Wednesday, January 31, 2024

31 Days / 31 Characters - HINATA 'HELLCAT' NEKOMOTO

As mentioned, there is no way I am going to be able to complete this year's 31 Day Character Challenge by Wednesday. Nonetheless I am going to keep going until I hit the full 31, however long that takes me. I am motivated, enjoying myself, and I at least beat the number of posts I made last January so I'm calling it a win.



Character: Hinata Nekomoto

AKA: Hellcat, Nekomoto-9, N9

Player: Victoria (Can't remember her last name but it was Japanese). 

System: Cyberpunk 2020 / Mekton II - Interlock System with Houserules

Additional campaign ideas and mechanics were borrowed from the magazine Mecha Press

Nature: Short Campaign: Neo-Tokyo Boomrunners: INTERSPEC

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 1992-93

Origins: Sometime in 1988 I had the idea to run a campaign titled, 'Neo-Tokyo Crimebusters: Freelance Police'. This was a Cyberpunk Action/Comedy inspired by Japanese Anime and Manga such as Appleseed, Akira, Bubblegum Crisis, Dominion Tank Police, and Mobile Police Patlabor. It went over really well, though we only got about a dozen sessions out of it before various schedule changes caused it to dissolve before its time.

You can expect to see a 31 Days /31 Characters entry from this campaign down the line. 

Roughly four or five years later I was talking Anime with some friends and we came up with what we thought would be a cool premise for a series. Then it dawned on me that it would also make for a great RPG campaign. The group agreed and we met that weekend to create the characters. To speed up the campaign prep time I resurrected my source materials from Freelance Police. Boomrunners was to be set in the same Neo-Tokyo as Crimebusters.


This game dealt with some darker and more mature subject matter than my usual campaigns. I used to dip into this type of thing more often but less so as I got older. I was extra cynical in the 90s. 

Viewer Discretion Advised.

Hinata is a Nekomoto-9 Pleasure Bioroid, found discarded in a pile of organic refuse with a gunshot wound to the chest. Discovered and called in by Agents of Interspec's Division 3, they were instructed to bring her back to HQ by Chief Medical and Biosciences Expert Dr. Shun Sasaki.

Dr. Sasaki treated the Nekomoto-9, nursing her back to health (which involved quite a bit of bio-engineering repair) until she was awake and able to move about on her own. Healing increasingly quickly after Sasaki's initial treatment, 'N9' proved surprisingly intelligent and knowledgeable. Digging into the doctor's file, N9 discovered he'd had a daughter, Hinata Sasaki, who died a few years earlier in a Boomer rampage. Dr. Sasaki joined Interspec right after. When he found out about her 'investigation', Sasaki wasn't upset at all and was happy to answer any questions she had. This led to a close 'father-daughter' relationship between the two of them, with N9 trusting Sasaki over anyone else in the world. Sasaki in turned asked N9 to honor him by having her take the name 'Hinata'. 

Not long after taking on her new identity, Hinata Nekomoto decided to make some cosmetic alterations to look the way she wanted to, instead of having the appearance someone else paid for. Additionally, there was still the mystery of who shot her, why, and what her life was before being found by Interspec (she had no memory of anything before that). Best not to look like someone who was supposed to be dead. 

Left: Pleasure Bioroid Nekomoto-9 or N9 / Right: Agent Hinata 'Hellcat' Nekomoto

Hinata applied to join Interspec herself, training for three years before going into the field. Two years after that she was recruited into the 'Boomrunners', a group of Special Agents operating out of Division 3. 

Overview: Set in the year 2092, the campaign followed the Boomrunners, a team of crimefighting operatives working for Division 3 of Interspec. Interspec is an Interpol-like organization that battles high powered android, bioroid, robot, and cyborg focused crimes. They are almost always brought in to deal with renegade Boomers (See previous post). 

Each member of the five person team had their own special skills and abilities, as well as a unique (custom) powered battlesuit. When in their suits, the team members are usually referred to by a codename or callsign. Hinata Nekomoto, who's callsign is Hellcat, is an extremely talented acrobatic, contortionist, and climber. She is remarkably adept at hand-to-hand combat. Hinata turns out to be a competent detective and has skills in stealth, infiltration, disguise, and seduction. 

Adding to her martial arts training, her armored powersuit is equipped with razor sharp claws capable of tearing through most materials easily. They also give her enhanced climbing ability (there are similar retractable ones in the feet). Additional features of the suit include increased leaping ability and a power cord 'tail' that can connect to energy outlets and temporarily super-charge the armor. Like all battlesuit users, Hellcat has increased strength, speed, and a sensor heads-up display. 

Hellcat had some additional abilities related to her bio-engineered origins. She had a heightened sense of hearing, excellent night vision, and a regenerative healing factor that only kicked in if she was reduced to 3 Hits or less (which is what helped save her from the gunshot mentioned in her Backstory). 

