|This article may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. (December 2011)|
Cover of the first manga volume
|Written by||Go Nagai|
|Magazine||Weekly Shōnen Jump
|Original run||October 2, 1972 – August 13, 1974|
|Written by||Go Nagai|
|Illustrated by||Gosaku Ota|
|Magazine||Bessatsu Shōnen Jump
|Original run||December 1972 – September 1974|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Yugo Serikawa
|Music by||Michiaki Watanabe|
|Original run||December 3, 1972 – September 1, 1974|
Mazinger Z (マジンガーZ Majingā Zetto?), known briefly as Tranzor Z in the United States, is a Japanese super robot manga series written and illustrated by Go Nagai. The first manga version was serialized in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump from October 1972 to August 1973, and it later continued in Kodansha TV Magazine from October 1973 to September 1974. It was adapted into an anime television series which aired on Fuji TV from December 1972 to September 1974. A second manga series was released alongside the TV show, this one drawn by Gosaku Ota, which started and ended almost at the same time as the TV show. Mazinger Z has spawned several sequels and spinoff series, among them UFO Robot Grendizer and Mazinkaiser.
It was a very popular anime in Mexico during the 1980s, where it was dubbed into Spanish directly from the Japanese version, keeping the Japanese character names and broadcasting all 92 episodes, unlike the version aired in the U.S.
Mazinger Z is an enormous super robot, constructed with a fictitious metal called Super-Alloy Z (超合金Z Chōgokin Zetto?), which is forged from a new element (Japanium) mined from a reservoir found only in the sediment of Mt. Fuji, in Japan. The mecha was built by Professor Juzo Kabuto as a secret weapon against the forces of evil, represented in the series by the Mechanical Beasts of Dr. Hell. The latter was the German member of a Japanese archeological team, which discovered ruins of a lost pre-Grecian civilization on an island named Bardos (or Birdos, although some inconsistent translations have identified the island as being the actual Greek island of Rhodes); the civilization was loosely based on the ancient Mycenae, and was called the Mycéne Empire in the series. One of their findings was that the Mycene used an army of steel titans about 20 meters in height (compare with the Greek legend of Talos). Finding prototypes of those titans underground which could be remote-controlled and realizing their immense power on the battlefield, Dr. Hell goes insane and has all the other scientists of his research team killed except for Professor Kabuto, who manages to escape. The lone survivor goes back to Japan and attempts to warn the world of its imminent danger. Meanwhile, Dr. Hell establishes his headquarters on a mobile island, and plans to use the Mechanical Beasts to become the new ruler of the world. To counter this, Kabuto constructs Mazinger Z and manages to finish it just before being killed by a bomb planted by Hell's right-hand 'man', Baron Ashura, a half-man, half-woman being. As he is dying, he manages to inform his grandson Kouji Kabuto about the robot and its use. Kouji becomes the robot's pilot, and from that point on battles both the continuous mechanical monsters, and the sinister henchmen sent by Doctor Hell.
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In his Manga Works series, Go Nagai reveals that he had always loved Tetsuwan Atom and Tetsujin-28 as a child, and wanted to make his own robot anime. () However, for the longest time he was unable to produce a concept that he felt did not borrow too heavily from those two shows. One day, Nagai observed a traffic jam and mused to himself that the drivers in back would surely love a way to bypass the ones in front. From that thought came his ultimate inspiration: a giant robot that could be controlled from the inside, like a car. In his original concepts, the titular robot was Energer Z, which was controlled by a motorcycle that was driven up its back and into its head (an idea which was recycled for the Diana A robot). However, with the sudden popularity of Kamen Rider, Nagai replaced the motorcycle with a hovercraft. He later redesigned Energer Z, renaming it Mazinger Z to evoke the image of a demon god (Ma, 魔, meaning demon and Jin, 神, meaning god). The motif of the Hover Pilder docking itself into Mazinger's head also borrows from Nagai's 1971 manga Demon Lord Dante (the prototype for his more popular Devilman), in which the titular giant demon has a human head (of Ryo Utsugi, the young man who merged with him) in his forehead. Interestingly, Koji Kabuto takes his surname (the Japanese word for a helmet) from the fact that he controls Mazinger Z from its head.
