Recently watched the anime Aldnoah.Zero (yeah, that's a pretty quirky affectation of punctuation in the title), and while it's by no means perfect, it's the best mecha anime I've watched in a while, at least since Gundam Build Fighters* and possibly since Gargantia. (Here's the Gundam tag if you're curious about Build Fighters; I'm unlikely to blog about other Gundam stuff for the near future.)
Perhaps the best thing about the series as a whole is that it reverses the general mecha/super robot series trend of "hero->strong mecha, bad pilot/villain->weak mecha, good pilot" full stop. The first few episodes feature relatively realistic mecha going up against a machine protected by a barrier that instantly wipes anything that touches it-including light and basically every form of matter-into complete nonexistence. That goes just as badly for the realistic machines as it sounds, especially because of their predilection for trying to stab the enemy for some odd reason. The protagonist stops it by figuring out that there must be a hole somewhere for the sake of seeing out.
And that's only the start of his level-headed and methodical attacks.
The battles are often ridiculous in their own way, but have a veneer of plausibility to them despite the enemy mecha laughing at ordinary physics and regularly ripping said physics new orifices, and better yet, real physics phenomena are often name-dropped in ways that actually make sense, such as the steam explosion being a consequence of the super-high-temperature "plasma swords" that the enemy mecha used in the above scene**. (There's even an episode where the protagonist brings up the fact that using insulation to stop electricity-derived attacks is silly because air is itself already one of the best insulators.)
For the sake of contrast, a few screenshots frome Linebarrels of Iron, a frickin' awful mecha anime I tried watching recently***:
What do these demonstrate relative to the above video? Absolutely nothing, but they've been sitting on my hard drive for months and I've been meaning to do something with them. Really, I just thought of Linebarrels because I was trying to think of the best mecha anime I've watched recently, and for some reason thought of the worst instead.
Incidentally, another thing: I saw some reviewer call Aldnoah.Zero "Gundam minus what I like about Gundam." I watched Aldnoah.Zero and thought "Gundam minus a lot of what I don't like about Gundam."
Wow, I'm rambling. I should probably just hit Publish and get off for the night.
*I know I watched those back in the spring of this very year and so it doesn't sound like much of a compliment, but I've been watching a lot of mecha anime lately. Both Aldnoah.Zero and Gundam Build Fighters excel in some of the same areas, incidentally-really great mecha battles and absolutely fantastic soundtracks. Of course, they're incredibly different styles of series beyond that...
**For the sake of contrast, the anime Betterman screwed up bad when it tried the same thing.
***Note that I've seen plenty of people say the manga is lots better, but I've no familiarity with the manga at all.