So You Want To / Write a Humongous Mecha Anime

Necessary Tropes

  • Humongous Mecha - This one is pretty obvious, although you can use Mini-Mecha or even toy instead.
  • Applied Phlebotinum - You need some form of explanation for why they're using giant humanoid robots/golems/biomechs instead of tanks and planes. It can range from "Getter Rays need a human form!" to "They're magical" and even more 'realistic' explanations such as Gundam's "Humanoid robots can turn around in space without wasting fuel". Careful with making these mecha more specialized - they may slide out of your series' focus.
  • Rule of Cool - Even most Real Robot shows operates on this, because if it were any more real, it'd just be using tanks instead.
  • Big Red Button - No mecha series is complete without one.

Choices, Choices

Pitfalls

  • Falling into the Cockpit can be done correctly, but sometimes it'll just come off as totally lame. It's a borderline Dead Horse Trope. Super Robot shows tend to try to justify it and Real Robot shows tend to avoid it.
  • Follow the Leader - As successful as Evangelion, Gundam, Macross, Getter Robo, etc. were, don't make the mistake of aping elements from them left and right. Originality is a nice thing to have.
  • Lensman Arms Race - If you're doing a staunchly Real Robot setting, don't pull this. This will probably just confuse your fans. In Super Robot, go right ahead... just do it right.
  • Conspicuous CG: CGI will help you get the most out of your budget and can produce some impressive visual effects, but screw it up and the entire project will look half-assed.

Potential Subversions

Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

Potential Motifs

Suggested Plots

Departments

Set Designer / Location Scout

Props Department

Costume Designer

Casting Director

Stunt Department

Extra Credit

  • If Super Robot, pack in some Crazy Awesome. If Real Robot, do it anyway.
  • Nothing says cool/profits like introducing a Mid-Season Upgrade. That's double the money in model kit merchandise!
  • Fun with Acronyms
  • Any mecha show can be made exponentially cooler with moar Techno Babble.
  • Take into account the possibility of your work appearing in a Super Robot Wars game - don't go out of your way to include stuff for the writers of those games to fix, since it's not a sure thingnote , but do at least consider elements that could work with other staples in the franchise (Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, and Gundam) if you think your work has a shot.

The Greats

  • Zambot 3 - The first anime to invoke the idea of Kill 'em All, this was also the first work of a then-unknown Yoshi Yuki Tominonote .
  • The Romantic Robot Trilogy of Combattler V, Voltes V and Daimos.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam - An innovator in its time, it helped codify what Real Robot was.
  • Space Runaway Ideon - Directed by "Kill 'em All" Tomino, who lives up to his nickname here, it is about the Ideon, a Super Robot with a rather scary power source, the Ide. Was one of the inspirations for Evangelion.
  • Macross - While it wasn't the first Transforming Mecha show, its slick designs, catchy music, The Power of Love and other elements helped turn it into successful franchise.
  • Zeta Gundam - Took Gundam to the next level.
  • Armored Trooper VOTOMS - Votoms is the leader of what defines 'Real Robot'. The mecha are basically glorified humanoid tanks, and their main propulsion most of the time are wheels built into their feet. Instead of a kid, the main character, Chirico, is a hardened elite soldier who knows what he's doing.
  • Dancougar - A deconstruction of Hot-Blooded heroes. The heroes have trouble getting along with their superiors and each other, often drop the ball and cause collateral damage, and they can't even successfully combine into the titular robot until halfway through.
  • Transformers - More than meets the eye.
  • Patlabor - A rare example of mecha used in a civilian rather than a combat setting, if you want to see how that works. Like Votoms, it is on the "very real" end of the spectrum.
  • Exo Squad - An early example of original Western Real Robot series, inspired by Gundams and set firmly in the Military Science-Fiction zone.
  • G Gundam - A great example of how Humongous Mecha can be combined with any genre. A Chinese martial arts adventure with giant robots? Awesome!
  • Giant Robo - Both an old live-action series (with Giant Robo being a guy in a suit) and later an OVA series, which was directed by the same director who did G Gundam.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion - Love it or hate it, Evangelion changed the genre forever. It created a whole new school of more organic mecha design, and subverted so many Super Robot tropes. It is the Watchmen of mecha anime.
  • Gundam Wing - The first Gundam series to gain a major fanbase in America, and in both countries, it introduced a new viewer demographic: Girls.
  • Eureka Seven - While this series took time to find its footing, the series became a classic for its badass action, excellent character development, and for having one of the most best handled anime love stories of all time.
  • RahXephon - At first glance, it seems to be an Evangelion imitator, but it's actually a Spiritual Successor to Brave Raideen. It combines a musical motif with mesoamerican mythology to create a rich, alien atmosphere.
  • Megas XLR - A rare true American example of the Super Robot genre, made from whole cloth rather than by Macekreing an anime. Defined by Rule of Cool, Rule of Funny and Crazy Awesome.
  • The Big O - Batman with Mecha? Alright!
  • GaoGaiGar - Helped make the Super Robot Genre cool again.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann - in case you don't want your Super Robot to fight one Monster of the Week after another, you can turn to these for good examples of lighthearted Super Robot adventure series. Gets darker later on, though also more awesome.
  • Combat Mecha Xabungle - Who says a Real Robot series can't be a lighthearted adventure? Certainly not this series.