Tranzor Z, the first American version
In the United States, Three B. Productions Ltd., a production company headed by Bunker Jenkins, developed Mazinger Z for American television by producing an English-dubbed version, which Jenkins retitled Tranzor Z. This adaptation aired in 1985, and was, like many English-dubbed anime shows that were on American TV at the time, re-edited for American audiences. Many of the Japanese names used in Mazinger Z were changed for its adaptation into Tranzor Z; for example, Koji Kabuto became Tommy Davis, Sayaka became Jessica, Shiro became Toad, Professor Kabuto became Dr. Wells, Dr. Hell became Dr. Demon, and Baron Ashura became Devleen. Only 65 out of the 92 episodes were dubbed into English, as 65 was the minimum amount of episodes required for syndication.
Second manga series
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The Mazinger Z anime ran to a total of 92 TV episodes from 1972 to 1974. Its period of greatest popularity lasted from roughly October 1973 to March 1974, during which time it regularly scored audience ratings in the high twenties; episode 68, broadcast March 17, 1974, achieved the series' highest rating of 30.4%, making Mazinger Z one of the highest-rated anime series of all time (1). It culminated in the destruction of the original robot by new enemies (after Doctor Hell's final defeat in the penultimate episode) and the immediate introduction of its successor, Great Mazinger, an improved version of Mazinger, along with its pilot, Tetsuya Tsurugi. The idea of replacing the first robot with Great Mazinger (sometimes called Shin Mazinger Z) is a variation of a death-rebirth myth found in most Japanese action series: The title character, even if it is only a robot, is never truly defeated or destroyed, only improved upon, and replaced by the next version. Koji and Mazinger Z come back in the last episodes of Great Mazinger to help their successors defeat the forces of evil.
Another sequel, albeit in a different line, was introduced in 1975, with the appearance of Grendizer, set in the Mazinger and Great Mazinger story continuity that included Koji Kabuto as a supporting character.
The shows spawned so-called "team-up movies" early on, which were like longer episodes that teamed up Mazinger Z with one of Go Nagai's other creations, as in Mazinger Z vs. Devilman (マジンガーZ対デビルマン) in 1973 as well as Mazinger Z Vs. Dr. Hell (マジンガーＺ対ドクターヘル) and Mazinger Z Vs. The Great General of Darkness (マジンガーZ対暗黒大将軍) both released in 1974.
In the 1980s, on behalf of Dynamic Planning, Masami Ōbari and other independent animators ( Toshiki Hirano ) not part of Toei Animation began work on a miniseries of Mazinger Z. The OVA would have been called Dai-Mazinger (or Daimajinga, 大魔神我) and would have presented the same characters known to the general public, starting with the main protagonist Koji. The robot would be more realistic: for example, it would have exhaust pipes and its rocket fists would not be able to automatically return to its arms.
The news, initially protected by a tight secrecy, managed to leak and were spread by the specialized press. Toei protested, saying to Dynamic that the rights of the animation of Mazinger was only theirs and that they did not tolerate a Mazinger animated by others. As a consequence, the project Daimajinga was blocked. This wasn't helped with the fact that Nagai was in the middle of a court battle with Toei, suing them for not properly crediting him and not paying him royalties over the creation of Gaiking in 1976. However, since then the relationship between Nagai and Toei had steadily improved.
Thirty years after the start of the original program, Nagai's company Dynamic Planning released a continuation of the original Mazinger series as an OVA—named Mazinkaiser (mazinkaizā)—in 2002. This work would be succeeded by the movie Mazinkaiser: Deathmatch! Ankoku Daishogun, which in some ways served as a partial remake of Mazinger Z vs. the General of Darkness.
Since 2007, several rumors surfaced regarding a new series which would be based on the Z Mazinger manga. In February 2009, it was officially announced a new Mazinger anime called Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Hen (真マジンガー 衝撃! Z編 Shin Majingā Shōgeki! Z Hen?) which later began airing on April 4, 2009.
On the 2010 June issue of the magazine Hobby Japan, released on April 2010, a new OVA series was revealed. It will be called Mazinkaizer SKL (マジンカイザーSKL Majinkaizā SKL?). The OVA is planned to have also a novelization, which will be serialized in ASCII Media Works magazine, Dengeki Hobby, and a manga, a net manga to be published in Emotion (Bandai Visual) Shu 2 Comic Gekkin.
Mazinger remains one of Go Nagai's most enduring success stories, spawning many products in the realm of merchandising, model kits, plastic and die-cast metal toys (the now famous Soul of Chogokin line), action figures and other collectibles. Mazinger has also been successful in the video game area (at least in Japan), as one of the main stars in the acclaimed battle simulation game series Super Robot Wars, released by Banpresto, featuring characters and units from almost all Mazinger-related shows, alongside other anime franchises.
