Mazinger Z (マジンガーＺ Majingā Zetto?), known as Tranzor Z in United States, is a Super Robot manga and anime series created by Go Nagai. The first manga version was serialized in Shueisha Weekly Shōnen Jump from October 1972 to August 1973, and it later continued in Kodansha TV Magazine from October 1973 to September 1974. In December 1972, the anime version premiered on Fuji Television. The TV series ended September 1, 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 of the TV show.
Mazinger Z is a gigantic 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 Japan's Mt. Fuji. 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 (mecha used for evil purposes) 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 in every episode.
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.
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 (mazinga zeto tai debiruman) in 1973 and Mazinger Z Vs. The Great General of Darkness (mazinga zetō tai ankoku daishogun) in 1974.
In the 1980s, on behalf of Dynamic Planning, Masami Obari and other independent animators 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.
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 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(and later Diana 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.
Manga and anime historians see the Pilder-Robot combination as the origin of the “transforming robot” genre, because it marks one of the first published examples in a manga of two distinctive vehicles forming a specific entity. This is often interpreted as the root of later series like GoLion (Voltron – Defender of the Universe), the Transformers, and the giant robots in the Super Sentai Series (the basis for Power Rangers). Mazinger Z is not a vehicle that transforms into another shape, yet it requires the smaller, non-combative vehicle to get going. This idea may have inspired the Core Fighter in Mobile Suit Gundam and the entry-plug in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
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 can also be traced back to Toei's 1968 tokusatsu series, Giant Robo (US title, 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 characteristics 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 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 Nagaian oeuvre (with encounters with Devilman's demons, Getter Robo, Violence Jack and others).
Mazinger was translated into many languages spoken outside Japan and the Far East, was broadcast, and found an audience in much of the rest of the world. In Europe, Mazinger Z was televised in Spain and Italy, with astounding success. Oddly enough, it was not shown in France until the 1980s, by which time it was perceived as a Grendizer imitation, even though it was actually the original, and the main character, Koji Kabuto, is a major character in both series. The inconsistent distribution of the Mazinger Z series outside of Japan led to similar confusion in other western markets.
- Central and South America
Mazinger Z was also shown in Central and South American countries in its entirety and without editing. Mazinger Z was also very popular in Puerto Rico, where the show aired in its entirety as well, beginning in 1979. In the decades since its original broadcast, Mazinger Z has maintained a loyal cult following in Latin American countries
Mazinger Z was also aired in Mexico between 1984 and 1986 on Channel 5 of Televisa Mexico. From 1994 until 1995 the series was re-aired by Channel 13 by the recently formed Televisión Azteca or TV Azteca, and finally in 1997 on Channel 7 of the same broadcaster, but with re-mixed audio tracks.
In 1984, some of the edits include some scenes with semi-nudes and insults being deleted, but the most censored transmission was in 1994 by TV Azteca where dialogues and violent or explicit language were muted completely. Before, with Televisa in 1984, this violent and explicit language was uncensored.
The Mexican Mazinger redub version had some errors in the voice actor sequences as the Mazinger version aired in Mexico and other central and South American countries had a mix dub realized by two different enterprises, Cadicy International (nowadays First Line Films) and Audiomaster (an early Televisa enterprise.) In the first case, the first third of Mazinger was dubbed by Cadicy International in Miami, Florida by voice actors with Cuban-Spanish-pronunciation. Cadicy International also provided voice-over tracks for other anime and cartoons like Ginga Reppu Baxingar (Gladiadores del Espacio), X-Bomber Flota espacial), Huck & Tom's Mississippi Adventure (Aventuras en el Mississippi) or Woody Woodpecker (Pajaro Loco). The names of the voice actors are unknown.
In 1982, Audiomaster made the Mexican dub with Mexican recognized actors. The dub was made in Los Angeles, California, with a character voices in disorder: Koji Kabuto had two voices, Jesús Barrero and Juan Alfonso Carralero; Sayaka Yumi by Gloria Gonzalez; and Ashura by Antonio Raxel (a Mexican films actor) among others. Both dubs were mixed for most Latin American countries.
In both cases, the opening and ending sequences and the chapters recorded by Toei Animation with the singer Ichirou Mizuki were recorded without lyrics for release as the "international version". Only the Japanese version has the lyrics, which permits other countries to record the opening and ending versions in their own languages and include titles and subtitles for the credits. However, only Spain recorded a Spanish version of opening and ending like the Japanese version. When the original opening theme appeared during a sequence of a specific episode, it was kept with the original Japanese lyrics intact, though.
- United States (Tranzor Z)
In 1985, the show was syndicated in the United States under the title Tranzor Z from 3-B Productions. Unlike the generally faithful treatment other countries gave their versions of Mazinger Z, 3-B's version was heavily edited and shortened to 65 episodes (the standard minimum length of a daily syndication package in the US). It also featured a modified storyline that was altered from the original (while still following roughly the same course), and most of the characters were given American-style names (Kouji Kabuto was renamed "Tommy Davis," for example).
