For decades, the mecha genre has wowed generations of anime fans with its epic space battles, lovingly animated robots, and even stories of love, music, and politics. But the history of the genre is a strange one that began nearly forty years ago when the likes of Tetsujin-28 hit the black and white airwaves to much acclaim as simple stories of fighting robots had children tuning in week after week. The genre, like most pop culture artifacts, evolved along with its aging audience. The robots of years past, based heavily on the machinery of the past, gave way to so called Super Robots that, with their bright colors and heavy use of stock footage.
Of course nothing can last forever. By the time millennials who grew up on 22-minute toy commercials became adults and entered the same industry they had loved as kids, another very different type of change has come to the mecha genre. These anime, which includes the likes of Gunbuster, Macross, and Gundam, were more devoted to telling a story then selling toys (though they did do that as well), and became known in later years as Real Robot anime. They were different from their Super-Powered brethren by robots being portrayed as military hardware, in the much the same way tanks and planes are in the real world. This distinction brought nuance to a genre that once consisted of large mechs punching even larger monsters.
Since that time, there have been many other paradigm shifts in the mecha genre, such as the Post-Evangelion Boom, the deconstructive throwback of Gurren Lagann, and the wave of massive bullshit of the late 2000’s and 2010’s. But today, the genre is dominated by a new rising star: the Realest Robot anime.
What defines this newest of subgenres? While robots of the past could either move about like mechanical ninjas, or transform at the drop of a hat, the realest robot is one that is most of all realistic in every regard and strives to portray a machine that could actually exist in real life. While the the Valkyrie of Macross fame are based on real world jets and other aircraft they can still move freely in space at incredible speeds, a realest robot will instead stumbles about like a drunken salary man on his way home from a long and lonely night of drinking. In fact, space is a frontier far from the reach of a realest robot’s reach as they struggle to simply climb stairs or move around small boxes that have been placed in their path. These factors, fans claim, make these strange looking, uncanny valley dwelling, robots endearing in that there struggles to simply move gives them hope they to can overcome their own problems.
Besides the above mentioned the traits of a realest robot anime are as follows:
- Prominently features machines that could currently, or do currently, exist in the real world.
- Said robots are portrayed exactly, or close to exactly as possible, in its movements and actions as they do in real life.
- Touches on the struggles of human engineers to move robotics and related industries further.
- Provides a vague sense of dread that said robots could one day become advanced enough to rise up and overtake humans as the dominant life form on Earth.
The best example of the above is possibly Great Engineer Giro-San, a US-Japan co-production funded by robotics company Boston Dynamics and created by Sunrise, in which a retired Japanese robotics expert attempts to build the robot that eluded his grasp is his previous career.