The rest of the Boomrunners team consisted of:

Killjoy: Incredible at reading people. Armed with a Samurai Sword similar to Hellcat's claws. 
Lighthouse: Team leader. Excellent detective. Tracker/Ranger type. Laser weapons.
Nightlight: Extreme stealth. Communications, Hacker. Special short-range laser weapon.
Pepperjack: Landmate style Mecha 'suit'. Gattling gun, Missiles, Buckler Shield. Jump Jets.

Lighthouse and Nighlight were brother and sister I believe (the characters, not the players).

Killjoy was a Cyborg. 


I really loved how the player, Victoria, gave the character a 'Noir Detective Story' feel while simultaneously completely fitting in to the over-the-top Anime action scenes. She, as well as most of the other characters, also totally bought in to various romantic subplots, even if they didn't all end positively. Their hardsuits could stop high caliber weapons but nothing deflects a broken heart. 

Many of Hinata's subplots were about questions of identity as much as trying to unravel her origins. We explored some deep ideas. How did N9 end up where she was and how she was? What was her life like before that? Why do I keep saying 'her' life? Isn't she me? Aren't Hinata and N9 actually the same person; why does it feel like that's not true anymore? Was N9 ever really a person; was she her own entity or was she just a doll who someone bought then grew tired of playing with?

One great fight I recall had Killjoy, Nightlight, and Hellcat fighting a Boomer who had disabled Pepperjack (Lighthouse was in a nearby basement tracking a signal that had hacked the Boomer). The teamwork was top notch, with Nightlight hacking the hack and throwing off the Boomer's sensors as Hellcat flipped and spun around the big brute occasionally rending a cable or other component. At some point she squatted down, balanced on the Boomer's arm as it began to shift the limb into a machine gun. Hellcat does a backward somersault/leap off the arm, damaging it with her feet claws, and creating an opening for Killjoy to charge in a slice off the arm with his sword. Super Anime Badassery! 

Game Info:

It's been so long that, as with many of these entries sadly, I just don't have those character sheets anymore. It was primary a Cyberpunk game, with Mekton II used for many of the Mecha elements and some tweaking to make it all fit together. In addition, I used articles in Mecha Press Magazine that covered Bubblegum Crisis and other Anime to get things to feel just right. Interestingly, the second issue (and one or two later ones I think) had an original mini-RPG called Techno Police 2100 AD, which was surprisingly close in concept to the game that preceded Boomrunners and set the stage for the world. 

This was also one of the games, maybe the first one, that used my alternative 'Humanity' mechanic as mentioned in this ol' post on Blade Runner. The basic idea being that while Humans who replace their organics parts with cybernetics are in danger of losing their Humanity and Empathy, Androids and Bioroids (similar to Replicants) start with with very little Empathy/Humanity and are trying to gain them through life experiences. While the goal is to be 'truly Human', it can also result in moments of desperate, passionate outbursts. A true Human can feel anger and free and most of all, they don't want to die. 


Hinata is a gender neutral Japanese name that means Sunflower or 'Facing the Sun'. As for Nekomoto, Neko means Cat, while moto refers to a Book or 'true words'.

Dr. Shun Sasaki. His name means 'Talented and Wise'. 

The battlesuits of the Boomrunners, the term Boomers, and many other aspects of this setting were lifted (then customized) from Bubblegum Crisis and its many spin-offs. I would say that IP was the single biggest influence on the game. 

In the Bubblegum Crisis universe, 'Boomer' is a derogatory term for what is more property called a Voomer, an artificially created bio-mechanical life form. Voomer may be designed to be maids, waiters, soldiers, or any other vocation.

If one malfunctions and goes on a murderous rampage it is dubbed a Boomer. Some people call all Voomers Boomers, implying they believe every single one is destined or at least likely to go crazy. 

In this campaign only the term Boomer was used and these beings almost exclusively created for combat related jobs.

The bright yellow hair Hellcat has while suited-up (See image below) is a hologram. It can be altered or deactivated on command.


Its been a very long time since I've thought about this character or her campaign, partly because its been a long while since I've felt particularly inspired by a Cyberpunk Anime or Manga. Certainly not enough to dig out my almost 30 year old notes on the subject. 

Now, with recent Anime titles like Metallic Rouge and Pluto, it may be something to consider revisiting in the not too distant future.

If you have some free time after school, how about joining our club and ya'know, saving the world from evil? Great! You can learn all about it from club Vice-President ICHIKO YORUHIME

Barking Alien

Do Android Salarymen Dream of Electric Cherry Blossoms?


When Anime first made in-roads into the Western entertainment market in a way that made serious film buffs pay attention, it was with a Cyberpunk film called 'Akira'.

