Mazinger Z: INFINITY (2017)

This is not a movie I would ever have imagined myself seeing in the theater.

But stranger things have happened, and by some freak chance, I won two tickets to a limited pre-release showing.

Mazinger Z got its start as a Manga and then an Anime back in 1972.  It was the first to feature a robot with a human pilot riding inside —  or Mecha — and ran on Japanese TV for 92 episodes.  Another 56 episodes of the sequel series, Great Mazinger followed.  While I had only had the vaguest notion that there had been such a series, it has a strong fan base, even here in the US.

INFINITY is a sequel to the events of the original, and takes place some ten years later, with the original Mazinger Z relegated to a museum, and the hero, Koji Kabuto, retired from fighting and now working as a scientist, studying the photon energy that powered the big robot.  Photon energy now powers most of the world, thanks to a series of incredible power plants, and an unprecedented era of peace has settled upon the world

But then their old enemy returns, sending his barbarian “Road Warrior”-style army of giant mecha against the power plants.

And it all has something to do with the monstrous mecha they found buried in Mt. Fuji, a mecha big enough to be piloted by Mazinger Z.  A mecha of almost unlimited power, which they call INFINITY…

Ignore the poster images for this film, with their dramatic lighting and a light drizzle pouring down on a lovingly detailed battle-damaged robot.  Most of this film displays the bright colors and lack of shading we expect from a Saturday morning cartoon, although with a level of detail far beyond such primitive efforts.  I actually find this mildly refreshing, as these days, most anime seem to be trying for sort of a Miyazaki-lite look.

As we expect from such an update, there is an attempt to make it more serious and adult, but it does so without indulging in the sort of grim, revisionist take on the material which some Anime revivals (such as the live-action Space Battleship Yamato and Casshern) have insisted upon.  At one point in the film, I worried that it was going to turn into a little kids’ Anime, but, ironically, the comic relief sequence with the Boss Robot and the Professors, while utterly absurd and aimed at younger viewers, proved to be one of my favorite parts of the film.

I have seen too many anime movies that end up in seemingly endless series of ever bigger and better climaxes, which just seem to drag on and on after awhile and get boring.  However, INFINITY avoids this, instead offering us something far more straightforward.  They avoid the endless series of battles so common to the genre, and instead build to a huge final battle that takes up most of the film and ends in another dimension.

Also worth noting is the brief appearance of one of my favorite buildings, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, along with other familiar landmarks from France and Italy (the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa), dropped in as a wink to the huge fan base the series enjoys in those three countries.

All in all, it is an impressive cap to a historic series, and balances its serious moments nicely against the need to show us all those robot battles.  It is good enough to hold the attention of someone like myself who’s never seen the original.  I suspect, if they didn’t take too many liberties with the original, the fans will absolutely adore this one.




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