Artificial Intelligence in Muv-Luv

I feel this post needs some prefacing. The topic of artificial intelligence is well discussed across all media in all possible forms. The subject’s rather dry if you want to get technical with it, rather than just touch the surface with throwaway philosophical concepts. As a topic it’s part mathematics and part economics, as AI requires both strong scientific and engineering to succeed, but these two require running budgets and political decisions to be feasible. There has been a few AI winters, where the interest had become extremely low due to lack of progress. In truth, we have multiple functioning AI in our current era, ranging from dedicated chess computers to whatever Google’s cooking up. The AI science fiction often employs and what most people seem to regard as the end-product of AI is a machine intelligence superior to human, a super intelligence. That might be one world, but I’d rather not have the spellcheck to shit on me every time I type it. AI research is still ongoing, though it would seem that most prominent research is directed at tool AI rather than general intelligence. It is hard to predict when superhuman intelligence will come to existence, but depending in what form it’ll be in, it might be the last invention mankind needs to make for obvious reasons.

This post will concentrate on discussing three different AI in Muv-Luv franchise, all three which are distinctly separate from each other. There are more in the background we’re never told about, but clearly exist. I will also go the unconventional route and disregard some of the depictions in the narrative in favour of larger discussion, and touch on this wherever relevant, e.g. how TSF AI autopilot should be more autodrone-like rather than weak AI autopilot it has. To spoil some of the latter discussion, how AI is treated in the setting is rather generic and follows SF conventions very closely to the point of not really adding anything new to it. At the same time, how AI is presented in BETAverse setting, a term I use for the world that Unlimited, Alternative and most of the spin-off take place in, is rather unconvincing and even unrealistic on closer look, even when you take into account that the main weapon used again the BETA are giant robots piloted by people in high-tech latex suits. I’m no professional in Artificial Intelligence or the like, so consider this post as musings of a fan.

This post also assumed that you are at least familiar with the overall concepts and world of Muv-Luv, as I will not offer any expanding explanations on topics like Moorcock-Lechte Drive. Sources used for this post are the VNs themselves, as well as The Codex, hence Superordinate replacing the nomenclature for Superior.


Tactical Surface Fighter learning computer, a rudimentary seed AI?

A problem with fiction and AI is that it has coloured the whole concept. The aforementioned chess computer is perfect example of something that was thought to be incredibly hard to attain, simply because it was thought that beating a chess master required to have some sort of nebulous part of humanity with it. When Deep Blue, the successor of Deep Thought chess-computer, beat the chess master Garry Kasparov in 1997, it was deemed a pinnacle of AI, but relatively soon after Deep Blue was considered only a sophisticated piece of hardware dedicated on one task only. It would seem that once intended AI functions as originally intended, the goalpost moves automatically and previous breakthroughs are merely results of clever programming. Kasparov’s loss at the hands of Deep Blue has been downplayed for years, citing Kasparov having unsightly bad play on his part or generally downplaying the value of chess as a game as a measure of human intelligence, something that had been culturally significant part across the globe for at least few centuries already. The same of course can be attributed to the Chinese game of Go, where Google’s AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, the 18-time world champion, in 2016. Deep Blue was, and still is, a rather weak artificial intelligence, intended for a single task. We’ve yet to achieve any level of general or super intelligence to compare to. However, it would appear that even weak artificial intelligence bests mankind at our own games.

The AI in TSFs is a sort of learning computer, a tool approached weak AI that’s intended to both assist the pilot as well as take take control whenever necessary. Just like Deep Blue, it is not a general intelligence capable of making aware decisions. It is an input/output AI through and though. Pilots are required to train and drill movements and patters to a memory unit within the Fortified Pilot Suit, which this pilot data can be transfers from TSF to TSF with the pilot. This would lead the AI to react to events and situations as indicated by the data, seemingly allowing the TSF to predict the pilot’s actions based on the thought interface based on the changes in the pilots thought pattern and muscle voltage. However, by default this would lead into each pilot data being usable only for certain TSFs with comparable performance and weapon layouts. and mixing data from e.g. F-4 to Phantom to F-16 Fighting Falcon should produce incompatibilities. This would mean the pilots would have to drill new pilot data in the simulators, or at least refine existing pilot data, for newer generation machines rather than directly jumping into them. The pilot data seems to be gathered relatively fast due to the thought control interface the TSFs utilise for faster man-machine interface. It should also be noted that TSF itself accumulates pilot data, meaning a new pilot needs to override the machine’s existing patterns with his own, or is newly rolled out, the pilot will have hard time piloting the TSF due to the AI expecting different input. This canon system is somewhat backwards, as it would make more sense for TSFs have a standard base AI, to which pilot data is applied to as the pilot enters the TSF. This would prevent pilots being tied down to one TSF for effective operation.

In-universe, a TSF at autopilot will have less reaction time and is weaker at close combat manoeuvres than human pilots. This seems to be a schizophrenic hardware limitation. Considering the pilot data is created to assist the pilots in their actions at any given time, from walking to close-quarter combat, the AI of the TSF is required to react to a threat faster than the human pilot in order to assist. If TSF already has the ability to avoid Laser Class’ shots faster than the pilot, then the narrative is faulty at some point. Let us assume that that the AI in the TSF requires input both from the perceived threat and the pilot in order to act, meaning that the pilot data would make the TSF’s actions smoother during the actions themselves. The pilot data then would serve to smooth out TSF motions, but this is largely countered by the fact that TSF base AI requires positional resets and can not accept overlapping commands to for a chain of actions.

It would not be a stretch to assume that despite being able to assist the pilot in some manner through pilot data, it would seem apparent that the TSF’s computational centre is not fast enough to actually use the the data by itself, hence why its autopilot functions are extremely lacking. Despite being able to perceive threats and assist the pilot, whatever CPU equivalent it has seems to be incapable of reacting and making proper decisions based on the taught data. Considering modern TSFs are OBL (Operation By Light) the input the TSF AI gains is effectively immediate. Thus, the bottleneck of the system has to be the CPU, and this is something XM3 can’t affect, meaning XM3’s most notable element isn’t that it uses Shirogane Takeru’s pilot data as its basis or allows chaining inputs, but that it has been optimised to the point of the CPU having enough time to make a decision based on the situation rather than dedicating the pilot to a manoeuvre. This is also why all XM3 equipped TSFs have revamped computing hardware, running parallel-computing computers in order to allow XM3 to function at all. However, if we assume that the CPU bottleneck was the reason why TSF autopilot had lower response time than pilot, the new parallel-computing hardware should also increase the old OS’ functions to a very large degree, allowing autopilot to use pilot data for far faster action. The main core difference between thus ends up being not just the smoother and more action-reinforcing AI, but the sheer hardware advantage parallel-computing has over the old hardware.

Assuming that with the advent of further hardware innovations other than parallel-computing, it should be relatively straightforward to create a drone-like TSF, where its functions are based on existing pilot data and environmental input. Considering the BETA on Earth are stuck on simple action patterns, even after then Alternative‘s events changed them to a degree, it should not be out of question to have these learning computers to learn directly on the field and choose the most proper output in a given situation. This learning would be extremely fast, as XM3 shares data across all the units, meaning all TSFs would share the end results of both successful and failed manoeuvres. This sort of dynamic learning would easily lead into autopilot TSFs easily matching, and then overcoming both their human and BETA opponents. With hundreds of hours logged into pilot data files, a TSF could in principle adopt the pilots manoeuvres and use that as the core base library, be it against BETA or humans. This might end up making the TSFs relatively predictable at first, but as data accumulates, the seed AI should learn to variate or even faint against human opponents.