Akira, the 1988 animated motion picture written and directed by Manga icon Katsuhiro Otomo took the West, particularly the United States, by storm. Released in the US in 1989, Akira made over 2 million dollars during its run in movie theatres. It was positively regarded by both fans and film critics alike and is, to this day, considered on of the greatest animated films of all time. 

Akira was by no means the first Japanese animated feature to be shown in the West but it was the landmark title that (one could argue) opened up gates for the cavalcade of titles to come after it. Akira was the first Anime to not only be widely accepted but widely appreciated. Adult Americans who viewed cartoons as media for children were hit head-on by a sticker covered red motorcycle sliding into them at high speed. 

Personally, I love this film. I had already been a fan of Anime and Manga for (roughly) five years when Akira came out in the States. While others around me experienced surprise, even shock at what the medium of animation could do if treated as a serious artform, I simply felt validated in what I'd already known. Looking back on it now I find one element of the movie and its reception very curious. It is considered an Anime in the Cyberpunk genre and while I would agree, it isn't exactly Cyberpunk as we often view it here in the West. 

Then again neither is Blade Runner, another movie I adore that falls into the same category of non-cyber Cyberpunk. Neither film is overly concerned with the 'Net', cybernetics, or mega-corporations (though they exist and play a role in the world-building). While both films do make commentaries on modern society, the focus is on the characters, not so much the setting. It's about people whether they are embracing their humanity, trying to find it, or losing it all together. There is the idea that power corrupts and turns people into monsters, while asking if monsters can change back into people. 

These are very common questions throughout Japanese Cyberpunk. Indeed, it's an example of how the Cyberpunk fiction of Japan differs from its Western cousin in a number of ways. 

Western Cyberpunk is often focused outward; it looks at society from the characters points of view and said characters are often trying to change society or save it from itself. The protagonists are radicals, rebels, even criminals, and they're going to overthrow the status quo and save the world.

That's rare in Japanese Cyberpunk. Akira aside, most Anime/Manga Cyberpunk stories are centered on police, military, or heroic secret organizations trying to protect the citizens of their society from bad elements that would plunge it into chaos. There is often a strong theme of society effecting the protagonists but the protagonists being unable to make a major impact on society as a whole.

Take a look at another quintessential Cyberpunk franchise, Ghost in the Shell; the main characters are former police or military personnel serving as a special operation task force called Public Safety Service 9. They are part of the status quo charged with protecting innocent citizen and, by association, maintaining the status quo. In the two seasons of the animated TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the team investigates and solves various crimes but the major arcs running throughout series deal with uncovering government corruption with which the Public Safety Service is entwined.

No spoilers here but just Imagine that Major Kusanagi and friends successfully uncover the officials behind the lawbreaking and arrest them. Awesome, the bad guys are caught and eventually punished. Government and society-wise things go back to normal...and normal is a Cyberpunk dystopia. The heroes win and therefore nothing has changed. . 

This brings us to two really excellent new Cyberpunk titles: Pluto and Metallic Rouge.

Pluto is a modern and dark retelling of the story The Greatest Robot on Earth, originally written by Osamu Tezuka in the Manga version of Tetsuwan Atom - The Might Atom aka Astro Boy. This story was written and illustrated as a Manga by Naoki Urasawa and serialized from 2003 to 2009 before being adapted into an Anime in October of 2023.

The story deals with a world in which robots abound, living among and working with Humans in a near-utopia of advanced technology. The plot involves a mystery killer hunting down and looking to destroy the seven most powerful robots in the world. Gesicht, Europol's top detective is on the case; a case that has his path cross with the planet's mightiest boy, Atom! 

First and foremost, I absolutely loved this series. I highly recommend it. 

One aspect I found especially interesting about its worldbuilding was how it portrayed the different types of robots and how they were treated by others in Robotkind and the more widespread and authoritative Humanity. While many Humans harbor a prejudice against all robots, those that look like Humans often get more of a pass than those who look like half-faced, six armed, giants among normal people. Of course, any robot known to have performed admirable feats for the benefit of Humanity and the world they live in are viewed in an especially positive light. Many smaller, more 80s robot toy looking mechanicals are often overlooked and seen as inconsequential. At best they are pets and at worst disposable tools. 

Robots themselves, to no great surprise, view each other quite differently. The nuances of how though, that's what makes the setting so intriguing. Without giving away too much, more advanced robots and androids see their less complex and capable brethren the way we might think of an orphaned child or an abandoned animal. 

Personally, I'd love to run or play in a game that explored this take on the role of robots in a Human dominated world. For a similar yet more action packed take on this idea...

Metallic Rouge is a very recent Anime series that is only up to its third or fourth episode as of this writing. Originally scheduled to start in March of this year, it began early due to an unforeseen opening in this season's schedule.

