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Top 10 Mecha in Classic Anime

Source: DragoArt.com

Source: DragoArt.com

Mecha has long been an anime staple, the uber-cool–and absolutely impossible–mechanical creations that are as much of a show’s draw as the characters and stories. Sometimes the two are actually one and the same, shows and movies in which the main character isn’t really a character at all, but an allegory for man’s constant struggle to balance scientific responsibility with the natural world.

Usually, it’s bada** too.

So, to honor anime’s impressive array of insanely cool stuff — admit it, you want the toy as soon as you see it–we’ve compiled a list of  anime’s top 10 mecha.

10.  The God Phoenix: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman

mania dot com

Source: mania.com

The God Phoenix from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman is part transport and part battleship. It neatly houses all of the awesome Gatcha vehicles — all of which could make this list — and though it doesn’t mechanically transform, it does so physically. One minute, the ships just a ship, the next it lives up to its name, becoming a burning phoenix that always seems to wipe out its enemies just as they’re about to win.

9. Mazinger Z

Source: Taringa.net

Source: Taringa.net

One of the first true giant robot shows, this one from mastermind Go Nagai, Mazinger Z began as a manga in 1972 before hitting TV as an anime that same year. Mazinger is one of Go Nagai’s most enduring creations, a beast of a machine with all sorts of powerful weapons: rocket punches, drill missiles, and — ahem — breast fire.

Since its introduction Mazinger returned to anime in several series and OAV’S. It’s also a staple on toy shelves, and that alone says a lot about its popularity.

8. Labors: Mobile Police Patlabor

ann patlabor

Source: Anime News Network

Mobile Police Patlabor took the robot/mecha back to its roots as a workman’s tool. The mecha, or labors, weren’t god-like, all-powerful weapons like Mazinger Z. Instead, they were mostly used in construction and by the police. This is Christopher Nolan’s anime; a more realistic look at a future in which society uses technology and robotics in its daily lives. They just happen to look really cool!

7. Gunbuster: Aim For the Top! Gunbuster

neogaf dot com

Source: neogaf.com

Gunbuster is one of Studio Gainax’s early shows. Here, the story goes back to the robot weapon concept, giving eponymous robot great power. The rocket punch is back, as is the concept of multiple pilots, transformation, and linking smaller mechs into the larger whole. As the show progresses, Earth’s enemies increase in size, number, and strength. And so does the Gunbuster. By the end it’s ridiculously powerful, wiping out scores of aliens in seconds.

6. Eva Unit 1: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Source: Rebloggy.com

Source: Rebloggy.com

Ah, Eva. Possibly the most controversial anime title of all time. Just mentioning it in a group of anime fans will ignite all sorts of passions. Eva Unit 1 is the heart and soul of the show. Its design is unique–tall, lean, and athletic. The Evas look more like athletes than mecha, and if you’re really paying attention, you see more than a passing resemblance to Nausicaa’s Fire Warriors than their giant robot predecessors. If you’ve seen the show, you know this is intentional. What first appears to be a robot turns out to be something else entirely.

5. Gundam: Mobile Suite Gundam

comic vine dot com

Source: comicvine.com

 

Another pioneering show. Mobile Suit Gundam introduced the idea of mass produced robots as weapons. Think F-14 fighters and wouldn’t be far off. The differences are in the suit designs, likely to let audiences differentiate each pilot’s suit from another. Gundam is one of the most recognizable anime robot. It’s almost a logo unto itself.

4. SDF-1: Super Dimensional Fortress Macross

macross world dot com

Source: macrossworld.com

The SDF-1 is so huge it has a whole city inside it, a full complement of soldiers, fighters, and other weaponry. It also transforms into one of the largest robots in all anime. Certainly, Macross has enough mecha to warrant its own list. The Valkyries are a fantastic fighter plane/robot hybrid–one whose design actually makes sense in a pseudo-realistic kind of way. Then you have the enemy ships–a nice blend of organic with mechanical. Macross is a mecha feast. For this list, we’ve gone with the Macross itself.

