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Top 5 Greatest Mecha Anime

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Welcome back, Vice-squad. This week’s Top 5 is gonna be a big one. Giant even! Watch out for rocket punches, last minute transformations and secret planet-busting technologies.

That’s right, we’re counting down the very finest in Mecha and Giant Robots.

Only five!? Lets see if this is even possible…

HONORABLE MENTION == PATLABOR

PATLABOR is an amazing series with nicely developed characters, great designs and two pretty kickass movies directed by the one and only Mamoru Oshii in his prime. The only reason this franchise didn’t actually place on the list is because it’s so frequently not focused on the giant mechanical Patlabor suits themselves.

Judging by this promo art, you'd think this show was about a young girl named Patlabor who's trying to learn how to jump without looking like an idiot.
Judging by this promo art, you'd think this show was about a young girl named Patlabor who's trying to learn how to jump without looking like an idiot.

I love the OVA's, the movies, and even the way crazier, more light-hearted tv show but if we’ve only got room for five robots, PATLABOR just can’t hang. If the Top 5 eventually does a list of the best “character-driven, sometimes-political anime with a subtle sci-fi angle, featuring appearances by robots” PATLABOR might just be #1.

I’m actually starting to get some ideas for that list…

NUMBER FIVE == GETTER ROBO

We had to include at least one of the classics on this list, but choosing just one was heartbreaking! It was a close race, with MAZINGER Z and VOLTRON putting up a damn good fight but, in the end, GETTER ROBO stands victorious.

GETTER ROBO is a real man’s giant robot show, with drill-arms, angry teenage dudes, flowing scarves, and hot white passion. Plus, that robot has one angry face, which I always appreciate.

Three robots for the price of one stupid-big axe. This is what happens when you put the mind of an 8-year-old into the body of an accomplished artist. In other words, love it.
Three robots for the price of one stupid-big axe. This is what happens when you put the mind of an 8-year-old into the body of an accomplished artist. In other words, love it.

Perhaps most importantly, GETTER ROBO introduced the idea of separate ships combining- action figure style- to create one stupidly big robot. This isn’t the down-to-Earth “it could almost be science” kind of robot show. This shit is absurd and fun and for the 8-year-old boy inside of you.

Plus, Robo's got an enormous robot-sized ax. Toughest ever. Indisputable.

NUMBER FOUR == GIANT ROBO

How could GIANT ROBO not make this list? It’s all right there in the title! But this show has so much more to offer than just it’s titular enormous crying robot with a pharaoh's headdress. The cast of characters is top notch, with tons of lively and memorable designs in a slightly cartoony style with at least a few nods to Tezuka and his contemporaries.

Undefeated in staring contests since '92.
Undefeated in staring contests since '92.

Big Fire is also the best secret shadowy organization since the Illuminati: with hilarious hoods, evil round table discussions, and nefarious world-ending plots. Big Fire and the Magnificent Ten fall somewhere between the Legion of Doom and the Russian mafia (if the Russian mafia had more robot eye-patches).

This guy has everything on the badguy checklist. Eye patch, curly mustache, slicked back hair, cigar. Don't even try to look eviler than this dude.
This guy has everything on the badguy checklist. Eye patch, curly mustache, slicked back hair, cigar. Don't even try to look eviler than this dude.

I could talk all day about how great the designs for this show are (Robo’s face makes me laugh every time, plus he has a ladder on his cheeks so his lil buddy can pose heroically from his shoulder!), but ROBO also delivers in the classic city-crushing big-punching robot-on-robot mayhem we all want from this kind of anime. GIANT ROBO is the complete package.

NUMBER THREE == NEON GENESIS EVANGELION

EVA almost didn’t make the list, believe it or not. There’s already been so much written about this franchise, and it doesn’t even seem to fit into a list of good times robot fisticuffs. GAOGAIGAR with his enormous lion-face-for-a-chest came dangerously close to stealing this spot, honestly. Of course, it’s the fact that EVA stands out in the sea of giant robot anime that makes it so great and undeniably deserving of a spot in the TOP 5.

Yeah, yeah, you’ve all heard it before - - EVA changed robot anime, and the anime industry, as a whole, forever. It’s a career defining piece of work, and an intense and rewarding roller-coaster ride, even if some of the “heavier” iconography is a bit forced/ultimately meaningless.

This is some epic shit. I love the color in those shadows.
This is some epic shit. I love the color in those shadows.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION has big robots, some big ideas, and a handful of way unsettling images that will stick with you for years to come. The designs of the robots are unique and eye catching, and not at all bulky. They feel organic, and in fact, do seem to be made from some sort of tissue, possibly living? This was new at the time, and the Evas still stand out as unique, interesting and kind of beastly bots.

"Shinji, come in here! I want you to meet your new mom!"
"Shinji, come in here! I want you to meet your new mom!"

I wont waste your time describing all the AT-field ripping, face-smashing, angel-bopping, teen-angst awesome that is EVA. You’re probably already well aware and if not, I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises for you!

