Ria is an avid anime and sci-fi fan who loves gushing about her latest favorite shows.
There are some great mecha shows out there, but there’s a season why so many anime fans steer away from the genre. Some mecha shows have a terrible premise and were never expected to be great, while others manage to have a high budget and great idea but still fail to impress. Some of the biggest letdowns are even based on excellent manga and light novels! Here are the worst disappointments from the past 15 or so years.
The quality of the Macross franchise has always been a little hit-or-miss, as the producers sometimes seem to get caught up in the musical aspects of the show and fail to create a compelling plot. Macross Delta is the worst offender yet. Fans joke that the series was only created to sell CDs, and they’re probably not wrong.
Nearly every single character on the show is one-dimensional and changes little throughout the series’ 24 episodes. While main character Freyja has a few poignant and relatable moments, they’re drowned out by the rest of the action. Kaname and Claire’s brief moments of development are also too weak to accomplish much. Mikumo could’ve been an interesting character like Marcoss Frontier’s Sheryl Nome, but instead, she’s too distant for viewers to relate to.
Kurogane no Linebarrel
To be fair, some fans suspected Linebarrel would be bad because it was being adapted by Studio Gonzo. Others held out hope because the source manga is pretty good.
In the end, the cynics were right. Linebarrel’s anime is a hot mess of flat characters and poor execution. (To be fair, the main characters weren’t that robust in the manga either, but the anime managed to make them worse.) Side characters and enemies that were compelling in the manga simply weren’t given a chance to shine, especially thanks to the plot and pacing changes the anime made. Instead, the manga’s less-important aspects, like the fanservice and cliché boy-meets-girl tropes, took center stage. It didn’t help that Gonzo’s animation didn’t do the manga justice.
Gundam has always been known for angst, but usually, that angst is somewhat nuanced and thought-provoking. That wasn’t the case with Gundam Seed. While some of the characters and their development progressed just fine, most of the show was overshadowed by annoying characters, mecha clichés, and general melodrama.
The sequel series, Gundam Seed Destiny, was decent. You can theoretically watch Destiny without watching the original, but in order to fully appreciate what Destiny does, you have to slog through the original 50 episodes. It’s probably not worth it unless you make a drinking game out of it.
Full Metal Panic! IV: Invisible Victory
Sousuke Sagara was a mediocre hero before FMP:IV, but the supporting cast always made the show worthwhile. For the first few episodes of the show, those supporting characters continued to be stellar, and Sousuke even had a few great moments.
Then the show yanked the rug out from under viewers – and while that was well-executed, everything after it wasn’t. Viewers end up watching Sousuke navigate a nightmare scenario that’s compelling, but devoid of all the charm that makes the show so great. It doesn’t help that Kaname is MIA for most of the season, and that one of the promising new characters gets killed off pretty quickly.
On top of all that, the show’s airing was marred by delays and production problems, including low quality animation after the first few episodes. Maybe fans of the franchise should just stick to the light novels, at this point.
Like Aquarion, RahXephon had respected showrunners at the helm, a cool concept, and a compelling first episode. The sleek art style led viewers to expect a more mature and subtle series than some other mecha shows. It certainly did some things well, and kept most viewers' attention from start to finish.
Unfortunately, RahXephon was a little too subtle in some ways. It was slow, navel-gazing, and a little too mystical and mysterious for its own good. It didn’t help that the show ended up being way too much like Neon Genesis Evangelion. Some of the characters were nearly copies of Shinji, Rei, Misato and Asuka, leading to predictable character dynamics for most mecha fans. There were a few truly poignant and well-written moments between the four main characters in RahXephon, but for a 26-episode show, they were few and far between. Also, the family ties got really, really weird and uncomfortable.
In short, RahXephon wasn’t a bad show. It just failed to stand on its own in any positive way, making it a waste of potential in the end.
Sousei no Aquarion
It’s possible that most fans had low expectations for Aquarion, but it deserves to be on this list thanks to just how bad it was. It had a decent budget and star power behind it, including Shoji Kawamori as director and Yoko Kanno as composer. Its first episode was solid, and the animation direction made it clear that the show had potential.
Within the first ten episodes, though, most viewers had given up. The main characters managed to be both flat and completely unlikable, and the side characters never got enough development to matter. The show never managed to rise above its mishmash of fantasy and mecha tropes, many of which were probably only written into the series to show off its flashy animation. (Oh, and let’s not even get into the naked moaning bodies.)
Ironically, the show’s first sequel, Aquarion EVOL, was noticeably better than original. (It helped that they got rid of every character from the original and is more of a spin-off than a true sequel.) Sadly, the second sequel, Aquarion Logos, was even worse than the original.
Darling in the Franxx
There’s a reason why Franxx is all the way at the end of this list! Many fans were pleasantly surprised by how good Franxx was. Its premise was a setup for fanservice, and its main character was weak and uninteresting at the beginning. By midway through the show, the main and supporting characters had started to win over viewers outside of the usual mecha fanbase, especially with Studio Trigger's animation making the show so fun to watch. As the show hurtled toward its conclusion, the character drama transcended typical tropes and proved to be incredibly engrossing.
Unfortunately, the ending was weak and cliched, and the pacing of the final three episodes just didn’t work. The main conflict with the highest stakes wraps up long before the end of the last episode, and while the writers clearly intended to give the show a sense of epicness, the final battle was so full of clichés that the enormity of it was lost.
Don’t get it twisted: Franxx is still a good show that deserves to be watched. However, the ending was enough of a letdown to earn it a spot on the “biggest disappointments” list.