Mecha Anime Subgenre
Since the dawn of time, man has coveted two things: dinosaurs and robots. So it’s only natural that some of the most widely known and loved anime series feature giant robots and mechanized everything. Mecha is the term used to encompass any anime that features detailed robots or anything heavily mechanized – it can be as prominent as wars dominated by manned robots or as seemingly non-important as mechanical suits and weapons used for fighting.
As with many words taken from Japan, the definition of mecha can vary. While in English it has come to refer to anime’s particular way of crafting humanoid robots and large armoured suits, the Japanese term encompasses basically anything that features a lot of man-made machines.
Robots. Not everything has to be robots, but it’s recommended that everything should be robots. Failing that, characters situated in a world that heavily relies on machines and technology can be thought of as being in a mecha anime (if not outright sci-fi).
Space. Earth just isn’t big enough for some robots, and walking all over towns is more of a Godzilla thing. Be it because mankind has journeyed through space or because there is something around Earth that they must combat, mecha anime features a hell of a lot of space.
Toys. Kids love robots. Adults love robots. Companies like money. If there’s an iconic robot or system of mechanical things in the anime, you can bet there are toys of it. In fact, some series are designed specifically to sell toys.
War. What’s the use of having a robot if it’s not going to fight something? While not always the driving force behind every series, the main image of mecha shows we have are series that use robots as tools to fight wars or to protect the Earth.
Sci-Fi. Science Fiction and humankind’s future advancements in technology are what allow us to have giant robots, mecha suits and anything remotely better or smarter than what we currently have. Science Fiction is mecha’s major genre, but it’s not unusual for the subgenre’s underpinnings to appear in Fantasy anime.
Space Opera. As noted above, mecha anime has a deep love for space and strong ties with war. When it’s not used to play around on Earth or to wage war with other countries, robots, large ships and mech suits are employed in space opera, a term used to encompass romantic high-risk war in space coupled with political intrigue and adventure.
Action. A penchant for fighting means plenty of action, though keep an eye out for older shows that try to minimize animation frames to save time.
Here's our top 10 'Best Mecha Anime Recommendations'
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion – Humankind is being attacked by mysterious beings dubbed “angels”. The only way to defend themselves is by employing large robots, called Evangelions – but they can only be piloted by a select few teenagers… and the latest eligible candidate wants nothing to do with it. A deeply psychological anime that changed mecha anime forever.
2. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – In the distant future, humans have forgotten what it means to live on the land, surviving simply by digging tunnels and living day by day. When the charismatic Kamina encourages shy Simon to leave their hell of a pit, a series of events leads them to the surface where they must now fight against beastmen and robots for their right to live as they once did. An intense action/comedy series that has strong personality.
3. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion – The world has almost been completely conquered by the Britannia Empire, a force that has crippled all other nations by reducing them to mere numbers. When an exiled prince of the Empire gains the power of inspiring complete obedience, he uses it to wrest the world back. A carefully plotted action series about politics and war.
4. Gundam Build Fighters – GunPla Battles are the new flavor of the season and kids across the world are eager to battle with their plastic Gundam models. Sei, an accomplished model builder, teams up with an experienced fighter to take on the world championships. Mobile Suit Gundam is one of the founding mecha shows, but its age makes it hard to get into. Build Fighters is one of the more recent (and fun) looks into the huge franchise.
5. Full Metal Panic! – Mithril is an organization that exists to protect the planet from terrorists and outside threats. Sousuke, a specialized Mithril soldier, is sent to high school protect a girl who has knowledge they need to stay strong. A fish-out-of-water tale with robots and the military.
6. Eureka Seven – Renton is a big fan of a mercenary pilot group and wants nothing more than to surf the skies on his hoverboard. When a large robot and a young girl crash into his room, a series of events brings Renton into the group, but he soon realizes the grim reality of war. A fast-paced action series with more romance than your regular mecha anime.
7. Ghost in the Shell – In the not-too-distant future, the line between man and machine is a blur. But even though technology has advanced, machines are still susceptible to hacking; that’s how a hacker called the Puppetmaster uses vulnerable people to influence politics. It’s up to specialist group called Section 9 to stop things from going out of control. A gripping movie with equal parts cool action and deep introspection.
8. Super Dimention Fortress Macross – After an alien ship crashes to Earth, it is reconstructed and christened the SDF-1 Macross. When it’s powered up for its first flight, an alien race appears on Earth, sparking the beginning of a war that would change everyone’s lives forever. An older series that combines war, adventure and romance.
9. Aldnoah.Zero – In an alternate history, the 1972 Apollo mission succeeded and found a hypergate to Mars on our very own moon. Using the hypergate and advanced technology found on Mars, people migrate to the planet and begin to see themselves separate from those who remained on Earth. Needless to say, war eventually ensues. A recent hit mecha series with strong visuals and action scenes.
10. Yamato 2199 – There is only one year left until humanity is extinct. The planet has been left uninhabitable by alien attacks and the only help available is hundreds of light years away. The space ship Yamato is sent spaceward as humanity’s last hope. A classic sprawling space opera.