Maybe it was the busy Christmas period or the copious amount of alcohol, but I had a tough time trying to write a companion piece for my review of Girls’ Last Tour. Despite being a great show that left me with a lot to talk about, I felt that I already managed to fit in everything I wanted to praise in my review. I had my complaints with the show, but felt the pieces I wrote about them were overly whiney and not a fun way to celebrate the start of a new year. This left me with just one lingering thought… my raging love for that beautiful Kettenkrad.
I have made no secret of my love for military vehicles. I am no car person, I don’t know my Hyundais from my Citroëns and take public transport to almost everywhere. But put a gun and some armor on any kind of vehicle and my heart starts to beat a little faster.
The Kettenkrad was a beautiful vehicle and a fitting companion to Chito and Yuuri’s journey through the wintery wasteland they found themselves in. So, in honor of its greatness, I want to nerd out a bit and talk about the most awe-inducing vehicles in anime. Not the best vehicles, mind you. I am looking for creativity and surprise, so factors like absurdity, size, and role in the story are more important than actual quality.
#10 Z-001 – Roujin Z
While Roujin Z is a 10/10 movie in my book, I am keeping its iconic Z-001 low on the list because it was never intended to be a vehicle at all. It was created as an innovative new bed powered by an AI that could provide every bit of care an elderly person might need. Nobody foresaw that its first trial run would be this chaotic.
As the AI becomes increasingly fond of the ailing widower Kijuro Takezawa left in its care, it takes on the personality of his deceased wife and begins to use its systems as a means to facilitate an escape. Despite his old age, Mr. Takezawa becomes part of a wild adventure as the hospital and company behind the Z-001 desperately attempt to recover the duo, all while his sickbed becomes an increasingly unstoppable construction. It absorbs and adds other machines to itself, growing in size and frustrating any attempt to stop it.
What started as a simple hospital bed turns into a war machine, all while never losing that old man or neglecting his care. Say about the Z-001 whatever you want, but in that regard, the trial run was a success.
#9 GF13-066NO Nether Gundam – Gundam
Is this what racism feels like? For once my beloved medium of anime acknowledges the fact that my country exists, except they do so by creating a Gundam shaped like a fucking windmill. I love and hate it at the same time.
It even has the colors to match the spitting image of an old-timey Dutch windmill and it can use its ridiculous blades to generate tornadoes. I bet it’s also powered by Heineken and Stroopwaffels.
Most of the Mobile Fighter G gundams were similarly ridiculous, so it’s not just my country getting mocked here fortunately. The Nether Gundam even does fairly well for itself in the tournament that the series is based around and would make future appearances in other Gundam shows.
#8 Karl-Gerät – Girls und Panzer
Picking just one of the tanks from my beloved Girls und Panzer series is painful. There are so many fantastic tanks in here that I would love to give a shout-out, but this is about awe-inducing vehicles, and a Karl-Gerät is pretty unbeatable in that regard.
Originally a massive, mechanized mortar that was employed by Nazi Germany, a Karl-Gerät appears during the main match that takes place during Girls und Panzer der Film, which is an act of blatant cheating. In an already unfair match-up, the girls of Oorai are now also stuck having to deal with a 120 ton mortar that can hit them from across several kilometers away. The powerful blasts of its shells makes any kind of defense or formation impossible to maintain.
It’s an incredible machine and plays a big part in some of the best scenes of the entire movie. I don’t know how Das Finale is ever going to top this, but I look forward to finding out.
#7 The Catbus – My Neighbor Totoro
I love machines of war, but there is more to life than guns and armor. One of anime’s most iconic vehicles is, of course, the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro.
While not a movie that I enjoyed personally, it’s undeniably an iconic part of anime as a whole. This does mean that its existence was spoiled for me like a million times before I actually got around to watching the movie, but getting to see it in action was still a pleasant surprise to me. It’s such a cool design and so nicely brought to life with that typical Ghibli magic. I didn’t care for Totoro, but that Catbus was amazing.
#6 Takemikazuchi – Sound of the Sky
As an Adeptus Mechanicus player, I instantly felt a connection with the tank designs present throughout Sound of the Sky. These spider-legged walkers equipped with cannons are so rad and the very best of them is the Takemikazuchi, the repair of which is a slowly-developing storyline over the course of the show’s 12 episodes.
It’s a relic of the world’s ancient past which hasn’t worked for a long time, but is being constantly tinkered with by the garrison’s resident genius Noël. When it finally sees action, it’s an amazing sight made all the more memorable by Servante du Feu, a brilliant, French song played over its action scene.
Not only does it have a kick-ass design and a name with folklore significance, but this thing is fast. It’s not just designed like a spider, it scurries along like one as well, including the ability to go up walls and all over the place. It can even jump and… spiders can’t jump, right? Right???
