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The counterpoint to the Real Robot Genre (or rather, Real Robot is the counterpoint to this), the Super Robot Genre is a genre of science fiction — mostly Anime and Manga, but found in other mediums as well — focusing on a fantastic, Superheroic form of Humongous Mecha.
In contrast to Real Robots, Super Robots are often (but not always) the creations of eccentric Mad Scientists who work alone in their secluded laboratories; exactly where they get the parts, funding, and equipment, or how they manage to keep anyone else (except the select few needed to drive the plot) from finding out about their activities is usually left as a exercise for the viewer. The pilot tends to be an average-across-the-board Audience Surrogate, sometimes even an Ordinary High-School Student, who falls into the cockpit and discovers they have a natural aptitude for piloting a giant robot. Instead of using an elaborate system of controls like those found in an airplane cockpit, the pilot controls a Super Robot using a mere handful of buttons (and maybe a joystick), motion capture or even a mind-reading system, and the motion of the mecha itself is often implausibly humanlike. Overall, the science behind a Super Robot is usually on the soft side of the scale, with the Rule of Cool and the burning passion of The Hero and his friendsand lovers having more effect on the machine's capabilities than a list of well-defined specifications. In contrast to a Real Robot, where the mecha is just one more piece of equipment in the overall arsenal (even if it is the cornerstone), a Super Robot is an enabling device for its pilot to pull off Badass heroics.
Super Robot shows are typically personified by "Love/Courage/Compassion/Friendship/Righteous-Anger/Insert-Positive-Emotion-Here Conquers All", and almost always have at least one character that is Hot-Blooded, though there are certain notable exceptions... mostly those directed by Yoshiyuki "Kill 'em All" Tomino, to whom anyone can die is less a possibility than a life philosophy (...or at least it used to be). They also typically follow the Monster of the Week format, especially in older shows, though as always there are exceptions. Super Robots tend towards idealism on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and romanticism on the Romanticism Versus Enlightenment scale.
A handy checklist to see if a mecha is a Super Robot as opposed to a Real Robot:
The pilot regularly addresses or refers to the robot by name as if it were a person, even if it is not (obviously) sentient.
The robot has never been successfully activated until its pilot begs/orders it to.
If it can be operated remotely, the robot responds to voice commands rather than, say, radio transmissions.
The robot is capable of acting independently to attack enemies or protect its pilot, especially if it should not be capable of doing so (eg. no on-board AI, or one which wasn't programmed to act that way).
The theme song is almost exclusively a Bragging Theme Tune; if not, it will exhort the robot and its pilot to fight for 'us/justice/good/the Earth'. Either way, the theme will treat the robot as the show's real hero. Heck, the show being named for the robot means you're halfway there.
The robot is directly compared to a godand/or a devil. Double points if "God" or "Devil" is part of its actual name.
The robot uses two or more of the following weapons. Bonus points if a weapon is used only for a Finishing Move, especially if such a restriction can't be explained by limited power reserves (eg. a sword).
Double points if the weapon is disguised as/transforms from a part of the robot (such as a detachable pair of wingsnote Orsunglasses. which can be thrown as a boomerang) or another robot transforms into the weapon.
Three or more separately piloted vehicles combine to form the robot.
Especially if there's no particular reason they should ever un-combine except to allow for the next episode's transformation sequence. e.g. Voltron, Megazord...
Two robots in the series have the ability to combine, despite the robots' creators being enemies or unaware of each other (eg. many Sixth Rangers' zords in Power Rangers).
All of the robots in the show, whether or not they're mass-manufactured, are unique designs based on some common theme (usually different kinds of animals).
The robot's face is flexible and capable of things such as opening and closing its mouth.
For that matter, having a face (nose and mouth etc...) period is probably a good indicator in itself.
The joints are covered by what seems to be solid metal, yet are still capable of the full range of human mobility.
The show's title has "Muteki" ("Invincible") in it somewhere.
You (or maybe your parents) recognize the robot from a Shogun Warrior toy.
Ichirou Mizuki or JAM Project (particularly Masaaki Endoh) does the theme song. MEGA extra points if it's done by BOTH.
