As a child of the 80’s, it is almost part of my DNA to want to pilot a spaceship or giant robot and save (or maybe destroy! bwa hahahah) the universe. I grew up watching what is classified as Mecha anime- and to more hardcore fans the sub-categories Super Robot and Real Robot. The best way to show the distinction would be through this list of binge worthy shows for each type. The actual criteria has been quite broad but let’s see if we can cover some of the main characteristics. This week let’s check out my top 5 Super Robot Anime.
5. AstroBoy / Mighty Atom ( 鉄腕アトム) – based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka from the 60’s, Astro is like a crusading Peter Pan from the future. A key characteristic of this sub-category is that the robots themselves are created by some mad genius- and Astro is no different. He is a nuclear powered robot with a soul whose drive is to help the world become a better place combating evil robots along the way .
4. Mazinger Z (マジンガーＺ) is another series that has a lot of alternate versions. It is centered around pilot Kouji Kabuto and his trusty robot Mazinger Z. As expected, every giant robot anime has some arch enemy hellbent on utter domination of the world (or universe in some cases!). In this case, that villain is LITERALLY named Dr. Hell. Every episode is basically Dr. Hell starting crap and sending out his robot minions to do evil and Mazinger Z saving the day with his rocket punch (yup THIS anime started it!). Quite a few games have featured Mazinger as well – mostly coupled with other robots from the era (see Super Robot Wars) and it would be hard to meet an anime fan from the 80s who does NOT know Mazinger Z.
3. Chōdenji Machine Voltes V (超電磁マシーン ボルテスＶ) is the grandpop of combining robots- well co-grandpop if you count the first part of the Robot Romance Trilogy – Chōdenji Robo Combattler V– of the combining robot sub-sub-category of mecha anime. The whole obligatory super robot power up sequence that you see in every modern super robot anime came from anime from this era (the 70s!). Heck the whole “Super Robot” concept was born out of this generation as well. As a kid (and kid at heart) I was (ok.. AM) obsessed with all things Voltes V. You want a space opera? with robots, with plot twists? with more robots? with a constantly growing arsenal of weapons and abilities? and spaceships that combine into a big robot? Look no further than Voltes V.
2. Voltron – In 1984 as the Transformers were just beginning to conquer western shores, the first run of Voltron aired. Just like the whole Americanized Sentai shows, it was a amalgamation of Japanese licensed content taken from Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. Earlier attempts of this nature were made (see Shogun Warriors) and were relatively well received but none were able to match the success of Voltron. It did take most of the key components of the other anime mentioned in the list but something about Voltron just clicked so well with the american audience- enough to spawn a fleet of toys, a movie and most recently a remake courtesy of Netflix which is now on it’s second season. I suggest watching the original- and take a good listen to the narrator of the trailer below- he was a prime choice for a robot show voice
1. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破グレンラガン) – Another major theme with super robot anime is the comically ridiculous impossible physics – and Gurren Langann has it in spades! The over-the-top animation style is a natural extension to the equally over-the-top characters facing insane odds. This award winning series is about Simon and Kamina – who in this bleak future live underground. As luck would have it, they stumble upon an artifact that’s actually a key to a robot- just in time to fight off an attack from the savage surface dwellers. When you watch it, you’ll understand just how insanely entertaining this simple premise is– and resident badarse (and scantily clad because this IS anime!) Yoko is just the icing on the cake. Although the series will have you run the full gamut of emotions, by the end of it you too will be yelling crazy over-the-top battle cries! (ok i promise not to say over-the-top again in this and the next 5 posts)
So there you have it! I’m sure a few of you might have some that should be in the list and if you do please let us know. Next week I’ll go over the other major sub-category — Real Robots! (spoiler alert: This is gonna be where I geek out about Gundam!)
Till then, thanks for reading!