No matter what your name, mecha or robot animation transports you back to your youth. Imagine spending a day at home before the turn of the millennium, watching buttery smooth Original Video Animations of enormous mechanical monstrosities go at it like how you will enjoy a modern Michael Bay-directed movie. You had an abundance of robot and mecha action figures and played out elaborate battles amongst them to re-create the exciting moments from your favourite mecha anime.
These scenes bring back memories of our youth for those who grew up watching anime in the 80s and 90s. This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t any fantastic robot anime out there today; there are. Even the most stressed-out adult with a steadily increasing debt can’t help but unleash their inner kid when watching mecha anime.
Are you ready for a blast from the past? Here we go! Below is Japan Nakama’s Top 10 Mecha Anime!
1.) Code Geass
Not only is Code Geass the best mecha anime ever made, but it is also among the best anime of all time. Lelouch’s character has been placed under plenty of microscopes. He is one of the most fascinating anime characters, a polarising figure who ranks among the best anti-heroes.
CC is also one of the most popular anime waifus ever created, as she’s a staple on many anime figure collectors’ shelves. The green-haired, pizza-eating, floor-crawling babe has a mysterious allure that one cannot simply describe. Kallen is also a waifu that awakens something in pre-pubescent anime fans for the first time with her step-on-me attitude. CC and Kallen’s characters have given birth to so many Code Geass fan fiction that you can experience them in many ways.
The Code Geass is best experienced through its 50 episodes split through 2 seasons. A sequel movie called Lelouch of the Resurrection is also something to watch after the original, as it’s a sequel to the mainline series set in an alternate universe. Lelouch’s and CC’s story of revenge and rebellion is one of the most complete packages in anime, gripping you with its insane plot, exciting characters, and non-stop action. Also, it features possibly the greatest anime ending of all time.
2.) Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is one of those shows where you put it on, grab a bucket of popcorn, shut your mind off after a long day at work, and enjoy the fireworks. But, even if it is one of the more straightforward anime to watch, it has impeccable animation, a kick-ass cast of characters, and an inspirational message behind its mesmerising adventure.
Simon, Kamina, Nia, and Yoko are characters that have etched themselves into the anime hall of fame. In particular, Simon’s character arc and rise are one of the best in anime, given all the highs and lows he had to endure to get to where he ended up. Complete with a shocking twist so early on, it never takes its foot off the gas pedal, with a chronological story and time skip to boot. You follow all its characters through multiple decades to adulthood to see their rise and the ever-evolving plot.
If Code Geass was heavier on the narrative and storytelling scale, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is on the opposite end of the spectrum with its dazzling visuals and action sequences. Ask any anime fan that’s seen this mecha anime, and they will tell you that its final scene with the Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is one of the craziest fight sequences they’ve seen. It’s a visual journey that throws you into a blender of colour, spice, and everything nice that you will never forget.
3.) 86 (Eighty Six)
86 walks the tightrope between the two stories above, balancing the fine line between story politics and action. The Eighty Six anime, as it’s called, immerses you into a convoluted tale with many factions that can be tough to follow. Don’t be shocked if you need a guide while watching it to keep track of all the hard-to-memorise names and tens of characters that the mecha anime burns through.
Adapted from a light novel, 86 is one of those shows that has a very dedicated fanbase. An advantage to experiencing it through the light novel is that these names and figures are absorbed much easier, as the anime version slightly speedruns through all the political advances. Eighty Six Season 2 was released last Fall of 2021 and is one of the top-rated shows of all time. It is an investment, but if you can swallow its deep story and political undertones, it’s one of the best journeys you will have gone on.
Evangelion is one of those series in those “anime you should watch before you die” categories. Revered by its fanbase, Neon Genesis Evangelion, as the original is called, is a classic that you’ve probably heard about from your favourite anime influencers. Memes and GIFs are all over the net, with “Get in the Robot, Shinji” being a humorous staple piece of the internet. Nothing evokes these memories like seeing the patented Evangelion green of Shinji’s mecha.
A hot topic for debate is the ending of Evangelion. As much as diehard fans can spend an entire day explaining the profoundness of the show’s themes, the show’s creator, Hideaki Anno, has reiterated that there is no meaning and he just found it cool. Yes, Eva fans, the creator himself mentioned how those angels and crosses don’t mean anything but an impressive spectacle. You can now rest easy and stop overanalysing the end of Evangelion.
Ending aside, Evangelion still has a lot to unpack throughout its four movies and 26 episodes from the original Neon Genesis Evangelion. It is still a revered multi-million-dollar franchise with themes of love, anger, and despair spoken through the architectural genius of Anno, psychoanalysing its characters, Rei, Asuka, and Shinji, as well as the meaning of Adan. If that was a handful for you, congratulations are in order, as you’ve just dabbled into the overly pretentious world of Evangelion.
5.) Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell’s popularity speaks for itself, with its influence reaching western audiences. It’s one of those anime that a British director had to get his hands on to make it more “accessible” to audiences that cannot appreciate its cartoon form. Jokes aside, there’s a big reason why Ghost in the Shell took the West’s attention and was released as a standalone live-action movie in 2017, which unfortunately flopped for American audiences.
Ghost in the Shell features one of the best atmospheres and settings in mecha anime. Talk about cyberpunk? This show might be the magnum opus of the setting with everything you’re looking for: neon lights, highly-technological weapons and advancements, and cyber intelligence. For this list, we will highlight Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex as the best mecha anime of the lot.