The Epic Fails

  • Gundam SEED Destiny: This installment is notorious for its huge hatedom. If anything, it's greatest failure(s) seem to lie in the fact that all too often, personal conflicts between cast and crew would spill over into the story itself. Whether you like this series or not, don't let this happen.
  • Gundam AGE: While having an ambitious plot can help your series stand out, this show proves that ambition can become a wash if you do not have competent writers in your writing staff. Thanks to its rushed and/or poorly-developed plot-lines and characters, AGE became the worst received (and rated) Gundam installment yet. Moreover, Kio Asuno is a prime example of how not to write a Technical Pacifist into your story.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness shows how not to do a movie sequel. Its problems lie mainly in an overly abrupt shift in tone and characterization and poor pacing throughout. Much of this stems from the fact that it was a planned trilogy cut to one movie, so if you're planning on multiple movies make sure you have a good sense of what plot points are most important, just in case. Aside from that, know why people like your story and characters and don't lose that.
  • Zeorymer. The manga never seems to realize that the Designated Hero is possibly one of the only instances where the Wangst-ridden Extreme Doormat personality is actually more likeable than his "badass" self. The anime, on the other hand, fails to effectively communicate how the villains' Fatal Flaws bring them down, which makes the robot look invincible and boring.
  • Astro Plan, for being a ripoff of the most shameless order.
  • Candidate for Goddess / Pilot Candidate shows us why blatantly ripping off other mecha, such as Evangelion, and providing a weak Gecko Ending can be very, very bad for your show.
  • Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross is not really spectacularly bad so much as uninteresting to the point of being a cure for insomnia. Reportedly, the Japanese reaction to the "Southern Cross" segment of Robotech was along the lines of "How the hell did they make Southern Cross watchable?"
  • Space Thunder Kids shows us all why having a plot is important. Battle scenes are all well and good, but they have to be meaningful. Don't just use Stuff Blowing Up to pad a thin script. Also, Plagiarism is bad.
  • BattleTech's animated cartoon was an attempt to take a popular video game and tabletop wargame franchise and bring it to television. Unfortunately, an astounding lack of research and clumsily rendered animations led to mediocre results at best. Be mindful of your setting and prior fan expectations if you're going to do an Animated Adaptation or similar derivative work.
  • Gundam Reconguista In G spent so much time layering complications and additional factions into the setting that it forgot to tell the story. By the time all the players got on the board, there were only about three or four episodes left.

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