A small anime trend that has gained more ground in recent years is bringing back classic anime from different story perspectives with modern animation and directional techniques. You know, with Go Nagai works last year and some of Tezuka’s works this year? Definitely not the first time this has been done because famous creator’s anniversaries just seem to keep happening. Almost like it’s a human thing where people continue to age and time continues to pass. I mean, I can easily name Astro Boy 2003 and Cyborg 009 (which I just pre-ordered on Blu-Ray) as some examples where this happened a while back. Mazinger Edition Z is another one of those so called modernized remakes alongside Yamato 2199 and so on. This one being a remake of Mazinger Z, arguably the first mecha series ever. It was written and directed by a certain Yasuhiro Imagawa in 2009 and it’s a very special series in a lot of ways. A lot of good, crazy ways. All I’m going to say in this a opening paragraph is if you are looking for something similar to G Gundam to watch, it’s this series right here. For the rest of this review, I am just going to call this series Shin Mazinger for simplicity sake.
So ummm, how do I start talking about something that just gets more and more out there as time goes on? A synopsis? A synopsis. Yes, that thing that tells you what happens in a series. Here we go. Wish me luck.
(Don’t watch the first episode. It won’t make any sense to you at all.)
Shin Mazinger starts off with our protagonist Kouji Kabuto, his younger brother Shiro Kabuto, and the mad scientist grandfather Dr. Juzo Kabuto living like a normal family in a fictional place called Atami City. It seems that despite the fact they lost a lot, their bonds couldn’t be stronger. Yet there have been a lot of murders taking place around their manor for some reason, so an investigator by the name of Ankokouji is hired to be their body guard. Of course, that’s when all hell breaks loose for this family again. First, Shiro is captured by a group of bullies lead by “Boss” that wants to form a union of bullying through out Japan for some reason. Of course, Kouji beats up Boss very quickly in time for everything to ramp up even more. No, literally. I’m not kidding.
Kouji’s fight with Boss is badly timed because it happens at the same time with a villain by the name of Doctor Hell attacks the city. He sends his wide army of hell troops and evil giant robots into Atami City lead by a certain Baron Ashura. Their main goal is to attack The Photon Power Lab, something that not only powers Atami city, but is a source of nearly limitless energy. To combat this attack, the Photon Power Lab does have it’s own defense robots, but Kouji finds his way to the piloting something called the Pilder. An airjet that connects to a robot by the name of Mazinger Z. A robot with the soul of Zeus. Now Kouji isn’t a genius that automatically knows how to pilot the robot, so he figures out how the pilot the thing with a lot of help. Even from his grandfather that passed away after Kouji’s first fight with evil. The poor, hot blooded protagonist. What well he do?
After that fact, Shin Mazinger just keeps going at full speed. After their Grandfather’s death, Shiro and Kouji live at a bath house lead by a character known as the Proprietress whose name is Tsubasa Nishikiori. A woman of vast mysteries who not only knows how the Mazinger Z works, but was also heavily involved in both the boy’s and the Shin Mazinger’s backstory in a lot of ways. Tsubasa also an collection of awesome body guards at her bath house that have a lot of special abilities and jobs at the bath house and for her security reasons. Some of them also put Kouji through reflex and strength training. Also, the story never turns episode and has a lot of long arcs including how Mazinger Z has the soul of Zues, Tsubasa’s backstory, where Baron Ashura comes from, and it’s all just fantastically strange. Something that becomes perfectly watchable with it’s balance of drama and cheesiness.
A big question I have is do all Imagawa works star extremely unlikeable protagonists at first? I know that this is only my second work that I’ve watched from him, but I am sensing a trend. In the beginning of Shin Mazinger, Kouji is a little to forceful in fighting things. I know that his grandfather just died, but him thinking that he could take on everything and everyone just because he has a powerful robot doesn’t do much for him in my own personal rankings. Still, he does loose a lot of his hot headedness because he has to. Everything single predicament requires him to think more clearly about what is going on solve all of his problems. I won’t say that Kouji is the most interesting protagonist to ever exist, but he’s a solid enough character to frame the other characters around and that’s all I ask really. Not that I can ask anything of an anime that is already made.
The most interesting character in this entire show is Baron Ashura. Now get this, Baron Ashura is half male and half female straight down the middle vertically. Yeah, I know right? They also have two voice actors; one for each side. I really love how they aren’t a joke character at all. They have suffer through a lot of identity problems that are taken seriously even if they do have on horrifying shot when they are in a hot spring. Don’t want to think about that again, gah. But anyway, Shin Mazinger’s story is most centered on Baron Ashura’s background. Baron Ashura is created from fusing two people together? Who are these people? Where are these people from? How did these people become fused together? All very important questions that are eventually answered. While Kouji Kabuto is an alright character with a good journey, I think Baron Ashura should be considered the real protagonist of Shin Mazinger because they grow even more then you would assume they would.
The best part of Shin Mazinger is that no character is ever forgotten. It’s going to be immediately clear that Shin Mazinger is going to focus on Proprietress Tsubasa and the lead Villain Doctor Hell because they are essential to the story too. I can’t say the same for every character in this series though, but every other character gets at least one awesome moment to shine. The Proton Power Plant defense force gets quite a few times to show off even if they are not much compared to the Mazinger Z. Sayaka, Kouji’s love interest, is given enough time to establish well chemistry with Kouji in a meaningful way. Boss has a moment of awesome at the end of the show despite being a joke character for most of the show’s run. For a 26 episode series, every inch of this show is filled with fantastic character moments and I love Shin Mazinger for that. Even if this show is incredibly strange, every single character is still grounded and believable and that’s not something I can say about everything. They are a solid anchor for the stuff that goes beyond explanation.
Can I just say OMG, THIS SHOW IS GORGEOUS. Even if all the mecha designs and character designs are extremely retro, who cares? They are all so eye droppingly gorgeous. I love seeing retro deisgns recreated through some beautiful modern techniques. Besides early 2000’s anime, it’s my favorite anime aesthetic. Especially when the product seems like a labor of love like this one. I don’t know if I can say anymore then that because that applies to animation too. Every movement is so visceral and fluid. You can feel the impact of everything punch, every rocket punch, fire attacks, and throws. Something about Imagawa’s strange story boarding and directional style adds so much impact and flair to every single frame presented in the show. Especially with the interesting perspectives Imagawa does with Baron Ashura. Gah, I just can’t say enough about this show because I love it so much. The soundtrack perfection by adding in some Jam Project and the perfect visual experience is just uplifted by the perfect hyped band for the audio portion of this show.
If Shin Mazinger has a weak point, it’s the fact that there isn’t more of it. Seriously, the show ends on a cliff hanger that has been left unresolved for ten years. Combine that with the fact that the first episode is nonsensical for everyone hasn’t watched the show yet and you have a well orchestrated package with very questionable wrapping paper. I guess I don’t know what else to say about that show other then it’s an anomaly in the anime realm that not enough people have seen or know about yet. This is the kind of show that I think of what I think of “Super Robot Anime” even though I’ve actually been watching shows with that definition for a while now. I hope this show hasn’t ruined me from watching other super robot series in the future. You know, because sometimes it’s hard to watch a series that hits a person the some way as strongly sometimes. Please watch this one if you are interested in watching something from Super Robot History redone or just want something to watch similar to G Gundam. Just can’t recommend it enough.