The mecha genre has reached a level of ubiquity that only a few other anime genres have achieved. It’s why we get countless anime about giant robots hashing it out. Luckily, there are a few of these shows that stand out from the rest. So, here are the five best mecha anime to watch to fall in love with the genre.
DARLING in the FRANXX
One of this year’s biggest hits is the mecha anime series DARLING in the FRANXX. In a post-apocalyptic future, teenagers must fight enormous monsters using giant robots called FRANXX. However, when Hiro realizes he is unable to pilot one, he questions his own worth. But his doubts disappear when he meets Zero Two, a strange girl with horns.
Initially, the anime seems like your typical story about a teenage boy saving the day with his giant robot, but the series actually goes much deeper than that. It explores many adolescent themes, such as love and societal expectations. Its portrayal of interpersonal relationships will change viewers’ perceptions of the mecha genre.
Not to mention, the joint collaboration between Trigger, CloverWorks, and A-1 Pictures on the animation brings the mecha battles against the Klaxosaur to life. The pilots move with ease, resulting in jaw-dropping action sequences that are sure to satisfy everyone.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
This list wouldn’t be complete without the series that revolutionized the anime industry, Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Hellbent on destroying humanity, the Angels’ arrival pushes mankind to the brink of extinction. As a result, the United Nations forms NERV to create Evangelion (EVA), giant robots capable of fighting these monsters. The organization’s director, Gendo Ikari, seeks compatible pilots to synchronize with the EVAs. One of those pilots is his 14-year-old son, Shinji. The series follows Shinji as he and the other pilots fight against these unstoppable Angels.
While opinions on Neon Genesis Evangelion’s main character, Shinji, may be split, it’s hard to ignore the series’ impact on the mecha genre. Its take on psychology, religion, and philosophy has elevated anime’s status around the world, generating widespread discussion on its themes and motifs. Neon Genesis Evangelion proved that mecha genre is much more than mindless robot battles.
Simon and Kamina live in an underground village called Jeeha. One day, while digging, Simon finds a robot head, which the duo dub “Lagann.” Immediately after their discovery, their village gets destroyed by a mecha piloted by a Beastman, a humanoid creature that hunts humans. Fighting the Beastman is Yoko, a gun-toting, badass woman. Using their new robot, Simon and Kamina fend off the attack.
With the sky now in plain view after the battle, the pair takes Yoko along with them to explore the surface. But they haven’t seen the last of the Beastmen. They’ll have to rely on their fighting spirits to survive and keep moving forward.
However, Gurren Lagann is more than just cool mecha battles in a wasteland. It’s the story of two “brothers,” Simon and Kamina, who uplift each other every step of the way. The series, with its colorful animation and inspirational speeches, takes the idea of believing in yourself to a whole new level.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
No matter which Gundam adaptation you choose to watch, there’s no denying that the franchise is one of the best in the mecha anime genre. After all, there’s a reason it’s been around for almost 40 years. But if we had to choose one, it would be Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
It’s AC (After Colony) 195, and five disaffected scientists are planning to take revenge against the tyrannical OZ military organization with the project Operation Meteor. The operation involves independently sending five teenage boys in advanced Mobile suits known as “Gundams” to destroy OZ.
Although the series premiered back in 1995, the action scenes are still amazing. Each Gundam has a unique set of weapons, capabilities, and fighting skills that reflect its respective pilot. No two battles are ever the same, as each young pilot brings something different to the table. Besides that, the series’s multiple viewpoints work together to create a deep narrative exploring various political themes.
The Big O
Forty years ago, something happened in Paradigm City that erased everyone’s memories. Still, humanity continues to survive and even builds giant robots (called Megadeus) and monsters. The story follows Roger Smith, a negotiator who owns a Megadeus, his loyal and skilled butler, Norman Burg, and his human-like android assistant, R. Dorothy Wayneright. Together, they negotiate disputes between parties. But each case brings them closer to uncovering the truth about Paradigm City.
The Big O‘s classic, retro-futurism animation style elevates the series to a level rarely seen in mecha anime. In addition, the show not only features giant robots but also many elements from other genres, including mystery and action. You could say that this mecha series is anime’s answer to DC’s Batman, with Roger playing the role of the Dark Knight. In each episode, Roger and his allies try to solve the mysteries plaguing Paradigm City just as Bruce Wayne and Alfred do in Gotham City. If you’re looking for Batman with mechas, then this might be the anime for you.