Monday, April 23, 2018

Review of MAZINGER Z: INFINITY: Charismatic Comeback

April 22, 2018

In 1978, kids all over the country became glued to their TV sets every day at 6 pm to watch their favorite Japanese animated robot shows on Channel 7. Monday was "Mekanda Robot," Tuesday was "Daimos," Wednesday was "Mazinger Z," Thursday was "UFO Grendizer," and Friday was "Voltes V." 

We knew all all the characters of each show, their backstories, their enemies, and their detailed mythologies by heart. We even sang along to their opening and closing theme songs, even if we had no idea what those lyrics meant. We wanted to buy their robot toys and collect all their various merchandise, no matter what they cost our parents. 

It was a major pop phenomenon among the youth of that day. However, it was one that ended badly. Suddenly one day, all of these of shows were pulled off the TV screen by then President Marcos because they supposedly promoted "excessive violence." For a lot of kids, this was how they discovered what Martial Law actually was. 

Anyhow, 40 years later which is this year, the trailer for a film sequel of "Mazinger Z" appeared online, and loyal fans rejoiced with excitement. "Mazinger Z" was the oldest one from that group of robot shows. It was the first robot that had a human pilot in it. The anime TV series first aired in Japan in December 1972.  In fact "UFO Grendizer" was already a spin-off of "Mazinger Z." There was another spin-off called "Great Mazinger" but I never saw that one anymore. 

The events of this new feature film happen about 10 years after a great war where the  Mazingers defeated the monster robots of Dr. Hell, resulting in peace. Koji Kabuto was now a scientist into photon research. Sayaka Yumi had already taken over the reins left by her father as the Director of the Photon Power Lab. No, they did not get married yet. The original Mazinger Z robot was now just a display in a museum. 

One day, Koji discovered a life form inside a gigantic robot relic called Infinity found buried under Mt. Fuji. The android being, a young girl with short blue hair calling herself Lisa, would prove a vital factor when a revitalized Dr. Hell relaunches a new attack of another legion of giant robots in order to gain possession of the Infinity. The whole world depended on Koji and Mazinger Z to save humanity for certain destruction.

There was certainly a lot of nostalgia for fans of the original series. It was very good to see Koji Kabuto again, older now and more mature. still with his wild mane of black hair and sideburns pointing forwards. Despite being a Director now, Sayaka seemed to be more concerned about getting married to Koji than anything else. We do not even see her pilot Aphrodite A at all, which was rather disappointing. (However, they did feature a quartet of female robots also with robot boobs called the Mazin-girls.)

Sayaka's father Prof. Gennosuke Yumi is now the Prime Minister of Japan.  Out of the three professors who assisted Prof. Yumi before, we now only see Drs. Sewashi and Nossori, no more Dr. Morimori. Koji's younger brother Shiro is now another fighter pilot.  We also see former bullies Boss, Mucha and Nuke (with his runny nose), who now run a ramen restaurant, and their comical scrap metal robot Boss Borot.  The pilot of Great Mazinger Tetsuya Tsurugi is now married to fellow pilot (of Venus A) Jun Hono, who was now pregnant with their first child.

The antagonists are also older in terms of looks, but their distinctive faces were still very recognizable. Dr. Hell still had his purple face skin, grey long hair and beard. Baron Ashura still had his half male-half female dual face. Count Brocken still had his severed head separate from his body. Some of the fighting mechanical beasts look familiar though I am not a fanatic enough to recall any of their names.

Beyond the nostalgia, the film was not entirely engaging when it comes to telling its story. It lost me here and there, especially as far as the Lisa angle is concerned, which was surprisingly esoteric and whimsical. I cannot confidently say that I understood anything Lisa was saying or doing. It was very interesting subplot, and there were very artsy images in this part of the story, but honestly, a lot of the fancy jargon was just flying above my head. 

Of course, there is the mecha granddaddy Mazinger Z himself. He was still the main reason to see this film and relive one's childhood memories. Koji's red hovercraft docked at its crown. His yellow eyes and its laser rays. Those two pointed spikes on each side of his head, with its freezing beams. His grilled mouth and its hurricane blasts. The angulated red V across his chest and its Breast Fire. His Jet Scrander wings. The photon rockets on his feet. The missiles he can launch from his elbows, fingers and belly. And of course his signature attack move, the Rocket Punch. Relishing his majestic comeback on that big screen forty years after I last saw him made this film worth watching for this old fan. 7/10. 

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