The core function of TSF OS is effectively that of a seed AI that is being taught how to move and function as dictated by intention as a weak artificial intelligence tool, which in-universe seemed to have hit a stop-gap caused by computational technology hitting a snag. However, pretty much everything else around it is ready for the step to AI driven TSFs, as input/output technology is clearly miles ahead. Artificial muscles and fiber-optics allow at least near light-speed input from environment to be received, but decisions and sending commands back seems to be the issue. This is not the case with artificial limbs in their current iteration. Suzumiya Haruka had some troubles with her pair of limbs, whereas the 00 Unit full-body prosthetic had no obvious problems acting and moving like a natural human being.


Whole Brain Emulation, 00 Unit and super intelligence

Whole Brain Emulation is how the initial 00 Unit is gained its intelligence. The concept is solid; scan a brain from a given moment and use machine to replicate brain’s functions on some level to gain general intelligence. The level the brain must be replicated in order to have it properly function is not known, though in principle it should be enough to replicate the general function of the synapses rather than emulate the brain below cellular level. The advantage of successfully emulating brain functions is that we don’t exactly need to know the deeper functions as long as the brain’s state can be successfully emulated. As long as the emulation is low-level enough, the emulated synapses and other functions should take over by themselves. The hardware doesn’t have a control over them.

Another benefit in this is that the emulated intelligence can be tweaked to function faster, e.g. make the synapses shoot faster. As such, accurate emulation is not the intended end result if the end result is super intelligence, but whole brain emulation can be the first step towards to it. Emulated brains with tweaked functions would be able to think faster and more efficiently than normal brains as well as able to absorb far more information for further use. It is clear that the emulated brain within 00 Unit is not vanilla variety, but has hardware modifications applied. These include a level of ESP and general control over machinery either via ESP or unknown means. Furthermore, 00 Unit’s control and calculation abilities have greatly been boosted over her source brain abilities as per the intended usage as a communicator between the BETA and humanity. As such the Whole Brain Emulation we see in Muv-Luv Alternative and in the assumed future counts as super intelligence. Needless to say, 00 Unit is strong intelligence to TSF’s weak intelligence.

The emulation hardware the 00 Unit has is far superior than what TSFs use for their OS and functions, as if they were similar, it’d mean 00 Unit’s brain emulation would be pathetically slow. This of course is solved by having the solution brought from EXTRAverse, by having fifteen billion semi-conductors working in parallel to create an artificial brain build of material able to super conduct as room temperature called Grey Nine. This artificial brain is effectively a quantum computer in itself, and is able to quantum conduct. Effectively, it is a cross-dimensional quantum computer able to link itself to other worlds where 00 Units exists, effectively creating a pan-dimensional computing network. This is hilariously over the top in terms of processing power and science magic, well within the reach of accurately emulating every and all functions of a brain even at atomic level. The rest of the emulation, in order to cause disassociation with the emulated brain, is the body. 00 Unit is relatively traditional SF cyborg body, emulating all surface functions of a human, from breathing to function of sexual organs. Birth is apparently impossible, but with medical technology being this far, artificial wombs would be in the range of possibility. The egg might need to be donated elsewhere and inserted within the womb either through traditional means or already fertilised. The donor may be some other person, or perhaps the eggs have been harvested and frozen prior brain scanning.

The technology of brain scanning in Muv-Luv is destructive. The principle is that a brain is harvested at some point, probably frozen to some extent and then cut into extremely thin parts slices. These slices are dyed properly to map out each and every cell and their position, which in itself is an incredibly daunting task that required relatively advanced medical and analytical technology to replica in a virtual environment. It is probable that the same hardware that emulates the brain running 00 Unit was also necessary to even begin with the task of analysing the brain and its state. Considering we have the technology that are superior to our own eyes and ears, it would not be impossible to assume that perfect sight and hearing are a package deal here. It would also be completely possible to add strength and speed to the body, but the difference between the emulation’s original body and the artificial one would be more pronounced. Seeing that the emulation is perfect, as in it functions as the driving force rather than as a framework further software is run through, the emulated personality would have a relatively difficult period to accustom to their superhuman body compared if the cybernetic body would be human-like. Further upgrades of course can apply further post-human additions, from multiple arms to completely inhuman body.

Whole Brain Scanning and its successful application in perfect personality replication opens some hard questions. If the personality emulation is perfect, and there is no dissonance between the human and artificial body, can be say that the 00 Unit is simply a machine continuation of the brain donor? After all, the experiences of the donor continue directly where the brain’s functions were stopped. Booting up for the first time might be a similar experience to waking up from a sleep. This can be contrasted to Star Trek‘s teleportation dilemma, which asks if the person who comes out from the porter is the same person who entered it, as Trek‘s technology requires destruction of the original particles in order to record them, and then an assembly of this data at the other end. Effectively, the person needs to die in order to be teleported. Few times in the show’s history old data has been used to reconstruct previous states a ship member had been to reverse some ailments. Additionally, the transporter can remove or add elements from the data. It would not hard to assume that tweaking the data it would be possible to further modify the pattern. Consider also that about every seven years a human has renewed their cell structure, effectively replacing all the old there was. This sort of idea of at what point a ship is a new ship, if all of its parts are replaced one by one in time. At some point, nothing of the old ship exists any more.

In-universe, there are two takes. Kouzuki Yuuko having no connection to the brain donor largely treats the 00 Unit as an intended machine, despite 00 Unit having its own agency and persona. Shirogane Takeru on the other hand takes the approach that as long as the memories and personality are Kagami Sumika’s, the 00 Unit and her are one and the same. The continuation of the personality, the awareness and consciousness, is what defines her as over the fact that she is artificial. It would also seem impossible to replicate Kagami Sumika’s brain pattern to a new body. Despite the fact that her body functions on extraterrestrial G-elements, it should be possible to record her brain pattern off from her body and upload it to a new body. However, the fiction seems to indicate that this is not possible, either due to lack of technology like having multiple hardware builds to house further 00 Units, or that the scanning and pattern upload procedures are simultaneous, effectively hard coding the pattern to the hardware. We can then assume that tampering of the hardware could lead into large damage or total shutdown, or that 00 Unit’s body works similar to some arcade hardware that require constant power to be fed in order to keep the data in memory. We can also assume that the brain emulation is completely dependent on the artificial brain itself, and would require another where to record the pattern to. It might be that in the end there were not enough resources to create another artificial brain at that point in time. All this seems to be driven by the narrative’s need to have drama over that practicality of whole brain emulation.

Considering the momentary existence of the 00 Unit, Japan was the only nation in the world with super intelligence, meaning their edge over other nation in terms of sheer computational power was unmatched. In-fiction, the 00 Unit was capable enough to fool sensory readings of large amount of TSFs all the while controlling the Moorcock-Lechte Drive and its Rutherford Field. If 00 Unit was to used for intelligence gathering from neighbouring nations, or nations with stranglehold on world economics like the US, Japan would have decisive strategical advantage. Instead, 00 Unit was used to spy and map out BETA structures, though for unknown reasons this spy connecting via a BETA Reactor, a Brain Class, was more or less bidirectional.


