I just finished the second season of Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, a mecha show were the primary three pilots were all female. While Lagrange was not the best mecha show I have ever seen it was very enjoyable and did make me start thinking about female mecha pilots in general. The trio of female Aestivalis pilots in Martian Successor Nadesico have also started the gears turning in my head. So in turn instead of doing a lengthy rumination on the place of female pilots in mecha, which my thoughts are not entirely clear on, I thought I would do a simple top 5 list for now. Perhaps when my overall feelings on the subject are more settled I will do something with Narutaki on the more intricate topic.
As always for these lists I made a few rules for myself. Just as a note I went out of my way to only pick one character from any one series. While Gundam has quiet a few great female pilots it also has an equal amount of horrible ones. But I did not want Gundam to dominate the list so I narrowed it down to a single pick. Also I have not seen every mecha show ever made so don’t hate me because say Jun Hono or your favorite girl from Aquarion Evol is not on the list. And last but not least these are my favorite pilots not the best female mecha pilots of all time. You can argue who is a better pilot or character until your blue in the face. This is not a definitive ranking but a purely subjective list.
Nao is just the heart and soul of not only Division 2 but of the Patlabor series in general. There is just something infectious about her love of mecha. If your watching Patlabor you have to be at least some level of mecha otaku so she is immediately relatable. She is a fun character with a positive attitude and a boisterous charm that is easy to like. While she is just as crazy as everyone else in Division 2 she is just impossible to hate.
While I have been a long time fan of the Sakura Taisen games I have an odd attachment to the New York Combat Revue. Oddly enough Sakura Wars 5 was the only game in the series to officially be brought out in English so I oddly got my wish to be able to enjoy their game. Gemini is another fun and energetic robot pilot that embodies an optimistic and vibrant spirit. She is also and odd mixture of various odd little flourishes I like in a character that you would not normally see combined. There are not many red-headed gun wielding samurai cowgirl mecha pilots so you have to support the ones you find.
Excellen is definitely a bit of a ditz but you still have to love her. She definitely continues my trend of liking upbeat female mecha pilots. Also I think her tendency to make silly puns and odd references that only she gets makes her a very kindred spirit. She had me at making Sekiha Love Love Tenkyoken references. Also her relationship with Kyosuke is quite goofy but also rather cute. Plus who would not want a sniping mecha? I am sure these people exist but we don’t invite them parties.
I have to take a break from all the hot-blooded pilots and pick someone a bit more unexpected for the list. Fuu is my second favorite CLAMP character. (Behind Tomoyo … well because she is Tomoyo. To be fair if Tomoyo piloted a giant robot it would frankly be unfair to everyone else on the list.) She has a gentle strength and a clam demeanor that really helped bring together Hikaru and Umi when they are transported to Cephiro. She is probably the most mature and clear thinking of the trio as well. Plus she has a very odd sense of humor which is always endearing to me.
And last but certainly not least is Roux Louka from Gundam ZZ. Heck she one of the few things that got me through Double Zeta. There were a lot of good choices to pick from with the Gundam series but I went with an underdog pick. While the Shangri-La gang is a bunch of undisciplined scrappers Roux is the professional pilot who brings a bit of discipline to the bunch. And surprisingly enough that means she as a capable female pilot in a Tomino show. She is probably one of the most on the ball pilots in the Universal Century who is not insane, evil, or randomly killed by shrapnel. Since she is a somewhat unpopular character I figure I would throw her some love.
As a side note I will say I will a little surprised I did not have anyone from Macross on the list. But in the end the best Macross women tend to be in roles outside of piloting.