Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aphrodite A died on a train to London.

Mazinger Z was my first big professional editing project, and I've written about it more times already than even I can count. It's 92 episodes of robot-smashing and boob-shooting and teenage catfights, and all I knew of it came from Super Robot Wars and the remakes. A lot of descriptions of things in the show turned out to be apocryphal (how Boss got Boss Borot, for example, wasn't quite how it had been described to me), and some things that seemed like major plot points turned out to be one-shot events.

I mean, I wasn't disappointed by Z. It's a super robot show and I enjoyed it both for its historical merit in the genre and the fact that ... you know ... robots blowing things up. It just never occurs to you, with 30 years of hindsight and remakes, that a show this lauded could possibly have colossal amounts of filler and episodes that are just kind of bleh. It probably should have occurred to me. Even the most profound short subjects have subpar shows, and this thing was a Saturday morning behemoth. Plots will repeat. Episodes will make no sense. It is the way of things.

I remember back in December I was editing a bit of Z on a train from Leeds to London the night before I was set to fly home. A fight broke out in one of the cars -- football was to blame, I assume, given all the noisy songs being sung and ... well ... Leeds. When two guys nearly throttled themselves right behind me, a security guard rushed in to break it up just as a porter rushed in and grabbed my arm.

'You want to sit in first class? You can have some tea and plug in your laptop.'

So I was whisked away by a couple of gentlemen in purple uniforms and set up in a quiet car with a nice big table and a cup of tea and an outlet. Three hours yet to London (with a brief stop to dump the hooligans off at Doncaster), and I tucked back into episode 74. I don't think you can complain about spoilers after 42 years, so I will wreck it and say that Aphrodite A -- the ultimately useless lady-robot piloted by Sayaka Yumi -- went out in a blaze of glory with an insert song and dramatic slow-motion and all that.

Thing about Z is, when it's good, it's good. There are about six episodes in the whole series where it's just amazing. Which isn't to say there are 86 rubbish episodes ... just that there are some that are proper stand-outs. We'd spent 70+ episodes mocking the everloving heck out of A and her complete lack of firepower. But at least she had a grand exit before Sayaka was given her new, less useless Diana A.

I have a love-hate relationship with Sayaka as a character and I can't stand her dad (the guy who runs the lab the show takes place around, so that's kind of rough). And after this many episodes of Professor Yumi deliberately holding his daughter back from fighting, watching him boot her out into a certain-death scenario seemed ... well, no, I put nothing past him, to be honest. But iffy actions and motivations aside, I was glad to see Sayaka get a bit of her own back before she was (temporarily) crushed.

This episode also gave me a bit of a rough time with a bit of translation. I don't believe in 'softening up' translations. Go Nagai was not exactly a paragon of sensitivity and Tumblr would be tearing him a new one on a regular basis nowadays, but I don't believe in toning things down just because they wouldn't fly today. That meant leaving in a lot of super awkward stuff.

Here, I will admit to one -- one -- softening-up on my part. When Professor Yumi sent Sayaka off into battle, with both of them aware that Aphrodite A would be blown to bits, he said something more awkward than usual.

'Don't make me ashamed to be your father.'

Now, that could just be the fact that I was working from a very literal translation, cultural differences, translator being a little wonky, who knows. And I know Professor Yumi is a jerk, but I couldn't get behind that. So I did make a change.

'Make me proud to be your father.'

A touch different, but not enough that I was changing the meaning. Besides which Sayaka's had to deal with enough. Box 2 hasn't dropped yet, so for all I know the final pair of eyes decided it needed to be changed back.

Tell you what, though. A couple hours outside London, I was sitting there woe-ing over a robot. Not even an AI robot: a piloted one. I mean, for all I get snippy over these characters, I was blindsided by it being one of those episodes. And it really is one of my favourites. I'll forever associate it with football hooligans, but that notwithstanding.

This is the thing I tell people about Mazinger Z, though, and Go Nagai in general. I'd be going through episode after episode of Saturday morning stuff and then bam, robot-based pathos. Or even villain-based pathos. It's why, as much as I love Z, I prefer remakes or any sort of whittled-down presentation. Sometimes it almost feels like Uncle Go had 13-26 episodes of story that he was forced to stretch into two years' worth of show. Which happens in shows all over the world, really. But when you get those episodes ... man, those episodes. They make any stagnant episodes worth the wait.

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