This short OVA is complete. It’s legacy is to accomplish what the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Movies failed to do: to deliver the best robot battles involving super robots. To be fair, Lagann-Hen had nowhere to go but bigger and cheesier to outdo the series finale. So let’s overlook that.
Instead, let’s compare the equivalent battles: Gurren-Hen’s battle for Teppelin (which spills over onto Lagann-Hen but in flashback form oh what fail), and Mazinkaiser SKL 03’s battle for Machine Island, or the 3rd battle for Octagon. Both have similar stakes, both involved armies, both involved stud robots duking it out. I won’t drill down to the fine details. I’ll make my case as simply as I can.
First, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Gurren-Hen may not necessarily have a better story, but its TV show version does and it is a far superior tale to anything Mazinkaiser SKL can hope for. This isn’t a comparison of stories, this is a comparison of climactic battles.
Okay ghosty, but Gurren-Hen had Lord Genome Beating the Crap Out of a Super Robot!
While I do enjoy it when the likes of Lord Genome, Alberto the Impact, and Master Asia kick the tar out of super robots, this is already superhero fare and not what I watch super robot shows for. Admittedly, super robot shows are superhero shows only using large metal idols to do the fighting and protecting. However, if I really wanted to watch superhero shows I’d be joining my wife marathoning Justice League and related shows.
In Mazinkaiser SKL 03, it was always about the big robots. Lord Galan died inside his cockpit in a fuckmazingly manly way, setting the stage for Kiba’s comeback in Iron Kaiser to match Skull.
Fine, but that doesn’t really tell me that Lazengann vs. Gurren-Lagann isn’t as good.
I’m not saying it isn’t, but Gurren-Hen doesn’t really add anything much of value to how awesome the fight was in the TV series – it actually diminishes it by making it black and white in its flashback format. That said, even if you particularly like lots and lots of drills over swords, the Kaiser fight has:
- More variety and more interesting weapons/attacks
- Wingle (>>>> Gurren-Lagann’s Scrander clone)
- Fighting on multiple altitudes
I’m not saying Lazengann vs. Gurren-Lagann wasn’t fast, but the Kaiser vs. Kaiser battle was fast without having to resort to shortcuts (speed lines, DBZ/FotNS-style speed strikes). It is a better animated fight even if you’re not willing to concede that it is better choreographed and directed.
Skull was able to unleash its arsenal of attacks which was met gamely by the Iron Kaiser. It was a long, punishing thing that didn’t feel dragging at any point. What’s wonderful about super robot battles is how it absurdly puts everything together: guns, polearms, swords, energy weapons, flight, and gigantic explosions on the same battlefield. This should never work, but it’s there to be spectacular.
And, while Mazinkaiser SKL should never be accused of restraint, you know it doesn’t go overboard with the attacks, going for bigger and bigger blows that ultimately result in either going off the scale, or using some kind of beam spam equivalent. What’s pretty cool about the Mazinger franchise is how every attack is a 1-hit kill weapon. Some enemies will be strong enough to withstand some of these, but by design these weapons are meant to kill – as opposed to how later (Nagahama) super robots have so many attacks that have no chance of killing the enemy outright, and yet get used like a checklist for every fight.
I think Mazinkaiser SKL should be the new milestone – a stretch goal, but not a standard – for super robot fights. This is what not being lazy looks like, what no shortcuts looks like, and what a commitment to spectacular action looks like. You’d have to look for choice moments in the Evangelion franchise to do better, for super robot action fare. While not necessarily better than say, Rebuild of Evangelion’s this isn’t confused with non-humanoid opponents; it is a ‘purer’ super robot action experience.
Vote for Mazinkaiser SKL in round 1 of the 2011 SaiMecha tournament!