Mazinger Z: Infinity’s Director Shimizu Junji

It’s the 50th anniversary of Nagai Go and his revolution works. Following tail of the worldwide release of Netflix’s Devilman Crybaby, Mazinger Z: Infinity works its way around the globe releasing in theaters worldwide. The US theatrical release is scheduled for February 11th and 12th. Check out if there is a viewing near you here!

Original article from Anime.Anime.

Robots = Something you pilot. This thought revolutionized the market when the TV series Mazinger Z aired in 1972. Previous to that, super robots were independent entities or a force to be controlled remotely. The creativity didn’t stop there either. Nagai Go explained Mazinger Z’s strength within world materials such as photon power and a new element Japanium, assigned the name Mechanical Beast to the enemies, and completed a new precedent for many robot anime to come. Words originating from Mazinger Z, like Rocket Punch and Super Alloy, are still used today even outside of the show itself.

That legendary story is being brought back in the new movie Mazinger Z: Infinity. Not only that, but it’s a brand new story brought to you by Toei Animation continuing from the end of the original TV series. We decided to get inside the head of the man leading this legend, director Shimizu Junji.

• Stressing The Bridge To The Original

— Director Shimizu, were you able to watch the original Mazinger Z as it aired?

Shimizu Junji: Of course. It aired when I was in 5th or 6th grade to sometime in middle school, but my fandom for Mazinger Z was my number one reason for joining the anime industry. I was drawn in by the novelty of the hero actually piloting the robot — it was a blast to watch. I was probably just as shocked by this as everyone else who followed it at that time.

— What was going through your head when you received the offer to direct the sequel to a show that had such an impact on you since childhood?

Shimizu: I was honored, but worried about what to make. I didn’t want to make something so different that fans would need to voice their disappointment about the changes, so I created with the thought of bridging the two.

— What was necessary to bridge them?

Shimizu: For example, we drew Mazinger Z’s design with much more detail than the original, but the silhouette stayed the same. We also had the choice to design the characters off of Nagai Go’s original manga designs but instead created concepts closer to Hane Yoshiyuki’s TV designs.


— Hane Yoshiyoki was the character designer for the TV version of Mazinger Z, but he also worked with you at Toei Animation.

Shimizu: I’ve worked with others from the original staff. All the callbacks to the TV anime are a show of respect to their hard work. While following in the footsteps of their work I had to think about what new elements I needed to add. Oddly enough, I wasn’t trying to emulate the current trends, but I wasn’t trying to leave it like the original broadcast. I was pretty conscious of finding the right blend of both.

— Was the decision to animate the robot in 3DCG, rather than hand-drawn, born from that objective?

Shimizu: From the get-go, we decided that we would be using 3DCG, but when you think about it, it’s difficult to retain a constant level of detail in each shot with hand-drawn mechs. We were working on a movie, so we had the resources, and with the techniques, Toei Animation cultivated up until now, we could take on the challenge of an excellent 3DCG robot.


— The Toei Animation CG team is most well-known for their work on the Pretty Cure endings. Did the same staff participate in this movie?

Shimizu: Some of that staff joined. The Pretty Cure endings’ CG is primarily character models. For most of the members, it was their first time working at such lengths with robot CG; it was a challenge. Personally, that is the first trial of working on robot movies.

— The action scenes are something else even for a robot anime. Did you think about all the weapons and attacks that Mazinger Z announces?

Shimizu: There is power in action. Our assistant director, who doubled as our action chief, ordered for us to use as many attacks and weapons as possible. We also had to be careful about the number of enemies, since it’s a movie, but I still ended up going a bit overboard. I really wanted to add even more (laughs).


— What were you most conscious of while creating the 3DCG action scenes?

Shimizu: The action scenes were something we focused on being reminiscent of the original. With 3DCG it’s easy to circle the camera around, but instead of circling around and around, we stayed grounded in the camera work of older anime. There are some mid-air, battles where that flashy revolving camera work comes in, but all the battles on land take place with a fixed camera to ensure you know just what is moving in the scene. The action doesn’t involve a space-like super speed. Everything has more weight to it.