00 Unit waypoint to TSF machine intelligence?

As mentioned, even if normal human mind can’t create general machine intelligence, Whole Brain Emulated AI would easily have access to the necessary power to solve the equations. In Muv-Luv, 00 Unit’s extremely efficient quantum network would be able to create the necessary theories and solution in order to create general machine intelligence. This could be then applied to each sector that relies on AI support, such as TSFs. While I’ve painted a picture that even in-fiction TSF driven by tool super intelligence is not far, similar stories have been told in our real world. Since the 1940’s the advent of AI has been expected to take place within the next two decades, but it has been moved forwards with each win and failure, as the AI goalpost is being moved each time a successful weak AI has been implemented. Such is the case of Deep Blue.

TSF super intelligence would not need to be general AI. Quite the opposite, despite being super intelligence, it could be created to lack agency of its own. The solution to create new 00 Units exists and is being taken advantage of by 2040’s, meaning that general machine intelligence should be a thing to some extent. If we take this into account, it would be possible to downgrade the artificial brains to only emulate standard human brains without the quantum connection and install these as TSF’s on-board computers. This of course means you’d be giving a giant robot access to its own agency, which might end up badly. To take this even further, perhaps with enough materials and scanned brains it would be possible to excise cockpits as such from TSFs altogether and simply have pilots move have their conscious temporarily moved into the TSF shell. This would be a temporary upload, which would then upload itself back to the pilot body when TSF returns to its hangar. Death of a pilot would only mean that an iteration that was uploaded to the TSF would cease to exist, whilst the originator of that thought pattern would still be safe and could be used for further action. With XM3 sharing data across the TSFs, further developments might even be able to return the uploaded pattern back to the pilot’s body before destruction due to the sheer speed fiber optics allow.

This of course raises numerous ethical and existential questions about treatment of humanity and how we define what is to be human or alive. Though who knows, maybe F-47 Ishkur has some sort of on-board AI assisting the pilot.

The described AI TSF exists within the setting, though in somewhat different from and function. In MLA Total Eclipse, there exists a device that has a shape like a rounded coffin, which houses a live esper. When activated, a red aura emanates from inside of it, and engulfs the TSF in a similar aura. This red aura seems to denote malicious presence, as opposed to the blue aura other espers can envelope TSFs with. This aura is called the Nastroyka Effect, and its overall brightness and effect is linked to the esper’s Prafka, an effect which induces esper with a state that increases their ability to pilot. The П3 Plan, fully titled as Polnoye Zatmeniye Plan or Total Eclipse Plan, aimed to create TSFs driven by these esper pods for more efficient operations. By triggering the Prafka on these pods, each TSF equipped with them would have superior operational efficiency over other TSFs. A human pilot was still necessary to be present for command and control over the overall actions.

Because the esper pods would control the TSF via their psychic linkage, they could be counted as AI driven by biological compuers, the espers themselves. However, whether or not we should count living humans appropriated for such task as AI is an open question. However, it could also be possible that these espers were modified to function only in this manner via brainwashing or other memory alteration techniques, and the rest of their humanity was retarded to non-existence. This would mean they would not function in any other form. Considering the Soviet Union doesn’t think espers as nothing else but dolls to be used and discarded when their usefulness end, it would sound apt they’d remove all the “unnecessary” elements from their autopilots. The ethics of this plan are highly dubious, as birthing and raising humans to function as nothing else but biological AI effectively does seem to break numerous human rights.


Biological super intelligence

The fact that BETA are artificial beings mean their intelligence is also artificial, engineered by their creators to function in intended ways. Due to their alien origin, assuming anything on how BETA AI works can only be surmised from their actions. All the smaller strains, if not all other strains outside the Heavy Brain Class that sits at the core of Original Hive, seem to function on tool general intelligence. No other strain exhibits creative thinking or change in behaviour patterns despite few decades of warring. They are to serve a role in a larger function, and their behaviour is set up by the Superordinate a.k.a the Heavy Brain Class. Considering BETA tactics had no reason the change after the initial aerial barrages up until the first unknown contact with the 00 Unit via a Reactor a.k.a Brain Class. The reason for this is rather obvious, as BETA on Earth are resource collectors, recycling all materials they need for production. They have AI that has agency. It is assumed these refined materials are send to the BETA creator’s home world.

The fact that only Heavy Brain Class BETA can modify the AI of any other BETA, meaning change their original intended function like using the Laser Class as anti-air weaponry, the lower tier BETA follow very strict AI pattern that does not allow them to veer off course. While on the surface this code seems to be relatively simple and strict, BETA have exhibited large range of actions to achieve their goals, like a Tank Class BETA jumping in the air to land on a tank rather than the usual swarming. This sort of leeway allows the BETA to have dynamic actions on the battlefield in their point of view, while in comparison to human battle doctrines they have essentially no deviation. New BETA can only be designed at the Original Hive or in a Hive where a Heavy Brain Class exists, meaning there is a strict and archaic hierarchy within the BETA command structure. The Super Heavy Laser Class seen towards the end of Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is the most prominent example of Heavy Brain Class creating new Class to fight an opponent, though Soldier Class strain is most likely Earth-exclusive due to its resemblance to the human form.

Considering all this, the BETA are effectively super intelligence side in the war on Earth against them. The sheer raw computational power and ability to create new BETA strains to counter human tactics is even more significant than just their larger numbers. With enough input, the Superordinate would be capable of producing a single strain that would be end of mankind, with or without relative strategies. Of course, because BETA don’t have a tactic, they aren’t war machines after all, such devices would only be utilised at extreme situations. If the Superordinate would assess mankind a life form, and accept that it was with only one side surviving, it would most likely alter its largely inert behaviour and become an active participant.

Calling BETA biological machines would not be all that incorrect, considering the Superordinate requests Shirogane Takeru to reactivate then torso-shredded Tamase Miki. Machines can be re-activated even after some damage, something BETA seem to consider themselves capable of doing, hence they consider themselves as non-lifeforms. This definition carries to humans, as revealed by a psychic contact during Alternative 3 procedures, and can be assumed to extend to all other lifeforms based on carbon. This naturally means that the BETA aren’t exactly hostile from their point of view, but rather carrying out pre-ordered function to gather materials. They are effectively as much as a machine to their creators as cars and trucks are to us.

Ultimately, the fight between humanity and the BETA is effectively a story of humanity fighting AI. Similar how TSFs have a weak tool AI, so have the smaller strains. Similarly, 00 Unit being the humanoid quantum computer in silicon the Superordinate is a biological quantum computer, which probably explains why it has to sit atop a mushroom shaped reactor. However, for all intents and purposes, the BETA AI is somewhat humanised, for the lack of better word. While it seems alien and first, the fact that the whole functions similar to archaic computers. Even with human made general AI, not to mention super intelligence, there should be little reason to assume that it would function similar to human patterns or restricts itself to hardware routes, especially if it has any capabilities of self-enhancement. It is highly possible that the Heavy Brain Class is able to do this, as it was able to comprehend human speech and mind at staggering speed. Despite this, its innate programming may not have allowed it to expand further, unless necessary input was presented. The probability of a human being able to do this are largely nil.


The AI elements in Muv-Luv should be considered as standard SF fare. It is not the main focus or the point of the franchise. Yes, the BETA are effectively AI and cyborgs and what are successors of 00 Unit will appear later in the franchise, if the roadmap indicated by Exogularity Volume 1 is anything to go by. There probably won’t be any sort of fully AI driven TSFs despite the path now being completely open for them, though the BETA AI will probably be touched to some extent depending whether or not the Heartless One is human or BETA agent. While AI is more or less an afterthought, a sidestepped issue in all of the current stories released thus far, the current setup does allow the staff discuss the philosophy and concepts of Artificial Intelligence down the line, especially when the intention is to showcase mankind in a state where it is natural, posthuman and transhuman at the same time.

