This post went through a few versions. When I first decided to put it together, I said to myself that I would stick to androids or at least droids of some form and eliminate mechas from my list because there would be just way too many options otherwise.
Then, I realized there were tons of options anyways. Anime is a really robot intensive genre! Finally, I thought back to just how many robots featured in the anime I watched as a little kid so I narrowed things further by focusing on old school anime. Your definition of old school may vary…
These are 5 anime robots from the days before androids were a reality when we thought the most convenient form for smartphones to have is roughly human-shaped! My Top 5 Most Memorable Old school Anime Tobi’s.
5) Nono (Ulysses 31)
I won’t lie, I don’t remember much about Ulysses 31. Back when I was really tiny and living in France, friends of my parents had a kid who had recorded them all when they played on tv. On VHS! And I watched those tapes religiously.
I had no idea what an anime was and probably most of what I was watching went completely over my head, but I still remember that little red robot that shared in Ulysses’ adventures. He was so cute and funny. I really wanted one.
To me, this design still embodies the classic robot aesthetic. Small, very angular and painted a bright highly visible colour. No mistaking this little guy for a real human. And that’s great!
4) Tima – Metropolis
I saw metropolis after my introduction to anime proper because it had been presented to me as a great classic of the medium. Being a sci fi lover, I had also seen the Fritz Lang movie and wanted to find out if the two had anything in common. Turns out, they have a LOT in common.
Metropolis definitely has a vintage feel to it. It’s a 2001 Anime after all. To be fair that’s way more recent than I thought. But it’s quite beautiful. The fact that people still talk about an almost 20-year-old movie, speaks for its long-lasting impact on Anime in general. And at the center of it all is little Tima.
The traditional example of the “innocent” and pure robot, removed from the sins of humans an unaware of her own nature. Her image is iconic and she truly is one of the most classic archetypes on this list.
3) Tokiko Mima – Key the metal idol
Another anime I saw before I could properly grasp what was going on is Key. A very loose sci fi anime retelling of Pinocchio. I spent most of this series confused and vaguely mystified (I feel like that should just be my default description), but some part of me really related to Key and her plight.
Hum…yeah…I found a short robot with a tough time making friends relatable for some reason. Who would have seen that one coming! Key is a sweet girl and one of the first Anime iterations of the robot that wants to be a real child that I have seen.
Of course, the ultimate reveals of this story is where the fun really lies. You have to see this one for yourselves.
2) Astro Boy
I never actually watched Astro Boy as an entire series. I’ve seen episodes here and there, that’s about it. Yet as far as I can remember I always knew who Astro was and could recognize him. And I’m pretty sure this is still true for a lot of anime fans.
Beyond his own series, Astro has become a veritable anime icon. A poster boy for both animated robots in particular and Japanese animation in general. It was impossible to leave him out of this list even if I can’t actually tell you much about the character at all.
And there is no denying that Astro has had a far-reaching influence on everything that has come since. Heck, even the Powerpuff girls look like him in flight!
1) Alita – Gunm
Gunm was my favourite manga as a kid and that was in no small part due to the lovely mix of badass strength, resourcefulness and touching vulnerability that is Alita. A deeply sensitive little robot in a harsh and violent world. It almost didn’t matter that Alita was synthetic, it certainly didn’t make her any less human… That robot strength and resilience certainly came in handy though, and it allowed the little girl to realistically protect everyone from the front lines. Boy was I impressed at the time.
I eventually watched the anime but I didn’t like it as much and for now, I’m avoiding the scary looking live action movie. To me. The original manga Alita remains the one true Alita. And Alita remains my favourite anime, robot girl. We grew up together.
Another 1) Chii – Chobits
And my other favourite Anime robot girl is Chii.
Chobits is actually one of the earliest anime I remember watching while being fully conscious of what anime was. I knew it was Japanese, sometimes a little weird and I wanted to know more about it. Although I don’t often talk about Chobits, I remember the series fondly. What I remember most though was how impressed I was with just how pretty and generally adorable Chii was. I wanted to be just like her! Yeah… I don’t know what happened either…
Chii is basically all the allure of a beautiful girl with all the fun of a smartphone brought together. I don’t want to say the perfect woman cause that would be sort of sexist but you know…..
I might not want to be Chii anymore but I still want to be her friend. And have her wardrobe.
Hmmm, my robot list turned out to be rather skewed towards cute girls. What do you think that says about me? That I have great tastes?
Here’s a little random fact for those of you that bothered to read all the way down here. Shinto religion has fairly vague delimitations between animate and inanimate Kami (gods) can be animals, spirits, humans or even objects, such as robots. Traditionally, robots in anime and manga are viewed much more positively than in other media because of this. Good to know, huh?
Do you have a favourite old school robot? Something from before plastic memories maybe? Let me know!