The chances of the series being a Super Robot series rises exponentially with each item present. This, of course, doesn't apply to total parody or gag series, such as SD Gundam.
Note that in general the longer a Real Robot series runs, the higher the chance that the protagonist's mecha will start to display Super Robot traits. If this is the Grand Finale the odds are doubled.
Raideen (which later inspired RahXephon). The first half was directed by the aforementioned Yoshiyuki Tomino; the latter half was directed by Tadao Nagahama, better known for the Robot Romance Trilogy.
Many of the other robots are Super to some degree as well. The King Kittan is the only star-shaped Gunman we see and gets fancier weapons when it combines with another couple of mecha, and both the King Kittan and the Dayakkaiser meet the "nobility" naming rule. Obviously, the same goes for Space King Kittan, which is just a Space Gunmen for use by King Kittan.
The entire Brave Series from Sunrise animation, most famously King of Braves GaoGaiGar. (Oddly, though placed in the same continuity as GaoGaiGar, the robots of Betterman are rather un-Super.)
GaoGaiGar is notable in that there's absolutely no weirdness in any of the transformations for the main characters - every single part and motion is accounted for, so all toys made for the franchise would be perfect (the toys and character models were made together). The villains (who didn't have many toy) on the other hand, routinely distort, shapeshift, dissolve and reform, etc. GaoGaiGar itself seems to obey at least SOME of the laws of physics, when during the fight with Spine Primeval, GaoGaiGar attempts to fly into space, but can't due to the fact that StealthGao's jet engines have run out of air at such a high altitude. This limitation is, of course, fixed in the next episode. And despite the theme song billing the titular mecha as invincible, it gets pretty badly beat up on a regular basis, even sustaining damage from combination or using its own weaponry. In GaoGaiGar FINAL, a copy of the original GaoGaiGar is destroyed by GaoFighGar, which is later in the series destroyed by Palparepa
The fact that GaoGaiGar has no part appearing from out of nowhere is enough to confuse some viewers into thinking that it's a Real Robot, rather than a Super Robot. The fact that it is designed by Kunio Okawara, which can be seen in the design, doesn't make it any more obvious that it's supposed to be a Super Robot.
In an amusing reversal, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the first Gundam series not in the Universal Century timeline, is a notable super robot show (with designs that get really, really weird), despite Mobile Suit Gundam essentially launching the real robot genre.
There's usually a trend for antagonist suits to gain a technological edge on the titular Gundams sometime in the other series, which may or may not warrant a mid-season upgrade. The original RX-78-2 was considered almost obsolete by the time the One Year War ended, had it not been for Amuro's incredible abilities.
The same holds true for the Super Prototypes present in both Code Geass and Eureka Seven, which are clearly many leaps and bounds ahead of the other, "normal" mechs they share the spotlight with.
Gundam 00 crosses over into Super Robot territory in its second season:
Allelujah Haptism regains his alternate personality, Hallelujah, through contact with concentrated GNParticles.
Tieria Erde starts calling his attacks all over the place and firing what basically amounts to a GN Particle Bowling Bomb from his BFG.
Last, but certainly not least, Setsuna F. Seiei gains the ability to teleport himself and his Gundam through sheer hot-bloodedness and determination.
The Turn A Gundamhas the ability to destroy technology. Despite the fact that it even exhibits more power than most other titular mecha in the franchise, it is said to use less than 10% of its abilities over the course of the series.
The Universal Century doesn't fit comfortably into either genre. While it's the Trope Maker for the Real Robot Genre, and the various series are almost universally war stories, Newtypes simply don't play by the same rules as everyone else. While Minovsky Physics is fully in force for non-Newtype mobile suits, Newtype powers and NT-capable mobile suits don't always obey them; in particular, Psychoactive Powers are an explicit ability of psycommu technology starting with the Zeta Gundam's bio-sensor.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, although arguments over whether they should be counted as Super or Real Robotsis debated even by characters themselves◊ in Super Robot Wars. Technically, the Eva units fit the Super Robot description almost point-for-point - sentient, check; each unit is one of a kind, check; Earth's only defense, check; production overseen by main character's basta-I mean dad, check; each unit usually accepts only one pilot, check. But on the other hand, the Evas also have some definite Real Robot features, such as very limited power supplies. (Until Unit-01 eats Zeruel and takes its S2 Engine, at least.) And on the third hand, the Eva units are technically cyborgs, not, strictly speaking, robots.