3. Kaneda’s motorcycle: Akira

Source: Kitsu-ko.tumblr.com

Source: Kitsu-ko.tumblr.com

Admit it; the first time you saw Kaneda’s motorcycle you wondered what it would be like to drive it. Unlike the other mecha on this list, the motorcycle isn’t central to its anime’s story. It’s just very, very cool. Ask yourself: would Akira be as good without the bike? Yes. Probably. But once you’ve seen the bike, you’ll never forget it.

2. Space Battleship Yamato

Source: starblazers.com

Source: starblazers.com

Try explaining the concept of Space Battleship Yamato to someone, and you’ll likely lose them when you say future Earth’s only hope is a sunken WWII battleship. It sounds crazy, and it is. It’s also iconic. The Yamato is the heart and soul of the show. It’s more important than any of its characters. The embodiment of the Earth and its struggle to survive. Over and over, the Yamato takes a pounding, but it keeps on coming. Its enemies have no answer for it.

1. The Mach 5: Speed Racer/Mach GoGoGo

Source: autoblog.com

Source: autoblog.com

Instantly recognizable. People who know nothing about anime still know the Mach 5 . The sleek design, the elegant color scheme. And all those awesome gadgets. When James Bond dreams, he dreams about the Mach 5. Many a child grew up wanting to own this car. It’s the most famous of all anime mecha and an easy choice as this list’s number one. Go Speed Racer Go!

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About the author:

Keith Yatsuhashi is a long-time anime fan. He is author of Kojiki, a YA fantasy that speaks to his love of anime. Kojiki is available now from Musa Publishing. Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithYatsuhashi.

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Categories: Anime, Best and Worst of Everything

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12 Comments on “Top 10 Mecha in Classic Anime”

  1. 06/16/2014 at 11:56 AM #

    Reblogged this on It's Kind of an Electronic Book.

  2. RR
    06/16/2014 at 12:29 PM #

    I believe its Eva Unit 01, not 2.

  3. 06/16/2014 at 12:30 PM #

    Ack. You’re right. Meant to fix that. Heading over to edit.

  4. 06/16/2014 at 12:55 PM #

    Great list, my favorites are probably Gunbuster, Patlabor and Macross. There is actually a Patlabor Live Action, Im looking forward to seeing it. They are more grounded in reality, and remind me of Wanzers from Front Mission.

  5. 06/16/2014 at 12:58 PM #

    Thanks Zach. It was a tougher list than you’d think. My editor and I kept going back and forth and coming up with new mecha to add.

  6. 06/16/2014 at 5:13 PM #

    Now I know the origins of the weapons firing out from the ahem breast part. Another notable example will be Daimos with his breast blizzard.

    Just wondering what is your basis in making the mecha in this list part of the top 10?

  7. 06/16/2014 at 5:22 PM #

    Totally subjective. I picked what I thought were either best known or what were anime milestones. When other Another Castle writers peeked, they had favorites of their own. Some I considered: Ghost in the Shell, Giant Robo, and Astro Boy.

  8. 06/17/2014 at 12:36 AM #

    I’ve only seen the Evangelion films. How do you think the Eva compares in those as to the show?

  9. 06/17/2014 at 6:16 AM #

    I’ve only seen the first movie and part of the second. Someone else can talk about it better than I can. Usually, though, movies condense a series and change the pacing. given how Anno likes to tinker with Eva, all bets are off.

  10. 06/18/2014 at 2:18 AM #

    That’s great. Hehe. Yeah Astro Boy definitely, but perhaps the only notable about him is that he is probably THE anime icon of his era.

  11. 06/18/2014 at 7:26 PM #

    He’s got the rocket punch

  12. 06/18/2014 at 8:22 PM #

    And the gun behind him.

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