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10 mecha anime to watch for Neon Genesis Evangelion fans

All the characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion (Image via Gainax)
All the characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion (Image via Gainax)

Neon Genesis Evangelion was a subversive mecha anime that brought forth themes of depression, social anxiety, and the need to forge bonds instead of escaping into oneself to recover from trauma.

It was fairly popular after its airtime and has only gotten better with age. The whole story spans an anime, a manga, two movies that are canon to the original series, a movie series that serves as remake/golden ending to the series, and several light novels.

Fans usually tout the subversiveness of the Evangelion trio of Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langely Soryu/Sohryu, and Rei Ayanami (with Kowaru Nagisa sometimes included) in subverting the chosen one, tsundere, and traumatized kuudere tropes.

More to the point, with the Rebuild of Evangelion serving as the final end to the series, mecha fans may be thirsty for more.


Ten mecha series for fans of 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'

1) 'Zeta Gundam' (Kidō Senshi Zēta Gandamu, anime series, 1985-1986, Sunrise)

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One of the darkest Mobile Suit Gundam entries, Zeta Gundam more than provides the same level of character drama and action Neon Genesis Evangelion fans adore. The story is the sequel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, focusing on the aftermath of the 100-year war between the Principality of Zeron and the Earth Federation.

Following the aftermath of 0083: Stardust Memory, in which a Zeon terrorist attack destroyed a good portion of the North American continent via colony drop, the Earth Federation formed the anti-Zeon task force code-named the Titans to hunt down and weed out any remaining Zeon sentiment.

The problem was that the Titans were given nearly unlimited freedom to do what they willed, resulting in them committing heinous atrocities like gassing an entire space colony to quell riots.

Enter Kamille Bidan, a 17-year old whose resentment of the Titans thrusts him into the conflict between the Titans and the AEUG resistance movement.

Zeta Gundam is a world of pain, struggle, and optimism against authoritarianism and the horrors of war. It also features mainstay Gundam villain Char Aznable trying to be a good guy and all the complications that come with it.

Fans of the great action Neon Genesis Evangelion offered, plus the character drama and depressing atmosphere, should watch this.


2) Gunbuster (Toppu o Nerae!, Aim for the Top!, anime OVA series, 1988-1989, Gainax)

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The directorial debut of Neon Genesis Evangelion creator and director Hideaki Anno, Gunbuster centers around a conflict with an insectoid race that eradicated an entire fleet on their way to Earth. The main character, Noriko Takaya, is the daughter of a presumed lost admiral, training to fight in the war.

As one may have already suspected from Anno's name being involved, there's so much more to this series. The psychological aspect kicks in with the idea of Time Dilation, where time is different for people depending on where they are.

Noriko is also similar to Shinji in that her psychological issues need addressing throughout the series properly, and they do get better by the end.

If fans love the odd, biblical nature of Neon Genesis Evangelion and don't mind a few mind screws with time dilation and/or are fans of Anno's work like NGE and Shin Godzilla, Gunbuster is the one to watch.


3) Macross Plus (Makurosu Purasu, anime OVA and movie, 1994-1995, Triangle Staff)

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The official sequel to the original Macross (or Robotech to North American fans) chronicles the efforts of the UN to develop new technologies in transforming fighter craft 30 years after the Zentradi war.

Instead of focusing on a grand war, or an operatic struggle for survival, this one focuses on rebuilding the personal relationship between a trio of former childhood friends. They are Isamu Alva Dyson (loose cannon and daredevil that Asuka would envy), Guld Goa Bowman (Zentradi/Human hybrid with warlike tendencies), and Myung Fang Lone (producer for pop idol AI Sharon Apple).

The three were good friends until a love triangle incident caused things to sour. This should remind NGE fans of the Rei/Shinji/Asuka relationship, but beyond such matters is the story of human connections, with a hostile AI supplying the villainy this time.

Fans of a good love triangle, estranged friends, and human connections should watch this if they enjoy Shinji's development.


4) The Big O (Za Biggu Ō, anime series, 1999-2003, Sunrise)

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From Chikai J Konaka, known for his work on Serial Experiments Lain and Hellsing, comes the tale of The Big O.

Forty years have passed since a mysterious calamity caused everyone in Paradigm City to lose their memories, the main character Roger Smith included. When giant robots and greedy, monopolistic corporations dominate the city and threaten everyone, Roger Smith summons the massive Big O mech to aid in stopping them.

The Big O is a wonderful mixture of film noir, detective fiction, and mecha anime. If many Neon Genesis Evangelion fans enjoyed the action of the series but wanted more of the robot fighting or some detective work, this is for them.

It even has several mind-breaking twists and turns, but that's best left for the viewer to explore.