— Are there any other points you made sure to bridge to the original?

Shimizu: Oh, there are many more. Before production started, the whole staff got together, watched all of the original Mazinger Z franchise, and took notes to set as a guide.


— All of it?! Isn’t just the TV series quite a considerable amount? (Mazinger Z has 92 episodes)

Shimizu: In addition to the TV series, we rewatched all the movie versions as well as anything where Mazinger Z or Great Mazinger made an appearance. It was a vital point that the rest of the staff were Mazinger fanatics all around the same age. Rewatching the entire series was the plan, but we went way overboard (laughs). We stepped on the breaks to the way-back machine and found fun in steering the story to new ideas.

On the music front, we brought in Mizuki Ichiro, who originally sang the opening theme, as well as musical composer Watanabe Toshiyuki, the son of the original’s musical composer Watanabe Michiaki. The voice actors were also cast in the image of the original characters. All in all, we created the audio like a pupil recreating their masters’ work.


— You went to great lengths to preserve the original.

Shimizu: I want people who barely even remember the original to see the movie. In the very first episode of the show Mazinger Z barely moves (the pilot, Kabuto Koji, had yet to get accustomed to the controls) so I’m convinced some people recall Mazinger Z as a massive, unmoving robot.

— It also carries the nickname Iron Castle and is portrayed in the games as a heavily armored car.

Shimizu: That’s true, but in the original, it’s actually crazy thin, and light on its feet. So, in that same vein, we made our Mazinger Z very mobile. There are sure to be people that watch the movie and think, “Wait, this isn’t how I remember Mazinger Z.” Hopefully, it will spark enough interest to get them to go back and enjoy the TV series.

Sharing The Roadmap to Entertainment with Pretty Cure

— Next, I’d like to inquire as to how you directed to appeal to the younger generation, those that grew up after the age of Mazinger. Actually, you’ve worked on the Pretty Cure All-Stars movie series, were you able to glean any useful hints from that experience?

Shimizu: Obviously, the directing for transformations, sortieing, and posing were all points of commonality between the two. One concrete example I took was the necessity of humans in action, which is why we included the new character Lisa’s action scene. It’s short, but the presence of hand to hand combat as opposed to beam attacks is a bit reminiscent of Pretty Cure.

In the Pretty Cure series, the girls have these amazing attack that ends up not affecting the enemy in the slightest. The thought of not being able to defeat the enemy must be pretty frustrating, so I decided to liven the fights up by bringing in a lot of enemies that the characters could bring down one after another. Regardless of whether this is your first time with Mazinger or when you were born, I think it’s something everyone can enjoy.


— The battle scenes were very lively! Is the trick to expressing that commonality between children shows and adult shows a technique passed down in Toei Animation?

Shimizu: There isn’t really a set way of doing it. The “official” method is watching a ton of series and movies and studying them.

If I had to put it in words, I guess I’d say follow the roadmap of what’s considered entertainment and don’t stray into a too avant-garde place. In Infinity, there isn’t any new directing style, and the story is reminiscent of other stories, but that was intentional.

— So not only do the vocal anime fans get to rest assured but so do the majority of viewers. Is it something everyone will be able to enjoy?

Shimizu: We had the manga author Ozawa Takahiko (one half of Ume) write our screenplay, and frankly, the story moved me to tears. At the preview viewing, there was a surprising amount of positive feedback from women who aren’t normally interested in robot anime.

— I guess it’s easy to relate with the heroine, Sayaka, and the eloquent portrayal of her ten-year relationship.


Shimizu: The screenplay was particularly fixed on that feeling. Generally speaking, while we held the original material with importance, we created it with adults and children in mind — they’ll be experiencing Mazinger Z for the first time in the same way the young and the old used to enjoy the Toei Manga Festival atmosphere.

— To wrap this up, what comment do you have for the old and new fans alike?

Shimizu: For fans that have been following Mazinger Z since the beginning, look forward to a faithful continuation of the original story.

For the younger viewers, the story truly is captivating. Even for those that aren’t all that interested in Mazinger Z or robots in general, look forward to an impressive narrative.

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