Review: Muv-Luv Kickstarter goods

The approach to this review will not be anything different from any other review I’ve done thus far. No special treatment, no kids gloves on; I will approach this as any product reviewed in this blog thus far. It’s only fair towards you, the readers, and the staff behind the Kickstarter. However, I won’t be reviewing all the KS goods. I’ll be concentrating on the main dish most people probably got through their backing; the Kickstarter physical package, the Codex and the Destroyer Class plush. This will strictly discuss the items themselves, not their translation or such.

Let’s start with the physical package.

This is also the image that was used on Alternative‘s original DVD release. It’s honestly the perfect choice for this

At first appearance, the package seems pretty on-par. Despite using thin cardboard, the appearance isn’t half bad. The decision to put the description and all copyright information to the bottom is an interesting take, as now its reversible to every other direction. This breaks how commercial boxes are designed, which some perfectionists might find jarring, as now the box doesn’t flow well with other software boxes.

However, visuals aren’t all. While the box still feel sturdy in hand, the contents inside are loose. The image above is just before I opened the box, and I could hear and feel the items inside rattling back and forth. This isn’t great to any extent. A box like this should have necessary support inside to keep items in their proper places during transit, as now no matter what sort of stuffing is used around it the items can be damaged. So, let’s open this one up and see what’s inside.

You could fit another booklet in there or something

This is exactly what I didn’t want to see; items rattling around in an oversized box. Because the box is made thinner cardboard, the same some DVDs have around them, it loses most of its structural integrity when opened. I can feel the CDs being lose inside their jewel case, let’s open that one up to see if they’re damaged. The case’s cover is nice choice though, but the back cover should have been revised. Maybe drop the song titles here completely and have them inside in an insert.

Oh. Ooooooohhh…

Luckily, only one of the CDs were loose, but the discs’ printing is not up to quality. While the chosen images are good in themselves, for whatever reason the images are lower resolution than the text, which itself is sharp. The typeface and font chosen for the CDs ends making these look like something printed at home. Furthermore, these discs should have been labelled as numbers, e.g. Muv-Luv Alternative Original Soundtrack Disc 1, not Volume 1. The fact that OST is used on the discs like this, and the fact that there is no kind of information who composed the songs, makes all this feel like a homebrew compilation.

As for the games themselves, the front covers are what you’d expect and look good. Nothing to say about these, but the back covers are another thing. There’s too much text on them. Even when these VNs are long, the descriptions should have been cut in half and with heavier emphasize on images. To use Sweet Home as an example, the flavour text is two whole sentences, being straight to the point. The word homebrew creeps back to my head with this, as things like Minimum Requirements should be on the box. Actually, they’re not seen anywhere on the packaging.

The discs however are rather standard, overall speaking. There’s nothing to mention about them, though I would’ve expected more legal text on all of these. Perhaps printing a monochrome image on the disc similar to âge’s Japanese releases should have been brought on to the table, as its much easier to make them look sharp rather than what might end up looking like a sticker on a disc.

I must mention that the disc I have for Muv-Luv seems to have been damaged somewhere along the way, as it has a strange arc on the underside. Despite this, the disc seems to be readable. There’s also a weird discoloration, as if something had spilled all over it inside. This might be a quality control issue, and I’ll be sure testing this disc further down the line.

The darker wavy line is easy to spot, the lighter arc near not so much., I have no idea what they are and I am slightly worried

The shikishi, a drawn image signed by the author, that came with the box is pretty great. Sumika doing a Drill Milky Punch is nice, even when it’s just a print and not a real thing in itself. The artbook uses similar typeface and font as the CDs, and doesn’t exactly look the greatest. Everything’s printed on a thin, glossy paper that in itself isn’t terrible, but the cover should have been heavier duty. The feeling the book gives is flimsy, plus it creases extremely easily. Corners will get damaged fast in normal use with this paper too. Because of the thinness, the pages are slightly transparent and the images on the other side bleed through. The images and character descriptions are on-point, though the complete lack of illustrator credits anywhere in the codex is a bit disheartening. Seeing the second and last to last pages under the covers are completely blank, these would have been great places to put them on.

Here’s how I solved the rattling the contents: I added two pieces of cardboard on both sides, and a support structure to keep the CD jewel case in place. To be completely honest, the outer box does feel like something you should throw away, as the package overall lacks any sort of premium feel to it. The added cardboard makes it feel more rigid and gives some extra heft. There shouldn’t be any reason for me to do this addition, but as things stand now, I had to. For comparison, here’s how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal laid its contents. Notice the use of sturdier cardboard, how the items are laid and fit perfectly, and the use of supportive thinner cardboard at the bottom of the PS4 case.


Well, let’s move unto the second big thing, the long-time Holy Grail of Muv-Luv Alternative source of information translated and recompiled with Lunatic Dawn content; The Codex.

Like some majestic predatory bird

The first impression of the book is nothing short of impressive. I didn’t expect hardcover version of the book, especially considering the number of pages, but first looks can be deceiving. When you stop and look at the cover, it’s not pretty.

On the right, you see the scanned cover of the Muv-Luv Alternative CODEX. On its left you have the same illustration, scanned from Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works. I recommend opening them in Full View to fully see how badly the covers have been fucked up. Either someone forgot to pit High Resolution mode on in In-Design, or something seriously went awry during data process. Both covers have been printed in low resolution, while the cover text nice and crisp. While a book shouldn’t be judged by its covers, this piece can never be called high quality or premier product. A way to remedy this situation would be to create a dust jacket for the book with high resolution print on the cover.

However, the meat of the piece is on the pages. With some few hours looking through, there appears to be no real concern how accurately things have transferred during translation. There are also welcome changes, like changing Melee Halberds into Close Quarters Combat Melee Blade. While a mouthful, melee blade in itself is more than enough. Back in 2016 I wrote a post concerning the topic, which was comped with a review of TSF’s close combat weapons. I strongly recommend you to read them both if you haven’t. There is one fib that has leaked through, where BWS-8 Flugelberte is described to resemble a halberd, when in reality it resembles an axe. Or a bardiche.

The information itself is great stuff, but it shows that this is a book that’s glued together from multiple sources. The Lunatic Dawn content that’s in the latter part of the book is just bolted on, rather than taken and included into the book proper. The word on the street originally was that the book would need to be completely revised, but in the end it follows Integral Works‘ looks and design with the occasional change in order accommodate English.

Good ol’ Gekishit. Isn’t ‘Play Back’ one word though?

The paper used is similar glossy paper that’s in the artbook. It’s a level heavier, but creases still extremely easily. Despite being heavier and slightly thicker, it still isn’t near heavy matte paper in terms of preventing transparencies, as seen above. Fingerprints will be abound while reading this book. I’m rather surprised that this wasn’t a softcover book similar to Integral Works or Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works, to which I compared IW to back in the day as well. Codex‘s paper is nowhere as heavy and hefty as the two aforementioned, but the book is third thinner due to the new paper. It doesn’t allow the book to have any air to it either.

