Giant robots and anime go together like sushi and avocado – even if you’re not expecting one, it’s there. Whether it’s an inherent part of the plot, a one-off episode, or a brief gag, you’ll see one of these mighty mecha show up in just about everything.
The first giant robot anime was Tetsujin-28, based on Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s manga of the same name. (North American fans may know it as Gigantor.) In the original version, a young boy explores post-war Japan with his giant robot, making the world a better place while trying to protect his remote control from bad guys. Tetsujin wasn’t “good” or “bad” – it all depended on who had his remote control.
It wasn’t until 1972 that our heroes got in the robots. Legendary creator Go Nagai changed giant robots forever with Mazinger Z, a series that made the bold choice to have people pilot their robots from the inside. Mazinger Z is also where we saw the very first Rocket Punch: a mecha series standard.
Mazinger Z and Getter Robo are considered “super robots” because of their size and the fact that physics generally don’t apply to them. In 1979, the “real robot” genre kicked off with Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam. This, along with 1982’s Super Dimension Fortress Macross, established “real robot” anime as featuring lighter, more agile robots and more militaristic settings.
Gainax, one of giant robot anime’s heavy hitters, entered the fray for the first time with the 1988-89 OVA series Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. This series launched the giantest of giant robots – the eponymous Gunbuster – and became Gainax’s foothold in the genre.
Fast forward to today, giant robots have made their way into everything from slice-of-life anime to magical girl series. If you’ve yet to experience the weird and wonderful world of giant robots – either the military drama of real robots or the universe-rending hot blood of super robots – there’s no wrong place to start! (Except maybe Eva. Wait a bit on Eva.)