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Mecha anime cover all series that revolve around the use of piloted robotic armors in battle, which 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.
The appearance of 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 paradox: a war show about giant war machines 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; GaoGaiGar, 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 as well as Full Metal Panic. 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.
The mecha genre in anime is still alive and well as the new millennium came, with revival OVAs like Getter Robo: the Last Day, Diebuster, Mazinkaiser and Gurren Lagann from the Super Robot tradition, the Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 series from the Real Robot side, and Reideen, a recent remake of the 1975 hit series Brave Raideen.
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.
More recent anime titles, such as Escaflowne and ZOIDS, introduce variant concepts to the mecha genre, such as organic mecha and upscaled mechanical animals and vehicles.
Assembling and painting mecha scale model kits is a popular pastime among mecha enthusiasts. While many model kits are not produced for distribution to the West, foreign fans can acquire them through comic book shops or online retailers that cater to imports. Like other models such as cars or airplanes, more advanced kits require much more intricate assembly.
Others enjoy building Lego mecha, whether to reproduce existing designs or create their very own. 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.
- List of fictional mecha
- powered armour (note, PA are simply mechanical suits, however they are quite like Mechs)
- Gears Online
- Brickshelf Lego mecha galleries
- Mecha Anime HQ: Extensive coverage on Gundams and other mecha.