5) Eureka 7 (Psalms of Planets Eureka seveN, anime series, 2005-2006, Studio Bones)

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A story of outlaws, mecha pilots, and mysteries, Eureka Seven takes place well over 10,000 years in the future where humanity made an exodus into space thanks to an intelligent life form occupying and merging with Earth called the Scub Coral.

Enter Renton Thurston, a 14-year old kid who stumbles into a giant mechanical robot with a pilot named Eureka and is whisked away into a life of an outlaw as a member of the Gekkostate anti-military group.

This series primarily revolves around love, acceptance, and war tolls. It also focuses on the hero's romance as the core of the series, which Shinji fans will probably appreciate.

If one loves the action and the fact that the main characters' relationships are prioritized, as in Neon Genesis Evangelion, this is their stop.


6) Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (Kōdo Giasu: Hangyaku no Rurūshu, anime series, 2006-2007, Sunrise)

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The Empire of Britannia has conquered the world, and it's up to disowned prince Lelouch vi Britannia to bring them down one royal at a time. Code Geass has lots for fans of the more tactically minded side of Evangelion to love.

Fans of Gendo Ikari (if he has any) will enjoy Charles vi Britannia as the higher power villain he is. Fans of Rei will doubtlessly enjoy C.C. for more than one reason. The fact that the main character and his best friend go through trauma after trauma should be reason enough.

The series doesn't shy away, much like others on this list, from parental abuse, manipulation, seeing people as pawns, and mass death. The depressive spirals Suzaku goes through are almost similar to Asuka in that they start the aces but are completely wrecked emotionally by the end.


7) Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan, anime series, 2007, Studio Gainax)

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This may seem like the complete opposite of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but that's the entire point. Gurren Lagaan's similarities to EVA include:

  • Coalition of allies who are all quirky and weird
  • Giant mechs that can change forms with the massive drill and are powered by emotions
  • Protagonists going into depressive spirals and needing to be dragged out of them
  • Saving humanity from oppressive races of beings

The only significant difference is the comedic edge, but some might say that's a point in its favor! It's not always doom and gloom or realistic showings of repeated depression, but people support each other here better.


8) 86 -Eighty Six- (Eiti Shikkusu, light novel and anime series, 2017-present, ASCII Media works and A-1 Media Works)

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The light novel turned anime series Eighty Six explores institutional racism and has more in common with Neon Genesis Evangelion in that horrific secrets are being kept from the public about their war.

The war against the Legion of the Giadian Empire's drones has been dubbed "The War Without Casualties" after the Republic of San Magnolia developed its own unmanned drones. Only, the drones aren't unmanned, instead being piloted by the men and women of the forsaken 86th sector of the Republic.

Similar to how the dummy system in Neon Genesis Evangelion locked out the user and nearly killed Asuka in Rebuild/led to Toji's death in the original NGE, the Legion's drones rip and tear without mercy into their supposedly unmanned opponents.

Major condemnation of stripping people of humanity, reducing them to a number, and shoving them on the front lines is akin to how Gendo Ikari and SEELE sacrifice many and use people to accomplish their own mad goals. Beyond the dehumanizing aspects of war, personal aspects exist, with everyone worrying about assimilation or vivisection by the Legion.

It's nightmarish and gruesome, but the characters more than make up for it. If you like your mech action on the nightmare side like Neon Genesis Evangelion, this is a good read and watch.


9) SSSS Gridman (anime series, 2018, Studio Trigger)

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Another Studio Trigger anime on this list is about giant kaiju fighting robots and kids piloting them. When a boy named Yuta wakes up in his classmate Rikka's room without memories, it sets them on a quest to stop their classmate from destroying the world with kaiju to kill all who slighted her.

The show obviously has the giant mech aspect down, the fighting of kaiju that Neon Genesis Evangelion fans will appreciate. However, like NGE, it also has the aesop of taking care of yourself and how you have the power to save yourself. Throw in the message of never giving in to despair, and we have a winner!


10) Darling in the Franxx (Dārin In Za Furankisu, anime series, 2018, A-1 Pictures, Cloverworks, Studio Trigger)

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Another one to compare Neon Genesis Evangelion to! This one involves a dystopian future where children are artificially created and indoctrinated to defend humanity, focusing specifically on Zero Two (a hybrid human and elite pilot) and Hiro (a former prodigy).

Giant mechs like the Eva in Neon Genesis Evangelion are used to fight giant monsters known as Klaxosaurs pushing humanity to the brink of extinction. It's best described as a coming-of-age story and teen drama.

If you like these two stories about unlikely couples, this is the one to go to, especially with the bittersweet ending.

Note: This article is not in any particular order and reflects the writer's opinions.

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Edited by Ravi Iyer
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