The genre of mecha anime has long been a driving force in the anime industry. While there’s a stereotype that only anime enthusiasts can enjoy mecha anime, it is now a genre that anyone can appreciate. When looking back at the history of mecha anime and anime in general, you cannot overlook the legendary franchise Mobile Suit Gundam. The genre began with Mazinger Z, which was first broadcast in 1972, but it was Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 that skyrocketed the genre’s popularity.
To this day, new mecha anime are regularly released, maintaining a consistent presence in the industry worldwide. The range of mecha anime extends from authentically detailed robot series to more casual ones like Doraemon and Dr. Slump Arale-chan, which are enjoyable for kids too.
To help both beginners and seasoned fans enjoy mecha anime, I will list the best mecha anime of all time here. The quality of these works is incredibly high, and you’ll notice how the atmosphere has evolved over time. Let’s delve into the essence of anime.
10. Darling in the Franxx
Darling in the Franxx (ダーリン・イン・ザ・フランキス) is a popular modern mecha anime series that aired in 2018. It is a 24-episode anime series produced by a collaboration between Trigger, the anime studio led by the director Hiroyuki Imaishi known for creating iconic anime like Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill, and A-1 Pictures, a studio that consistently produces hits across a wide range of genres. Starting as an original anime, a manga series was also serialized at the same time, created by manga artist Kentaro Yabuki, who is known for works like Black Cat and To Love Ru.
In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity resides in mobile fortress cities and relies on piloted mechs called Franxx to combat Klaxosaurs. The story focuses on Hiro, a failed pilot, and Zero Two, a mysterious half-human, half-Klaxosaur girl. Together, they pilot a Franxx and navigate the complexities of adolescence, love, and warfare while uncovering unsettling truths about their civilization. The pair’s emotional and physical compatibility becomes crucial as they confront both external threats and internal conflicts.
Studio: Trigger, CloverWorks (A-1 Pictures)
Aldnoah.Zero (アルドノア・ゼロ) is an original mecha anime series that aired in 2014, produced by A-1 Pictures and Troyca. Directed by Ei Aoki and written by Gen Urobuchi, the series has a focus on political intrigue, war ethics, and human drama, set against a backdrop of interplanetary conflict between Earth and the Martian Vers Empire. The show is known for its complex characters and high-stakes battles, featuring stunning visuals and a compelling soundtrack composed by Hiroyuki Sawano.
In an alternate timeline, humanity discovers ancient alien technology on Mars, leading to the establishment of the Vers Empire. Decades later, diplomatic relations break down, triggering a devastating war between Earth and Vers. Inaho Kaizuka, a young Earth student, finds himself pulled into the conflict after a catastrophic attack on Earth. As he pilots an Earth-made mecha, he confronts Slaine Troyard, a Terran aligned with the Vers Empire, setting the stage for intense battles and moral dilemmas that question the essence of war and humanity.
Studio: A-1 Pictures, Troyca
8. 86 -Eighty Six-
86 -Eighty Six- (86-エイティシックス-) is a cutting-edge mecha anime that involves not just typical robots but specialized war machines, and it is deeply rich in drama. The anime is based on the light novel series written by Asato Asato and illustrated by Shirabi. Since its debut in 2017, the light novel has maintained its position as one of the best ongoing light novel series. Adapted into a high-quality anime by A-1 Pictures in 2021, the series has broadcasted 23 episodes as of 2022. It is considered a must-watch in modern anime, and I would highly recommend it personally.
In 86 -Eighty Six-, the Republic of San Magnolia has been at war with the Empire of Giad, fighting battles using unmanned drones. However, the truth is far darker: the “unmanned” drones are operated by a marginalized group known as the Eighty-Six. Through the eyes of Vladilena Milizé, a military handler from the ruling class, and Shin, the leader of an Eighty-Six squadron, the story delves into themes of discrimination, dehumanization, and the toll of war. As the two form an unlikely alliance, they challenge the deeply flawed society they live in.