Because of the glossy surface and the sheer amount of text, people with poorer eyesight will have headaches while reading this. The typeface selected is just small enough to cause extra strain on the eye. As everything’s also packed very, very tightly in this small size, people who suffer from either vertical or horizontal dispersion in vision, meaning certain letters will lose lines, making reading a chore at best, extremely headache inducing at worst. This is easily alleviated with the use of different typeface or slightly larger font size.

The use of this sort of glossy paper can also be a double-edged sword. While Yakuza 6‘s artbook had the same paper, some copies were completely glued together, some were completely warped and some had ink smudges all over them. The feel of glossy paper works best for single leaflets and photos. When going for a book like this, its still best to consider heavy matter paper first and foremost, as it offers longer life and cuts down possible ink and paper problems down to mere percents.

All in all, the covers are just a damn travesty, sadly. Well, that and one of the pages, p. 353, get repeated on the following opening. While accidents like this sometimes happen, this does sting of lack of quality control.

Lastly, we have the Destroyer Class plushie, one of the things that was suggested very early on due to its role in the fandom. The plushie is based on a very certain background piece in Joshi Eishi Cryska EX.

While the plushie is clearly different from it CG original, this is due to difference in reality and fiction. The overall quality is damn nice, chosen materials feel sturdy enough to give this to a child to play with. Interestingly, the back end has a sack that’s filled with grains rather than fluff the plushie is filled with otherwise.

The grain section is about one-third from the back, starting from the tag on its arse

It’s just a joy to see and have, maybe even the best part of the package in terms of quality. This thing really should see mass production. Clearly, there is a market for BETA plushies.

I’m sure that at this point it’s rather clear what’s the end verdict is. The Kickstarter original products are largely a disappointment in terms of quality. I’m not going to mull over whys or hows, that doesn’t net anything. They are what they are, now’s too late to do anything about it. Other items, like the ones in Yuuko’s Gift bag, have higher quality. Stickers are hard to screw up as are postcards (though mine are rather warped, requiring me to straighten them down.) It must be also mentioned that Valkylies has been corrected into Valkyries with the patches.

Those patches were produced by Cospa, company that produces cosplay goods, including the jackets and shirts that were on the Kickstarter. The pilot jacket may be 100% polyester, but I can’t expect a cosplay clothes company to manufacture clothes like they were actual military wear. The Drill Milky Punch T-shirt is at 100% cotton and I’m wearing it while typing this review. This extends to the dakimakura, which is of standard Japanese productions for items like it, I expected no less.

The experience with the Kickstarter goods, delays and pretty much everything including the end results of the goods probably affected negatively both backers and staff. It would not be surprising if this was the first and last Kickstarter we see, and the rest are done away with less fanfare, which would also mean no physical products would be produced. However, in cases like this, I would always strongly recommend companies and people looking into Limited Run Games, a company that specialises in doing limited physical run on goods. At the time of Muv-Luv‘s Kickstarter, the company wasn’t relevant, but now it has managed to establish itself just fine. For example, they are delivering Shantae: ½ Genie Hero‘s Kickstarter goods. But all this is academic at best. I can only hope that lessons have been learned, but have not allowed to snuff the staff’s spirit.

I’ve got no good end for this review. Shit happens, we will probably never know what, but the end results are in our hands.


Exogularity; F-47 Ishkur

To celebrate Muv-Luv Alternative hitting Steam, let’s talk about the future of Tactical Surface Fighters. Namely, the 8th Generation Tactical Surface Fighter F-47 Ishkur.

Needless to say, this be spoiler country.

 Ishkur is the Sumerian name for Hadad, the god of rain and thunderstorms of spring. A fitting name for mankind’s latest weapons against extraterrestrial threats: the BETA and their Silicon creators pose. While the previous generation of TSFs were defined in their G-Generators and system made possible through them; a decade of operation time without replenishment, TSF sized particle cannons and advanced Rutherford fields that could withhold Fortress-Laser Class’ barrage for fifteen minutes. Tactical Surface Fighter development became stagnant after the introduction of the 7th Generation due to mankind-wide civil wars. With the global unification of 2043, a project to face the creators of BETA was launched a year later, with a need for the 8th Generation following in suit. Three years later, the F-47 would meet with abilities such mission would demand.

The 8th Generation is redefines the role of a TSF to the point that it’s no longer “Surface;” Space is its main field of operation, but the F-47 has been designed to function from Zero-G to 3-G environments. Movement is attained by manipulating gravity, and as F-47’s main role is to function as an envoy to the space fleet aiming to contact the Siliconians, it boasts an impressive long-range particle cannon as its main weapon. Furthermore, the F-47 is able to engage in limited ranged warps and contains regenerating life-support systems, giving the unit ability for independent interstellar travel.

The name Ishkur represents this aspect of F-47 being able to rain down storm and thunder on whomever the pilot chooses to strike.

This rough design shows where we’re going. One thing that I didn’t include in the above description of the unit, is that Ishkur would be able to purge its damaged sections to continue to fight unhindered, at least according to Ishi Sho. Notice that the melee blade below is attached to the F-47’s right arm here, it’s not a lengthy cannon.

While the F-47 Ishkur sounds overpowered, the mook it is from, exogularity 01, hints that BETA tactics have evolved as well. Despite this, it does carry more traditional weaponry.

We can already see from these roughs that the two familiar weapons seem to be a mainstay still. The Assault Gun boasts rather functional design, probably to give emphasize how it has to function in variety of environments an interstellar mission might have. The Close Combat Sword we have here seems to have taken the handle idea from BWS-8 Flugelberte as it is arching to the wrong direction, but I’ll let that pass, as we’re talking about a giant robot and not a human hand. The lowest one is 8th Generation multi-purpose additional armour, a shield of sorts, though it is rather small for that function alone. It is missing from Strike Frontier render of the unit, and may have been dropped from the design for now.

As the F-47 is a completely new design, not based on any existing aircraft, its Jump Units are based solely on Tactical Surface Fighters’ own design language.

If you look too long at these, you may end up seeing a skull of sorts. That may just be me.

To summarise all this, F-47 Ishkur is what Tactical Surface Fighter line would naturally evolve into when materials, sudden surge in advanced technology and necessity for interstellar warfare all come together. It was Yoshimune Koki himself who jokingly said that it’s not longer “Surface” and that TSFs have now entered the realm of Super Robots, but he isn’t half wrong. Perhaps calling F-47 Ishkur Tactical Space Fighter would be more appropriate, even when it could function on Earth-like bodies. Tactical Multi-Environmental Fighter doesn’t have the same ring to it. I’m not ready to agree that this mecha fits in the Super Robot category straight away. It certainly is a compact and hi-performance mecha all things considered, but in a world where technology is being combined with extraterrestrial material that allows bending dimensional barriers through the sheer power of love, I’m reminded of Third Clarke’s Law; Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The design itself is combination of two things; the designer Ishi Sho’s own taste and view how the TSF line is to evolve, and cues from Mamoru Nagano’s Mortar Hedds from Five Star Stories. However, I would also argue that there is an influence from Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s illustration works, namely Linebarrels of Iron. Furthermore, some elements, like the shoulder armours, do remind of Gundam AGE‘s Vagan designs, thought this is probably just my eyes tricking me. F-47 Ishkur is probably the first properly modern design in the franchise, as even the 4th TSF Generation still has visible vestiges of the early 2000’s mecha design. If I can be frank about my own view for a moment, Ishkur’s design does please the eye and probably does good to the franchise in that it is far removed from any real life fighter jet.

