Ever since I was a child, there has been a constant in my life, my love for Mecha. There’s just something captivating about a person piloting a giant robot and fighting off the bad guy. Everything about robots is cool, from the intricate designs, to the weapons, and their own special abilities. It’s a genre that encompasses games, movies, TV, and comics. It hooks you at an early age, creating a longtime robot fan and never let’s go. I would know because I’m one of those kids.
We all take inspiration from different things in our lives, which leave lasting impressions. Sometimes they can be big, other times very small. The following list is in no way the best Mecha franchises around; as I would love to see all that the Mecha genre has to offer. Rather, it is a list of nostalgic and influential franchises that made me the nerd I am today. It is also a list of franchises that I believe could be made into successful movies, whether live action or animated. With that said, here are my top Mecha influences growing up.
Power Rangers/ Super Sentai
As a young kid, I would always look forward to one thing throughout the week; Saturday Morning cartoons. I would grab my favorite cereal, pour myself a bowl, and get ready for some explosive cartoon action. My childhood was truly blessed because I got to see shows such as X-men, Batman, Dragonball Z, and Superman. However, the one show that I was obsessed with as a kid was Power Rangers or Super Sentai in Japan. Power Rangers was such a phenomenon when I was young and still is to this day. The show was without a doubt, very cheesy and over the top, yet those same qualities drew people to it. Every episode of the Power Rangers had the same formula. The Power Rangers would meet a new monster of the week, which they would have to defeat. The main focal point of the show was always at the end, where all the Power rangers would combine their robots to form the Megazord; a titanic Mech. It was a severely repetitive formula even for kids programming. However, 20 years of multiple successful series and a new movie on the way, proves don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot
Believe it or not, a children’s book about a little mouse who befriends a giant robot, is on my list. The book series follows the adventures of little Mouse Ricky Ricotta, as he battles evil robots, monsters, and aliens. This little book, despite not having a great overall story, is a fantastic introduction to the Robot/Mecha genre for the younger demographic. I bought this book, with my parents allowance as a child, and read it several times over. The book captured my young imagination. The idea that a little boy, or in this case a mouse, could befriend a giant robot and kick butt, was so fascinating to me. It’s a great little book that Parents could buy for their kids, or perhaps check them out for nostalgic purposes.
The Vision of Escaflowne
If you are seeking something that has both, giant robots and medieval fantasy, then” The Vision of Escaflowne” is for you. Another Mecha Anime favorite of mine, Escaflowne is about knights who pilot giant armored suits. The show is a great mix of fantasy, adventure, medieval politics, and Mech battles. What drew me to the show as a youngster was the fact that it was more mature than your average TV show. Escaflowne dealt with issues like betrayal, love, hate, and violence. Its realistic portrayal of Mecha was actually kind of refreshing because they moved like giant robots would in real life. The show purposefully deviated away from the typical, over the top, and fast paced action in most Mecha Anime. Another cool addition to the show was the fact that Escaflowne could transform into a flying dragon. This made Escaflowne an instant favorite for a young nerd like me and for all kids who watched it growing up.
Getter Robo G
This anime is a bit obscure. There was a period in my childhood when there was no cable in my household. Instead, I would watch video cassettes that my parents bought from the local video store. One fateful day, my parents brought me a video tape called Starvengers. It was a horribly dubbed version, of a 70’s Japanese anime series, called Getter Robo G. The show’s story left a lot to be desired but the animation was pretty good for its time. A unique quality to the show was that the three main protagonists piloted their own jet, which they could combine to form a giant robot. Depending on the formation of the three jets, the giant robot would take a new form, along with gaining different abilities and weapons. If you want to see some old school, 70’s Mecha action, then Getter Robo G is for you.
What’s better than watching a giant robot kicking butt? The answer is Techromancer, a video game that let the player pilot a giant robot so you could battle your opponents. This was such an addicting game in my youth that I would spend hours at the local arcade. I spent so many quarters on that game that I swear could have repaid the United States debt to China. The game is a straight forward 3d fighter. The player gets to choose from several different robots that have their own unique look and ability. Once you’ve chosen your character you get the pleasure of brawling with a friend or the computer in massive stages; like something out of a Kaiju film. Whether you were playing at home or hanging out with friends at the arcade, Techromancer was an irresistible game to play and enjoy.
Without a doubt, the most influential Mecha of my childhood was Gundam. Gundam has such a long and rich history, that it’s hard to think about Robots without the image of a Gundam popping up. If you are looking for a series where the main focus of the show was on martial arts, drama, war, racism, then Gundam had a series for that. From big scale space battles, to one on one robot fights, the show had everything you craved from a cartoon in spades. My fondest memory on the Gundam franchise was watching the first movie on video cassette and being absolutely blown away. I had never seen a robot show take such an adult approach to “kid stuff” and do it well. From that day, Gundam instantly became my favorite Mecha series of all time.
Well there you have it; a list of my favorite nostalgic influences. Without a doubt, Mecha has really grown in popularity and quality in recent years. It has spawned countless new TV series, comics, movies and video games. New favorites of mine, such as the big budget film Pacific Rim, and the anime series Gurren lagann, have now found their way onto my list. Whether you love or have a new appreciation of robots, then Mecha might be for you.