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).
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.