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.

~ by Haloed Bane on October 6, 2009.

17 Responses to “A Calmer Reflection on Shin Mazinger”

  1. Brilliant. I award this post ^9000 Rocket Punches, Atomic Punches, and Turbo Smasher Punches combined.

    I salute your ability to calm down and reflect on this so soon. I gave up after the first episode LOL. The HATE by the supposedly ‘good’ Nishikori vs. the LOVE of the supposedly ‘evil’ Ashura… delicious.

    Is love a thirst to go back, to remember? (In Zarathustra terms)

    Would marriage *gasp* be really more yearning to create? *how orthodox!*

    Through love, one appropriates the role of God the creator, one becomes an overman. Is this reading sensible? Power to me at least, is less about control over other beings but rather the ability to create.

    In the Mazinger narrative, I see the opposite: people create (the Kabuto scientists, their rivals, Dr. Hell) create in order to manipulate or control others. Is Ashura that different?

    • There so many questions/suggestions here!! OK, I’ll try to address them all.

      Love a thirst to remember – well, Zarathustra’s “teaching” is the eternal return, where everything that’s ever happened will happen again and again eternally. He would have us love our past exactly as it happened, so yeah, it involves remembering. The specific Latin term he uses is “amor fati”.

      Marriage for creation – yup, when it came to women Nietzsche tended to be way more orthodox than in other areas. He was quite clueless about women, in fact.

      Love and Power – I think Nietzsche would agree with what you said: power is creative. God is creator, yes. So, yes.

      In Mazinger – I think there are double purposes here. The scientists (Kenzoh, Hell) ARE scientists after all, and they do legitimately take pride in creation while yes, at the same time, they want to control others, destroy and be number one.

      I think Ashura is different, notice how often he cries too. Ashura was always about this love. He managed his troops in order to defeat Kabuto, partly through his hatred of Zeus, but that hatred of Zeus came out of what, out of his love for Mycenae.

      Nishikiori worked out of hatred for Hell, for Kenzoh, but was there love behind this?? Not really, it could have been love for her children but it wasn’t…So yeah, Ashura is pretty peculiar here.

      • I need to make some kind of image of Nietzsche saying “We (him and Zarathustra, et al) Remember Love.” Thanks for letting me contextualize eternal return this way LOL.

        The more I think about it, the more compelling a character Ashura becomes. Thanks to this edition of Mazinger… we get this ridiculously nuanced (in concept) character in such a bombastic, over-the-top portrayal.


        Iseult… lovers
        Priests of Mycenae
        Followers of Lord Gorgon
        Sworn enemy of Zeus

        ‘Child’ of Nishikori
        ‘Dog’ of Dr. Hell
        Sworn enemy of Kouji

        Sexual politics conundrum
        Philosophical oddity (mind body problem anyone? MINDS body problem anyone? WILLS to power?)
        Moral oddity (heroism and self-sacrifice, love above all, bitterness and hatred, loyalty and lies, lies, lies)

        This is Ashura’s show, and it’s brilliant for it.

        • It’s interesting and highly significant that, IIRC, we don’t really get to see conflict between Tristan and Iseult. If we had, the philosophical oddities would have multiplied!!!

          This IS Ashura’s show..

      • I’ve been reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra for about a year now and have only recently reached the beginning of the second part. Doing better than my attempt at reading The Sickness Unto Death, though: I ragequit when Kierkegaard took “anyone who does not love God is in despair- even if they do not believe in God” as an axiom. That and I found the text nigh impenetrable.

        So I guess I can’t really comment on Zarathustra as a whole (does he really forward the reality of eternal recurrence, though? In my understanding, the reality is irrelevant: it’s the thought of it which is philosophically interesting), but Nietzche on women?

        “Is it not better to fall into the hands of a murderer than a woman in heat?
        “And just look at these men here: their eye says it- they know know nothing better on earth than to lie with a woman.
        “Mud is the bottom of their souls; and woe, if their mud still has any spirit!”

        So… what? Women prevent men from transcendence by seducing them? Is this the original sin story all over again?

        It seems odd to me that Nietzsche would go “You can have any principles you want- any at all, so long as they are your principles- but hedonism, oh no, that’s just wrong.”

        • Wow…I hope your reading pace being slow is a sign of resistance, rather than being ultra-busy.

