Monday, June 17, 2024

Here’s The Mt. Rushmore of Mecha Anime.

July 25, 2021 by  
Filed under Anime, Manga, News, TV/Film/Movies

( While digging through some things, I found an old Viz Comics catalog. These catalogs had all of the subbed and dubbed anime available during the late 90s on VHS.

Now, the prices for a tape featuring two episodes were always dicey but you were guaranteed to find something you’d dig. Flipping through it, I noticed a lot of classic mecha series.

Mecha are the anime, manga, and video games involving giant robots that can either be piloted from inside or controlled. Usually, the series are sci-fi in nature but things have been mixed up and new concepts have been explored.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at big three pioneers of mecha anime and manga.

Voltron (1984)

This franchise holds a very legit claim to being the best of the classic mecha franchises. This franchise was just satisfying to watch. It wasn’t overly complex, too violent, or even too lengthy.

I’m not a big fan of monster-of-the-week writing but it worked with Voltron. This was like an animated version of Power Rangers which began airing a few years before Voltron.

Another thing that works for Voltron is that this is mecha in a sci-fantasy setting. It’s like if you mixed Power Rangers with Star Wars when the back story comes into play.

Of course, anime that was broadcast don’t really hit story-wise when you’re ten. You’re just looking at the cool fights, suits, and robots, really.


Robotech (1985)

Now Robotech and Voltron aren’t as old as pioneers such as Mazinger Z or Gigantor but it is one of those series that pioneered mecha in the West.

This was thanks to anime’s best friends during expansion and exposure: dubbing and broadcast television. Dubbing—replacing the audio of exported content with that of the import market—wasn’t that great in the late 80s and into the early 00s.

However, just the idea that this was some new, fresh content in the West was enough for Robotech to catch on. It’s military-focused but it’s also a space opera with half of it being about the protagonist doing his duty and protecting the woman he loves only for it to no be reciprocated.

Of the three mentioned series, Robotech kind of sits in the middle. It’s not as action-heavy and fast-paced as Voltron tends to be but it doesn’t move at a slower pace like our next entry often does.

Also, lore-wise, Robotech isn’t as technical as our third franchise but it explains more than Voltron usually did. Progression-wise, this series moved along well and ran in chronological order.

Which is different from the third and final series on this list.

Gundam (1979)

This is such a hard series to explain. Gundam does a lot. It’s a long-running series which predates Robotech and Voltron by a few years but comes over a decade after Gigantor.

Like Robotech, Gundam is a space opera obsessed with a lot of lore and timeline events. Unfortunately, the franchise is fractured into multiple series taking place in different timelines or even different worlds.

As I said, this is a franchise that is hard to explain. Some of the series are sequels or prequels of others while some are standalone series. Then you have a series like G Gundam which kind of steps away from the slower-paced high drama of the franchise into straight-up shonen territory.

On the one hand, I’d say this is to be expected if a franchise has run as long as Gundam and needs to freshen things up for a while. I don’t know if this was the right direction but I enjoyed it!

For the most part, you could get someone into Voltron or even Robotech. As a matter of fact, Robotech is offered on most streaming platforms and for free on Crackle.

Gundam is a harder series to get people into. It really depends on if you introduce them to the more modern stuff, the late anime boom stuff like Gundam Wing and G Gundam, or take them back to the throwbacks.

It’s a gamble because Gundam’s pace is such that if the series you picked for someone to watch doesn’t stick, it’s going to be hard to suggest more Gundam. At that point, you’re just pushing it.

Bonus Classic Mecha Anime: Gigantor (1963)

Gigantor is pretty much the godfather of modern mecha anime. It’s old school as hell, black and white, and features a super simplistic storyline from episode to episode.

When I first saw it, it was more for historical purposes. Watching the series years later and I don’t care for it, to be honest. This is not a fun series to sit through.

That’s hard for me to say because I’ve sat through and enjoyed Astro Boy which was released around the same time. There’s just something I can’t get into with the original Gigantor.

I will say that this was a big broadcast for me since I heavy into finding the origins of certain genres in music, comics, and animation.

Seeing the birth of so many tropes is why I enjoy watching Kinnikuman and Fist of the North Star so much. Once Toriyama took from those two series to make Dragon Ball manga history was made.

That could be the thing. I went in thinking I’d witness the same thing in Gigantor that was inspire Gundam, Robotech, and Voltron. I guess that would be the case if those series were heavily in the old 1940s Danger Boy and Mystery Lad novels vein like Gigantor.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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