Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    As it did with many Americans, my first exposure to _Majinga Zetto_ came in 1985, when the English language version, _Tranzor Z_, came out. I didn't pay much attention to it, and don't believe I ever watched a complete episode. Undoubtedly, the presentation of _Tranzor Z_ as a kiddie show would have given me the impression that it wasn't worth wasting my time on. And the fact that there were two other giant robot series (_Voltron_ and _Transformers_) on at the time didn't help either. Even though I had seen _Battle of the Planets_, the animated movie _Jack and the Beanstalk_, and _Speed Racer_, I had no idea in 1985 what anime was, so I just wrote the show off.

    A few years ago, however, I found out that _Tranzor Z_ was anime, giving me some interest in watching it and seeing what I had missed. I didn't really act on this interest until several months ago, when I did a search on eBay and found people auctioning CD-ROMS with some of the episodes. I won and received a set.

    Even though it is edited from a 1972-74 show, _Tranzor Z_ is a very typical mid-Eighties kids' show, from the voice acting to the music. With its main theme music and cheesy narration, the opening credit sequence in particular exemplifies children's programming during the Reagan years. However, this did not prevent me from enjoying the show and the animation. If I had given this a chance in '85, I could see myself getting into it as I had done with the other shows I mentioned.

    Going back to eBay, I ran across a 12-DVD set of the complete _Majinga Zetto_ series, so I won it. Watching the original Japanese version of the show was like exploring a whole new world, a much more exciting and meaningful one than the syndication hell of _Tranzor Z_. --SPOILER--For example, in the first episode, a minor character is murdered, and Kouji (Tommy Davis in _Z_) comes home to find Shiro (Toad in _Z_) crying over her body. Of course, this was something that you can't show in a kids' show in America, but it gives you some idea of how different the two versions are from one another, and also proves once again that the Japanese are not afraid to take chances. --SPOILER-- Another example is when Count Brocken (Devleen in the American version) kills a man's puppies and frames Kouji for it. But I'm not suggesting that _Majinga Z_ is better simply because it has more violence. It also has bits of humor that American lobbying groups would find unacceptable, such as when --SPOILER-- a puppy urinates on Shiro at the end of one episode. In general, _Majinga Zetto_ was aimed at a much wider audience, one that included adults as well as children, whereas _Tranzor Z_ reflects the pre-Simpsons belief in America that animation is only for children.

    The show ran for 92 episodes (two seasons), and becomes more interesting in the second season. Even the opening credit sequence for the second season is better (same theme song, but a different montage of action scenes). New characters are introduced, and the old ones acquire new robots. Throughout the entire series, the colors are often darker than _Tranzor Z_, and the music, while it has that Seventies sound to it, is also better.

    There are still some shortcomings to the show. The action is too repetitive, consisting of endless robot fights that rarely vary. And the writers have trouble with creating interesting plot resolutions: --POSSIBLE SPOILER-- invariably, Kouji uses Majinga Zetto's super powers on the enemy robot until he finds a weak spot or it is caught off guard, then he pours on the attacks and destroys it. I would have liked to see more originality, especially since there are so many episodes.

    However, the show manages to be entertaining, and provide likeable characters (even though they are not very developed and do not change or grow any over the course of the series). It strains itself a little over so many episodes, but it managed to keep me entertained--and I normally don't like mecha anime. I was particularly impressed with how well it holds up after thirty years. Good anime tends to last, as _Jack and the Beanstalk_ shows.

    So if you like mechas, or just want to see some old anime, check this out.