An old-school revival for a new era
- Episodes : 1 (Movie)
- Genre : Mecha, Action, Sci-Fi
- Airing Date : January 2018
- Studios : Toei Animation
Mazinger Z: Infinity Plot and Summary
Some time has passed since Kabuto Kouji saved the planet from Dr. Hell. Now he’s settled down and moved away from the front lines. Kouji’s now working in a research position at the Photon Power Lab, with his girlfriend and former comrade in arms Yumi Sayaka as the new director of the lab. The group has uncovered a gigantic robot dubbed the Infinity. Inside, they even find a living being named Lisa, who’s been in stasis this entire time.
Meanwhile, Tsurugi Tetsuya disappears in the US after a strange incident where another Photon Plant is wiped off the map. To deal with worries about her husband and the upcoming due date of her pregnancy, Hono Juno travels with Kouji’s younger brother Shiro to visit Sayaka and Kouji. During this visit, a revived Count Brocken and Baron Ashura invade the facility, setting out to kill them all at once before they can retaliate. They inform them that they are being led by Dr. Hell are were the ones behind the attack in the US. Lisa, being partially robot herself, fights them all off on her own, saving Kouji, Sayaka, Jun, and Shiro, and giving them the opportunity to get in contact with Prof. Yumi (Sayaka’s father), who is the new Prime Minister of Japan, and let them know of the revived forces.
A strategic assault is planned on the newly revived army of Dr. Hell. Kouji is asked to provide support on the backlines to serve as a morale booster for the troops. During the attack, Dr. Hell unveils that he figured out how to work the Infinity that was left behind at the lab, and demonstrates its might. Kouji, fearing the worst, rushes to the front lines in a Mazinger of his own and flies up to the top of the Infinity, only to find Tetsuya trapped inside his mech, which is being used to power the Infinity. After the Infinity’s chest beam wipes out an entire city, Dr. Hell then says that all he wishes to do is co-exist with humans and that he’ll stop attacking if they desire to make peace.
Unfortunately, this all plays into Dr. Hell’s plans, which is to start mass confusion among society. Nobody can come to a consensus as to whether or not they should take Dr. Hell’s offer or not. This lack of action is what allows Dr. Hell to prepare the Infinity for its true purpose. Lisa explains to Kouji that the user of the Infinity gets the power to reshape reality as they see fit; for good or for evil. Dr. Hell wants to turn the world into a land that can follow simple orders and can actually unify under a single cause. And with no one with the power to stop him, it seems unlikely that anyone can.
A plan is formed: Boss, who still has a mech, will serve as a decoy to draw out the enemy so Kouji can break through the fleet, defeat Dr. Hell, and save Tetsuya from imprisonment. Thankfully, it’s revealed that the Mazinger Z was not lost in the original attack as was previously thought; it was actually stored deep underground in a military facility, giving Kouji a fighting chance. The night before the mission, Kouji meets with Sayaka and tells her that he wants to have a serious talk about their future together, and the two share a tender moment alone.
The mission goes as planned, and Kouji even manages to free Tetsuya from the Infinity, but Dr. Hell jumps into the Infinity during the last moments and uses himself as a power source; he begins the universe ending program. Lisa, as the original conduit for the Infinity, steps in as well and helps Kouji with rewriting the new universe to give humanity a chance of surviving. Kouji also sees visions of an alternate timeline where Lisa was actually his and Sayaka’s daughter, and tells Lisa that he likes the idea and wishes for that to be their future. Lisa manages to rewrite the Infinity system to upgrade the Mazinger Z into a mech that can take on the Infinity for a brief moment while drawing on all the Photon energy of the planet. Kouji manages to defeat Dr. Hell.
In the final moments of the movie, Sayaka approaches Kouji in the hospital, and Kouji tells her that he’s ready to start a family with her. The film ends with a brief glimpse into the future with Kouji and Sayaka walking hand in hand with a young girl that looks awfully close to a very young Lisa.
What We Liked About Mazinger Z: Infinity
In this nihilistic era of anime, where all the big shows are about the deconstruction of the toxic trends of anime and commentating on the struggle of existence, there’s something very refreshing about Mazinger Z’s simplicity. It’s a straight-forward enough plot; Dr. Hell wants to destroy the planet because he hates humans, and Kouji has to take up the mantle just one more time to save the day. However, what makes it work is how it shifts the timeline to reflect the shifts in mentality between 1970s Japan and modern times.
All of this is set to some fantastic action sequences that are worthy of the big screen. You’ll get some incredible shots of the scale of the sheer enormity of the Infinity, towering over mountains and shooting chest beams that wipe out entire cities within the blink of an eye. Combat is fast and diverse, with all sorts of wild attacks coming from all angles. Maybe they don’t make much sense, but it’s all about the time-tested “Rule of Cool”; it doesn’t matter if attacks are practical impossibilities just so long as the characters look awesome doing them.
The name of the main villain is “Dr. Hell”; that fact alone should probably tell you if Mazinger Z: Infinity -heck, the entirety of the Mazinger franchise- is going to be up your alley. It’s an old-school mecha series that was designed to be a light read. The characters are fun, the battles have illusionary high-stakes that will never actually come to fruition, and action is creative. Mazinger Z, in particular, was something of a visionary title in how it would affect how mecha stories would be written for generations to come, but that doesn’t change it from being a pretty pulpy story.
So then the question is “Does the Mazinger formula hold up today?” The short answer is yes, as, honestly, there are very few big anime these days that don’t have that drive to apologize to be anything more than just light entertainment. However, Mazinger Z: Infinity is a movie by the fans, for the fans. That doesn’t mean if you’re not into the series that you can’t find any enjoyment from it, but just keep in mind that Mazinger Z: Infinity may not be the best entry point.
