye Not Guilty: Giant Fighting Robots & Diesel?
My previous post dug around the video-game realm, and in it, I tried to suggest that despite not nailing the aesthetic in the same way that games like Bioshock and the Wolfenstein series do, Final Fantasy VII had skirted the line into Dieselpunk with its depictions of technology and military power.[incidentally, for those of you interested in Bioshock or Wolfenstein, the Gatehouse discusses them both briefly but effectively here.]
Because I find myself so drawn to Dieselpunk as a result of its particular visual nature – something I think comes through very clearly in my posts thus far – I have some time discussing subjects which I believe help to flesh out that nature. Today, I am going to make an attempt at the same argument, but in a new medium.
The medium is Anime. The subject is the Big-O. And I would suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t begin properly: ‘It’s Showtime.’
The world of the Big-O steeped in homages to Noir and pulp fiction. The protagonist, Roger Smith, is a Negotiator – a man tasked with solving problems, and a man with a firm professional code. This calls to mind some of the best detective fiction of the depression era. The dark colors, extensive use of shadows and mind bending camera angles throughout the series only help to hammer home the idea that this is a world of secrets and subterfuge.
And massively over-sized fighting Mecha. The Big-O, though visually paying Homage to hard-boiled crime Noir and pulp-action, also featured the ubiquitous Japanese fighting robot. However, it’s really the design of these machines that catches my attention – unlike the technology of Gundam, or Evangelion , the machines of the Big-O, dubbed ‘Megadeuses’ were generally speaking, slow, lumbering monstrosities. They (by and large) utilized actual ammunition, and the primary weapon of the series main Megadeus, the Big-O himself, was a massive set of pistons located in its arms.
From my perspective, this conforms to a Dieselpunk aesthetic by displaying both the unbridled expansion of technology (of the giant robot variety) while at the same time, reigning in the design-work to really focus on the implications of a weapon of this size. By doing so, the Megadeuses come to approximate a type of Diesel setting of the future – where tremendously powerful technology has been created using relatively inelegant methods and tools. After recently re-watching several episodes, I have little trouble picturing a Megadeus striding through German-territory, supported by legions of foot-soldiers and technicians tasked with keeping the giant moving forward.
Another great aspect of The series are the costumes of the human characters. Many of the designs seem to pay direct tribute to the style of the 30’s and 40’s. From the more subdued (and appropriately dashing) Roger Smith, to the trench-coat wearing villain Shwarzwald; even the one-off characters and vehicles have a certain period appeal.
As with many Dieselpunk-esque material, The Big-O can sometimes very well off the path of the genres to which it pays tribute, but that may simply be part of the fun.
All in all, The Big-O provides an excellent launching point into the realm of Noir and Pulp action, and certainly possess a visual quality that cannot help but cause one to think of a Diesel-world. I certainly recommend giving it a look. As we in the community continue to absorb and create imagery and themes, new perspectives may always be welcome to add to our own personal conceptions and styles, and the Big-O has style to spare.