There are many anime out there that feature giant robots in some form or another. They battle aliens, monsters, or other giant robots. Some cause massive collateral damage to the cities they fight in. However, what most anime seem to forget is that, on its most basic level, a mecha is a giant pile of metal–and metal is heavy. Kuromukuro remembers that fact.
Kuromukuro is set in the near future where a mysterious artifact (Read: giant robot) is found in Japan and kickstarts earth’s own giant robot-building boom. Along with the “Black Relic,” a mysterious giant cube is found. When high schooler Yukina, daughter of the research team’s director, touches the cube years later, it opens to reveal a samurai from 450 years in the past: the mecha’s pilot.
At the same time the alien invaders who built the mecha come to Earth with their own mecha, scouring the planet for something unknown, and only the Black Relic has any chance of stopping them.
In the first episode, Kennosuke (the aforementioned samurai) kidnaps Yukina and absconds with the Black Relic to battle several of the giant robots in a city many miles south of the research facility. At the end of the battle, the time-displaced samurai is captured by UN soldiers and taken back to the facility.
Most anime would have just moved the Black Relic back to its hanger off screen, ignoring the logistics of such a move. But in Kuromukuro, getting the Black Relic back to the research facility is a multi-episode undertaking.
Because the Black Relic will only activate if both Kennosuke and Yukina are in the cockpit–and there is no way the UN soldiers or the researchers are going to haphazardly allow Kennosuke back into the mecha–it’s not possible to simply fly it back. Instead, transporting it becomes an undertaking of complicated logistics and creative engineering.
First, they have to figure out a way to get the mecha onto its back. From there, they have to find a truck capable of holding such a heavy weight. They end up using two transport trucks, traveling side by side, for what has become earth’s own tinier reverse-engineered mecha. But even then, it’s not as simple as just driving back to the research facility. As it takes up a full two lanes, we see that streets have to be fully closed off to all other traffic. Even lying down, the Black Relic is so tall that traffic lights and street signs have to be taken down all along the route.
Because we see each step of the mecha’s transport with such realism, the mecha itself feels all the more real. So when we see it move or fight, we already have a feeling for how massive it is, and how devastating a punch from it would be. Likewise, the enemy mecha become all the more imposing as they are, by and large, bigger than even the Black Relic.
Of course, in Kuromukuro the transport of the mecha also serves a narrative purpose, to keep Kennosuke and Yukina away from the Black Relic. This in turn gives each the time and space to develop as characters and begin their relationship as partner pilots.
When it comes down to it, attention to details such as the size and weight of a mecha always adds to the fictional world as a whole, making it seem like a real place. And when the creators care enough about the world they are building to flesh out details like this, it’s hard for a viewer not to care as well.
Kuromukuro can be viewed with English subtitles in the US on Netflix.