Because Oi, Hayaku has gone defunct, I will be reposting all my OH! posts here. Enjoy if you haven’t already.
Mecha has always been a huge element of anime since the good old days of Tetsujin 28. There was the super robot era in the 70s, the real robot era in the 80s, the 90s when genres began colliding and Evangelion made mecha psychological, and today when shows like Gurren Lagann make a point to reference and pay homage to all eras of mecha anime. But why do anime fans like mecha so much? What is it that makes a mech great? I decided to analyze different qualities of a that make them stand out, as well as share which mecha I think best represent these qualities. If you think there are other qualities or more deserving nominations, be sure to let your voice be heard in the comments!
Once again, just let me stress that this list is purely my opinion based on what I’ve seen, and you can add your thoughts in the comments!
What makes a great mech?
“Mech” is a term synonymous with “giant robot.” The first thing that someone will notice about a mech is that, well, it’s fucking huge! Now, we all know size isn’t everything, but when your stature is directly proportional to the amount of destruction you are able to cause, it starts to be a big deal. Some would say “the bigger the better,” but mechs do come in all sizes.
Biggest Mech – Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Hopefully without spoiling anything, the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is literally the size of a galaxy. GAINAX definitely made this beast with the intent of dwarfing every mech known to man, and they did succeed.
Runner Up: Zearth from Bokurano (500 meters tall)
Mechs exist almost for the sole purpose of being something completely badass that even a teenager can pilot. It has to wreak destruction, but also has to look like a bad mothafucka while doing it. You don’t want to be flying around destroying cities in a mecha pony (well, unless you’re him). Everyone has their own opinion of how they want a mech to look – my brother likes the ones with as much armor and weapons stacked on as possible. Some people like the bulky GONZO mechs – no, actually that was a lie.
Best Looking Mech – Gundam RX-78
Simple, but elegant and beautiful. Modern mech designs owe almost everything to the mech that looks like a samurai. It’s cool and can wield a sword, and if you need to add on extra shit like armor and jetpacks, he looks like he has room for it all. I wanted to give this spot to the sexy Evangelion, but really, the original Gundam is the king of style.
Runner Up: Evangelion Unit 01
Okay, we’ve gotten over the superficiality of appearance, so now we have the superficiality of action! I don’t just want to destroy them while looking like a badass, I want to do it in an epic way. Would you rather your RX-78 carry his sweet beam rifle, or the Evangelion’s tiny segmented knife thing? I know the answer.
Most Awesome Mech Attack – Shining Gundam’s SHININGU FINGA SUWOODO! from G Gundam
The sheer scope of the attack may be important, but equally so is what you scream before using it. Nothing beats the complete satisfaction of shouting Shining Finger’s incantation before unleashing it’s immense fury.
Runner Up: Gurren Lagann’s Giga Drill Breaker
We’ve finally gotten through all of our shallow thoughts and are interested in the mech’s real personality. No, I don’t mean a sentient mech per se, but some mecha really get to shine outside the battlefield and seem to be as much a character as anyone in the show. When the big hunk of metal begins to take on your sentiment, you know it’s a real charmer.
Most Charming Mech – Turn A Gundam
Turn A Gundam is a funny, homely looking mech with a mustache and a silly walk. See it transporting livestock! See it washing laundry! Turn A is also picky about who can pilot it and in what mindset. When Loran saves a pretty girl in his mech, you really feel like the metal mustached man was as caring as he was.
Runner Up: The Nirvash TYPE-ZERO from Eureka Seven
Of course, while having a badass and charming mech is great and all, you won’t feel too cool if your enemies are a bunch of pussies. The more awesome your opponent, the more awesome you are for holding out against them!
Most Badass Adversary – The Red Comet, Char Aznable
Runner Up: Master Asia of G Gundam
Now we’re getting a little more technical and personal. Lets break out the stat sheets – do you want a mech that sacrifices speed for strength or a nimble little bastard who can outrun the competition? Movement is very important to a mech, because there is nothing fun about piloting a mech that can’t turn its head.
Most Graceful Mobility – Escaflowne
The Escaflowne has the perfect mix of power and speed. It gracefully sword-fights with a fencing style and carefully uses it’s weight distribution to throw it’s sword at speeds that it wouldn’t be able to if it were a different model. The mix of slowing and speeding during fights always looks cool and truly makes the mechs seem to have the movement capabilities of humans.
Runner Up: Evangelion Unit 02
Mechs are great, but they can be hard to get around in. Simply walking around, as seen in Turn A Gundam, makes travel inconvenient, and a jetpack complicates fighting. Wouldn’t it be better if you could turn into a car or a jet to get over those distances quicker? Some people must think so.
Best Transforming Mech – Valkyrie from Macross
Valkyrie are the most convenient weapons of mass destruction around. If you need to fight in space, they can turn into a jet and zip around popping caps in high-speed asses. As for getting around at surface-level, it has a hybrid mech/plane function called Defender mode that hovers around with speed and combat readiness. Oh, and of course it can still turn back into an awesome giant robot.
Runner Up: The Transformers (who stole the idea, lol.)
So you aren’t satisfied with your convenient, awesome, badass, charismatic mech. You still feel it’s missing something. The solution is simple – equip it with some nice accessories. Mechs have had just about anything added to their frames, from grappling hooks to giant wings. Everyone loves personalization!
Best Mech Accessory – The Ref Boards from Eureka Seven
Never would I have thought “dude, mechs and surfing would go great together!” if I hadn’t seen it in Eureka Seven. A giant robot gliding gracefully through the air for fun or for blasting bitches is always an amazing thing to behold.
Runner Up: Shenlong Gundam’s Dragon Arm
The Ultimate Mech?
All of these elements are important in deciding what kind of mech you like best, and surely everyone has their own favorites. As for me, my ultimate mech is definitely Evangelion Unit 01.
Sleek, sexy, visceral, and totally fucking insane. Unit 01 is a fully functional gore machine and I can’t imagine many more fun things than crushing adversaries in my mech’s JAWS. So, who is your favorite mech, and how do the qualities above effect your choice?