This Addition to the Mazinger Universe Came From a Game Developer’s Decision
One of the names held in high esteem by fans of classic manga and anime is Go Nagai, creator of several highly influential franchises. In addition to classics like Devilman and Cutie Honey, Go Nagai (a pseudonym for Kiyoshi Nagai) is also largely responsible for the rise to prominence of the ‘mecha’ genre of anime and manga.
His creation, Mazinger Z, is largely the story of a young boy who controls a giant robot built by his grandfather and defends Japan from giant mechanical beasts. While manga featuring giant robots had certainly been written before by manga legends like Osamu Tezuka, Mazinger Z was one of the first to be a story where the robot is controlled by someone inside it.
Eventually, the Mazinger series gave rise to a 7-part OVA known as Mazinkaiser, which covers the rise of the titular robot in the Mazinger universe. While the OVA was only 7 episodes long, it did well enough to merit another installation, the feature-length Mazinkaiser vs. The General of Darkness.
The creation of the Mazinkaiser OVA series is an interesting one, as it didn’t exactly arise from a new idea or a renewed interest in the series, but came about in order to justify a game development decision.
The Mazinger Universe is a Story All on Its Own
The Mazinger series largely revolves around a group of pilots and scientists at the Photon Power Laboratory and their commitment to repelling the attacks of Dr. Hell. Kouji Kabuto is the grandson of famous inventor Juzo Kabuto, who not only discovered a new element used to create a super-metal alloy but also developed power sources based on photon energy.
He also secretly developed Mazinger Z, a giant robot created from this metal, and uses this technology in order to defend against an inevitable attack by Dr. Hell. Unfortunately, Dr. Kabuto is mortally wounded in this attack and passes his robot onto his grandson, Kouji. Kouji then becomes Japan’s defender against attacks by Dr. Hell.
The original Mazinger Z manga began its run in 1972 and has become a staple of Japanese culture ever since.
Do You Like Mazinkaiser? Thank Banpresto!
In 1991, Japanese toy company and video game developer Banpresto released Super Robot Wars for the Nintendo Gameboy. This was a tactics-based RPG that combined characters from prominent mecha series including the Gundam series and Getter Robo, another Nagai creation.
It was somewhat of a spinoff of another game by Banpresto that used the same idea, but with heroes like Ultraman. In 1998, Banpresto released Super Robot Wars F Final, which included a modified version of the Mazinger Z robot, known as Mazinkaiser.
This was, according to developers, in order to allow mecha from the Mazinger series to stack up gameplay-wise against other robots like Shin Getter Robo. Eventually Go Nagai integrated Mazinkaiser into his own manga, which then inspired the Mazinkaiser OVA series.
Who’s Who in Mazinkaiser
The Mazinkaiser series takes place in a generalized period of the Mazinger universe, where most of the characters from the Mazinger series have met and are working together. Kouji Kabuto is the main focus of the series as the initial pilot of the Mazinger Z.
He works with Tetsuya Tsurugi, a former fighter pilot that controls Great Mazinger, a slightly upgraded version of the Mazinger Z.
They’re supported in their fights by Sayaka Yumi, who pilots various different robots throughout the original series as well as in the Mazinkaiser OVA. Her robots have a distinctly feminine shape to them and are named after various Greco-Roman goddesses, such as Venus, Aphrodite, and Diana.
They’re also assisted by Boss, who is a childhood friend of Sayaka and an aspiring gang leader. He talks a tough game but is usually there to get slapped around for comedic effect, and his personal robot, the Boss Borot, is much less effective than the others.
The Mazinger team has a full ground crew as well, including Shiro Kabuto, Kouji’s younger brother. Sayaka’s father, Dr. Yumi, runs the Photon Power Laboratory with the help of his lab assistant Jun Hono. There’s also a team of three scientists, Drs. Morimori, Sewashi, and Nossori that lead in repairs to the robots and scientific analyses.
Throughout the Mazinkaiser series, the main villain is Dr. Hell, but the heroes come in contact with Baron Ashura most often. Baron Ashura is a henchman of Dr. Hell and is notably the bodies of a man and a woman fused together. Canonically these were two mummies that were originally lovers that Dr. Hell stitched together. Ashura leads members of the Iron Mask Army against Mazinger and Mazinkaiser but is thwarted by Kouji throughout the series.
Mazinkaiser ends with the introduction of Shin Great Mazinger, a more powerful version of Tetsuya’s original Great Mazinger. During the final episode, Dr. Hell’s base of operations is also destroyed, theoretically ending the conflict.
Mazinkaiser SKL Reimagined the Powerful Mecha
Mazinkaiser also derived its own spin-off anime, Mazinkaiser SKL. Mazinkaiser SKL is more of a reimagining than a spin-off, as it seems to take place in a decidedly different universe than most of the Mazinger iterations.
Mazinkaiser SKL follows two members of the Death Caprice Squad, an elite fighting team, as they attempt to avert a global catastrophe. Three separate armies were isolated on an island known as Machine Island, which has enough resources for a near-constant robot war between each faction.
While each of these armies vies for control, the device that keeps them isolated, known as a Gravity Curtain, is approaching meltdown levels. Ken Kaidou and Ryou Magami, the two members of the Death Caprice Squad, pilot the Mazinkaiser in order to pacify the factions enough to avert a total meltdown of the Gravity Curtain.
Other than Mazinkaiser itself, there isn’t really anything to do with the larger Mazinger universe, except for references to other Go Nagai properties.
Mazinkaiser was one of those developments that arose from an unlikely source. In order for the Mazinger series to seem competitive with other mecha series, Banpresto (Now a subsidiary of Bandai Namco) invented the Mazinkaiser. This resonated with the series creator so much, it was made somewhat canon.
When it comes to giant robots, if it looks cool, embrace it.