Rebuild of Evangelion has Mari gleefully adding to the "super" aspect, talking to Unit-05 and Unit-02 and shouting out, "point-blank attack!" as she charges Zeruel with two BFGs. Seeing as the Evas rely on the pilot's brain waves and physical movement rather than voice commands—with the exception of the password "The Beast!"—this one isn't really necessary. However, Mari's level of sanity is somewhat questionable at this point.
The various Zoids series feature giant animal-shaped robots that can only be piloted by those they "choose", and are powered up by Small Annoying Robots manufactured by an ancient, lost civilization. Outside of the main character, though, most Zoids are treated more like Real Robots. Depending on which fluff you're reading they may be Real robots and fighting a war and treated as such or the mechs themselves are fighting a war ą la Transformers. OR you can have tons of Combining Mecha, ancient weapons and sentient zoids that choice their masters. Its all vaguely justified by treating them as Weaponized Animals with unknown and seemingly varying levels of intelligence.
The Ideon from, well, Space Runaway Ideon fits the bill pretty well, at least when it feels like it. Since the mech is inhabited by the God-like energy known as the Ide, when the Ide doesn't feel like helping all it can do is punch and kick.
Fairly unusually for this sort of show (but not for Tomino's work), Ideon's displays of planet-destroying power are often portrayed as something frightening and dangerous, rather than just awe-inspiringly cool.
In Full Metal Panic!, the mechs used by Mithril and Gauron are Super Robots, in that their technology and power is far beyond that of mechs that others use, including superpower nations. Also, the special equipment created from Black Technology that's on Sousuke's and Gauron's Arm Slaves relies greatly on the pilot's creativity and emotional state.
They are real robots unless they are equipped with the Lambda Drive, and even then it's only when using it. Sousuke's robot seems to have a personality, but it's an AI that mostly exists to aid him (and tell the audience what they'd normally need to be able to read instruments to know).
The El Dorado team from GUN×SWORD includes most of the tropes, other than the fact that the pilots are all in their 80s. They even stole some sound effects from GaoGaiGar.
It goes beyond that. This editor, seeing that clip in an AMV, originally assumed it to be from a Yuusha series, and it only clicked with him some time later that he'd seen it in an episode of GUN×SWORD.
The similarities are parodied in Super Robot Wars K: El Dorado V's moveset is almost entirely based on GaoGaiGar's - even having a move called "Infierno y Cielo" - Spanish for "Hell and Heaven".
They're arguably Real Robots given how slow they are and it's shown they were used in a war in the past and have land, air and sea variants also their treatment as godlike in-universe is because the world is After the End well, maybe, Mind Screw and all...
All three entries in the Eldran series qualify, with the last series probably being the only show to ever exist where the mecha was literally made out of a school building.
The Deus Machina from the Demonbane franchise, which are notable in particular for being Magitech super robots. The strongest form of the titular mech is also the largest super robot in the genre, dwarfing even the much more famous Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagannby an order of magnitude. It gets so big it pops the universe it's in.
The Knightmare Frames in Code Geass start out as 100% Real Robots but, depending on who you ask, the rate of technological progression makes the main models creep closer and closer to what some fans consider Super Robot territory by the later half of the second season, though others are content to simply label these machines overpowered Super Prototypes.
Heroic Age certainly fits the category in spirit, at least. The Humongous Mecha used by the humans are generally more in the Real Robot class, being mass-produced vehicles with few, if any, extraordinary abilities, but the overall mood of the show is much more like the positive, optimistic outlook of Super Robot series than the cynical view of the Real Robot, with lots of credit to the Power of Love. The only thing barring the Nodos from classification as Super Robots is that they're...well, not robots. Though they do tend to have a distinctly mechanical vibe to their appearance, especially outside of Berserk Mode.
