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    The theater poster for the new Mazinger Z: Infinity movie.

    Fathom Events brought the new movie Mazinger Z: Infinity to Austin, TX for 2 days only.  I took my 2 older boys to see it in the theater.  The movie was a lot of fun to see.  I’m glad I took the time.  I wouldn’t even have known of the event unless my friend Ollie Barder hadn’t told me.

    The movie’s story takes place 10 years after the events of the Mazinger Z TV series (although they kind of ignored the full time line established by Great Mazinger).  Kabuto Koji and the other characters are older and have moved on with their lives.  The discovery of a massive robot that resembles the Mazinger robots is discovered in the base of Mt. Fuji.  Soon after Dr. Hell’s mechanical beast army reappears and announces the return of the fearsome villain.  Dr. Hell seizes control of the recently discovered Mazinger Infinity and plans to use its fearsome power to annihilate the universe and replace it with one of his own making.  Kabuto Koji uses the original Mazinger Z (hidden from the public for years) and the cyborg LISA (who appeared at the Infinity’s discovery) to prevent Dr. Hell’s plans and save the universe.

    The Mazinger Infinity packed the power to erase the universe and replace it with a new one of the operator’s choice. Talk about feature creep!

    The animation in the movie was great.  The mechanical designs from the early 70s were altered only slightly to add a more detailed look to them.  The effect was great to see on the big screen.  The story was an altered form of a Mazinger manga from recent years.  The script was careful to pack references and brief scenes of all characters and machines from the original TV series that fans remember.  The writers aimed at entertaining audiences more than scoring points with the progressive set.  The result was a fun, action-packed movie with nothing to break the audience’s immersion.

    I was disappointed to see the Great Mazinger and its pilot downplayed in the movie.  I realize a movie has to focus pretty tightly and Mazinger Z has proved more popular than Great Mazinger over the years.  Still, I remember how the Great Mazinger made its appearance in the final episode of Mazinger Z and showed itself to be a great step above Koji’s mech in terms of power and ability.

    If Mazinger Z: Infinity rolls into a theater in your town you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see it yourself.

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  • After many years I’ve finally watched the original 43 episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-80).  Since my teenage years I’ve known the show in detail and didn’t feel it was important to sit through the low production values and dull music.  It was so much a part of my younger years that the actual episodes seemed unnecessary.  After watching it I can see that I shouldn’t have put it off so long.  Although it’s not without its flaws the show really is a gem of mecha animation.

    Each episode offers great action and characters with wide appeal.  It is rightly recogized as one of the best television shows from Tomino’s golden age.  It is popular in Japan to this day.  I was surprised to find it airing on Japanese television in the early 2000’s right next to current shows.

    Zaku II

    The Zaku II became an iconic design in Japan. It shows up in unexpected places because it’s so recognizable.

    Mobile Suit Gundam was easier to recognize and understand for general audiences.  Aura Battler Dunbine is an example of a Tomino show that, while great, was harder for many people to get into.  The strong World War II influence helped the show resonate with viewers all over the world.  Many uniforms, action sequences and machines were instantly understood.  Some fans mention western science-fiction influences like the beam sabers borrowing from Star Wars’ light sabers and the Musai cruiser being an inverted Enterprise from Star Trek but these were minor, cosmetic things.  The main aesthetic came from the European theater of World War II.

    The first of the Gundam TV series had the best storyline and pacing.  Tomino put a lot of thought into the One Year War taking place through the 43 episodes.  Major events and players in that war were woven into the episodes seamlessly giving later writers in the Gundam Universe much to work with.  Some of the conflicts like Odessa Day and the battle for A Baoa Qu were too grand for the animation budget they could muster for a television show in 1979.  It’s no surprise that so many side stories and alternate retellings have been made decades later.

    Zakrello

    The Zakrello. Still goofy after all these years.

    Some things about First Gundam are hard to ignore, however.  The awkward mecha designs still look silly even after years of admiration.  Zeon’s Dabude tank, Zakrello mobile armor, Dopp fighter plane, etc.  You may think that Nagano Mamoru contributed some crazy designs to Z Gundam but they were a marked improvement over so many oddballs from Moble Suit Gundam.  The music for the show was quite poor.  I enjoy many 70’s anime sound tracks and the style of the music doesn’t disagree with me but Studio Sunrise’s work on the show’s soundtrack resulted in dull, annoying songs that very few people will listen to today.

