Garbage Collector

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The Mazinger Saga - Mazinger Z

The Mazinger Saga - Mazinger Z
The 3 main robots on the Mazinger Saga - © Dynamic Planning / Toei / Gô Nagai

After writing about the French Goldorak graphic novel, I think it’s time to talk about what could be my first Japanese animation series ever watched. I’m not completely sure about this, but Grendizer, or Goldorak in France, may be the first anime I could have seen, at least the oldest I can remember, back to the end of the 80’s. I’ve always had a crush about the mecha animes. To be honest, I’ve also never been into what we call the shônen à la Dragon Ball (and later the Naruto, One Piece, and so many other titles that never interested me).

Yup, I’m a fan of Robot Anime. I’ve discovered this genre with Goldorak and I’ve always been more attracted by the Science Fiction than other styles. Ironically, there was almost no mecha series diffused in France. The shônen like Dragon Ball Z and the shôjo like Candy were more frequent. During the early 2000’s, I’ve rediscovered the Japanese animation thanks to the diffusion of Vision of Escaflowne which was a mecha series too. Then, other good titles like Cowboy Bebop. Then, a couple of years later, the series Gundam Wing was telecast in France. Basically, since then, and thanks to the Internet and the DVD releases, I’ve could expand my Robot Anime culture and watch almost all Gundam series, and discover other nice titles. Today, I can’t say if there are really new Robot Anime series, the genre seems to be less popular than during the 90’s. Even Gundam which was the first Bandai Namco’s franchise for years (now replaced by Dragon Ball) is quite silent and the first new series since 2015 will be released in fall 2022 (if I omit the side series like the Gundam Build and SD Gundam).

However, let’s talk about Mazinger, which is basically, the founder of the genre, but not the first.

The Robot Anime (and manga) is older than Mazinger. The 1940 the manga Electric Octupus already featured a piloted mechanical octopus. But the trailblazer is attributed to Tetsujin 28-go, a 1956 manga made by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, animated in 1963, inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s work. In 1972, Go Nagai released Mazinger Z and defined what would become the super robot genre. Unlike Tetsujin 28-go which was remote controlled by a 12 years old kid, Mazinger Z is piloted by a teenager with controls inspired by a car. Yes, Gô Nagai has been inspired while waiting to cross a street. Mazinger Z also introduced the monster of the week, and the robot, despite being absolutely useless without its pilot, is treated like any other characters and always described like being a single entity.

Mazinger Z is the story of Koji Kabuto, the grandson of a famous scientist who discovered a new element (called Japanium) in the sediment inside the Mount Fuji. The Professor Kabuto used this very resistant metal to build Mazinger Z, a powerful giant robot, to counter the Mechanical Beasts of Doctor Hell. Years ago, Dr. Hell and Kabuto were members of an expedition team that discovered the Bardos Island in Greece. The island contained the relics of the Mycene Empire, a powerful advanced civilisation that used giants 20 meters titans. Realizing this power, Dr. Hell went insane and killed the other scientists, excepted Kabuto who managed to escape. Later, Dr. Hell’s minions found Kabuto’s hideout and attacked him. A dying Pr Kabuto told to his grandson the story and Koji became the pilot of Mazinger Z with the purpose to eliminate the threat represented by Dr Hell.

Mazinger Z is quite a pioneer for the Robot Anime genre, installing the base rules that will be used years later. At first, the robot Mazinger Z was supposed to be Energer Z and be driven with a motorcycle installed in the head. However, the sudden popularity of Kamen Rider replaced the idea with a hovercraft. Energer Z would be renamed to Mazinger Z, based on the Japanese word Majin meaning “Demon God”. The robot design is inspired by some other Gô Nagai’s ideas that would become later the Devilman franchise. Mazinger Z introduced a design and various attacks that would become some signature moves, like the rocket-powered fists, the chest burning beam, and the ability to fly thanks to a secondary vehicle. Another common feature would be the feminine lookalike robot for the female protagonist with another specific signature move, the missile boobies. Finally, a comic relief would also become a regular thing with the introduction of Boss Borot. The story setting also set the basis for almost every Robot Anime later with the science laboratory, the great scientist leading it, the heroic team being unrelated to the country military or being a special force, the weekly monster, etc.

The series ran to a total of 92 episodes from 1972 to 1974 and gained an incredible popularity in Japan and still has today one of the highest rating scores in Japan animation history. This success green lit a direct sequel named Great Mazinger, introduced immediately at the end of Mazinger Z where the titular robot is surrounded by a new powerful enemy and is severely damaged. Then, Great Mazinger, an improved design based on Mazinger Z, and its pilot Tetsuya Tsurugi intervene and replace Mazinger Z for a new adventure against a new more powerful foe.

Mazinger Z had various retelling stories and crossovers written over the years, mostly by Gô Nagai himself or other artists. For example, Z Mazinger with “Z” standing for “Zeus” has mixed the Greek mythology with the Mazinger universe. This story has been the basis for a new anime years after, Shin Mazinger Impact ! Z Chapter that ran to 26 episodes in 2009 rewriting the original story. We can’t say there is a canon between the various animes and manga of the Mazinger Saga because there are a lot of retelling, crossovers, or sequels that don’t take account of the previous show. For example, if Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger are usually a common artwork, Grendizer is still a sequel but barely mentioned in later series. The Mazinkaiser OVA were supposed to end the Doctor Hell and Mikene stories, but the Mazinger Z : Infinity movie makes no mention to it and Mazinkaiser does not exists in this continuity. The Mazinkaiser SKL story is also barely consistent with the rest of the Saga.

So, the Mazinger Saga is more constructed with alternatives timelines and retelling than an actual canon. With that in mind, we can continue its exploration with the next series, Great Mazinger.

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