15 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 Chapter 3 Commentary

Commander Haag lays down the law.  Chapter 3 left the cadets forced to work together.

Rhiannon and Dusty's shared past had to come out.  Chapter 1 was busy establishing the characters.  Chapter 2 established the setting.  The initial conflict for the series, while introduced in Chapter 1, gets explained here.  Of course, Rhiannon's memory of what happened is tinged by her loss.  She's not going to be understanding of anyone involved.

The early inter-character dynamics has Dusty pushed to the outside.  Rhiannon has the sympathies of Miyami, Ric, and Lars.  It's fair; Rhiannon lost her brother.  Dusty, though, wasn't the cause.  She was an unwilling participant.  So, from the writer's view, she's an underdog, and the writer supports the underdog.  I am trying to keep that bias out.  Hopefully, both are sympathetic.

Two more major supporting characters get introduced.  Commander Wilhelm Haag, who first appeared in Chapter 1, gets his role at the Academy explained.  He is the Second-in-Command of the school and will handle Student Affairs as part of his job.  Obviously, he and Dusty have a history, once that's still implied.  The other major supporting character is Commandant Francisco Orman, a Colonel in the Royal Foot Guard and the eqivalent of the Dean of the Academy.  His job is to be the face of the school to Command and make sure that the Academy is fulfilling the needs of the Royal Guard.

It doesn't take a social genius to see that there is a problem brewing in the cadets' quarters.  Haag needed to lay down the law, but just ordering a group to become a team won't work.  His speech at the assembly hammers the theme in, possibly a little too hard.  His speech also nails one of my pet peeves, the difference between soldiers and warriors.  The warrior ideal is venerated far too much in fiction; honour and single combat.  The soldier, though, is part of a team.  There is no single combat; there is no need.  The team can handle situations that a warrior cannot.  Thus, Haag's speech.

The Centurion makes a second cameo.  This came about because of the title; if there's mecha in the title, there should be mecha in the story.  The exact form the Centurion takes, though, was still up in the air while writing this chapter.  The original concept was that the mecha were large, similar to BattleMechs from BattleTech or the Patlabors from Patlabor.  However, when I tried to work out how the mecha evolved into war machines, things started to fall apart.  Tanks still exist in the setting, with grav tanks being the primary models.  In comparison, mecha are slow and, at the size I was considering, large targets.  When I started to work out just how the mecha evolved, I realized they should be smaller.  Instead of being walking tanks, the Centurions became oversized powered armour, a step up from Traveller's Battle Dress and Starship Troopers' Mobile Infantry.  A force multiplier for infantry.  And that's when a few more details clicked into place.  The Foot Guard, the Empire's ground forces, not only have mechanized infantry, like today's armies do, but it also has powered infantry in powered armour and armoured infantry in mecha.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "Roommates" Chapter 4, "Teamwork".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, on adapting to tabletop RPGs.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.

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