To most anime fans, “fanservice” more often than not refers to nudity and other similarly sexualized scenarios featuring the anime’s most popular characters. While this is true to an extent, that’s not all there is to fanservice. After all, “fanservice” is defined by online dictionaries as a story element that was added to “merely excite the viewer.”
When it comes to mecha anime, “fanservice” can mean the aforementioned sexuality or anything in the anime that only exists to reinforce just how cool giant robots are. These types of fanservice can be distracting at times but, when used properly, they do what they were designed to do perfectly and give audiences exactly what they came for.
Full Metal Panic! is arguably more of a school-life anime with some giant robots in it than a straightforward mecha anime. Full Metal Panic! had a well-thought-out world and real robots, but the ecchi scenarios that came right out of a raunchy high school anime took priority — even in episodes that focused on war.
Almost all the show’s women (especially Kaname) were subjected to fanservice, and Sosuke was always too dense to register what was going on. This was pushed to the extreme in the self-parody spin-off, Full Metal Panic? fumoffu, which ditched the mainline series’ wartime aspects to double down on the shameless fanservice.
9 Vandread Was Simultaneously A Harem & Mecha Anime
Vandread is set in a future where the battle of the sexes was taken to literal extremes. Men and women live exclusively on their own planets, but worlds collide when aspiring mecha pilot Hibiki becomes the prisoner of an all-female pirate crew. Naturally, this led to fanservice-heavy harem shenanigans more than actual space war.
While not the first high concept harem, Vandread was notably many older fans’ first taste of both ecchi and mecha. Besides the obligatory fan service that’s expected of harem stories, Vandread also gave space opera fans a well-detailed world with unexpected twists regarding the origins of the pilots, their planets’ war, and even the Dreads and Vanguards.
8 Darling In The FranXX Pushed Evangelion’s Fanservice To The Breaking Point
For better and worse, Darling In The FranXX is basically the extreme version of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Nowhere was this made more obvious than in how Darling pushed Evangelion’s internal development themes to the forefront. Specifically, the FRANXX were overtly sexualized mecha that were operated in a similarly suggestive fashion.
Sex itself was also an integral part of Darling’s intricate history, since physical and emotional love were the only ways to pilot the FRANXX and, in the end, save all life. Unlike its most obvious inspiration, however, Darling didn’t do anything clever or new with its fanservice-heavy visuals and themes. At worst, they just reminded viewers of a better anime.
7 The King Of Braves GaoGaiGar Updated The Old-School Super Robot Formula
one of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s biggest impacts on mecha anime was how it basically forced the genre to “grow up.” Now, piloting a giant robot was more traumatizing than fun, and the characters who lived in such a world would be troubled, to say the least. GaoGaiGar knew this well, but still chose to stick to its classic fanservice roots anyway.
GaoGaiGar was darker than its predecessors in the brave series, but it still kept its childlike wonder and heroism alive. Despite character deaths and sacrifices, GaoGaiGar gave everything that super robot fans could ever want from a show about a combining mecha, namely awesome robot action and unbreakable heroism saving the day.
6 Marcoss Frontier Was The Macross Franchise’s Peak
With its epic wars, transforming mecha, and idol singers, macross was always a popular mecha mainstay, but it only reached the height of its powers with its third full series. Macross Frontier was the ultimate summation of everything that defined macross and while it didn’t change anything, it gave fans everything they wanted from a macross anime.
Macross Frontier is one of the best examples of how following a formula isn’t bad, since this legacy sequel was the best macross after the original. Macross Frontier was so successful that not only did it sell tons of merchandise (especially the idols’ albums), but it also ended the series’ longstanding embargo with the West following the Robotech debacle.
5 Getter Robo Armageddon Was The Classic Super Robot Show At Its Best
Even with its storied history and its legacy as one of the super robot genre’s founding pillars, Getter Robo struggled to get a definitive anime. That all changed in 1998, with the release of the 13-episode OVA Getter Robo Armageddon, which fans praised as the best Getter Robo adaptation to date precisely because of how over-the-top it is.
Despite some major setbacks like losing director Yasuhiro Imawaga after three episodes due to creative differences, Armageddon still finished while delivering everything Getter Robo fans wanted, like an edgy reimagining of the lore and the franchise’s biggest fights. Getter Robo was always a fanservice-heavy anime, but Armageddon was its zenith.
4 Mazinger Z Pioneered The Fanservice-Heavy Super Robot Genre
Go Nagai is considered by many to be one of the coolest founding fathers of manga and anime, and this legacy was solidified with Mazinger Z. Nagai always dreamed of making his own robot story but, instead of sticking to what was plausible despite doing the research, he wrote about what he thought would be the most awesome.
Mazinger Z may not be the first super robot story, but it codified everything that defines the genre even today. Whether it was a hot-blooded pilot controlling an amazing war machine or saving the world from evil through epic robot battles, Mazinger Z vicariously fulfilled mecha fans’ wildest dreams before they even realized what they were.
3 Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Revived The Super Robot Anime In All Its Cheesy Glory
in letter, Gurren Lagann was a classic super robot show made for the New Millennium. Despite some dark elements like Kamina’s death and war’s harsh realities, Team Dai-Gurren’s battle for humanity’s future was as inspiring as the super robot anime that inspired it. Unsurprisingly, fans really loved Gurren Lagann and heralded it as “anime’s savior.”
Gurren Lagann was a never-ending barrage of fanservice that escalated on an episodic basis. From giant robot fights that were bigger than the entire universe and the power of friendship saving reality itself, every episode of Gurren Lagann was designed to exceed mecha fans’ most outlandish expectations. Needless to say, it worked perfectly.
2 Gundam Build Fighters Celebrated Everything About Gundam’s Legacy
Build Fighters is one of the gundam canon’s most unique entries for various reasons, but the most obvious one is that it’s a gundam anime specifically about gundam anime. Unlike previous gundam entries that were all war stories that varied in tone, Build Fighters was a meta anime where the characters were fans of the gundam franchise.
Instead of deep world building or realistic skirmishes, Build Fighters’ fanservice was derived from characters who quite literally memorized the gundam franchise’s history. Build Fighters affirms its fanbase’s loyalty by pitting mobile suits and pilots from disparate series against each other, name-dropping the most obscure references, and so much more.
1 Neon Genesis Evangelion Was A Mecha Anime Made For & By Otaku
Evangelion used to be revolutionary because of its use of fanservice, but not in the way most people think. Evangelion has its fair share of the stereotypical (and oftentimes controversial) fanservice but, as a whole, Evangelion itself is fan service. In brief, the anime was made by and for the biggest otaku out there.
Showrunner Hideaki Anno never hid his love of nerdy entertainment, and this passion drove him to fill Evangelion with the kind of intricate arcane mythos, real robot details, world building, and more that would impress otaku. However, this somewhat backfired since Evangelion’s fans tended to prioritize this fanserivce and overlook its life-affirming themes.
NEXT: Neon Genesis Evangelion Every Movie In The Franchise (In Chronological Order)