Netflix series Pacific Rim: The Black is preparing to close the book on its expanded universe. That’s right — next month, the latest installment of the mecha-vs-kaiju franchise finishes out. So what’s left if you still have a hankering for some apocalypse cancelling? Plenty, if you’re looking to pick up some mecha anime.
If you’re already a giant robot expert, you’ll probably know at least two of the three titles on this list. But if you’re just wading in, these are some good places to start. Depending on what you like about the setting, one of these should resonate with you…
Mazinger Z: Where It All Began
When Pacific Rim first hit theaters, many people believed Evangelion was its primary influence. But it’s actually Mazinger Z — originally edited and localized as TranZor Z — that stands out the most in the film’s giant robot pedigree. Created in 1971 by manga and anime legend Go Nagai, Mazinger Z did (at the time) the unthinkable. He put the pilot in the mech, rather than having them stand off to the side with a remote control.
Nagai effectively created the super robot subgenre in one fell swoop, complete with kaiju fights. The Mechanical Beasts (or Robeasts) of the series look a bit goofy at times compared to their modern siblings. But, like the Hollywood heroes who would follow him, Koji Kabuto was a monster-fighting machine… in a monster-fighting machine.
GEAR Fighter Dendoh: Drift Compatible
Pacific Rim gave us the concept of “Drift compatibility”: the idea that two or more people could be so linked that they could operate as one while piloting a robot. The bond could be one of family, friendship, romance, or even just some undefinable similarity. 2001’s GEAR Fighter Dendoh put two more unlikely heroes side by side in a robot. There was no rabbit-chasing here, though. Ginga and Hokuto, the two young pilots of the series’s title robot, had to learn the hard way.
Of course, they had the help of some Digimon-esque collectible critters. Oh, and Vega: the mysterious masked helper back at base who is absolutely not Hokuto’s mom in a wig. The bond between pilots, combined with an intergalactic threat, brings a Pacific Rim vibe with a slightly more Saturday morning tone.
Martian Successor Nadesico: Heroing Ain’t Easy
Being a Jaeger pilot in Pacific Rim seems like a dream job for a mecha fan. Make friends, take control of a robot, and fight weird alien beasts. But sometimes, the heroics get overshadowed by the very real consequences of this job. That’s something you learn pretty quickly in Martian Successor Nadesico, a mecha anime that’s tonally just… all over the place. But on purpose.
In the world of Nadesico, at least two of the pilots are fans of Gekiganger III: a Go Nagai-esque anime that makes being a mecha hero look cool as heck. Even the show-within-a-show’s big dramatic death comes across as cool and romantic. The truth of war is a lot nastier, and has far fewer noble speeches at sunset. If you like a show that gives you wish fulfillment but doesn’t fully ignore the truth, it may be time for you to get to burning. As it were.
In a hurry? Try these short, but powerful, anime series.