This mecha, Ishkur, represents what will probably be the future of the franchise, if it has the chance to go that far. Things have certainly changed, with âge now more or less servicing as the brand and front for ixtl, Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl itself and both Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative being officially released in English. However, with both Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken being largely failures all around, the staff at âge/ixtl are in a position very few people would wish to be in. Whatever comes next has to strike true. Of course, with Avex Pictures now being the upper management, an adaptation of Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative itself isn’t far too far-fetched. However, it would have to be an adaptation that would aim to expand the audience, something the core fans probably would not prefer. It would be necessary for the health of the franchise and companies involved.

But for now, let’s enjoy what we have.

Listen, The wind is still, And far away in the night — See! The uplands fill With a running light.
Open the doors. It is warm; And where the sky was clear– Look! The head of a storm That marches here!
Come under the trembling hedge– Fast, although you fumble… There! Did you hear the edge of winter crumble
-Mark Van Doren, 1924

Mecha design: Straightened up A-6

To continue the theme of transforming mecha in a simple form, I’ve decided to take this chance to introduce another simple transformation, but one that isn’t a box and does alter its appearance quite a lot between its two forms. Furthermore, rather than choosing something that flies through the air, I’ve decided to pick one that makes some sense in its setting as well as is water bound; the A-6 Intruder, or the Tactical Surface Attacker Type 81, Wadatsumi.

The unsung hero

Unlike Boxtron from one of the previous entries, A-6 Intruder requires some explanation about its role in-universe in Muv-Luv Unlimited/ Alternative. In a world where air superiority is not an option before a specialised enemy unit has been cleared off from the battlefield, an off-shoot branch has specialised on long-range combat and against enemy strains that are less armoured and smaller, but number in tens of thousands. The A-6 Intruder is the amphibious equivalent of A-10, another TSA. Both of them require to work in tandem, with Tactical Surface Fighters for effective warfare if they’re present. Furthermore, the A-6 has specialised in landing operations. These guys are the workhorse of things, able to take loads of damage and dish out about twice as much, reflecting the real world craft’s resilience. Effectively, they’re walking fortresses rising from the water and taking control of the beach, so the main force can move in.

If you were expecting a design comparison between this and the real life A-6, I’m not intending to do one due to the TSA effectively having no elements to go through. Well, outside the intakes that the 120mm guns were modelled after. The only real connections are the intention and relative role. The real world Grumman A-6 Intruder was a carrier-based attack craft that was designed around long-range and low-level tactical strikes. An interesting juxtapose is that the real world craft had no guns or internal bombing bay, whereas the TSA has nothing but build-in weapons. All the ordinance was mounted externally, and ranged from simple generic bombs to possibility of Mark 43 nuclear bomb. Fun fact, the A-6 delivered the most ordinance during Vietnam War than any other craft, including the B-52.

The design reflects the intended function. While not exactly apparent from its land mode, the whole transformation is made simple as possible while having interesting shapes to go around. Nevertheless, it still has some notably intricate, smaller form changing in its legs.


How the feet are pulled in during submersible mode is rather interesting for the reason that it’s slightly over-engineered. The question whether or not you’d want sharp double-heels when you’re landing on a beach, or walk anywhere on the sea bottom where its muddy as hell,  is a good one and probably the only individual detail that I can complain about. If you disagree, you go walk on the beach with stilettos. Don’t ask why I’ve done that.

The transformation has four main elements that change form. The head, the arms, the legs and the crotch piece. Just like some older Transformers, what A-6 essentially does it that is stretches itself out, with some twisting and turning here and there. This transformation scheme is dependent on water, as its submersible mode wouldn’t function on land. Maybe is space. Luckily, we do have step-by-step CGs from the Visual novels themselves.


Here we see the submersible mode with its head extended from the main body. This seems to be the first step in the whole thing. Overall speaking, we do see that the A-6 is pretty nice overall, though you can see sections on the arms that have crevices. Nothing major going here yet.


The second step is to extend the shoulder and hip joints beyond the main body. This is the first thing that leads to the rest of the breakdown, but to be completely honest, this and extending the head should one and the same step.


Here we see the hands extending forwards. These scene where this particular transformation takes place happens during a battle against a Tactical Surface Fighter. Hence, the arms are coming to grab something in-front of it. In order for the 120mm cannons to face forwards (as in the top image), they are required to twist 180-degrees forwards. The main shoulder pieces that keep the arms and 120mm cannons connected to the main body are still flat.


The last phase  is extending the crotch piece forwards, twisting the 120mm cannons forward while turning the shoulder pieces out and straightening the legs and feet. At this point the A-6 Intruder would be ready to land ashore.

This transformation sequence uses the exact same core idea as Boxtron. The initial shape is mostly dictated by its function as an amphibious weapons platform, which on the other hand does limit how the humanoid form stands up. Well, semi-humanoid, as the A-6 does away with most human proportions.

While the transformation is simple, the main difference with its initial starfish form and Boxtron is not the shape or the sequence, but that it contains third dimension. While Boxtron was strictly a two-dimensional, A-6 needs to rotate and extend sections in the third dimension in order to achieve complete form change. As mentioned, the scheme of designed to work under water and only under water and ultimately the whole design works around this. The thrust is kept to the same direction at all times and the only bit that would seem to have any control over direction is the crotch piece.

Nevertheless, the good old tuck-and-cover method is practised here as well with, well, everything really. The amphibious mode is streamlined in most parts and doesn’t exactly have any hard corners for the water or currents to drag on. The geometry is overall sound. Outside the feet, anything more complex would be redundant.

In-universe the A-6 Intruder isn’t exactly a showpiece, and its transformation gimmick does give it a higher cost, but it’s specialised role makes it shine. While we can debate whether or not the design itself is something to admire, the A-6 is nevertheless a good example of a purpose-designed form changing mecha.

Let’s talk about Muv-Luv’s changes

By now those of you who’ve got the Steam release of Muv-Luv have most likely noticed changes in there. Most changes have been for the better, some out of necessity.

Before we go on, let’s re-iterate how the companies are related to each other. Degica is the company localising, they are in charge of translation and publishing, while ixtl is the rights holder and makes the final decisions what’s in and what’s out. âge’s the developer, and ixtl was put up to manage their IPs. Both âge and ixtl are under Acid Company Limited.

Degica may be the one in charge of the translation and publishing part, but whatever changes they do ultimately has to go through ixtl. If they decide to veto e.g. a translation title, Degica’s translation staff got nothing to say to it, unless they can provide some hefty evidence, as you may have noticed that both Takimekazuchi and Chizuru are properly romanised instead of using the more archaic forms Takemikaduchi and Chiduru. You can probably expect some bullshit things left in along the line anyway. I’m half expecting something along the lines of not using the official English title of  Sado Island. Hell, it’s even on the island’s own official tourist brochure. I don’t know how the hell Amaterasu missed this one, it’s not even an obscure tourist location. I can even pick up my 1970 World Atlas and take a photo of the page where Japan and its islands are showcased. Give me a moment, and I’ll take it!

Page 70, Suuri Karttakirja, based on Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World, 1970

To be fair again, Sadogashima too is used (sometimes as Sado-ga-shima to boot), albeit not as common worldwide. Even on modern maps, like the one Google uses, lists it as Sado Island. Other languages seem to mainly use Sado, thou I admit Isla Sado sounds awesome.