#5 The Perceval – Legend of the Galactic Heroes
Admiral Neidhart Müller is by far one of the most likable and skilled officers within the Imperial fleet. As a reward for his many heroics and loyal service, Müller is eventually given a new ship after his original one, The Lübeck, is destroyed in a rescue operation.
Müller’s new ride becomes The Perceval, which is a different beast compared to anything else in any of Reinhard’s fleets. I was tempted to give this place to Kircheis’ bright-red Barbarossa, but that is just eyecatching because of its absurd color. Meanwhile, The Perceval has a unique, slick design, almost like its the sports car of intergalactic warfare. Not only that, but it goes equipped with all the fancy tech that had been, up to that point, exclusive to just Reinhard’s own ship, making it unique both in design and function.
#4 Takeda Shingen’s Horses – Sengoku Basara
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings was a pretty forgettable action anime based on the Warriors-like action series by Capcom. It’s a comedic, over-the-top take on the Japanese warring states period, but I’d sooner recommend the games over this anime adaptation of them.
That is, with one exception. Only two memories of the show remained after all this time, one of which was the character design for Kasuga, and the other is Takeda Shingen and his horses. I am not sure which of the two is more insultingly absurd.
During the Siege on Odawara Castle, capital of the Hojo clan, Takeda Shingen takes it upon himself to storm the walls of this legendary fortress. And he takes those walls by horse. As the Takeda forces breach the gates of the city, Takeda alone scales the walls of the inner sanctum, literally standing on the backs of his horses as they runs up walls that are almost entirely vertical. It’s ridiculous and absolutely beautiful.
#3 S.S. Anne – Pokémon
A bit of a different kind of awe-inducing, but one that I have some justification for. When I was a young boy watching Pokémon, I remember being very shocked by the segment on the S.S. Anne being adapted into the anime as a Titanic homage.
Renamed to the St. Anne in the anime, a fairly simplistic portion of the video games is turned into a multi-part storyline where Ash and his friends spent time on a cruise ship that eventually, or perhaps inevitably, starts to sink. Unable to escape, the cast winds up trapped in a claustrophobic and frightening situation; the ship tilted, flooded, and potentially falling apart. And no help is coming, because there is literally a scene where a ceremony is held in memory of Ash, Brock, and Misty. Everybody thinks they are dead and rightfully so.
That was a big pill to swallow for a young Casper who didn’t yet possess the genre-savviness to assume main characters in a long-running kids show are always going to be fine. I was already enamored with the ship when it was still merrily boating along, I thought it looked really cool and liked the idea of all these Pokémon fanatics gathering on a ship to trade and battle with each other. To see that all go south so drastically and having that be followed-up with such an intense storyline cemented these episodes in my memories.
#2 Kojirou – Nichijou
With Takeda Shingen setting the precedent that animals are a viable inclusion for vehicles, I would like to include a second steadfast mount in this list. While not oversized, not able to scale vertical surfaces, and certainly nowhere as fast as Shingen’s steeds, Kojirou does have the benefit of being a goat.
The first time I watched Nichijou, I asked my companion to rewind a bit because was I fairly sure I just some dude ride into school on a fucking goat. That “dude” turned out to be Koujirou Sasahara, son of a local farmer who has a pet goat named after himself that he takes everywhere. A privilege he insists he should have due to his noble heritage, which he doesn’t actually have. He rides the goat, takes it on walks, it’s great, I love it. Goats are such adorable creatures and to see this teenager in a suit ride into school on one and just tie it up next to the bicycles is brilliant.
It’s not impressive or awe-inducing in the traditional sense, but it does fill the criteria of being surprising and creative.
#1 Cocktrain – Panty & Stocking
When I first had somebody proof-read my draft for this top 10, he remarked how he was surprised that I hadn’t included the Cocktrain from Panty & Stocking. And he is right… we really need to talk about the Cocktrain.
Crazy Crazy Cabbie is a sexually-frustrated ghost who loves to go as fast as possible. He died while on the job and his spirit returns to earth with the ability to possess vehicles, so that Cabbie can once again race through the streets with reckless abandon. The girls set out to hunt him down, which turns into a mad chase all across Daten City, during which Cabbie possesses increasingly larger vehicles and keeps spouting sexual innuendos with every opportunity given to him.
When he gets hold of a train, all subtlety that remains is thrown out of the window. The speed and intensity of the chase causes maximum arousal in Cabbie as his train swells up and boosters unfold to add even more speed. One way or another, Crazy Crazy Cabbie is finishing today and he’s gonna love it.
And with that, my turn to speak is over. If you have any other suggestions for ridiculous, oversized, or crazy anime vehicles, then I would love to hear them. I derive so much fun from these and I hope you similarly enjoyed this countdown of my personal favorites.