2010 Blockbuster Video Violent Japanimation: Mazinkaiser SKL

At Otakon, Media Blasters, publishers of such Colony Drop-recommended genre fare as Samurai Cop, had a huge display up featuring Mazinkaiser SKL, the kind you could see from five or six booths off. I’m drawn to such things, of course, and after I giddily ran up to the beckoning Kaiser, I found the DVD itself quite elusive.

You see, it’s all well and good to have a robot around for decoration, but Media Blasters knows what really sells. It’s porno. A veritable plain of Z-grade ero anime stretched across three sides of the square booth, until finally giving way to MB’s stock of cult Japanese B-movies, which we’re told also outsell anime by a wide margin. Once you’re past Battle Royale and the growing “it’s just like Machine Girl!” genre, anime finally appears, led by the mighty Queen’s Blade and other T&A titles of varying degrees of skeeze. And at the very end of the very last table I checked at the booth– the “old guy stuff” section full of robot anime box sets– I found what I was told was the very last copy of Mazinkaiser SKL.


The moral of this story is that anime doesn’t sell, but maybe it does? In any case, if you’re of the Colony Drop Generation, you really don’t need to listen to me any further. Despite supposedly having been produced in 2010, Mazinkaiser SKL appears to have come to us straight from the Mangaverse, from the depths of Blockbuster’s Special Interest Youth Restricted Not For Kids Crazy Foreign Cartoon aisle. Comparisons to hits like MD Geist are entirely warranted, on more than one level.

After Yasuhiro Imagawa’s superb (but not very popular) Shin Mazinger reboot, Bandai gave Jun Kawagoe and his gang, at this point veterans of remaking Go Nagai robot anime, a shot at remaking the Mazinger universe themselves. They dispensed with nearly the entire mythos– you really don’t need to know a thing about Mazinger or Nagai’s works to watch this– and came out with a cartoon about two guys whose sole motivation in life is to be as metal as possible at all times.

I don’t even remember the two pilots’ names beyond “gun guy” and “sword guy”. They’re not established Nagai characters that I’m aware of, and when the character designs were first released their tight leather pants scared the fans into speculating that they might be getting some kind of melodramatic pretty-boy spin on the franchise: a Mazinger Wing, if you will.

Quite the opposite: Mazinkaiser SKL is all-out, screaming, murderous nonsense. You’ll be entertained with all manner of creative robot carnage and tough-guy theatrics from angry young men, and at the end of it you will absolutely not know what the hell just happened.

This series’ world is a bubble separated from the rest of the modern-day Earth by a massive gravity curtain that can only be entered by the baddest of bad dudes. Outside the curtain: the world we know. Inside, Heavy Metal magazine. Three warring nations– hot warrior chicks supported by hot psychic chicks, Mad Max bandits whose headquarters is also a strip club, and a more strictly organized military state– do absolutely nothing but kill each other in robots all day and all night.

Enter our heroes, special government agents (I presume from the Department of Indiscriminate Slaughter) and Mazinkaiser SKL, who must end a war that threatens to– oh, really, who are we kidding? These guys’ motto is “We are hell!” They just want to kill stuff to 80’s metal (courtesy of Loudness!) and they’ve found a great excuse.

Some notice must be given to the robot itself, which is so incredibly tacky and ridiculous that it embodies the sensibility of the work. The original Mazinkaiser, first seen in the Super Robot Wars game series, was already over-the-top enough, but Tsuyoshi Nonaka (Bandai toy designer and mecha designer for Shin Mazinger) decided that dammit, they can go bigger

Kaiser’s chest plates don’t just heat up and blast flames: they can also be pulled off of the body and used as guns (the staff had apparently just seen Equilibrium and were very excited about it). Furthermore, upon running out of ammo it is revealed that the guns are also knives. This is one of the less ridiculous weapons the skull-encrusted and eventually demon-winged Kaiser uses in the service of being totally metal. The key phrase to remember about Mazinkaiser SKL is “the guns are also knives.”

The vast majority of the show is concerned with carnage in and out of the robot. When SKL stops to try and tell the story of its world, it does so clumsily, with quick bites of incomprehensible exposition and an abruptly inserted bit of backstory that never goes anywhere. The three OVA episodes add up to a very viscerally satisfying action movie, but Redline this ain’t.

