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The Top 10 Series – Mecha (Part I)

September 5, 2009

So its about time I started posting this – I’ve been mucking about with these lists for way too long (and I’m still not happy with them >_<) and its driving me nuts, so I’m just going to start posting so I cant change them anymore! 😀

Any as mentioned in my “I’m a Mecha fangirl? When did that happen!?” post I’ve only recently embraced my Inner Mecha Fangirl and have actively sought out shows in the genre to watch.  So what follows are my own personal favourite Mecha series so don’t expect any objective reasoning or much sense at all actually ¬_¬ I’ll try to stick to my usual writing style and avoid spoilers so never fear if you have yet to see any of the series I’ll be rambling about.

I’ll be going in ascending order and have about 2 or 3 series in each post (depending on how long I feel like rambling about each series :P).  So after the break are numbers 10 & 9!

10. Full Metal Panic!

I remember watching the entirety of FMP (all three series) within a week .  It was one of those shows that I just couldn’t seem to stop watching!  Everything else I was following at the time got put on the back burner as I was completely immersed in Sousuke and Chidori’s world.  FMP manages something quite remarkable – balancing High school romcom with  sci-fi mecha military action! 😀

The characters are just a joy to watch.  Sousuke is completely socially retarded and struggles with this undercover mission he’s given coming across as anything but a ‘normal high school student’.  Chidori is a strong female lead – a typical tsundere and more than capable of looking after herself, you do feel for her having to deal with this military nutcase trying to protect her!  The side characters are also distinctive and well rounded – my favourites being Mao and Kurz the other members of Sousuke’s Mithril team.  The voice acting goes a long way towards my love of any given character – luckily FMP has a stellar cast and they make the best of the excellent script.

FMP is made up of three series – Full Metal Panic!, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid; the 1st season was produced by GONZO and the rest was handled by Kyoto Animation.  FMP! & FMP:TSR form the man story whereas Fumoffu (set between the two main series) is a more comedy orientated spin-off (which I reviewed separately in Part 13 of my Short Reviews so I won’t talk too much about that).

The main story is well put together with a nice mixture of elements – great action scenes, solid comedy, excellent scripting and engaging characters; all of which come together to make the best of what (if I’m honest) isnt the most original concept in the world.  FMP contains quite alot of pretty standard elements, but somehow manages to blend them together into something interesting and entertaining.

In terms of animation, both companies involved did an excellent job.  GONZO’s work on the first season was excellent but the show gets decidedly prettier when KyoAni took over.  I loved the character designs – being completely shallow I need eye candy in my series and FMP delivers.  The action scenes are really wonderfully choreographed and exciting – I do like my explosions after all 😛

The Mecha designs are also impressive.  The Mecha in this series are called Arm Slaves, and its obvious that a lot of research was put into their design (and the design of all the military paraphernalia used throughout this series).  Being a series that is set in the not so distant future, quite a lot of time is spend explaining the operation of the Arm Slaves…..but I’m mainly concerned with whether or not they are visually appealing and how they move in action scenes – they are well designed and interesting to watch in battle so its all good 🙂

So yeah, I really enjoyed FMP and its stood up to rewatching (I bought the boxsets for the 1st season and Fumoffu……still waiting for a reasonably prices TSR set though ¬_¬), it does have faults (which I like to ignore because I like the show) but its still solid entertainment, very pretty and the romcom elements mean it isn’t pure Mecha action so it appeals to me a bit more.

9. The Vision of Escaflowne

One of my most beloved series and one of the series responsible for kindling my interest in anime; The Vision of Escaflowne is something of a classic in my eyes.  Again it isn’t a pure Mecha series, rather Escaflowne is an amalgamation of numerous genres – taking the best aspects of each and weaving them together to produce a stunning piece of work……seriously you need to prepare yourselves for major fangirling in this entry, hefty doses of nostalgia mean I can see very few flaws in this series 😛

On the surface Escaflowne is an extremely straightforward ‘girl transported to another world’ type series, utilising lots of traditional western fantasy conventions – swords, dragons, knights, princes and princesses are all present and accounted for as well as a generous pinch of the occult (in the form of tarrot cards and dowsing).  It then adds elements of science fiction, shounen action and mecha; mixes it all together and somehow how emerges as a highly original and well thought out series that’s difficult to pigeon-hole.

