Hi there! Happy Friday! As we continue our anime series of posts, this week we will focus on the 2nd sub-category of Mecha anime- Real Robots (リアルロボット ).
Like last week, instead of defining it outright, I’d rather list my Top 5 examples to illustrate what separates this from other kinds of anime (as well as differentiates it from Super Robot Anime).
Before we get into the list, I’d like to mention that I am a die hard Gundam fan- and as much as I would just rank my top 5 Gundam movies/series (and believe me that list is coming!!) I am opting to treat each IP as a group to be able to mention some really great anime that I feel deserve being listed. So here goes!
5. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ) – One of the more recent anime in the list, Code Geass is more like a soap opera with people who pilot robots. It has Death Note-like twists and gotchas set in a complex political future where the world is split into 3 factions. Just like most Real Robot anime, combat and it’s effects have repercussions on the civilian populace. There are sides and yet the further you delve into the series the less black and white the terms become. Code Geass is great at keeping you hooked with it’s radio-drama-esque cliffhangers and it’s characters who are almost like caricatures make you care enough to watch episode after episode.
4. Macross/Robotech (マクロス) – created by Gundam superfan Shoji Kawamori in 1982, this series is more than just big robots. Being a Real Robot fan, Shoji’s Variable Fighter (Varitech) were modeled after real military jets- the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. This is a key characteristic of Real Robot mecha. Designs, and oftentimes mechanics of the robots are done with reality (and it’s limitations) in mind. This is still sci-fi so there is a fair amount of license given to just how realistic things are. The large scale space battles are very distinct- as are the way things blow up! To date there are about 30 Macross related titles and my personal favorite is Macross Plus. In 2018, to celebrate it’s 35th anniversary a new Macross anime is scheduled to be released.
3. Neon Genesis Evangelion (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン ) – probably one of the most critically acclaimed anime, Evangelion is a story about a post apocalyptic world full of religious symbolism, philosophical references from Freud, Hegel, Sartre and others and angst. Tons of angst. It has been argued that this series managed to bring real robot sensibilities into an otherwise super robot format. Real robots are faced with the fact that they need to be maintained, that they break down- and Evangelion takes that a step further since the main characters themselves are broken. Shinki, Rei and Asuka while struggling to save to world from “Angels” start losing what makes them human- and the EVAs (the robots they pilot) become more and more like the monsters they are trying to fight. The series is not an easy watch-but the journey director Hideaki Anno takes you on is well worth it.
2. Armored Trooper VOTOMS (装甲騎兵ボトムズ) – although more popular in the east than in the western hemisphere, many regard this series as the epitome of Real Robot anime. Released in 1983, the series illustrates several important concepts distinct from Super Robots. There is no voice command super attack! No yelling for lazer swords to just pop out magically from the chest of the mech you are piloting! Real robots require pilots to actually control them- similar to how large machinery is driven today. And just like the the large Caterpillars or better yet the insane Bagger 293 they find roots in industrial machinery. VOTOMS and their pilots go through the struggle of war facing technical difficulties and limitations constantly. But the attention to detail, the realism of it (albeit futuristic) is what catapulted this series into the hearts of it’s cult following. Beyond it’s original 52 episode run there were several OVA (Original Video Animation) and a few games that were inspired by the VOTOMS universe.
1. Gundam ( ガンダム)- in 1979, Yoshiyuki Tomino created a masterpiece and started the whole Real Robot Mecha genre. Previous entries in this list were all inspired by and take cues from the Gundam universe. Although each story varies, there are generally some underlying characteristics that really stand out such as the actual usage of ammunition. There was a memorable scene in F-91 (機動戦士ガンダ Ｆ91) where a civilian who was too close to the action was killed by a bullet casing which fell from the same mech that is trying to protect the area. Beyond the physics and future tech that each series shows (not counting the kiddie-pokemon-like Gundam) there is also a huge focus on conflict between earth based and space born individuals. You could say that Gundam at it’s heart is a war drama – not much different that typical allied vs. nazi war movies, and although there are story arcs that affect by and large the fate of entire civilizations, the series manages to give you a a glimpse of what it would be like to come of age in the age of space bound civil war. The characters might be cliche’ in some cases but reoccurring themes about justice, politics, race, gender and morality in general bring story telling to a level that is both complex yet accessible. This is the kind of realism that Gundam started with anime. I strongly suggest watching Gundam Unicorn, but any of the movies, series, web shorts, and countless OVAs will do.
As I end this post and my bit on Mecha anime I do hope that I managed to shed some light on the subject. There are tons of other anime out there to enjoy but give these a shot.
Please understand that the lists on our blog and others that will follow reflect our personal views so feel free to let us know what you think!
Thanks for reading!
Till next time!!
If Mecha is not your cup of tea, please check out our other list, the Top 5 Fantasy Anime =)