Saturday, December 17, 2011
Go Nagai: Mazinger, or Tranzor Z
As a little boy, I got a coloring book featuring the Great Mazinga of the Shogun Warriors. The invasion of the Japanese robot toys ran into a commercial dead-end initially due to injuries from their projectiles, but when in time I got a comic book or two with full page ads about the Shogun Warriors, I was enthralled!
Great Mazinga is another identity for the first human-piloted super robot, whose adventures ran on Japanese television starting in 1972, to many encore series. Week after week, the characters I knew as Devilene, the male/female, and Count Decapito worked to spread Dr. Hell's reign of terror in the form of great bio-engineered monsters and mechas. Only the rocket punch, hurricane breath, and other weapons announced by pilot Tommy as they were deployed stood in 45 meter form between humanity and oblivion. The giants were inspired by a Mycenean Empire discovery which has spurred Dr. Hell to take over the world.
By the time a version of the cartoon reached America under Three B studios, it followed Voltron (Go-Lion in Japan--where it performed with mediocre ratings) and the Transformers (based on the direct descendants of what became our Shogun Warriors, a variety of toy lines merged into a concept developed by Bob Budiansky at Marvel Comics). The American version, TRANZOR-Z, did not receive much praise, but some of us remember it fondly, while its original counterpart thirteen years before was a ratings smash in Japan. Story and violence were edited; almost a third of the serial episodes were dropped. The full version of the cartoon was wildly popular in Mexico.
Its creator, Go Nagai, holds the view that violence debases man, and reflects the ambiguity of force in the original name, Ma jing er, a merging of the words "God" and "Demon." Born in 1945, he founded Dynamic Productions in 1970. He went on to produce the horrific "Devil Man" (which, like Mazinger Z, began as a manga) and the adult-oriented Cutie Honey, which brought us the "magical girl" genre signified by Sailor Moon.
Tranzor Z gave us the first female super robot in Aphrodite A, as well as considerable humor regarding the other member of its central love triangle, who piloted a giant built from junk called "Bobo Bot." The franchise went on to many further incarnations as animation has increased in sophistication and remains a part of international pop culture. A version called Grendizer became popular in Europe in the 1970's, also featuring the same pilot character in its story line.
The following can be found at Wikipedia.
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.
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