The series is produced by the animated studio Bones and written by Yutaka Izabuchi, a long time veteran of the Anime/Manga scene and a personal favorite creative person of mine. It's not surprising I like this show as I tend to love most of Izabuchi work. He is best known as a a Mecha Designer, coming up with looks for the robots in Patlabor, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, and Panzer World Galient. In addition he's been a director, producer, and the costume designer on many Tokusatsu series, including various iterations of Kamen Rider. 

Perhaps its not surprising then that his latest series is a cross between a Tokusatsu show and Blade Runner, a Cyberpunk Sci-Fi Action tale of two female agents traveling to Mars to hunt down nine renegade artificial beings hostile to the government. Here again we see the governing body, while still possibly up to something, the victim in danger from rebellious robots. It may turn out that the androids, or Neans, have every right to be angry but we are still following heroes who work as government/law enforcement agents.

If you can picture Rick Deckard as a cute Anime girl capable of transforming into a superpowered battle robot to face off against Roy Batty you have a pretty good idea about the core concept of the show. In many ways it reminds me of a campaign I ran with a very similar premise back in 1992-93, which was also inspired by Blade Runner in addition to Anime classics like Bubblegum Crisis, Appleseed, and even some Battle Angel Alita. The next 31 Day Character Challenge entry with cover this game. 

Rouge Redstar and his alter ego Metallic Rouge

As in Pluto, the non-combat oriented Neans are commonplace, a regular part of daily life for the people of Mars. They are generally treated as second-class citizens at best, slave labor at worst, with rare individuals earning the respect one sentient should show another. There are also rare Humans would generally see Neans as people in their own right but it doesn't appear a common outlook. 

Highly recommended.

With that I hope you have some greater context for Japanese Cyberpunk in general and my next post specifically.

Until next time...

Barking Alien

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

31 Days / 31 Characters - GARETH OF OLLWOOD

Obviously I am way behind on the 31 Day Character Challenge and based on my work and life schedule so far I am highly unlikely to be able to complete it in the allotted time. 

That said, I am still really into the project and discussing ideas for Japanese Pop Culture Entertainment related TRPGs. My reminiscing and research this month has been extremely inspiring for my creativity. 

As a current favorite Anime series would say, expect this endeavor to continue 'Beyond the Journey's End'.*

Character: Gareth of Ollwood

AKA: Gareth Ollwood, Prince Regan of Fornia, The Bizmark Knight 

Player: David Concepcion.

System: Mekton II with additional Houserules
Nature: Short Campaign: Mechanical Fantasy Bizmark

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 1987-1988

Origins: David Concepcion and I have played a lot of games together and several of them were Mecha related. If you'll recall, Dave played A.J. DeLorca, the chief protagonist (essentially) of our MACROSS: The Blue Dragons campaign. 

After seeing several episodes of Mecha Anime that dealt with Fantasy or vaguely Medieval era settings, I whipped up an idea for a game with a similar premise. Eventually, with the help of my friend Nelson Marty, I wrote out a comic book story titled 'Mechanical Fantasy Byzumtine' that explored this idea. Nelson drew the pages for the comic and we used it as a submission to our high school's annual Art Festival. 

I'm forgetting something...Oh yes! Dave! I shelved the idea after the Art Festival, unsure exactly what I wanted to do with it. About a year later in 1987, R. Talsorian Games came out with Mekton II, a new edition of their Anime/Manga inspired Giant Robot RPG. After running a few one-shots to test it out (Mekton II is quite different from its predecessor), the idea came to me to revisit Mechanical Fantasy Byzumtine. My thoughts instinctively turned to running it with Dave. 

Cover layout for the Mechanical Fantasy Byzumtine Comic Book story.
Art by Nelson Marty

Reworking things a little I decided to set a new story in a different part of the same world. I pitched the idea I had to Dave, whose concept for a character really painted a picture of what the campaign would be about. As with other campaigns we'd done together, it was mainly a one-on-one RPG initially, just him and me, until others got wind of the game and joined in as either semi-regulars or guest stars.

Armed with Mekton II and a host of Medieval Mecha Anime under our belt, Dave and I set out to take on the world of Rith! 

Backstory: Gareth was a young orphaned minstrel and actor in the town of Ollwood, a large settlement not far from the City of Angels, capital of the Kingdom of Fornia. He was born with rare Gray-Green eyes, a sign of one who has a great destiny ahead of them.

The only other person in all of Fornia to have such eyes was none other than the Prince himself! Prince Regan Angel, young heir to the kingdom had the same sign of greatness. Hmm. Similar hair too. They're about the same height. Huh. Wonder if that will come up later?

