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TV Tropes Monday: Walking Tanks


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When the giant robot craze started in Japan in the 1960s, the first robots were essentially gigantic robotic super heroes, a Japanese version of Superman but with missiles, photonic rays and piloted by teenagers with strange hairdos. In reaction to that, other animated shows, went the “real robot” route, where in the machines were treated as mass produced products no different than say, fighter planes, and usually went up in flames just as readily. Only the superb skills of their pilots (and a heavy dose of plot armor) kept the hero from a fiery death. In reaction to that, American and British tabletop game designers countered with Walking Tanks, giant robots loaded with armor, heavy weapons, and ponderous gate. These were not more realistic than their Japanese counterparts, but seemed ever grittier while they turned fast robot duels into tactical matches that exploited terrain and superior unit tactics.

These trends might be influenced by history, especially the way the Japanese and Americans approached war equipment during WWII. Japanese aircraft were light, with long range, and heavy guns. Capable Japanese pilots flew circles around their slower enemies and delivered precise blows with a combination of cannon and machine guns. American fighters had heavy machine guns, armor to protect the pilot, and self-sealing tanks that lower the chance of an explosion. Tanks on both sides followed a similar pattern, although the American Sherman tank was considered a medium tank at best in the Europe, in the Pacific it out performed the few Japanese tanks in every category.

That doesn’t mean that the these three types never mixed. Some fast mecha shows also featured slower ground units with heavier fire power, but not necessarily superior armor. At the same time, the tank on legs may look invisible until an infantry man, helicopter, or plane hits them in the right spot. And even fast mechs in space ended up being rather slow and ponderous on the ground. It was and still is up to the writer to decide which type or mix of type better fits their story.


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