You know how there’s a furry scale? There’s probably something like a mecha scale too.
No, not really about Strike Witches (even if that’s a good example of both types of scales). Actually, one of the more attractive aspect of mechanical design for popular media is its ability to transform. A big reason people like the F-14 is its moving-sweeping wings. It is not a surprise to see the now-retired assault aircraft pairing off with futuristic valks in Macross Zero. And as you know, these witches transform into furry beings by magic and military weapons by mechanical parts.
The value in transformation almost implicitly point out that the degree of mechanization for a mechamusume is not a quantized value, but a sliding scale. It’s one thing to paint a girl’s picture to the side of your aircraft or bomb or tank. It’s another to replace the giant robot and replace it with a girl-android-thing. Maybe we can even put, at the extreme ends, just girls piloting these things on one side, and girls piloting these other things on the other end of the scale.
You know Aegis from Persona 3? She’s a pretty much middle-of-the-road for mechamusume. Now by definition mechamusume is combing traditional mecha with that moe bishoujo aesthetics, like “girl+tank” or “girl+RX-78“. Aegis is just a straight-up android, and by definition human-like robots will exhabit some humanlike-ness. If that style of femininity is what the android has, it might be difficult to consider that as mechamusume. Perhaps as a new dimensionality?
But to a degree one end of the mechamusume spectrum is kind of like how people get off on guro or, say, ableist porn–it’s all normal except insert-the-blank, where the blank is some kind of abnormal physiology. Androids approach this idea from the opposite, in that the question is how human-like that they may be, except for their ears and the on-off switch, as an example. I would say these kinds of mechamusume are almost just normal people; that’s kind of their schtik. That’s the 0%. After all we don’t quite put Miku in this category.
I think Scarlet Rain is a pretty good example of both the more extreme form of mechamusume, as well as the idea of this non-fixed value of how much of a mechamusume a character could be. For one, in Accel World, you are your avatar, and it isn’t something you pilot exactly–you could kind of control it, but it is ultimately presented as the version of you in Accel World. So in that sense, when Scarlet Rain is doing her bit of the story inside the Accel World universe, she’s only known as Scarlet Rain, and not Yuniko. It’s a pretty serious transformation in contrast with Strike Witches, don’t you think?
Or maybe better yet, perhaps we can posit that it is Strike Witches that is progressive in combining the mechanical aspect of the girls with the innate identities thereof. Yuniko is still just Yuniko in the real world, after all. To the degree Power Ranger Pink can transform from mundane to magical (sometimes with the hardware), it speaks a lot about the place our characters inhibit within the scope of what makes of mechamusume. As I would put it, it’s about venturing into that 2.5D land, that gap between the common-sensical and the fantastically two-dimensional construct of the mechamusume.