Observable rules in TSF design

Now that we’ve established that I suck at writing jokes, or that I shouldn’t write inside jokes, let’s move a bit more on the mecha design thing we have going on. Oh and /ic/, the anon who linked this post in your thread didn’t write any of this. You should call him out on his bullshit.

The distinction between Super Robot and Real Robots is wonky to say the least. There are mechas that are more or less clear examples of both, like Mazinger Z being a Super Robot just as the show’s opening lyrics say, and then we have Votoms that is pretty damn realistic in portraying Scopedogs on their given role and environment. The further we go in time after the 60’s, we see more and more shows that break this kind of distinction. For example, I can’t categorise Balatack into either category as its showcases both sides of the argument. That’s why some people use the Hybrid nomenclature to describe mechas that are waver between the two. Full Metal Panic is a generic and good example of this.

From design point of view these don’t really fit. The thing you’re designing is automatically something fantastic, something over there with its form and function, that it doesn’t really matter whether or not its Super or Real. What matters is how the mecha is designed in the description before its put into shape. That’s where designers start thinking how to adapt the description properly; how to approach the mecha.

Super and Real are more a product of how the mecha is seen rather than designed. The mental image of something Super most likely brings out very fantastic, very over-the-top robots that pose, have fist fights with flying punches  and other more or less unconventional weapons. Real follows more or less what a real world soldier would do in a battle situation, but with added support from the fact that it’s a damn  mechanised battle unit. Then again, many shows break these limits, so perhaps careful use of these terms is in place. However, whether or not the mecha is Super or not depends a lot on the setting its in. GaoGaiGar in this sense could be regarded as sort of realistic because of alien technology involved, but then again its a giant robot with a lion head on its chest and uses a giant toy hammer powered by black holes to turn weekly bad guys into light. I’m sure at some point technology manages to produce something that turns matter into a stream of light due to impact, but at the moment that’s a bit overdoing it. Its not what you’d call realistic. [Editor;Maybe someone was having a wet daydream.]

âge has approached the Tactical Surface Fighters in their franchise from the Utilitarian point of view. To boot Kouki & co. decided to take the existing planes and turn then into robots. There are some observable general rules in designing a TSF that I’m going to go over now, but first let’s discuss why they’re all so similar looking.

It would be too bad if somebody would chomp on these...
It would be too bad if somebody would chomp on these…
Nothing new on the western front
Nothing new on the western front

As you can see, a vast majority of these share more or less the exact same body type. The proportions and measures are shared across the board, and some units visibly share same design elements. Those who aren’t really into Muv-Luv will most likely think these are due to laziness and lack of interest to develop larger variety of units. From the design point of view, which has split opinions, is that all TSFs descent from the F-4 Phantom in the upper left corner. F-5 Freedom Fighter was developed in conjunction with F-4, so we see their elements often repeated and further developed in later models, much in real life planes they’re based on. Actually, here’s the tech tree for all TSFs I scanned a while back.

This chart is sort of outdated by now, but its still valid
This chart is sort of outdated by now, but its still valid

The advantage, and the problem, in designing a new TSF is that you have something tangible to base your design on, but on the other hand you’re tied down on using existing TSF template and basically add the plane’s elements in there so that it gives the desired design. This is perhaps one of the best way to design a TSF anyway, because it will keep the core idea intact and still allows the designer to give his own twist in there if necessary. Then again, you have units like Takemikazuchi that  are not based on any real plane, but are more a reference to pre-existing franchises.

Because of the rules and approach in TSF design we can observe some rules that the designers have followed. This does not appear in all TSFs, so we can say that different designers take more liberties than others. While these bits repeat in the designs, they are just observations.

Nose cone; TSFs often have the nose cone in the skirt armour of the plane they’re based on. The early units do not seem to have this element, thou from MiG-23 onward these groin noses are notable in amount.

Cockpit; Some of the TSFs exhibit general design lines of the planes’ cockpits in their head designs. For example, TF-14 Tomcat’s head has lines taken from the cockpit and adapted into the head. F-15 follows the idea. Even F-5 has certain sharpness similar to the real life F-5.

Intakes; Intakes in general in TSFs’ torso are more or less directly taken from the planes. That smile on F-16’s torso is unmistakeable. You can also spot intakes on atop the legs of the TSFs, and these intakes also follow the already laid out general line language.

