Decades of sci-fi robot anime has given us a good idea of how to become the pilot of a high-tech giant robot, commonly known as mecha. Admittedly, not everyone who wants to become a pilot will, but there are some things that you can do to increase your chances.
1. Start Early
Almost all good mecha pilots are teenagers so if you want to become one, you must make a decision to be a pilot early on and stick with it. Age 20+ is when your chances of becoming more than cannon fodder drop exponentially if you aren’t already a pilot. It’s still possible for older people to pilot a cool mecha, but you will more than likely be a side character if you do. If you’re 40+ then you should forget it, the most you’ll ever be is a cocky squadron leader that says something along the lines of, “damn kids,” before getting blown to bits by said kids.
2. Establish your Social Status
It’s sad to say, but almost all main character mecha pilots are male. If you are male, then getting into a kick-ass weapon of mass destruction is pretty straightforward; enroll in a high school (preferably in space or close to a military installation) and try to fit in. Having an interest in or knowledge of technology may provide a slight advantage though a slight one. An alternative to enrolling in high school is to join some military force at a young age, but the side-effect is that you will be cold-hearted until a pretty girl softens you up.
Female pilots that are also main characters are few and far between, but they do exist, it just takes a lot more effort than for males. In order to become a main character mecha pilot, enrolling in a high school is also your best bet. The difference is that you can’t be that average girl, you have to either be at the top of the class in everything or be a rival to the person who is at the top of the class in everything. It’s still possible to be a ditz and end up piloting a mecha, but then a male character will usually steal the spotlight. Female pilot-wannabes also have the option of becoming a “princess” character. This could mean being a real princess or have a princess-like role such as being the daughter of the president. Having such a position usually means that state of the art mechas are at your disposal but you’ll end up in the damsel-in-distress role sooner or later.
If this all seems like too much work, one surefire way to get the pilot role is to have your father or mentor build/design a mecha. Of course, that leads into the next item you will need.
3. Tragic Background
Every hot-shot pilot needs a tragic background. If you took the surefire method mentioned above, that father/mentor will likely die before the end of your show. If not, you will need to lose your family and/or close friend(s). There are two ways to do this: ongoing conflict or a surprise attack. The ongoing conflict usually involves two superpowers at war, you simply need to suffer some loss due to collateral damage during a battle. For the surprise attack version, you need to see your loved ones killed due to a surprise attack on your home be invading forces.
4. Right Place at the Right Time
This typically only applies to people who have chosen to lose loved ones in a surprise attack, but can also apply to other situations. Unless you were trained to pilot a mecha from an early age (see item 2), you won’t get to pilot a mecha until the right circumstances happen. Generally, when a battle breaks out, run around like a headless chicken until a mecha just so happens to show up with an unlocked cockpit and no pilot. Simply jump in and take a few seconds (literally) to figure out all of the controls and start kicking butt. Keep in mind that “tragic background” must be present before or soon after getting in the cockpit or else you’ll get shot and die or blown to bits and someone else will take the spotlight.
There you have it, four easy steps to increase your chances of becoming a cool mecha pilot and main character of an anime. Note that this doesn’t guarantee you’ll achieve your goal, but it’ll set the conditions for it to happen. Also note that there are always exceptions and you don’t have to follow the steps above to become a mecha pilot, though it would help. If you’re already a mecha pilot, feel free to chime in with how you became one in the comments.
This post is part of the Guide to Anime project. For more guides on various topics related to anime, check out the project page.