Even these tapes cost something

  Mazinger Z
1983 | Mountain Video
battle for moon station Dallos celebrity just for kids

Not Tranzor Z but actual Mazinger Z, in English!

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From the controversial mind of Manga artist Go Nagai. Legend has it that the concept for Mazinger Z was born in a traffic jam. Nagai imagined a Robot that the pilot could drive into and control like a car allowing them to avoid gridlock. Inspired by Osamu Tezuka's seminal Astro Boy and Tetsujin 28; Mazinger broke new ground of his own by being the first ever pilotable Mecha- not sentient or remotely controlled. Originally Nagai planned to have the pilot drive inside the robot's head on a motorbike but during production this was changed to a glider to avoid similarities with the biker-hero Kamen Rider. The proposed name of Energer Z was also changed, in favour of one meaning 'Demon God' (Ma meaning Demon and Jin; God) in reference to the giant robot's demonic looks.

In what would fast become a staple of the mecha genre ordinary High School student Koji Kabuto is put in control of a powerful giant robot and forced to battle the forces of evil. Mazinger Z is created from a virtually indestructible alloy known as Chogokin, discovered by Koji's Grandfather a scientist and founder of the Photon Institute. Professor Kabuto created Mazinger Z to battle the Mechanical Beasts of the aptly named Dr Hell, an evil rival scientist bent on world domination assisted by his second in command Baron Ashura, an odd half-man half woman she-male.

Mazinger Z made his first appearance serialised in the popular boy's comic Shonen Jump starting October 1972 and running until August 1973. He was an instant hit with his target audience prompting Fuji TV to commission an animated TV series. Created by Toei and produced by Go Nagai's own Dynamic Planning company the show was even more popular than the comic. Debuting just two months after the Manga, Mazinger Z the TV show actually managed to out last its comic book originator lasting 92 episodes in its first, 2 year run. Several short movies were also produced during this time to capitalise on Mazinger's success including Mazinger Z Vs The Great General of Darkness, The Great Space Encounter and Mazinger Z Vs Devilman in which the two popular Go Nagai characters crossed paths.

The music for Mazinger Z was provided by Akira Ifukube creator of the legendary Godzilla score and among the names of episode directors are Yugo Serikawa director of previous Bargain Bin entry Frankenstein.

As with many of the 70's anime, particularly Mecha shows, Mazinger Z generated a lot of merchandise an industry which continues to this day.

Mazinger Z spawned 2 sequel series Great Mazinger and Grendizer and was revived almost thirty years after his debut in the 2001 seven part OAV series Mazin Kaiser.

With such global appeal Toei were keen to export Mazinger Z to as many countries as possible. The series was very popular in Europe where it was shown uncut in its entirety in France, Italy and Spain (where it still maintains a large fanbase to this day). Go Nagai's creation also found popularity in Mexico, Puerto Rico but ran afoul of the authorities in the Philippines were it was eventually banned by their dictator for being too violent.

Oddly though it took 12 years for Mazinger Z to appear in the English speaking world. Toei themselves produced a feature length video pilot with an English dub by Japanese company Frontier Enterprises, comprising of the first two episodes along with episodes 9 and 17 to help sell the series abroad. This version was just as faithful to its source as the episodes shown in Europe, even translating the opening and ending themes- sung by the original artist, and made it to the video market in the UK, from Mountain Video (including appearances in their Flash! Video Comics) , and elsewhere but did nothing to get the show on TV.

But this wasn't the end for Mazinger Z in English. In 1984 Tranzor Z appeared on American TV screens. This was to be the most successful of the two English language versions but by far the least faithful adaptation. As had earlier happened in the Philippines Mazinger Z was deemed too violent in its original form so production company 3-B, comprised of staff who had previously worked on the Yamato adaptation Star Blazers, were forced to substantially recut the show. The eponymous Robot is now known as Tranzor Z, "Protector of Peace! So powerful, he cannot be destroyed!", and is piloted by Tommy Davis son of the head of the Volcanic Research Institute fighting against his foes Dr Demon and Devleen. The original 92 episodes were reduced to 65 even with small amounts of additional material added in from the later shows in the series. Tranzor Z was moderately successful and still has a cult following today but was unfortunately short lived and did little to spread the word of Chogokin.

