Go Nagai has always had a bit of a trollish streak in him…
Go was first the man to draw satirical and controversially entertaining erotica into manga in the 1960s, when his ‘Shameless School’ (ハレンチ学園 – 1968) saw education districts up in arms about the corruption of comics on school children.
Though it is rather mild by the standards of today, we would be greatly mistaken in judging this early little exercise in deviance too lightly.
When, in 1968, Shueisha was prepping the ground for what would become the Shōnen Jump magazine, the authors they approached to take part in the project were selected almost expressly owing to their more outlandish qualities. Shueisha was then a minor company on the manga block, and it was felt that they would struggle against established competition, such as Kodansha or Shogakukan. To offer mundane stories in a mundane environment would not have been easy for a small concern, so the company line was to encourage and nurture a wave of creators who were unafraid of convention, and who would be willing to court controversy.
In Go Nagai, however they rather bit off more than they could chew.
Taking his brief as ‘carte blanche within the law’ Go set about tearing down every comic convention to which he could put his pen, as if there was nothing sacred.
In ‘Shameless School’, which was his first main work for Jump, Go precisely dissected all that was important in the school drama type of manga, and subverted the genre specifically by playing up to those rules, but in a very unusual way. All the conventions were there (loyalty, fighting spirit, friendship and so on), but expressed through vehicles of which a conservative society was likely to disapprove (drugs, gangs, sex, and so on).
To Go, schools were scandalous places, and to imagine them to be the sort of sainted, Confucian bastions of learning was the true insanity. All Go did was exaggerate the true qualities of organized education as he had experienced it, and dared society to deny the truth of his (admittedly inflated) assertions.
When the PTAs went up in flames, Go kept his cool, wise of the law and trolled everyone around him in classic fashion, shining his insight onto the society of his time.
However, the man’s mind – and his wit – were not content to rest on stirring up PTAs over mildly erotic schools stories, and as time went on, Go Nagai began considering the ways in which other manga genre were becoming stale and repetitive.
When he turned his attention to Super Heroic fare, he swept his pen about like a mattock, and not only cut the ground from underneath stale series like ‘Sally the Witch’ but carved out the first true ‘Magical Girl’ series, Cutie Honey (the TV version at least has been described thus).
Nagai’s version of Cutie Honey (one set of manga was created entirely by Nagai, and another set was only illustrated by him) gave us an outrageously powerful female character at a time in which too many women in manga were, if not passive victims, little more than sex objects. As he has said himself over the years, Honey – in all her guises – is still sexually desirable, but defies anyone and everyone to objectify her, or expect her to fit into the narrow character confines of social expectation (conservative and/or radical). The genius here was that Cutie herself could transform, adopt a new look, new set of traits, and a new personality at need.
However, Go Nagai is no mere troll. There is method in all his seeming madness, and this is not more evident than in the work for which he is rightly best regarded – Mazinger Z: the ultimate Super Robot and the First of the Real.
Soul of Chogoukin
Mazinger Z came out of the desire of the late 60s and 70s to get away from the notion of ‘divine technology’, upon which series such as ‘Ironman 28′ had been built in the 1950s.
The genius of the design here was that Mazinger became the first Japanese robot to be widely seen more as a vehicle than as the semi-sentient parent/ego-extension which older mechs had been. To have Mazinger’s control craft actually plugging into the head of the unit actively suggested that the power and authority of the machine came from the man within, rather than the technology itself.
This is evident in many of the series’ conceits.
The alloy from which the Mazinger is formed (chogoukin Z) is, though rare not impervious to harm, comes with its own limitations and restrictions.
Mazinger Z regularly runs out of ammunition and fuel.
And, no matter how potent the machine itself, when the pilot is overborne by events, the whole mech staggers to a halt.
This latter fact reveals the way in which Go Nagai was emphasizing the importance of unity between technology and people in the rapidly changing years of the later 20th century. Indeed, the relationship between Mazinger Z and Kouji is profound, to the point that the machine begins to naturally reproduce the emotional expressions of the pilot. And the same is true for all the mechs and cyborgs of the show, including the one under discussion here: Aphrodite A.