          Kierkegaard is serpent-like in his prose, no doubt. I only read Fear and Trembling, which I enjoyed but I found very, very difficult to read. And that’s after year of reading quite esoteric “hard” material.

          On Zarathustra, yes, the eternal recurrence is a thought experiment most of all…BUT…if you read the man’s notebooks it’s clear Nietzsche actually believed it likely that the world behaved this way… His life sucked so hard that to be able to will its exact repetition was the pinnacle of willpower for him etc…

          As I said to ghostlightning, Niezsche can be quite ridiculous when it comes to women. In fact, if I had to point out a weakness in his work as a whole, it would be this failure with women…

          And finally, on your last point, well, you’re right of course. Nietzsche would establish that there are no ultimate principles, but he ends up preferring his own over others and berating people who act in a certain way etc. He was aware of this, at times anyway.. But you know, in a sense as a Nietzschean you’re supposed to throw away all of this nihilistic insight, overcome it and go on with your plan of action.

          Then what’s the difference to your regular sort of actor? Well, simply, that this person who’s gone thru Zarathustra’s ordeal gets to choose his own path.. You say that Nietzsche criticizes those who choose hedonism. But IMO Nietzsche would say: no, that man over there didn’t choose hedonism, hedonism chose him, and he’s clueless because he hasn’t had this crisis, this insight. That’s the point of criticism, I think.

          Anyway, a lot of people think Book Four of Zarathustra is the most fun, so look forward to that!

          • Slow reading pace is a sign of… well. When I can sit down and just power through something I go through stuff really fast. With Zarathustra, alas, the text is so meaty I find myself having to stop and digest it after two or three speeches. Which feeds into my other primary characteristic: I am very easily distracted. Either I do something all at once or forget about it completely, unfortunately.

            Currently Zarathustra is the book I read when I’m on a train. So it’s a rate of 2/3 speeches a month, with allowances for the times it’s been so long I have to go back and refresh my memory. The second time through is always easier, though.

            Back to Nietzsche: I think, on reflection, what you’re saying is implicit in the concept (egg on my face). The choice is not important beyond the fact that you have chosen– but you cannot have chosen if you do not know there is a choice to be made. 😳

            Actually, this reminds me of the philosophy of the Dûnyain in R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy (the desire to become a self-moving soul). Have you read that?

            • Ok, what you said in the third paragraph just about sums it up.

              Althooough, he IS prejudiced toward certain choices, which is why he’s inconsistent…and human.

              I haven’t read the book you mention, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took inspiration from Nietzsche.

  2. Oh yes, I can’t recommend Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still enough. I think the plotting isn’t as delicious as Mazinger’s, but my goodness look at what Imagawa can do with a freaking budget! Pay attention to the score as well, good stuff there.

  3. Honestly, I’ve never been one to bother with analyzing shows, even those I like. As far as I’m concerned; 100 rapid shots of rocket punch!

    • Here’s what you need to do: drop the legal thing and switch to high-powered anime analysis 😀 You’ll be poor most likely, true, but, surely, Metaphysics of Mazinger is rewarding enough in itself.

  4. Nietzsche is my favorite philosopher but I’m ashamed to not have read any of his books yet. I like how you pointed out the contrast between Ashura’s love and Nishikiori’s hate, I never thought of that.

    Seconding on Giant Robo… it’s pretty unique for a robot show in the sense that most of the fighting happens on foot (still awesome). However, when there are robot fights, they are BIG robot fights.

    • I’ll definitely enjoy Giant Robo. And you’ll definitely enjoy Nietzsche. Just pick up something like the “Portable Nietzsche”, it’s a good anthology that includes four of his best books without abridgment. He is one of the most approachable philosophers in the last 200 years, and that’s saying a lot.

  5. Awesome stuff man. Shin Mazinger really was the anime of 2009 which most people didn’t watch, I’m sure.

    If the rumours are true we’re looking at a Great-Hen in 2-3 years, if this is the case I hope it manages to be just as excellent.

    • Well, I sure hope it’s sooner than 2 years, but if that’s what it takes, so be it. As you say, the important thing is for it to be just as good…but why settle for that…let’s hope it will be even better!!!

  6. […] thoughts that support how I framed the central conflict to be between Nishikori vs. Dr. Hell (animekritik 2009/10/06) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Z MAZINGER IS REVEALED! […]

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