Giant robots dominated the anime industry in the ’80s, and many of these shows have been neglected over the years, and the ‘90s saw the end of the mecha anime era, but there are a few classics of the genre that not many fans know about. For anime, it seems that every decade appears to concentrate on a certain genre rather than others. In the ’80s, massive robots were the standard of the decade. By the ‘90s, the age of mecha was beginning to recede. But because of anime’s increasing success on tv, adding to more shows overall, there was still an abundance of shows involving giant robots inflicting enough destruction of property to make us question what they were even bothering to protect in the first place. There’s still a lot of mecha anime from the ’80s and’90s that were amazing that no one talks about these days. Fortunately, this list exists to run down all the underrated classic mecha anime that you need to see.
1. Macross 7 – 1994
35 years have gone by since Lynn Minmay had established peace between Zentradi and the humans in the events of Macross. Nekki Basara seems to be a guitarist as well as a singer of the band Fire Bomber. Living in a less-developed portion of the flying colony City 7 which is searching for a habitable world, he composes and sings songs with the expectation that music has greater power. During its flight, an unidentified alien race arrived and began laying siege upon City 7. That being said, the attacks are not typical – instead of attempting to destroy them, they snatch what is known as spiritia, leaving victims unresponsive and zombie-like. During these battles, Basara often goes out into the middle of the warzone, singing his songs and hoping friend and foe to listen and be influenced by his music.
Macross 7 seems to be the missing link here between the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Macross Delta. For people who haven’t seen it, the sudden jump to Sheryl Norme and Ranka Lee, much less the women of Walkure who combat enemies using their voices, makes little sense. The relatively more serious Macross Plus and Macross Zero didn’t make their singers take too big a part in combat, after all.
2. Metal Armor Dragonar – 1987
Dragonar occurs in the year 2087 AD, when a military force dubbed the United Lunar Empire Gigano has emerged and conquered the Moon. Their declared goal is the rebirth of humankind, but their predominant purpose by some of its members is the extinction of all those that live on Earth. Kaine, Tapp and Light, three friends, are all on the colony during the attack and encounter a dying Giganos spy who gives them three disks. Chased by Giganos’ weapons, the trio reaches the colony’s dock and discovers the Dragonars. Using the disks, they trigger the machines and have to use them to safeguard the colony.
Dragonar began airing in February 1987, which serves in its favor as it’s animation is much more akin to the more nuanced look of the 90’s series than the simplistic 80’s designs. It’s very nostalgic of the storyline of the original Gundam, but apart from having a much sweeter opening theme, it also is not afraid to dive into romance some more and offers a little more focus into it’s supporting characters.
3. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 – 1998
After a sudden earthquake levels Tokyo, Genom becomes a major influence supplying their artificial organic lifeforms called Boomers to restore and serve as a labor class to humankind. However, a few of them sometimes run amok, and even the specially formed AD Police are at a loss to stop them. Lina Yamazaki ventures to Tokyo for work but also wishes to enter a vigilante force named the Knight Sabers, who pilot powered suits to defeat these fugitive Boomers.
This series seems to not get the respect it once had, due to more viewers figuring out how amazing the original series was. Yet both shows don’t really get the recognition they deserve. Though Bubblegum Crash never got to finish, Tokyo 2040 gets a full season on tv, which helps it to put the women who’ve been the Knight Sabers through their paces. They fight Boomers who have lost control, even right down to fighting them while also being trapped in buildings full of rogue androids. For those who finished Bubblegum Crash, the shift in characterization, as well as art style, makes this very well worth a watch.
4. Gunbuster – 1988
In the near future, humankind has begun taking first-ever steps towards travelling into the far reaches of the galaxy. Upon doing so they uncover a huge species of insectoid aliens known as Space Monsters. These aliens seem committed to the elimination of humankind as they near closer and closer to uncovering Earth. In response, humanity starts to develop giant fighting robots operated by hand-picked youth from all over the world. Soon after the discovery of the aliens, despite her questionable abilities as a pilot, Noriko Takaya, the daughter of a prominent deceased space captain enters a training school. There, she encounters her polar opposite, the stunning and talented Kazumi Amano, and is suddenly made to work together with her as they try to overcome the trauma of war and also their own emotions.
The plot delves into philosophies concerning Time Dilation and the real significance of saving your planet and the people you value. With just six episodes, GunBuster is often what many claim to have been the truest precursor to tremendously successful and popular 1995’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. Regardless, it is a mesmerising look at the fragile concept of time and also how long our relationship is with it.
5. Patlabor: The Movie – 1989
The Babylon Project is a major reconstruction of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, along with the construction of artificial islands in the Bay. Utilizing Labors, or robots built for the sole purpose of doing work, engineers and construction crews are able to more effectively progress the development of the renovation. When a central figure in the development of the Project is found dead under suspicious circumstances after committing suicide, the Patlabor police unit of Captain Kiichi Gotou is charged with getting to the bottom of the bizarre case. When many Labors start to go haywire and then a hacked AI program jeopardizes the people of Tokyo, young pilot Noa Izumi and her Patlabor Alphonse work under Gotou’s orders to rescue the city and the whole country from a major biblical conspiracy.
