Mecha Press is one of those unique publications that would have had great difficulty surviving at any other time except for the few years in which it was published. The title no doubt gives it away, but Mecha Press focused entirely on giant robots, specifically giant robots in Japanimation and tabletop gaming. This overlap of readers could only have existed at a time when anime fandom was centered in a much different place and the tabletop gaming community had dispersed into the wind in the wake of Magic: The Gathering and home video games.
Mecha Press was published by Ianus Publications, the same guys behind fanzine-turned-pro anime magazine Protoculture Addicts. At roughly the same time, Ianus was also making a push into the paper-and-pencil role-playing game market, publishing supplements for anime-related role-playing games like Palladium’s Macross II and R. Talsorian’s Mekton. The same people involved in these gaming supplements were responsible for the Mecha Press magazine and more or less Ianus’ “gaming division,” otherwise known as Dream Pod 9. They would later go on to publish their own games like the VOTOMS-inspired Heavy Gear and Gundam-inspired Jovian Chronicles. Following the cancellation of Mecha Press after 17 issues, Dream Pod 9 split off from Ianus Publications to pursue game products in full force, while Ianus turned into Protoculture Inc. and continued to focus on publishing Protoculture Addicts.
Issues of Mecha Press generally followed the same basic formatting. First and foremost, a cover feature on a mecha anime series (like VOTOMS, Dunbine or in the case of this issue, Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory) with plot summaries, background information and mechanical statistics. Beyond that there were articles about mecha-related gaming (both role-playing and wargaming), news and assorted reviews. Like most other magazines of the era, the anime coverage is focused heavily on summarizing and synopsis. Later issues featured some color pages as well.
This issue is #8, dated March/April 1993. The cover feature is on Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory and roughly half the magazine focuses on the series. Aside from the regular episode summaries, there’s a lot of background information about the original Gundam series, the various factions involved in 0083, character bios, a gallery of 0083 model kits and extensive mecha statistics with line art. In addition to the 0083 coverage, there’s a short introduction to V Gundam, which was airing at the time.
The gaming coverage is rather sparse this issue, with a short article about adapting anime-isms to Mekton, new rules for Mecha! and statistics for a VOTOMS Scopedog and Xabungle‘s Dugger, adapted for Mekton and Battletech, respectively. There are only two pages of news, and most of it is gaming focused. None the less, here’s a few of the things that were going on at the time:
• The second Patlabor film was about to be released.
• The Macross II film had its U.S. premiere in Florida of all places, and continued on through Maryland, Ohio and California.
• The Giant Robo OAV was apparently slated for a limited theatrical run in the U.S. that summer.
• A group of fans (including, I believe, Gundam Super Fan Mark Simmons) out in California released a couple issues of a Gundam fanzine called the U.C. Herald. (Incidentally, if anyone out there on the Internet knows where I can find copies, please let me know!)
Ultimately, the issue (like all other Mecha Press issues, truthfully) feels a little slim at only 40 pages, but there’s a lot of information in here. The layout is clean and professional, and by far it has one of the highest production values of anime-related publications at the time, even if the writing comes off as a bit amateurish.
If you’re at all curious about checking out a few back issues of Mecha Press, DriveThruRPG offers them as cheap PDF files.
Next Week: Anime-Zine #2!