Studio: A-1 Pictures
The recent sci-fi anime 86 -Eighty Six- has distinguished as an astonishing newcomer since it started airing in April, 2[…]
7. Full Metal Panic!
Full Metal Panic! (フルメタル・パニック!) is a long-running mecha anime series that initially aired in 2002 with a 24-episode season. The series is adapted from a light novel of the same name by Shoji Gatoh. Following the success of the first season, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (フルメタル・パニック？ ふもっふ) was produced by Kyoto Animation and aired in 2003, taking a more comedic and less action-oriented approach. The third installment, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (フルメタル・パニック！ The Second Raid), which is often looked on as the second season, returned to its action roots with 13 episodes in 2005, again produced by Kyoto Animation. After a long hiatus, the series was revived with a fourth title called Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory (フルメタル・パニック！ Invisible Victory) in 2018. For fans looking to complete their experience, there’s also an OVA titled Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid: A Relatively Leisurely Day in the Life of a Fleet Captain (フルメタル・パニック！ The Second Raid 特別版OVA わりとヒマな戦隊長の一日), released in 2006.
In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke Sagara, a skilled military operative, is assigned to protect Kaname Chidori, a high-school student with latent and highly sought-after abilities. Unaware of her powers, Kaname finds her life turned upside-down by Sousuke’s overly protective measures and militaristic behavior. As they navigate high-school life, they must also contend with terrorist organizations that seek to capture Kaname for her abilities. Set in a world where cold-war tensions have spilled over into armed conflict, the series mixes mecha action, espionage, and high-school drama, testing the limits of love and duty.
Episodes: 2002 (Season 1)/2003 (Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!)/2005 (Season 2)/2018 (Season 3)
Episodes: 24 (Season 1)/12 (Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!)/13 (Season 2)/12 (Season 3)
Studio: Gonzo (Season 1)/Kyoto Animation (Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!)/Kyoto Animation (Season 2)/Xebec (Season 3)
Produced by Trigger, known for their works in mecha anime, SSSS.Gridman is a completely new anime adaptation based on the 1993-1994 tokusatsu show Gridman the Hyper Agent by Tsuburaya Productions. The modern anime series is part of the broader Gridman Universe and has been praised for its unique take on the mecha and kaiju genres. With 12 episodes airing in 2018, it explores themes of identity, friendship, and the boundary between the virtual and real worlds. A sister series SSSS.Dynazenon aired in 2021, and both series crossed over in a 2023 movie titled Gridman Universe. The movie features an entirely new story set six months after the events of both series.
Yuta Hibiki, a high school student, wakes up with amnesia and discovers he can merge with the Hyper Agent Gridman, who appears in an old computer. Together they fight against giant kaiju monsters terrorizing the city, while Yuta seeks to uncover the mysteries of his past and the distorted reality they live in.
5. Eureka Seven
As one of the most popular mecha anime series, Eureka Seven (交響詩篇エウレカセブン) has been loved by a lot of anime fans, especially advanced watchers. It is a Japanese mecha anime series that originally aired in 2005. Produced by Bones and directed by Tomoki Kyoda, the show spans 50 episodes. The second season titled Eureka Seven AO (エウレカセブンAO), aired in 2012 with 24 episodes. In 2009, a feature film Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers (交響詩篇エウレカセブン ポケットが虹でいっぱい), set in a parallel world to the first series, was released. Additionally, from 2017 to 2021, a trilogy titled Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution (交響詩篇エウレカセブン ハイエボリューション) was released. While it serves as a reboot that encompasses the previous series, it’s not merely a rehash; it presents an entirely new narrative.
The story follows 14-year-old Renton Thurston, who dreams of escaping his mundane life to join a group of rebels known as Gekkostate. His life takes a turn when Eureka, a mysterious girl piloting a mecha called Nirvash, crashes into his home. Renton becomes entangled in a journey that involves mechas, romance, and a struggle to protect the planet from a grave danger. Along the way, he learns about love, responsibility, and the harsh realities of war.
