For some anime fans, they tend to stay in a specific genre because that is what they like. However, like with people that only eat McDonald’s every day, there is a big wide world of anime out there to explore. The issue is, if you watch the wrong series when moving into a genre first, it can leave a bad first impression. In no genre is this more true than mecha. It can be a difficult genre to love sometimes. Some people are just ingrained with a natural love of those super robots, but if you aren’t, it is best to enter the mecha genre with series that feature mechs as more of a tool towards the overarching plot, which can be very complex.
Code Geass, by itself, is a very good entry point to anime as a whole as well as to the mecha genre. Like many mecha shows, the mechs are merely just cool weapons to use in the overarching grandiose plot of rebellion against a powerful kingdom. That is really the mecha genre as it should be defined. However, you don’t really watch Code Geass for the mechs, you watch it for the political intrigue, the twists, and even just for the awesome tactical battles.
Knights of Sidonia
The one thing that can be faulted with Knights of Sidonia is its choice of CGI instead actual good animation. However, if you can look past that, and I’m saying this as a person who really hates that animation style, there is actually a really engaging story behind it. A lot of mecha series make the stakes not really feel so high because they are covered in metal armor, but Knights of Sidonia manages to find a way around this during its powerful fights.
Gunbuster / Diebuster
Gunbuster and its “kind of” sequel Diebuster are classic mecha series. As they are both only six episodes long, they don’t really require a huge time investment, but Gunbuster in particular encapsulates everything the mecha genre stands for. You get your hardworking main character, your intergalatic war, your passion, and your epic moments. The most impressive thing is how they fit such powerful story into such a short series.
Toppa Tengen Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann is a huge parody series of the mecha genre, but while it has comedy, it still kind of takes itself seriously because that is part of the overall parody as many older mecha series are just all seriousness, all the time. However, between its inspiring speeches and spine-tingling fights, you grasp what the mecha genre entails while still having a series that is amazing to watch. If you are serious about getting into mecha, this is probably the place to start.
Darling in the Franxx
This is one of the newer mecha series, but it certainly was enjoyable to even non-mecha fans. There is a bit of parody at play here, particularly when you see how the mechs are piloted, but otherwise it crafts a unique post-apocalyptic world in which you kind of want to keep watching to figure out certain mysteries.
Think of Eureka Seven like an adventure with sci-fi machines, at least at first. Eureka Seven essentially eases you into things as you watch the protagonist grow from kind an annoying kid to a real hero. However, while the fighting is interesting and unique, the characters and their relationships is a highlight of the show. Furthermore, you will note that Bones did a great job animating this series so you won’t have to deal with older mecha animation.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Gargantia is what I would consider “very light” mecha as you only really ever see like, three of them for most of the series. However, while the mech plays its part, it is a gorgeously animated series with an interesting world and characters to explore. Well worth the watch even if you aren’t acclimatizing to mecha.
Full Metal Panic
If you are coming from a lot of mainstream shounen anime, then Full Metal Panic is an excellent mecha entry point. If has a similar balance of school life, comedy, romance, and action to your standard shounen series, but is also very much a mecha show in terms of the fighting.
Martian Successor Nadesico
While not the first sort of mecha parody series on this list, Nadesico is possibly something that only fans of older mecha shows could enjoy. However, if those classic mecha tropes were keeping you from the genre, then perhaps laughing at them will make this a solid show for you. It is, in a way, an antithesis to classic mecha themes, but it sure is funny.
A more iconic title in the mecha genre there is not. However, providing you pick series that are in the same universe (or at least their own universe) you are afforded a lot of flexibility on how you can watch Gundam. Personally, I generally see Gundam SEED as one of the better entry points into Gundam and mecha as a whole since it has decent animation and mirrors the giant galactic conflicts that the original Gundam is known for. However, the newer Iron-Blooded Orphans tells a pretty good tale as well.
Why Not Neon Genesis Evangelion?
Aside from Gundam, NGE is perhaps the most famous mecha anime of all time, but do I think it is a good entry point to the genre? Not necessarily. Let’s face it, Shinji isn’t the definition of a likable character, and if you watch the original series, things are going to get really weird by the end. It is better if you watch the Rebuild movies, but many would still argue you need to watch the original series to get the most enjoyment from the movies.