The most clear cut changes are the new songs in the soundtrack, and music is almost always the hardest thing to license when it comes to Japanese products, especially TV-shows and movies. This is because a single show can include music from various different rights holders, and some may want their music be licensed episode-by-episode, which is why sometimes opening songs are replaced with instrumental versions in Western releases, like The Skull Man‘s or Mobile Suit Z Gundam. Sometimes music pays homage to other songs, and hits a bit close home. Metal Gear Solids theme is reminiscent to The Winter Road, and âge is known for their musical homages. Just like how Metal Gear Solid’s theme was essentially dropped after it was accused of plagiarism, and ixtl wants to avoid such controversies at all costs. They’ve dealt enough with plagiarism claims as is.

That said, while わるだくみ/Warudakumi had its own fans, Drama Bomb! isn’t really bad by any means. It and the other additional song are most likely leftovers from Schwarzesmarken‘s development, as both of them were composed by Evan Call. They have a distinctly different sound to them from the rest of the soundtrack, but like with most things, it’s really up to taste if you like them. It was probably the best for ixtl to replace the songs rather than risk accusations and possible lawsuit. That’s business for you.

This issue extend to Muv-Luv Alternative. One of its more iconic songs, Assault Landing, is similarly a direct homage to Basil Poledouris’ Kledanthu Drop from Starship Troopers. Then you have that pastiche of Buster Machine March and the other examples. You should be half-expecting their removal for the exact same reason.

Another big change people have noticed is that the script has been completely revised to the point of it essentially having no traces of Amaterasu’s fantranslation. If we’re completely honest here, that translation had issues. At points it was incoherent with issues with language, outright missing cues and throwbacks to âge’s previous works and top it all, had inaccuracies to the point of changing some of the characterisations. One of the reasons I never felt strongly for Ayamine was because the English subtitles didn’t really reflect the Japanese, giving her a slightly but significantly different impression what sort of person she was. The same applies to Class Rep. Ixrec or however his nick is spelt has said that he himself didn’t care for Extra, and it shows in his script.

The new script basically does away all these issues, but it’s natural to complain about these changes. It is a normal psychological reaction to feel negatively towards a new translation you’ve grown with. One example would the the Finnish retranslation of Peter Pan. The original wasn’t exactly accurate and took a lot of liberties, translating the names in a more Disney-esque way than anything else. The new translation is more accurate and representative in what ideas the book holds, but people disliked it anyway because it was new and against what they were used to.

As for the cropped CGs, âge’s been doing that since 2007. This isn’t exactly anything new, and these complains are coming in about a decade too late. The reason again is corporate politics. It’d cost more to add more content to the CGs to fit in the new resolution than to crop them. For purists, it is bullshit, but hardcore purists wouldn’t want to play anything but the original CD release anyway. Gotta read it as originally intended. In addition, depending how the CG is stored in the files, ixtl shouldn’t have much problems showcasing the whole CG in the Gallery mode.

As for the lack of porn, Steam doesn’t allow adult content like that. Secondly, producing a patch on itself is its own thing, separate from the rest of the deal. It may sound bewildering, but as the Muv-Luv Steam Version is based on the All-Ages version, it takes work from ixtl’s side to even create a patch to put in the necessary scenes and their script.  My guess is that patch isn’t high on the task list, not by a long shot. A wild guess would be that we can expect to see some proper news about the patch closer to Alternative‘s release. Then again, most people tend to say erotica scenes don’t matter or add to the story, but as soon as they’re missing, people seem to go ballistic.

There is also the issue of them being porn. ixtl and âge have been trying to clean their image, despite their streams not showing that, and there’s also the issue of age, or rather, the assumed age of the characters. Miki’s not the most legal looking character out there, and such things will cause certain troubles if not handled properly.

Still, I’m willing to bet it’s mostly about the money that goes into developing patch, as it might possibly break game saves and the like. From what I’ve seen, even when âge showcases how powerful their editing software are, they’re barely able to anything complex. Every game they’ve developed, like Faraway Dawn and those minigames in Altered Fable‘s Before the Shimmering Time Ends  have been horrible. Hell, the beach ball minigame in bugged to the point winning and losing really is dependent on said bug. I doubt the current release of Muv-Luv would even be out now if they didn’t have outside help.

Outside these, all the rest are more or less in line with the usual updating that don’t require any special mention. Some don’t like how large the user interface is, but I bet these people forget it’s supposed to work on tablets too, hence the design. Some have complained about yakisoba sandwich not being yakisoba bread, when in all actuality it should be baguette with fried buckwheat noodle. There’s some corporate bullshit in the background as usual for Japanese companies, and if you’ve ever really looked into how ixtl and age handles stuff beside their publicity, there’s some rotten stuff in there. The same applies to all Japanese companies, but it’s sad to see that being a rule in their corporate culture than an exception.

If we’re completely fair, if you have complaints that are about the CGs, music and the like that does not concern the English script or Degica’s English publications and PR, you should throw a message to ixtl instead.

Mecha design; manipulators

Consider your hand. You control all those 27 bones through muscles and tendons. The nerves give you feedback and send your commands down the like, commands that you are not even conscious of. Twist your hand, and you see it twisting. The large muscles come through the skin, but all the fine motion is lost unless we specifically look for it. It can grab and hold things in a wide variety of positions and ways, some that we don’t even know before someone else teaches that. These hands can build and destroy in equal amounts, they are our the tools of our creations.

Transferring that to a giant robot is a bit of a hassle.

Much like with a lot of other direct transfer elements with human body and giant robots, adapting hands 1:1 is an easy concept for sure. The idea of similar multi-use manipulator is attractive from the get go, but depending on the setting, human-like hands might not be the best option. A human-like hand requires far more parts, development, maintenance and simple tech than a say a pincer or more simple manipulator. Of course, the main argument for having a hand for a giant robot is its versatility, especially when it comes to weapons. However, that’s something that could be easily done with hardpoints where weapon is being mounted. We should also question how versatile does the hand of a giant mecha be, especially for a war machine.

Broadly speaking, all human-like hands with mecha follow the same basic idea, there isn’t much deviation. It’s either smooth or cubic. Using this example from a VF-19 serves as a good showcase.

VF-19 hand

While it looks complex, it’s more about the layered elements that make it look complex. Inner functions are of course barely thought, they’re not important. The fact that it looks like it could work and has plausible design elements, like the knuckle guard and fingers’ segments layer on top of each other when bent, is more than enough. Studio Nue has always preferred rounder elements to their design (sometimes dubbed as Bubble hands), especially with their older works. In Gundam, Sunrise and Bandai have preferred using more cubic hands, although exceptions are aplenty.

Gundam MS fed manipulator

The above generic Mobile Suit manipulator was designed for the models, but seeing how Bandai and Sunrise design their mechas models in mind nowadays, it’s a good example of a hand that’s more or less designed for wielding a gun and a beam sabre. It’s a bit more straightforward than VF-19’s, less well-rounded. The question of course is, if this hand is largely made for weapon carrying, why isn’t it designed as such?

The answer is, of course, because of Rule of Cool. When mechas are designed as characters, they’ve almost always given large amount of human characteristics in order to showcase dramatic events. Hands are no different in this. Beam sabre battles would be less dramatic and interesting if the manipulator would be specifically designed holder than a hand.

Controlling a hand like this has basically three options, direct 1:1 input, control macros or brain wave input. Variations and combinations do apply. While a “glove controller” would be idea, that’s pretty much what you do then with that arm. It’ dedicated for that arm, and the rest of the controls are either automatic or left other arm or legs. We discussed control macros previously, and this is most likely the best option overall, if brain wave scanning tech is not available in your setting.

