One of anime’s most popular niche genres is mecha, which highlights intense battles and exciting action between giant robots and advanced technology. The broad definition of mecha anime continues to evolve, which can be both encouraging and frustrating for fans
Anime has much to offer for both seasoned viewers and curious newcomers, exploring diverse genres of storytelling even within the confines of mecha. Polarizing reputations are often par for the course in anime, and it’s always fascinating when a substandard series becomes the next mainstream hits.
10/10 Mobile Fighter G Gundam Turns The Giant Robot Series Into A Battle Shonen
The groundbreaking Mobile Suit Gundam franchise begins in the Universal Century timeline, but there are now dozens of spin-offs and alternate universes within the broader Gundam umbrella. Mobile Fighter G Gundam is a product of the 1990s that attempts a radical genre shift for the giant robot series. G Gundam has much more in common with a battle shonen series than a politically-conscious space opera.
The constant tournament battles show off some of the strangest Gundam from the franchise, but G Gundam itself is fairly simplistic. Even still, Gundam‘s fandom has given this oddity a chance and it’s only become more popular in recent years.
Full Metal Panic! attempts to rejuvenate the hardened sci-fi nature of the mecha genre by combining it together with a cheerful, juvenile slice-of-life school setup. There’s a lot of fun to be had as Sousuke Sagara tries to acclimate to an ordinary school life even though he still views the world in the context of mecha warfare.
The life-or-death stakes of giant robot combat effectively replace the heightened drama that so typically accompanies school-set anime. Full Metal Panic! helped bring a lot of newcomers to the mecha genre during the 2000s, but it hasn’t exactly aged gracefully. Those who revisit it will recognize its obvious faults.
8/10 Valvrave The Liberator Is A Ridiculous Mix Of Mecha & Vampires
There’s a fine line between series that are truly abysmal and those that turn their weaknesses into entertaining advantages. Valvrave the Liberator is so clumsy that it actually becomes entertaining. Valvrave the Liberator features a standard future dystopia that’s divided into extreme factions and dependent upon a young mecha pilot to change history.
Valvrave the Liberator’s big twist is that its courageous mecha pilot, Haruto Tokishima, also happens to be a vampire. It’s a nonsensical supernatural element for this robot action series. Valvrave the Liberator acts as if it’s on par with Evangelion or Code Geass, which makes it an even more entertaining hate watch.
7/10 Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle Relies Heavily On Hormonal Hijinks
Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is a mecha series that’s not going to appeal to everyone, but its intentionally niche premise is designed to lure in a very specific type of anime fan. Lux, a former prince, finds himself out of his element at an all-female dormitory.
Lux is used to being the best when it comes to mechanical Drag-Ride combat, but his new circumstances leave him greatly humbled and an awkward anomaly among these female warriors. The mecha material in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle feels more like an afterthought that’s only present to facilitate more romantic misadventures.
6/10 Infinite Stratos Suberts Mecha Norms With Harem Hilarity
Infinite Stratos is a low-impact mecha series that’s more interested in gender-based hijinks than space combat. The anime’s powerful mecha is a technology that can only be piloted by women. That is until Ichika Orimura comes along. Inexplicably, Ichika is the lone male mecha pilot in a school of fiery females.
Infinite Stratos is a middle-of-the-road mecha series and a fairly derivative take on the harem genre. These superficial details are enough to bring audiences over to check out Infinite Stratos and increase its popularity, but it’s definitely a guilty pleasure over a challenging piece of storytelling.
5/10 Dennou Boukenki Webdiver Is Simplistic Mecha Mayhem With an Emphasis On Selling Toys
Dennou Boukenki Webdiver subverts the typical mecha norms and basically gives the entire population the power to be giant robot masters. Set in 2100 during a time when children’s consciousness are uploaded to a global network, Webdiver explores the dangers of a rogue computer virus that invades this virtual utopia and turns the robotic Web Knights against the very children that they’re supposed to protect.
It’s not unusual for anime to debut as an attempt to sell toys, but this is especially apparent in Dennou Boukenki Webdiver. Despite the anime’s transparency, Webdiver is oddly entertaining as a mindless mecha action series.
4/10 Macross Delta Powers Mecha & Cures A Virus Through The Magic Of Music
Macross Delta is the fourth television series in the acclaimed mecha franchise, and it features a contentious change of pace that attempts to give Macross a bit of a magical girl makeover. In Macross Delta, there’s still an emphasis on giant robot combat, but the power of music is the main ingredient that fuels these mecha.
Macross Delta is a curious pivot for the franchise, but it’s rarely considered to be Macross‘ crowning achievement. The over-reliance on music and an unreasonably large cast of characters are easy deterrents in Macross Delta, but its differences from the rest of the series have still made it popular.
3/10 Cross Ange Banishes A Princess Into Endless Robotic Rampages
Cross Ange initially feels like more of a fantasy adventure series. It’s set in a divided world where society looks down on the “Norma,” people who are forced to become fodder in a war against interdimensional monsters. Angelise Misurugi is a privileged princess who suddenly becomes a pariah when it’s revealed that she’s actually a Norma.
Thrust into an uncertain future, Angelise’s cushy existence is replaced with mecha warfare. These inventive turns help introduce a lot of non-mecha fans to Cross Ange. It’s an entertaining mix of sensibilities and genres, but mecha purists also hold this against the anime.
2/10 Date A Live Turns The Mecha Genre Into Harem Romance Antics
The majority of mecha series are built around the idea of supernatural threats that require giant robot intervention to defeat. In Date A Live, the central mecha pilot must conquer these entities’ hearts to help save humanity. Shidou Itsuka must date the dangerous Spirits that supposedly danger the planet.
This romantic harem subversion of the mecha genre replaces action with emotion and it never pretends to be something that it’s not. Accordingly, this broad appeal has earned Date A Live many fans even if it’s not viewed as a top-tier mecha anime.
1/10 Darling In The FranXX’s Grim Atmosphere & Tone-Deaf Decisions Corrupt Its Characters
2018’s Darling in the FranXX made major waves when it first premiered, but it’s shocking how much the mecha series’ reputation changed by the end of its 24-episode run. A nihilistic atmosphere hangs over Darling in the FranXX. The central mecha pilots in the series are humans who are specifically raised to pilot the Franxx mecha to save humanity from the extra-terrestrial Klaxosaurs.
There’s a lot to like in this refreshing, modern mecha anime, but its depiction of its pilots and gratuitous fan service are understandable points of criticism. Darling in the FranXX‘s ending is also a major point of contention for its audience.
NEXT: 10 Darkest Mecha Anime, Ranked