Better the Second Time Around?
At the climax of the original run of Mazinger Z, with old Dr. Hell seemingly defeated, the Maazinger is utterly ruined by the forces of darkness and the world seems to to be in ruins. The mech, in whose hands the hope of the world had been placed, was battered, torn, and driven to its knees by the robots of the the Mycenae Empire.
This intervention would be expanded, slightly re-written, and developed in the 1974 film, Mazinger Z vs. The Great General of Darkness.
In this revised version of the climax, the Mazinger Z team are caught out on a day of rest following the seeming defeat of Dr. Hell by the words of the Prophet who announces that a Great General of Darkness will emerge from hiding to bring ruin to the whole Earth, and that even the Mazinger Z may not be able to stem the gathering Darkness…
As the storm breaks, it is obvious that the warrior beasts of this new assault are much more potent than those sent against the Earth by Dr. Hell previously.
Fighting his way back, Mazinger Z is ambushed several times on the way, and by the time he returns the complex is in ruins. However, even with the Mazinger Z in emergency repairs the threat still looms, especially as the Prophet is heard once more announcing the arrival of the titular Great General to finish off Mazinger Z himself, and end the war with the armies of the long dormant Mycenae Empire.
Rushing to discover more about these ancient foes, Koji recognizes that this may well be the end of all, but refuses to go down quietly.
Manning the still battered Mazinger Z, he rushes to the attack, and manages to down several of the Mycenae Beasts before the mech is overborne by the Empire’s superior numbers. Diana and even Boss Borot manage to excel themselves when the chips are down, but in the end, all three ruined machines are surrounded by a horde of Imperial beast machines and seconds away from destruction.
However, when all seems lost, the Prophet emerges for the third time to reveal that he is Koji’s Father, and brings forth the newly and secretly fashioned Great Mazinger to assist in the battle.
As all the Earth Mechs unite, the Breast Fire Beams of the Mazingers are sufficient to sweep the field of the enemy, but not before the Great General appears, vowing vengeance upon the Earth, setting scene for the sequel TV Series.
Lightning Strikes Twice
In some respects, Great Mazinger was not quite the success that its masters had planned, in that it regularly pulled viewing numbers beneath that of the first series – not an uncommon thing with sequels.
However, it was still astronomically popular in comparison with many series of the time, and heralded the arrival of the notion of crossover series with which Go Nagai extended the shelf-life of his own creations and addressed the knotty problem of ‘power creep’ which was always going to be prevalent in series which required increasingly powerful threats to the Earth being defeated by the titular mecha.
Super, Real, or both — Go Nagai’s family of mecha is the pivot about which modern mech anime turns, and it is easy to see why such series were, and are, so profoundly popular even to this day.
The internal frame on the DX Great is a marked improvement over the Mazinger Z in every way – though this is not to say that the older DX was bad. The screen/pad printed elements are far more clearly defined, and the molding is even more crisp. Verniers, boosters, pistons, engine blocks, and weapons are all well made and effectively colored.
The power unit in the Great detaches easily, takes a pair of AAA batteries, and provides both power to the lights (eyes and Breast Beam) and the impressively powerful sound box.
Apologies for the shocking video… I don’t have a real video camera and the SLR does not take exceptional sound recording.
New Chogoukin Z
I note that, unlike the DX Mazinger Z, the Great places great reliance on positive lock joints rather than on magnetics (though rare earth magnets are still used throughout). On the good side, it does give the assembled and armored toy greater heft (My DX Mazinger tends to shed parts if I left it incorrectly), but on the downside, it can make disassembly a little awkward if you do not follow the instructions carefully.
In balance though this is a great leap forward, and a testament to the design team, which has clearly stepped up from what it learned on the previous toy.
There seems to be be no flaw in the build at all: castings, paintwork, jointing, and finish are without flaw on my example.
Even the finest of detail (such as the cockpit printing) has been handled very well indeed.
