Those Uppity Mycenæans

The Mycenæans built with such large stones that their successors thought that they were giants.

The Mycenæans' successors thought that only cyclopes could have built with such large stones.

The Mazinkaiser movie (which might more accurately be called a one-hour special) reworks an earlier title, Mazinger Z vs. The Great General of Darkness. I’ve seen Mazinger Z vs.: it was made back in the seventies and it connects Mazinger Z to Great Mazinger. During its climax Tetsuya brings Great to the aid of a faltering Mazinger Z, and the ending leaves the villains only temporarily defeated. It has some enjoyable scenes — Kouji manfully struggling out to the final confrontation after giving blood, for example — but it’s a little flat, and a criminal amount of time is spent without something large and destructive on screen.

Mazinkaiser: Deathmatch! The Great General of Darkness (or however you’re meant to render that title) is a rather slicker product, perhaps because it’s not required to be a bridge between two television series. Instead of wasting precious time on plot, the writers establish a simple, exciting problem — how can Kouji escape the Great General of Darkness’s forces and get to Mazinkaiser? — in the first scene, which puts Kouji and Sayaka on a burning plane, and then just riff on the idea of hot pursuit for a while.

Eventually there’s a terrific new spin on the traditional ‘Pilder on!’ scene, and — well, once Kouji’s in Mazinkaiser, you can probably guess what happens. But it’s all done very well. The animation’s attractive to my untrained eyes (wildarmsheero, who knows more about animation than me — admittedly, that’s not hard — declared it ‘spectacular’), and the soundtrack includes several JAM Project songs which are, like all JAM Project songs, very exciting. ‘The Gate of Hell’, which plays over the opening credits, is peppered with cries of ‘THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!’ and ‘I AM KAISER!’ and so begs to be used in a Legend of the Galactic Heroes AMV.

Also, if you’re enjoying Shin Mazinger Z, perhaps for these very good reasons, there are a few things here which crop up in that, too. But given the tendency for things to appear again and again in Go Nagai’s work and in adaptions of it, I’d be surprised if any of them originated here. I notice that the latest episodes of Shin Mazinger (the seventeenth and eighteenth) put more Mycenæan flesh on the the show’s backstory bones (in Ashura’s case I suppose that’s very nearly literally true).

mmovie-familiar

Anyway, picking on one particular thing which crops up in both titles, this shot and its Shin Mazinger equivalent connect the bodies of female pilots and feminine mecha. Could we draw some kind of connection between this and the fourteenth episode of Simoun, ‘That Which Must Not be Violated’, in which a mechanic equates dismantling a holy machine with stealing kisses from its priestess-pilot? Is that a quieter handling of the same mess of sex, violence and control? (It’s a nice touch that said priestess-pilot builds a model of that same holy machine.) These days I’m tired and unsure of my methods, so I’ll just spit that out there instead of trying to develop it.

Before you ask, no, I’ve no idea how the conceptual collision of machine and body works within its Japanese context, though I do know there’s a substantial body of books on Japan’s relationship with technology. I’ll let people who do actually know something about Japan, or at least will, one day, get on with that. It’s quite hard enough being a dilettante.

17 responses to “Those Uppity Mycenæans

  1. I need to rewatch that Mazinkaiser movie, pronto. But first, Shin Mazinger 17!

    But yes, THE GATES OF HELL is my favorite song to play when my whole tennis gang (the Dai Gurren Dan Tennis Team) is in one car on the way to the courts. It’s impossible not to be pumped up by it.

    • Watched the ep… CLIFFHUNG. I’m so confused with the retcon (I should be used to this); but not really bothered.

      I actually like this techno brain stuff as operating computers for the giant robots. But I wonder who are the Myceneans really, if not those ‘brains.’ I count Tristan and Isolde, but who else?

      • It struck me the other day that in the very first Mazinger Z manga, Ashura’s soldiers had machines built into their brains underneath their helmets (the tops of their skulls had been remoed). The Kedora seem like an elegant reversal of that, putting a brain into a robot; I’ve no idea if that’s intentional.

