WARNING: The article you are about to read is exaggerated satire and is intended for entertainment purposes only.
Today on BattleBots Update we’ve got something in store for you that isn’t your traditional “robot combat” as we currently know it. We’ve got robots, don’t get me wrong, but these bots are massive “mecha” style robots complete with fists and guns and fucking chainsaws. I’m talking of course about Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry, the USA’s MegaBots Inc, and their title match three years in the making: Giant Robot Duel. Yeah, that’s the name they ended up going with instead of something cool like “Mechanical Terminators” or “Steel Gladiators” or something. This article is going to be a fucking doozy so bear with me here.
You’re probably already familiar with these two machines in passing because like I said this battle has been in the making for literal years. If I wanted to I could probably dig up the original news reports from when this all began but to be honest this “robot duel” has been a massive dick-waving clusterfuck ever since day one and I’m not about to pretend to give enough of a shit to try and find some offhand Buzzfeed article from 2015 so instead I’ll just summarize it for you. Basically, Suidobashi Heavy Industry of Japan built their robot “Kuratas” in 2012. People ooh’d and aah’d at it and thought it was cool. Apparently there was a version of Kuratas featured in a movie at one point. In 2015, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti of America’s MegaBots Inc took notice of this and made what I am hoping is a purposefully embarrassing challenge video.
Japan accepted the challenge under the condition that the robots would be able to have a melee battle. What ensued next was a massive media blitz for the American team including showcasing their robot (the “Mark II”) at Maker Faire, starting up a web series documenting the construction of their new Mark III robot, and even opening a goddamned Kickstarter. According to Wikipedia the MegaBots brand had an “advertising equivalency” of over $250 million. I don’t know what the hell that means but apparently it’s one-third of Transformers’ and we all know how popular that IP is. The duel was constantly plagued with delays, however a few weeks ago it was finally announced that the Giant Robot Duel would be taking place “live” on Twitch on October 17th, 2017.
This is what happened.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA OF ROBOT COMBAT
Like any good “first of its kind” show, Giant Robot Duel opens with a clipshow showcasing the history of mankind’s technological achievements and outright bloodlust. Look! We’ve even got Kennedy in there talking about going to the moon! And some sumo wrestlers because Japan is involved! This intro is okay enough I guess, I mean it’s just a cut-and-dry thing. Self-explanatory, really. We get a couple of shots of the robots involved in the Giant Robot Duel plus shots of the teams crossing their arms and looking all badass. Shoutouts to the white dude inexplicably on the Japanese team.
Giant Robot Duel is set to take place at “The Steel Mill” according to the disembodied voice of what I can only assume is a wrestling commentator the producers of this show bummed off of WWE. In case you aren’t paying attention he has to point out the irony of this battle taking place where once upon a time steel was forged and where it’s now going to be broken. This shit is deep. Anyways the guy talking appears on screen and his name is Mike Goldberg. Apparently he’s an MMA commentator so I was close with my WWE remark. He also looks like he’s made of plastic. Mike is joined by Saura Naderi, a “robotics expert” with literally just 692 followers on Twitter as of this writing. I personally know people who draw dragons fucking each other for a living who have more followers than that.
Mari Takahasi rounds out the broadcast team as its third and final member. She’s got purple hair so you know she’s quirky and hip with kids and she apparently makes her living managing the Smosh gaming channel on YouTube. Yeah, remember those guys? It’s been a good five or six (or ten) years since I even thought about Anthony and Ian from Smosh so I moseyed on over to their gaming channel to take a look around. They have 7.1 million subscribers while most of their videos fail to even scratch 150,000 views and their most popular uploads are all from several years ago. Lookin’ good guys, totally not a dying channel far past its prime! Also, Anthony and Ian have apparently fucked off because they haven’t been in any of these “gaming videos” in a very long time leaving our friend Mari and a host of other nobodies to play games by themselves complete with cringeworthy video thumbnails and clickbait all caps titles.
After introducing the hosts they continue to pad the video out recapping things that have already been said so if you’ll excuse me I’m just going to skip this nonsense and get to the “good parts”.
