Thursday, April 21, 2016

shorts SHORT Review: Robot Girls Z

Manga Mecha Movie
Robot Girls Z

Directed by Hiroshi Ikehata
Written by Kazuho Hyodo
Production Studio by Toei Animation
English | Japanese

If there was one thing that this blog is known for it's its obsession with robots. The only thing that rivals that obsession is anthropomorphic beings. Japan has created something that has been tailored to this blog. Robot Girls Z is about anthropomorphic versions of the Mazinger Z giant robots as magical girls or like a Super Sentai team. There was another series like this called Mazinger Angels, it was an alternate history (or reality) that the female pilots of the series donned their giant robots against the forces of evil. It was an interesting take on the series, since it was always centered around Koji Kabuto, though Sayaka Yumi (pilot of Aphrodite A) did play a major part, it was great to see her in a more direct role. Anyhow, if you're unfamiliar with Mazinger Z it was an amazingly popular giant robot TV series in Japan during the 1970's by the awesomely talented Go Nagai (Kiyoshi Nagai). You might know him better for his characters Devilman, Cutie Honey, Getter Robo, or Kekko Kamen. I've been personally interested with his life and his stories, since most of these tales involve comedy and cyborgs or giants robots or magic in someway or form. This has been reflected into the three episodes that make up Robot Girls Z, so grab your stylish hat with a tiny aircraft and put on your rocket fists, you're in for a keen trip.

The one thing to remember about this series is that it's a satire. Where the source material was more dramatic and at times went beyond the daily giant robot battles, the human side of things is what made the series. In this three episode anime it was less of the main focus, though it did hold true to the Magical Girl focus. Then it springs into a slice of life series, pushing the giant robots further back from focus.

At times this reminds me more of Yatterman than anything else, especially the animation. This could be due to the fact that both source materials came from the 70's and was rebooted within 5 years of each other. Though from both series it keeps the elements that made them great. An evil overseer (in this series it's Dr. Hell) and three henchmen that fight the three good guys as they fight for justice. It's similar to a lot of series that came after it like Pokemon's Team Rocket or Final Fantasy X-2's Leblanc Syndicate, it's a very popular collaboration of gang members.

We see the girls transform (which only happens in the first episode), it's a quick cut of the giant robots that inspired the series as they fade back into the girls that star in the show, though with sparkles covering their nude bodies, it's a great homage to Sailor Moon and Super Sentai. Though the difference between the source of the satirical homage and this series are the attacks of both friend and foe are deadly and have repercussions in the world around them. It's a gag show, so the characters are never truly harmed, but the destruction is very real and plentiful in this punch for Justice!

Gom posing for the camera, showing off the rocket mallets of morality

One thing that's beautiful about this series is the acting, the actors involved with this are perfect for the character and they each have such beautiful talent as individuals who know how to present their skills as actors. I love that the Baron acts like the Mother of the bad gals and treats the other robot girls as her daughters. The basics of the show is all the monsters (or all the Machine Beasts) from the original series are also Robot Girls (and young women) dressed as their giant robot counterpart, each with a different personality. Some episodes get a bit crowded, though for the most part it's interesting to see so many faces and designs that fit the character's personality to the letter.

Within each episode it's a different problem that's simple to fix, nothing major problem so the girls can fix it, though they have destroyed most of the City and need to pay back for the damages, but that's a running gag through the series. The first episode really gives the impression of what to expect for the rest of the season (that's right they made Robot Girls Z Plus). We see the different emotions and the friendship that the three girls share with each other and the relationship with the evil of the world. It's great the way it is, though I'd love to see a series like this that's closer to the original material. They did something like this with Yatterman Night, though I think it's more of an alternate reality. Anyhow it would be neat to see more of Go Nagai's work flip between his more serious tone to something more comedic and vice versa.

