Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 7th 2004
DVD 1: Turbo Smashing Sensation!
Dr. Hell is back, and this time he's got an entire armada of world-crushing robots at his disposal! The only thing standing between him and total world domination is the Photon Power Lab and Mazinger, two obstacles he must destroy at any cost. Unfortunately, the stakes are too high this time, even for Great Mazinger and his entire team of heroes, so it's up to spunky ace robot runner Koji Kabuto and his amazing Mazinkaiser to save the day!
Go Nagai, responsible at once for some of the most beloved and most reviled anime titles in the history of the genre, has created a deep divide between anime fans. Some fans revel in Nagai's retro design, over-the-top storytelling and commitment to anime standards that are now pushing 35 years old; others find him hoary, archaic and silly. Whatever your stance is, you can't deny that Mazinkaiser is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. It's like pornography for giant robot fans.
The series starts out with what becomes a thrilling, beautifully animated battle between the forces of Dr. Hell, the two-faced Baron Ashura and the entirety of Team Mazinger, featuring both Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger. At first, it all seems quite silly; three-headed robots with clawed arms ripping buildings apart, only to be thwarted at the last second by Mazinger and his gang of do-gooders. Thankfully, it's anything but business as usual. The battle turns bloodthirsty and brutal; Mazinger Z gets captured after having the snot beat out of him and the rest of the team gets completely trashed by Dr. Hell. They retreat to the Photon labs, but Dr. Hell is close on their heels, complete with a now-evil Mazinger Z. They wreck the place, but right at the last second, Mazinkaiser shows up, a robot more powerful than anything else on the planet. He cleans house, and the drama begins.
It may sound cliché, but the show is executed with style and panache. This show goes a long way towards eradicating the concept that all character designs from the 1970's are hideously ugly. Sure, they have funny hair and hideous clothing, but the bold, single-line style really stands out. Mazinkaiser is unique on virtue of the fact that there really isn't anything else like it on the market right now (which is saying a lot, considering how white-washed and clone-like most new anime series tend to be). If you're looking for something different, and are sick and tired of angsty, androgynous pretty boys and the personality-free girls they love, watching Mazinkaiser beat the tar out of some stupid-looking evil robot might just be the antidote you're looking for.
Of course, Mazinkaiser won't convert anyone who doesn't already have a soft spot for giant robot shows. Despite the unconventional proceedings (within the genre, that is – nothing that happens in this series will seem unique to anyone who lacks experience with giant robot shows), Mazinkaiser preaches to the converted. The show is unabashedly aimed at men, complete with excessive fanservice and ridiculous, over-the-top violence. The show focuses almost entirely on giant robot battles, and while it features some interpersonal relationship drama, it's kept at a minimum and only serves to provide a story when there aren't robots on screen. The characters are mostly one-dimensional, which is to be expected of something like this. It isn't Hamlet, so don't expect it to be.
The dub is fun, just like the show is. The actors really seem to be giving it everything they have to give. Koji's voice actor must be blowing his vocal chords open to get the kind of primal attack screaming he's pulling off. The result is a wonderful match with the Japanese. Even the comic relief characters are well-acted and seem to match the hilariously overblown proceedings. Dr. Hell has an appropriate and surprisingly excellent voice. It's hard to imagine how this dub could have been better. The Japanese is worth watching, but if you're a dub fan or have an open mind, make sure you give the English version a spin. You won't regret it.
Basically, Mazinkaiser is a pleasant surprise. What could have been another by-the-numbers, lame, predictable giant robot series turns out to be tremendous fun, and wonderfully animated to boot. If you're a fan of Go Nagai's robot shows, this will be pure gravy for you. It's also a good place to start for newbies who lack familiarity with the original Mazinkaiser series but have always been curious. People who can't stand giant robots won't find anything to love here, though, and might want to look elsewhere for their fix. Meanwhile, the rest of us can have a heck of a good time with this series.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Tremendous fun, high production values
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