When the Kingdom of Nev declares war on Fornia and the King is murdered, it is up to Prince Regan to lead the nation to victory against its dreadful enemy. Prince Regan had no intention of ruling as king however. He sought revenge for the assassination of his father by directly going into battle in his family's legacy Mecha Knight, the Bizmark! Of course, there was no way his court would let him do that as they needed a king. What's a brave, angry, impetuous young Prince to do? Simple! Switch places with Gareth of Ollwood, drafted into the Fornian Army to fend off the Dark Desert Order of Nev.  

And so our campaign followed Gareth (really Prince Regan) as he fought his way to becoming a better person, a true leader, and the secret component to unlocking the ancient power of Bizmark, one of the nine Sacred Paladins (extremely powerful Giant Robots. Byzumtine is another). 

The Bizmark, one of the Nine Great Sacred Paladin Mecha.

Overview: The overall 'narrative' of the campaign was inspired by elements of the Shakespearian play 'Henry V', as well as numerous ideas from various Mecha Fantasy Anime. Regan, disguised as the commoner soldier Gareth, works his way through the ranks to fight alongside the noble knights of Fornia. In the process he goes from vengeful, undisciplined young man to a hero and true leader. Meanwhile, the real Gareth plays the role of Prince Regan with the help of the Chamberlain who figures out the ruse early on. However, it is revealed that the Chamberlain might be influencing the 'Prince' to his own benefit.

Map of The Kingdom of Fornia,
On the Western Coast of Amera, World of Rith.

Meanwhile, other Player Characters popped in and out as various interesting and odd people that added to the setting's lore and the story's intricate plot. Among the ones I remember best include. 

A Mercenary working for the Kingdom of Nev who is convinced to switch sides.
A Knight Captain of the City of Francis, who leads Gareth to a secret island fortress.
A Wizard, imprisoned on said island fortress, joins Gareth to find an mythic artifact.
An Elf, one of the last on Rith, allies with the heroes to battle one of the major villains.

The Highlights:

I remember cool story elements and general battles but stand out moments are hard to recall. It was a short campaign of maybe two dozen sessions or less and it was so long ago. Hmmm. 

I do recall one awesome session where Gareth and two other PCs were fighting a half dozen members of the enemy army including a leader with a custom weapon or something. The heroes were searching through the ruins of the ancient city of Diego in Southern Fornia hoping to find a relic that could protect a Mech with a 'Magic Shield' (in others words, a Force Field). Suddenly the enemy showed with the same idea.

Unfortunately the battle woke a huge Dragon; yep, a freaking Kaiju scale fire-breathing monster. The enemy commander teamed up with the PCs to battle the gigantic beast using the Force Field Belt he'd discovered moments before it appeared. After a conversation about honor and one's legacy with Gareth, the guy sacrifices himself to give the PCs an opening to slay the creature. Pretty fantastic 'episode' I must say.

Game Info:

The game information regarding this campaign is long since lost but I can recollect a few details and speculate on others:

Gareth of Ollwood (really Prince Regan Angel  of Fornia)

Age: 20


7 Intelligence
7 Cool 
8 Reflexes
7 Attractiveness
6 Tech Ability
8 Luck
6 Movement Allowance
7 Body

10* Mana - Latent

Skills and Levels

Awareness 3
Basic Repair 3
Etiquette 3
Dodge 5
Hand-to-Hand 3
Investigate 3
Leadership 3
Mecha Piloting 7
Mecha Fighting 5
Mecha Melee 7
Mecha Gunnery 3
Melee 7

Partial Plate Armor: 5 Points of Stopping Power. 
Long Sword: 1D6+1

I forget what the specifics of the Ritters were but generally they were Medium Striker grade Mecha with Striker grade armor. They were armed with Swords (standard 2 Kill Melee Weapons) and Shields. 

The Bizmark on the other hand was a Heavy Striker Mech with Heavy Striker armor. It was quite fast, maneuverable, and could make extraordinarily high or long leaps. 

The Mech's weapon was a Bastard Sword that did 4 Kills of damage. Once Gareth unlocked his true potential and that of the Bizmark, the Sword could perform an extra special effect on a Critical Success. In addition to double damage (which we had all Crits do), the Bizmark's strike would reduce the damage of an opponents attacks, their movement/speed, and any special abilities by -2. The effect was cumulative. If Gareth Crits on an attack and then Crits again three attacks later in the same combat, the opponent is at -4 and so on.


As should be obvious by now, the 'Medieval Fantasy' setting of the World of Rith is actually a distant future, post-apocalypse Earth. Technology reached great heights before the fall of civilization, with giant robots, hover vehicles, and in-system space travel having all been achieved. 

Fornia is of course California, with our key character hailing from the region of Los Angeles. The real Gareth comes from Hollywood/Glendale. Other important locations in the game were San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, Anaheim, and San Diego.

Throughout the early adventures, Gareth/Prince Regan pilots a standard Mecha Solider called a Ritter, one of about two dozen such robots in the Army of Angels (the 'King's Army' from the capital). The Knights of the Order of Angels use the superior Mecha Knights called Templars. Other city-states have their own armies and Knight Orders, mostly consisting of the same two types. All serve the King of Fornia of course. 