Brigadoon: Marin And Melan has the three Gun-Swordsmen; Melan Blue, Pyon Silver, and Erin Garnet. They're partly organic, though, and none of them have pilots, though Melan regularly carries his human companion Marin with him into battle.
Bokurano: Zearth and the other dimensional robots of its kind. Athough since it's a series by Mohiro Kitoh, its cynicism is worth the idealism of any three idealistic Super Robot series at least.
Hades Project Zeorymer: Zeorymer of the Heavens itself is one of the few robots who could get away with the "Invincible" title being taken literally, if it used it. In the OVA, the only time it even so much as took damage was when it was missing its main power supply, and even that took a Yin-Yang BombCombination Attack from two other robots to so much as damage it. And said damage regenerated in no time at all. Of course, it wasn't exactly created to save the world. (At least in the OVA.)
Kiryu (AKA The cyborg version of the 1954Godzilla) was the only version of Mechagodzilla to defeat his flesh-n-blood counterpart. That, and he was intelligent enough to be able to communicate with humans.
Pacific Rim draws inspiration both from this and the Real Robot Genre. The Jaegers are Real Robots in that they're explicitly built by a military-industrial complex and time is given to the extreme amount of resources, logistics and support required to drive and maintain them. On the other hand, individual Jaegers are treated like Super Robots, what with their colourful and individual names and designs, being humanity's 'only hope', and fight using common Super Robot tropes like rocket punches, wrestling moves, unique fighting styles between each robot, the 'drift' and the Absurdly Sharp Blade of Gipsy Danger being its ultimate weapon.
Live Action TV
Power Rangers/Super Sentai: The various Zords cover most of these aspects all of the time, and a few specific ones depending on the exact season.
Denshi Sentai Denziman's Daidenjin was probably one of the more outstanding examples. Not only did it have all the moves of a Super Robot, it acted extremely sentient at times, often showing up when the Denjimen are in danger without being summoned. Plus, the backstory of the Daidenjin is quite long-winding. It's a combination of Lost Technology and Space tech from the Denji aliens.
The Platinum Blonde, a heroic android from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe started out as a Real Robot. After leaving her life as a Sexbot and looking for the meaning of her existence, she tooled up, installed some over-the-top weapons systems, and started defending humanity.
Omega, from the same setting, is a Super Robot from the future whose goal is to wipe out all superhumans on Earth. He's a combination Expy of both Ultron and the Sentinels from Marvel Comics.
In We Are Our Avatars, The Phase Distorter was created from an odd mishmash of both Super and Real, incorporating technology from several different mecha from different universes. Given the generally soft setting, though, the end result falls into the former category. Its head looked like a Mister Saturn, for cryin' out loud.
Sometimes, this trope can get out of hand with the originals: the "Alt Eisen" from Super Robot Wars Compact 2 is a real, but performs on par with a super, if not, better than one. Meanwhile, the "Valhawk" from Super Robot Wars W is another real which combines with a battleship "Valstork" creating the super "Valguard". By the end of the game, the latter can combine with another real and another battleship to form the more powerful super (and Game Breaker) "Valzacard".
Played with regarding the Valsion and Fairlions: though they look like Super Robots, all are built almost entirely with technology used by other real robots in the setting.
As far the terminology of supers go, the series is oddly realistic about it, and most associated tropes tend to come from the originals hanging around the likes of Kouji Kabuto and Ryoma Nagare. In fact, in Super Robot Wars Original Generation, the most "super" robot of the cast is the Compatible Kaiser, filled with implausible weaponry that has little to no scientific explanation involved. Even the machines from the subterranean world of "La Gias" blessed by gods/spirits have a logical explanation to them!
Additionally, Original Generation tends to refer to supers as "special units" designed specifically to fight single-handedly against many opponents (by contrast, reals can excel in multiple situations, but can't do it alone unless they're in a group). Essentially, this setting deems supers as "real robots built using feasible technology, yet have technical explanations to state why they are supers".
