Article: Fifty foot tall suit of armor
Fifty foot tall suit of armor
The term Giant robot is almost synonymous with anime. Even though there are some instances of their appearance outside of anime (ie Battletech) they appear to be a strikingly Japanese idea. While there are a few theories of why this is so, most of them connected to the Japanese psyche, I have my own hypothesis. In my opinion the reason why there isn't more mecha(what fans call giant robots and I will for the remainder of this article) shows made in America is that the genre, like animation in general, has simply been dismissed as childish. When most people in America hear the word mecha or giant robot they reflexively think of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and think that that show or some derivative is all the mecha genre is capable of. Anime fans know this idea is as true as the presumption that masterpiece theater is as intellectual as Teletubbies since they are both British shows that appear on PBS.
That being said a repeat a statement that I have once made on Anifanatikku that their is no such thing as a good anime show about mecha. Do not take this as saying that I think the mecha shows are all bad, far from it. The thing you have to remember is that while good anime can and often does include mecha the shows themselves are about something different. In fact the mecha is usually nothing more than a giant mask and it is the freedom of expression that having a mask that gives mecha anime it's depth.
By looking at a mecha it is easy to see that they are far more powerful than any human could ever hope to be. They are at least twenty feet tall (and usually larger than that) and made of metal. Despite it's power it still has a humanoid form and usually requires a human to operate it. The mecha effectively becomes the man, a twenty foot tall man with steel skin and most often rocket fists. This is where one of the other theories behind mecha being so popular in Japan come into play. It is sometimes said that the reason why Japan has so many mecha shows is that after world war II it suffered a serious blow to it's collective self conscious and when anime came around people latched onto the idea of mecha as an ego booster. While that may be true, It is my belief that the subconscious wish to be a twenty foot tall metal man with rocket fists is something that is shared worldwide.
The idea that mecha are just a psychological means to an end makes it easy to explain why their shows are so prolific. Since it nothing more than a metaphor an anime studio or mangka (manga writer) can twist it almost anyway he or she wants. It could a combining robot like the kind seen in sentai shows, a pseudo military model like in Gundam or Macross, a Bio mechanical horror like in Evangelion, or something completely different. With rich and versatile themes are metaphors mecha is a wonderful addition to the broad spectrum of anime.