Monday, October 3, 2016

Mecha Design Preferences and Peeves

We all love looking at models on the web ( i'm talking about plamo here not victoria's secret) You scroll through your timeline and when you see a build that blows your mind, you Like it, Share it, or even save it for future inspiration. But sometimes you come across a project that, despite all the great feedback it's getting from the community, or how well built or painted it is - just doesn't do anything for you. It's not that you don't appreciate the work or recognize the ability of the builder - it's something about the look or maybe even the pose of the kit that simply doesn't get your mecha mojo going. I'm talking about design preferences - elements of a model that give you a proverbial mecha boner, and peeves - things that annoy the be-jeezus-yamato out of you.

Click on the Read More link for the rest of this post....

Like every other plamo nerd, I keep a mecha-pron folder on my laptop where I've been accumulating pictures of builds and artwork that I might one day use for reference ( know, like that 'other' folder you have..) Anyhow a few days ago I had some time to go over the pics and I was surprised to find that about half of them no longer appealed to me. It's as if my tastes in mecha have evolved over the years. The half I didn't care for anymore, about 2 gigs in size, was promptly sent to the recycle bin without a hint of remorse. Indulge me a moment as I go over some of the elements that led to said 2 gigs getting the axe. Firing the shade-thrower in 3..2..1...

The One-Mecha Army

I admit it. I once thought these hulking, armed to the teeth monstrosities were the epitome of customization. There are a few that I think still look damn good, but now I believe it takes some serious finesse to slap on thirty guns on a model and make it cohesive. I like the cohesive ones, it's the clusterfucks  (as the modeling community lovingly refers to them) that make you want to ask the builder, "wtf were you thinking when you designed this?". Maybe some insight into the backstory of the build might help it's case, or at least some insight into what the artist was smoking when he built it.

Mounted Mecha

I get the whole fantasy-meets-mecha thing. I get it. My own Tallgeese Templar rocks a fur collared cape, and it took a lot of flak for it's macklemore-ish ways. Still, if you really think about it, there's something about an 18-meter tall humanoid machine riding, literally riding, an equally large mechanical horse - a metal crotch scrapping and bouncing on a metal saddle, sending shockwaves throughout the chassis of the mech with every trot. Why make a machine mount another machine? why not just make the first machine run faster or jump higher instead of having a 2nd machine? Which brings me to my next point...


I think these builds took the "why make a mecha ride a horse?" argument too literally. Centaurs are nice if they're regular human/horse size, but in gundam scale I don't know. In what battlefield setting would a huge horse-legged machine be more effective than just a humanoid or full animal design (like a zoid)?

I guess in a pinch it could jettison the hind legs and horse-ass to throw off the opponent?  If those legs were more spider-like I could at least imagine it having better maneuverability. I've got to hand it to the builders though, frame and proportion alterations are some of the most difficult mods to pull off.


Same argument as centaurs. If they were human size, they can definitely provide an advantage in battle. If the builder's backstory insists it exists in the gundam universe and scale, then I'd love to know what road them giant-ass tires were meant to roll on. In a reality of minovsky particles, GN particles and so on, I can't see wheels being more efficient than plain thrusters in any situation.


I love the gundam wing series. It was my introduction to gundam many many years ago. My least favorite suit was the Wing Custom. Heero may have been the most badass pilot of all time, with enough balls to blow off a hot chick whilst rocking a green tank top and cycling shorts - but he drove a machine that had FEATHERS. On giant mechanical wings that flapped when it flew. IN OUTER SPACE. Sometimes a few of those feathers fell off for dramatic effect.

I can imagine an alternate ending where a forlorn Relena stands on a cliff, foamy waves crashing into it down below, sending up a mist of glittering sea spray. She's watching Heero fly off in the Wing Custom, majestically beating it's wings like a phoenix reborn or Quetzalcoatl himself. "Just wild beat, communi-ca-i-tion!" kicks in.
"Baka.." she whispers, clenching her fists..."BAKA!" she screams at the silhouette of his mobile suit fading into the sunset as a single tear rolls down her soft cheek....when out of nowhere a giant wayward feather smacks her off her feet and sends her head first into the jagged rocks below, like a scene out of Final Destination.      Real smooth Heero.
(note to self: possible diorama idea)

Wired weapons

I understand that in a universe where gundams exist, it isn't far fetched to have the ultimate anti-wire tangling technology. But I just couldn't grasp how wires deployed in the blackness of outer space are not getting caught in anything in the midst of a skirmish.  I get that these types of weapons might need to draw power from the main suit, hence the cables, but there are so many ways they can end up being a liability in battle. They're just too Urotsukidoji for my tastes.