Shoulders; The shoulders of the TSFs in general follow either the back or the overall fusalage of the plane, with addition of wings (SU-47) or the engine nozzles (F-14EX). As such, the shoulder often are portrayed in a manner that compensates the selected element, making them either rather bulky or somewhat sleek.

Jump Units; the Jump Units on the TSFs are most often just the real life plane condensed and remodelled. It’s a further nod to the real life plane, to the extent that Berkut’s Jump Unit has those forward swept wings and tailbooms of uneven length.

The rest of the TSF in general follows the policy laid out by the plane and the overall visage of the line its put in. Arms and legs usually seem to be designed to compensate the rest of the units, whereas the torso mainly takes the basic shape of the place and then does its own thing. Russian TSFs are very clear on this, as the torso is designed to convey their fast & fury nature, finally realized in the Su-47 Berkut and its knife dance.

The overall evolution of the Tactical Surface Fighters in this way mirrors the real life planes, where we go from flying steel coffins into sleeker and more dynamic looking units. Now, all of these are apparent observations, and for further study we need the TSF and the plane it’s based on side by side. That way we can see what lines from the plane have been put into use for the TSF.

One problem with TSFs is that they’re really multipurpose machines outside few exceptions, namely A-10 Thunderbolt II and A-6 Intruder. They can be outfitted various weapon settings according to their role, but the overall role of the TSF in-universe is BETA clean-up. Generally speaking, the artillery first bombards the battlefield with their cannons and covers it with a heavy metal cloud. Then, the TSFs set in with guns blazing, swords drawn in order to slay all the Laser- and Heavy-Laser class BETA. Then the airforce flies in and bombs the ever[-]living shit out of them. That is unless BETA have managed a way to combine Fort-Class with an upgraded Laser-Class…

I need more whiskey
I need more whiskey

On another hand, I don’t know how many of the planes used in TSFs are multirole. That’s something I need to read and make some research on. Nevertheless, it’s debatable if the role of the TSFs reflects or equals the role of the fighter planes. I’m not sure it’s underhanded from me if I say that the comparison can’t be made directly because of the difference in paradigm TSFs and planes work under. TSFs main role is to fight BETA, but it’s recognized that F-22A is more suited on TSF vs TSF dogfighting, which just tells that even in Alt-verse, humans are dicks.

One distinction needs to be made; Hive infiltration. This is perhaps the main role TSFs will play in-universe, and it’s a damn big role.

I admit again that because of my lack of knowledge on real life fighters, the discussion on TSFs and their inherent roles in-universe is lacking. I have an intention to read on a selection of fighters, which would be used in future posts where I would compare and contrast the design elements of real life fighters and their TSF counterparts. This discussion would still be more adhered to the the looks, the outward design, of the TSFs than on anything else, but the research would me to further understand why such certain decisions in the design has been made. For example, the uneven tailbooms on the Berkut’s Jump Units. There’s a lot of little details like this that might have a rational reasoning behind them.

Now if you have a favourite TSF you’d like to see discussed, do drop a comment.

I understand why some claim that all TSFs look the same, because that’s kind of the point of them. Then again, the same goes for the planes. Not all people know fighter jets inside out either, and those fighters tend to look the same unless they have a lot of gap in the technology. It’s up to everybody’s opinion whether or not they like the philosophy behind the TSFs. I admit that I didn’t really give a damn about TSFs themselves, but after seeing them in action and further learning on their intricacies and details made me appreciate them. Hell, the first time I saw Takemikazuchi in the VN during Unlimited I got a bit giddy. Before you see one in action, you see how some of the less advanced units work and perform. Then, you see F-22A Raptor and Type-00R Takemikazuchi in action and things just get awesome.

Nevertheless, overall the core idea of TSF design has managed to produce some more or less unique designs. Whatever the opinion you may have on them, it can be disputed that the designers have managed design the mechas as intended. I’m sure that all the upcoming TSFs will adhere to the same rules as their predecessors, unless âge decides to revamp the core model TSF for some reason.

One thought on “Observable rules in TSF design

  1. This writeup basically hit the core of why I was crestfallen upon seeing the Shiranui Second Phase 3.

    Subtle differences are the core of TSF frames, but the Phase 3 is basically the Black Widow 2 with some bits tacked on. About the only new things apart from the head are the shoulder vanes resembling those of the Berkut’s, and the hip blocks which look like those of the F-14’s.

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