Possibly Mazinger Z's biggest success in the English speaking world was as a Shogun Warrior! In the late 70's Mattel sublicensed a selection of toys from Japanese manufacturer Poppy and united them under the banner Shogun Warriors. Amongst these Giant Robots (and er... Godzilla), or "Invincible Guardians of World Freedom" as they were known, were Gaikin, Goldorak and Mazinger Z. These toys ranged in size from huge vinyl figures with firing missiles to smaller action figures and even vehicles and were a much sort after item by children of the time. They were even popular enough to have their own Marvel comic series and eagle eyed viewers might have even spotted Mazinger Z popping up in a scene of the creepy 80's sci-fi show V.

Mazinger Z Shogun Warriors  
The Japanese title card
Mazinger Z and others from Wildtoy's Shogun Warriors page

This old betamax video was my first ever experience of anime. At the age of around three or four I would constantly bug my mum to rent it from the local video shop. I was really lucky when, one birthday, mum actually bought the video for me (saving herself a ton of money on renting it) and I watched it over and over until our Betamax broke. Now, in the distant future, I am watching it again for the first time in around twenty years... will it stand the test of time? One thing's for sure- the tape's gonna be worn!

The Birth of a Miraculous Robot

The story begins at sea. A submarine surfaces at the shore of a mysterious island. Two of the passengers disembark; one a man in an iron mask and frilly skirt the other a bizarre half-male, half-female hybrid. What kind of crazy party cruise was this? The She-male, identified as Baron Ashler, enters a stone structure at the edge of the island, apparently visiting an old friend. That old friend is none other than Dr Hell! "The time has come at last for me to conquer the world!" the evil scientist immediately informs his guest. The isolation hasn't sent him mad, he really intends to do it- with his army of Mechanical Brutes. Personally I love that name. Every time someone refers to Dr Hell's giant robots it is always as the Mechanical Brutes. There isn't a shorter easier name. You must refer to them by their proper title; Mechanical Brutes!

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z
Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

The Mechanical Brutes perform a short display of their powers (oddly Garada's performance has been cut) and Baron Ashler is impressed; "What a splendid army of Mechanical Brutes!" he/she exclaims. But there is potentially one man who can stand in Dr Hell's path to global domination... Dr Kabuto.

At that very time, at the foot of Mount Fuji, the Doctor and his assistant are giving the world's first demonstration of their amazing discovery to a band of eager reporters; the Ultra Alloy Zee or Japanium as it is also known. It first test is to blast a cube of Ultra Alloy Zee with a laser strong enough to melt steel. The crowd are impressed when the cube survives the blast without a scratch. Dr Kabuto moves on to the next test: the Photo-atomic Energy. This time two lasers blast a smaller cube and the result is a blindingly bright flash of light. The attentive reports shield their eyes is horror, I'm thinking maybe someone should have given them safety glasses? I'm not sure what this test was supposed to achieve, other than give a room full of Press-men temporary tunnel vision and an unbearable head ache but everyone is thoroughly impressed with one man exclaiming "Absolutely marvelous! That's one of the greatest inventions in the history of science!" Shortly after this successful unveiling the aging Dr Kabuto retires from the Photon Institute leaving his life's work in the hands of his assistant Dr Yumi.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

News of his retirement has reached even Dr Hell's secluded island. The mad Doctor paces back and forth in front of Baron Ashler pondering Kabuto's motives. It seems that Kabuto knows all about Dr Hell's evil schemes and even his army of Mechanical Brutes but has warned no one. Determined to put a stop to this threat Baron Ashler is given the Cane of Bardos (which controls the Mechanical Brutes) and is sent to Japan to kill Dr Kabuto and seize control of the Institute. Ashler leaves in the camouflaged island/under water base/ship on route to the shores of Japan, sinking a passing ship on the way seemingly for fun.

