[Mail Call] 2018/05/01 – Morgane’s Fireside Chat #13

Or what should probably be named, shipgirl equipment and design considerations in shipgirl combat – the mobile unit.

ALSO: A quick announcement. We’re noticing that messages left on the message board are appearing weeks or occasionally months late (or sometimes not at all though I can see them on the backend for some reason). We’re still looking into it now, so thank you for your patience.

I haven’t had much time to post one of these lately. Work’s been keeping me amazingly busy, and the end of the year means that most people are busy finishing off projects or the term as well.

We’re still chugging along. Still scheduled to hit up each of the conventions as scheduled. Zero’s got quite the travel plan, too. Anyways, to the topic at hand.

I think a common criticism of any (object)girl related work tends to be, “well, that hardly looks like a ship/plane/tank, that’s literally a (description of woman, often derogatory) wearing a (description) and they’re calling it a (whatever).” While this is certainly true to an extent, I think each work should be assessed in its own context. People who want to do military moe anthropomorphism, where the goal is to accurately recapture say, the key mechanic aspects of said character, are naturally going to have very different standards than someone like me who are treating these characters like, well, individual characters and people.

Objectively, I think again, it really depends on what kind of a work you’re trying to create. If you’re super into technical details, then I think it behooves you to focus on the smaller details. KanColle’s newer art (well, some, anyways) have very good examples of this, and I can tell at a glance that the artist is both passionate about the subject as well as having an eye for detail. Other examples tend to lean towards the creative. You have only to look at KanColle’s Warspite as an example, where (thematically appropriately, too, I might add!) she sits on a literal throne as befitting of her characterization. Obviously, she’s very different from the run-of-the-mill DD girls wearing “smoke stack backpacks” and carrying hand-held turret guns.

We tend to do things a little bit different here. I’ve alluded to this before. For instance, in a previous post talking about how the girls of Silent Service use their equipment. As you can see, the vast majority (in fact, I don’t think I’ve posted any exceptions to the rule) of Pacific shipgirls tend to follow some very standard “design” elements. In the various Pacific books I’ve described this as “stylized” or “minimalist.” You can see an example of what I’ve got up there.

Basically, if we’re going to break things down simply, Pacific shipgirl equipment generally have several components. I’ll probably take the time in this and several other mail calls to describe each in detail and elaborate a bit about why we chose to depict the equipment this way, but to quote Sune (she wanted me to add this, not my idea xD)

It has a bit that make the botegirl go move and somewhere to attach fighty bits to, generally more than one place to put fighty bits

So, yeah, power unit, weapon hard points, support components.

Let’s start with the power unit.

Oftentimes, the most visible component is the shipgirl’s “smokestack,” or her mobile/locomotive unit. If you’ve watched any kind of mecha anime, these are basically very similar to power units, jetpacks, whatever you want to call them. Every Pacific girl has one as a part of her equipment, and while they can choose to sortie with additional equipment (e.g. many of the DD girls like the heel “rudder” equivalents you can find in KanColle) having this by itself is enough to provide your average shipgirl with more than enough mobility.

Why? Well, think about this thematically for a second. A ship’s smokestack, engine room, boilers, everything basically provides a singular function of mobility. It’s important to me that the viewer can see the “smokestack” and have it immediately be associated with that particular function as described above. If we reduce it to a “cinematic” angle, where battles are taking place within visual range, I honestly see less KanColle arcade and more mobile suit gundam.

The other thing is my personal opinions about what should be “realistic.” I’ve discussed this at length elsewhere and in other communities. In a fictional world, what matters is internal consistency. The more internal consistency you have, the more “belief” capital you build with the reader. Having a strong “core” of this allows you to create dramatic situations or what Sune likes to call “hotblooded” moments where we temporarily suspend said suspension of disbelief and create something extraordinary, emotional, inspirational, or some combination of the above.

How a shipgirl moves is an important part of it, and the way I think about it, having their primary source of mobility be tied to two points on their feet (when we’re bipedal) is really creating more trouble for the shipgirl herself. The maintenance of balance would be an additional challenge that I simply don’t feel would be necessary for every character to go through. It adds another thing I have to handwave away when it comes to acceleration/acceleration. Not to mention, it gives additional “skills” to some of the more acrobatics oriented girls and adds to their fighting styles.

Let me explain a bit more about what I have in mind. Let’s take a speed of a metal ship that people complain about. You know, how some of the older battleships can only go 27 knots an hour. That’s about 31 miles an hour. The surface of the earth curves out of sight at about 3.1 miles, but you can only resolve human-sized objects in about two. Shipgirls are much faster than ships in combat and are much more agile. Even at that sort of speeds you’d basically lose sight of her (assuming you’re standing still) in less than four minutes.

Given the general accuracy of naval gunnery at great distances, you can probably see the benefits for the shipgirls to stay at range. Forcing the Abyssals to fire at greater distances mean that there is more time for shipgirls to react to the incoming threat. Even if say, the Abyssal is firing HE shell equivalents (they would need AP equivalents to get past a shipgirl’s shielding) with say, an explosion radius of 50 meters across, an Abyssal gun with shell velocity of 850 meters shooting at a shipgirl at 25,000 meters still needs 30 seconds for it to hit its target.

Yeah, hitting a target that can dodge and weave and start and stop on a dime isn’t going to be as easy now, is it? Like I said, if you think about it, there’s a reason why the Abyssals are interested in closing the distance. Cal talked about it a bit here (characteristic of her, of course) about the sort of combat you would expect to see shipgirls carry out, too.

So, one last thought. If every shipgirl’s power unit is more or less “get her to go faster,” then why not just give everyone the “fastest”?

The answer to this is the same as “why not give all the BB girls the biggest caliber guns.” This would be ideal, but it’s not something STEC has figured out how to do yet. In general, (probably due to the similarity and the standardization within US navy seamanship training) you can probably swap one set of fairy crews for another without any significant decreases in efficiency. However, shipgirls do have their own “personal” crews that are better at what they do. A crew of fairies used to working with a DD girl’s equipment and familiar with her particular pattern of weaves or habits is not going to be as familiar with another DD girl’s.

Not to mention, again, we want to maintain visual simplicity. What’s “beneath” the hood is anything but simple, and the bits that STEC can puzzle out tend to reflect the doctrine and training and engineering design of that particular shipgirl’s equipment’s “nation of origin” (wow, that was a mouthful). US units tends to be a lot more ergonomic and flexible in terms of reinforcement and remodification – a shipgirl can probably switch out “electric” or “steam” (shipgirl tech aren’t electric or steam, but because those units resemble that of the historical ones the names stick) ones at her leisure fairly easily, but if you’re one of the Fusou sisters or one of the British battlecruiser girls, you’re likely to have a much harder time (likely due to your equipment being similar to historical arrangements – i.e. between the stuff that makes up the gun turrets).

So, yeah. A lot of people really don’t like the smaller details when it comes to worldbuilding. It’s what I find to be entertaining though, since I very much prefer a world with its internal logic and consistencies over one where we literally just transplant navy ship statistics and have them fight.

See you next time. 🙂