Toon Review - Mazinger Z Infinity
I think I’ve already said this…but personally I blame those bastards over at Disney.
You see, as I sat watching my showing of the limited 2 day release of Mazinger Z: Infinity by Fathom Events and Viz Media, a tear started to swell up in my eye. It didn’t have anything to do with the story nor the catching up with an old, long-lost animated giant robot friend (as I was a huge Tranzor Z fan…the American dub of Mazinger...when I was little). It had EVERYTHING to do with seeing giant robots in amazing animated action on the big screen.
I want to be clear, this isn’t just an argument to get anime on the big screens here in America…because that’s already happening thanks to that Studio Ghibli rubbish. No, this is my usual rant as to why do we see so little animation that strays away from the cutesy Disney tradition? I know it’s because these sorts of films, when they do try to release them, never do particularly well at the box office. And why is that? Because the House of Mouse set the standard and in a way shackled American animation so that even though other studios beside Disney are creating content, it falls squarely in that kids/all-ages category.
[So…is there going to be a review here, or just more bitching? – Ed.]
While there have been sequel series, Mazinger Z: Infinity neglects most of them and is instead almost a direct sequel to the original Mazinger Z series from the early 70s…or mid 80s if you jumped on board the same time I did with the release of the American dub retitled Tranzor Z. You’ll need to be a little bit aware of the immediate sequel series to Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger…which itself found bits and pieces edited into the Tranzor Z re-edit…but other series that followed, Grendizer and Mazinkaiser for example, are generally ignored. Our story takes place 10 years after Koji Kabuto’s final battle with Dr. Hell, his lieutenants Baron Ashura (half male/half female) and Count Brocken (German with a floating severed head) and his army of mechanical monsters, ending the Doctor’s quest for world domination. Since then, the world has embraced the Photon Energy that Mazinger Z worked so hard to protect from the forces of evil and is now the primary source of energy throughout the world replacing oil as well as more realistic renewables such as solar, hydroelectric and wind power. Koji has moved beyond his days as a hot-headed mecha pilot and is helping to run the Photon Energy Institute with his on-again-off-again girlfriend Sayaka Yumi. Well, she’s the head of the Institute as her father, Professor Yumi, has moved on to be the Prime Minister of Japan…Koji has become one of their top scientists though. The story starts when a giant ‘Mazin’ materializes in the bedrock underneath the new location for the Photon Energy Institute…as the old one from the TV Series now serves as a museum. From the jewel on the giant mech’s head spills out a naked female android comprised of both biological and mechanical parts. What is this giant Mazin and what is its purpose? What is the fate of the android destined to be its pilot? And how does this all tie in with the aggressive return of Dr. Hell, his mechanical beasts and their devastation of the Texan Photon Energy Station that made short work of Tetsujo and his Great Mazinger?
The themes of the film, as one would expect from this sort of anime, are very reflective of current problems facing humanity in general: the seeming contradiction inherent in diversity (unity vs. chaos), the temptation to allow things to go back to the old ways (in this case the impulse to move away from Photon Energy once Dr. Hell returns and revert back to fossil fuels and such) and lastly the fear of moving forward into something new (here encapsulated in the stalled nature of Koji and Sayaka’s relationship). These are certainly themes that need discussion and they’re addressed here in standard anime fashion…with exposition dumps and long talky bits. For a seasoned anime viewer, this won’t be anything new…but I have to admit that I do wish there was a way they could’ve worked everything together a bit more seamlessly.
But you’re not here for that…you’re here for THE GIANT STONKIN’ ROBOT MEGA APOCALYPITC ACTION!!!! And I’m happy to tell you that it’s AMAZING. The style of the film fortunately doesn’t go all CGI…with humans and surroundings being old school ink and paint while the mecha are cell-shaded CGI. This usually proves to be my favorite approach…and it certainly shines here. The mecha battles…and we get about 3-4 really good set pieces…are just all-out action and should leave you breathless, provided you’re into this sort of thing and have a pulse. [And if you’re not into this sort of thing, like, seriously, how did you get here??? – Ed.] High points include the opening assault on the Texas Photon Station and Mazinger Z’s gauntlet run near the end of the film to install the android Lisa into the behemoth Mazin before Dr. Hell takes full control of it. One would think that in this onslaught of mechanical beasts and the fact that CGI was used to create them that there would be repeats or generic bots on screen, but to the filmmakers’ credit…oh, no, they did their homework big time. Whether you grew up watching the edited Tranzor Z like I did or the full-fledged Mazinger Z like practically everyone else in the world [We’ll get to that...later. – Ed.], you will see some familiar faces throught these fights. You don’t need to have them memorized either…for me, they shot into my memory the moment I caught sight of them…it was a cavalcade of ‘Oh! I remember that guy!’s that I’m glad I kept confined to my head as I’d have likely pissed off the entire theater.
While it certainly doesn’t break new ground and sure, it falls into some standard anime tropes, the fine mix of nostalgia and epic action makes Mazinger Z Infinity greater than the sum of its parts. To be fair, some of why I feel the way I do about the film comes in the form of two biases…the first from being a long time fan of the series and the second being just the sheer joy of seeing animated giant robots on the big screen tearing shit up once more. Sure, the very narrow window to see this film in theaters on the big screen has passed (confined to February 11th and 12th only)…but I don’t suspect the impact of the action will be diminished very much…so if you’re a fan of giant robots, be sure to add Mazinger Z Infinity to your collection when it becomes available!