Mechagodzilla has been one of my favorite kaiju since its first appearance in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Its design has undergone several changes throughout the years, some better than others.
Showa era Mechagodzilla
The original Mechagodzilla was a remotely controlled robot designed by the aliens of Black Hole Planet 3 whose aim it was to take over Earth. Later, they controlled it through a link to the brain of a cybernetically enhanced human. Its introduction was unique in that it wore a Godzilla disguise and shocked fans during a brutal fight with Godzilla’s ally Anguirus. It shed its disguise when facing the true Godzilla to utilize an arsenal of weapons including lasers, feet jets for flight, an energy shield, and, my favorite, finger missiles. The design is dated but features classic elements and is instantly recognizable as a mechanical replica of Godzilla.
Heisei era Mechagodzilla/Super Mechagodzilla
The first major overhaul to Mechagodzilla’s design. This robot was built by humans as an anti-Godzilla weapon using salvaged future technology from Mecha King Ghidorah. It could link up with another future-tech machine called Garuda to form Super Mechagodzilla and combine their weapons. The design is very smoothed out compared to the Showa Mechagodzilla and is overall less appealing, though the changes in its form did reflect the changes in Godzilla’s design during the same time. I would rank it last among the three older Toho designs. However, the Power Rangers style combining of mechs into a super mech is always fun.
Kiryu is a cyborg built using the skeleton of the original 1954 Godzilla as its support structure. It uses Godzilla’s DNA combined with advanced technology to give it the ability to act and react with Godzilla-like instincts. Unfortunately, when it hears the current Godzilla’s roar, the original Godzilla’s spirit is awakened within it, and it is able to resist the control of its creators. This design keeps some elements from Super Mechagodzilla’s look such as the over-the-shoulder cannons, but it returns to using slightly more angular shapes and looks more like Godzilla than ever. It takes the “mechanical Godzilla” concept to its epitome. It has a great balance of complexity for interest vs. simplicity for recognizability. Kiryu is easily my favorite design.
All of these versions had in common the base idea that Mechagodzilla’s appearance should be based on Godzilla’s, and they all succeed in that. There was another similar mecha, M.O.G.U.E.R.A, which was constructed from the remains of the destroyed Heisei Mechagodzilla, but it clearly did not resemble Godzilla and so wasn’t given the Mechagodzilla name. Even the Mechagodzilla seen in Ready Player One is instantly recognizable as such, pulling in all kinds of elements from the original Showa era look, especially in the neck/head design and the inclusion of the finger missiles. It’s an agile update to the character that doesn’t toss aside the signature elements of the source.
GODZILLA anime Mechagodzilla
This, however. . . . This machine was co-created by humans and aliens to be the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon, and by just the aliens to eventually assimilate Earth through the spread of its nanometal technology. Like with the new anime Godzilla, I feel this role should have been played by an original kaiju. Its appearance and abilities are such a departure from the Mechagodzilla we know that it should simply have been given its own name like M.O.G.U.E.R.A.
On its own, without comparison to the previous Mechagodzillas, this design is overwrought and cluttered. Because of the high level of complexity, it’s difficult to identify its overall form (an issue also plaguing the transformers in their 2007 movie series). To improve this design, I would make sure details which are included to look cool and complex also appear utilitarian. This is a machine designed for a purpose, not for display. I would include larger plates of armor over portions of the frame. Not only would this help clean up the busy design, it would, like actual plate armor, aid in deflecting attacks rather than providing hundreds of little crevices/weak points.
As it is, this new Mechagodzilla is a disappointment that makes me wonder what could have been. I look forward to the next iteration of the character in hopes it will be an improvement.