Mazinkaiser Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 20, 2005
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!
1 - A Fierce Fight! Double Mazingers
2 - A Descending, Malevolent Deity
3 - Kouji Assassination Order!
4 - Sayaka Rescue Operation
Mazinkaiser gives us a taste of old-school giant robot action, with a large dose of comedy thrown in for good measure. What's not to like?
The soundtrack is presented in English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 versions. It's a shame to waste a 5.1 remix, so I listened to the English track for the first few episodes here before switching to the Japanese track. For music and effects, good use is made of the available channels, although the rear is slightly muted compared to the front, while voices don't have much in the way of directionality to them. The Japanese track, being in 2.0 stereo, feels decidedly flat by comparison. There were no obvious encoding problems.
Keeping true to the old school giant robo style, Mazinkaiser features bold designs and bright colours. With it being a fairly recent show (2001), the transfer looks extremely good, with only the occasional feeling of graininess to spoil things. Video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
The front cover features a very busy-looking piece of artwork, with a large chunk of the cast and robots squeezed in, looking of towards some invisible enemy. The back cover takes on a comic-book theme, with a few screenshots accompanying the disc synopsis and technical information panel. There are two small errors here, though - the cover lists this disc as being episodes 1-3 when it's really 1-4, while the runtime is listed as 120 minutes instead of 100.
A shot of Kouji at the controls of Mazinkaiser fills two-thirds of the screen, with direct access provided to each episode along with sub-menus for language setup and extras. Headshots of the other Mazinger robots feature on the sub-menus, while different pieces of dark and moody music play in the background on each screen. With no menu transitions, it's all quick and easy to use.
There's a reasonable selection of extras here, beginning with the "technical specs" of the various Mazinger robots - basically a list of their special powers. There's also a gallery of the coverart from the original Japanese DVD release, a 2-minute slideshow of production art, and the original Japanese opening credit sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Mazinkaiser follows on from the Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger series of the 1970's - these are shows that were current when my vocabulary was a whole one word ("Guu!"), making this release very much an old-school revival. Unfortunately it also means I'm coming to the Mazinger universe without any of the backstory the earlier shows may have built up - it's likely there are references to the older shows that I'm missing, but that doesn't seem to have spoilt my enjoyment of Mazinkaiser any.
Dr Hell and his mechanical monsters are loose upon the Earth, wreaking all sorts of havoc and destruction as they go. His minion Baron Ashura, a strange half-male, half-female person who is quite literally two-faced, leads the assault on his behalf. Their plans begin to go awry when the giant robots Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger, created by the Photon Labs, arrive on the scene and start fighting back for the forces of good, but when Baron Ashura manages to capture Mazinger Z and turn its power on Photon Labs, it seems that evil will win the day - but just as victory is within Baron Ashura's grasp, a new Mazinger appears to tip the balance once more: Mazinkaiser, an even more powerful robot piloted by Kouji Kabuto, who uncovered it after he ejected from Mazinger Z before it was captured. His escape pod flew him to his grandfather's secret lab, where Mazinkaiser was waiting until needed.
From there, life gets much harder for Dr Hell and Baron Ashura. Realising that Dr Hell's ambition of taking over the world will never be realised as long as Kouji and Mazinkaiser are around, they begin to look for ways to remove him from the scene - from the trio of beautiful assassin robots, the Gamia Q, to the underwater mechanical monster Croco-Diver, they try to defeat Kouji and Mazinkaiser at just about every turn, but each time their plans fall apart.
Kouji's helped in his battle against evil by Boss, who pilots the goofy-looking Boss Borot, and Sayaka, the series love-interest who controls Venus Ace. These two aren't really up to much when it comes to fighting, but they provide most of the comedy in the show through their interactions with Kouji - there's definitely something of a love triangle going on there. Sayaka's very much in love with Kouji, but she's the sort who'll resort to violence rather than admit her feelings - especially when she's feeling jealous. This leads to any number of incidents where poor Kouji gets thumped, kicked or otherwise injured as Sakaya picks up the wrong end of the stick. Boss, on the other hand, would quite like to get his hands on Sayaka but more often than not is left to look on in frustration as she gives all her attention to Kouji.
This disc starts off quite seriously, jumping straight into a no-holds-barred battle sequence as soon as the opening credits have rolled on episode one, but slides more and more towards the light-hearted side of things as you go on. The final episode here is a fanservice spectacular, with Kouji, Sayaka and the others at the beach with their robots. While it's no surprise that Baron Ashura turns up to spoil the gang's day off, even the action scenes here are done in a way that's more intended to make you laugh than get the adrenaline going - I challenge anyone to keep a straight face as Sayaka lets loose with Venus Ace's breast-mounted missiles, while the care and attention that's been lavished on some of the more fanservice-oriented scenes (where Sayaka's bikini comes off, or where Kouji is having great fun with suntan lotion and the beautiful new lab assistants Lori and Roll) is a joy to behold.
Mazinkaiser seems rightly proud of its 1970's roots, and apart from adding some fanservice sticks faithfully to the style of the shows it's based on. There's no suggestion that the series is trying to be anything other than good-natured giant robot fun, and that's something it easily delivers - meaning that if you have any appreciation for huge robots and loudly-shouted attack names, you really should check this out.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,Technical Specifications,Original Japanese Artwork,Production Sketches,Original Japanese Opening
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2