Here's a Primer on Mazinger Z for Everyone Who Didn't Grow Up in the '70s
Although I grew up in the 70s, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV during weekdays, so the only robot show I ever saw with any regularity was Voltes V on Fridays, which, like all the weekday robot shows, showed on GMA 7 at 5:30pm every day, right after Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko. I wasn’t that into Voltes V, though. My favorite giant robot show aired midweek on Wednesdays, and for that I would risk getting into trouble whenever my parents caught me watching it while I thought they were away at work. Wednesday was Mazinger Z day.
Mazinger Z was created by Go Nagai, the manga creator behind popular titles such as Devilman, Cutie Honey, Grendizer, and Getter Robo. Arguably the father of the piloted giant robot genre as well as responsible for the risqué turn of manga and anime, Go Nagai’s seminal work is loved all over the world. Grendizer was well-loved in France, while people in Spain were so much into Mazinger Z they actually erected a forty-foot statue (it was for an amusement park that never got built, but the statue lives on today).
Nagai pioneered the tongue-in-cheek approach to sex and nudity in a children’s anime, and Mazinger Z was even somewhat sexist at times. In fact, one of the most famous Freudian features of Sayaka Yumi’s Aphrodite A giant robot were its Oppai Missile System—literally "boob rockets". In one episode, Mazinger Z held on to these rocket boobs to fly. Needless to say, Mazinger Z was zanier than its contemporaries.
In its origin, Dr. Juzo Kabuto was a brilliant, if somewhat mad scientist who discovered the element Japanium under Mt. Fuji. He was later part of an expedition with the power hungry Dr. Hell, who discovered ancient mechanical beasts and planned to take over the world using their power. Dr. Hell had the rest of his expedition killed but Kabuto escaped and developed a plan to stop Dr. Hell by creating a super alloy using Japanium dubbed Chogokin Z and using it to build a giant robot.
Dr. Kabuto was eventually assassinated, and the reins to Mazinger Z fell upon his grandson, Koji. The original tv series is your run-of-the-mill monster of the week format, but Koji is surrounded by an interesting cast of characters, from spunky love interest Sayaka to comic relief Boss, who also gets to pilot his own comedic robot named Boss Borot. Even Dr. Hell has a ludicrous crew including a half-man half-woman named Baron Ashura, who turns sideways to the camera to talk in either a man’s or woman’s voice not unlike those gay pageant talent shows where the contestant sings a duet with himself. Another one of Hell’s lieutenants is Count Brocken, a decapitated Nazi who carries his head around.
Mazinger Z became so wildly popular that it spawned sequels and remakes, as well as related giant robot anime such as UFO Grendizer, where Koji plays a supporting role. Last 2017, Toei released a sequel to Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger called Mazinger Z: Infinity that’s set ten years after the events of Great Mazinger.
A celebration of Mazinger Z’s 45th anniversary and Go Nagai’s 50th year in manga, Mazinger Z: Infinity took a long time to come to Philippine screens. It premiered in Italy in October last year, showed in Japan in January, and in the United States in February. Subbed bootlegs have been reportedly available in torrent sites, but any self-respecting, boob missile-loving Mazinger Z fan knows that good things come to those who wait: Infinity opens in theaters all over Metro Manila today.