Also, while the second and third episodes come with more than their share of chaos, the first episode is by a mile the most inspired and entertaining. The animation quality slips noticeably as the series goes on, as the fights get less exciting and the story makes less sense. Even the heroine feels the need to deliver a “what just happened” speech over the final scene of the show. At the risk of spoilers, I will now paraphrase that narration:

“Once there was an island where everybody was fighting all the time, and it was just no good. It was then that Kaiser appeared, to bring peace by killing everything. It worked out great, and Kaiser is ready to do it again whenever.”

Make sure to stick around after the credits of the final episode, as the teaser that concludes the series is so beautiful that I applauded my TV when I first saw it. As a final note, the dub is criminally bad and I hope Media Blasters got it done for free.

Mazinkaiser SKL is available now on DVD for dirt cheap from Media Blasters, with a Blu-Ray supposedly coming at the end of the year.

17 Comments

  1. God bless Mediablasters for giving us this nonsense–IN BLUE-RAY.

  2. Yeah, the first episode was pretty strong, to bad that it lost most of what it had going for it by episode 3. The sequence after the credits roll totally needs to be painted onto a van or semi truck though.

  3. I saw Devilman, Violence Jack and Genocyber a few months ago and Mazinkaiser SKL does not come close to them. Pretty sad we that time is over though this made me WTF when I read it and then laugh when I saw it “Mad Max bandits whose headquarters is also a strip club”

  4. @Polymar It’s bluray you idiot.

    @Groove-A “too bad that it lost most of what it had going for it by episode 3” which were??? I can’t seem to give the 1st episode much credit considering it’s just equilibrium with mecha. The fight in the 3rd episode was a much more satisfying experience with the return of classical Mazinger attacks. Even the 2nd episode had good stuff going on in it, since it actually raised plot points that were used later in the ongoing Mazinkaiser SKL Versus manga.

  5. I felt really let down by this. It just seemed off somehow. Eternal Champion Daryl Surat thinks I’ve lost my f’ing mind.

    I was late to the power and glory of Mazinger but caught the bug when I had absorbed enough so when the CB Go Nagai World OVAS came out way back in the day I was into it, baby. I dug it. Enough so that when the cute nonsense in the OVA bled into ‘serious’ animation and full on GUTS and MANLY I fully understood why it mattered.

    Fast Forward to the first Mazinkaizer. Amazing s**t. Rocked hard. Actually made Tetsuya into a useful person and not just a dick who kinda sorta tried to be ‘Terry’ Tsurugi and failed on every possible level. God or Devil, baby, YEAH! Mazinkaizer Vs. Black General, not so much. Oh, lots of death and shockingly so but in the end, just a giant c**ktease.

    Then we get to Shin Mazinger and holy crap that was a thick broth of Go Nagai in-jokes. Almost too much actually as it tended to derail the story but, hell, Imagawa, I’ll let him roll.

    And then comes Mazinkaizer SKL. Get it? SKULL. It’s SKULLS. Just like Breast Fire is guns is KNIVES it’s all metal and edgy and rough and raw! Yet, in actual use it’s rather flat and tedious and not very much Go Nagai.

    Where’s the nude? Where’s the insane fan service? An entire castle of hot chicks and not once the guys are offered a ‘reward’? I know they’re SERIOUS DUDES who have to GET DOWN with the POWER and all but man!

    And there’s all this back story that isn’t. The threat to the world that has no real tension. Not NEARLY enough giant robots smashing the s**t out of each other. Was there a deep dark secret with the hot chicks and the honorable enemy was really the good guy? We’ll never know.

    More than anything else this felt like a promo for something else, something where you’re supposed to play a game or read a manga and all will be revealed, but the other parts never got made.

    I worried that since I hadn’t seen most of the Getta Robo remakes that this was tied to that in some way. I’ve seen that ‘flying island of stuff’ somewhere before in some context in Go Nagai work. Daryl says I’m completely wrongheaded on that aspect.

    I dunno. I’m glad MB brought it over, I don’t completely regret spending the money, but it’s empty calories like an Orange Julius. Tastes good but it’s all foam…

  6. OH, forgot to mention, the pilots kinda sorta seem to be maybe Akira and Ryo from Devilman. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

  7. “Actually made Tetsuya into a useful person”
    Tetsuya was always useful.
    “it’s rather flat and tedious and not very much Go Nagai.”
    How would you like it instead?
    “Where’s the nude? Where’s the insane fan service? An entire castle of hot chicks and not once the guys are offered a ‘reward’?”
    Why the hell would you even want that? Even the fanservice in the original Mazinkaiser was done for laughs.
    “Not NEARLY enough giant robots smashing the s**t out of each other.”
    You’re kidding right?
    ” you’re supposed to play a game or read a manga and all will be revealed,”
    That’s true. There’s an ongoing manga that fills in all the holes in the anime.
    http://www.comic-gekkin.com/works/majin/
    “I’ve seen that ‘flying island of stuff’ somewhere before in some context in Go Nagai work.”
    Getter Robo isn’t Go Nagai. It’s Ken Ishikawa’s
    ” but it’s empty calories like an Orange Julius. Tastes good but it’s all foam…”
    I didn’t expect any different. The original Mazinkaiser had the same feeling too, except the plot was even lighter.