IRON GLORY vs. KURATAS
Mari catches up with the two teams before the match starts and gets the low down on each team’s battle plans. Matt and Gui put on a good show and say that they’re just going to shoot their guns as fast as possible and that “all” of Kuratas is its weak point. Gui remembers to name drop all of their sponsors as well, except for the people who gave them money on Kickstarter. Meanwhile, Kogoro from Suidobashi Heavy Industry says he’s going to win because his robot “is the Japanese one”, an allusion to Japan being the source of mechas in popular culture. Also apparently Mari can speak fluent Japanese!
Iron Glory is the American’s robot in this fight. It uses what I’m assuming is a salvaged skid steer with heavy duty tracks as a base while its upper half is completely custom built. Iron Glory’s weaponry consists of pneumatic paintball cannons, one of which the hosts erroneously refers to as a “missile launcher”. Fuck off. For insurance reasons the “weaponry” of this robot is nothing more than glorified paintball guns; the “cannon” fires out a three pound ball while the “missile launcher” presumably fires off a bunch of miniature rounds. If you think these are going to do a damn thing to anything other than the shitty junk cars they used as target practice you’re sorely mistaken.
Kuratas from Japan is a bit of a peculiar case. Apparently the version of Kuratas at the duel isn’t the one the team originally built, the major difference being Kuratas is supposed to have four “legs” while this one only has two front legs and its ass appears to be a stripped down tractor of some sort. I tried looking for some footage of the four-legged Kuratas in action but as I’ve discovered its bottom half doesn’t do a fucking thing. The only video I could find of Kuratas “driving” around was all done with CGI so I’m assuming the tractor ass was birthed out of necessity because otherwise Kuratas is just a stationary object whose upper torso can move only. Not exactly a million and one thrills. Kuratas is equipped with a 1/2 ton punching arm and that’s it. Its other arm doesn’t have a weapon and instead has articulated fingers that are just for show, much like every other goddamned aspect of this machine.
Pay no attention to the guy walking around near Iron Glory as it moves into position, or the cameraman clearly visible behind Kuratas. These are very dangerous fighting robots and they are so dangerous that no people are allowed in their vicinity while they are active. Nope, just ignore those people because they aren’t really there.
Before Iron Glory is able to do anything it first needs to raise itself into its upright form which it does over the course of about half a minute. Kuratas raises its articulated hand up to its face and for a moment I was expecting it to shoot the finger or something but instead it forms a fist as its other more massive arm raises up into a striking position. Here I am thinking this robot is coming in for a clothesline but apparently in order for it to strike properly the entire goddamned torso needs to swivel to the side. While Kuratas is on the approach Iron Glory fires off a single “cannonball” which — since it’s a plastic ball filled with fucking cornstarch and water — does absolutely fuck all to the Japanese robot because it explodes in the firing chamber and comes out as a poof of fart gas.
Kuratas’ fist finally makes contact with Iron Glory and before the American team is able to show off their likely equally ineffective paintball “missile launcher” the robot is toppled over and on its ass. Iron Glory is a one pump chump and just like that the battle is over. So far, everything with this show seems okay albeit a teeny bit overproduced. We’ll dig into this more in a little bit though.
WINNER: Kuratas, KO
EAGLE PRIME vs. KURATAS
In the second match of the event Iron Glory has been replaced with the equally stupidly named Eagle Prime. Eagle Prime is the robot that MegaBots attempted to outsource funding of to Kickstarter where they received over $500,000 before major sponsors (Autodesk, et al.) stepped in and took care of the rest of things. Eagle Prime is equipped with a twin paintball cannon, but since it’s a fucking paintball cannon it’s about as useless as the piece of shit on Iron Glory so you’re free to consider this a non-weapon. On the other hand, literally, Eagle Prime is armed with a grappling claw from a logging truck. Also, in the biggest case of overengineering just to be a dick, Eagle Prime was built specifically to beat Kuratas and towers over the smaller Japanese robot while also featuring a stupidly powerful engine to boot. Talk about moving goal posts.
Kuratas hasn’t changed much for this fight and is still set up with its ineffective gesturing hand and its much larger 1/2 ton punching fist. You know, the one that requires the driver to look 90 degrees to the right in order to swing it. It’s a good thing these robots are the size of trucks otherwise I don’t think Kuratas would be able to hit a damn thing swinging blindly like that. The battle plan here is the same as it’s always been: drive forward and punch the opponent right in the face and hopefully knock them on its ass.