Reaching the shore he/she is met by one of his Iron Mask soldiers who informs him that he has found Dr Kabuto and that the Doctor has two Grandchildren. Baron Ashler seems horrified at the concept of 'Grandchildren' (maybe because he/she is baron- ho ho) and sends his fearsome warriors to Tokyo to carry out Dr Hell's bidding.

It's night time when we are introduced to our hero Koji Kabuto. The Doctor's Grandson is out racing around on his Motorbike causing mayhem on the roads. In one feat of reckless daredevilry young Kabuto leaps over a truck causing the driver to crash into the safety rails. When the angry driver complains Koji retorts "Don't pick on me, man, or I'll beat you to a pulp!" I doubt that line made it into the watered down U.S. version.

While Koji is out causing trouble on Tokyo's highways his sister Rumi and little brother are about to be visited at home. Visited BY DEATH! That's right- Death makes house-calls! Answering a ring on the doorbell Rumi is set upon by Baron Ashler. The terrifying he-she demands the whereabouts of Dr Kabuto and the girl, stricken with fear tells Dr Hell's lackey everything he needs. In return the Baron blasts her with a bolt of lightning from his cane and, along with his Iron Mask army, leave in a hurry to do the same to her Grandfather. Koji arrives home just in time to see the silhouettes disappearing into the darkness and immediately realises something isn't right. He dashes in doors to find his little brother crying by their sister's body. While his younger brother is distraught Koji is impressively composed, asking questions as if he where an investigating detective and not one of the recently bereaved. "Why was she killed?" he asks "Who killed her?" but he isn't getting any answers and it seems the culprits are long gone.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

The next morning, in the idyllic woods at the foot of Mount Fuji, Baron Ashler and his Iron Masks arrive at the home of Dr Kabuto who is waiting for them. He makes a quick call to Koji and demands that he and his brother Shiro come right away but the line is cut before he can say any more. Moments later Baron Ashler flips the switch on a detonator and the Kabuto Sr residence is blown to the ground!

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

Koji and Shiro race to the location on his motorbike but arrive to find only smoldering rubble where their Grandpa's house once stood. Searching the wreckage Shiro falls through a hole accidentally locating the house's secret basement. Koji follows after him and the two discover Dr Kabuto trapped under the rubble. As you'd expect he's not dead but not far from it. With his last gasps Koji's Grandfather hands him a letter and points him towards a dark corner of the basement. The two boys are alarmed to find a giant robot lurking in the shadows! The doctor explains that he built Mazinger Z to ruin the plans of the Evil Dr Hell (has there ever been a good Dr Hell?) but unfortunately dies before he can tell them how to operate it. Didn't he have time to write a manual? Koji is noticeably far more upset at the old man's death than that of his sister. And Shiro is definitely gonna need some therapy after today!

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

Dr Hell orders Baron Ashler to destroy every city in Japan with his Mechanical Brutes while Koji endures a number of slapstick injuries while trying to operate the glider and dock with Mazinger Z. Then the real trouble starts. Koji wildly hits buttons while Mazinger Z rages out-of-control causing destruction in the forest and nearly killing his brother. Odd how, in films, randomly hitting buttons causes similar but not ideal actions to take place. If you got in a car without any idea of how to operate it the best you could expect is to stall it and maybe flood the engine.

