Giant robots are just awesome and we have Japan to thank for them. Were it not for their love for Kaiju and Mecha, we would have never gotten such amazing titles as The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Pacific Rim. The popularity of Gundam exploded this market, and with the advent of Iron-Blooded Orphans, I thought I’d revisit some of the best of Mecha Anime.
5. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
The newest one on this list, and probably the shortest, is Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. Set in a future where humans are tasked with destroying a vast octopus-alien force, Ensign Ledo, a soldier from the Galactic Alliance, finds himself transported to the mythical Earth through a wormhole after a battle goes seriously wrong. Compared to the AI and weapon capabilities of his Machine Caliber, Chamber, the society he lands in seems incredibly primitive. These people live on giant barges on an Earth that has been covered in oceans and struggle to survive amidst pirates and sea monsters. As Leto realizes that he cannot get back to the Alliance, he slowly comes to terms with this new society and their customs. This series is very reminiscent of Stranger in a Strange Land in how it challenges Leto’s understanding for how humans operate and live alongside each other. Being only 13 episodes, this series is packed with excellent character development, awesome fight scenes, and more twists and turns than you’d originally guess. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is one of the newest classics in Mecha Anime.
One of the first true Animes to come to the states, Robotech is a classic. Piloting Transformer-esque mechs, Earth’s best fighters must defend against an onslaught of alien invasions. With anime still in its infancy, Robotech was a series that helped define the genre for American audiences, as well as introduce them to the mechs. Standing at 85 episodes, the original series has three arcs; The Macross Saga, The Second Robotech War, and The Third Robotech War. Although the years haven’t been kind to its visuals, there are several continuations and remasters that seek to enhance the Robotech experience. If you’re fan of mecha, and looking for a nostalgic adventure, Robotech will certainly transport you straight back to the 80s.
3. Zone of the Enders
Although technically not originally an anime, Zone of the the Enders, and its sequel Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner, are landmarks in the mecha genre of video games. With its fast and fluid aerial-based combat, Z.O.E. is already fun to play, but with the Metal Gear mastermind himself, Hideo Kojima, behind the series, players are able to experience an action-packed and engaging story. Set in the space colonies of the future, players are tasked with saving the day with the use of the prototype frame known as Jehuty. Even when the action does die down for a second, players are still sucked in by the heart wrenching stories of Leo and Dingo. With an O.V.A. and a short anime series to support the story of the main games, Zone of the Enders is a series that has substance, as well as a loyal fanbase. Most recently, we got a 2012 HD remake of both games, but a second sequel was eventually canned by Konami, so we’ll just have to be satisfied with the excellent games and Anime we have now. But with Kojima’s future currently up in the air, who knows? Maybe we’ll get to see a Z.O.E. 3 one day.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
There might not be a more critically acclaimed series than Neon Genesis Evangelion. Coming from the dark and odd anime age of the 90s, Eva is a series that truly resounds with its audience and pushes its own boundaries. Protagonist Shinji Ikari is a teen on a post-apocalyptic Earth tasked with protecting humanity from the monstrous Angels. With such heavy themes as religion and the apocalypse, Eva is anything but light. But before I say too much, I’ll let you watch it, just trust me.
1. Mobile Suit Gundam
Could our number one be anything other than Mobile Suit Gundam? Although this wasn’t the first mech ever conceived of, this was the series that launched it into the genre it is today. Partly popularized by Bandai’s plastic model kits, Gundams have been a standard and staple of mecha anime for over thirty years now. With such landmark chapters as Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, and Turn A Gundam, as well as more infamous ones such as Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the Gundam franchise is a strong one. It is the original series though, that introduced the world to the RX-78-2 and the conflict of futuristic space politics. With fun, fast combat and serious themes throughout, Mobile Suit Gundam is a series worth visiting (or revisiting). With a new Blu-ray collection currently out and with Iron-Blooded Orphans coming in full force, Gundam isn’t going anywhere, and we’re psyched for it.