Aired: 2005-2006/2012 (Eureka Seven AO)
Episodes: 50 (Eureka Seven)/24 (Eureka Seven AO)
Released (Movies): 2017 (Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1)/2018 (Anemone: Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution)/2021 (Eureka: Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution)
4. Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann (天元突破グレンラガン) is a Japanese mecha anime series produced by Gainax and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. It aired in 2007 with 27 episodes and has become one of the most iconic series in the mecha genre. Many experts consider it to be one of the best anime of all time. It has also spawned a couple of movies: Gurren Lagann the Movie: Childhood’s End (天元突破グレンラガン 紅蓮篇) in 2008 and Gurren Lagann the Movie: The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (天元突破グレンラガン 螺巌篇) in 2009. Both films essentially reconstitute the original TV series. In light of the 15th-anniversary project, these two movies are set for revival screenings in 2023, drawing renewed attention to the franchise.
In a future Earth where humanity is forced to live underground, Simon, a timid digger, discovers a mysterious mecha known as Lagann. Teaming up with the boisterous Kamina and later joined by the sharpshooter Yoko, they form Team Gurren to fight against oppressive forces that keep humans in subterranean villages. The series follows their journey as they pilot combined mecha, breaking through the Earth’s surface and even soaring into space, to fight for humanity’s freedom against cosmic threats.
Released: 2008 (Gurren Lagann the Movie: Childhood’s End)/2009 (Gurren Lagann the Movie: The Lights in the Sky Are Stars)
3. Code Geass
If we were to list the best mecha anime of the 21st century, Code Geass (コードギアス) would undoubtedly be a top contender. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ) is a Japanese mecha anime series directed by Goro Taniguchi, who is also known for One Piece Film: Red. The first season aired from 2006 to 2007 with 25 episodes, followed by the second season, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 (コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュR2), airing in 2008. Both seasons were produced by Sunrise. The television series was re-adapted into a trilogy of theatrical films released in 2017 and 2018, under the titles Initiation, Transgression, and Glorification. These films served as a prelude to a sequel, Code Geass Lelouch of the Re;surrection (コードギアス 復活のルルーシュ), which premiered in 2019. Additionally, a spin-off series called Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (コードギアス 亡国のアキト) was released as an OVA in five episodes from 2012 to 2016.
Set in an alternate future where the Holy Britannian Empire has conquered Japan and renamed it Area 11, Code Geass follows Lelouch vi Britannia, a dispossessed prince who gains a mysterious power known as Geass. With this ability to control people through eye contact, he dons a mask and takes the alias Zero, leading a resistance movement against Britannia to avenge his sister and overthrow the oppressive empire. As he delves deeper into the political web and battles intensify, Lelouch must grapple with the heavy moral implications of his actions and the devastating consequences they might entail. His strategic genius is put to the ultimate test as he attempts to balance his goals, friendships, and ethics in a world on the brink of chaos.
Aired: 2006-2007 (Season 1)/2008 (Season 2)
Episodes: 25 (Season 1)/25 (Season 2)
Released: 2012-2016 (Code Geass: Akito the Exiled)/2019 (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection)
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion / Rebuild of Evangelion
Produced by Gainax and directed by Hideaki Anno, Neon Genesis Evangelion (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン) is a landmark mecha anime series that originally aired from 1995 to 1996. Consisting of 26 episodes, the series is a groundbreaking entry in the mecha genre, known for its deep psychological and philosophical themes. It also delves into religious symbolism. The original TV series ended with a controversial and abstract finale, leading to two additional films, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン劇場版 シト新生) and The End of Evangelion (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン劇場版 Air/まごころを、君に), to provide an alternate ending.
A new series of films as a remake of the television series, which is known as Rebuild of Evangelion (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版), has made a huge impact on contemporary anime fans. Directed by Hideaki Anno, the Rebuild of Evangelion series began in 2007 and includes vangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:序), Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:破), Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q), and Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time (シン・エヴァンゲリオン劇場版). These films both recapitulate and diverge significantly from the original series, introducing new characters and scenarios.
