Mazinkaiser Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, August 23, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, August 26, 2003
What They Say
Dr. Hell has resurrected an ancient army of mechanical monsters to conquer the world, but first he has to destroy the photon power lab and the one thing standing in his way: Mazinger! But it's going to take more than defeating Mazinger for Dr. Hell and his evil henchman Baron Ashura to clear their way for world domination, because there's a new kid in town-MAZINKAISER-and he packs quite an atomic punch!
Can young Kouji Kabuto, as the runner behind the amazing robot Mazinkaiser, deal out the thunder faster than Dr. Hell's army can take it? With the help of the team of Mazinger, Boss Borot, and Venus Ace, photon power may yet save the world!
Bringing back some of the giant robot goodness of the 70’s, Mazinkaiser utilizes modern day techniques in the classic style to show just why these shows were originally so much fun.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language format which is also in 5.1 digital surround sound. The English track here is pretty solid with lots of forward soundstage directionality as well as the opening song really going up a few notches and coming across much deeper and richer. We didn’t notice a lot of sound going to the rear channels, but the forward presentation is excellent. We had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released to video in 2001, Mazinkaiser makes out rather well by also being encoded for anamorphic playback in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer here is solid with very little to really complain about. The dark blue sections, notably night time skies and some interiors, are the only areas that really had any problems and those tended to be the of the grainy look variety due to the coloring used. Cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much non-existent throughout, leaving a very smooth and clean looking print.
The main cover here goes with the big all star cast style look with the giant robots in the background and various cast members in action poses. The coloring is a mix of light and dark but overall it feels dark and heavy to me, mostly because it feels to busy. The back cover is done up in comic book style with shots from the show and the boxes listing the extras. There’s a basic summary of the plot and the usual production credits and technical listings. The insert provides a shot from one of the Japanese DVD covers while the reverse side is just boxart advertisements.
The main menu is a nice sectional piece with one main image behind it but each area allowing a different amount of the color to seep through. The menu is also thankfully anamorphic, something that doesn’t always happen. Selections are quick and easy to access though the text looks a bit squeezed on my 4:3 set.
There’s a nice selection of extras to start things off here but not a whole lot. There’s a technical section that talks about the three primary robots in these episodes, each one breaking down into a couple of pages of pictures and text. The original Japanese artwork section contains the four DVD covers for each of these episodes while the production sketches section runs just under two minutes and showcases some nice pieces. The original Japanese opening sequence is also presented here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mazinkaiser brings back some of the big bad boys from the 70’s such as Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger and essentially picks up at some point during their storylines and continues on the tale. My own experience with these classic shows is sadly lacking, with my only real connection being that I had one of those two foot high Great Mazinger plastic toys when I was a wee lad. Back when real toys shot their weapons at unsuspecting friends and blinded them for life.
As such, I’m likely missing any number of points with this series in things such as relationships, nods to past moments and other fun bits like that. So my own view of this series is from the point of having no real knowledge of the past, going in cold and seeing where the chips fall.
Mazinkaiser proved to be a heck of a lot more fun than I imagined. The series kicks off and goes through most of the first half of the first episode by giving us the big fight sequences. We’re thrown into the pitched battle as Baron Ashura, a truly two-faced individual, is leading the army of monster robots that have been unearthed and restored by the evil Dr. Hell, for his plans to conquer Japan and then the world are now in place. Their path leaves a wide wake of destruction and devastation behind them throughout the city, with these crude and sometimes amusing looking robots do everything from shoot at buildings to just ramming right into them.
Of course, their rampage won’t go unchallenged for long, and we get the introduction of the classic heroes, Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger. There’s also a couple of comical ones that come along, such as the goofy looking one run by a traditional “boss” character and the Sayaka’s own girly robot. Their arrival brings the battle to a stop and things get nicely violent with lots of close fighting going on, but some really pitched stuff that takes down the secondary ones somewhat.
The battle goes rather badly for Mazinger Z, so bad that the craft is eventually captured and carried off just as its pilot, Kouji Kabuto, ejects in the special craft used to pilot it. He’s unconscious and the ship is on autopilot, taking him to some mysterious location. With the battle having gone badly for both sides, each retreats to their lair to lick their wounds and plan for their next phase.
In an unconventional move, the bad guys actually decide to not wait till everyone is up and running again and instead launches a massive attack on Photon Labs, the home base of the protectors of humanity. With Mazinger Z crudely under their control, the battle goes decidedly in their favor, particularly since only Great Mazinger can fight back and he’s woefully underpowered after the last battle. This turns into a great sequence as things get very wild and violent, causing an amusing moment where Great Mazinger actually coughs up liquid through its faceplate.
When things are bleakest, that’s naturally when it all turns around. It turns out that Kouji’s craft took him to a secret lair where his grandfather had built the most powerful of the giant robots, the Mazinkaiser. This beastie is impressive looking visually, but even more so with its powers. Everything about it screams overclocked and intense, with varying abilities such as the Rust Tornado and the Breast Beam. It’s so powerful at first that it overwhelms Kouji and often its attacks throws the entire unit off balance.
Throughout the first three episodes, we watch the back and forth between the two sides as they vie for power and victory over the other. We get to know the cast more so from the second episode on and get a feel for some more of the backdrop, such as Dr. Hell explaining where he got his giant monster robots from and the various relations between the good guys. While there isn’t a huge amount of depth here, getting to know the team better is definitely something that doesn’t occur right at the outset but is dealt with as the show progresses.
One interesting aspect of this show is that it, whether intentional or not, proves that the classic 70’s style character designs can absolutely be dead sexy. While we get a nice amount of basic fanservice with Sayaka (and she does provide some hilarious nudity), the fourth episode here is something that positively couldn’t have been gotten away with easily back in the day. Taking place at the beach as several of the folks are taking a breather, the two recently brought on twin blonde bombshells wear their skimpiest pieces of thread and ask Kouji to put lotion on them. Sayaka of course really likes Kouji and the two play that “we don’t really like each other” role often enough. But presented with pure sex standing right in front of him, Kouji goes for the lotion.
This episode does shift into the traditional standalone action episode, but so much of it is built around fanservice that it’s simply beautiful. There’s something really appealing about these simple clean line designs and strong bold nature. This episode does a really god job of changing the traditional view of poor designs from that decade. Another thing that I found myself really enjoying in this series is the opening song, which has a mixture of English throughout parts of it but feels like a number of early 80’s “get you pumped up” kind of songs. It’s practically infectious when you get to the English parts and you find yourself singing along by the second episode.
I went into Mazinkaiser with minimal expectations, especially after a brief flirtation with the NewType promo episode that made me cringe. But by the end of the first episode, I was having fun and enjoying everything that was happening and eager to get to the next episode. Mazinkaiser was more fun that I expected it to be and probably more fun than it has a right to be. With it being only two volumes, it’s definitely an easy series to recommend checking out with its minimal commitment.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Technical specs,Original Japanese artwork,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animation
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2