Mecha anime and manga, known in Japan as robot anime (ロボットアニメ robotto anime) and robot manga (ロボット漫画 robotto manga), are anime and manga that feature robots (mecha) in battle. The genre is broken down into two subcategories; "super robot", featuring super-sized, implausible robots, and "real robot", where robots are governed by realistic physics and technological limitations.
Mecha series cover a wide variety of genres, from comedy to drama, and the genre has expanded into other media, such as video game adaptations. Mecha has also contributed to the popularity of scale model robots.
The 1940 short manga Electric Octopus (デンキダコ Denki Dako) featured a powered, piloted, mechanical octopus. The first series in the mecha genre was Mitsuteru Yokoyama's 1956 manga Tetsujin 28-go (which was later animated in 1963 and also released abroad as Gigantor). He was inspired to become a manga creator by Osamu Tezuka, and began serializing the manga in Shonen, an iconic boy's magazine, in 1956. In this series, the robot, which was made as a last-ditch effort to win World War II by the Japanese military, was remote-controlled by the protagonist Shotaro Kaneda, a twelve-year-old detective and "whiz kid". The story turned out to have immense mass appeal, and inspired generations of imitators.
In 1972, Go Nagai, another of Japan's greatest manga creators, defined the super robot genre with Mazinger Z, which was directly inspired by the former series. He had the revolutionary idea to create a mecha that people could control like a car, while waiting to cross a busy street. The concept became "explosively popular", making the manga and anime into a success. The series also was the genesis for different tropes of the genre, such as the idea of a robot as a "dynamic entity" that could join with other machines or humans to become unstoppable. Anime critic Fred Patten wrote that almost all mecha anime plots, such as monster of the week shows, were actually metaphors for re-fighting World War II, and defending Japan and its culture from Western encroachment.
By 1977, a large number of super robot anime had been created, including Brave Raideen and Danguard Ace. The market for super robot toys also grew, spawning metal die-cast 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. The super robot genre became heavily commercialized and stagnant, creating an opening for innovation, which was seized upon by Yoshiyuki Tomino in 1979 with the creation of Mobile Suit Gundam, a complex "space saga" that was called the "Star Wars of Japan" and birthed the real robot genre, which featured more realistic, gritty technology. Tomino did not like the formulaic storylines and overt advertising of the super robot shows he had worked on, and wanted to create a movie where robots were used as tools. While the response to Gundam was lukewarm at first, efforts by dedicated fans led to it becoming a success. It created a massive market for mecha model robots, and became an industry that earned Bandai ¥42.8 billion in 2004. Many real robot series and other media were later created, such as Full Metal Panic! and the video game series Armored Core.
1990 saw the release of Patlabor, a breakthrough animated movie directed by Mamoru Oshii that popularized the mecha genre and aesthetic in the West. Neon Genesis Evangelion, created by Hideaki Anno in 1995, was a major influence on the super robot genre, arriving when the real robot genre was dominant on television. A deconstruction of classic mecha anime tropes, it recast the "saintly" inventor/father as a sinister figure, and the enthusiastic teenage protagonist as a "vacillating" introvert. Due to its unusual psychological themes, the show became a massive success, and further caused Japanese anime culture to spread widely and rapidly around the world.
The mecha anime genre (as well as Japanese kaiju films) received a Western homage with the 2013 film Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro. Similarly the genre was inspirational for the 1998 first-person shooter Shogo: Mobile Armor Division developed by Monolith Productions.
Some of the first mecha featured in manga and anime were 'super robots' (スーパーロボット sūpā robotto). The super robot genre features robots that are often one-of-a-kind, and the product of an ancient civilization, aliens or a mad genius. These robots are usually piloted by Japanese teenagers, and are often powered by mystical or exotic energy sources. Their abilities are described as "quasi-magical".
The later real robot (リアルロボット riaru robotto) genre features robots that do not have mythical superpowers, but rather use largely conventional, albeit futuristic weapons and power sources, and are often mass-produced on a large scale for use in wars. The real robot genre also tends to feature more complex characters with moral conflicts and personal problems. The genre is therefore aimed primarily at young adults instead of children. The genre has been compared to hard science fictions by its fanbase, and is strongly associated with sales of popular toy models such as Gunpla.
These are mecha that have the ability to be self-aware, think, and sometimes feel emotion. The source of sentience varies from aliens, such as the titular characters of American-produced and Japanese-animated series, The Transformers (1984), to artificial intelligence, such as the robots of Brave Police J-Decker (1994) to magic, such as Da-Garn of The Brave Fighter of Legend Da-Garn (1992). The first series that featured a sentient giant robot, also the first mecha anime in color, was Astroganger (1972).
