Saturday, August 4, 2012

Six Favourite Real Robot Anime Mecha

I've picked six anime series that should fall under "Real Robot" mecha category.  This excludes "Super Robots" such as Mazinger, Gurren Lagaan, Voltron, Gunbuster, and many more.  Super robots would be another post.  What is a Real Robot?  Like many of the definitions in anime it is going to be a little vague and a little porous.  BUT, I think the key trait is that it behaves like a real machine, with limitations from the real world in terms of abilities and behaviour.  It runs out of ammo or power, takes damage, breaks down, can't go from zero to 60 in 1 second, and all that.
ARX-8  Flickr / GogDog
Wikipedia has a pretty good post about this.  "Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) is largely considered the first series to introduce the real robot idea and, along with The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), would form the basis of what later people call real robot anime." Real_Robot

http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html

Picking just six favourite real robot mechs to talk about was pretty tough.  Everyone is going to have a different bunch of favourites too so don't be offended if your favourite is left out.  I picked these six based on their "real-ness" (which I don't even think is a real word) and the fact they stood out in my memory.  There were many other anime such as Nadesico, Samurai 7, Fafner, Genesis Climber Mospeada, Armored Trooper VOTOMS, and of course the aforementioned Gundam series that didn't make the cut.  I've actually never watched a VOTOMS although I think the realism level is quite high. Evangelion and Rahxephon are almost super robots with their amazing abilities, even if the batteries on an EVA only last 5 minutes.  Gundam may have started out as a real robot show, but some of its mechas and pilots border on Godlike in battle when compared against their foes.  Gundam would also be its very own post as the franchise is SO BIG.

Drum roll please.....

Here are my six real robot picks.
  1. Knightmare Frames from Code Geass.
  2. Valkyrie Transforming Fighter from Macross (all series)
  3. Gernsback M9 / ARX-7 Arbalest / ARX-8 Laevatein from Full Metal Panic!
  4. Tactical Armours from Gasaraki
  5. Humanoid Walking Tanks from Gunparade March
  6. Police Labour From Patlabor
Code Geass Knightmare Frames
These mechas have some unusual designs that resemble medieval armour.  They are equipped with road wheels and pack quite a wallop as they were used to conquer the world.  Their use of lances (e.g. like a real knight from the middle ages) is interesting, but they are armed with plenty of other conventional weaponry.  Code Geass had some pretty wonderful world building with the Britannian Empire and the conquest of Japan.  Lots of plot twists too.  Very enjoyable show. Code Geass from Wikipedia.

Macross Valkyrie
There are so many variants of the Valkyrie!  From the original series to the Macross Plus OVA, Macross Zero, and now the Macross Frontier series and movies.  Macross was good as it was the pioneer of transforming mecha (not like Getter Robo) in the real robot theme.  Much like an F-14 Tomcat with its variable wing geometry, a Valkyrie variable fighter can go from an aircraft, to a half-walking GERWALK mode, to a full humanoid battroid mode. Eureka Seven had some pretty good mechs that also transformed, but those cool surfing mechs lost out to Macross for the pick.
Valkyrie Fighter   Flickr / lucamascaro
Love the aerial dogfights, the waves of crazy twisty missiles, and the transformations.  The Macross Plus OVA and variable fighters still rank highly as some of my most favourite anime and mechs.  All series were very entertaining, but I think the show really kicked up the action in Macross Frontier. Macross from Wikipedia.

Full Metal Panic Gernsback / Arbalest
Full Metal Panic was one of the gateway anime that actually started me watching anime on a regular basis again.  The mechas such as the M9 Gernsback and the ARX-7 Arbalest are probably my most favourite mechas out there - the Strike Freedom Gundam is a close second.  This show treats the mechs, known as Arm Slaves, as more realistic battlefield weapons and it doesn't hurt that these mechs seem to be one generation ahead of everyone else in technology.  Regular tanks and opposing mechs can still do real damage to them.  Good series with the second series being better animated and much more serious than the first (far fewer high school hijinks - a side effect of anime).  Full Metal Panic! from Wikipedia

Gasaraki
The tactical armours from Gasaraki are focused on the being very real from the beginning of the show and are smaller than most of the other mechs here.  There is tons of techno-babble about feedback actuators, synthetic muscles, and other technical systems.  They are used to wipe out an opposing force of conventional armour with their maneuverability and firepower.  These mechas deserve a mention as this older show wasn't very popular even thought was a fairly serious show. The heavy background Japanese metaphysics, philosophy and slow plotting took away from it. Gasaraki from Wikipedia.

Gunparade March
The humanoid walking tanks or HWTs from this show are pretty cool.  I have a real soft spot for this particular anime and the world building.  It is a show based on a videogame where is enemy is an invasion of bug-like aliens who have conquered a good portion of the world.  The HWTs are basically strike weapons used to clear the way to deploy a big implosion type bomb that can take out the big momma bugs.  The two seater heavy weapons/artillery support version of the HWT is a nice touch. Gunparade from Wikipedia.

Patlabor
Patlabor is a bunch of animated series and three really good movies.  The Patlabor II movie is probably the best and of course it is by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame.  The robots are called labours in this world and there are civilian construction labors, police labors, and military labors.  The world building is well thought out and the mechas are believable.  It is a pretty nice touch where the police mechas have flashing lights, over-sized hand weapons such as revolvers and batons for keeping rogue mechas down.  Excellent mechs and story telling in a hard political SF vein.  Patlabor from Wikipedia.

Special Guest Mention - Zone of Enders
Zone of Enders was originally a video game but was adapted into an anime series and an OVA called Zone of Enders: IDOLO.  The OVA was better than the series and showed some pretty awesome mecha battle scenes.  The mechas in ZOE are called Laborious Extra-Orbital Vehicles, or LEVs and are designed for combat around Mars.   The LEVs are some of the most beautiful mechas that look mechanical in nature and probably have inspired many imitators.  In this series there is a Martian Independence movement with the colony being oppressed by the central Earth government.  The Jehuty mecha in IDOLO is beautifully designed and a joy to watch in action. ZOE on Wikipedia.

A remastered version of Zone of Enders in HD is being released for the Playstation 3 in late 2012 and I hope it gets ported over to North America as I would like to play it.

Exocrisis Blue
I was inspired by these mechs along with a lifetime of reading science fiction, and playing video games to do a little writing of my own in the genre.  I created the world of Exocrisis Blue, where the Earth has been invaded by the Blue Newts and mankind strikes back with reverse engineered technology in the form of a type of mecha called HARM. You can visit my author's site for more information here.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts

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