The Official Giant Robot Duel Air Horn™ sounds and the fight is underway. Immediately Kuratas takes cover behind some nearby metal drums in order to lure Eagle Prime into burning up ammunition and protect itself from enemy fire. Why someone would knowingly fire on an enemy that’s hiding behind cover is beyond me but hey I’m not the battle strategist here so what the fuck do I know? Eagle Prime predictably opens fire on Kuratas and the first shot does the same goddamned thing as Iron Glory’s cannon, the paintball breaks apart in the barrel and all that comes out is an ineffective blast of purple fairy dust. Eagle Prime’s second shot finally fucking works for once and takes down a couple of barrels which I guess sort of exposes Kuratas.
Now it’s time to move in for the kill. Eagle Prime drives through a drum shield while Kuratas just sits there doing absolutely nothing. Eagle Prime fires a third time and hits Kuratas on its left leg. Since these legs are mostly just for show and the real target is the half of a goddamned school bus sticking out of the Japanese robot’s ass this attack does nothing. Kuratas finally responds by sending out a drone. Yep, I bet you thought “drone warfare” died a pathetic death thanks to BattleBots but you’d be wrong! Kuratas’ drone flies over near Eagle Prime and hovers by its logging claw. I’m assuming the drone is trying to get into position to do something but before that can happen Eagle Prime channels its inner HyperShock and swats the dumb thing out of the sky. Unfortunately this results in the drone landing right on the mech’s windshield and it starts to smoke. I can’t tell if this is what was supposed to happen all along or if the drone’s batteries just died but in any case the Americans are “blinded” by this attack.
Also, please ignore the man wearing absolutely zero safety gear walking out of shot when the drone starts flying toward Eagle Prime. Much like the other two crew members that were accidentally in view of the camera earlier, he’s not really there either. Remember these machines are extremely dangerous and getting hit in the face by a wayward paintball has the potential to lightly bruise you. We’re dealing with robots capable of doing dozens of dollars in property damage here.
Kuratas’ wheelchair starts belching out copious amounts of exhaust as it gears up for its signature (and only) move. The MegaBots team sees Kuratas telegraphing its attack from literally a quarter mile away so they use their logging claw to punch the nearby stack of cars to topple them over. Despite falling nowhere near Kuratas the robot comes to a complete halt. This gives Eagle Prime enough time to (slowly) maneuver around the pile of cars until Kuratas comes back to life and charges into the American mech fist-first. Unfortunately due to the shitty design of the robots their bases collide before Kuratas’ fist comes anywhere close to Eagle Prime’s cockpit.
Unable to make proper contact, Kuratas starts pivoting around in place and swings its punching fist in for some wide left hooks. Not wanting to deal with this bullshit Eagle Prime uses its claw to grab hold of Kuratas’ fist and then uses its paintball cannon to shoot it right in the dick. Now out of ammo and apparently stuck in place Eagle Prime has no choice but to start punching Kuratas with its cannon arm. As it turns out hitting Kuratas with its weapon as opposed to shooting at it is doing far more damage and you can see what appears to be the fiberglass panels of Kuratas right leg start to shatter and buckle. Don’t worry, I thought they were metal too but I guess in order to show “damage” the panels were replaced with something that in a best case scenario would have split apart when hit with the world’s largest paintball.
Apparently the two robots have also become locked together so the imaginary referees of this match call it a draw while the teams conveniently get to reset their machines and swap out weapons.
EAGLE PRIME vs. KURATAS, PART 2
Just moments ago the fight was halted because the “E-Stop” was used, something that I’m assuming stands for “Emergency Stop”. This was activated because the robots were stuck together and technically a stalemate had been reached. Fair enough. The robots were separated and the two teams were both permitted to make changes to their robots’ configurations. Suidobashi has decided to keep Kuratas’ massive fist however next to the robot’s articulated hand they’ve attached a gatling gun. Sadly, rather than fire the ball bearings mentioned in Kuratas’ original promotional media they’ve gone with — you guessed it — fucking paintballs. Also technically they could’ve been using this weapon the entire goddamned time since it attaches onto an existing place rather than occupy an entirely new arm. Whatever.
The crew behind MegaBots tells Kari that their cannon was pretty much useless making this the first agreeable thing said on the show thus far. Rather than go into battle with an ineffective weapon they’ve swapped the cannon out with a giant four foot long industrial chainsaw, the kind used to crush rocks and dig ditches. Now this is what I’m talking about. This is the shit that the team used in their promotional mock-ups on Kickstarter to get people hyped. Real shit. Eagle Prime is fixing to go full Gears of War all up in this bitch.