Weapons with sights

Many gundam weapons have sights.
None of them make sense.
It can be argued that they are actually targeting systems mounted on the weapon itself made to look like long range scopes. In that case the mobile suit has no business trying to peer down into it with it's "eye", which is already an optics system in itself. Sniper type kits are notorious for doing the "aiming" pose. I agree it looks bad ass, the kit earns points in articulation for the ability to do this pose, but I imagine it's more for containing the recoil of the weapon than actually trying to line up the perfect shot.

And don't get me started on the trigger. How is it that Psycommu weapons exist and yet this GM has to use it's finger to mechanically pull a trigger? I guess mobile suits don't come equipped with WiFi or Bluetooth.

Bozanian beast fighters

Strange mobile armor designs like the Zakrello, the Big Zam, even the Z'Gok, remind me too much of those Beast Fighters that Voltes V made quick work of. They have a certain retro charm to them, and the designs sometimes make more sense than humanoid gundams. They'd have to be done to utter perfection for me to even save them in my mecha-pron folder. I just don't like them in general.


Call it gundam sacrilege, but I don't care for v-fins all that much. Are they hood ornaments? They're certainly not military insignia or a symbol of rank, as even the lowly ensign can pilot something with a v-fin. Are they designed to make opponents gasp "It..It's a gundam!" and run away in fear? In that case why not slap a v-fin on every GM? Are they antennae? Who knows. All I know is they're a major pain to sharpen up to make em look good without breaking the damn thing a few times, and some kits are better off without them.


Plamo designed to look like a superhero. Cutesy Bearguy colorways are an exception because they're genuinely just trying to be cute. Hulkbuster or Ironman versions also make the cut because they still count as mecha, but in Captain America colors? Hulk colors? Thor colors complete with skin tone arms?! Backstory: Tony Stark built suits for the rest of the avengers, because he thought their powers were mediocre compared to his tech, which eventually culminated into another Civil War.

Weathered instead

Instead of cleaning up nubs, I weathered this instead. (facepalm)
A lot of modelers share their WIPs online, and if you follow them close enough you get a good idea of what they're trying to do. When a modeler says "I was going to go do this and that, but I messed up the paint so I just weathered it instead...", I cringe. I used to do the same thing, and I've never fully forgiven myself for it. If you have a solid concept, don't do a full U-turn because of something as simple as scuffed or rough paint. Your model might look good all weathered in the end, but deep down inside if you know it wasn't meant to be, it might haunt you forever.


The Superbuilds series of posts should sum up what survived my mecha-pron purge. Check them out in the links below:

Superbuilds I
Superbuilds II
Superbuilds III

All that being said, we are talking about models of things that exist in a Sci-Fi universe, so we can't really expect everything to play by the rules of real-world physics and logic. We're into mecha because it looks awesome, not because it makes sense.

There's nothing wrong in not liking something everyone else seems to love, nor is it your fault for building something that the plamo masses don't appreciate. One of the best things about the mecha modeling hobby is that you don't have to conform to a strict set of rules when it comes to design. Don't ever feel sorry or disappointed in yourself if your work receives negative feedback because people think your concept was whack. Your design is unique - a precious product of pure imagination. Just make sure you bring that idea to life without compromising on the basics. Mecha modeling is a subset of scale modeling after all, and the same basic techniques should still be applied if you expect good results.

Note: Don't take this post so seriously, I'm just trying to lighten up the mood as the blog has been getting too serious as of late. I'm not saying the designs listed here aren't's just that I don't like them for one reason or another as explained above. If your work falls into one or more of those categories, don't feel bad. I'm not the authority on plamo design, and this isn't the litmus test for mecha concept by any means. It is simply one lowly modeler's list of likes and dislikes. You're very welcome to drop by the blog and laugh at my stuff as well. You can start with the Tallgeese Templar:

Feel free to share your own preferences and peeves in the comments section below!
Until next time, keep building plamo!

(pics borrowed from google images)


  1. LOL agreed V-fins are glorified hood ornaments but they're still cool for no reason.

    1. the V symbol seems like a big thing in Japan, you see it in lots of anime and super sentai stuff. We may need the help of Robert Langdon to decipher its true origin and meaning lol.