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Anime and giant robots are to Japan what baseball and warm apple pie are to America. They're an institution, a national export that has managed to captivate people all over the world. Japan may not be the place to originate the giant robot, but they're certainly the place that’s managed to popularize them in the collective consciousness of popular culture. We here at OMNI, after several days of long heated debate, have collected our favorite sci-fi mechs for our definitive list of the best sci-fi anime robots to ever come out of the land of the rising sun. Check out our list and see how it stacks up against your personal list for the best badass robots in anime.
Evangelion is a futuristic series set in Tokyo fifteen years after a worldwide cataclysm. The story centers on Shinji Ikari, a teenage boy who is recruited by the shadowy organization NERV to pilot a giant bio-machine called an Evangelion in combat against monstrous beings known as Angels. The series explores the experiences and emotions of other Evangelion pilots and members of NERV as they attempt to prevent another catastrophe. Shinji specifically pilots an Evangelion called Unit 01 and has the best battle record. Unit 01 is called the "Test Type," perhaps because of the experimental way in which it was created: although Unit 01 seems to be an Adam-derived cybernetic organism like all other Evangelions, it is the sole Eva to have been born from Lilith. Unit 01's armor is primarily purple; some components are colored neon green, light blue, orange, and black. The helmet sports a prominent horn and "frill". As a result of Third Impact, The End of Evangelion, Unit 01 is left floating adrift in space, fossilized, where it will outlast the sun and moon, as an eternal testament that the human race existed.
The story takes place forty years after a mysterious occurrence causes the residents of Paradigm City to lose their memories. The series follows Roger Smith, Paradigm City's top Negotiator. He provides this "much-needed service" with the help of a robot named R. Dorothy Wayneright and his butler Norman Burg. When the need arises, Roger calls upon Big O, a giant relic from the city's past. Big O is a metal behemoth that, unlike the giants of other robot anime, does not exhibit speed nor grace. But what it lacks in agility, it more than makes up for in power: The Big O is equipped with armed missiles, pile-driver powered punches, machine guns and laser cannons.
Gigantor is an American adaptation of the anime version of Tetsujin 28-go that debuted in America in 1964. The series is set in the year 2000. The show follows the exploits of Little Jimmy Sparks, a 12-year-old boy, who controls Gigantor, a huge flying robot, with a remote control. The robot is made of steel and has a rocket-powered backpack for flight, a pointy nose, eyes that never move, and incredible strength, but no intelligence. Originally developed as a weapon by Jimmy's father, Gigantor was later reprogrammed to act as a guardian of peace. Together, Jimmy and Gigantor battle crime around the world, and clash with the many villains who are always trying to steal or undermine the giant robot.
Voltron is an animated television series that features a team of space explorers that pilot a giant super Robot known as "Voltron." The first season was edited primarily from Beast King GoLion, and featured a team of five young pilots commanding five robot lions which could be combined to form Voltron. In this undefined future era, the Voltron was in charge of protecting the planet Arus from the evil King Zarkon and his comrades who would create huge Robeasts to terrorize the people of Arus. There are several series of the show that vary. In Vehicle Voltron, the Voltron team consisted of 15 members and was divided into three groups of five, known respectively as the Land, Sea and Air Teams. When necessary, all 15 vehicles combine to form the mighty Voltron, Defender of the Universe.
Set in an alternate timeline, the series focuses on how the former prince Lelouch vi Britannia obtains a power known as Geass and decides to use it to obliterate the Holy Britannian Empire, an imperial monarchy and a superpower that has been conquering various countries. Lancelot, named after the Knight of the Round Table, is an experimental Knightmare Frame developed by Lloyd Asplund and the Military Engineering Corps. The Lancelot outperforms most other models thanks to the heavy amount of Sakuradite scattered throughout its frame as well as in its Yggdrasil Drive, the Core Luminous. As it is still in development, the Lancelot lacks an ejection seat. Its pilot is Suzaku Kururugi. As a high-performance unit, the Lancelot features a large number of experimental and innovative devices not yet found on its predecessors. The Lancelot features two retractable Factspheres affixed on its chest, two forearm-mounted beam shields and four Slash Harkens. It also sports a pair of Maser Vibration Swords It comes equipped with a VARIS particle rifle which can adapt its projectile repulsion output to any situation.