Eagle Prime makes the first move and uses its new weaponry to sideline a bunch of barrels. They’ve got the blade going but it’s just pushing things out of the way for now because the barrels are too light to stay in place. Kuratas cruises around and immediately opens fire on the Americans. Pay close attention and you’ll be able to see Kuratas’ gun eject tons of faulty shots as globs of paint are weakly flung out of the front of the gun. Yeah, this is doing jack shit to Eagle Prime but the commentators are spinning this as a strategy to take out the cameras mounted on Eagle Prime. What cameras, the GoPros mounted on its arms? The drivers can still see out of the fucking windshields this attack is going to do absolutely nothing.
“Let’s try something,” says one of the drivers of Eagle Prime. The robot maneuvers over to the nearby lighting trusses, picks up part of one with its logging claw, and then — I shit you not — starts spinning it around to “deflect” all of the paintballs conveniently being fired directly at it. Also, again please pay no attention to the handful of cameramen and crew members standing no more than 20 fucking feet away while this is happening. There’s apparently also a cameraman standing directly behind the light rig that gets picked up because they just so happen to have a closeup shot of the remainder of the rig as it comes crashing down.
Let’s stop for a second before we go any further. Let’s remember that this event was streamed live on Twitch and it was right around here where the audience of about 200,000+ people realized something wasn’t quite “right” with this show. Something felt “off” and the optimism and excitement of the viewers started to turn into skepticism. Now let’s continue. Cautiously.
Eagle Prime drops the now-orange lighting array and immediately grabs Kuratas’ punching fist again. Stuck together once more the American robot fires up its chainsaw and rips open the ammunition hopper on Suidobashi’s machine but since the thing is full of paintballs I don’t really give a shit. Eagle Prime pushes forward to try and get a better angle with its chainsaw which results in its welded steel bumper breaking apart. The good news is despite this they were able to adjust their chainsaw and Kuratas tries to stop it with its goofy animatronic hand which results in it getting ripped to shreds, sort of like what would happen if you were retarded enough to grab a real chainsaw blade-first yourself.
As the battle starts heating up Saura gets the squirts in her pants and tells Mike that they should probably leave the set. Mike makes a nonsensical retort that she’s the robotics expert as if that would somehow change the situation and Saura says “that’s why we should go”. Apparently the hosts have just been sitting right fucking there in plain sight of both mechs this entire goddamned time and sure enough when they cut to the crane camera shot the host box is literally ringside. Mike continues to ignore Saura and cheer on the fight until Kuratas moves back like six inches prompting him to shout a bunch of bleeped expletives as he and his co-host escape just in the nick of time. Despite smashing the set the “fight” continues for several more seconds until the Japanese team “taps out” and surrenders to the Americans.
“WINNER”: Eagle Prime, Tap-out
This is the point at which the entire show turned straight to shit. I had tuned in to watch this event live and Twitch chat went from skeptical to outright vicious in the blink of an eye. The stream chat immediately began filling up with spam of things like “FAKE” and “SCRIPTED” while other users started spamming “#MECHGATE” and other accusations. Viewership began dropping by the tens of fucking thousands as we all collectively realized we’d been taken for a ride.
THE AFTERMATH & FALLOUT
The “E Stop” sounds. The battle is over. The Americans and their over-engineered, insanely expensive, and heavily corporately sponsored machine have “won” this match. But where the fuck was that “E Stop” a few seconds ago when Kuratas’ giant anal tractor backed into the set and destroyed everything? Shouldn’t the fight have been “emergency stopped” right then and there? But that’s not the question we should be asking here, the real question is “why were all of these people just standing around out in the fucking open while two giant robots were fighting”. Isn’t that a safety issue?
Well, yeah. You’d think it was but that would also require the robots to have a real fucking fight instead of what we just saw. At no point were any of these fights real fights, the whole thing was staged from the get go. Don’t believe me? Each robot was conveniently not moving when the other needed to be doing something whether it was Kuratas taking cover behind some barrels or Eagle Prime grabbing hold of Kuratas’ punching arm. Everything you just saw was a total sham cobbled together very carefully from dozens of specially selected angles. Every shot was lined up, every strategic move set up ahead of time, and every line of commentary written accordingly. Smoke and mirrors. This whole act was less exciting than watching Robosaurus eat a car.
