Since the ’80s, robots and mecha have become an integral part of popular animation, especially anime. Titles like Voltron, Gundam, and Robotech have set the standard for the mechanical transformations and massive battles between mechanical behemoths, evolving into the mecha anime that fans are familiar with today. Since that time, there have been thousands of mecha anime and dozens of story arcs that have continued to keep the fire of mecha anime blazing in a genre currently dominated by ghouls, demons, martial artists, and psychics.
Thanks to the immense popularity of titles like Dragon Ball Super and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, anime fans haven’t paid as much attention to mecha anime as they did before. However, the mecha anime genre has produced some really impressive titles over the years, and if you’re looking to change your anime viewing up a bit, this would be the perfect time to try some of these recommendations.
Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
When it comes to mecha anime, you can never go wrong with a Gundam series⏤and there’s a lot of them. One of the best to date going into the modern era is Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.
The story follows a young boy named Mikazuki Augus and his friend Orga Itsuka. They lead a band of child soldiers in a rebellion against the adults who have used and oppressed them during their time with CGS’s private service company. Unfortunately for both parties, the military organization Gjallarhorn is also trying to destroy them in hopes of eradicating the CGS’ newest client, Kudelia Aina Bernstein. But what Gjallarhorn doesn’t know is that the CGS has found an ace up their sleeve: a legendary mobile suit from long ago, The Gundam Barbatos!
With a powerful chip on the playing board, these children aim to build an organization big enough to rival the military and create their own nation free from government control.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is a gritty, mature, and often violent take on the Gundam franchise. Though it keeps all of the elements about what makes Gundam great, it’s grounded in the sense of realism that plays out like a mafia movie or street-savvy coming-of-age drama. So if you’re looking for anime that plays more to your “mature” pallet, this is the one to watch.
One of the most underrated and least talked about anime of 2021, Back Arrow is a unique mecha anime that takes the genre and spins it around in so many ways, you’ll start to get dizzy.
The series takes place in the land of Lingalind, a vast continent surrounded by a massive wall. Every month, capsules containing supplies and Bind Warpers⏤metal armbands that allow anyone to transform themselves into giant mecha called Briheights⏤get sent over the wall to the various locations throughout Lingalind. Every month, the two most powerful nations in the land, The Republic of Lutoh and the Empire of Rekka, fight to obtain the rights to those capsules.
A capsule is sent over the wall one day, containing nothing more than an amnesiac man and a single Bind Warper. Little did they know that the man who would later take the name of “Back Arrow” would shake their world to its core and change it forever.
Think of Back Arrow as a hybrid of Dragon Ball, Gundam, and Attack on Titan. Not only does it give you a spectacular variety of characters and Briheights, but it also provides an action that is fast-paced and explosive, making for an exciting mecha-watching experience.
Code Geass: Akito The Exiled
To get some context as to what’s going on in this one, you’re going to first have to watch Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. Code Geass Akito The Exiled provides a look into the other characters affected by the events during Lelouch of the Rebellion.
The story centers around Akito Hyuga, a young soldier in the European army, who has been affected by the power of Geass, a psychic ability that allows the wielder to force anyone into servitude. His battle to wrench himself from its control and stop the person responsible for it all is his brother, Shin Hyuga!
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled is a spin-off of the original and boasts exciting mecha action from start to finish. Though relatively short at only five episodes, the brief series does a great job of incorporating fluid and fantastic fight sequences with its combination of 2D and 3D animation, creating a great visual experience for mecha fans. If you like mecha and Code Geass, then Akito The Exiled is a must-watch.
Valvrave The Liberator
Another exciting anime where military powers and children collide is Valvrave The Liberator. The anime is set in an era where 70% of the human race lives in space after the advanced development of space cities. As war rages between the Dorssia Military Pact Federation and the Atlantic Ring of the United States (ARUS), a young high school student named Haruto Tokishima finds a humanoid mecha called Valvrave that transforms his life in ways he never could have imagined.
Together with his friends, Haruto finds other Valvraves inside his school and fights to protect them from the military, all while trying to have themselves recognized as an independent state. As they learn more about their trusted mecha companions, they find a dark and terrible secret that may destroy both their unity and the world.
Valvrave The Liberator’s premise is very similar to Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans with a few exceptions that can’t be discussed without spoiling the best parts. The anime is an exciting take on mecha and humanity’s progression forward into the future, with suspenseful storytelling that will keep you guessing what will happen next.
This is one mecha anime that can get a little weird. Eureka Seven follows the story of 14-year-old Renton Thurston, a hover-boarding teen whose life was pretty much normal until a large mechanical robot named Nirvash and its pilot⏤a young girl named Eureka⏤crash into his room. Renton finds himself drawn to Eureka and ends up joining her and the renegade group Gekkostate on their adventures to understand the intelligent sentient species the Scrub Coral that has merged with the planet Earth.
Along the way, Renton, Eureka, and the Nirvash form a bond that will transform the members of Gekkostate and the rest of the world as they dig deeper into the secrets of the Scrub Coral and Eureka’s connection to them to find a phenomenon that will forever alter how humans view their interaction with the unknown.
