Series Recommendation: Shin Mazinger Impact! Chapter Z

Will you become a Devil, or a God?

The Mazinger franchise is a beloved super robot series created by Go Nagain in 1972. It is one of the most influential mecha series that pioneered many of the genre’s best work. The manga was originally created in 1972 and an anime series was also made that year. Being decades old, the quality of the animation and music wasn’t as good as today’s standard, so of course they do the best choice for the series: “remake” the series with a modern touch.

Shin Mazinger Shogeki! Z-hen is a 26-episode series produced by Dynamic Planning, Bandai Visual and Lantis with BEE Media in charge of animation. The series was aired in 2009 and act as a retelling/reimagined Mazinger Z series, with many differences compared to the original series, however still keeping the core characters and concepts, with a sort of interconnectivity with other Go Nagai works mostly for homages.

Shin Mazinger Z tells the story of Kouji Kabuto – an orphaned boy who live with his grandpa and little brother. His gramps is an eccentric inventor but very doting on his grandkids, so much so that he built a literal giant robot for Kouji. The giant robot is named Mazinger Z – and according to his grandpa Juuzou – is capable of unleashing power that can make it a Devil (akuma) or a God (kami) depends on Kouji’s will. Being a hot-blooded and righteous boy, Kouji chose to use Mazinger to fight against Dr. Hell and his army of Mechanical Beasts to protect the his town, family and friends and the most potent energy source on Earth: Photon Energy.

+ Plot: Shin Mazinger episode is sorta….wonky. As the events unfold give you the impression of the weirdest case of ‘in media res’ where things start of in the middle of the story – but in this case – the ending. So if you’re reading this and haven’t watched the series, start from episode 2 instead, then go all the way to 26, then watch ep 1. It might not be the intended effect by the creator, but it makes for a better experience. For veterans who are very familiar with the franchise, the original episode order probably won’t bother you too much, but it will still feel a bit weird. Not a deal-breaker in anyway, but the way episode one was presented might created some confusion.

In terms of plot and characters, Shin Mazinger has pretty much the same starting concept as the original series. Some very classic Super Robot tropes are present here – since Mazinger is pretty much one of the forefathers that popularize those tropes in the first place. We have the hot-blooded, stubborn hero that sometimes is too hard-headed for his own good, yet always follow the call of justice and sacrifice anything to protect his loved ones. The most interesting part of Mazinger cast is definitely the supporting characters, aside from the staple Mazinger cast like Sayaka, Prof Yumi and Boss, we also get various characters from other Go Nagai works – mostly from Devilman, Violent Jack and others. They bring a new flavor to the Super Robot tropes and through them, Kouji got some critical development that he doesn’t need to go through 70+ episodes to gain.

Furthermore, the villains are also elevated. Dr. Hell less so but more on Baron Ashura – an iconic figure in the franchise. The story – aside from the basic premise – are significantly different from the original anime and manga as well. This give more depth to the story and the main cast in a lower episode count – which is pretty much how modern animes are made with. You cant expect a 60+ episode mecha series in the post 2000 era anymore. So they were forced to make a faster-paced, less monster-of-the-week and a tight but cohesive storyline. And for Shin Z, they have managed to did a great job.

+ Animation: A very obvious update from the original. The difference is 37 years after all. Shin Mazinger is a very good combination of modern 2D hand-drawn mecha and classic 2d hand-drawn mecha. The more heavier and chunky feeling in addition with the fluid, crisp digital coloring brings the series to new heights. Original fans who watched the Mazinger Z anime would be mindblown when they watch Shin. Everything looks so much more fluid and crisp, while still retain the “iron castle” clunkiness of Z. And who doesn’t love a Rocket Punch in HD!

+ Mecha Design: Since this a mostly a reimagined, the designs of the mechs have some minor changes but still retain the distinct aesthetic of the original. There are some different details on Z – most notably the heatsink, the color (from dark blue to black like in Mazinkaiser), different face details and overall slightly different proportions (but still barrel-shaped limbs like always). The Mechanical Beasts are still the standard designs, with some slight variation here and there. But you can imagine them as stock MotW stuff. There is, however, a huge surprise in the series when it comes to unit, so definitely watch out for that one. When it debuted, my jaw was dropped.

+ Music: Just like with Getter, Jam Project has taken over the hype tracks! The first opening Kanjite Knight by Hironobu Kageyama will set your spirit on FIRE! The heavy rock song is a collaboration between Jam Project and Kageyama’s former heavy rock band Lazy. It is just the epitome of hotbloodedness for a Super Robot series. The 2nd OP “The Guardian” by Jam Project has more in common with the original Mazinger Z opening, but with more badassness and an apocalyptic feeling to it – which is pretty suitable for the series.

+ Conclusion: Shin Mazinger Z is one of the best reboot the genre has to offer. It served as a good modern entry point into the franchise for everyone one new. If you think Shin Mazinger is just a MotW motif just like its original anime, you’re very mistaken. The series blend the manga’s darker theme into an intricate plot that pays off at the end (or at the start depend on how you view it) with some nice modern animation production and music. And as an amalgamation of Go Nagai’s work, it can also serve as your entry into the career of a great mecha master!

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