The armies and orders I recall are: the Army/Order of the Black Mouse (Anheim), Army/Order of The Golden Gate (Francis), and the Army/Order of The Redwood (Sierra, North Eastern Fornia). The Dark Desert Army and Order of the Kingdom of Nev (Nevada) use different Mechs. 

Elves, Dwarves, and various monsters of myth and folklore existed but were exceptionally rare. All were likely the results of genetic engineering and subsequent mutations. There were some clues as to the presence of 'Demons' that may or may not have been aliens. 

Magic was in truth a combination of highly advanced technology and psychic phenomenon. The later was rarer than rare, giving things a bit of a Pendragon or Lord of the Rings feel. The world was fantastic but one hardly ever saw fantastic things. Spells and Dragons were assumed to exist but most people had never seen them in their lifetimes.  


Sadly, this game was never truly finished. For whatever reason we got delayed or distracted and ended up leaving it for other worlds and ideas.

As noted in my previous post, I am looking towards running a Medieval Mecha game in the near future. Perhaps we'll revisit Rith and see what Gareth of Ollwood - or Prince Regan if you prefer - is up to.

Can you get more Anime than a Cyberpunk Battlesuit Catgirl? If you think so you can take it up with HINTATA 'HELLCAT' NEKOMOTO

Barking Alien

*A reference to the excellent Fantasy Anime Frieren: Beyond Journey's End.

You Have My Sword, My Bow, My Mecha

The combination of Medieval Fantasy and Giant Robots is nothing new in Anime and Manga, though nor is it especially commonplace. Given the monumental number of Mech series that have come out in Japan, it might be surprising to realize how few of them take place in a Medieval and/or Fantasy setting. 

I'm not entirely sure when and where the idea first appeared but I know my first exposure to it was in the early-to-mid 80s. It was during this period, as I've mentioned in prior  posts, that I first became aware of Japanese Anime that hadn't yet left Japan. Amid the initial dozen or so series that I was made aware of were two that fit the rare category in question.

While other kids across the United States were falling in love with He-Man and The Masters of the Universe and Thundercats, I was watching Aura Battler Dunbine and Panzer World Galient

My next 31 Day Character Challenge entry comes from a Mekton II campaign I ran very much influenced by these aforementioned Mecha Anime. As such, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss these two shows as they aren't among the Mecha series familiar to the average Western Anime fan.

I'm adding in a third series to this post as well, The Vision of Escaflowne. Even though it came out long after my Medieval Mekton game was over, it remains a favorite and one I think about from time to time. The reason for this is that Escaflowne definitely influenced my later Giant Robot Fantasy projects, most notably when I run Wares Blade. 

Aura Battler Dunbine

One of my early favorites as I was really getting into Anime, Aura Battler Dunbine was written by none other than Yoshiyuki Tomino, the prolific novelist, anime screenwriter, director, songwriter, and creator of Mobile Suit Gundam. 

The plot revolves around motorcross cyclist Sho Zoma, who following an accident on his bike, ends up in the Medieval Europe-esque Fantasy Realm of Byston Well. It is a world of knights, castles, and the faery-like Ferario. The main draw of the series were the Aura Battlers, insect-like Giant Robots used by the kingdoms of Byston Well as weapons of war.

These six meter plus Mecha are powered a semi-spiritual energy called Aura. Certain people have especially strong Auras and are therefore able to function as power-supplies to these Mecha, making them Aura Warriors. As it turns out, beings from our world seem to have more powerful Auras on average than Byston Well natives, making visitors a much coveted resources for the armies of various nations.

There was a lot more to this series then this simple summary of course but suffice to say it was quite an involved tale. This show had quite an impact on me. The key to this series was its characters and said character drove the plot more so than anything else. Relationships, romances, enemies becoming lovers, lovers becoming enemies, dealing with war's effect on individuals, and what some people will do to have power over others were all explored throughout the shows 40 episodes.

Additionally the Mecha designs were quite distinct and different, though I'll admit they didn't impress me that much at first. It wasn't until I discovered that the original plan was for the Aura Battlers to appear both more insectoid and more like knights. These first concepts were deemed impractical if they wanted to be able to make reasonably priced toys, models, and other merchandise with the robots so they were altered to more practical configurations. Later animations were able to realize designer Kazutaka Miyatake's original ideas, which were further developed by other creatives.

Old Aura Battler design vs. later redesign based on original intention.

Panzer World Galient

A favorite series of the late, great Allen Halden and a major inspiration for his own epic campaign, Panzer Dreams (I mean, it's in the title). Broadcast from October of 1984 to March of 1985, Panzer World Galient ran 25 episodes and initially followed a fairly simple story. The protagonist was Prince Jordy Volder, operator of the Mecha known as Galient, who fought against the villainous conqueror Marder.