A 7 metres statue was built in a suburb called "Mas del Plata" in Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain) at the end of the seventies, to be the entrance for the suburb, but the suburb was never completed and the statue remains there.
Reception and influence
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Mazinger Z helped to create the 1970s boom in mecha anime. The series is noteworthy for introducing many of the accepted stock features of super robot anime genres: the first occurrence of mecha robots being piloted by a user from within a cockpit, the mechanical marvel that is the world's only hope, forgotten civilizations, power-hungry mad scientists, incompetent henchmen, lovable supporting characters (usually younger siblings, love interests, or friends of the hero), the scientist father or grandfather who loses his life heroically, and strangely clothed, eccentric or physically deformed villains (the intersex Baron Ashura as one example). Mazinger Z was also the first show to feature a female robot (Aphrodite A, piloted by female lead Sayaka Yumi), and a comic-relief robot made of spare parts and garbage named Boss Borot (which ended up suffering severe damage in nearly all of his appearances), after its pilot, brash yet simpleminded gang leader, Boss.
The peculiarity about this super robot, differing from the ones in earlier robot manga, is that Kouji the pilot has to fly a smaller separate vehicle to combine with the robot (in Mazinger's case, the head). In comparison, previous robots were either autonomous (like Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy) or remote-controlled (like Tetsujin-28). An activation code is used to summon the robot and another used to actually activate it ("MAJIN GO!" and "PILDER ON!" respectively). This typically signaled the start of an action sequence, and this method is still used in anime such as GaoGaiGar or Koutetsushin Jeeg.
Another characteristic is seen in the unusual use of Mazinger's formidable weaponry: Kouji would always announce with a shout the name of the super-power or attack he was about to use, including eye-fired energy beams, melting rays from the chestplates, gale-force winds, and the famous and oft-copied "Rocket Punch" attack. Most of these simple gimmicks were later incorporated in most of Nagai's robot series, and widely imitated in many other mecha shows. Although the roots of announcing the weapons (and the rocket punch attack) can also be traced back to Toei's 1968 tokusatsu series, Giant Robo whose US title was Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot, or even the way the heroes of chambara eiga and television used to announce their sword techniques before cutting down their opponents.
However, the most notable characteristic that the show brought to the super robot genre was the relationship between machines and humans; Go Nagai established from the start the premise that machines and humans could act as one, and interact between each other. Since Kouji piloted the robot from the head, he acted as the robot's "brain," and almost every time Kouji would move, laugh, or suffer inside its cockpit, the robot would act the same, mimicking its pilot. Additionally, some minor characters included were cyborgs, that could act like humans, showing feelings and emotions (even crying). These ideas were used repeatedly in many similar shows (Grendizer, another Nagai work, would have the pilot suffer injury to his own body where the robot was attacked).
In terms of plot, despite being simplistic in its portrait of good and evil characters, the show was able to stay fresh with young audiences with an irresistible mix of action, horror, comedy, and drama, sometimes all in one single episode. Some of them (especially after the introduction of the Boss Borot), were heavy on slapstick and jokes, even to the point of making fun of the hero and the villains; others carried strong melodramatic touches (this characteristic of heavy satire humor and melodrama were in fact staples of almost all of Go Nagai's creations in manga, even before their adaptations to the small screen). We also have a change in the concept of main female characters (already seen in Harenchi Gakuen, later reinforced in Cutie Honey), who were until then modeled after the "quiet, sweet, compliant" Japanese ideal: Kouji's partner and love interest Sayaka Yumi is tomboyish, loud and stubborn, very unlike the traditional heroines. Kouji Kabuto was not your usual hero of the time— he was a crass, arrogant, impulsive and hot-headed ne'er-do-well—who was the polar opposite of the virtuous Japanese males in the media. While Kouji's very outrageous and abhorrent behavior was very appealing to young boys, it was the bane of many establishment organizations, such as the Japanese PTA.
Later sequels of the franchise share many characteristics of the Japanese tokusatsu heroes as well as 1970s kaiju films. The team-up anime Grendizer & Getter Robo G & Great Mazinger vs. The Giant Sea Monster is very similar to tokusatsu films like Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster. Mazinger Z also spawned the parody series, Panda Z, also by Nagai, in which the main characters of the original series are replaced by anthropomorphic animals. Mazinger also appears in the comedy OVA CB Chara Nagai Go World, where the main cast of the series is turned into super deformed parodistic alter-egos who are then sent on a wild caper across most of the Nagai's works (with encounters with Devilman 's demons, Getter Robo, Violence Jack and others).
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