Even if this version of Ghost in the Shell does not have Scarlett Johansson, it has everything else that the movie does with its high-octane, guns-ablaze action. The visual style, animation, and direction set this apart from the other shows on this list, as it has a bravado which is probably why there was an idea to adapt it in the first place. Please do yourself a favour and read the manga or watch the anime instead of watching the 2017 Ghost in the Shell.
6.) Mobile Suit Gundam
Oh, Gundam – if there’s a love letter to all your Millenials and Gen Xers, it’s this show. Possibly the most marketable name in the robot or mecha anime sphere, the word Gundam will always have a soft spot and be a name that holds a lot of weight in the anime sphere. It has evolved into a not-so-niche collectables hobby, with plenty of robots or mechas to display and show your inner child.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is the initial way to get into the series and learn all the ins and outs of its wildly popular mecha world.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is the staff’s pick for the best in the series, with 00 and wing following. There’s also Zeta, Seed, and even a game offshoot called Battle Operation.
If you’ve never seen any Gundam anime, imagine every other movie or show with people holding onto two throttles in the heart of a gigantic humanoid robot. It started here, folks, with Mobile Suit Gundam’s robots, one of the pioneers of grounding mecha in real-life scientific technology and narratives.
This anime season, the yuri bait show The Witch from Mercury, which is a modern take on the mecha anime, is so far doing great in the reviews sphere. Long story short, do yourself a favour and look for a watch order online to immerse yourself into the face of the mecha anime genre.
FLCL, also known as Fooly Cooly, is a lovechild of Gainax and Production I.G. Sound familiar? Those are the studios behind Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Neon Genesis Evangelion, meaning you know you’re getting a high-quality mecha anime. As an OVA, it has that vintage look with that silky and sultry frame rate that makes you wonder how these shows were produced in the early 2000s.
If you’re looking for top literary quality in an anime, look no further than FLCL. Despite its rapid pacing, the story’s central subject of maturing into one’s true self is presented brilliantly, accompanied by awesome animation. Several viewers have noted the plot’s complexity and difficulty to follow because of the speed at which the story progresses and the abundance of symbols, themes, and conversations that don’t become clear until the end.
Regardless, this is possible the Production I.G. Evangelion influenced how things turned out in this show. If you shut your brain and enjoy the soundtrack, thrills, characters, and journey, you’re in for one you won’t forget. Please don’t watch the sequels, FLCL Progressive or FLCL Alternative, though, as they put shame on the original’s name.
8.) Date A Live
Date A Live is famous for one main reason: waifus. Waifus city in this show, as one looks at the poster, will tell you all you need to know and expect. Among the eight characters on Date A Live season one’s poster, only one is a male. The rest are dressed in all your favourite anime tropes and styles, leading the male viewer into a steady diet of female characters.
Date A Live’s Kurumi and Natsumi are the two most popular characters in the series, with Kurumi, in particular, having the popular Yandere archetype. She is also the lead character in Date A Live Season 4, which is why fans across the anime-sphere have taken a liking to her.
What sets this show apart from the others on this list is that it is pretty self-aware. It tells you not to take it seriously with its goofy and bizarre premise where the main male character – a parody of the modern-day otaku – has to flirt with all the waifu spirits that invade the world to make them stop attacking the earth. On top of this, there is also an anti-spirit team of waifus to stop the evil spirits. It’s great when it tries to be funny and does too much when it tries to be serious.
9.) Darling in the FranXX
Darling in the FranXX is a show known chiefly for its main characters. All of (mainly) Zero Two, Ichigo, Hiro, and Kokoro have massive fanbases behind them. This show’s main problem was its rushed ending paired with a less-than-stellar narrative. The plot was full of holes and had 24 filler episodes of its many characters, and the pacing was all over the place.
Where this mecha anime makes its money, as mentioned, is the fandom behind its characters. Preached by some as the next Evangelion, with the basic premise of kids piloting robots, its characters have been (over) analysed, and the anime’s themes put under a microscope. This tends to be the theme when mediocre anime is followed by a diehard fanbase, as the said fanbase tries to make the anime more profound and intelligent than it really is.
Regardless, it’s still a fun ride with likeable characters. Not only that, it’s animated by Trigger (Cyberpunk Edgerunners and Kill la Kill), Cloverworks (86), and Cloverworks (Spy X Family and The Promised Neverland Season 1), so you know you’re getting incredibly high-end quality animation. If you can stomach a plot that you may possibly hate, as well as an ending that’ll make you question why you spent all those hours watching this show, it’s still pretty decent.
10.) Guilty Crown
Seemingly a theme in these mecha anime at the lower part of the list, a disjointed plot haunts Guilty Crown. Again, the anime community will tell you that it is an excellent anime with compelling characters. Most would even push for a Guilty Crown Season 2. Such is the reality of niche fanbases getting behind seemingly profound anime.
Inori, Tsugumi, and Shu are all characters you could love or hate. Guilty Crown is another culprit to the blender when blending many themes. The story is clearly influenced by several franchises, some mentioned above, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing in and of itself. After all, imitation is a form of flattery, and there is so much you can play around with regarding the emotional burden kids have to face when entering killing machines to save the world.
Still, the authors fall short in their actual implementation of these ideas. The plot seems to have no purpose other than to emotionally torture Shu, and the narrative is frequently choppy. Though, where this anime shines in its production value, with Production I.G. again taking the reigns behind its blockbuster-like animation quality. Shut your brain off after a long day at work, and enjoy the vanilla apocalyptic plot – with a twist.
Did your favourite Mecha Anime make this list? A whiff of nostalgia always accompanies these stories, bringing you back to the golden age of action animation. Get transported back to your childhood, pitting your Gundam figures against one another, and enjoy the whirrs and buzzes of the gigantic robotic menaces.