Mecha musume (メカ娘 meka musume?, mecha girl) are moe anthropomorphisms similar to the OS-tans. Mecha musume is the accepted term in the west, but the Japanese call them mecha shōjo (メカ少女 meka shōjo?, lit. mecha girl), although the term heiki musume (兵器娘 heiki musume?, weapon girl) is also infrequently used. Mecha Musume is the term used by the artist Humikane Shimada (島田フミカネ) for his copyrighted commercial and artistic designs.
In Japanese usage, the word mecha can refer to any kind of mechanical device such as a gun or a robot. In the case of Mecha musume they are specifically personifications of military hardware. They should not be confused with other types of moe military mascots, like those representing something abstract like a country's navy or army.
Mecha musume resemble girls wearing armor inspired in its design by some kind of military hardware. Usually the body is exposed with only the limbs encased in armor, though sometimes they wear more and sometimes less "protection". The design of the armor reflects the weapon system that they are a personification of. Most common are tanks, aircraft and ships, but also anything from ICBMs to military field kitchens. Some carry weapons that also reflect the thing they represent. Mecha musume are usually based on real military systems. Fictitious designs model themselves after historical and modern military equipment.
The clothing worn by mecha musume varies considerably. Besides military uniforms, various anime-themes are also common, such as school swimsuits, seifuku, maid outfits and shinto shrine maiden dresses. The dress can sometimes help identify the military system. A shrine maiden's dress means the girl represents a Japanese aircraft or ship, usually from World War II. Various other anime themes are often incorporated, with animal ears being particularly common.
MS shōjo (or Gundam girls) are related to mecha musume. They preceded the trend of turning weapon systems into girls as Gundam girls first appeared in print in the 1980s. MS bishōjo are girls drawn wearing helmets and armor designed to resemble various mobile suits, usually gundams or zakus. Fanart of girls drawn to resemble mecha from other anime and games are also popular. A distinction is made between Mecha Musume and Mobile Suit Girls because the latter are based on futuristic fictional walking mecha and predate Mecha Musume by nearly two decades.
In 2006, the artist Humikane Shimada created character designs that have been used for collectible figure sets and two anime OVAs. He named his designs Mecha Musume, which quickly became the accepted term for mecha girls among anime fans in the west. The Japanese only use the term Mecha Musume when referring to Shimada's works.
Shimada put his mark on the sets of Mecha Musume collectible figures representing World War II military vehicles that were released by Konami (a company better known for making video games, but which has a toy division in Japan). The designs are a mix of actual and fictional WW2 weapons such as the M4 Sherman and Valentine tanks and the fictitious Morane-Saulnier Ms-462 (modelled on the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406). So far three sets have been released along with three larger scale models. The larger single models are the Messerschmitt Me 109E3, the MiG-60 (a fictional design most likely based on the MiG-1 or MiG-3, in keeping with the World War II theme) and the Reggiane Re-2200 Furiata (a retro-futuristic fictional design unrelated to any real aircraft).
A Mecha Musume-themed anime OVA, "Strike Witches" animated by the Japanese animation studio GONZO was released in January 1, 2007. Strike Witches was first conceived as a 1-episode OVA that was later turned to a 12-episode anime series, with Shimada as the character designer. The "witch" part of the title refers to girls that use magic both to merge with their mechanical components and to fly and fight.
A new magazine was launched in fall 2006 called MC Axis (MC☆あくしず). It styles itself a "Moe military magazine" and focuses primarily on cute girls in military settings - including mecha musume.
In 2007 Konami created Otomedius, a spinoff of their long running Parodius series focusing on mecha musume versions of Gradius and Parodius ships. A sequel, Otomedius Gorgeous, is scheduled to be released in October 2008.
- (Japanese) 制服兵器兵站局 - Japanese Imageboard for Mecha Shōjo.
- (Japanese) Nijiura - Japanese Imageboard, Army board has Mecha Shōjo threads.
- (English) iiChan/WAKAchan imageboards - Net Characters board has Mecha Musume threads.
- (English) Mobile Suit Girls at Anime Cubed
- (Japanese) Strike Witches website
- (Japanese) Sky Girls website
- (Japanese) MC Axis website
- (Japanese) Konami's Mecha Musume figure site - Includes Figumates and related Mecha Musume figures
- (Japanese) digital bs tuners blog - Shimada Humikane's blog featuring news and art.zh-classical:兵器娘zh:兵器娘