Mythology Z

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Jan 272012

Shin Mazinger Z ain’t a mecha anime. It’s pure mythology. And that awesomely oppressive and depressing ending seals it.

All those Greek myths and shit like that are all about how humanity is screwed in the wake of the gods’ whims. Even the greatest of heroes can’t do much when one of the gods decides he needs to be punished for some perceived sin. If you’re lucky, you end up spending years drifting around the Mediterranean Sea nearly getting killed at every turn. But more often than not you end up getting raped and turned into an animal. And not necessarily in that order. And while you’re bemoaning your fate, all of the other pathetic mortals around you are conspiring against you, murdering your family, and basically doing everything they can to screw you over just as much as the gods.

Look at what goes down in the final episode of Mazinger. Kouji triumphs over Dr. Hell, busting out every possible move (and making up a few on the fly) to save the world from tyranny. It’s a bit of a loose comparison, but it’s a bit like the Grecian victory over the Trojans. Turns out that neither side in this conflict was the bad guy in the end. Dr. Hell may have been a diabolical overlord looking to control the world, kinda like that asshole Paris and his Trojan buddies who stole away Helen and refused to give her up, but his intentions were just as just as Paris’. Paris and Helen were in love, and they weren’t gonna let anything get in the way of that love. Not even an invading army. Dr. Hell wanted to save the Earth from an ancient alien threat that would inevitably return, even if it means killing a few innocent people and ruining lives in the process.

Both conflicts are purely arbitrary because of the interference of the Gods. The Greeks and the Trojans would have never gone to war if it wasn’t for the actions of Eris and her Golden Apple. Dr. Hell never would have needed to take over the world and obtain the photonic power if it wasn’t for the ever-present dread of the Mykene civilization reawakening and destroying Earth on a whim.

It’s all the motherfucking Gods’ fault, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. The Greeks can’t allow their honor to be tarnished by the appearance of one of their royalty being “kidnapped” by an enemy nation and the Trojans can’t just give up the rightful bride of their prince. The same shit is going down in Mazinger. Dr. Hell can’t allow the Mazinger Army to hoard away photonic power and not use it “properly” to defend Earth from a threat only he fully understands, but at the same time Kouji and his gang can’t just stand by and allow Dr. Hell to trample over Japan and butcher anything that gets in his way. Everyone is fucked, and the only thing they can do is play it out to the inevitable conclusion.

All the while, the Gods laugh as their whims are carried out. And with Mazinger, all of that rests on Baron Ashura’s shoulders. He’s the vessel of the Gods. It’s his sacrifice that will allow for the rebirth of Hades and the other Gods. But Ashura must sever his connection to Dr. Hell in order to enact this rite. But Ashura can’t act directly. Dr. Hell has bound Ashura, making it to where the Mykene priest(ess) can never strike out against his creators. So Ashura has to let the hero defeat himself and does everything he can to make sure the hero falls for his trap.

It’s kinda like the scenario that Orpheus is presented with when he rescues Eurydice. Hades allows Orpheus to take back Eurydice, on the condition that he not look back at her until they reach the surface. Right when they’re about to exit the Underworld, Orpheus believes he’s in the clear and looks back, only to see Eurydice disappear. It’s one of those tricks that the Gods play on mortals to make the mortal believe they’re in control when in fact the God has everything firmly in his grasp. Ashura may be a mere mortal, but he’s acting in their place. Ashura gives Kouji the opening he needs to defeat Dr. Hell. It’s exactly what Kouji and the heroes want, but by the time they realize that it’s exactly what Ashura wants as well it’s too late. Dr. Hell is dead. Ashura makes the sacrifice. Hades returns to Earth. Earth is doomed. The Gods win by giving the hapless “hero” everything he desired. That’s how they play the game– ensure that all of the rules result in their victory.

And no, the ending isn’t a cliffhanger. This is no play on the serialized, “stay tuned for next week’s episode,” ramping everything up with each episode, formulaic shit that goes down in these old school robot shows. It could seem like that at first, but if that’s the case then why does the Mazinger Army resign itself to their grim fate? Why do they speak of this being the end? It isn’t just a nod to the series ending– some sort of fourth wall breaking moment where they know they won’t win because the show’s ending– it’s also their resignation in the face of a foe that’s beyond their scope. Up until now, their foes had been mere mortals. Dr. Hell may have returned from the dead, but that’s par for the course for all of these characters. Even the might Mazinger Z itself is a mere shadow of a God, made in the image of Zeus but made up of little more than his remnants. Mazinger was a shadow of a god– like a demigod hero such as Heracles– but nothing compared to a true god like the newly risen Hades.

Nope. The Mazinger Army knew it had been fucked for the last time, and the only thing they could do was let their series end knowing it was better to fade to black than let the audience witness their pathetic demise.

And that’s why Shin Mazinger Z is fucking awesome.