Credit for Tranzor Z went to producer and licensor, Bunker Jenkins (although token credit was given to the Toei Company). 3-B Productions was a short-lived company that grew out of the production team who worked on the US version of Space Battleship Yamato ("Star Blazers"), at Sunbow Productions.
The "Americanization" of Mazinger Z for US consumption was done in part because of the stricter standards in regards to content for children's programming at that time. A large percentage of the action scenes were deemed unacceptable by Standards and Practices; the original version contained numerous scenes of urban destruction, murder, torture, dismemberment, male-on-female violence, etc. Additionally, many scenes of a "suggestive" nature were deleted; this included nearly all occurrences of Aphrodite A actually launching its "oppai" (breast) missiles, usually replaced by a freeze-frame of Sayaka/Jessica's thumb on the firing switch cutting to the missile(s) already in flight. In other instances, footage from Great Mazinger (the sequel to Mazinger Z) was spliced in on occasion to replace removed footage (despite the obvious visual differences between the two titular robots). The deletion of certain key episodes also prompted some changes; for example, the episode depicting Aphrodite's destruction was not included in the Tranzor Z package, so the subsequent introduction of Diana A was handled as an off-camera upgrade of Aphrodite (even retaining Aphrodite's name) and not as the introduction of an entirely separate robot.
There was an earlier English dub of the show, commissioned by Toei Animation and produced by M.&M. Communications Inc. (a subsidiary of MK Company), according to the credits on the actual episode. The English dubbing was recorded at Commercial Recording in Honolulu, Hawaii and was produced by Seito "Tom" Ikeda and Dana Ikeda. The Technical Advisor was Koji Tomita and translation was handled by May Nozoe. This version was far more faithful to the original Japanese version, retaining the Japanese names for all of the characters (with slight variations in a few instances). The opening and ending themes and insert song "Z Theme" were translated into English by William Saylor and sung by veteran anime theme singer Isao Sasaki; these songs were released as a single in December 1977. According to some sources, only 29 episodes were dubbed by M.&M. Communications.
In addition to being aired on television in the Philippines (see below), a few episodes of this English version of "Mazinger Z" were released on home video in the United Kingdom in 1983 (now out of print). Prior to the series' localization for U.S. TV syndication as "Tranzor Z," the Toei/M.&M. dub was also shown on U.S. television around 1979 on the Japan-themed series, Beyond the Horizon, which was produced by TeleJapan for PBS, and gave westerners a look as to what Japanese television offered (PBS also ran TeleJapan's Faces of Japan documentary series in the mid-1980s). Beyond the Horizon later ran on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
- The Philippines
The M.&M. dubs were later aired in the Philippines, where dubbing was continued by the local broadcaster prior to the show's cancellation, allegedly by order of dictator-president Ferdinand Marcos. "Mazinger Z" was first aired by Philippine broadcaster GMA Network at an early primetime slot of 6:00PM in 1979 and it became an instant hit among children of that time. The whole 6:00PM slot from Monday to Friday featured a series of "super robots," such as Grendizer, Mekanda and Voltes V with "Mazinger Z" airing on Wednesday. There were rumors that Marcos found the series (particularly Voltes V due to its political and rebellious undertones) "too violent" for the then Philippine government censored television industry while others say, the series was too popular in the ratings game, killing competition of other TV networks allegedly owned by Marcos business cronies. Newspaper accounts of the time cite the incident of a young boy jumping off the roof of his house while mimicking the "super robots" as proof of the negative influence of the violence in the "super robot" shows. It should be noted that the dailies of the time were also under the control of the Marcos government.
- Middle East
An Arabic dub, entitled "Mazinjer", was made in an attempt to cash in on the Super Robot craze created in Arabic-speaking countries by UFO Robot Grendizer. Although it did not do as well, Mazinger Z still found popularity and earned a huge fanbase throughout many Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt. However, only the first 27 episodes were translated (there is a possibility that it was an Arabic dub of the English dub produced by Frontier Enterprises).
- 23x15px Chile
- 23x15px Spain
- 23x15px Mexico
- TV Azteca(1994-1997)
- 23x15px Argentina
- 23x15px Ecuador
- TC Television (2009-present)
- 23x15px Guatemala
- Canal 3 (1983)
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 such as Gundam, et al.
A 10 metres statue was build 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.
- "Go Nagai's manga works 1971-1975". Nagai Go Special Corner (in Japanese). ebookjapan initiative. Retrieved 2008-11-14.
- "Mazinkaizer SKL Anime, Manga, Novel Revealed (Updated)". USA: Anime News Network. 2010-04-22. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- Mark Gilson, "A Brief History of Japanese Robophilia", Leonardo 31 (5), p. 367–369 .
- Information of Mazinger Z in Toei Animation (Japanese)
- A manga-style description of Mazinger Z and Devilman.
- Mazinger Z (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Mazinger Z (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Mazinger Z Home at Enciclorobopedia (Italian)
- The Tranzor Z Headquarters
- A feature on the rare English Dub Mazinger Z