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Mecha Anime Starter Guide: Going Beyond Voltron and Robotech

With last night's debut of Titan Maximum, the new stop-motion animated comedy from the team behind Robot Chicken, we got to thinking about mecha, the giant robots in anime that have the power to both destroy and save civilization. While we figured that even those who aren't fans of Japanese animation are readily familiar with Voltron and Robotech, there are dozens of both TV and film titles that employ these (usually) human-operated machines. Below is a small sampling of our mecha anime picks. If you think we're missing something, leave your choices in the comment section.

Mecha Anime Starter Guide: Going Beyond Voltron and Robotech

1. Eureka Seven

Eureka Seven is the mecha anime for surfers and ravers. Members of the rebel group Gekkostate pilot mecha who ride surfboard-like apparatuses. Episodes are named after dance hits by Primal Scream ("Higher Than the Sun"), Soul II Soul ("Keep on Movin'")" and many others and the mecha used by the military are known as KLF. Last week, the film Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers debuted across the US. Check out the closing theme below.

iLL "Space Rock"

Mecha Anime Starter Guide: Going Beyond Voltron and Robotech

2. Gurren Lagann

With its inventive plot and mixture of humor and action, Gurren Lagann has become the big hit amongst new anime series in the US. The series takes place in a future where humans are forced to live in underground villages that are plagued by earthquakes. Young Simon works as a "digger" and in the course of his job, he finds a mysterious key and, later, a head, thus sparking a journey above-ground with his friends Kamina and Yoko.

 

Mecha Anime Starter Guide: Going Beyond Voltron and Robotech

3. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Known to fans as Eva, Neon Genesis Evangelion is an epic mix of biblical allusions, philosophical themes and robots. The original series aired in Japan in the mid-1990s and spawned multiple movies, a manga series, video games and oodles of toys and collectible items. The most recent of these is the four-film series Rebuild of Evangelion, which is trickling into US theaters.

Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone
Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone
Mecha Anime Starter Guide: Going Beyond Voltron and Robotech

4. The Big O

The Big O is a mecha operated by Roger Smith, a negotiator in Paradigm City, where the shared history and individual memories of its citizens were wiped clean forty years earlier. Like a film noir protagonist, Smith has a "girl Friday," a gothic Lolita robot named Dorothy, and like Bruce Wayne, he has a trusted butler who assists in his work. The genre-fusing anime plays in repeats on Adult Swim's Saturday night anime block.

Mecha Anime Starter Guide: Going Beyond Voltron and Robotech

5. Mobile Suit Gundam

Watch Mobile Suit Gundam and you'll notice the elements that quickly became conventions of this genre: a devastating war; a young hero; and massive robots ready for battle. Marking the series' 30th anniversary, Sunrise Studios built a scale model of Gundam in Tokyo. Rocker Andrew W.K. also got in on the birthday action by releasing Gundam Rock, a CD featuring covers of songs from the series.

Andrew W.K. "Fly, Gundam"


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