Intriguingly, the Medieval world they were on, Arst I believe, turns out to be just one planet in a large interstellar union. The setting played a role both subtle and surprising in the series and serves as a great example of how to subvert expectations while adding something to the context of the narrative. 

The Mecha designs are both very typical and traditional for the time but distinct enough that the look of Galient has always been memorable to me. It isn't as flashy as some or as intimidating as others but its definitely a classic. 

The Vision of Escaflowne

Created by Shōji Kawamori with Sunrise Studios and directed by Kazuki Akane, The Vision of Escaflowne is the story of a high school girl named Hitomi Kanzaki, who finds herself transported to a fantastical world called Gaea after witnessing a boy appear in her world fighting a dragon. After reaching Gaia, Hitomi becomes involved in a war when the Zaibach Empire attempts to conquer Gaia. The young Dragonslayer from earlier is revealed to be Van, the King of Fanelia. Finding an additional ally in Allen, an Asturian Knight, Van teams with him and Hitomi to try and defeat the Zaibach Empire and free his world. 

Van's advantage in this battle is his mystical, transforming Mecha, The Escaflowne. Additionally, Hitomi's appears to possess psychic powers and fortune telling abilities while on Gaia, possibly related to or even stemming from her long time interest in tarot cards. Soon, it becomes apparent she is the key to awakening the full power of Escaflowne and thwarting Zaibach's plans

The Vision of Escaflowne aired rom April to September of 1996 on TV Tokyo in Japan. It was eventually broadcast on Animax, a channel set up by Sony, that allowed it to be shown in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and elsewhere in Asia. 'Region 1' countries were able to see it thanks to its release in those areas by Bandai Entertainment. The series is currently available for viewing on Crunchyroll.

Escaflowne was a favorite of myself and many of friends in my old New Jersey Gaming Group, as well as my ex-wife. While the world and its nature are very specific and different from those of Wares Blade, there are elements of the two that remind me of each other. It's hard to put my finger on. Something in world building perhaps. The sense of mysticism in a world with Giant Robots really comes through in Vision of Escaflowne, giving the story a unique atmosphere.

I've spoken about Wares Blade, Japan's classic Magic and Machinery TRPG several times now and I am considering running it again. As such, I started to think about the various inspirations for the game and for other games like it. What else is like it? At this point there are actually quite a few. Relatively recent examples include Armour Astir: Advent and  Knights of the Round Table: Academy

I feel this idea requires further deliberation. 

Ever onward...

Barking Alien

Saturday, January 20, 2024

31 Days / 31 Characters - FAR FUTURE GIRL

I am SUPER excited (heh, see what I did there?) to include this very special character in the 31 Days / 31 Character Challenge! I've been obsessed with the Deadline Heroes RPG for some time now so it was a given that I'd include a character from the game. Unfortunately, I've not yet run or played it.

Therefore, in a departure from my other entries for the 31 Days Character Challenge, this is an original character I created just for the 2024 edition. That's right, for a change of pace I'm going to things that way they're supposed to be done! Inconceivable!

Did I mention I haven't been able to completely translate the rules for Character Creation yet? Anyway, let's go!

Character: Far Future Girl

AKA: The Tomorrow Hero, Alura Zordox

Player: None yet. Possibly me, possibly an NPC.

System: Deadline Heroes
Nature: Endless possibilities. 

Gamemaster: None Yet. Maybe me?

Circa: Today 2024

Origins: Again, I've been wanting to run or play this game forever but haven't been able to find enough of the material translated into English to make this viable. Luckily I am nothing if not persistent (read: obsessive, hyper-focused). I was recently able to find a number of resources including a set of Quickstart Rules (or 'Trial Set' as the website calls it), Actual Play reports, Sample Characters, and run them through a few translation programs. 

By essentially reverse-engineering some character temples and fan-made PCs, I was able to creation Far Future Girl. It's me, so I knew I wanted her to be an Alien. As for powers, I wanted a classic Superhero of the American Flying Paragon variety. Messing with some AI Art designs to get a basic idea I ended up with a character that, to me at least, looked like a Japanese Anime take on the Legion of Superheroes. So, that's what I went with. 

Backstory: Alura Zordox was a new Superhero on her first mission after graduating from a Hero Academy in the campaign thousand years in the future! She encountered a villain with a Time/Space Warping power and accidentally flew right into one of his portals. She popped out a similar portal but in the 21st century!

Still going at her full burst flight speed, Alura slammed into the extraterrestrial villainess Kokorosa-Chan, leader of the Earth Invasion Society. Kokorosa had hypnotized a bunch of young male heroes and were having them walk into her own Time/Space gate when Alura crashed into her. The collision made Kokorosa-chan loose concentration. The brainwashed boys were freed but spent a few moments thoroughly confused. Suddenly, one of them shouted to Alura that Kokorosa-chan was a villain trying to take over the Earth!

