Monday 10 May 2010

Anime REVIEW: Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Hen

Mazinger Z
is a piece of anime history. First airing in 1972, it was a pioneer in super robot and mecha series – the first ever to use mechas being piloted by humans. The series saw hero Koji Kabuto pilot the Mazinger Z robot battle the evil Dr Hell and his mechanical beast army. 2009 saw a reimagining of this landmark anime - Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Hen (or “True Mazinger Impact! Z Chapter”), that also incorporated many other of creator Go Nagai’s works – such as the manga spinoff Z Mazinger, Violent Jack and Mao Dante, among others.

In the near future, a mineral known as "Japanium" is discovered under Mt. Fuji. This ore is discovered to produce a powerful energy source known as "Photon Energy". Dr. Juzo Kabuto and his associates have begun researching Photon Energy, planning to use it as a solution to the energy crisis plaguing the earth, when the nefarious Dr. Hell and his associate, Baron Ashura attack his lab. Along with this, the mysterious "Kurogane House" also has begun to become entwined with the affairs of these two parties. During all of this, Juzo's grandchildren, Kouji and Shiro, encounter one of Baron Ashura's robots on its way to attack Dr. Kabuto's mansion, where he has begun work on his greatest invention. Dr. Kabuto, seeing the danger at hand, sends out the Pilder to Kouji, allowing him to combine with the giant robot, Mazinger Z, to fight against Dr. Hell's forces.

Much as was the case with Macross Frontier, the anime is entirely possible to enjoy on its own merits without having seen the original Mazinger or any other of the shows referenced - unlike Frontier this is not a continuation of the franchise, but a reboot per se. I hadn't seen anything Mazinger or Go Nagai related prior to this and my enjoyment of the series certainly wasn't hindered. However the series certainly keeps the charm of super robot animes of old – particularly in the realms of character design, for both the humans and robots. The robots themselves, while you may initially perceive them as cartoony, really help keep the retro feel of Mazinger and set it apart from the (in this man’s opinion) hoard of similar looking mecha designs of today.

What IS different about Shin Mazinger though is the tone. Gone is the campiness of the 70s, replaced with a plot dedicated to not only glorious robot battling action, but also a storyline that draws heavily on continuity and character development. Of particular note is Dr Hell’s subordinate Baron Ashura, a half man, half woman combination resurrected from the remains of an ancient race. His (her? Its?) progression really helps drive the series, right up to its final episode – which has one of the biggest and best cliffhanger endings I have ever seen. Some episodes (particularly episodes 13 to 15) are REALLY dark.

My only word of warning is this – make sure the first episode doesn’t put you off. Shin Mazinger really throws its audience in at the deep end, beginning with the final battle between the Mazinger Corps and Dr Hell’s armies. It’s a completely confusing affair, and possibly the only thing newcomers to Mazinger will get out of it is probably “ooh shiny robots and epic fight sequences!” However the second episode starts neatly with an origin story and it’s all uphill from there.

With original robot designs, a cast of both interesting and humorous characters, epic fight sequences, Greek gods, ancient civilisations, a robot THAT CAN TURN INTO A FIST, over the top shouting of attack names, an ending that guarantees to leave you wanting more and opening themes by JAM Project (responsible for 90% of the world’s most epic anime music) this really is a series that will not disappoint any mecha fan. Gurren Lagann may have set the bar for epic manly robot anime, but if anything is a worthy contender, its Mazinger Z.



Anonymous said...

I believe that Getter Robo surpasses both in manliness.

Alex said...

Haven't seen Getter Robo so I can't really comment. Will check it out though.

Anonymous said...

Getter Robo is by the creator of Mazinger (Go Nagai) and Ken Ishikawa.

Actually, the latest ovas and the mangas are perhaps the manliest mecha series ever.

What not a lot of people know is that Gurren Lagann is for the most part a tribute to Getter Robo. The director, Imaishi is a fan of it, and a lot of stuff were taken from Getter Robo, especially the mangas. For example, the robots getting bigger and bigger, spiral energy = getter rays (both evolution)