Next year June, is set to be the battle of the century for giant mecha enthusiasts as an American team from MegaBot USA and Suidobashi Heavy Industry battle for supremacy in a real life robot battle. CEO Kogoro Kurata of Suidobashi has stated unequivocally that Japan must win this as mecha are a vital part of their national culture – so in honor of this battle for the ages, let’s take a look at the top five mecha anime of all time!
Though this is a conglomeration of three Japanese-made animes, it has become a staple of the genre and introduced the world to one of the most unique mecha ever put on screen: the VF-1 Valkyrie. A fighter plane with three forms – a jet, a humanoid robot, and an in-between phase – the Valkyrie has been at the center of every Robotech and Macross-related thing since it first appeared in the show. Later seasons introduce hovertanks that could transform and even personal armor that doubled as a motorcycle, all running off the mysterious energy “Protoculure.”
Set in an alternative timeline past, Code Geass gives us intrigue and adventure as a side to mecha. In this case, the Autonomous Armored Knight or “Knightmare Frame” is our robot of choice, a weapon that the evil Britannian empire used to subjugate Japan and is key to tracking down main character and ousted Britannian prince Lelouch Lamperouge who has been gifted with the ability to make somebody do his will without question, but only once per person. This power, called Geass, is part of his fight to foster a rebellion, stop the Britannians, and find out who killed his mother.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00
The 11th incarnation of the most classic of giant mecha anime, this one takes place on a future Earth where paramilitary peacekeeping organization Celestial Being uses the iconic Gundams to try to rid the world of war and strife. Of course, there is more going on and Seiei Setsuna, 16-year-old Gundam pilot, is going to have to grow up very quickly in a world where the line between good and evil gets increasingly blurred. Spanning two seasons and a movie, Gundam 00 offers the best of the franchise – there is a reason why Gundam remains one of the most popular animes of all time.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
In a future where the dreaded Spiral King rules Earth and forces humans to live in isolated subterranean villages, it is only by turning his war machines, the Gunmen, against him that humans can prevail. That’s what Simon, Kamina, and the rest of Team Dai-Gurran do with the fearsome Gunmen Gurren Lagann. Like many of the mecha in older shows, this one’s full power is only realized when many mecha combine to make a more powerful whole, but when it does it is nigh invincible.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
The anime that changed the mecha genre in the 1990s, Evangelion introduced elements of philosophy, symbolism, and sheer madness into its production that had never been seen on that level before. And the Evangelions themselves, sleek half-monster, semi-organic robots that are hindered only by their need for a plugged in power source and a pilot they won’t drive insane, are true masterworks of mecha. The partial autonomy and ability to operate in what amounts to a berserker rage makes these the most frighteningly effective mecha on the list and the likely winner of any battle amongst them.
Of course, the inefficiency of many of these mecha makes them impractical for real world-use as war machines. Rapid, flexible movement is generally not physically possible at their size, and at the height and weight classes they are often presented there is also a serious power problem to contend with. The smaller four-meter entries in the upcoming duel between Japan vs. USA, however, are efficient on both the battlefield and beyond. This encompasses potential applications such as construction or disaster relief. A grand battle is just one good way to show off the capabilities of these amazing machines. At surface level it isn’t always easy to see, but we encounter the real world application of robots more and more each day. Besides the automated machinery put to use in integral networks like those found in home automation and security systems, robots with increasingly powerful artificial intelligence can now be found in military combat as well as hospital settings.
Regardless of the outcome, Japan and America’s upcoming robot battle will showcase new developments in technology that hold enormous promise for the future. That being said, Kurata is absolutely right that Japan’s mecha-focused culture makes the stakes much higher for him. And with the long history of mecha creations he carries on his shoulders, he has some pretty high expectations to meet.