I was a lot more excited to review Mazinkaiser before I actually watched it than I am now, but whatever. Let’s give it a try.
My experience with Go Nagai isn’t all the extensive, but it is pretty mixed. Out of the four things I’ve seen/read with his name on it, I’ve only really liked one of them. That was Re: Cutie Honey, and I liked that for the Gainax factor more than anything else. Other than Re: Cutie Honey, I’ve seen the Cutie Honey live action movie, which was ok; read the Devilman manga, which was absolutely terrible; and just now saw Mazinkaiser, which was ok.
From this rather brief experience with the man’s works, Go Nagai strikes me as more of an awesome ideas man. The idea of a super robot beating the crap out of mechanical monsters with terribly silly and impracticable designs week after week sounds cool, but in practice it seems kind of lame. Despite this apparent lameness, I’ve always had a desire to see a Mazinger-something series, simply because the work is so influential. So naturally I was quite excited when I found out that my local library had Mazinkaiser– a new-ish seven episode OVA set in the Mazinger universe– available to check out.
Mazinkaiser’s plot follows Kouji Kabuto and his friends at the Photon Laboratory as they fight against the evil forces of Dr. Hell, the half man-half woman Baron Ashura, and their army of mechanical beasts bent on world domination. Each episode is pretty formulaic, usually ending with Mazinkaiser kicking ass with JAM Project screaming in the background.
What I expected out of Mazinkaiser was something that took lame kids cartoon stuff out of Mazinger while keeping all the awesomeness, streamlining the whole thing for the adult audience that it’s aimed towards. It does this to some degree, but in the end the show is still pretty underwhelming. It opens strong with a lot of non-stop action in its opening episodes, but quickly recedes into an almost sitcom-ish pace for about two episodes. These middle episodes are somewhat entertaining, but overall not especially awesome. The last three episodes are pretty decent, but still didn’t push the dial up to FUCK YEAH as far as I’m concerned.
The show is very technically sound, which made the animation geek in me pleased. It was made in 2001– a time when most productions were going digital, but bigger, more important productions still insisted on using cels. This is probably because at the time cel-animated productions looked a lot better than digital productions. Mazinkaiser is cel-animated, and it looks beautiful. The work is clean, fluid, has a great colour pallet, and very accurately captures the style of Go Nagai’s simple and bold artwork.
As far as music goes, Kazuo Nobuta’s mostly orchestral musical score is appropriately over the top and works well matched to robots beating the shit out of each other. JAM Project also does some stuff that sounds AWESOME since it’s JAM Project.
After the OVA, I decided to move on to the one-hour “movie”, Mazinkaiser: Death! The Great General of Darkness. Death! is right, since the death toll in this movie is pretty high, and some main players from the OVA are a part of it.
Here’s a quick synopsis: An underground tribe of beasts called the Mikene have launched an assault on the surface world, lead by the Great General of Darkness. Most of the movie is about Kouji getting from Paris to Japan in order to pilot Mazinkaiser and save the world.
I liked this movie a lot better than all the episodes of the OVA combined. The action never lets up, and the numerous character deaths is a refreshing change from the kiddish nature of the OVA (Sayaka’s tits are very kid-friendly.) Made in 2003, the animation this time around is digital, but BrainsBase (who did the OVA as well) do a spectacular job. They would later go on to make other cool dude shows like Kamichu and Kure-nai.
Despite my somewhat lukewarm reception to Mazinkaiser as a whole, I still recommend it. As far as retro revivals go, it’s not as good as Giant Robo, but it’s still a pretty good time. Furthermore, if you’re interested in seeing the granddaddy of all super robot shows, but don’t feel like watching 100+ episodes of Mazinger Z/Great Mazinger/God Mazinger I say give this a shot.
I, however, still want to see Mazinger Z, since Mazinkaiser lacked the awesome Count Blocken. If he’s just in one episode I’ll be totally pissed.
PS: KOUJI KABUTO DIES IN MAGMA is the best episode title ever.