Thanks to Masamune Shirow’s cult classic manga Ghost in the Shell (and its many spin-offs) we’re all familiar with Shirow’s spidertanks. In the manga Kusanagi and the team from Section 9 pilot the more compact red Fuchikoma tanks, but in the TV series they have the larger blue Tachikoma.
As part of the promotional circus surrounding Bandai’s release of GITS: Stand Alone Complex on DVD, they commissioned Tomotaka Takahashi of ROBO-GARAGE to create a Tachikoma robot. The result is this magnificent rendition of the iconic military vehicle, which can move around on its legs, wave its arms, rotate its main camera, and speak recorded phrases.
Not to be confused with Bandai’s $120 USB toy, which doesn’t move and is a much smaller scale model, Takahashi-san’s robot is one-of-a-kind. It may not be as mobile as in the anime, but weighing in at a hefty 1.5kg with a total length of 40cm, with 19 degrees of freedom powered by a lithium polymer battery, this is a serious piece of work. The only thing missing is a sexy cyborg pilot (and the sub-machine guns).
Shirow-san expands on his inspiration for these creations in a rare interview with Manga Max (December 1998):
”I don’t know why, but the heroes Japanese children first identify with in manga and animation all seem to be robots. This is true of characters like Doraemon and Aralechan, and many others. As a result, most people have implanted in their heads the idea that robots are all-powerful friends, or pals… If my robots look like spiders, it’s probably just because I like spiders. It’s also related, though, to the fact that until recently, until Honda developed its bipedal robot, bipeds were regarded as fundamentally unstable, and it was thought that the more legs, the more stable the structure, so most robots had at least four or six legs.
”I used to spend quite a bit of time observing spiders. I was particularly fascinated by what we call ”fly-catchers”, the jumping spiders. These are prowlers that don’t weave webs. They’re like robots. They may be thinking, but they’re life forms close to robots with a goal programmed into them. They have a purpose. They carefully observe things, timing their attack. They seem quite intelligent.” -Masamune Shirow
Unfortunately it’s not for sale, so for those of us who want to know what it’s like to pilot a real spidertank will have to make due with the incredibly fun PS1 game from the makers of Jumping Flash!. If you haven’t played it, I would highly recommend you track it down as it is one of the best PS1 games around.
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