Mazinkaiser SKL-- pronounced 'skull'-- just where does one begin? Perhaps at the raging metal intro, the amazing design on the hallmark mech, the gritty atmosphere, the fast-paced blend of action and storytelling... honestly, Mazinkaiser SKL is hard to complain about. It's three episodes, it's got a metal intro, and the two main characters are off-their-rockers psycho. You know exactly what you're signing up for here: badass mecha-smashing action with a post-apocalyptic setting only the turn of the millenium could cook up with such flashy grandeur. It wants itself taken only sort-of-seriously; you're supposed to respect the desperation of the entire thing, get involved in that 'no-holds-barred' kind of mood. Everything's just all to the walls. Characters swear profusely, things don't really make sense or adhere to the laws of physics, gravity or nature, and that's really just fine. The harder you look for these things, the less you'll be satisfied.
Why don't I go into just a little more detail?
I'll start off with the weakest link first; arguably, it's the most irrelevant, too. There's a giant gravity storm, whose cause threatens to destroy the entire world if it's not stopped. Sent in are the squads of Death Caprice, and Crimson Falcon. In some pre-amble as the soldiers fly to this tremendous gravity anomaly, we get to learn a bit about our main characters: Kaidou and Magami of the Death Caprice squad are called by all flavours of 'grim reaper,' bringing death-- to friend and foe alike-- wherever they go on the battlefield. Cue a lot of robots fighting as they breach the storm, and bullets pepper their ship, killing all but one Yuuki, whose responsibility is now to relay the mission to Kaidou and Magami. Shortly after that, we learn they pilot the 'Kaiser,' our hallmark mech of Mazinkaiser SKL. Two factions, those following Lord Galan and those following Kiba, fight for control of the island while a third neutral faction, led by Aira at the Octagon, defend their lives. All three factions control a generator that can be used to create robots, forcing the gravity prison at the center of the island into overdrive, which gives the heroes roughly fifty hours to solve things, get the hell outta dodge, and walk home lauded as champions. If only it were so easy; neither Galan nor Kiba care a whit about the entire world blowing up. They just fight because, well, they have giant robots and so does the other side. Why not fight? Just so happens Kaidou and Magami, with their vastly-superior Mazinkaiser, are all too happy to oblige. Good thing for Yuuki, wiping out the warrior factions just happens to line up with her goals. And so the three form a shaky alliance in this hectic world-away-from-earth within the gravity storm.
And honestly, there's nothing inherently wrong with this plot, if it's a bit vague and overtly 'scientific' considering the content behind it. It's just that you can really tell it takes the second seat to literally everything else in the anime. I don't really feel that detracts from the overall experience; that being said, it's pretty obvious that with three episodes, we're not exactly going to be treated to the next Shakespeare tale. With that in mind, you've got to take the story with a grain of salt. It's there, it keeps things in place, and it's worth a 7/10, if for nothing else than that. Other animes have tried harder with more and failed, so it's sort of surprising to see that they manage some semblance of relevant storytelling.
There's nothing to say here beyond the fact that it's beautiful. Mazinkaiser, and even the lowly grunt mechs, move smooth and fluid, almost human-like. While that says a lot of disbelief is going suspended, it does mean that this is a total treat for the eyes; everything is just totally loaded with top-tier action, characters are well-animated and fit well with the theme overall, and surprisingly enough, there's little, if any fanservice present in here, so the budget's all gone toward making the feature presentation as appealing as possible.
Needless to say, it shows. I feel I'd be lying to myself to give it any less than 10/10 for this. All that fluid animation, and there's very little CG, and what's there doesn't stick out like an awful thumb.
I don't know what to say here, either. It's just all so good; the soundtrack fits the theme perfectly, and is a strange combination of mildly haunting and extremely hardcore with its metal style. It fits, 100%, and just makes the experience so much more worthwhile. Voice actors are all great, and the mains-- Kaidou and Magami specifically-- are just beyond well done. Fun fact-- Kaidou's voice actor does roles in Bokurano and Acchi Kocchi. It's kind of disturbing, in a way, but he definitely knows how to fit his roles...
