Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Animated Thoughts: Mazinger Z on DVD

Mazinger Z - Discotek Media
So a year ago at ShutoCon, Lansing's anime and Japanese culture con, I asked the Funimation rep about the possibility of collectors like me seeing some of the old giant robot series from the 1970s being released on DVD in the future.

She said she doubted it due to the fact that the licenses were tied up in production committees with companies--many of which weren't in business anymore and had been absorbed by other companies--so figuring out who owns what rights would be a nightmare that would scare away most companies who could do DVD releases.

Well, thankfully, someone somewhere was listening to my pleas as it looks like on April 29th, Discotek Media will be releasing the first season (46 episodes) of Mazinger Z on DVD with the original Japanese language but with English subtitles. (1)

While many of us here in the States may remember this as the "Tranzor Z" cartoon from the 1980s or the Mazinga toy from Mattel's Shogun Warrior line of toys in the 1970s, in actuality, Mazinger Z had its origins in a manga created by Japanese comic artist Go Nagai--a manga which was released in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine and turned into an anime series by Toei Doga in 1972. (2)

Shogun Warriors by Marvel Comics
(yes, I have the entire series in my collection,
and no I don't lend them out!)
The first in the giant robot genre, "Mazinger Z" ran for 92 episodes and was broadcast from December 1972 until September 1974. This was followed by 56 episodes of the series "Great Mazinger", also produced by Toei Doga, which ran from September 1974 until September 1975 and spawned several movies (3) including "Mazinkaizer" which eschews the first anime series and instead takes its cues from the events in the original manga. (4)

Toei Robot Girls Z
Most recently, Toei has released a series of animated shorts using the Mazinger robots (and their ilk) re-imagined as moe-styled girls--called "Toei Robot Girls Z". Fortunately, for me, while initially this Winter 2014 series had not been picked up by any legitimate streaming service for English sub and rebroadcast to the North American market, last month, Crunchyroll picked up the short form series and has streamed the first two (of three) half-hour episodes. While keeping pretty close to the usual tropes that are in vogue today--moe schoolgirl characters, lots of explosions, a cross-dressing boy, and the requisite pervy girl character--the show is light, fluffy and relatively fun (if you can overlook the ecchi elements that play to the more hardline otaku viewers).

Hopefully, if the Mazinger Z DVD release does well, we'll see the rest of the 46 Mazinger Z episodes released along with some of the other classic giant robot shows like Great Mazinger, Yusha Raydeen, Wakusei Robot Dangard Ace, and Chodenji Robot Combattler V--all of which up until now appear to have only been available in the United States via bittorrented, fan-subbed downloads and bootleg DVDs. While the collector in me is ecstatic that this series will be released on DVD in all it's campy goodness, and in a format that I can proudly display on my shelf, I must admit that after waiting over twenty-five years, I would've been just as happy to see these available for digital download from iTunes.

1. Crunchyroll news article,
2. Wikipedia Entry for Mazinger Z
3. PROTOCULTURE ADDICTS - The Anime & Manga Magazine, Issue #41, pp33-38, July-August 1996
4. Wikipedia Entry for Mazinkaizer