The month of November is quite the hurdle for me, with me picking up a few courses and my end of year exams taking place. But I can’t really say I’ve been all too occupied with my last minute preparations. In fact, I’ve been spending a lot more time idling around and binge watching some anime, as the procrastinator within me has requested. I think we can all agree that watching any show under academic pressure is much, much more satisfying. But as I spent some time scrounging the net for a suitable anime for my liking, it made me realise one thing. I always tend to avoid Mecha anime.
Before I get impaled by flaming pitchforks and have my blogging persona murdered indiscriminately, let me justify myself. I’m not saying Mechas are bad. Not at all. I just, don’t ever really give my time of the day to Mechas.
(I’m in deep waters if Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews ever reads this, but I hope he’ll give me a pass. Sorry Scott.)
Before I get into why I’m even writing this post, let’s go back to the year 2010, where I first discovered the anime that had a massive influence on me and my interest in anime today. I was 13, and besides the minimal Naruto, the occasional Bleach and the unhealthy binging of One Piece, I never really invested my time into other anime. But it was around that time that I decided to broaden my horizons, and escape the Shounen theme that I didn’t even realise I’d been trapped in. I wanted something different, something that “adults” would watch. Then there it was, the one anime that stood out before me. Not just any anime, but THE Mecha anime — Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Neon Genesis Evangelion was too complex and profound a story for the 13 year old me to truly appreciate, but that didn’t stop me from loving it. Something about the anime was just so unique and weird, and at the same time awe-inspiring. Today, the only thing I can remember about it are the emotions I felt toward the anime and how its exploration of psychology was so fascinating that it lit up a whole new world for me. Not long after this, my hunt for another difficult anime began again, and I landed upon yet another Mecha — Code Geass.
Long story short, quite a few of the anime that formed the foundation to my love for anime had been Mechas. Yet, why am I always so hesitant to give Mecha anime a try today? I’m truly baffled myself, so I decided to write this post to try and identify and justify why I dislike Mechas, with the hope that maybe I’ll be able to realise the beauty of Mechas once again.
So, Why Do I Avoid Mechas?
My past and my childhood were filled with Mecha stories like Transformers the animated series, Star Wars, Power Rangers and the likes of Code Geass and Neon Genesis Evangelion. So what’s wrong with me now?
I did some digging and I’ll be raising a few opinions I encountered about the perceptions toward Mecha anime. Do note that these views aren’t necessarily my own ideas, but a mix of online opinions that I’ve researched.
1) Mechas are unoriginal
The idea here is that the concepts and topics that follow Mechas are almost always relating to wars and politics, with the main point being the same heroic figure controlling a conveniently overpowered robot that saves the day. There just isn’t much room for originality when the focus is so narrowed to the use of gigantic robots or large robotic suits.
But personally, I don’t think this is a convincing enough reason. After all, nothing is truly original. There’s always a way around things that provide a fresh experience, despite the same concept. Isekais are a good example, and indeed Isekai is definitely a genre I indulge in. So I don’t really think the lack of originality constrains Mechas all too much. But I do agree that force-fitting every plot onto gigantic robots and robotic suits can appear overused and unoriginal.
2) Mechas are too destructive on large-scales
The idea behind this is that robots are almost always in possession of destructive power, and there is a need to be able to display this power in order for a Mecha story to be successful. But large-scale tyranny and destruction is not only difficult to produce, but also tend to be too messy.
I think this point is true to some extent. I do think that writing or producing convincing levels of destruction is difficult and is challenging when tying up its loose ends. Why settle for a messy incoherent story when you can watch similarly epic ones, even though they’re on smaller scales? But my problem isn’t the writing, instead it is that I completely don’t even give Mecha anime the chance to tell me its story, so this isn’t it.
3) Mechas don’t appeal to modern day anime fans
Statistics show that there is a decline in modern day mecha anime, and I’m assuming this has to do with a declining amount of mecha in light novels, mangas and other sources. But the reason behind the lack of appeal is simply that Mechas are an oldschool concept. For some reason, they don’t appeal to modern day anime fans as they used to in the past.
Ironic, considering Mecha was created as the past’s projection of the future. But I think this point does justice to my resistance to picking up Mecha pieces. Simply put, the concept of large robots fighting just isn’t as cool as it used to be, for me at least. While I enjoy movies like the Pacific Rim, its more likely due to its cinematic display more than the concept of the battling robots itself. So I guess I am inclined to believe that I dislike Mechas for its outdated displays of battling robots.
4) Mechas need more time to create convincing plots
There are a few that raise the point of Mechas lacking proper writing and development. Since Mechas commonly look at heavy themes of politics and war, sometimes the plot simply isn’t well developed enough. More notably, it just doesn’t have enough time to develop itself in a mere 12 or 24 episode long series. In comparison to its more high paced thrilling competitors, Mecha anime just wouldn’t have enough time to create convincing plots that can compete with other anime. Well, that’s what some people are saying.
I’m not too sure about this one, but if this were indeed true, then I guess I can understand why budget limitations and profit projections may hinder Mechas from being able to compete seasonally. But then again, this seems to be a problem of writing rather than production costs, and so I refuse to believe this is what’s stopping Mechas from capturing my attention.
In conclusion, I would personally say that the concept of giant robots in and of itself are probably growing out of trend. I’m sure there are other reasons that might explain my resistance to picking up Mecha that I didn’t discover. But fundamentally, the problem seems to be the declining appeal of Mechas to modern day fans, or rather to me individually. I think I simply refuse to pick up another Mecha because I no longer find the appeal of ridiculously large robots that just exist to battle. While I did give Gurren Lagann 2 episodes to convince me otherwise, the levitating robotic heads just didn’t appeal to me. Neither did 2 episodes of Darling in the Franxx, as interesting as it looked.
However, the core essence of Mecha, in the form of advanced technology, power, destruction and so on and so forth, are still relevant. Many anime showcase supreme technology that can churn out massive destruction, alas not in the form of gigantic robots. So while it does appear that Mecha is declining, in reality, it’s just being transformed and expressed through various other means (looking at you, Isekai).
Alright, that’s it. Boy was that a long post. I probably could’ve summarised it better. I’m a bit discontent with this post being this long. But I’ve written too much to turn back now. Do forgive me for my lack of experience. I’m still a novice writer/blogger, so I do hope my long rant of a post manages to justify and shed some light to my point and spur a discussion.
What are your thoughts on Mecha anime? Are they truly declining? Am I missing something that would rekindle my love for Mecha? What’s your favourite Mecha? Does my dislike for Mecha mean I am now dead to you? So many questions! I need answers! Do let me know in the comments!