Designing mecha’s hand really isn’t anything hard; just look at your own and mechanise it. Give it details for something to grab attention and some panels for easy access.

Giant robots don’t really have a need for similar level of sophistication when it comes to their hands, a simple grasping arm should be enough with some level of modification to suit the needed purpose. Hardpoints add a lot of versatility as well.

These take less maintenance and production costs would be lower too
These take less maintenance and production costs would be lower too

Of course, fiction doesn’t need to play by the rules of reality all that much, and if technology is advanced enough in a fiction to produce these things, why not? They could of course build better and simpler manipulators, but sometimes you do seek more complex solution for the sake of all the options it could give you. A gripping manipulator above doesn’t really offer many ways to grasp a thing.

Some franchises mix human-like hands with specifically designed manipulators, Muv-Luv popping to my mind foremost.

To be fair, this is complex for the sake of being complex, some of these steps could be dropped
To be fair, this is complex for the sake of being complex, some of these steps could be dropped. It’s a pretty good example of a very specific manipulator arm that works in junction of the main hand, something that I personally would like to see done more

Another one would Mobile Suit Z Gundam‘s The O with its assisting manipulators underneath its skirt. These manipulators question why would The O even need human-like hands, when the three-prong manipulator does everything they do. The answer to this is, of course, because the human design does not use that sort of hand. In a way, mecha in general should always be contrasted to armoured knights of legends, but that’s another topic.

Hands are ultimately something that Japanese inspired mecha design does. For giant robots, America has always preferred more built-in options. MegaBot’s Mark II is a good example of this.


American vision usually attached the weaponry onto a pre-fixed arm that may have some freedom of motion to it, but is always more dependent on the movements of the main body. Compare this to Suidobashi Heavy Industry’s Kuratas and the difference in approach is notable.

The idea of having this built-in approach and lack of manipulators is just as valid.  While it lessens on-the-fly options and puts some limitations, it eliminates loads of moving parts that would require maintenance. The most prominent film example of this sort of thing would be our good old friend, ED-209.

I should probably write a whole entry on ED-209.
I should probably write a whole entry on ED-209.

Unlike with mechas with arms and manipulators, you can see ED-209 guns are its arms with no manipulators, as it needs none. It’s a robust little connector that looks sturdy and serves only to take the beating from the cannon’s recoil and swivel enough to shoot whoever full of holes.

Keep an eye to hands you see in mecha films and shows. Take notice how they are portrayed and how they function. Rarely you will see them doing things outside the capabilities of human hands, and showcasing how they are actually controlled is even rarer. Sometimes they take advantage of what a machine hand can do, like how Gundam washes clothes by rotating its wrist 360-degrees in repetition.

Washing machine Gundam

An axe to grind

Last month’s review left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because I essentially dismissed the planned monthly review in its favour (that one’s coming this month), but because the one-handed battle-axe, BWS-8, was just so immensely stupid and I simply couldn’t get a hang of it.

I'm not a halberdThis axe is a good example why knowing few basic ergonomics in fictional design pays off on the long run. This design just ticked me off. Even when compared to the worst offenders in Klingon bladed weapons, like the House of Duras’ knife, the BWS-8 Flugelberte fails at being a good, modern axe.

I discussed some how the direction of the handle’s curve affects the strength of the swing. What I didn’t mention is that the curvature BWS-8 has would break your wrist. Not only that, but because the blade is so oversized, that means the amount of force experienced by the TSF’s hand and wrist is much larger, causing far more wear and tear than what you’d get from a more sensible design.

But Aalt, it needs to have a wide blade to cut through the BETA.  Axes don’t cut, they chop. Not all swords are meant to cut either, they are made for slicing. For example, the katana was made as hard as it possibly could be with the low-grade river iron Japanese had, and thus was very easy to break and chip. The rule of thumb is; the harder something is, the more brittle it is. Makes you wonder what sort of bullshit the Mohs-15 hardness they’re pulling, but I guess that should be its own post. Because of the hardness of a katana, it was used to slice alongside the blade, hence its curve. It could not stand cutting or chopping motions. Japanese took the design from the Chinese and stuck with it, never really improving on it or finding something better for whatever reasons.


This split is from a single underpowered swing. The axe we are looking at here is a Fiskars Splitting Axe, designed to have that wedge shape to push the wood apart. A battle-axe does not have this wedge because it is intended to push through the armour with sheer weight it has behind it and split whatever is underneath, and a wedge in there would just be in the way. Split being the keyword. A battle-axe is a weapon that combines the destructive weight of a battle maul with a blade, making it a weapon that crushes and cuts. You may be lucky with a sword’s swing, it just cuts you open, but with an axe swing, you’ll be left with much serious breakage.

You know what’s a more sensible weapon design that BWS-8? Getter Tomahawk.

FIGURE-002459_04[1]It’s a straight handled tomahawk with a textured maul. It also has a decently shaped pommel to let your hand grip unto for maximum swing. It’s blade is not overly complex or huge in size, but it’s in the higher end of things. The handle is slightly too thin, generally speaking, but just as TSFs are made of bullshittium, so is the Getter Robo.

Even Getter Dragon, all things considered, has  more sensible axe design. The spiked balls at the tip just make it retarded, but in terms of size and proportions, Getter Dragon’s tomahawks are very well-balanced. After that the proportions just get out of hands with Shin Getter Robo, while New Getter Robo actually having maybe the best design when it comes to function.

So, you may be asking Why was this worthwhile to write about? Because it’s 101 of design. When you are designing for what essentially is for human hand, you are limited in what you can do in the name of the health of that hand. If you are designing a weapon, like an axe, you should be required to design so that it would excel in the in the principle function of what an axe does. You do not design an axe to slice like a sword, you make it chop. And of course, one has to take the length into consideration as well…

ZerAxe…which in BWS-8 is far too large. That is not a one-handed axe any more, and it’s swinging that thing takes incredible strength and power. Compare it to the size that the Getter Robos above had them. That is the size one-handed axes go. It doesn’t need to be a hatchet, but more sensible. An axe in that length could be handled with one hand, but in that case the size of the blade needs to be scaled down quite a lot.

historical battle axeSee this guy? He is swinging historically accurate battle-axe that is around the same length as the BWS-8. The axe head is much smaller, as it can cause a lot of damage as it is. Remember; an axe is supposed to chop into your opponent, not cut it. Battle axes as a standard have long handles for reach and power. With the size of the head on BWS-8, swinging it would be heavy and extremely difficult, requiring the Jump Units to give the TSF full-body swing. If the head was smaller and more practical, it could be swung like a practical axe-type weapon. Even better, if the handle was straight, it would not cause immense wear and tear to the units’ wrists.

An axe of this size, or axe in general, doesn’t seem to be the best solution against the BETA. It’s a weapon of rule of cool, just like the BWS-3 Great Sword. Here’s the kicker; if BWS-8 was just arched forwards, it would have better power behind it. However, because the handle is facing the wrong direction and the overall design is undulating, that means it strains itself with each blow on those bits and would be cumbersome in battle. Yes, even in historical records, axes arching like that are rare, few belonging to cavalry, and sometime after the 8th or 10th century those vanished in favour of what we usually have now. But this is sci-fi, and as such it should have the highest tech solutions possible. Or just model a bardiche rather than make an overly complicated and overblown design.

A halberd it ain’t.