1. Explosive Action
A lot of anime struggle with mixing tradition 2D animation and 3D CG. However, Mazinger Z: Infinity actually manages to pull it off quite well. This is because Toei kept from showing 2D characters on screen with 3D models, while also making a clear distinction between what was allowed to be 2D and what was depicted in 3D. Kouji, Sakaya, and every humanoid you see in the movie are 2D characters set against 2D backgrounds, including the cockpits of the mechs. However, the exteriors of the mechs are all drawn in CG, and they are never shown side-by-side with the human characters. This keeps the CG from being distracting, as it creates a consistent logic for the movie to follow.
Also, it helps that the action scenes move at a brisk pace. The final fight alone with Mazinger Z breaking through the frontline is a sight to behold, with Mazinger Z breaking through robot after robot in quick succession. It feels like each enemy gets their own little unique move to use against Mazinger to only be immediately countered, displaying a wide variety of creativity at hand. The camera stays focused on Mazinger the entire time, giving us a focal point into the action and allowing us to follow each 3-second battle clearly.
2. Simple Story
The original Mazinger Z was written in the 1970s during the Japanese economic miracle, where the wonders of technology were fresh on everyone’s mind. Times were hopeful, and people believed that the magic of engineering could solve any problem. That mentality naturally hasn’t carried over to the present day, where tech advancements have been somewhat stagnant since the creation of the iPhone and society feels like it could crumble at any moment. People are genuinely terrified for their wellbeing.
So Mazinger Z: Infinity works a little bit of that into its story. Society has been at peace for so long that people don’t even know how to rally behind a single cause anymore, and Dr. Hell is taking advantage of that. Kouji isn’t just a hotshot pilot with the gumption and hotheadedness to save the day, but he and the Mazinger are a symbol of a simpler time to the people. Someone that can still do the impossible and stand up to the insurmountable odds in a way no one else can. It’s a small change in tone, but it’s a natural progression of the narrative of Mazinger Z while staying true to its spirit.
Fans of the original work will be thrilled to hear that Mazinger Z: Infinity provides a very definitive, happy end to the original franchise. Kouji and Sayaka don’t just end the movie staying together, but plan out a family and live happily ever after. We get glimpses into Jun and Tetsuya’s growing family, what Boss and his gang’s life is like after the world has settled down, and the futures of all these characters in absolutely no uncertain terms. At the very least, Mazinger Z: Infinity is a fine farewell to all these characters.
1. For Fans Only
Unlike Devilman Crybaby, the other Go Nagai revival that came out in January, Mazinger Z: Infinity is a sequel to the original story, not a reboot. That is to say, the movie already expects you to have an understanding of the character dynamics. It’s hard to appreciate how much Kouji and Sayaka have grown into a more subdued, less contentious relationship in Mazinger Z: Infinity, for example, if you’re not familiar with their fiery love-hate interactions from the original series. You may be taken off-guard when humanity is at the brink of destruction and suddenly Boss and his gang are having a wacky time throwing oversized sports equipment in the Boss Borot while mooning the enemy, not realizing they’ve always been the comic relief of the series.
This lack of context can even get distracting when it comes to the overall narrative. If you don’t know that Tetsuya and Jun were romantic interests for one another in the original show, you may end up thinking that Jun and Shiro are an item when they first show up together, as Jun is visibly pregnant. You’ll then be left racking your brain when Jun has a flashback to when she and Tetsuya were first choosing a place to live, thinking “Wait, was that who she arrived with at the beginning of the movie?” None of this is necessarily a fault of the story-telling, but just be aware that you’re going to get lost quite a bit watching Mazinger Z if you’re unfamiliar with anything about it.
What does make this an issue, though, is the callbacks to the villains from the original series. Frankly, none of these characters barring Dr. Hell really have much bearing at all on the plot beyond visual throwbacks, and at a lean 90 minutes, no one gets much of a chance to shine. These are characters that probably could have been cut from the story, as their presence really serves no purpose beyond fanservice. It wouldn’t normally be an issue, but it does strain believability as to how they could have possibly come back from the dead, which is only resolved with a quick line about it at the end.
It feels safe to say that, being over 50 years old now, Mazinger Z is from a different era. The relationship between Kouji and Sayaka, for example, isn’t exactly complicated. There’s some brief drama about Sayaka potentially breaking up with Kouji because he seems unwilling to settle down with her, but is more of a passing thought right up until the end where Kouji asks Sayaka to marry him. You know that Mazinger Z: Infinity can’t possibly break these two up because their relationship is such a staple of the franchise, and the movie itself is a mostly light affair, that they wouldn’t dare mess with the central core of the series. Likewise, you know that Tetsuya can’t really be in danger when he’s held captive in the Infinity because we already know his character arc from the original show. People who want something a little deeper or more subversive are probably not going to find much to latch onto in Mazinger Z: Infinity.
“Safe” is probably the best term to describe Mazinger Z: Infinity, but that’s not really a complaint. We need simple, feel-good stories every now and then, and that remains true about Mazinger Z. Sure, all of humanity is in danger, but you know in your heart that Kouji has to save the day. It’s just the nature of the original story. You’re not going to be challenged at all by anything Mazinger Z: Infinity has to offer, but honestly, would you really want it to? If you’re already a Mazinger fan, Infinity is not going to do anything to turn you away from the franchise. It’ll be a solid, fun, afternoon watch. If you’ve never watched Mazinger Z, Infinity is a much more difficult recommendation, but it can still be an enjoyable movie if you’re looking for something with some robot-fighting action without a ton of depth. Just maybe catch up a bit on some of the lore beforehand if you want to give it a shot.
Anything we missed here? Please, let us know in the comments below!