||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia. (August 2012)|
Mecha anime, known in Japan as robot anime (ロボットアニメ?), are anime that feature robots (mecha) in battle, and it is broken down into two subcategories of Super Robot and Real Robot. Mecha series cover a wide variety of genres from comedy to drama, though are always fantastical and larger-than-life in nature and feature large-scale battles and/or action sequences. Mecha anime has contributed to a greater popularity of mecha and has expanded into other media, with manga and video game adaptations, and has also contributed to the popularity of scale model robots.
The genre started with Mitsuteru Yokoyama's 1956 manga Tetsujin 28-go (which was later animated in 1963 and also released abroad as Gigantor). Its inclusion is debatable however, as the robot was controlled by remote instead of a cockpit in the machine. Not long after that the genre was largely defined by author Go Nagai, into something considerably more fantastical. Mazinger Z, his most famous creation, was not only the first successful Super Robot anime series, but also the pioneer of the genre staples like weapons that were activated by the hero calling out their names ("Rocket Punch!"). It was also a pioneer in die-cast metal toys such as the Chogokin series in Japan and the Shogun Warriors in the U.S., that were (and still are) very popular with children and collectors. Getter Robo, for its part, was the first combining robot, something that became a frequent design theme and was aggressively imitated in similar mecha shows. In 1976 Brave Raideen aired, in which the titular robot was given mystical properties as opposed to its sci-fi predecessors and it had one of the first true transforming toys as opposed to the impossible morphing done by Getter Robo and Osamu Tezuka's Ambassador Magma, which was the first transforming robot.
The appearance of Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam in 1979 is considered to have broken the mecha genre into two subsets: the Super Robot show, which focused on ultratech mecha that often had elements of mysticism and tend to use a "monster of the week" format; and the Real Robot show, in which the mecha are shown as tools rather than semi-mystical creations, and the focus is less on the machines and more on the pilots. The introduction of Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 introduced a sort of plot paradox that would be revisited frequently in subsequent Real Mecha anime productions: a series about giant war machines and a large-scale conflict that was, in fact, anti-war at heart.
Other notable series include but are by no means limited to The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which in its modified Robotech form led to one of the breakthroughs of anime in the USA; Hideaki Anno's Gunbuster, which along with Macross and Gundam is considered the pinnacle of mecha anime in the 1980s; the police-focused Patlabor, which acted as a homage to the light-hearted and courage-focused stories of the 80s in a time of mostly dramatic mecha series; and as examples of older shows, Go Lion (Voltron) and Giant Robo. Macross was especially noteworthy as it showed mecha fighting under combined arms tactics, ranging from the infantry Spartan MBR-07-II to the jet fighter VF-1 Valkyrie and artillery Monster HWR-00-II.
One anime series that drew from the tradition of both Super Robot and Real Robot genres while being unique was Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion. Considered by many to be the spiritual successor to Space Runaway Ideon, Evangelion was highly successful and quite controversial, similar to its would-be predecessor. Another series, Kishin Heidan, is less well known outside Japan. It explored the use of so-called "organic mecha" which would be adopted by similar shows like Brain Powerd, Rahxephon, Escaflowne, and arguably even the 2013 breakout hit Attack on Titan. The mecha genre in the late 90s early 2000s featured revivals such as Getter Robo Armageddon, Diebuster, Mazinkaiser etc. as well as new shows such as Gurren Lagann, which was a homage to many Super Robot shows in the past century. From the Real Robot side of mecha anime, there were entries in long-standing franchises such as Gundam SEED, Gundam 00 and Macross Frontier, and new franchises such as Code Geass and Full Metal Panic!. Arguably, the concept of piloted mecha goes back decades before Tetsujin-28. The tripods featured in The War of the Worlds, with advanced weaponry and dedicated piloting stations, are perhaps the forerunners of modern mecha.
This genre features robots that have the ability to be self-aware, think and/or feel emotion, the source of sentience varies from aliens, such as The Transformers (1984), to artificial intelligence, such as Brave Police J-Decker (1994), to magic, such as Brave of the Legend Da Garn (1992) and even disembodied human souls in Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996). The first sentient robot, also the first mecha anime in colour, was Astroganger (1972).
This genre features robots that are controlled externally, the first mecha anime, Tetsujin 28-go (1966) is a famous example.
This genre features robots that are controlled by humans but rather than being piloted as a vehicle the humans may wear (hence the name) robotic armour, such as in Genesis Climber Mospeada (1983), fuse with the robots, such as in GaoGaiGar (1997), combine with the robots, such as in Transformers: Super-God Masterforce (1988) or become the robots themselves, such as in Brave Command Dagwon (1996).
This popular genre features robots piloted internally, examples are Mazinger Z, which established the genre (1972), Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), though the latter as with all organic mecha may also be considered sentient.
Assembling and painting mecha scale model kits is a popular pastime among mecha enthusiasts. Like other models such as cars or airplanes, more advanced kits require much more intricate assembly. Lego mecha construction can present unique engineering challenges; the balancing act between a high range of motion, good structural stability, and aesthetic appeal can be difficult to manage. In 2006, the Lego Group released their own somewhat manga-inspired mecha line with the Exo-Force series.
- Gears Online
- Brickshelf Lego mecha galleries
- Mecha Anime HQ: Extensive coverage on Gundams and other mecha.