Hello and welcome to the world of geekery that is The Potted Lid. We’re reviving the site and how we do things here, which means a few of us are embarking on projects that may or may not prove to be a little too ambitious for the amount of free time we have in our daily lives. I’m talking, of course, about my own project: the Mecha Marathon!
The Mecha Marathon is an in-depth look at the mecha anime genre and its evolution as seen through fifty of the most popular mecha shows in the past thirty years. I’m going to be honest, most of these are shows I’ve had on my To Watch list for a long time. But now I have an excuse to watch them and an even bigger excuse to analyze them like an English Professor a little too excited about Shakespeare.
Am I excited? Hell yeah I’m excited! Fifty shows, five subtopics, and a mini-series of wrap up essays, this is one mecha analysis long enough to give the Gundam franchise a run for its money. In this post, I’ll break down the different subtopics and what I intend to explore with each one.
I did play with the idea of not telling everyone my plans for the show, but I did make a whole spreadsheet and put real work into curating everything on this list. Also, you the readers can hold me accountable if ever I drop the ball on this.
This subtopic will feature some of the most recommended/highest rated mecha shows to be released since 2010. Of the myriad of mecha shows released in the last seven years, I had the pleasure of watching four to completion. These four will serve as a warm-up to the rest of the project. Whether the show is new to me or not, I will take closer looks at archetypes, creativity, and influences from other shows (mecha or otherwise). Since I want a bigger foundation under my belt to draw out influences, most of these shows, especially the ones new to me, will be watched toward the end of the project.
The editorial wrap-up of this section will compare the similarities of these shows, the biggest influence on the contemporary shows in general, and analyze the creativity expressed in the narrative and world-building.
Though I will be watching a total of four mecha anime franchises, I regulated the Gundam franchise into its own category. The remaining franchises are Fafner of the Azure, Macross, and Aquarion. Unless otherwise stated, I will focus on the television shows of the franchises and not any OVA/movie remakes (looking at you, Macross). For these shows, I will take a look at why they are franchises (i.e. why is the public attracted to this show?) and what archetypes or storytelling devices are required in order for a show to work within its franchise.
The editorial wrap-up of this section will compare the similarities of the franchises and look at the quality of work produced as time went on. I may even explore why quality supposedly decreases with each new installment (looking at you, Aquarion) and whether that is related to the Live Long Enough to Suck curse of modern American television.
Can only be written in all caps all the time because it’s one of the biggest franchises to come out of Japan. I will not be reviewing every single property in the Gundam franchise, but the shows on the list include a pretty good mix of Universal Century (8 items) and Alternate Universe (5 items). While I have already seen some of the stuff on the list, I have not seen most of it. Needless to say, I am the most excited for this part. For these shows, I will endeavor to watch them in order from release date and look at the evolution of Gundam since its original release in 1979.
In the editorial wrap-up, I will look at what makes a Gundam show part of the franchise (especially for the Alternate Universe properties) and whether Gundam can lay claim to revolutionizing the mecha genre.
This subtopic includes approximately nine of the biggest shows from the 1990s to early 2000s starting with Neon Genesis Evangelion and ending with Gurran Lagan. These shows will be tackled similar to their Contemporary compatriots with me looking at archetypes presented in the narrative, creativity of storytelling/world-building, and influences from other shows.
Since these episodes span the decade typically referred to as the Golden Age of Anime, the editorial wrap-up will look at the evolution of the mecha genre during this time: the fading of some archetypes, the emergence of others, and the general quality of anime during this time.
With mecha one of the more influential and distinctly Japanese genres of the world, it’s no surprise America took a stab at recreating the magic. In this subtopic, I’ll look at four American Made works–two television shows, a movie, and a novel–and compare the American version to its Japanese counterparts. How did the Americans fare in their attempt? You’ll have to wait and see.
Since this subtopic requires the strongest foundation for a full analysis, I will be watching these shows last. The editorial wrap-up will review the overall success of America’s attempts at mecha and whether America can be trusted with a mecha property in the future.
*Bonus Subtopics: Reader Recommendations and Additional Titles
I anticipate this project attracting attention from anime fans in general and mecha fans specifically, and I anticipate future readers and fellow mecha fans will throw recommendations at me left and right during the project. While I won’t incorporate these recommendations into my already tight watching schedule during the main portion of the project, I don’t want to ignore them either. Which is why, after the main parts of this project are done and dusted, I’ll keep my mecha writing alive by reviewing recommendations made by readers during the project.
I also started a list of Additional Titles to consume after the bulk of the project is completed. Titles in this list include manga that accompany the main property (such as the shojo and shonen manga from The Vision of Escaflowne), movie remakes of longer television shows (i.e. Macross: Do You Remember Love?), and other shows that I didn’t add to the main list for one reason or another (Gundam SEED, etc).
Neither the Reader Recommendations nor Additional Titles will have an editorial wrap-up as these are meant to be an ongoing thing to keep me writing about giant robots. Additionally, articles under this subtopic won’t be published until I am finished with the editorial articles wrapping up the Mecha Marathon proper.
In conclusion, I may be in over my head, but at least I am writing about something I will always love from the deepest engine pistons powering my heart: giant robots. If you are interested, you can also check out my Pinterest board of giant robot artwork affectionately called Mecha Aesthetic.
Questions about when I am planning on watching what? Comments about which fight scenes I should look forward to? Concerns over which non-canon ship will become my OTP? Just looking for someone to geek out about giant robots with? Leave a comment below!