Real Robot (リアルロボット Riaru Robotto?) is a genre of Japanese animation. The genre contains mecha robots whose abilities and operation are broadly explainable by, or grounded in, real-world physics and future technological advances. In addition, operators commonly rely on ranged weapons with projectiles and their machine's agility to survive military-like battle situations. Plotwise, most Real Robot series feature an overarching story and more mature themes in contrast to the "monster of the week" structure seen in productions of the Super Robot genre. A lot of mecha from Real Robot series usually look more utilitarian, though this is not the case with hybrid series such as the mecha of Aura Battler Dunbine.
Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) is largely considered the first series to introduce the real robot idea and, along with The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), would form the basis of what people would later call real robot anime. In an interview with Yoshiyuki Tomino and other production crew members in the April 1989 issue of Newtype, about his views on the first Gundam anime that was not directed by him, he commented on the realism of the show, in which he sees the sponsors, Sunrise, as imaginary enemies of Gundam, since they did not accept a certain level of realism. Armored Trooper Votoms is viewed by Famitsu magazine as the peak of real robot anime.
The word could also be used to mean real world working robots per the definition of Nikkei Business Publication.
They established the concepts behind "real robots" that set it apart from previous robot anime, such as:
- The robot is used as an industrial machine with arms/manipulators and is manufactured by military and commercial enterprises of various nations.
- The concept of industrial production and commercial manufacturing processes appeared for the first time in the history of robot shows, introducing manufacturing language like "mass-production (MP)", "prototype" and "test-type".
- While classic super robots typically use special attacks activated by voice commands, real robots more commonly make use of manually operated scaled-up/advanced versions of human weapons, such as lasers/particle beams, guns, shields, and swords.
- Real robots use mostly ranged weapons that require ammunition.
- Real robots require periodic maintenance and are often prone to malfunction and break down, like real machines.
The Gundam series still refers to itself as a real robot series. It is normally referred to as the first real robot anime, in that it turned away from the traditional and simplistic "just heroes" beating "evil villains" story and instead created an independent background world infused with scientific research, and built a world that adults can enjoy exploring.
Other series, such as Patlabor, explore non-military uses for real robots, like law enforcement and construction, although military use robots also exist in the series.
Inevitably, there are some types of mecha that are difficult to classify as either a real robot or a super robot. Some of these include the Aura Battlers from Aura Battler Dunbine or the Evangelion units from Neon Genesis Evangelion, which follow the general motif of real robots, but their origin and abilities are more like the typical super robot. The Mortar Headds from Five Star Stories are unique artifacts, treated like individual works of art by the fictional society present in the story, and their power often borderlines on super robot. However, their intricate engineering and the motif of their weaponry is often scientifically explained by series creator Mamoru Nagano which makes them very real robot-esque in other ways.
As this mixing of both genres is becoming increasingly popular in anime, it is often difficult to classify mecha as either Real or Super, although they often tend to lean more in one direction than the other. Even Gundam shows this tendency; while the mecha designs are based in the Real Robot genre, the characters in the show typically have unique robots designed specifically for them, and the shows often feature characters with psychic powers or superhuman abilities; the latter are both common in Super Robot anime, though the degree to which Gundam leans to either side of the spectrum varies considerably between installments.
Apart from the robots themselves, it also should be noticed that in "Real Robot" as a genre of anime there is a tendency to also depict human organisations (government, military forces, police, etc.) and the lives of civilians as realistic. In many titles, scrutiny of these elements forms the very core of the theme of the work, not just a supplement.
There are also examples of anime taking the realism to the utmost extreme. Robotics;Notes initially features mecha and robots bound by the current limitations of technology with emphasis on the exponentially increasing power requirements for large machines. The first large robot constructed by the protagonists is so immense that the diesel engines powering it were damaged after just two steps.
The word "Real Robot" is normally linked to the Super Robot Wars game. The term might have been used occasionally in separate anime, yet it is first used as a general term in the famicom, 4th Super Robot Wars, where it is used to describe robots or mecha that are treated as realistic tools/weapons rather than as heroic semi-characters, or Super Robots. The user can choose at the beginning of the game which genre the player character is, and the story will alter accordingly to let different anime genre robots join the team.
Famous producers of the genre
Another one of the most famous producers of real robot anime is Ryosuke Takahashi (高橋 良輔), who created Fang of the Sun Dougram, Armored Trooper Votoms, Blue Comet SPT Layzner and Gasaraki. His method of making the anime more realistic normally includes smaller and weaker robots as compared to giant robots. Also, he used trucks to transport the robots in his show instead of having them walk long distances. He commented on the size of the robot that 4 metres is the limit in size where you can still call it something that is piloted by the pilot instead of the pilot wearing a mechanical suit.
- Anime Newtype Channel
- Hatena keyword Hatena
- Oricon Style manga and anime interviews and specials, Robot anime special, “リアルロボット”というジャンルを生み出した作品が『機動戦士ガンダム』である。(Mobile Suit Gundam, the series that gave birth to the genre named "Real Robot")
- 10 commandments of Real robot, Gundam Sentinel introduction, Gundam workshop, Format ACG
- Newtype magazine, April, 1989
- famitsu news リアルロボットアニメの最高峰がスクリーンで蘇える！ 『装甲騎兵ボトムズ ペールゼン・ファイルズ 劇場版』 Peak of Real Robot anime on screen, Votoms movie.
- Robot Operation DVD Nikkei characters, Latest movies of Real Robot (actual working robots). (リアルロボット（実際に働くロボット）の最新の姿を見ることができる！)
- Robot Watch SF seminar, 29 April 2007, Interview of Ryōsuke Takahashi The side of Real Robot (SFセミナー「高橋良輔インタビュー リアルロボットの向こう側」レポート)
- Mobile Suit Gundam, the classical real robot anime influenced various other production. Even in it, the realism of the large robot using as a military weapon scene Gundam rising created various impacts at the time. (リアルロボットアニメの古典ともいえる『機動戦士ガンダム』は後のさまざまな作品に影響を与えたといわれる。なかでも、第1話での巨大ロボットを実感をもって、兵器として扱う「ガンダム起動」の描写には、当時さまざまな反響があったそうだ。 ) ガンダム国勢調査 第24回
- Using the real robot side of Gundam and making it more realistic by using the real world industrial methods as the new concept design for this product. (ガンダムが持つ『リアルロボット』という側面をより現実（リアル）世界の工業製品的観点から捉えた新コンセプトデザインの商品です。) ガンダムADAPT
-  広島アニメーションビエンナーレ2008, 「機動戦士ガンダム」に代表されるような「リアルロボット」路線が生れました。これは、「正義の味方」が「悪いやつ」を倒す、というような、単純な勧善懲悪ストーリーを逸脱して、物語の背景に独自の世界観、科学考証を内在することにより、「群像劇」とも言うべき、大人の鑑賞に堪えうる作品世界を構築しました。
- Super Robot Wars data file, Game station June 2000 2nd issue SRW alpha special.
- Bandai Channel