NUMBER TWO == MACROSS

Ahhh, MACROSS. This franchise is like a breath of fresh air, especially after all the gloom of EVANGELION. Macross has plenty of melodrama and angst, but it’s also sure to balance it all with just the right amount of robot-plane fun and giant swarms of missiles dancing across your screen!

The “Itano circus” as coined by fans of Ichiro Itano’s work, refers that favorite anime trope of the mass of missiles with smoke trails converging on a target. You’ve seen it in tons of shows, and it all started here! Original MACROSS looks pretty dated and the animation is ROUGH on a lot of occasions, but the dogfights and robo-showdowns tend to look pretty damn good. They took care to give the fans what they wanted, and to use their limited budget in the best way possible to do this.

Pretty sure this is the robot equivalent of projectile vomiting. Get it? Puns!
Pretty sure this is the robot equivalent of projectile vomiting. Get it? Puns!

Plus, the characters are great. I got around to watching MACROSS on Hulu probably two years ago and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. It’s a rare thing when you really and truly don’t know where a story is headed, especially in anime, and especially in giant robot anime. MACROSS is a classic for a reason - - because it’s genuinely compelling.

In case the standard robots aren't huge enough for you, there's also this EVEN BIGGER giant robot that's stuck in the center of the city. Something for everyone.
In case the standard robots aren't huge enough for you, there's also this EVEN BIGGER giant robot that's stuck in the center of the city. Something for everyone.

And of course, MACROSS PLUS is a favorite of all the old men like me who came up in the 80's and 90's anime scene. The animation is top notch, the music is great, and while the feeling of the OVA is pretty different from the original, it captures a lot of what made the universe so appealing.

And yeah, lots of planes that turn into robots shooting at each other. The climactic fight between Isamu and Guld in an empty city at dusk is so well done that it could bristle even the most stubborn new fan.

Whats not to love? I'm tearing up a little bit over here. I'M NOT MADE OF STONE, ALRIGHT!?
Whats not to love? I'm tearing up a little bit over here. I'M NOT MADE OF STONE, ALRIGHT!?

Thanks to ROBOTECH, an entire generation of American kids was introduced to anime and giant robots, and the first (and I think best) season was all MACROSS. Lets just try to forget MACROSS II ever happened…

NUMBER ONE == MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM

If you didn’t see this coming then you’re either completely unfamiliar with robot anime or really holding out for VOTOMS. Either way, this list is sure to disappoint you.

GUNDAM is the undeniable champ of Robot anime - - it spans all kinds of robot sub-genres, from the realistic tactical believable (if that’s possible) style of 08TH MS TEAM, to the completely insane over the top bananas madness of G Gundam. The designs are rock solid and appealing right from the very beginning and completely versatile - - perfectly able to support all these very different styles of robot madness.

G Gundam definitely edges into the "so bad it&squot;s good" category... but that doesn&squot;t make it any less entertaining!
G Gundam definitely edges into the "so bad it's good" category... but that doesn't make it any less entertaining!

GUNDAM defined the genre, and while the franchise has had its ups and downs, there’s no denying the appeal of the more successful series. There has been at least one GUNDAM for every generation of fan, and a steady stream of new takes on the universe. UNICORN (I cringe every time I see the name) is a beautiful thing to behold, and is undoubtedly ushering in a new generation of fans to the GUNDAM universe.

Beautiful promo image! I love the colors and the all-white Gundam is pretty rad. Kind of like the Andrew WK of robots.
Beautiful promo image! I love the colors and the all-white Gundam is pretty rad. Kind of like the Andrew WK of robots.

Also CHAR’S COUNTERATTACK! This movie practically invented every cliche in sci fi anime (any time an enemy’s plan is to ram an asteroid or moon or planet or whatever into earth... yeah that was Char’s idea first), plus it’s a non-stop giant robot drool-fest. I don’t care if you’ve never seen a minute of any GUNDAM before, if you like animation and have a pulse then CHAR’S COUNTERATTACK will entertain you.

While it’s tempting to call out every awesome iteration of the franchise, that seems a little indulgent, even for us. Maybe a top 5 GUNDAM properties is in order… Suffice it to say there’s a lot to like and a lot to watch, so get to it! For once most of it is worth your time.

The original and still the best. It's hard not to look smug when you've been on top for 30 years.
The original and still the best. It's hard not to look smug when you've been on top for 30 years.

Unfortunately many of the greats didn’t quite make the list. BIG O, GUNBUSTER, MAZINGER Z, GAOGAIGAR, GURREN LAGANN! Which robots captured your heart? Did they make the list? Tell me all about your TOP 5 in the comments section below. i'll try not to make fun of your favorite.

Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - -alexeckmanlawn.com - - rumble with his Tumblr - -dudenukem.tumblr.com - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn

Kuma_From_Argentinaon March 12, 2013 at 8:14 a.m.

My list would be (Considering the Mecha Genre rather than anything else)

1- Getter Robo (Mostly New and Armaggedon)

2- Giant Robo

3- Mazinger Z (Mostly Mazinkaiser A.K.A Porn for old school Giant Robots fans)

4- Gundam

5- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

6- Gaogaigar

7- Gunbuster

8- Big O

9- Evangelion

10- Macross

Daniel_Newton moderator on March 12, 2013 at 8:52 a.m.

