50 years ago today, Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z debuted. And it went on to change the world of giant robot anime—and anime in general—forever.
Today, fans around the world are celebrating the show’s legacy. And it’s one heck of a legacy. We’d be here all day if we tried to outline everything it’s done in its time. But for the time being, here’s a brief run-down of its more notable influences on our favorite form of entertainment.
Prior to Mazinger Z, getting in the robot wasn’t really a thing. Mecha pilots of the past used remote controls, hung on for dear life, and otherwise didn’t really do what we think of today. But that changed when Koji Kabuto jumped in the Hover Pilder and docked it in Z’s massive head. He was the first “man in the mech,” and it’s been that way ever since.
The robots in the series were even treated as extensions of the pilot themselves at times. For example, you might catch Z lounging next to a peaceful Robeast, or Aphrodite A embarrassed at being caught washing in a river. This got played up both for comedic and dramatic purposes. At the time, it was unheard of; now, it’s just sort of how things are done.
Super Robot Wars
30 years ago, the first Super Robot Wars game came into being. A spinoff of Banpresto’s Compati Heroes series, it put you in charge of anime robots from famous shows. In particular, the tactical RPG handed you the keys to units from Mobile Suit Gundam, Getter Robo, and Mazinger Z.
Go Nagai has been an essential part of Super Robot Wars since day 1, and there’s a lot of cross-pollination. Thanks to the power creep of other anime robots, we have Mazinkaiser: a souped-up Z made to fight at the same level as newer mecha. Mazinkaiser then went on to get its own anime!
Imitators… and Rebels
When something changes the landscape, two things happen. First, lots of people jump on the bandwagon. Second, lots of other people work to subvert the new hotness. In other words, without Mazinger Z, in a way, we wouldn’t have Gundam.
The 1970s was the era of the super robots: powerful, brightly-colored mecha piloted by shouty teen heroes. Yoshiyuki Tomino would throw his hat into the ring, making contributions through his work on Raideen, Voltes V, and others. And then he asked himself (and us), “What if the pilot didn’t want to fight?” That was Amuro Ray: the antithesis of Koji Kabuto and all who would come after him. Decades later, Gundam stands as the progenitor of the Real Robot genre, next to Z as the beginning of the Super Robot genre. No wonder they’re both constant presences in Super Robot Wars!
Need more giant robots in your life? Here’s why you should give GaoGaiGar a try.