Ever since Gigantor and Mazinger Z debuted on television in the 60s and 70s, the mecha anime genre has been a strong fixture within the industry. This is for good reason as the dream of piloting a giant robot or mech suit is an appealing fantasy for many anime fans young and old.
Things didn’t slow down in the 80s as the genre proved to be incredibly popular to the point that shows such as Transformers, Macross (Robotech), and Voltron were syndicated internationally.
And as the 90s set in, there was an even greater expansion of the genre.
What is Mecha Anime?
Mecha is a subgenre of science-fiction that can succinctly be described as “robot anime.”
To expand on this further, mecha is generally focused on robots or robotic suits that are either sentient or piloted. This can range from giant robots with mysterious superpowers to human-sized exoskeleton suits.
As with any genre, there are subgenres within the subgenres, however, at its highest level, mecha anime can be broken down into two categories.
Keep in mind that some shows could fall into both categories.
Super robot anime centers around robots that can either be piloted or exhibit some level of sentience. However, the defining trait is that the robots often exhibit mysterious and unexplainable powers that give them an edge over any foes.
So super robot anime tends to be rooted more in the realm of fantasy. Examples include Mazinger Z, Gurren Lagann, and SSSS. Gridman.
Real robot anime tends to be grounded more in the realm of science and physics. This isn’t to say that the shows are in any way realistic. However, the mecha tend to be less overpowered and this results in a greater struggle against the enemies.
Often the robots take the form of exo-suits or military-style vehicles that may or may not transform. Shows such as Macross, Bubblegum Crisis, and Armored Trooper VOTOMS are fitting examples.
Top Mecha Anime of the 90s
This is by no means a comprehensive list of 90s mecha anime, however, this is a good place to start for any anime fan looking to explore some of the classics in this genre.
So without further ado, we present seven mecha titles you should consider watching.
7. King of Braves GaoGaiGar
King of Braves GaoGaiGar is the most well-known and popular entry in the Brave (Yuusha) series, which is often credited with revitalizing the super robot genre in the 90s.
If you haven’t watched any of the other shows in the series, that’s okay, because King of Braves GaoGaiGar is a standalone series that can be watched independently of the other entries.
6. The Vision of Escaflowne
The Vision of Escaflowne is a romantic isekai fantasy mecha anime. So if you’re looking for a mixed bag adventure, this is the one for you.
The show is only 26 episodes long, so it is easy to watch over a weekend. If you don’t have time for that, an Escaflowne movie was released in 2000 that is a retelling of the series.
5. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
It’s hard to imagine any mecha anime list that doesn’t mention Gundam. The Gundam series dates back to the late 70s and is one of the genre’s longest-running and most familiar shows.
The series has seen countless spin-offs, retellings, and even the construction of a life-sized Gundam:
Perhaps due to its emphasis on drama, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing remains one of the most popular entries of the entire series. In any case, this is a must-watch for any mecha anime fan.
4. Giant Robo the Animation
Giant Robo is an OVA based on the classic manga series from the 60s that had been previously adapted into a live-action tokusatsu series in that same decade.
The show has a retro-futuristic vibe to it and the quality of the animation has withstood the test of time. Giant Robo was also well received by anime critics upon completion in the late 90s.
3. Patlabor 2 the Movie
This entry is for the cyberpunk fans who are reading this.
But you don’t have to be a cyberpunk fan to enjoy this movie!
Patlabor 2, as the name implies, is a sequel Patlabor: The Movie, which came out in the late 80s. Patlabor 2 is a different entry in the series as it represents itself more as a political thriller than a mecha action movie. However, the mecha are still front and center through some of the most exciting sequences.
2. Macross Plus
Macross Plus takes place in the Macross universe three decades after the events depicted in Super Dimensional Force Macross.
This was Shinichiro Watanabe’s first directoral effort, and also features music from legendary composer, Yoko Kanno.
The OVA is visually stunning and is one of the few Macross titles released outside of Japan.
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
This is the most obvious entry on the list for good reason. In the past this show was not available on any streaming services and DVDs were a fortune on eBay.
But now that series has been licensed for streaming in North America and has also been re-released on Blu-Ray, you have no excuse to not watch this series.
Despite being one of the most well-known and popular anime of the 90s, the show does have some haters. So the best thing you can do is ignore the reviews and watch it yourself. Whether you love it or hate it, the show is undeniably a true mecha anime classic.