This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.
Unfortunately I really haven’t seen any Mech anime, unless Digimon Adventure 2 counts when they use Armor Digivolution?
Apologies! I did mention I still need to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion if that makes up for my lack of Mech anime knowledge!
Jess, you do need to watch more Mech anime (because its AWESOME) and you should certainly watch Neon Genesis Evangelion as it’s not only my favourite Mech anime, but it’s also my favourite anime series ever.
What do I say about this insane masterpiece of an anime that hasn’t already been said?
The basic (and I mean basic) story follows 14-year-old Shinji Ikari in a post-apocalyptic re-built version of Tokyo, fifteen years after a global cataclysm wiped out a huge chunk of human civilisation. Shinji discovers he is one a handful of teenagers – that includes two girls called Asuka and Rei – destined to pilot the giant Eva mechs to ward off the earth from intermittent attacks from alien/supernatural beings known as ‘Angels’. The base of operations for the Eva pilots is NERV, which turns out to be headed up by Shinji’s absent, creepy father, Gendo. Their mission? To prevent another catastrophe from happening. Or at least, that’s part of their mission…
The history of the show’s creation is a lesson in exceeded expectations. Animation studio Gainax originally commissioned just a run-of-the-mill Mech anime from director Hideki Anno, and what Anno produced was an infuriatingly intricate thesis on theology, philosophy, psychology, and the nature of human existence that fans still obsess over to this day, fifteen years after it’s release. Evangelion went on to dramatically redefine and rejuvenate a well-established genre – not to mention become one of the most critically and commercially successful anime ever (the franchise has generated a whopping 150 billion yen so far).
The Mech in Evangelion were also revolutionary for the genre. Far more than just suits or robots, they’re biologically fuelled and biologically linked to their pilots, which also unfortunately means that their pain is shared by their pilots. A similar idea that inspired Guillermo del Toro’s Jaeger mechs in his 2013 film Pacific Rim. In fact, the Evas are so animalistic that they can even break free of their pilots’ control by entering ‘berserk’ mode – which looks exactly as you’d expect:
Mech anime are always set in world’s in turmoil. After all, you don’t really need a Mech in a time of peace, do you? What raises Evangelion above others of the genre is not only it’s grand scope, but the relatable (if not melodramatically heightened) angst of its teenage characters. Haunted by abandonment, depression, and severe insecurity, Shinji is one of the most emotionally unstable heroes I’ve ever come across.
You really do feel the weight of the world’s survival constantly balancing on his tiny shoulders, and he continually seems ready to be happily crushed by it just to make all the nightmare-fuelling trauma stop.
Honourable mentions: The Big O, Code Geass, Eureka 7, Guilty Crown.
I don’t watch a lot of Mech anime, which is surprising as I do love Mechs. A a kid, pretending that I was in a giant robot was the norm, thanks to my breakfast consisting of cereal, juice and Power Rangers. I think the few that I have watched have been pretty good, and my favourite is probably one of the most underrated animes out there: The Big O.
The Big O is set in Paradigm City, a New York-styled city that has been contained under huge domes. Forty years ago, a mysterious event took place that erased everyone’s memories. In this world of amnesia, Roger Smith assumes the role of a negotiator for the city and fights crime with his two partners: an android by the name of Dorothy and his Butler, Gordon. But if the occasion calls for it, Roger calls out the secret third member of his team – the giant robot Big O!
The Big O is a crazy mix of Film Noir and Mech anime. The aesthetic style is also very rooted in the 50s/60s, taking inspiration from Toho’s Kaiju movies and Western Detective dramas. This mix of genres makes Big O a really interesting watch as the story has a good balance of investigative work and giant robot battles. Roger is also one of the coolest protagonists in anime: slick and stylish, a bachelor in the James Bond mold, and a mysterious past which slowly gets unlocked as time goes on.
The action is awesome as well. For an anime that makes you think hard, it pays you back tenfold with awesome giant robot fights!
Big O is an awesome Mech as well: it’s strong, it’s quite nimble for a steampunk design, and it packs a ton of weapons as well. The bond between Big O and Roger is interesting as well. There are times when the scene that is shot in a way that makes the mech look as if it’s expressionless face is emitting some sort of emotion, and you do get the feeling the Big O and Roger are brothers in arms and have some sort of spiritual relationship like Ed and Al in Full Metal Alchemist. I highly recommend this anime to anyone who loves mech, but get ready to have your mind messed with.
Written by The Cosmic Anvil Team.
Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! And if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter page!