Soul of Chogoukin
Soul of Chogokin, as Bandai’s flagship line of adult collector’s toys is an interesting thing.
As implied above, it grew out of a calculated risk by Bandai to begin manufacturing toys for collectors in the late 1990s, as sales for diecast toys for the young market were beginning to fall off, in the face of easier, cheaper manufacturing for toys. The line was comprised of something of an amalgamation of the older Popy and Chogoukin toy lines of the 1970s.
These previous toys lines were, in their time ground breaking for the level of detail and complexity of their mechanisms (rivaling even the Dinky Toy line for playability which had been marketed, unsuccessfuly in Japan in the 60s) and in the silver age of the Super Robots, they enjoyed massive popularity.
Popy itself was broken out of Bandai in the early 70s to create smaller, plastic toys designed to be sold to the mass ‘pocket money’ market, as well as for
vending machines and early UFO Catchers. Popy specialized in toys from live action tokusatsu series and created something of a hit with a battery powered version of the belt from the Kamen Rider series, which was the first such toy to feature both lights and sound.
Popy would go on to break further out of the cheap toy market and invested in die-casting technologies, as well as over-size vinyl molding tools, to allow them to experiment in ways that might have been difficult for the parent company Bandai.
Popy’s diecast toys which developed out of this process of experimentation became not only famous, but perhaps the very archetype for all such toys which followed them – so much so that other manufacturers began emulating their techniques and even having the term ‘Chogoukin’ used to describe their output.
However, there could, and can be only one….
It is in the Chogoukin name that we find the reason for the success of the line. Chogoukin Z was, as you know the material from which the Mazinger Z is constructed in the series, and the Mazinger line of mechs has always been one of the most popular Popy/Chogoukin lines – especially the Jumbo Machinder series.
For nearly two decades, Popy/Chogoukin reigned supreme, until Star Wars put the first nails in the coffin of that more innocent type of toy in the 1980s. At this time, Bandai brought Popy back into the main company, and began expanding their diecast/molding technologies to other lines, creating a series of detailed toys, or semi-finished kits for a large number of series before the market pulled the rug from under the company’s feet.
At least in some ways.
This is where Soul of Chogoukin comes into its own, in 1997 – with the release of the GX-01 Mazinger Z we discussed in part one.
As the years passed, the potential for these adult collector’s toys only increased till Bandai were putting out several such releases each quarter, from both Super and Real Robot series (a comprehensive, but not full list of releases can be found here).
The amount of money which must have been poured into the development of the first DX Soul of Chogoukin toy made it almost inevitable that another would be made further down the line – and many of you seem to have correctly surmised what would follow as far back as 2012. It is certain that Bandai used the first toy as a way of both testing new manufacturing techniques and experimenting with pushing their existing facilities to the limit: facts which are now being reflected in their other high-grade toy lines.
However, with success of these large-scale and expensive toys (as far as I know the Great Mazinger sold out on preorders alone), as well as the strong relationship which the company has developed with Go Nagai, might it not be possible that other mechs in the Master’s stable will make their way forward? We already know that some of the tech used here has found its way into the upcoming Soul of Chogoukin VF1J Valkyrie, but I myself am putting out my stall for either the Grendizer (which would make sense from both chronological and canonical points of view) or Getter One (as the Red Devil has always been a fan favorite*).
- I’d like to think all three Getters would be on the table, as Fewture did a good job with their series of alt. Getters, but the complexities (even outright physics defying) nature of the Getter henshin makes a fully featured toy impossible as far as I see it. 🙁
I do wish some of the other mechs would get a decent version – Diana, Aphrodite, Boss Borot, and so on. However, for the same reason (sales figures) that we get so little Zentraedi love in toys, I think the sun will turn blue from cold before we see any of those mech reproduced in this degree.
However, I take heart from the fact that technology works, and the market has been proven not once, but twice.
Whatever Bandai’s godlike designers turn to next, I’ll be in like Flynt!
Dr. Robodaz, signing off…