19 Dec Pinoys join forces for ‘Mazinger Z’
Let’s be honest: Voltes V, for a variety of reasons, is pretty much the Philippines’ national super robot, even having connections to having been pulled during martial law and returning after the 1986 revolution. But Voltes V was not the only mecha (piloted giant robot) on Filipino TV at the time. “Mazinger Z” aired every Wednesday while “Voltes V” aired every Friday on GMA prior to the dead air. Yet, Voltes V has always been far more beloved by Filipinos than Mazinger Z.
“Let’s be honest: in the Philippines, Mazinger is like the Jolly hotdog,” explains Victor “Biboy” Calanog. “It’s there, part of the menu, familiar, delicious enough, and fills the belly. Voltes V is Chicken Joy. It’s the reason you go to Jollibee. And order buckets and buckets. No matter what anybody says – it’s the best!”
But Calanog, Patrick Vallarta and Francis Barredo all plan to try and their part in bringing back the sheen to Mazinger Z. They are the authors of the new book “Mazin Go! The History, Philosophy of Mazinger Z, Getter, and the Works of Go Nagai.”This is important because “Voltes V” is pretty much only super popular here: “Mazinger Z” is the codifier—the very first of the super robots, and Nagai the creator of the super robot genre. Nagai, now 76, first created Mazinger Z in manga form in 1972 before it took on its famous anime form in 1974.Being the prototype, “Mazinger Z’ was unlike anything people had seen before. It was not autonomous but required the guidance of the hothead pilot Koji Kabuto who piloted the Hover Pilder into Mazinger’s head (Mazinger emerged from a swimming pool by the way). Together with Sayaka Yumi in her mecha Aphrodite A in battling the mechanical beasts of Dr. Hell with the half-man/half-woman Baron Ashura as his lieutenant.Every week, Mazinger Z had to battle back the mechanical beasts with a variety of weapons, but the most memorable has to be his rocket punch, which had his forearms firing his arm, something that’s become identified with super robots. He also pioneered the “Naruto Run,” as it’s called today, of running forward at crazy speed with arms pulled back. And just try getting that theme song by Ichirou Mizuki out of your head. The Mazinger saga did not end with the end of “Mazinger Z.” It was followed directly in 1974 by “Great Mazinger” and in 1976 by “UFO Grendizer.”
Nagai never stayed idle for very long, as he experimented as well as went from strength to strength. He experimented with the violent “Devilman,” but he also worked on more mecha series such as the popular “Getter Robo” and “Kotetsu Jeeg.” Not only that, but “Mazinger Z” has been rebooted, continued and rebooted several timesCalanog, who is Head of Commercial Real Estate Economics at Moody’s Analytics in New York, says they realized upon reviewing the “Mazinger Z” there was more to the show than they realized. “There was childhood nostalgia, for sure, but as we began rewatching the shows, we realized we had just missed so many details when we watched them as kids,” he said. “The storylines mixed in with Greek mythology, for example – about how the giant robots were unearthed from ancient Greece, and how they played a part in the Trojan Wars. Then, we realized that though this was for sure a funky kids show – Go Nagai also explored some pretty serious philosophical themes. As we probed deeper, there were questions for which we couldn’t find answers: not from published books, not from sources on the internet, not from so-called otaku experts from various forums.”
He had his own team to help him out. He had known Vallarta from high school. Vallarta worksfor the United Nations’s pension fund for operations and entitlements in New York City. Barredo is a business owner in the Philippines. All three first encountered “Mazinger Z” on TV, but have different reasons for going into it further. “But what really got me in hook, line, sinker, pole, fisherman, and the whole Go Nagai boat was the manga,” says Barredo enthusiastically. “It was love through and through to this very day, since I saw the Mazinger Z. I had to make do for a long time with photocopied bootlegs, but I didn’t mind at all. The anime started my passion, but the books made it soar!” For Vallarta: “It was in 1997 with the introduction of Bandai’s Soul of Chogokin line starting with the GX-01 Mazinger Z figure that my interest in Mazinger Z and related stories were rekindled. From that time, memories that I thought had been buried and forgotten from childhood resurfaced. Then, Victor and I met Francis online, and it was just a circus of a fun time revisiting and rediscovering the works of Go Nagai, who really is a genius!”
“Mazin Go!” is not only a passion project, but one that they spared no resources for. It is very thorough—it goes through every iteration of Mazinger (even his thematic origins), illustrated by metal figures, all the way to Devilman, Getter and Jeeg. It includes a guide to reading the book by Ritsumeikan University doctoral candidate Joanna Luisa B. Obispo, is edited by award-winning author Angelo R. Lacuetaand is available only in a deluxe hardcover edition.
Even how it’s distributed is unusual and yet befitting the mecha theme. It is available in the Philippines exclusively from auto parts dealer PartsPro. “The PartsPro team learned about our project – several on the management team loved the super robot shows and were just as enthusiastic about the ideas as we were, and were totally committed to making sure it reached as broad of an audience as possible,” Calanog says.
“Mazin Go!” is essentially an all-Filipino deep dive to all things “Mazinger Z” and the bonkers genius of Go Nagai. And the authors would not have it any other way.
“Mazinger Z has universal appeal as the underdog. Mazinger Z started out unable to fly, and Koji just kind of bumbled around learning the robot’s controls. Heck, we argued that Koji didn’t even know how to make Mazinger Z run properly till around Episode 34 out of 92 – that’s when he did what’s now called ‘the Naruto run,’” Calanog concludes. “There’s something to be said about a relatively young country like the Philippines trying to find its way, stumbling sometimes, but coming back swinging despite seemingly unbeatable odds. Have we learned to fly?”
For sales, visit the PartsPro website at https://www.partspro.ph/products/mazin-go, the promotional price right now is PHP1,200 (regular at PHP1,500).