A Calmer Reflection on Shin Mazinger
Well, 24 hours after finishing this series I feel calmer and ready to organize my thoughts more coherently than before. The overall judgement remains the same, though. This series was absolutely awesome…
When I first started watching this show I was pulled in two directions: the art was crude and the animation somewhat silly, but there was something very compelling about the show. I assumed it must be the strength of the plot, but when I suggested this to ghostlightning he immediately pointed me in another DIRECTION, literally, straight to Yasuhiro Imagawa.
The plot did develop into something quite amazing in itself, but there’s no doubt that ghostlightning was right and that what was impressing me from the beginning was the directorial work. Shin Mazinger had an enormous cast. It would have been tempting to separate the characters into bunches and arrange them in separate mini-arcs, but as schneider pointed out in his post [here], this was no monster-of-the-week show. Most of the characters showed up consistently throughout the storyline!
So how did Imagawa managed this? I think he dealt with it by multiplying the number of scenes in an episode, even if many of these scenes ended up being very brief. We constantly got updates on, for example, what Count Brocken was doing, so by the end of the show I felt as if Brocken was a major character even though in reality he didn’t feature for that many minutes of the show.
Now, you’d think with all of these changes of scene (often going from A to B then back to A then to C then to B again and so forth) the show would have been too confusing and headache-inducing. But this didn’t happen. The decision to include a very active narrator IMO is the reason why.
The narrator kept us aware of what was going on, often recapping, rephrasing or just repeating what we had just seen. The narrator’s voice acting was so animated and charged that he really did sound like another player in the story: his interventions not only helped us, they added to the flavor of the tale. Tesshoh Genda certainly earned his money.
I might as well mention Zeus’ voice actor, Masaki Yajima, who delivered what sounded to me a theater-like performance: Zeus’ voice was soft, melodious, majestic and stern. It was the voice of one who knows he doesn’t need to scream to make himself heard: in short, it was divine.
BTW, Giant Robo is at the top of my watchlist as of right now.
The complexity of the plot was stunning, revolving as it did around action, retribution and deceit, deceit and more deceit. I came into the show thinking it’d be your standard Good vs Evil fare. Then I started to think of the fighting in terms of a multiplicity of factions. By the end I had realized the truth: every person was his or her own faction!
I don’t know of any other anime series so friendly to Nietzsche’s concept of Will to Power than this. The conflict is at its worst and most sublime at the Kabuto household but it extends its tendrils everywhere. When Boss announces his goal to be No. 1 in Japan and challenges Kohji to a duel, it might sound silly, but he means it; the fire burns in his heart, just as it does in Nishikiori’s, Dr. Hell’s, etc etc etc.
Now, the beautiful irony of it all that the victor in the show is the one who was played over and over and over. I’m talking of Baron Ashura. Gorgon, Zeus, Nishikiori, the Kabutos all beat him up physically and mentally. Ashura’s victory, mind you, is not at all a contradiction of the Nietzschean scheme of things. far from it. See, Ashura had this going for him: LOVE.
The Baron loved Mycenae, and in turn this made him hate Zeus. When Ashura understood “themselves” to be in debt to Dr. Hell, “they” gave him his loyalty and loved him as well. Effectively this translated into total focus for Ashura: in the short term this meant crashing against Mazinger over and over (figuratively speaking) like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, but in the long term this focus proved an asset.
Look at what happens to Nishikiori: she ends up being too self-conscious, too self-aware, too clever, and trips! Ashra’s deceit was the ultimate weapon because the Baron believed it. Every step of the way, while Nishikiori, Kenzoh and Hell were outplaying each other, Ashura worked just as ruthlessly but with LOVE on “their” mind. This is why Nietzsche praised Napoleon and Julius Caesar: men who to an outsider were wheelin’ and dealin’ without a concern for the truth, but who internally believed in truth, THEIR TRUTH, THEIR LOVE, and thus were triumphant over more self-reflective, scheming types.
In any case, how could Nishikiori’s hate defeat the Baron’s love?
There are so many passages in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that could apply here, that I’m just going to quote one in some length:
“But even your best love is merely an ecstatic parable and a painful ardor. It is a torch that should light up higher paths for you. Over and beyond yourselves you shall love one day. Thus learn first to love. And for that you had to drain the bitter cup of your love. Bitterness lies in the cup of even the best love: thus it arouses longing for the overman; thus it arouses your thirst, creator. Thirst for the creator, an arrow and longing for the overman: tell me, my brother, is this your will to marriage? Holy I call such a will and such a marriage.
Thus spoke Zarathustra.”
Indeed, Ashura’s victory means nothing less than a new creation of the Mycenaean gods.