Wait, why are we even asking this, of course, it’s always time for another Super Robot Show!
The history of Super Robot shows can easily be traced back to the very birth of Anime with the genre described as one of the juggernauts of the past era, spawning iconic titles such as GaoGaiGar, Voltes V, Mazinger Z, and even GoLion, which is popularly known in the west as Voltron.
Super Robots in Anime is said to have its actual genesis during 1972 through Go Nagai’s most iconic work, Mazinger Z, which is widely described as the “Grandfather” of the genre, laying the foundations and defining what a “Super Robot” should be. Although the first mecha anime shows did have some of the traditional Super Robot elements, it was during the era started by Mazinger Z which we had our Weekly Monstrous battles of unstoppable Chogokin mechs complete with special maneuvers and (almost) undisruptable transformation sequences.
Ever since the launch of Mazinger Z, Super Robots have seen an unstoppable rise with new shows coming out almost every Season from the 70s to the early 80s which can arguably be described as the era of Chogokins. It was also during this timespan when Anime spread out to the Western audience and with Super Robots at the helm, the genre now became a global phenomenon, with its reach expanding towards merchandising. Merchandising, of course, played a huge part in bankrolling the genre into popularity, with its presence felt up until today thanks to the regular release and re-releases of iconic mechs in various toy forms and sizes.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The last homage to Super Robots?
Despite being popular during the 70s-80s Era, Super Robots have now become a niche, much like the rest o the subgenres of Mecha anime, with nearly zero presence over its latter years, that is until the arrival of Gainax’ Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which took everything that we loved about Super Robots and mashed them together to create a new experience that offers balance between showcasing its outrageous mechas and monster fights and audacious characters taking on audacious tasks.
Obviously, not everyone would agree, but arguably Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann gave the new generation of anime fans a first taste of what a Super Robot anime feels like while giving older fans what was perhaps the genre’s one last hurrah before saying its temporary goodbyes.
Super Robot versus other Mecha Genres
Although it can be easily compared to other shows in the mecha genre, the Super Robot show makes elements such as the value of Family and Friendship stand-out with themes revolving around teamwork, camaraderie, and sometimes even romance. In contrast to the Real Robot, another juggernaut in the Mecha anime scene, Good and Evil is clearly defined in tones of black and white in Super Robot shows and rarely do you see or feel justification in the acts of the villains despite having their own charisma. Super Robots are the equivalent to heroes, defending the people from evil monster attacks, with its pilots putting everything on the line to win the day and do it over and over and over and over until they confront that one final big evil and end the villainy once and for all. It’s this no-nonsense element that makes Super Robots easy to appreciate, despite being as cliche as it could possibly get, and a formula that works well with both its young and old fans.
Finding its place in the modern era of Anime
Going back to our previous statement, Super Robots have gone from being a titan to a niche with next to zero shows airing in the modern era of Anime. Of course, there are still re-runs and remastered releases, but ever since the last hurrah of Gurren Lagann, the genre hasn’t seen much when it comes to new releases. Does the simple approach to the Good-versus-Evil trope not work in this era of anime given that we have shows that somehow make you root for the villain? Most likely, although it is a fact that some popular shows don’t really even offer any complexity when it comes to character or major story elements. Does it have to do with merchandising? Maybe, but if Sunrise can bankroll free, high production value releases of Gundam episodes and movies on YouTube then perhaps it can also bankroll a new push for Super Robots into the anime scene. Sunrise, of course, have held rights to some popular mecha shows such as Combattler V, Voltes V, Tosho Daimos, King of Braves, GaoGaiGar and Heavy Metal L-Gaim, just to name a few. Is there really a lack of any significant conflict that many mechas shows love to mimic and be metaphors of? Maybe, but whether there are any or none, Super Robots can still stand as shining beacons of hope much like superheroes.
perhaps YES, Super Robots still have a place in this modern era of anime and has never really lost its touch despite its long years of absence from the mainstream, and perhaps, with the mecha genre being relevant again, not just in Japan but even in Western Popular culture, it’s the right time for another Super Robot to rise and show us fans just how a good ol’ fashioned Chogokin beatdown can take out any evil and save the day.