    Stories set in the UC Gundam setting in later years would have done well to learn from the first show.  Later entries in the Gundam franchise have sometimes veered into simple-minded anti-war propaganda (Gundam 0080 comes to mind) but the first show didn’t set that tone.  Mobile Suit Gundam had a pragmatic view of war that didn’t glorify it in any way but had room for the heroics of the main characters and admiration for those who would risk their lives to defend their homes.

    One particual issue that has bothered me over the years was later Gundam entries’ desire to write Newtype powers out of Gundam.  Although Newtype powers were a subtle influence through much of the show’s run, the final episodes make it clear that Newtype abilities are a key feature of the UC Gundam setting.

    It’s a shame I waited so long to watch the original episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam.  Although later UC Gundam anime seems to have gotten stuck in the One Year War the first show makes it clear why so many people like that part of the Gundam timeline.

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  • Z Gundam movie DVD

    The first Z Gundam movie is titled Heirs to the Stars

    In 2005 the 50 episode Z Gundam television series from 1985 was compiled into a movie trilogy titled Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation. I grabbed the DVD set when I saw it on Amazon.com but waited to watch them until my surround sound system was working. It was worth the wait! The movies use dolby 5.1 surround and, together with the full-screen animation, make for an awesome cinematic experience. Read more…

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  • Important characters from Z Gundam.

    Important characters from Z Gundam.

    Every mecha fan eventually reaches a point where he (or she) contemplates Tomino’s classic sci-fi anime shows. The potent concoctions of drama and tragedy mixed with epic casts of characters and intricate political maneuvers draw so many of us. After the roller coaster ride is finished we’re left wondering what to make of it all. Why did Camille Bidan, after so heroically defending his friends, have to end up as a vegetable at the end of Zeta Gundam? Why did everyone – I mean everyone – have to die in Dunbine and Ideon? This article is one mecha fan’s attempt to explain what Tomino may have been trying to get across to his viewers. Although what follows is the speculation of a fan from the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean I don’t believe that themes in anime are impossible for non-Japanese to understand. I’ll need to discuss some ideas from Japanese culture but what anime fan isn’t also a student of Japanese culture? Read more…

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  • the aura battler Sirbine

    Knights follow Shio as he pilots the Sirbine on his way to attack the Black Knight's fortress

    The Tale of Neo Byston Well (1988) is a 3 episode OAV that takes place 700 years after the events of Aura Battler Dunbine (1983). This time the story takes place entirely in Byston Well as no one has access to the Aura Road that was used so much in the first Dunbine story. I first heard about the Dunbine OAV when I was a teenager and have been waiting many years to see it. My enthusiasm was dampened somewhat when I saw that the subtitles, prepared by a group called Freebird, were truly awful. English wasn’t even their second language. My limited understanding of Japanese helped me make sense of the awkward subtitles well enough to feel like I wasn’t missing much of what was being said. Read more…

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  • The blog AltJapan has reported on a momentous find for mecha fans. Anime fan Roger Harkavy has discovered a box that belonged to Imai Company that contains artwork from Artmic Studio. The box contained black and white production drawings for Genesis Climber Mospeada and Super Dimensions Cavalry Southern Cross.  He has made the file available to mecha fans everywhere.  AltJapan has the full report. You will certainly want to download the PDF and take a look at the designs that almost made it into Mospeada. I was fascinated by the rare look into the show Southern Cross was originally meant to be.

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  • I watched Terminator Salvation (2009) last night after waiting for it to come out for rental.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a great movie. Read more…

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  • My Gundam Unicorn novels arrived! The series has 10 volumes and, unfortunately, they are in Japanese so I can’t read them. I was hoping for mecha profile pages but sadly there are none. Still, the black and white illustrations throughout the novels are really nicely done. Also, each volume has a color illustration or two towards the front.  Can’t wait to get a new scanner and upload the images!

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  • Promotional poster outside the mall.

    Promotional poster outside the mall.

    From October 19th through the 27th in Bangkok, Thailand a large Gundam exhibition was held in the Siam Paragon shopping mall to celebrate Gundam’s 30th anniversary. My father was on the scene to take photos. I wish I could have been there! Read more…

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  • Gundam Unicorn anime

    Gundam Unicorn anime

     If you’re anything like me you’re waiting anxiously to hear about the anime for Gundam Unicorn.  It’s been too long since we’ve seen new anime in Gundam’s U.C. universe.  Even longer since we’ve seen something new that happens after the One Year War.

    MyAnimeList reports on a Japanese report from Anime!Anime! that indicates Gundam Unicorn won’t air on television.  Bandai Visual has decided to try movie theaters and the Internet to hook new viewers instead of the traditional boobtube.

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