        Duke Gorgon’s also a Mycenaean, I think, from the way they were talking. I’d like to know who else too. I thought that the choice of ‘Tristan’ and ‘Isolde’ as names (and I don’t know if that’s new or comes from somewhere in the Nagai corpus), besides attaching the idea of a pair of tragic lovers to Baron Ashura’s backstory, might suggest that all the other Mycenaeans are also the originals of the heroes of human myth (which would go with Zeus, Hades and Poseidon).

  2. The big bother with me was how that Mechanical Beast (or HERO) was able to speak, or the final fate of the Kurogane dudes (unless they pull off a TTGL ep 1 opening scene on us).

    It’s probably taken for granted that Tetsuya will lend a hand to Kouji in Shin Mazinger. Oh, I can’t wait.

    • I’m wondering if the Kurogane Five might be clone-able, or something, but speculation’s beginning to feel futile. It’s an Imagawa-directed adaption of a Go Nagai property, after all.

      And yes, I too am salivating at the thought of HIS NAME IS BLAAAAAADE!

    • What’s wrong with Garadoublas speaking?

      The Kedora gives them true intelligence; speech, thought, more precise movements. It adds a working brain to the mechanical body.

      The Staff of Bardos (what Dr. Hell had to use before he found the Kedora) just remote-controls the empty bodies. They follow simple orders and can’t think or speak.

  3. Excuse my lack of intelligible response, but I’m too busy imagining myself piloting a giant robot and making it transform into a giant rocket punch

  4. Imagawa is like the only director who can bring back “dead” characters and make it classy.

    Worked in Giant Robo.

    • I dunno, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John seemed to get away with it. It did work in Giant Robo, very well, though I don’t know whether that was something Imagawa did inherently in his resurrections, or because there’s too much awesome going on elsewhere (‘Is that a Messerschmitt KR200?’, for example) that I didn’t care.

      • Well, there’s one “death” in Giant Robo that goes unexplained and often confuses people. Apparently, the real reason he survives is because he’s based on a Chinese hero (I think it’s “Li Kui” from the Water Margin) and that just happens to be that character’s special ability. They never mention this in the show though, so when he gets shot 6 times and stomped on by a giant robot, some don’t expect him to survive.

        My guess is that the Japanese are more familiar with Water Margin than the west is, so Imagawa expected his audience to know all these things already.

        • As you can probably tell, I’m the kind of passive, forgiving viewer who doesn’t try to hard to figure out what’s going on (which is one reason why I can enjoy old-style ‘if in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun’ hardboiled noir films).

          I didn’t know that about the Iron Ox, and I can’t say my lack of knowledge made me enjoy Giant Robo any less. But that is one mystery cleared up, and I like the idea that while in other stories bringing a character back can feel a bit cheap (or very cheap — I’m looking at you, SEED Destiny) in Giant Robo it’s a tribute to the source material.

  5. for some reason my fave stream site is still stuck on mazinger 16…I love the names. Duke Gorgon is sweet and sounds right out of a grimoire.

    On Japan, they seem to be much less scared of becoming cyborgs (not much fear of human/techno boundaries and stuff). But I really don’t know why…

    • To my mind, Duke Gorgon’s partly a great name because it’s the name of a monster . . . and Duke Gorgon seems to be another, completely unrelated monster.

      I guess a lazy answer would trace occidental fears about cyborgisation to a Judeo-Christian inheritance, but I think that’d be a bit of a broad-brush explanation.

  6. To add more fuel to the feminine mecha = female pilot body:
    -Five Star Stories with it’s fatima
    -Evangelion – consider the scene where Asuka is defeated by the flying Angels, or the whole strange way that Rei is linked to the units
    -Vandread – only really notable here because of the strong gender disparity; men and women fly completely different mecha types
    Not sure if those really fit in perfectly… perhaps I should continue on the gender + mecha track…

    • Ech, I forgot to link to your post about mecha and femininity, didn’t I? Of the three examples you discussed in that post, I guess the Type 61 is gendered by what’s said about it, and Yukikaze genders itself by what it (she) says.

      Vandread‘s an interesting case because of the merging they do and its fairly overt positioning as a comedy of genders. So to speak.

      Come to think of it, there are a couple of feminine robots (as in, autonomous mecha) in GaoGaiGar Final, too.

      And, as GL says, DO IT.

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