Only the Mighty!
I will open this unboxing with a shameless copypasta from my Aphrodite A review, as the self same terms apply here.
Go Nagai really has always had not only a trollish streak in him, but a well developed eye for the main chance, and a way of looking at the popular culture zeitgeist of his time.
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.
Mazinger Z represents both the Zenith of the Super Robot, and the the primal spark which would create the Real Robot boom of the later years. We rather forget that these days, in which Old Z’s sleek lines, primary colours and bellowed special moves positively reek of the age-gone-by, still to think of this World Changing Mech in such simplistic terms is like slandering the Model T Ford simply because it does not have the speed, technology or the aesthetics of Testa Rossa.
Hindsight is easy – and I too am guilty of falling victim to it.
My Uncle brought me a huge Mazinger Z toy (one of the Jumbo Machinder series) back from Japan when I was a lad. There was nothing to compare with it for sheer size and originality (save, of course the works of Gerry Anderson) and I adored it, as it stomped over all my dinosaurs, plastic soldiers and cars, as I demonstrated the dominance of the very future.
However, as time went by, and other films and series came in (especially post Star Wars in 1977) the poor old mazinger began to look more and more comical to childish eyes which were focused every more tightly on the levels of modeling detail to be found in media coming out of that age – Mobile Suit Gundam, Space 1999, the Star Trek Movies, Alien (Gods, I love the Nostromo), and a whole host of increasingly eye popping technical innovations.
However, one thing that I overlooked was that function and form do not necessarily mesh in the same way. I had forgotten why I liked Mazinger Z so much – perhaps I could not even express it properly at the time – in a sweeping dismissal of the visuals of the battered old mecha in the face of the intricacies of the ’80s.
Stupid, really… However, it was also natural in some ways.
It was only as the years piled on, and I joined the nascent anime community in the UK that I began to see things in a clearer light – especially as local fans began discussing the nature of the ‘tech in the mechs’ which we loved so much. Time and again, we came across the now well-known evolutionary tree of mecha and I began recognizing how and why my old, battered and sadly discarded Mazinger Z fit into the scheme of things. Suddenly, a rather crestfallen chubby chappy dragged out his old Maschinder from the attic and placed him as a careworn but indulgent patriarch at the center of my growing collection of more up to date mechs – flanked, in truly geek fashion by Mazinger’s most famous spiritual progeny, a VF1S Valk and an MS06S Zaku.
Mazinger Z, as a series and as a mech design, did not just break the mold; Go Nagai broke EVERY mech mold, made a few new ones, and then gave the blue-prints to everyone saying, ‘Go for broke!’, or words to that effect.
The look might have been nostalgic, the feel might have been mythic, but the impact was so heavy that it reverberates even to this day.
Go For Broke!
As the ’90s crawled around and those younger fans who had loved the Silver Age of Mechs in the 1970s began to grow up, Bandai took something of a risk.
They began making toys for adults…
They resurrected the the term Chogoukin, referencing the material from which Mazinger Z was made and tuned their existing diecast toy facilities towards making high grade toys for adult collectors.
Starting, of course with Mazinger Z itself in 1997.
The history of this can be found here.
Without getting too deeply into the story, the popularity of the line as a whole, as well as Mazinger Z in particular led to more and more complex toys being released over the years, until in 2012 the monstrous DX Soul of Chogokin Mazinger Z was released to jaw-dropping approval (a comprehensive review of this toy can be found here).
Beyond Mazinger Z
We’ll get further into the history of Great Mazinger, as well as some of the details of the manufacturing process in part two, but for now, please enjoy the OP sequence and gird your loins for the glories to come.
“And now we come to it, the great unboxing of our time!” – Gandalf
Eager little tinkers can’t wait to get into this one…
Well… Hello there!
Look at the Size of That Thing!
Just like the DX Mazinger Z, the Great is fully detailed within, at least as far as the front half is concerned. All the from plates are magnetized/clipped and can be swapped out for a variety of different options to give display options from bare bones, to battle ready.
The basic out armor. Some plastic parts, but oodles of well done diecasting.
The level of detail in this toy obviously excels that of the DX Z, even at a glance. Consider especially the cockpit jet, which is perfect in even minute detail.
There are no other words possible. The designers of this toy are gods walking among us. Whoever they are, Bandai had better be treating them with the respect they deserve.
Secondary armor, for some of the variant attacks, hand poses, and internal reveals.
Drink in the quality… I cannot make even an attempt at objectivity here. I am in love!
Interestingly enough, the Scrander, which was a Tamashii Web Exclusive for the Mazinger Z, is included here, seemingly partly to save costs (people simply do not guess how much of the purchase price goes into packaging) but also due to the massive popularity of said pack for Mazinger – with a mint Scrander now fetching almost as much as the Mazinger itself did when launched.
Now, I know the Great is not technically as limited a release as Mazinger Z, but it is nice to see that this is an all-in-one release.
Moreover, the inclusion of a spare sword, and the now famed handshake parts is interesting. A reward for those who bought into an expensive and untried technology back in 2012 when Mazinger Z was released (and it did have its issues)? Or, possibly a hint at a limited re-release of the Mazinger Z? I’ve heard the mutterings on both sides. I can ‘sort of’ see why those who bought the fist toy want to retain some sense of pride in a rarity, but (even as an early adopter) I can’t see why a re-release would do so much harm.
Come on, Bandai! Don’t let the secondary market scalp fans they way it does.
Expecially as the cost for this beast of a Great Mazinger is so good for what one gets.
I’m going to wimp out here. I’m so overwhelmed and so incapable of objective assessment that I can offer nothing of worth here.
I’ll have calmed down after new year and will be able to get to a proper review.
Till then, I’ll just have to keep calm and ask Cacophanus to give me a good slapping if I geek out too badly.
Happy New year!