The 2000s would see an anime explosion compared to the decades preceding it, as anime would start to become just as much of a priority for television viewers as it was for people buying OVAs on tape and disc. The result meant every season would be packed with new series, and the mecha genre would not be left out.
For this list, we'll be discussing and ranking the ten best mecha anime of the 2000s. During this era, not only did classic mecha franchises like Gundam and Macross get their chance in the spotlight, but newer series would make a name for themselves as well, with Sunrise and Gainax introducing fans to series which would etch their own names into anime history.
The new millenium created a strong mecha classic right out of the gate with Vandread in the year 2000. The series follows the ship and crew of the Vanguard, made up of a group of men and women in a far future timeline where men and women literally live on other planets, and have been at war with one another for years. Though that’s a strong enough hook, the show really heats up when they discover they’re under attack by an unknown third faction, leading to them figuring out the mystery of what lead to men and women existing on different planets in the first place.
9 ZOIDS: NEW CENTURY ZERO
Bit Cloud is a junk dealer who lucks into a job change when a group of Zoid fighters discover he has a bond with Liger Zero, a powerful Zoid, who before Bit, refused to allow anyone to pilot him. The Zoids franchise had been around for well over a decade by the time this series aired, even featuring comic books written by luminaries like Grant Morrison, but New Century Zero was the first time anyone had ever allowed the franchise to be fun. Instead of having dark plots about giant robot-animals capable of destroying all life, this version of Zoids gave everyone what they wanted to see: giant tournaments with humans and robot-animals working together to kick the crap out of each other.
8 GUN X SWORD
Take the frontier, Wild West feel of a series like Trigun and add some giant robots into the mix and you wind up with Gun x Sword. Set on the “Planet of Endless Illusion”, Gun x Sword follows a man named Van who’s looking for the man who killed his wife, a strange man with a clawed hand.
While on this search, several others begin to follow him as well, all in search of the Clawed Man for the evils he’s wrought on their lives. Brought to us by the creator of Code Geass, Gun x Sword is a series that exudes cool, with the giant robots seemingly only there to up an already high cool quotient.
7 GENESIS OF AQUARION
Every so often, creator Shoji Kawamori will release a mecha series that has nothing to do with his Macross franchise, almost as a break before going back to what made him famous. But none of those series have been more effective than Aquarion. The series sees humanity fighting to survive against a dangerous group known as the Shadow Angels. Their only hope lies in the Vectors, three ships which can combine into the various forms of the robot Aquarion. Every episode features the cast discovering something new either about their enemies or about the eponymous robot, this series leans heavily into the Super Robot tropes of series from the 70’s and early 80’s.
6 SAKURA WARS
SEGA’s popular game series was transformed into an anime series at the beginning of the 2000s. The series followed the Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division, a group of young women with special spiritual powers that were able to pilot the steam-powered mecha necessary to defend their country against demons. The series balanced its action with a bit of slice of life, as the Flower Division spent their off-time working in an all-female performance troupe to hone their skills (and somehow, their spiritual powers as well). Sakura Wars was successful enough to spawn several OVAs down the line, making the series a bit more approachable to Western audiences, since the games had never made it over.
5 CODE GEASS
Probably one of the two most popular series on this list, Code Geass had everything it needed to be a smash hit: sleek mecha designs, beautiful animation from Sunrise, character designs from CLAMP, and a charismatic protagonist. Lelouch Lamperouge is a teenage boy seeking revenge on his family for their inaction in solving the mystery behind the murder of his mother, lover of the Emperor of Britannia, the nation ruling the world. When the story begins, Lelouch is an exile, but afterward gains the power of Geass, an ability capable of controlling the mind of anyone he makes eye contact with, and begins to take actions that will change the entire world forever.
4 TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN
“Believe in the Me that Believes in You!” An absurd catchphrase which was meme’d into oblivion during the late 2000’s by the anime community, Gurren Lagann was a hit in the West pretty much from day one.
Studio GAINAX leaned into the idea of having a secondary lead character that was as over the top as possible, and it carried the series until fans were all in on Simon, a simple teenage kid who only wanted to visit the surface of his planet after spending his entire life inside of a tiny subterranean village, only to wind up saving the entire galaxy.
3 FAFNER IN THE AZURE
Fafner has about as classic a plot as a mecha series can have. It starts out on a peaceful island known as Tatsumiyajima, until an alien race known as the Festum disturb their idyllic lifestyle. After failed efforts to defend their home, the adults of the island are forced to send Kazuki, a young teen, out in their best weapon, a robot known as the Fafner Mark Elf. One of the more popular series from the 2000s, the Fafner series got to continue well into the 2000s, gradually building the mythology of the universe and the mysterious alien race hunting humanity.
2 MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM 00
What will it take to put an end to all conflict between humanity? Gundam 00 tries its best to tackle this question, although the beginning of the show makes it seem like the answer is: beating up anyone who wants to fight, which feels a bit hypocritical. Nonetheless, Sunrise really hit on something special with this series, managing to make up for any faults fans found in SEED with a more flawed yet likable cast, and some of the best mecha designs in all of anime. The first two seasons are some of the most solid mecha storytelling of the 2000s.
1 MACROSS FRONTIER
Shoji Kawamori’s third Macross television series isn’t just one of the best mecha series of the 2000s, it’s one of the best anime series of the 2000s. The series follows Alto Saotome, a former Kabuki actor turned pilot, eager to do more than just fly the false skies of the Macross Frontier ship. He gets his wish when the Frontier finds itself under attack by the Vajra, a group of biomechanical insects. Frontier manages to nail everything from character design and animation to its delightful music, sung by the lead idols of the series, the adorable Ranka Lee and the captivating Galactic Fairy, Sheryl Norme.