Thanks to groundbreaking shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion (EVA) and Gundam, the mecha genre successfully crossed over to the West. These series opened doors, making way for many new robot-focused anime — perhaps, too many. With such an oversaturated pool to draw from, it’s no wonder anime fans overlooked a few great titles. So we found several hidden gems for you to enjoy. Here are five underrated mecha anime you should check out.
In the future, a mysterious race of aliens invades Earth. To better understand these creatures, Dr. Noguchi and his assistants, Maki Agata and Takuto Kaneshiro, try to revive a giant metal-being named Frank. But during the process, Frank unexpectedly comes to life and escapes to the wilderness — but not without killing the doctor and Agata, leaving Takuto as the sole survivor.
Soon after the incident, the military organization ‘Funeral’ takes the biomechanical creature into their custody. Meanwhile, Takuto wakes up in a hospital. With his face disfigured and his girlfriend, Agata, dead, Takuto appears to have lost it all. That is until a mysterious man offers Takuto a new identity as a Funeral officer, and his plan for revenge is set in motion.
While EVA opened a lot of doors for Japanese animation, it also cast a large shadow on mecha series, especially those involving a distressed young male protagonist in a mecha suit. Fortunately, Argento Soma sets itself apart by not heavily drawing from EVA. Instead, the underrated series focuses on telling an extraordinary tale about human interactions and relationships — with a few creative twists to keep things interesting.
One of the most popular underrated mecha anime is, undoubtedly, Bokurano. Countless anime fans believe the series deserves the top spot on many mecha anime watchlists. But for some reason it never does.
Bokurano follows a group of children who discover a cave full of computers and electronic equipment. A mysterious man named Kokopelli then makes them an unusual offer — to take part in a game where they’ll defend the Earth from evil aliens. The children accept the challenge without hesitation. But soon come to regret their decision when the game gets a little too real for them.
Like many other shows on this list, Bokurano suffers the fate of being too similar to EVA. But despite the many parallels, Bokurano goes a bit deeper when it comes to playing with the emotions of its young protagonists. It’s a fantastic psychological horror that keeps you entertained until the final second. You should definitely check out this hidden gem right now.
Galaxy Express 999
In the future, humanity swaps their organic bodies for mechanical ones in order to live forever. But immortality is an expense not everyone can afford. Enter Tetsuro Hoshino, a poor little boy who hopes to purchase a ticket for the Galaxy Express 999, a train that travels throughout the universe. A the end of the line, those aboard the train each get a mechanical body for free. But his hopes are dashed when machine-man hybrid Count Mecha kills Tetsuro’s mother.
A mysterious tall woman steps in and saves the young boy from certain death. Surprisingly, she offers Tetsuro a Galaxy Express ticket under the condition that they travel together. So begins Tetsuro’s journey through the stars to obtain a mechanical body.
Galaxy Express 999 has many sequels, but they sadly weren’t easily accessible to fans outside of Japan. The mecha series lost popularity over the decades and eventually fell into obscurity. Now, with shows like Darling in the Franxx dominating the airwaves, it’s even more difficult for hidden gems like this one to stand out.
Kyo Sogoru is trying his hardest to keep his swimming club alive, but there’s one problem — he’s the only member. To drive membership up, Kyo asks his friend Ryoko to shoot a recruitment video starring the beautiful Shizuno Misaki. Misaki agrees to do the role, but only if Kyo pilots a mecha unit.
Unknowingly, Kyo gets dragged into two different worlds: one where’s he’s a normal student and another where humans and aliens are at war with each other. What’s even weirder is Kyo gets the feeling he’s done this before. The more the young man fights, the more he uncovers about his life. But will the truth set Kyo free or destroy him?
Despite its unusual title, Zegapain contains the usual mecha tropes about reality, psychology, and, of course, aliens. But it also adds various plot twists to keep you intrigued throughout. So, if you’re interested in a bit of mystery, giant robots, and a young man trying to figure things out; then give this underappreciated series a try.
Fafner in the Azure
In the middle of the Japanese archipelago lies the island of Tatsumiyajima. Every day is the same on Tatsumiyajima, with the island’s children believing that their life will forever remain peaceful and undisturbed. Or so they’ve been taught. The reality is actually much different. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, and Tatsumiyajima serves as the last line of defence against a race of aliens called Festum. When a Festum discovers the island, the children band together to fight these hostile aliens with giant mecha units called Fafner.
Like the other shows on this list, Fafner in the Azure is a fantastic series that sadly gets overlooked in favor of mainstream mecha anime. The original anime borrowed too many elements from classic shows such as EVA and Gundam, which made it impossible for Fafner in the Azure to distinguish itself as a proper mecha series. Even so, the anime has some awesome-looking robots and amazing visuals thanks to the great work of studio Xebec (Break Blade and Heroic Age).