Mamoru Oshii’s perception of a near-future Japan in which mechs are being used for labor is among the greatest sci-fi anime. Of course, the most recognizable elements in the Patlabor franchise are the films, which consist of a series of excellent films directed by Mamoru Oshii, the very same director who would eventually direct Ghost in the Shell. Patlabor eschews the typical tricks including fantastical character designs to make their subtle personality quirks stand apart, delivering one of the most realistic and charismatic casts in anime.
6. Space Runaway Ideon – 1980
Humanity has travelled to the stars and has met numerous alien civilizations that are now long extinct. Humanity eventually has its first contact with a living alien species: the Buff Clan, upon finding the archaeological remnants of such a civilisation on the planet Solo. When Karala Ajiba, the daughter of the military ruler of the Buff Clan, sets foot on Solo’s surface, the Buff Clan executes a vicious attack on the colony to retrieve her. Kasha Imhof, Cosmo Yuki, and Bes Jordan climb onto three trucks to flee, which quickly transform into the gigantic humanoid robot Ideon. The survivors board a newly discovered spacecraft, the Solo Ship, when the settlement on Solo is ruined, and escape, trying to get away from the aliens and eventually find peace. However, the persistent Buff Clan is in hot pursuit and is not going to give up too easily.
Space Runaway Ideon, which premiered in May of 1980, sets off the decade right. The series is another series of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s that he worked on before Gundam really took off, which may be one of the most iconic because of the shock ending of his sequel film, cementing once and for all his Kill ‘Em All rep. But even in the main storyline, when certain colonist humans encounter the alien Buff Clan, Ideon pulls zero punches, and it gets really dicey very fast.
7. Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still – 1992
Thanks to Dr. Shizuma’s discovery of a groundbreaking green energy source: the Shizuma Drive, humanity is experiencing a new era of prosperity in the future. But the Big Fire, a cabal pursuing world dominance, is disrupting this peace. Together with Daisaku Kusama, successor and master of Earth’s most powerful robot, Giant Robo, the International Police Organisation dispatches a series of superpowered warriors and martial artists against Big Fire. The IPO initiates a desperate confrontation between the two parties by capturing an unusual Shizuma Drive that is essential to Big Fire’s plans. The coming battle will challenge the resolve of Daisaku to the fullest, expose the ghastly reality behind the formation of the Shizuma Drive, and bring to its knees, the human civilization.
In a retro-futuristic world, Giant Robo is a character-driven adventure, drawing on elements from kung-fu cinema, opera, wuxia stories and classic mecha anime. Giant Robo, is an OVA series, it first came out in July 1992, is an anime based loosely on a 1967 manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, the author known for the general mecha genre. This series uses Yokoyama characters from many separate mangas, acting as more of a tribute than an adaptation.
8. Argento Soma – 2000
The Earth became plagued by aliens for many years in the year 2059. Dr Noguchi and his subordinates Maki Agata and Takuto Kaneshiro attempt to revive the professor’s experiment, a massive Bio-Mechanical alien called Frank, in an effort to learn about these aliens. The alien comes to life during this process, and the laboratory is ultimately destroyed, leaving Takuto the sole survivor and the alien vanishing into the wilderness. He encounters Hattie, an emotionally disturbed young girl whose parents are killed in the first close encounter battle, as Frank roams the woods. Strange enough, she is able to connect with Frank and a secret service identified only as Funeral take them into custody.
However, the true strength of this show, rather than the actual storyline, is its psychological focus. eIn 24pisodes , Argento Soma has the good touch of making its main story line end, for episode 25 to act as an epilogue. This was a pleasant touch considering that, even though it may be necessary, many anime titles tend towards unfulfilling ends without any kind of proper epilogue.
9. Genesis Climber MOSPEADA – 1983
An alien race identified only as the Inbit arrived, invaded and successfully occupied the Earth without warning in the year 2050. Years later, the residents of Mars Colony, despite brutal past defeats, set out yet another desperate Liberation Force to try and reclaim their lost home planet. The fleet is all but ruined. A sole survivor, Stig Bernard, finds himself on Earth, however. Stig, gathering a meagre handful of resistance fighters, flies to the headquarters of Inbit at Reflex Point in an effort to obtain information and, perhaps, find a way to defeat them.
Airing in October 1983, people usually tend to recall Mospeada as part of “Robotech: The New Generation,” but initially the series had nothing to do with Macross at all. The plot is easy to understand, but a little complicated at the same time. Mospeada prefers to reflect on the futile efforts of a small rebellion to get the Invid to leave Earth before they torment all races. What makes this series so interesting are the characters as well as their travels.
10. Gasaraki – 1998
The flames of warfare are blowing up in the Middle East as two shadow powers unlock monstrous new weapons of mass destruction. But in a world where giant robots are real, the most deadly weapon of all resides hidden inside a human mind. Yuushirou, the fourth son of the enigmatic and powerful Gouwa family, is at the forefront of events that will forever transform the future of humanity. Nothing will brace the human race for what is going to be unleashed in Gasaraki.
Gasaraki is set an uncertain period of time in the future. With considerably more aspects of Japanese culture and history than most, Gasaraki stands out in a way only a few mecha series attempt. Visually, it was beautiful, particularly the last volume. Mecha fights, backgrounds, everything, particularly the girl, was done very well. There was a visible animation focus on the mecha battles, as they had a little more detail than everything else in the series, but that’s anticipated and even welcome, giving mecha battles a crisp, neat, and attractive look to them. The core plot is intriguing, and the characters have undergone a good deal of growth throughout the series.