    SKL is 3 episodes. 3!!! I mean, one episode is only like 24 mins without the op and ed which doesn’t leave you with much. I think people are expecting way too much considering the length.

  8. If I recall, one of the pilots speaks of King Enma I think in the second ova. I wonder if he’s referring to “the” King Enma.

  9. I liked it, but as much as he overstates it, I gotta kinda agree with Steve Harrison above. it just didn’t manage to live up its potential, or even the potential of its INSANELY BADASS theme song. “THE TIME HAS COME TO MAKE THE WORLD COOL”, indeed, but SKL fell just short of that. It looked like it was ready to deliver just entirely TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING, and kind of ran out of gas somewhere along the way. Hell, it didn’t even have tit missiles on the girl robots and old Go was doing that back with the original. If the show was worthy, this entire comment would’ve been in allcaps!

  10. Reading Steve Harrison’s posts here is usually a flurry of extreme disagreements for me but I think he’s 100% right this time. I know this is meant to be campy and fun, but after the original Mazinkaiser I thought this (I guess only in name) follow-up failed pretty badly at that. I get that they were going for a fairly different type of Nagai show and this could’ve been fantastic, but the execution was simply not very good. The fights were really all there was to it, which would’ve been fine if they weren’t bland as hell in terms of both concept and execution. Particularly surprising for me is that apparently a guy who animated some of the best scenes in Shin Mazinger’s visually amazing episodes was heavily involved with this, but there was really nothing on par with Shin Mazinger’s highest points action-wise here.

    I guess conceptually the show is fine; the over the top badassitude, the fanservice (I… think? man, this was forgettable), the goofy side characters dying in stupid gory ways, it was all there. But it really seemed like the psychotic glee of even Nagai’s less-than-amazing works was missing. Like it was made by a committee of men in suits getting together and saying “hey, Dynamic Pro fans like this, this and this… let’s make a show containing these things”. Which is funny since I actually don’t mind Kawagoe at all (as many people apparently do); I haven’t seen his Cyborg 009 show, but Shin Jeeg was a fun ride and, while having a disappointing start that wasn’t as fun as the manga version (which it would’ve been better if it just straight-out copied instead of just making it largely similar), New Getter had some pretty amazing parts.

  11. If one disagrees with me in an extreme way (should that be EXTREEEEEEEME!! ? ) that means one is thinking, and I approve of people thinking.

    I wanted to LOVE SKL. I did. The visual ‘tag’ of skulls made from skulls on top of skulls and did I mention SKULL was over-the-top and had great potential, but it just didn’t happen.

    I like it. I don’t love it. I SHOULD love the SKL but it’s not possible. I still bought it.

    And I want my R1 release of Shin Mazinger. Not gonna happen but I want it.

  12. I’m with Harrison- this wasn’t even as entertaining as Mazinkaiser, and that’s not exactly a tall order.

    Speaking of stupid cartoons about big robots, what’s colonydrop’s take on Gurren Lagann?

  13. PRETTY SURE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT GURREN LAGANN IS THE BEST, MOST GAR-EST, HOT BLOODED MANIME SERIES EVER!!!

  14. “PRETTY SURE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT GURREN LAGANN IS THE BEST, MOST GAR-EST, HOT BLOODED MANIME SERIES EVER!!!”

    I dunno, man; the first time through, I dropped it around episode eleven* when it became clear that the show wasn’t going to recover from the loss of Kamina.

    *Yes, I eventually got around to watching the whole thing. Wasn’t impressed.

  15. I LOVED THIS SHOW. And yeah, that little clip at the end with BLANK dropping from a BLANK riding a BLANK is the most metal thing I’ll ever see in my life.

  16. Mazinkaiser SKL is much closer to Getter than Mazin, which makes sense considering Mazinkaiser was originally conceived as a fusion of Photon and Getter rays. Anybody whining about the lack of fanservice can go to an actual Nagai work, and not an Ishikawa-inspired one.

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