The Z team meets the T Squad, it's more Giant Robots who are girls. Both teams within the second episode focus on out doing each other, but don't defeat the bad guys. This is a troupe that I've been seeing more and more. The good guy is less virtuous than the bad guy, and at times the bad guy is doing the right thing and gets punished for going by the rules. It's great for gag shows, though I haven't seen a dramatic version of this troupe yet, well one that's written well. In the next episode we get to see a new Robot Girl Minerva X who claims to be Z's little sister or she sees Z as her Senpai. Though it seems that all of the Z girls look up to Z (who's a bit self-centered), but judging by her actions she's still a teen that's coming into her ways as an adult. This new girl is a plot by Dr. Hell to separate the girls and take out their most vital member. Two things I really liked about that episode was the idea of a relationship and excepting defeat of losing the battle, but staying tenacious to gain your love's heart. Yes, if you confess and that person doesn't take you as their love, moving on is a good option, there are other people in the world. Though the hardest part is accepting that, with or without reason, it's just accepting that this is not the right time for them and may never be the right time. Dating is a touchy subject, I'm not saying that a no today means a no forever, though most of the time if someone gives you rejection it's best to handle it in a constructive way and more on. (Sorry about this, sometimes things contradict fiction, sometimes it's correct, advice changes per person, so this is more of a broad idea for courting a person you're interested in, talk to people, make connections beyond love, or use that energy toward other projects, sorry, robot girls and Rocket Punches of Justice!) Second is the rivalry of Gre-chan and Minerva X, it's like rival sisters trying to gain the love of their older sister, though that's the point of it, but in this case it's supposed to be rival love interests. It's interesting that they don't right out and say it, though there is implication about Z Team's sexuality, nothing is straight out said, but there are hints within the series that one should read into these conclusions for one's self, if one is interested too.

These are ton of the line rockets,
totally not two girls running around the yard
by the names of Tea Steeping and Oona Kulte

I love the music for this series, from their one-second bursts to their opening and ending themes. One comment I have on the series as a whole is that they reuse a lot of animation, that's not an uncommon way of animating, though for this it feels like there was a small budget behind it and maybe an anniversary that put a time limit behind the schedule. Nonetheless they're very skilled in when a piece of animation needs to be reused in a scene from other episodes and for the most part it's wonderfully animated, though the lip sync can be off sometimes. A lot of the violence and action are erotic, it's interesting how they keep it within PG-13 boundaries, though still give homage to Go Nagai and his way of storytelling.

With the final episode we get to see some of the interrelationships with the "bad guys". How they treat each other and what will happen to the organizations without their benefactor, Dr. Hell. Some of the bot girls get offered a Faustian deal by someone that says they work for the Underground Empire. They grab the Baron and take the giant robot (actual giant robot) into battle. It seems the weapon is more powerful than expected, the Z girls are no match for it's giant robot power! It's a violent turn of event and it seems to have shaken the very being of the Baron. This seems to have never been the intent of her actions (death), but this was the intent of the Empire (destroying the Z team). The Baron thinks about all the times they've spent together, all the events that changed them, all these moral choices and still takes the action for her allies and the Empire, the Baron fires the gun. And like any gag series, the gun's a dud, this was very good anticipation and with being harmed so badly Z attacks with her Rocket Punch sending the giant robot flying. Though we see our true enemy, a sharp toothed crusader of darkness, with blood on her breath and the thought of the Z girls' heads on pikes.

Her name is formally introduced as "The Great General of Darkness-Koj (voiced by Yukari Tamura), she's a very fearsome final foe, also she's the only one in the series that's a giant robot girl. The girls are bested by this tyrant and crucified with chains. Though she's stopped by Steel Jeeg who bursts into the scene like Kamen Rider. Though is pushed aside by Getter Robo, both are other Go Nagai giant robot creations. Also they're Team G, we met Team T before, and since Team Z are chained up they've taken the spotlight for the series. With the underlings of The Great General of Darkness-Koj defeated it's only her and the salvation of the world. Oh the City has been destroyed for some time now, but the girls are working together and trying to figure out a way to defeat such a strong force. And like every cliche we get the full spectrum of the good robot girls coming back to help against evil and fight for justice!

Even with their combined attack, their power isn't enough to stop this force. Their fear starts to come true as The Great General of Darkness-Koj comes ever closer to our girl Z. Until the Baron and her underlings come and stop The Great General of Darkness-Koj momentarily, though revealing an important plot tool, a zipper!

It's revealed that it's a little kid that's in this giant robot, Emperor of Darkness (voiced by Yukari Tamura), holding a remote control with antenna and everything. With only intimidation the Emperor of Darkness defeats herself and with that the mini-series is over. The girls celebrate over curry, until the truck is stole by the Baron and her girls, then we truly end with a rocket punch of Justice!

Misadventures start and end with a lot of results, some are more pleasing than others,
though it's the journey to that moment that makes the adventure worth while.

Overall this was a show that I would watch for another 10 episodes, but some of the gags repeat themselves and a lot of the plot felt rushed. There was a lot of interesting things that came up within the show, moral choices, and extreme violence, but this is a good jumping point. There's a lot more to the characters and the series than one can take from a single viewing. Even though the series has executed every anime troupe, this was still a wonderful treatment to the satire genre. If you like anthropomorphic giant robots in the form of teenage girls from Japan, then this is the series for you and I.

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