Kokorosa-chan, Leader of the Earth Invasion Society
from the Deadline Heroes RPG supplement, 'Villains Showcase'

Zordox seemed to recognize Kokorosa-chan at that moment and hit her with a Thousand Year Punch! The other heroes shook off their stupor and together all of them were able to subdue the Earth Invasion Society and its leader. The guys cheered for Alura and soon introduced her to other heroes. After explaining she was from the year 302X, the modern heroes dubbed her the Tomorrow Hero: Far Future Girl!

Overview: I see Far Future girl as a somewhat naive though very intelligent young woman who has quickly fallen in love with the 21st century. She loves to hang out with the other heroes, eat hamburgers and instant ramen, play video games, go to the movies, check out social media, and do all the typical things a normal young adult person does.

At the same time she is very confused by things we take for granted. You need a job to pay for food and shelter? Why? You still have trash? There's no Teleporter Booths to get around the world. How do you go to another country or to the Moon for a concert? What? No one lives on the Moon? 

Alura misses her Mom and Dad very much, mentioning in passing they her father is a Superhero and her mother one of the smartest Super-Scientist's in the galaxy. She definitely gets homesick but also really enjoys being here in our present. Far Future Girl is a young hero torn. Should she stay in the 21st century or find a way to get back to her future?

The Highlights:

I don't have any yet as I haven't played her but I look forward to making some. I feel like Far Future Girl will be a really fun character to play. In my mind she's a mix of Supergirl and the Teen Titans Animated Series version of Starfire. 

Game Info:

As noted I don't have the full Character Creation rules available to me in English. Luckily, it seems that in Japan a common practice is to take one of the templates or sample characters, change their name and appearance to whatever the player prefers, and then run them from there. As the player and PC go on from scenario to scenario that character gains Growth Points used to improve and customize them further, resulting in a unique PC after initially being a 'copy' of a pre-made one. 

I was able to translate some of the sample characters, including a number of different 'Harbingers', the Origin type recommended for playing beings from another world such as Gods or Aliens (Thor, Wonder Woman, and Superman are described as examples of Harbingers). Kitbashing some of the these sample characters together and modifying some of the powers here and there (based on other powers from other characters) I was able to create Far Future Girl's sheet.

I'm not entirely sure how 'rules as written' accurate this she is but it seems pretty close to other PCs I've seen. 

Her main abilities, Body, Spirit, and Environment, come from her Harbinger template, as does her Life, Sanity, and Credits. As for the powers, as I noted above, I took a few liberties with ones I had seen on the sample sheets. High Speed Movement (which I explain as Flight) is one that is directly from the game. Her Thousand Year Punch was inspired by the games' One Million Power. The punch seems less versatile and I'm fine with that. Body of Steel is akin to the powers Armor ShieldBarrier, and Iron Body. Guardian is also a power directly from the game (translated as Guard) but I was unclear how it works so I came up with a less powerful but very flexible variant. 

One thing I found really funny was that the Harbinger gets no Skill Level bonuses at all. The explanation is that these characters both rely on their powers and physical prowess more and are often unfamiliar with the mundane things a normal Human would have to do. 


In DC Comics, Alura Zor-El is the name of Supergirl's mother. Querl Dox is the true name of the Legion of Superheroes member Brainiac 5, an alien of the Coluan species and a descendant of the villain Brainiac. Far Future Girl's real name pays homage to Supergirl and Brainiac 5 who were a romantic couple in the Legion of Superheroes comic.

Taking some inspiration from this and the Japanese Anime 'Project: A-ko', I imagine Alura Zordox is the daughter of a genderbent version of the pair; a female Brainiac 5 and a male Supergirl (a variant Superboy I suppose. Superlad?).

The One Million Power that Thousand Year Punch is based on was definitely inspired by the power of the same name in the Anime/Manga 'Tiger and Bunny'. I additionally wanted a little 'Texas Smash', the super punch used by All Might and Deku in My Hero Academia. 

Why did Alura recognize Kokorosa-chan? I'm thinking there is a villain in her future time of the same species. 


Me. Anime. Superheroes. How could I not like this?

It is heavily structured however, as are many modern Japanese TRPGs and that might end up annoying me in the long run. Still, if there is a way to loosen it up a bit, I would definitely use Deadline Heroes as a reoccurring and/or ongoing fill-in game for when we can't play one of our regularly scheduled campaigns. 

From the far future to modern day to a Medieval Post-Apocalypse Fantasy! Swords, Sorcery, and Giant Robots clash as we meet GARETH of OLLWOOD

Have at Thee! 

Barking Alien