Like I said earlier, the people watching via Twitch were absolutely livid. Many of the viewers who made it to the stream had been waiting for this moment for upwards of three goddamned years and those who had just recently heard about it through the grapevine were understandably confused at why everyone around them was so mad and probably a little bit let down themselves. The MegaBots Q&A after the stream didn’t last long, we’re talking like maybe 10 minutes. When the Q&A ended it just looped so there was really nothing worth sticking around for but by that point viewership had fallen nearly 75%. After the stream finished the video was uploaded to YouTube where in a matter of 24 hours it managed to get over one million views, however it also managed to maintain a 2:1 like/dislike ratio with dozens of fights breaking out in the comments.
The common consensus among viewers was that the robots themselves were very grand technical achievements in their own rights, but it was the show itself and how the whole thing was quite obviously scripted that pissed people off. Just let the fucking robots fight, that’s what people wanted. Backers gave this thing over half a million dollars on Kickstarter expecting the mechs to actually FIGHT and what we got amounted to little more than two movie props bumping into each other, I mean fucking Kuratas was even on its own dedicated puppetry vehicle how much more obvious could it get?
The real problem with this whole show was the human factor. Of course the robots aren’t going to use anything more than flashy props to fight with, someone could literally fucking die otherwise and that’s the hurdle that most hindered Giant Robot Duel. I don’t know about Iron Glory and Eagle Prime, but Kuratas is completely operable via remote control which removes the human factor altogether. Why the Americans couldn’t achieve the same thing is beyond me. As long as there’s a real live human being inside of the robots they are never going to do anything more than dance around and hide behind some dumb ass barrels to dodge paintballs and pyrotechnics. That’s literally all you’re ever going to get from this.
In the end I’m reminded of an experimental show from the Discovery Channel called Weaponizers. The premise of the show was that it was going to be a real life Twisted Metal and actual full size custom vehicles would battle each other via radio control. What ended up happening with Weaponizers is exactly what went down with Giant Robot Duel, cars would conveniently wait when being “fired upon”, weapons were replaced with dumbed down pyrotechnic versions, and overall the whole show came off as a glorified play where the winners were predetermined and there was absolutely nothing at stake. (I wrote an article about Weaponizers in 2010 but my other website is down so here’s an archived link instead if you’re interested.)
Seven years ago I wrote the following about Weaponizers and — references to specific aspects of the show aside — the exact same argument applies here:
What’s the problem in simply skipping all of the bullshit protect/destroy “objective” missions and letting people go hog wild with actual weaponry on a car? What, is Discovery Channel afraid of not having enough footage to fill a one hour timeslot? For fuck’s sake if you put real weapons on real cars and let them go at it you could fight for all fifteen seconds and people would be floored regardless. We don’t need to be spoon fed a bunch of bullshit passed off as being “real” only to see that the Black Knight is only a golf cart with a Batman cape and copious amounts of camera angles added for needless dramatic effect. Let it be an R/C demo derby and people will be happy.
Again, were the producers afraid that a real fight between these two machines would end exactly as uneventfully as they had scripted Iron Glory vs. Kuratas? If so what’s the harm in that? Seriously? If you let the teams go into completely balls out fight-to-the-death mode I guarantee the end result would’ve been something shorter but infinitely more watchable and sincere than what we got.
Giant Robot Duel was nothing more than an overhyped reheating of that terrible Robot Combat League show that aired on Syfy Channel a few years ago. The “show” we just watched was simply a pilot aimed at investors and TV networks with its real audience left behind as an afterthought. Giant Robot Duel was absolutely not worth the wait and I regret backing it on Kickstarter in the first place. Normally I’d just be happy with what we got but instead I’m left wondering about what things could’ve been.
And that’s a wrap on Giant Robot Duel, hopefully you enjoyed this article. It was a bit trickier to write because it’s very different from the normal stuff that I normally write about on this website but I hope I did it justice. I was originally so let down by this event that I was planning on never writing about it because “it doesn’t deserve to be remembered” however immediately after the show aired numerous readers of The Update asked me if I’d be doing this… so here we are. Thank you for checking out this article and as always in order to keep up with this website be sure you’re following BattleBots Update on Facebook. Additionally, BBU is now on Patreon as well as being open to one-time donations.