Eureka Seven tells the story of Renton Thurston and the outlaw group Gekkostate, his relationship with the enigmatic mecha pilot Eureka, a large mechanical robot, called the Nirvash typeZERO and the mystery of the Coralians. The Nirvash typeZERO is the oldest known L.F.O. on the planet. At first, it could only be piloted by Eurekabut later on it accepted Thurston. The Nirvash typeZERO is unique in the fact that it can only reach its full potential when an object called the Amita Drive is connected to its Compac Drive. The Amita Drive working in conjunction with the Compac Drive becomes the key to unlocking the Satori Program and the full potential of the Nirvash type ZERO. It also appears that traditional Compac drives don't interface with it at all unless the Amita Drive is attached. When the mental states of the typeZero's pilots are in sync with one another, the Nirvash senses it through the Amita Drive and thus Compac Drive, resulting in a massive generation and/or amplification of trapar power, a bright column of pinkish light, radiating trapar rings of rainbow colors, and many various effects.
Gurren Lagann takes place in a fictional future where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, who forces mankind to live in isolated subterranean villages. The plot focuses on two teenagers living in a subterranean village, Simon and Kamina, who wish to go to the surface. Using a mecha known as Lagann, Simon, and Kamina reach the surface and start fighting alongside other humans against Lordgenome's forces. Simon and Kamina learn from a source that humans on the surface are attacked each day by Gunmen piloted by beast men, humanoid creatures who serve as Lordgenome's army. Kamina hijacks a Gunmen and names it Gurren, combining it with Lagann to form the mecha Gurren Lagann. It can generate drills of varying size, shape and usage from multiple parts on its body. The drills usage ranges from projectiles and missiles to shields and water screws.
A Guymelef is a powerful mechanized battle suit used by warriors of Gaea. Standing eight to ten meters tall and powered by dragon energists, also called 'drag-energists' they are the most advanced weapons in existence in Gaea, other than those weapons developed by Zaibach during the series. The series, The Vision of Escaflowne, follows a teenage high school girl named Hitomi, who finds herself pulled from Earth to the planet Gaea when a boy named Van appears on the high school track while battling a dragon. The Dragon Armor, Escaflowne, is a powerful and technologically advanced guymelef that took nearly 150 years to fully construct. Created by the mysterious Ispano people using lost technology of the Atlanteans, it has a reputation as a formidable weapon, and referred to as a patron deity of Fanelia, indicating a belief that it has its own consciousness.
Sym-Bionic Titan is an American animated action science fiction television series. The three main characters include Ilana, princess of the royal alien family; Lance, a rebellious but capable soldier; and Octus, a bio-cybernetic robot, all of whom must now blend into everyday life in Sherman, Illinois. Posing as high school students, Lance and Octus work to conceal Princess Ilana from General Modula and his hideous space mutants sent to kill the sole heir of Galaluna. The three are able to combine to create the titular Sym-Bionic Titan. Manus armor is the bionic exo-frame used by Lance in combat. It combines with Ilana's Corus armor and Octus to form the Sym-Bionic Titan. Invented by Lance's father Edward, Manus armor is used by only the most elite soldiers of Galaluna. The Manus armor system possesses a variety of weapons including: missiles and grenades, arm mounted machine guns and other fabricatible weapons.
Mobile Suit Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam is set in the futuristic calendar year "Universal Century" 0079. The plot focuses on the war between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation, with the latter unveiling a new giant robot known as the RX-78-2 Gundam piloted by the teenage civilian mechanic Amuro Ray. It is regarded as the "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" of Japan with respect of its popularity since its creation. Most Gundam are large, bipedal, humanoid-shaped vehicles controlled from cockpits by a human pilot. The majority of these "mobile suits" have a cockpit in the "torso" of the machine, with a camera built into the "head" to transmit images to the cockpit and are non-sentient machines.
When it comes to giant robots, you can’t get any bigger than Unicron. Known as the Lord of Chaos, the Chaos bringer, and the Planet Eater, this being of destruction is entirely devoted to consuming the entire multiverse. This planet-sized destroyer is responsible for eating worlds. The Transformers equivalent of Galactus, Unicron is the ultimate evil in the transformers universe. Megatron’s got nothing on this guy. Originally introduced in the first Transformers movie and voiced by Orson Welles, this monolith serves as the ultimate bad guy who’s managed to make his way into the TV shows and comics. While we still haven’t seen him in the Michael Bay movies, it’s only a matter of time before he makes his way onto the big screen to devour a planet or two. This Transformer doesn’t even need to pretend to be a vehicle when his default form is either a planet or a giant robot.
These walking battle tanks became icons after their appearance in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series. While these battle tanks offered tons of utility to the Major and her cohorts, what made them especially memorable was their unique artificial intelligence. These are the only giant robots on this list that will debate philosophy and what it means to have a soul in the digital age. While also being adorable, the Tachikoma confront us with the question of what really defines our consciousness and what it means to be human. No robot better embodies the philosophical question of whether a ghost dwells in the machine (or a ghost in the shell) then the Tachikoma. While it might not be the biggest robot on this list, the philosophical questions posed by their inquisitive AI makes for fascinating dinner conversation, and they make a great case for telling your family that watching giant robot anime is important for your educational development.