One of my favorite things in sci-fi is robots. I especially love giant robots. There’s even a whole genre of anime dedicated to giant robots. I’ve watched a lot of Gundam in my time. Giant robots aren’t completely unheard of in western media though. We have movies like the Iron Giant and Pacific Rim. We’ve also been inundated with season after season of Power Rangers.
Back in the 80s and early 90s media with giant robots was always a means to sell toys. This is where you get things like Transformers and Power Rangers. Nothing is stopping you from enjoying those shows for any reason. We just have to accept that the companies behind them made them to sell toys. They would even go so far as to kill off characters in the show to replace them with new ones so that they could sell more toys.
Over the years a lot more effort has gone into using giant robots to tell good stories and not just push merchandise. It also helps that in the US there are regulations against using children’s media for the sole purpose of selling toys. Obviously, companies are still going to sell merchandise, but they are getting better at telling stories to engage the audience. For example there are various renditions of Gundam that discuss the horrors of war, to greater or less success. The best example of a giant robot as a metaphor is the Iron Giant. It has a very obvious anti-gun and anti-war message and conveys that message very well.
I think the Iron Giant works and appeals to so many people because it gets a lot of things right. Sure, some people are going to love it just because of the message it conveys, but there’s more to it than that. I think robots are inherently fascinating to a lot of people, especially children. In the Iron Giant we get to watch a robot and a little boy learn about each other and be fascinated by their differences. It’s fun to watch and emotionally invests you in the characters. When the heavy emotional beats of the story happen they hit you hard because you’ve gotten so invested in the characters and their story.
It’s a very different experience than watching the original Transformers or Voltron cartoons. I mean, they’re all fun in their ways. There’s nothing wrong with watching an old 80’s cartoon and getting a kick out of the silly dialogue. It’s just really fascinating to see how differently giant robots have been used in stories over the years. I definitely recommend the Iron Giant, but if you’re looking for something a little more modern I suggest Gen: Lock by Rooster Teeth.