You would be hard pressed to find an anime fan that has not at least enjoyed one anime of the mecha genre. Sure there is Neon Genesis Evangelion and one of the eight billion shows in the Gundam series, but there is a lot more greatest in the mecha genre than NGE and Gundam. I've tried to compile a list of great mecha animes that are relatively lesser known. Except Code Geass, but there are still a surprising amount of people that have not seen that one.
I have also provided recommendations for mecha manga as well, most of which have very decent anime as well. However, for the sake of variety, I have left them off this particular list.
The world of Code Geass is ruled by the tyrannical Holy Empire of Britannia, who conquered Japan and much of the world with their fierce mechs called Nightmare Frames. Lelouch is an exiled prince of the might nation who lives in occupied Japan, now referred to as Area 11. Upon a chance meeting with a girl named C.C., Lelouch is granted the power to dominate the mind of any person and bend them to their will. With this power he can finally set upon the path of bring down the Britannian empire.
Code Geass was increasingly popular for years after its release, which now has finally began to taper off. The big selling points for Code Geass, as it was first explained to me a few months after it came out, was that it's pretty much just Death Note with mechs. If you love Death Note, you will really love this. There's a lot of intrigue, plots within plots, and betrayal. Of course there is also that main character that is utterly convinced that he is more intelligent than everyone and is then given a special power to control others and develops a super-duper God complex. Lelouch and Light from Death Note are pretty much the same person.
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Renton Thurston is the son of a famous war hero who now lives with his overprotective grandfather. He dreams of nothing more than leaving his backwater town and becoming a mercenary with the group Light Finding Operation (LFO) led by his hero Holland. One day a beautiful and mysterious girl from the LFO crashes into his grandfather's mechanic shop. She is on the run from the military and quickly leaves, only to draw them to the workshop. When they destroy the workshop, he rushes the "Amita Drive", a weapon invented by his father to the LFO girl in her mech. After she defeats the pursuing military mechs, Renton is invited into the mercenary group. However he soon realizes that under this groups happy facade is a bitter reality.
I'll be honest, I was not particularly fond of Eureka 7 when I judged it from the first episode. The only word to describe it is "Radical!!" in the sarcastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles way. There is this sport in it called "reffing" which is basically surfing on light waves. So there was lots of RADICAL light surfing in the first episode and I found it a little, well, stupid. As the series goes on though, I realized this series to have a surprisingly realistic grasp on emotions and is very good at evoking them from the audience. There's lots of mech fights and action for people who don't give two diddlies about emotions, though.
Space Runaway Ideon
In the pursuit of knowledge, humanity finds itself on the planet Solo. Here they find the remains of a long dead alien civilization, a powerful warship, and a three part giant mech called 'Ideon'. Using these things, the human investigators must defend themselves from the assault of powerful aliens known as the Buff Clan, who are after the 'Id' energy that powers Ideon.
Space Runaway Ideon is probably the best mech anime ever made. Yeah, that's right, I proclaimed that. It's from the early 1980's and everybody knows that all awesome mech animes were made in the 80's. The only problem is that it is also one of the hardest animes to find a copy to watch. It's only been subbed by one long defunct group and was never translated to English, so good luck hunting it down. Being as it is from the 80's, don't expect a lot of flash and great animations. However, you do get to see a little boy get his head blown off. Something Neon Genesis Evangelion fans dearly hoped would happen to Shinji.
In the world of Gunbuster, a race of insect aliens seek to destroy humanity after they take their first steps out of the solar system. Humanities answer to this threat is to build massive battleships and mechs to fight the threat. All around Earth, bright young people are training vigorously to pilot these mechs.
The story follows Noriko Takaya whose father was a famous captian that died in one of the first battles with the aliens. While her father is famed, Noriko's own abilities are doubtful. She wants to pilot the battle mechs, but she is rather inept at most things. Throughout the series Noriko must overcomes the trauma of war, the doubts of her peers, and her own lack of confidence.
Another great classic from the 80's. If Space runaway Ideon is not the greatest mech anime, then it would probably be this one. I never knew so much emotion could be packed into just 6 short episodes. What I really liked about Gunbuster though, was the logic. When they people go through space, they age. They can't just travel millions of light years and return home in like a year. In fact at one point from travelling through space, Noriko who is still young meets her rival who is now old. It is really quite thought provoking.
In the year 2005, an alien race called Zonders emerged from the Earth and launched attacks on Tokyo. The only defense for Earth against these creatures is a secret agency call the Gutsy Geoid Guard (3G) and there super mech called GaoGaiGar. The pilot of the GaoGaiGar is Guy Shishio who was a former astronaut that was almost killed when the Zonders first attacked. he was pulled from his burning space shuttle by a mysterious robot lion called Galeon. Guy was close to death, but his father used Galeon's technology to rebuild his son as a cyborg to pilot the GaoGaiGar.
You might not have got this, but this is a mecha anime heavily marketed towards men. Notice all the refferences to 'guys' in that synopsis. This anime is a lot what you would expect it would be. It is high octane blood pumping Voltron-like action. So if all the other animes on this list were too boring, this will not be. However, like many things from the 90's, GaoGaiGar has a bit of a 'monster of the week' feel to it.
These are just a few of the best selected from my personal anime library. If you have been fortunate to see all of these or have a specific sort of anime in mind, leave a comment. I can give more suggestions if you want them!