Pringer Z actually shows up in other games by the same team, most notably in Phantom Brave as the ultimate secret BonusBoss. He's normal Prinny sized, but uses Super Robot weapons (including a towering column of flame that reaches SPACE). However, in this series, a towering column of flame that reaches SPACE isn't all that impressive.
Another Nippon Ichi game, Makai Kingdom, has the Prinnies making a Robosuit in the bonus content, which is a shout out to the best armor in Disgaea and a stereotypical Super Robot. Arguably on the same page, there's also the Space Battleship Yoshitsuna, which is another shoutout to Disgaea — being the ultimate sword in that series, and the ultimate vehicle and hardest boss in this one. For extra Bonus Boss points, it's piloted by one Prinny Baal.
In Xenosaga, the ES units are clearly super robots, whereas standard AWMS units are closer to the real robot scale. The AWGS units in Xenosaga ep 1 would actually be Real Robots if not for the fact that they can materialize out of thin air using the UMN.
Likewise, the Omnigears of Xenogears are definitely super robots, along with several other Gears that fight on an Omnigear level (such as Weltall, Crescens, Seibzehn and the titular Xenogears). Many of the regular mook Gears are real robots, but anything a PC uses will be an Ace Custom at the least.
The Playstation 2 game Robot Alchemic Drive is built around this trope, putting the player in command of robots that can perform rocket punches, flying kicks, throw giant boomerangs, transform into various vehicles, and even teleport in an instant.
Adrastus is an alien robot hidden by the main character's family. It has rocket punches, beams, and an amazing mohawk.
Titanzer is equal parts parody and homage. Example: Johnny doesn't trust any robot's really dead unless it explodes. Linky
The eponymous Ilivais X and its fellow prototypes definitely fall in here. The GEKICOM units have implausible Elemental Powers, the STRUQ units are a massive Combining Mecha pastiche, and the Phonos Weapons are as a whole incredibly powerful and dangerous. X itself is more of a Deconstruction though. It's sentient and has its own agenda of sorts, has an unlimited source of energy that by it's very nature is just off, there's all sorts of parallels between it and Lucifer, and so on.
Parody: Megas XLR. Not only is it controlled through the use of 90's videogame controllers, it also has an endless supply of aptly named doomsday buttons, is set with a victory pose that mimics that of its driver, can only be driven by a fat, lazy, slow-headed video game geek and gearhead, and contains almost every Wave Motion Gun in anime history (Including, THE Wave Motion Gun, along with half of the ship). Did we mention it only cost its owner two bucks, which he never paid?
The various Transformers anime tend to bring them much closer to a typical Super Robot show, with Transformers gaining incredible powers by merging with humans, using magic(!), or just gaining a lot more Wave Motion Guns, depending on the continuity. Though the first instance of humans as powerups were in the three-part Grand Finale of the American series. (The Marvel comic book really ran with it, and explored what it would mean to be thusly dependant on a partner, for the human/Nebulan and the Transformer.)
The Transformation Sequences in Energon and Cybertron even have the Autobot or Decepticon symbol in the background with a final pose, much like so many robot series (and a few Tokusatsu.)
Speaking of weapons, weapons as part of the 'bot are almost standard. Sometimes they remain attached, sometimes they detach to become handheld weapons. Some have guns that don't store on them, and seem to come from hammerspace as needed. (The Japanese series, however, explicitly show them being summoned in a flash of light, based on the three instances of such in the Transformers Generation 1 series.)
Most Transformers series fit with the Super Robot genre to various degrees, including the Western series and the Live-Action movie. However, Japan-made Transformers are full-fledged Super Robots.
Optimus Prime especially fits. He has a faceplate that slides into place in almost all incarnations, and some of his Super Modes have head-wings.
Then throw in combination. in Transformers Energon, the drone vehicles he has and can combine with, and some of the attacks done with them (such as having them fly around him in a circle and amplify his attack to make a serious Beam Spam finisher - so awesome he naturally does it only once ever.) really scream "title robot of a Super Robot anime."