Mazinger is stopped from stepping on Shiro by the chance appearance of a girl in a girl robot. Luckily she just happened to be taking her robot for a walk and happened upon this mess. The girl is Saiyuka daughter of Dr Kabuto's assistant Dr Yumi. In the meantime, in town, two of Dr Hell's Mechanical Brutes are causing shocking carnage unchallenged. Even a the Tokyo Moon Oil refinery isn't spared! A narrator builds up the current events as if an episode is coming to an end. Then, after an abrupt end and brief silence another narrator recaps the previous events as if a new episode is beginning.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

Koji, Shiro and Saiyuka meet with Dr Yumi at the Photon Institute. Koji fills in Saiyuka's father on the plot so far and hands him the letter his Grandfather gave him. The letter details the origins of Mazinger Z. Dr Kabuto was once part of a research team investigating a recently discovered island near Greece. The head of this team was a world famous scientist Dr Hell. Not one of the supposedly brilliant minds in this team thought anything odd about a purple skinned, yellow eyed scientist with crazy hair called Dr Hell. It's not as if he even started out normal and then, after some terrible event sent him over the edge, he changed his name to Hell and started his evil schemes. The warning signs were there from the start.

Within the ancient ruins found on this island there are the broken remains of some kind of robots. Dr Hell explains that these robots were used to protect the gold from invaders. The evil scientist dupes the good scientist into repairing the robots and when they are finished he sets the fire breathing mechanical men on them. Everyone is set on fire while Dr Hell laughs! Kabuto writes that he was the only one fortunate to escape alive. Fortunate? What were the odds on him managing to escape? I'm just saying that the good Doctor must have trampled over a lot of people to save his own life.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

Back in the real world the Mechanical Brutes have located the Photon Institute prompting Koji and Saiyuka to rush to confront them in Mazinger Z and Aphrodite A. After a lot of running the robots meet. With Saiyuka's instruction Koji battles Garada K-7 and Doublas M-2. The fight isn't easy but by using all his attacks including Rocket Punch and laser eyes Mazinger overcomes Dr Hell's threat.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

The next scene begins with Dr Hell demonstrating his new Mechanical Brute, Deimos F3, for Baron Ashler. The Baron is horrified when the evil scientist seemingly destroys the robot with a touch of a button not realising that this is Deimos' special power- the ability to rebuild itself when destroyed! This is only part of his nefarious plans. Thanks to the help of a spy within the Photon Institute the villains will smuggle Deimos F3 inside piece by piece and then reconstruct him and defeat Mazinger Z while he is helpless. Also, for good measure, they will brainwash the three goofy scientists left in charge of the institute while Yumi is away on a conference.

That evening the first steps in the plan are under way. The goofy scientists Iz, Diz and Biz are kidnapped while out bowling and are brainwashed by Baron Ashler. Returning to the institute they send the kids home and then launch Mazinger Z. Morning comes and Baron Ashler launches the separate components of Deimos F3 in missiles into the base of Mount Fuji. Koji and co investigate the disturbance only to have the parts levitate and regroup in front of their eyes. The brainwashed professors lead Deimos to the institute where a Koji-less Mazinger Z stands idle in the grounds. The Mechanical Brute sets about the iron man, kicking, punching, biting and throwing him around like a lifeless toy. Koji rushes to his robo-chum's aid and has to fight his way through several Iron Masks (clips of which were used in the opening titles for Flash! No.1).

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z
Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

After much nail-biting tension Koji reaches the Pilder and docks with Mazinger Z. But his worries aren't over yet as he learns Deimos' secret- the hard way! It doesn't take long for the young pilot to work out that the Mechanical Brute can't rebuild itself if its parts are melted and with a little 'Chest Fire' Deimos F3 becomes a brightly coloured puddle.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

As seen in Flash! No.1; the final chapter (or episode) of our story opens at sea. A terrifying, underwater Mechanical Brute, known as Grothom X-2, sinks a tanker ship using its deadly head scissors. News of its nautical naughtiness reaches the Photon Institute where Professor Gordon, an old friend of Doctor Kabuto, is visiting. The old man is stunned by Mazinger Z stating that he has never seen a robot as magnificent (but he has seen other Robots?). News of the sea bound chaos instantly turns Gordon purple- his wife and daughter are on a ship... Uh oh!

