It’s no secret that mecha anime has always been popular, with some of the biggest and most influential names coming from this genre. With the first release dating back all the way to 1956 with Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor), the giant fighting robots have found themselves revived multiple times throughout history. We have put together a list of the best mecha anime you can watch now.
This first comeback was spearheaded by mangaka Go Nagai. This 1972 release would be the first instance of a human piloting a robot from a cockpit. Not only have the mecha evolved over time to become more intricate and deadly, as real-life technology has become more advanced, but the themes that the shows cover have too. Fighting robots are no longer the only focal point of the story, but instead a backdrop for romance, political tensions, or even psychological introspections of the human character.
Best Mecha Anime
Eureka Seven is the story of Renton Thurston, a young boy who lives with his grandfather. One day, the mecha Nirvash typeZERO and its pilot, a young girl named Eureka, crash into their house. The Thurstons help to repair the mecha, which results in Renton being invited to their outlaw group, Gekkostate.
It doesn’t shy away from serious topics such as that of racial intolerance and political tensions, while balancing them against a young romance and coming of age story.
Soukyuu no Fafner
This is the story of young pilots desperately trying to protect the last of humanity on a small island. The rest of the world has been destroyed by giant aliens, called the Festum. The pilots soon discover, however, that the island wasn’t only hidden from the Festum, but something much more dangerous.
Although it takes some quite heavy-handed inspiration from other entries on this list, it’s still a very fun series that shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re in the mood for an easy mecha anime to watch.
Full Metal Panic!
Sousuke Sagara is tasked with protecting Kaname Chidori, a fiery high-school student who is being targeted by various terrorist organisations. Sousuke enrols as her classmate in order to keep a closer eye on her, but his lack of social skills makes it difficult for him to integrate properly.
The mangaka, Gatoh, was tired of female characters always needing saving, so he changed the dynamic between the two in order to make it more interesting.
Macross Frontier is the story of three pilots trying to find a planet for humanity to live on, after a devastating war against a race of aliens almost wipes them out. Although, only one of the pilots is a trained military professional, as the other two are pop idol singers.
This series is simple and easy to comprehend, and the mecha aspect doesn’t get lost behind the love triangle. While it might seem deceptively shallow at first, it doesn’t take long for heavier themes to come through the characters' backstories.
Ghost in the Shell
Starting as a manga in 1989, Ghost in the Shell has gone on to be developed into multiple anime adaptations and films. Most of these follow the members of Public Security Section 9, a task force dedicated to political and counter-terrorism assignments.
While the mecha serve as firepower for both the antagonists and protagonists, they also pose a deeper philosophical question about what it means to be alive. Technology has advanced to the point where many people have cyberbrains, or have completely replaced their body with cybernetic parts. It asks the question of what defines a person, and at what point do they become something else.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
No mecha list would be complete without one of the best-known anime of all time and cultural juggernaut: Neon Genesis Evangelion. It became an instant success when it aired in 1995 due to its psychological themes and memorable characters.
The series follows Shinji as he’s summoned to the city of Tokyo-3 in order to pilot a giant robot. The Evangelion units have been built in response to fight against the Angels, these huge, destructive forces that are trying to destroy what’s left of humanity. The storytelling is raw, and doesn’t shy away from trauma and emotion.
Mobile Suit Gundam
Despite its initial poor reception on release, Mobile Suit Gundam went on to become one of the most recognizable and respected shows of all time. In fact, many of the entries on this list owe the success of mecha anime to this 1979 release. It's had multiple seasons and spin-offs, all of which are worth checking out.
The story follows an experimental Gundam mecha unit, who has been called into battle to defend Earth from invading space colonies. However, the crew is inexperienced and the pilot is a civilian, making it a true underdog tale.
Tengen Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann is an adventure comedy that is set in the future, where humanity has been forced by their king to bury deep underground and live in isolated villages. A young boy and his older brother decide to go on an adventure; they take an ancient mech and try to discover what’s on the surface.
This anime received widespread critical acclaim since its release and is one of the staples of many fans' libraries. It deals with the unknown of growing up and the risks taken in finding the truth, all in an action-packed adventure that is told in a truly magical way.
The newest release on the list takes the traditional mecha tropes and brings them into the new age of Seinen anime. It follows a group of exiles who are forced into internment camps, in order to pilot mechas in a war to defend the city that exiled them. It is a masterclass in dealing with political tensions and deceit.
Both the animation and story in this anime are truly breathtaking, and 86 is more than worthy to be a modern-day successor to this iconic genre.
Code Geass is not only one of the most universally loved anime of all time, it also keeps the mech fighting in the forefront of the story. Lelouch vi Britannia is a prince of one of the three governments that control the world, and he has been exiled after his mother was brutally murdered in the palace. He is sent away, while his father continues to invade and attack more countries. He swears revenge on his father, blaming him for the fall of his family.