I just realised I've hardly watched any mecha anime... I should fix that. Great list!

AlexEL staff on March 12, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.

@Kuma_From_Argentina: this guy knows his shit! seems that you prefer super robots to the more down to earth stuff and i can respect that.

get in there! these are all great places to start and there's a surprising amount of variety so you should be able to find something that appeals to your taste.

kwyrton March 12, 2013 at 1:29 p.m.

I don't think RahXephon gets enough credit. I haven't watched all the ones on the list but RahXephon is one of my favorite animes (mecha or not) of all time.

Kuma_From_Argentinaon March 12, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.

@AlexEL: Thank you, knowledge of Super Robots isnt something that is well taken, so having something praising for it is awesome. Getter Robo Armaggedon wins over Giant Robo for 2 reasons, the opening HEATS is my favorite song, not anime opening, song. And the ending is amazing, specially the cameo of the Getter Emperor and the Getter Valhalla.

I really like Real Robots, but Super Robots are the spice of my life, I love every show even the really cheesy ones. My favorite Gundam series is G Gundam (Even if I know is the cheesiest series ever) Other great mecha anime are Dai-Guard and FLCL (That is partially a Mecha Series) Nadeisco is my favourite Real Robot Series. Patlabor is awesome, I dig the opening.

Kino88on March 12, 2013 at 3:19 p.m.

at 12 years old I remember being blown away by the 08th MS Team it was my first realistic war drama anime,

also looking back I would agree G Gundam was so cheesy that it totally rocked as well,

Patlabor sounds pretty cool, another must see for me!

zaldaron March 12, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

I really don't understand the appeal of gundum not enough character for me to much focus on the robots themselves as cool fetish objects. To much like reading some harder sci-fi that can come off as an engineering manual. Eva and Gurran Laggan would be the top two for me with Macross third. Rest you list here I haven't seen.

Marshal Victoryon March 13, 2013 at 12:42 a.m.

Just watched 1st of PATLABOR kinda had a feel of Dominion: Tank Police an MACROSS hybrid.

ROBOTECH was my 1st real look at animation .Back then used to record a show an on the VCR watch it in slow motion an pause it every so often to look at all the movment on screen.Years before computers could aid animation with cgi.Would study how the designs were an try to draw my own mechs.Good times an fun stuff.

@AlexEL: Good list .Thanks to it i found another anime to look into :)

Turambaron March 14, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.

This list is kind of an odd fit, with single shows in some spots, and decade spanning franchises in others. Both Gundam and Macross contains some of the most beloved as well as most hated mecha shows in the entire genre after all.

AlexEL staff on March 14, 2013 at 4:12 p.m.

@Kuma_From_Argentina: i remember you singing Heats' praises in the anime ost TOP 5 as well! You ever see Kishin Corps? it's not a masterpiece by any stretch but it had some cool moments, interesting designs and good music if memory serves.

glad you found something new! Patlabor is pretty awesome and i'm psyched you're giving it a shot.

yeah, it's a tough genre to rank because of these epic franchise institutions. I Think choosing one GUNDAM would be kind of unfair though. Part of what makes that franchise so awesome is that they've done SO MUCH with it! I do appreciate your point though.

Turambaron March 14, 2013 at 4:40 p.m.

@AlexEL: Well, I don't think anyone with any familiarity with the franchise would argue against either 08th MS Team or War In the Pocket for first place. That said, the franchise is certainly a Quantity as Quality kind of thing. The majority of standard 4 season Gundam shows are actually rather poor taken on their own.

Kuma_From_Argentinaon March 14, 2013 at 6:19 p.m.

@AlexEL: Watched it not Hot-blooded enough, a good mecha anime dvd can fry an egg over the dvd players or the radiation from the screen must work as a makeshift microwave out of all the Nekketsu contained in the images

AlexEL staff on March 14, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.

@Kuma_From_Argentina: hahaha, this i cannot argue with. I do appreciate the absolute insanity of it all. nazi-alien alliances and all.

Marshal Victoryon March 14, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.

@AlexEL: seeing the release now has dubs are they any good for PATLABOR ? i got a firend intrested now but hes of the dubs only crowd. But he loved robotech an some same people behind this did macross/robotech.

Love simply love the animation in it.An the camera work so to speek, is great ! Alot of scenery changes .This series is shaping up pretty fast to be a buy on blueray/dvd for me.

AlexEL staff on March 15, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: Sadly, the patlabor dub is not so hot, but it's serviceable i guess. definitely way better in japanese. glad you're enjoying it though!

Marshal Victoryon March 16, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.

@AlexEL: looking at the series its gona be more expensive than getn all of robotech looks like.But long term its a keeper i think.Right next to Detective Conan this has been a good anime discovery for me.

bonifideon March 17, 2013 at 1:59 p.m.

Which Getter Robo version is in the picture?

http://media.animevice.com/uploads/3/33994/627497-avtop5robo4_super.jpg

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