When I saw this at one of those Fathom Events screenings, they had a short interview segment before the movie. The director and character designer answered a few softball questions before Go Nagai said a few words hyping the movie. It was all promotional stuff– fun to see but about on par with the generic promotional material you get from bad, hastily tossed together Blu-Ray extras. One of the questions tossed to the director was “What’s the theme of the movie.” He gave a very safe answer: Entertainment.
One dude in the audience shot both arms into the air and audibly cheered at this “revelation.” That had to be one of the strangest reactions I’ve ever seen to an artist talking about their work. It isn’t because there’s something wrong with not seeing or not wanting to talk about the meaning behind your creation, it was just bizarre to see someone clearly celebrate what was either a lack of insight or a desire to not get into it.
What’s even funnier about that reaction is how Infinity clearly has more on its mind than simply entertaining the audience, and said dude made a few grumbles during a couple of scenes where the movie wanted to do more than wax nostalgia and blow up robots. Jokes on that dude, I guess.
The plot is kind of what you’d expect from this sort of anniversary movie. Dr. Hell, Count Brocken, and Baron Ashura are back 10 years after the original TV series, and they have a plan to reshape reality in their image involving a super-powerful and super-huge ancient Mazin, the titular Infinity. There’s something about alternate dimensions, infinite possibility, and the space between it all and manipulating it all based on the will of whomever controls Infinity. Koji and friends fight to make sure Koji is the one in control when this decision is made, so as to make sure the world is preserved as is. They do just that. The End.
I’m sure that’s the “entertainment” part of it all– revisiting characters, this time a little older and a little wiser, and seeing them in action one last(?) time. But in revisiting them a little bit past their hot-blooded youth, it starts to touch on a few things beyond how awesome it is to beat the bad guy.
Koji and Sayaka have both moved on from being mecha pilots and both work on researching Photon power for the betterment of the world, with Sayaka essentially being the head of said program. They’ve also yet to do anything about their relationship, with Sayaka getting impatient with Koji’s inaction. To make her impatience all the worse, their friends Tetsuya and Jun, who acted as their successors in the mecha piloting game, are married and are expecting a child. Those that came after them beat them to the punch of “growing up” and having a family.
On top of that, when Infinity is discovered, a woman/robot named Lisa is found inside of it. She’s the mech’s AI, and she “imprints” on Koji, looking to him as both a father figure and as a “master.” Koji pays more attention to her than Sayaka, and this leads to Sayaka considering moving on from Koji.
The crux of the movie ends up being less about defeating Dr. Hell again, because you know that’ll happen one way or another, and more about how the relationship plays out between Koji and Sayaka. They’ve both matured a bit, but neither of them have quite let go of their hot-blooded, quick to react natures, because that’s just who they are. That sort of person can mellow a bit, but their flame never goes out.
The catch to all of this isn’t the “will they or won’t they” question. The movie made feel like that it was more important to ask “will they have a kid?” It’s that question that bothered me a bit about the whole endeavor.
It all felt like some hardliner propaganda to increase birth rates. The Lisa character exists not just to be a conduit for Infinity’s power, but also to literally become Koji and Sayaka’s child. Lisa frets over whether her “parents” will ever admit to each other that they love one another, and when it looks like the world may end, she pleads with both of them to just accept temporary happiness and be with each other in those final moments. But as soon as some measure of hope is found, Lisa makes one change to reality: she makes her fantasy of being their child a reality, literally writing herself into their destiny as Koji exerts his will and chooses to have this reality remain intact.
This new addition to the cast exists solely to perpetuate their bloodline, and the movie ends with a shot of her reborn as their child, humming a happy tune. In one sense it’s neat that the heroes’ ultimate act is less the destruction of a foe and more the creation of new live, but it’s framed in such a way that any other end for these characters would be denying their fate. For a movie that’s all about making the choice to save the world when there’s plenty about it to hate, it’s also about denying one’s choice in whether to bring life into this imperfect world. Given declining birth rates in Japan and many other countries, it feels a bit like the creators are out there telling you to make babies regardless of how you feel about the state of the world.
You may not be obliged to like the world, but you are obliged to make sure more lives exist to make that decision. And when you tie all of that in to the movie’s inherent nostalgia vibe, it all feels like a bid to keep things the same. “Don’t shake the boat and make sure your children will be born into the same Japan that created Mazinger Z in the first place.” It’s weird, man.
There’s also the matter of why Dr. Hell feels there’s no hope for this world. Yeah, he’s evil and wants to kill humans so that his kikaijin can have the world to themselves, but the driving force behind why he feels humanity and his kind can’t coexist is diversity.
He sees humanity as being too fractured in ideology. Each nation, creed, and whatnot has its own beliefs and values, and this diverse range of thought makes humanity weak and prone to infighting. The implication is that his kikaijin are unified in belief and lacking in said weakness, and therefore they deserve to not only rule Earth, but should also be the ones to reshape reality in their image.
Dr. Hell’s basically preaching some racial supremacy garbage, and I have to note that seeing all of this framed negatively made “yay for no theme” dude grumble a bit.
As far as everything else goes, it was pretty decent. The computer animated robot scenes were choreographed well, and the designs looked good (the wild colors on the kikaijin were awesome), but it was all a bit expressionless and cold. It looked a good deal better than the sort of stuff seen in the Netflix Godzilla movie and most of the stuff you see in TV anime, so it is a step up.
Sadly, Baron Ashura didn’t get much to do other than a cool fight with Mazinger, but at least Ashura’s female side was voiced by Romi Park. Guess Ashura can’t always be as awesome as they are in Shin Mazinger.
I switched over to a paid WordPress account. The site has a proper domain name now: shinmechaguignol.com. On top of that, my buddy Martian Death Ray made a cool banner for the joint.
And another friendly reminder that I now have a Patreon. If you like what you see and have the means, consider tossing me some change. I’m like Danboard and work better with money.