The mecha anime genre didn’t see much success in the 2010s. While international hits like Pacific Rim demonstrated its influence, there were few high-profile releases compared to the previous decade.
Picking out the best new mecha anime requires sifting through some major disappointments to find hidden gems. Even relatively popular series ultimately failed to meet expectations. If you’re looking for recommendations, here are some shows I’d suggest checking out:
Best Mecha Anime of 2010’s
1. Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn
Regarding mecha anime, the Gundam franchise, which Studio Sunrise produced, cannot be ignored. Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn is considered one of the best Gundam series of the 2010s. The animation quality is top-notch, and the music, composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, adds to the epic feel of the series.
However, newcomers may find it daunting to get into the series as it is heavily connected to other Universal Century entries and is rooted in the original 1978 series. Despite being a part of the greater Gundam universe, Unicorn tells its own unique story about the atrocities of war.
Originally released as a seven-episode OVA, Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn later received an extended and re-edited version for serialization called Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn RE:0096. Fans of the Gundam franchise will find this series a delightful treat.
2. Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
Fans of Evangelion have been eagerly awaiting the continuation of the film for almost a decade. Released in 2012, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo is a departure from what many fans had come to expect from the Rebuild of Evangelion saga.
Following the previous film’s events, Shinji Ikari wakes up over a decade later to find that the world has fallen apart due to his actions. In this unfamiliar world where everyone blames Shinji for the mass deaths, he is forced to unite with his father. He finds comfort in the enigmatic Kaworu Nagisa, the only person who shows him empathy in this cold and lifeless world.
Evangelion: 3.0 is a controversial film, with some fans loving its changes while others do not. However, it is still an essential part of the Evangelion franchise. The relationship between Shinji and Kaworu is one of the most compelling narratives in mecha anime this decade, culminating in the heartbreak and emotional breakdown that Evangelion fans have expected.
3. Valverave the Liberator
The plot of the series is set in the far future. It revolves around Haruto Tokushima and a group of students chosen to pilot the Valvrave but at the cost of losing their humanity, including their memories and emotions.
In this context, Haruto embarks on a quest to regain his humanity, even if it means facing failure. Despite the dark undertones of the story, the series also explores various romantic relationships between its characters, making it an exciting mecha anime to watch.
4. Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet
“Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet” presents a dystopian future based on reality and its consequences. When mecha pilot Ledo finds himself stranded on a planet covered in water after battling aliens and falling through a wormhole, he must adapt and live among the people of Gargantia. Ledo’s character development throughout the series is engaging and fulfilling, and the cast around him adds to the series’ appeal.
This mecha anime offers a refreshing take on romance, with a budding relationship between Ledo and Amy, an emissary from the Gargantia ship. The series is a must-watch for anyone interested in a well-crafted mecha romance anime.
5. Fafner in the Azure
Faced with extinction from an alien race called Festum, humanity’s last hope is the giant mech, Fafner. However, an untrained pilot becomes the last hope for humanity as things unravel in this 2010s mecha anime.
Fafner began in 2004 but continued in full force into the 2010s. The film, Fafner in the Azure: Heaven and Earth hit theaters in 2010, followed by Fafner in the Azure: Exodus in 2015, and The Beyond movie in 2019.
One reason to watch Fafner is the intricate world-building it offers. Like Gundam, it presents a complex sci-fi universe that evolves from one entry to another. The characters are well-developed and multidimensional. Even though the art style may seem outdated and catered to a small group of hardcore mecha anime fans, investing in the story will keep you hooked for the long haul.
6. Majestic Prince
In this anime series, humanity has established colonies in space and created a project to modify and train children for space exploration genetically. However, their actions have angered an alien race known as Wulgaru, who possess deadly powers. A group of five children, Team Rabbits, is given advanced mecha, Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Devices to combat the aliens.
Majestic Prince stands out for its character development, as it successfully portrays characters who feel like real people in extraordinary circumstances. Although it may start slow and cliche, viewers will eventually become invested in Team Rabbits’ journey and empathize with them.
7. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans centers on child soldiers who rebel against their adult supervisors after being subjected to poor working conditions for profit.
While the series contains everything sci-fi political fans have come to expect from a Gundam, it does emphasize that, for all the horrors of war, the young and vulnerable are the ones who face its most damaging and cruel effects.
As Gundams in a standalone alternate universe, newcomers can immediately watch this title without knowing the history of Universal Century.
8. Aldnoah. Zero
It presents an alternate history where alien technology was discovered during the Apollo 17 moon landing. This led to colonists obtaining the necessary technology to colonize Mars, leading to a war that ended in the moon’s destruction. Cut to 2014, and war is back.
It shares many similarities with the original Gundam, centering on a young pilot waging war between two independent civilizations. However, the alternative history angle and some stunning visuals set Aldnoah.Zero apart.
9. Star Driver
Some initially took to the series because it seemed like a throwback to old-school mecha anime. Some people watch it because it looks like a parody of a 1990s anime with the goofy feel of the show combined with a super over-the-top wacky style.
We watched more because it was written by the same people who composed it for Revolutionary Girl Utena, Yoji Enokido. So many refer to this as the Utena mecha version.
One night, a young man named Takuto Tsunashi washes up on an island beach and is rescued by Sugata Shindou and his fiancé Wako Agemaki. After he awakens, Takuto quickly befriends the two and enrolls in the local academy, where many of his friends are secretly members of Glittering Crux.
However, Takuto keeps a secret: when in Zero Time, he can use his Cybody, Tauburn. In the coming battle, Takuto and Tauburn will be the key to preventing Glittering Crux from destroying Wako’s seal and realizing his evil ambitions.
If you like mecha, love triangles, action, heartwarming stories, or something to relate to, I highly recommend Star Drivers!
10. Darling in the Franxx
It’s hard to think of a modern mecha series in recent years that disappointed fans like Darling in the Franxx. There’s a lot of potential in the first half of the season, but it poorly executed the rest of the story.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future when humanity is divided into natural and artificial beings, the story’s central pair consists of Hiro and Zero Two, who partner up to become Franxx mecha pilots.
The very disappointing penultimate chapter makes the series difficult to recommend, but the romance in the first act drew a large audience to this anime.
11. SSSS. Gridman
Yuuta Hibiki awakens in Rikka Takarada’s room and realizes two things: he has no memory and can hear a mysterious voice calling his name from a nearby room.
He finds a robot, who introduces himself as Hyper Agent Gridman, behind an old computer screen. Although it surprised Yuuta, Rikka couldn’t hear Gridman, nor could she see the monsters that loomed behind the dense fog that enveloped the city outside.
Another giant monster appears in the city and starts wreaking havoc. Amidst the confusion, Yuuta is again drawn to the old computer and joins Gridman. Suddenly, he appears in the middle of the battle and is forced to fight the monster.
With Rikka and classmate Shou Utsumi, Yuuta forms the “Gridman Alliance” to defeat monsters plaguing the city and discover who is responsible for their appearance.
After 25 years since the original Gridman TV series debuted in 1993, Studio Trigger and Tsuburaya Productions, the company behind Gridman And Ultramanhave collaborated to produce the reboot SSSS—Gridman inspired by tokusatsu.
For those new to Gridman and tokusatsu, this is a Japanese term attached to a live-action sci-fi series that uses a lot of special effects.
Film Promare in 2019 shocked the anime community. Even though robots aren’t the main focus, it still fits into the mecha genre.
Co-produced by Studio Trigger and XFLAG, Promare centers on a firefighter, Galo, who lives in a world where pyrokinetic abilities have caused spontaneous combustion to be the leading cause of death.
Galo needs to team up with Lio, the leader of the Mad Burnish terrorists, to save all life on Earth. Promare is one of the wildest anime ever from Hiroyuki Imaishi, classic mecha director Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagan.
These were some recommendations for mecha anime from the 2010s.