Top five must-see series in the mecha genre
As a mechanical engineer by trade, it should come as no surprise that the mecha genre holds a soft spot in my heart. Some people watch Gundam and wonder what it'll take to pilot one. I always wondered what it'll take to build one (what's the going rate on a kilo of Gundanium alloy these days?). Don't get me wrong, all genre of anime have their gems, they're must sees for anyone who claims to be an otaku. That said, there are no words to describe the beauty of a well done mecha series. Here is MY list of the top five most important mecha series till date.
1. Gundam Wing (including the OVA Endless Waltz)
I don't think I can overstate the importance of this show. It was a brilliant showcase of a lot of what we have all come to love about mecha anime. One thing that made Gundam Wing so special was how the mechs felt more like the main characters than the actual characters themselves. You could not think of Duo Maxwell without immediately calling up an image of his Death-Scythe. That is not to say that the story was drowned out by a focus on senseless action, as those of us who have seen the series know. Couple that with probably Kunio Okawara's best mechanical designs till date, and a kick-ass sound track, and you have yourself a timeless classic. This show was my introduction to anime as a whole, sort of like an infection from which I never fully recovered.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
If every anime series was a drug, then Neon Genesis Evangelion would be the crack cocaine of anime. It is very addictive, and let's face it, it's trippy as hell. I have to admit that even now I am not 100% clear on what the show was about. The beauty of Evangelion (for me anyway) is in the dynamics of the characters, and in it's use of a different kind of mecha, the biological mecha. The mecha are in essence animals with pilots. The idea is not one common with mecha series, but NGE accomplishes it without blaspheming on the genre. The themes it tackled (theological themes for example), and just the shear boldness of the series makes it one of the most important of all time. It dares to be different to an extreme, and it dares the watcher to look away.
3. The Vision of Escaflowne
Here are a few of my favorite discoveries since I started watching anime: mecha, voice actress and singer Maaya Sakamoto, and composer Yoko Kanno. The Vision of Escaflowne had all three. You would be hard pressed to find a more well rounded show out there. Dating back to 1996, Escaflowne is sure to remain a favorite for decades to come. What is really cool about this series is how it shows that giant robots can be cool, no, awesome, without rockets and beams and computers. Set in an archaic alternate universe, Escaflowne puts high octane mecha action in a primitive setting, and nails it. Add beautiful music from the incomparable Yoko Kanno, and what you have is gold.
4. Macross Zero
I knew I had to put a Macross series on this list, seeing as it is one of the big three mecha franchises (Gundam and NGE the other two). That said it was difficult deciding which one had the most meaning to me. After much consideration, I have to go with Macross Zero. Yea yea I know it was just an OVA, but this is my list and I'm leaving it on here. The reason this show is so important was that it show that the Macross brand was still relevant. I consider myself as a bit of a purist, so when I see an anime that goes heavy on the 3D, I typically turn my nose up at it. Macross Zero shows what can be accomplished when 3D is done correctly. And not to sound like a broken record, but dat soundtrack!
5: Code Geass
So on one side of the coin, you have Gundam, where the entire series revolve around the mech, and it is great. On the other side, you have a mecha series that revolves around the people, and it is still great. That other side is Code Geass. In this series, the mecha are more or less supplemental to the story, props if you will. That said, that doesn't make this any less of a fantastic mecha series in every sense. When they are called up, Code Geass makes sure that the mechs are well represented. The mechanical design is well done, and the action is crisp and entertaining. That said, the main reason Code Geass is on this list is that it is one of the best shows of any kind you will ever watch, and it just happens to have mechs in it.
There are some honorable mentions as far as mecha series go (Ful Metal Panic, Sousei no Aquarion, Gurren Lagann, Zone of the Enders, etc), but these five I believe to be the most impactful for the industry. I know not everyone will agree with this list, but you know what, deal with it. Just kidding, let us know what you would add or remove, and we'll consider it.X