And the opening. Oh god, the opening. Just go listen to it and you'll know what I mean.
The soundtrack's list is short, but covers its bases and gets all it needs to get done effectively. Again, simple 10/10 here.
Now this is the section that causes me the most controversy. It treads a very fine balance-- one I imagine has fallen under criticism from more analytical folk. See, it doesn't really cover any of the characterization. You just meet these characters and besides alluding to Kaidou and Magami being totally bonkers, you just roll with them and learn about them through the interaction you see. Oddly enough, it's almost perfectly enough; they don't feel the need to add any reason to some characters' properties, but there doesn't seem to be any feeling that lacking a reason is subtracting from the show's value, probably because the plot doesn't hinge on these reasons. Unlike a show like, say, Code Geass, where such plot elements as the Geass need explaining to lend credence to the show's progression, there are things like telepathy and other strange phenomena within Mazinkaiser SKL's universe that do contribute to the plot, but don't necessarily need to be made clear to make the plot relevant. It's a very mystifying experience; where something like this is irritating in Dancouga Nova, because it feels like wasted potential, its mysterious absence here not only doesn't bother, but somehow feels fitting.
And then we reach Magami. Of the two main pilots, Kaidou is a hot-headed, brash, vulgar and extremely violent person who handles the melee-fighting aspects; with its quaint ability to switch the main pilot and thereby the primary functions, Kaidou can switch off for Magami, who is the cool-headed, always-collected ice man of the two (though no less violent for it all). You don't really need a past on these two; they just fight. Their own line, in fact, says as much, and they give many such lines all throughout, not hesitating to remind watchers that they do indeed kick ass because kicking ass is just what they do.
But in one of the more critical fights, a character makes reference to Magami's shadowy past; involving some German, something about controlling fate and possible allusion to him being some sort of clone, it's given the briefest of coverage following it leading to them getting completely and utterly rocked in that fight. This is sort of weird, because all of a sudden, the characterization is extremely relevant. Magami's past is now directly tied to the plot progression, and heavily so as the protagonists (if you can call them that) are rendered inoperable because of Magami's reaction to his past. But even still, the coverage isn't given; we get a glimpse, and it's very brief, and then business as usual, basically. It's sort of confusing, like a mixed message they're giving off. Thankfully, it ceases to be an issue, more or less, and the anime proceeds to dole out more helpings of awesome mecha, insane characters, incredible fights and lots of swearing. Did I mention this show has that? There are some really creative lines in here.
Overall, 8/10 adequately describes the sheer confusion that occurs at the one point from Magami, whilst the rest of the show is otherwise sufficient. I can't really complain; it's not trying to be anything it isn't for more than a few minutes at worst, so it's not like I'm going to ride it for more than those few minutes.
I really can't sing enough praises for Mazinkaiser SKL. I mean, it's 3 episodes; what have you honestly got to lose? As long as the average shorter movie at roughly an hour and 15 minutes' total run-time. It's full of awesome fights and mecha action, some amusing characters, and some mild suspense (sort of). It's got laughs at some points but mostly it is what it is; shameless, unabashed action. And it's kind of nice-- it takes the 'monster of the week' formula of yesteryear and turns it into something contemporary and digestible, because seriously, 98 episodes of Mazinger Z is a bit much. 3 episodes of Mazinkaiser SKL, on the other hand, arrives, brings its dessert offering and leaves before overstaying its welcome, leaving a fond memory. We had a question or two we wanted to ask, but honestly, they weren't that important anyway.
Did I mention that it's also really hardcore? 9/10 is what I feel it deserves. Shy steps short of what would make it perfect. If you watch it, I'll quote one of the characters from the anime--
Brace your sphincters for action.