From the shounen genre, Escaflowne takes its jaw-dropping action scenes and from the shoujo genre it takes its painstakingly well developed characters – even minor side characters who only show up for a few episodes feel well developed in this series!  Hitomi is a wonderful heroine – completely relate-able and even in her bratty moments she still feels real and likable.   The fact that she does have a role to play in the plot (other than being the damsel in distress) is a great bonus, her latent psychic skills make her indispensable in advancing the plot.  Van I loved from the word go – he’s a wonderful lead and as the pilot of the titular giant Mecha, the centre of most of the action in the series. Dilandau is another favourite of mine – deliciously insane he demands your attention whenever he’s on screen.

The animation is nothing short of gorgeous.   Sunrise are the studio behind this series, but even in their illustrious history Escaflowne is exceptionally well put together.  The character designs needed a little bit of getting used to at the beginning (hello giant noses!) but you don’t notice after a while.  The world of Gaia is stunningly realised – the variety of landscapes and different countries visited really adds interest – clearly alot of thought went into the development of Escaflowne’s world setting.  There is also alot of variety in the action scenes; traditional sword fights, mecha battles (where the mecha are like giant medieval knights) and airship battles – its all there.

Now the mecha (which are called Guymelefs).  I adore the designs in this series!  Escaflowne itself is a beautifully put together machine – switching from traditional knight form to dragon shaped flight mode, its just really pretty.  Van struggles to control it at the beginning – the fact that he has a blood contract with it and its somewhat sentient just adds an extra dimension of originality to the mecha in this series.  Of course Escaflowne is a special machine even in Gaia, but the other guymelef are impressive too – I particularly liked the liquid metal weaponry of the Dragon Slayers machines.

The soundtrack needs to be mentioned too.  Its a wonderful combination of atmospheric orchestral pieces and uplifting J-pop which blend with the visuals perfectly.  Even the SFX are brilliant as are the seiyuu.

The Vision of Escaflowne is one of those series that I never get tired of watching.  Being one of the very first anime series I watched on TV (yes I even liked the somewhat butchered American dub of this series) it occupies a special place in my heart reserved for those shows that 1st gave me the anime bug (its in there with Sailor Moon, DBZ, Gundam Wing, Card Captor Sakura and Tenchi Muyo).  Of course I vastly prefer the original uncut Japanese version over the American dub – but its testament to how good a series Escaflowne is that even in its butchered form the quality still shines through.

Well that proved to be harder than I thought!  Even without going into the subtleties of the plot and character interactions I’ve managed to ramble for ages 😛  Hopefully I didn’t bore anyone to death with my fangirling.  I’ll be proceeding with two series per post, but I don’t have a set schedule for posting – it will be whenever I have time 😀

One Comment leave one →
  1. Aiko permalink
    September 5, 2009 10:30 pm

    FMP was an enjoyable series to watch, although admittedly I much preferred the first from Gonzo over the subsequent two sequels from KyoAni. Of course, the latter two were better produced, but the comedy in Fumoffu, while amusing, became somewhat tiresome for me. I was glad that TSR returned to what I liked about the first series, but somehow lacked something, if I remember correctly? All in all, the three series combined were definitely good and worth seeing for anyone that enjoys a lighthearted action mecha series with inclusions of romance.

    Escaflowne, on the other hand, is an absolute favourite of mine too. I just love this series for all of the reasons you’ve cited. It’s undoubtably a classic, definitely. I don’t really have much to comment on this series, only that I should re-watch it at some point.

    Looking forward to reading your next few write-ups. 🙂

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