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

It won't come as much of a surprise that this ship is the next on Grothom's hit list. The boat goes down and Mrs Gordon gives her life to save her daughter Lisa. Mazinger Z and Aphrodite A head down to the shore to investigate these mysterious disasters. They discover Lisa's life raft floating not far out to sea but are taken by surprise by none other than Grothom himself. To makes matters worse neither Mazinger Z or Aphrodite A are waterproof. Having gotten Prof Gordon's daughter to safety Mazinger takes to the depths to sort out Dr Hell's latest creation but it's soon clear that out of his element Koji's robot is easily vulnerable and Grotham has the advantage. Mazinger beats a hasty retreat.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z
Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

Back at the institute Lisa wakes and is reunited with her father but there is little time to stew on their sorrow as something has to be done about Grothom. Prof Gordon pledges his assistance in upgrading Dr Kabuto's creation to give him the edge he needs to face Dr Hell's aquatic menace. Everyone works very hard and soon the adjustments are complete. And not a moment too soon.

Koji and Mazinger Z head for the sea unaware that they are falling into a trap. Grotham has sunk three oil tankers spilling their crude cargo into the water. As soon as Mazinger goes for a paddle Baron Ashler launches a missile at the shore igniting the floating oil, setting light to the surface. Trapped underwater Koji locates Ashler's submarine and seizes this opportunity to attack but Grothom intervenes before he can cause too much damage. As the sub disappears into the distance the stage is set for the final showdown. Grothom counters a Rock Punch by spewing ink like a squid and tries to escape but Mazinger is hot on his tail. Dodging his missile attack Koji fights back with another Rocket Punch severing his Head Scissors. Grothom again turns to run but is caught in the path of his own returning missiles and is destroyed.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

Aboard the submarine Dr Hell scolds Ashler for his/her inability to defeat Mazinger Z and for losing yet another perfectly good Mechanical Brute. On the shore, as the sun sets, Koji, Shiro, Saiyuka and Lisa gaze at the view and muse about the the battles yet to come. Lisa tosses a bunch of flowers into the water in remembrance of her mother.

Mazinger Z aka Tranzor Z

The credits role again to the translated and re-recorded tune of the original.


Rocket Paaaanch!
The opening and ending themes as re-sung by Isao Sasaki. In English!

Mazinger Z vs The Mechanical Brutes!
Mazinger beats all comers in all three fights from this feature length tape.

Very faithful adaptation
Original songs
  Good dubbing
  Super Robot action!
  Matches the art style of the manga perfectly
Somewhat formulaic
Some dodgy edits
  Dated designs

As a childrens tape Mazinger Z seems a little wrong. It is fairly violent, with the willful murder of Rumi, and a whole cruise liner of women and children shown being tossed from their life rafts by the Baron's sub. It is also reasonably scary, Baron Ashler alone is enough to give kids nightmares. But in reality, as a child, I loved it. I was a very cowardly kid but oddly I was never scared by the infrequent creepy scenes (but strangely I did find the big unveiling of Mazinger Z a little unsettling). I particularly enjoyed the idea of Deimos F3, a robot that could reassemble itself and everytime I went swimming me and a friend would pretend to be Mazinger Z and Grothom X-2.

As an official adaptation this video is as close to a direct translation of the series as you could get, it certainly beats the americanised Tranzor Z although that too has its merits. The dubbing is reasonably solid and easily beats that of Chojin Locke's equally official yet decidedly Kung Fu movie vocals. There is the odd flapping mouth and a lot of corny lines but overall they are delivered with conviction. While the animation does look extremely dated by modern standards and the character designs are a little simplistic they perfectly match the look and feel of the original comic book. Rarely has an artist's style been so well captured in animation.

Still unavailable in English to this day, at least legally, it's a shame that Mazinger Z never reached the audience he deserved. This obscure tape is definitely a hidden gem.