Eureka Seven is a beautifully drawn anime with plenty of roller-coaster aerial action scenes and mecha action. It also is a heartwarming, humorous, and dramatic story of love, understanding, and hope. If you’re looking for a mecha anime that’s a little bit on the lighter side after watching grittier shows like Code Geass and Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, then this is a perfect title to add to your list.
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Full Metal Panic
If you’re looking to stay on the lighthearted path for a while, then Full Metal Panic is another great mecha anime title to watch. The series follows covert anti-terrorist soldier Sousuke Sagara as he protects high school student Kaname Chidori from assassin attempts from various organizations. The crazy part is that neither he nor Kaname has any idea why she’s being targeted in the first place.
Well trained with an array of weapons and his trusted mecha ARX-7, Sousuke tries to blend into Kaname’s high school as a student himself, but being raised as a soldier his whole life doesn’t make that easy. It does make for some serious hijinks and laugh-out-loud moments as Sousuke uses his combat expertise all over the school without understanding why Kaname’s classmates would find his behavior a bit extreme for a “normal” teenager.
Full Metal Panic is another unique mecha anime. It doesn’t concentrate its story around the mecha aspect but instead focuses more on Sousuke’s growth as a character during his security detail at Kaname’s high school. The mecha, although great additions to the action, are merely a bonus. However, when the mecha action gets going, it’s fast-paced enough to keep you engaged before returning to the comedy. If you’re looking for a fun mecha anime with great battles and a good sense of humor, then Full Metal Panic is a must-see.
If you ever watch the Ultraman series or become a fan, then this mecha anime is going to feel a little familiar. SSSS.Gridman is the story of Yuuta Hibiki, an amnesiac high school student who suddenly hears a voice coming from an old computer screen. Upon investigation, Yuuta is introduced to a robot calling himself Hyper Agent Gridman and is warned about an impending giant monster attack on his city.
Drawn to the screen during the attack, Yuuta merges with the robot and is transported to the monster’s location as a giant version of Gridman himself to combat the monster. Together with his friends, Yuuta uses Gridman and his various vehicles to form the Gridman Alliance, the mecha team tasked with protecting the city!
Another lighthearted anime to have fun with, SSSS.GRIDMAN is both humorous and engaging to watch. As a modern take on the more classic mecha anime, SSSS.GRIDMAN gives a great nod to nostalgia for mecha fans who remember the Silver Era.
Darling In The Franxx
Admittedly, this one can get a little questionable since it also kind of falls in the mature romance category. However, in this post-apocalyptic saga, Darling in The Franxx follows the story of Hiro, an artificial boy raised solely to pilot a Franxx, mecha-designed to protect humanity from giant creatures known as klaxosaurs. Every Franxx requires two pilots, and Hiro, unfortunately, has a hard time “synchronizing with his female co-pilot.” That is, until he meets Zero Two, a female pilot who has already killed two of her other partners during “synchronization.” Somehow, the two manage to pair up, and from there the adventures truly begin.
Though it isn’t outright in-your-face, there are heavily implied sexual innuendos throughout the series, which are slightly cringeworthy if you’re not mature enough for them. The story and incredible action are definitely worth a watch if you’re a mecha fan. Since it also falls a little on the adult anime side, it’s highly recommended that you’re of a certain age before watching this one in particular.
Linebarrels of Iron
One of the best mecha anime on the list, Linebarrels of Iron, follows the story of Koichi Hayase, a high school student who is accidentally hit with a satellite and put into a coma for half a year; only to wake up with superhuman powers. He is soon sought out by the machina Linebarrel and finds out he is now its “Factor” or pilot. Together with the organization JUDA, Koichi Hayase learns more about the Linebarrel and other Machinas’ origins and what it means for humanity’s future.
Linebarrels of Iron is a perfect well-rounded mecha anime to return you to the more serious side of the genre. It incorporates the humor, lightheartedness, and small mature nuances of the previous titles while providing an immersive story and impressive mecha action. If you’re looking for a mecha anime to provide you with a bit of everything, then you’re definitely going to love Linebarrels of Iron.
Last but certainly not least is the magical mecha hybrid saga Broken Blade. The story centers around young Rygart Arrow, a nonmagic user who lives in a world where everyone can use magic. That magic powers everything, including the giant mecha-like machinery known as Golems. Unfortunately, war is brewing between the kingdoms of Krisna and the Athens Commonwealth, and if he doesn’t find a way to join, he won’t be able to stop his friends from killing each other! Luckily, Rygart stumbles upon an ancient Golem that can’t be piloted by magic users and possesses capabilities that far surpass other Golems, giving him a distinct advantage. Rygart decides to use the Golem to enter the war in hopes of stopping it together.
An exciting fantasy tale for the ages, Broken Blade is a magical perspective on the mecha genre that will keep you engaged to the end. The action sequences are gritty and well-choreographed, bringing a sense of realism and gravity to the battles. If you like Black Clover and Gundam, then you’re certainly going to like this title.