Mazinger Z

TV (92 eps)
1972 - 1974
3.451 out of 5 from 917 votes
Rank #7,077

On a solitary island in the middle of a vast unknown ocean, Dr. Hell, a deranged genius, plans the final stage of his plan for world domination: the activation of his Mecha Beast Army. The only man aware of Dr. Hell's plan is Dr. Kabuto, a pioneer in new energy sources. In a desperate attempt to stop Dr. Hell before his death, Kabuto uses his research and resources to construct a weapon powerful enough to match that of the Mecha Beast Army, which he entrusts to his grandson, Kouji Kabuto. That weapon is the Super Robot Mazinger Z!

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Mazinger is the brainchild of Go Nagai, a guy almost as famous as Osamu Tezuka himself. If I get to compare them I say that Tezuka is like Ahura Mazda, a God of light, goodness and high values, offering hope for the future to its followers. Go Nagai on the other hand is Ahriman, his dark shadow, a God of death and destruction taking pleasure in annihilation and misery. And it is quite true if you check out all his works; the guy just loves making sadistic stories full of erotism, death and mayhem. Tezuka may have been bold in his themes as well but he NEVER found pleasure in blood-boiling action, huge explosions and constant apocalyptic scenarios. And yet it is true that as time went by more and more people preferred Go Nagai’s formula of crazy characters and scenarios of mass destruction while Tezuka’s stories remained for a more young or sophisticated audience. Now at this point I do not want to take any sides in this matter as they both offered a heck of a lot to the industry. I just have to say that Tezuka is world-wide known for his work and innocent characters thrown in a problematic world, while Nagai is… um… let’s say rather invisible as nobody would like to openly admit taking a liking to his work. Most prefer to remember his legacy and not himself, which is the introduction of crazy characters, hyperactive teenagers and huge robots, huge explosions and naked oversexualized women. All these may sound commonplace today but just like Tezuka paved the way for anime, Nagai added the white lines of their most famous dark elements. So, as I now begin to talk about Mazinger Z, let me make clear why this is important enough to make this review about. It is the first blood-boiling, piloted super robots series ever made. And if you think this is peanuts, if you look deeper it ain’t. Nagai himself admitted that he wanted to make his own anime based on his child favorite shows, which were Tetsuwan Atom and Tetsujin 28. That’s right, the very same mecha titles I reviewed before. Mazinger Z is his version of how a good robot show should be about and … well, he went quite liberal with it and ended up creating something familiar but highly personal at the same time. You see, the first thing he did was to replace the lead character from a child to a hyperactive teenager, so he would be allowed to show a larger variety of emotions. Both Atom and Shotaro from the other shows were little kids and it would be quite hard to show anger, hatred and conflict serious enough with characters who are that young. But the first generation of anime fans who grew as kids with those two, now were teenagers who in order to be kept interested wanted something equally close to their age and this show was the perfect chance. That’s right; Nagai snatched the audience from Tezuka because it grew up and went rather bored with his lack of action and little kids. They wanted something more exciting and, well, not that sophisticated all the time; teenagers after all just want to have fun. So here comes Mazinger Z with its weapons of mass destruction to defend the Earth by an army of evil robots controlled by mad megalomaniacs. And it’s not like it was that different; just like the other two mecha shows, it was also heavy on ideals like teamwork and training hard to grow better and more prepared to defend your loved ones. Yes, it sounds so damn overused today, both in mecha and shounen, but back then it was brand new in concept and the audience was starving for some action and naked ladies. So what else did he change besides the obvious? Well he also had the pilot be inside the robot and not controlling it from outside like Shotaro. This way the animators were free to focus on action without having to keep showing what the controller orders the robot. Of course the on lookers never left, they were still there to comment even the most obvious thing and even chat about it over the radio. But anyway, it looked much cooler this way, with the pilot storming with his jet inside the robot and then blasting off to kick some robot ass. Nagai was also smart enough to have him use the jet as it would take a heck of a lot of time to climb a ladder or use an elevator, elements other mecha used in not so cool ways. I mean, HE JETS INSIDE THE HEAD; THIS IS SUPER COOL! Another thing is the shape of Mazinger Z which is basically a more bad-ass variation of Tetsujin and using all the superpowers Atom had in a far more lethal way. While Atom was usually trying to incapacitate its enemies, Mazinger Z just wants to BLOW THEM TO PIECES! It looks very imposing with that demonic head of its. Even the wings it has in order to fly make it look like a demon from hell out to take down to Hades everything that stands in its way. Heck, the name Mazinger pretty much means BIG ROBOTIC DEMON… with a Z at the end to make it look even more bad-ass. And yes, it looks pretty simplistic today and most only care about Gundams and Evas but back then there were many restrictions to budget and animation and it worked just fine at what it was all about. HUGE ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER!!! The same year as Mazinger, Nagai made Devilman, which it was pretty much the same thing albeit with demons instead of robots. And I am saying that because I want to point out how Mazinger Z is not just a huge robot but a DEMON ROBOT while Devilman is a plain demon and it hardly has the same fun. Plus screaming your special attacks looks lame there and the demons look silly; so it is not all about the action but the aesthetics as well.Another interesting point is how now the characters, both good and evil, constantly try to improve and become more powerful, a thing not present before. Since the story was almost non-existent, this simple element gave the feeling of progress, even if it was a superficial and pointless one. It sure felt better than the complete lack of Atom and Tetsujin. So every now and then, new special attacks, new looks, new uniforms and new characters pop up to make things more interesting. And yes, that happens in all classic mecha shows but it was Mazinger Z that everybody was photocopying and not the other way around. Another thing to notice is the names and the looks of the characters. One of the main villains of the show is a German mad scientist named Dr. Hell, who is in a way the hatred towards fascist Nazis back then and a theme very constant in many anime. The other villain is TZ literally has his head opening in half to reveal a tiny woman living inside him. Also their bodies are a weird combination of animals and sculls and other weird stuff. In fact the entire evil empire of the robots is themed after ancient Greek clothes and even several names are slight variations of Greek areas and mythical monsters. Heck, the Z in Mazinger stands for Zeus… So as cheesy as it all sounds, it is quite original even today thanks to all these themes.Stories and characters are all very basic and one shouldn’t expect anything out of it… for the next 20 years or so. But as basic and dried up as they were, they did their job. One thing is for sure; they both lack the sophisticated aspects of any Tezuka work. They are just … brain dead hyperactive brutes. But hey, the intro songs are great, the yelling of attacks and the satanic laughs are cool and half the battles are full of kitsch mecha fun. What else is there to expect? So this is in a way the first title to introduce all those pesky elements of today. On one hand most anime fans love blood-boiling characters and battles. On the other they all look the same and have very little substance. And it’s all Nagai’s fault… Just kidding; he was just the first. And unlike most of his copycats, Mazinger Z is a title still alive today, therefore it is DAMN good at being DAMN basic fan even after 40 years. What else is there to expect… again?

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