The Iron Lady of Cytheria
Where Mazinger Z was a weapon of war, The Aphrodite, designed by Prof. Yumi Gennosuke, in the series was initially only a civilian mech, whose primary role (apart from keeping the wretched Boss Borot on his shaky legs) was geological research. Piloted by Prof. Yumi’s daughter, Sayaka, the mech was given a more feminine appearance (according to Go Nagai’s notion of extending the personality traits of pilots to their machines, to better allow readers to connect with them) and this design proved to be a winning one with fans. Indeed so popular did the Aphrodite A (the anime version) become as the series developed that the mech was eventually updated with weapon systems (including the infamous Boobie Busters – known as Oppai (breast) Missiles in the series) so that it could take a greater part in central story lines.
ThreeZero, the mech arm of Hong Kong based 3A Productions, have a bit of a shaky reputation with some fans, especially in Japan. Apart from the legions of complaints concerning weak joints on their toys (see below), the very industrial styling of 3A/ThreeZero toys is like Marmite – one ether loves it or hates it.
Rusty, rough, and almost unfinished in appearance, the aesthetic seems to have developed out of the old 3A World Robots series and, does have for me a great deal of charm.
2014’s Mazinger Z release was one of the largest easily available Mazinger toys on the market – even more massive than the Bandai DX Chogoukin release, and the current Aphrodite A is in the same scale, standing a good 15″ tall.
Finished, as you can see in a bright yellow and a metallic red, the image overall is excellent, and fits in nicely with the aesthetic set by the first release in the series.
1: Articulation: broad.
Each joint has a clear range of motion, and the main ones (shoulder and hip) have ratchet stops to better assist in posing. The ankles are a shade weak on mine and so – considering the top-heavy nature of the toy – I’ve put a dab of thread lock on them (properly worked in) to make the stance surer, without sealing up tight.
Add to that the fine articulation on the fingers, and the whole is very appealing.
Both the lighting (eyes and cockpit) and missiles (fired in sequence by the same button) are as one would expect – and very satisfying all told. The lights on mine are so weak however that they can only be seen in near dark conditions.
However, this is where the qualifications begin…
1: Jointing: Weak.
ThreeZero continues to use the most deplorable plastic joints in their larger toys, which actually seem weaker in construction than the sort one might find in the smaller Figma or Revoltech lines.
In my case, the Aphrodite came delivered with a dislocated hip and a sheared off shoulder. This sort of shabbiness is really not acceptable for a toy at Aphrodite’s price-point, and making allowance for the small size of the company is not an excuse.
Surely it is time for ThreeZero to go over to metal joints that do not stick, shear or simply fall apart as soon as one looks at them.
2: Finish: Rough
For those not already into the ThreeZero style, these toys are not only aesthetically rough, but also rather crude in construction (inside and out).
However, this is what it is, and has become part of the company traits… One either accepts it or walks away.
However, the packaging is also very rough, and almost ugly. There was no protective wrapping (tissue or plastic) round the mech, no instruction sheets, no QA paperwork and the box was set with mismatched magnets.
All a bit shabby…
For the money being paid (30,000 yen can get a chap a very high end Chogoukin from Bandai) one would expect a little more thought in these matters…
3: Batteries: Where are they?
A minor matter to be sure, but having put that sort of coin down, I do not expect to have to nip out to Daiso to try and track down 6 watch batteries (of an unknown sort, as there was no manual) to get the eyes lit up… Minor niggle, but if the batteries are so cheap (and they are) why could they not be included in the box?*
* Or is there some restriction on international transport of such things?
All in all, even taking the issue with the joints into account (which I am sure ThreeZero will set right) I am very content with this purchase. Yes… I know, but despite the ranting I really am happy with it, partly as I love the ThreeZero aesthetic, and partly as it is the largest Aphrodite A available on the market. I’d like it if Three Zero did an enemy mech, or even soppy old Boss Borot…
The price, the design flaws and the finish do not recommend it to casual shoppers, but then again, big super robots are not things one buys on a whim.
Even fans though will have to consider the caveats very carefully before taking the plunge — This is not a toy to be played with. Period.
Unless you go after aftermarket joints (just goes to show how much of a plague this business is for ThreeZero when Hong Kong companies offer metal replacements) you’ll simply tear her apart if you are not very careful indeed.
NOTE: On all my 3A and ThreeZero models (from Ro Jaws to Aphrodite), I’ve noted that some joints lock up tight as a drum (possibly owning to the model being assembled when the paint on the parts is not fully dry). Be warned.
However… I’d do it again (though I told Cacophonous I would not), and will certainly do it when the ThreeZero Getter Robo hits the shelves…
But, then again, I love my mecha, so…
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