This refers to mecha that are powered exoskeletons rather than piloted as vehicles, such as in Genesis Climber MOSPEADA (1983), Bubblegum Crisis (1987) and Active Raid (2016); merge with the mecha, such as in The King of Braves GaoGaiGar (1997); combine with the robots, such as in Transformers: Super-God Masterforce (1988); or become mechanical themselves, such as in Brave Command Dagwon (1996).
This ubiquitous subgenre features mecha piloted internally as vehicles. The first series to feature such mecha was Go Nagai's Mazinger Z. In a 2009 interview, Go Nagai claimed the idea came to mind when he was stuck in a traffic jam and wished his car could sprout arms and legs to walk over the cars in front. Other examples include Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007). There are series that have piloted mecha that are also in the sentient category, usually because of an AI system to assist and care for the pilot, as featured in Blue Comet SPT Layzner (1985) and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (2013), or because the mecha is also an organic creature, as featured in Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995).
Assembling and painting mecha scale model kits is a popular pastime among mecha enthusiasts. Like other models such as cars or airplanes, more advanced kits require much more intricate assembly. 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 Lego Exo-Force series.
AM Driver, known in Japan as Get Ride! Amdriver (Get Ride! アムドライバー, Get Ride! Amu Doraibā), is an anime series created by Studio Deen. The series was created and directed by Isao Torada. The music was composed by Kazunori Maruyama.Chō Jikū Robo Meguru
Chō Jikū Robo Meguru (超時空ロボMEGURU, lit. Hyperdimension Robo Meguru) is a Japanese mecha original video animation produced by Brain's Base and Studio A-Cat, and directed by Keiji Gotoh.Cybuster
Cybuster (魔装機神サイバスター, Masō Kishin Saibasutā, lit. "Demon Machine God Armor Cybuster") is a 26-episode anime that aired in Japan between May 3, 1999 and October 25, 1999.Devadasy
De:vadasy (デヴァダシー, Sosei Seiki Devadashi) is a 2000 anime OVA about a giant human-piloted robot. The series has been described as derivative of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with more sexual content.Dinosaur War Izenborg
Dinosaur War Izenborg (恐竜大戦争アイゼンボーグ, Kyōryū Daisensō Aizenbōgu) is a Japanese television program produced by Tsuburaya Productions that aired from 1977 to 1978 on Tokyo 12 Channel. It combined Tsuburaya's trademark suitmation tokusatsu techniques with Japanese animation, so this program can be categorized as either anime or daikaiju tokusatsu. The show ran for about 39 episodes.Ehrgeiz (TV series)
Ehrgeiz (ネクスト戦記EHRGEIZ, Nekusuto senki EHRGEIZ, (lit. Next War Chronicle Ehrgeiz) is an original 1997 Japanese anime from et, with animation by Studio Deen, and produced by d-rights and BeStack. The title is a mix of Japanese and German.
The North American release by Bandai Entertainment (then AnimeVillage) used only the German "Ehrgeiz" which, when translated into English, means "Ambition". The show originally aired on Tokyo TV, however, Ehrgeiz eventually ran on the Cable/Satellite channel AT-X in 1999.Grey (manga)
Grey (グレイ, Gurei) is a Japanese science fiction manga created by Yoshihisa Tagami that was published in the 1980s. It has also been adapted into an original video animation under the title Grey: Digital Target.K.O. Beast
K.O. Beast, known in Japan as K.O. Century Beast Warriors (KO世紀ビースト三獣士, KO Seiki Beast Sanjushi), is an anime series.Kikaider
Kikaider (キカイダー, Kikaidā) is a Japanese television franchise, created by Shotaro Ishinomori, featuring the main character Kikaider. The tokusatsu aired for the first time in July 1972. The series was originally a live-action tokusatsu series, as was its sequel, Kikaider 01. A manga drawn by Ishinomori was eventually published, introducing Kikaider 00. A 13-episode anime and 4-episode OVA based on the manga were created in 2001. The tokusatsu series from 1972 is especially popular in Hawaii. The complete DVD series is available with English subtitles through JN Productions.Kirameki Project
Kirameki Project (きらめき☆プロジェクト, Kirameki Purojekuto) is an anime OAV produced by Studio Fantasia and directed by Katsuhiko Nishijima.Transformers Go!
Transformers Go! (参乗合体 トランスフォーマーGo!, Sanjōgattai Transformers Go!) is a Transformers anime series and toyline exclusive to Japan. It features several Autobots teaming up to battle the evil Predacons seeking to conquer Earth. It is the first animated series in the franchise 8 years since Transformers: Cybertron to be produced in Japan.
|By movement |
|By demographic groups|
|Anime programming blocks|