In a post-apocalyptic world, Tokyo-3 is under attack by mysterious beings known as Angels. The organization NERV employs teenagers to pilot bio-mechanical mechas called Evangelions to combat these threats. Shinji Ikari, the son of NERV’s enigmatic commander, Gendo Ikari, is coerced into piloting one such Evangelion. As he battles the Angels, Shinji grapples with his own existential crises and forms complex relationships with his fellow pilots, Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley. The series explores themes of loneliness, depression, and the human condition.
Rebuild of Evangelion retells the story of the original series but take some daring twists. New characters like Mari Makinami are introduced, and the films progressively diverge from the original plot, especially after the second film. The Rebuild series still maintains the core themes of human suffering, existentialism, and identity but offers a fresh perspective on the well-known narrative.
Released: 1997 (Death and Rebirth, The End of Evangelion)/2007, 2009, 2012 and 2021 (Rebuild of Evangelion)
Studio: Gainax, Tatsunoko Production (Neon Genesis Evangelion)/Gainax, Tatsunoko Production, Production I.G (Death and Rebirth)/Gainax, Production I.G (The End of Evangelion)/Studio Khara (Rebuild of Evangelion)
1. Mobile Suit Gundam
Who could argue with this conclusion that the best mecha anime of all time is Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム). A monumental series in both anime history and the mecha genre, Mobile Suit Gundam’s saga began in 1979 and continues to spawn countless series to this day. The first series, directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, aired from 1979 to 1980 with 43 episodes. It set the stage for what would become a long-running franchise that revolutionized the mecha anime genre. After the original, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (機動戦士Ζガンダム) was broadcast with 50 episodes from 1985-1986, followed by Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (機動戦士ガンダムΖΖ) with 47 episodes from 1986–1987. Both series continued under the direction of Yoshiyuki Tomino.
The original Mobile Suit Gundam series is set in a futuristic world, specifically in the year Universal Century 0079, where humanity has colonized space. The Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, a space colony that has declared independence, are locked in a brutal war. The story centers around a young civilian named Amuro Ray, who becomes an unexpected hero when he pilots the Federation’s new weapon, a giant robotic suit known as a Mobile Suit, which they dub “Gundam.”
Caught in this devastating conflict, Amuro, along with other recruits, becomes a key player in the Federation’s struggle against Zeon. Gundam serves as a potent symbol of technological might but also carries the weight of ethical and psychological burdens for those involved. The series explores complex themes such as the cost of war, the psychological impact on soldiers and civilians alike, and the blurry lines between good and evil. It touches on the existential questions that arise from human conflict and the role technology plays in both exacerbating and solving problems.
Through its various sequels, spin-offs, and alternate universe tales, the Gundam franchise has continued to delve into the human condition, often using the backdrop of war and the role of mechas to reflect on larger philosophical and ethical questions. Each series typically introduces new characters, mechs, and even universes, but the core themes of the impact of war, the ethical use of technology, and the complexity of human emotions remain consistent.
Besides the Universal Century timeline, there are also a variety of series set in alternate universes, known as Another Gundam. This includes popular series like Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (機動戦士ガンダムSEED) and the recent Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (機動戦士ガンダム 水星の魔女), which falls under this category.
If you’re new to the expansive Gundam universe, it’s recommended to start with more recent series. The 2022-2023 series, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, is noteworthy for being the first in the franchise to focus on a female protagonist and has been widely viewed by a broad range of anime fans.
This massive franchise is not just a cornerstone in the realm of anime but also a cultural phenomenon, with each new installment contributing to its enduring legacy.
Studio: Nippon Sunrise
Did you enjoy the lineup of the most outstanding mecha anime above? There are many masterpieces that have left their mark on history, making the mecha genre well worth delving into. In the following lists, I invite you to explore even deeper into the profound world of anime.
▽Check out the latest anime series and movies, too!▽
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