Protectors of the Universe
Okay... what the hell is this? Such an awfully curious tape that half of this review is going to be me wondering who was responsible. And why they'd do such a thing. The only comfort I can take is that this tape seems to be extremely rare. Not rare enough though, perhaps burning this tape would help.
A Good, but somewhat backwards, world is attacked by evil alien space invaders. The most the defenders can do is load their children onto Super Speeder, a gigantic space train, and send it to earth. Along the way it is met by Mazinga 7, earths mighty robot warrior, who is sent to help them reclaim their planet. However the prince of the planet is determined to manipulate the situation so that Mazinga 7 is forced into battle against the invaders home planet. Can the brave pilots of this mighty mecha defeat the seemingly endless enemies they will face?
As I said above... what is the story here. This show is pretty obviously ancient Japanese giant robot animation but it's been chopped together, and I assume re-scripted, into a movie. However what's really freaky is that it has a 2002 copyright notice. Even more interesting the company appears to be Australian, the cover doesn't match the content, the opening titles are ungrammatical ("Protectors the Universe"), it no longer shows up on the company web page and the credits are obviously bogus. According to this box the show was animated by 5 people and there's no Japanese source for the material? This is one really, really suspicious production.
It's also, as indicated, really really old. Old enough that attempting to shine it up and pass it off as 2002 anime is the equivalent of anime necromancy. This is a title that should be carefully labelled as being of historical interest only. And as such it should be shown as it was made, not spliced together into some sort of monstrous creation. The combination of the two, too old to be of interest to modern fans, and so processed it's of no interest to history buffs, means it is in the end of interest to no one.
It's not even quite bad enough that you can laugh at it. Mostly because the story is played very straight. There's lots of destruction, war and heroic deaths. Even the villains realising the error of their ways and the prideful prince regretting his actions. But you really have to overlook the production and I doubt there's a whole heap of people who can manage that. They certainly didn't intend to sell this tape to anime historians as the extremely misleading box and incomplete credits indicate. I feel for anyone who borrowed this as the tape they'd use to see what anime is all about.
One source of annoyance is that I can't find an original source. Which of course makes it hard for me to be certain that this is a re-badge and re-paint of an old original. I just don't know my mecha well enough. Certainly the box names the mecha the Mazinga 7. And indeed the robot does have some notable similarities to the really archaic original Mazinger which was a Go Nagai creation. However I can't find any mention of a Mazinga 7, or one with chest mounted cannon like this has, on any of those pages. This also, old as it is, looks to be later (and straighter) than the real Mazinger. Very Annoying, if anyone can identify it please send me a mail so I can set the record straight.
Hey, did I mention this is old? The picture I selected is one of the few points in the show where the robot actually does anything. Most of the time motion is kept to an absolute minimum and repeated animation is the order of the day. For example Mazinga, wearing the space train like a lobster tail, spends much of his time flying straight while the enemy crash into his fist. Or the scenes where they take it in turns to fire at one another, interspersed with shots of things blowing up. This animation is so obviously limited by the techniques of the day that, by todays standards, it seems as if from another world. And since the original was clearly action oriented, which means we are supposed to be impressed by what we see, it's not left with much else once you get over the shock of how primitive the animation is.
Of course who can tell if there was an original story that has been lost? Assuming this is from a Japanese source then it's been cut up and re-written which means if there was any interesting character work it's long since gone. Certainly the script as presented is very straight forward and pretty corny, although they've done a good job of matching it to the action on screen. They haven't done such a good job with the voice overs though, they're atrocious. Very average actors who spend an insane amount of time trying to lip sync with the animation meaning every sentence has incredibly odd timing. It would be almost laughable if it wasn't so sad. The ambient sound affects are also really odd, especially their use of a whistling sound, looped, for various flight sequences.
I just don't know what to make of it. If it was presented as uncut originals I'd give a much more sympathetic review. But trying to view this as anime for the modern viewer, which is clearly what the sellers were intending, is simply impossible. The suspicion of impropriety, the lack of credits, leaving an additional sour taste in the mouth.
A couple of people have replied with information about this title. I guess the mystery of it is more exciting than the anime. However Kyle Schlichter came up with one of the most detailed answers, which I'll quote in full so there's no doubt who actually did the work. My review still stands though, as the copy sold in Australia was fairly deceptive as it did not give any detail on the original creators, nor is it up to scratch for the time at which it was released here. But I am happy to know that it does not represent a defaced original.
This movie (and several others, "Defenders of Space," "Space Thunder Kids," and "Masters of the Future") are joint Korean-European (or possibly Korean-Australian) productions. I've seen MotF in Korean. All animation is original, with no Japanese films being hacked up for source footage a la Robotech or Macron-1. The designs for the mecha are, however, obviously copied and in some cases modified from existing robots (the main heroic robot in Defenders of Space, for example is a straight up copy of Inferno from the classic Transformers TV series, but with a bird painted on his chest and named Phoenix King. All footage of him is original).
Mazinga 7's body is lifted off a Takara robot named Sakan-Oh, while the head comes from Great Mazinga. Again, there's no such thing as Mazinga 7 in Go Nagai's creations. It's a straight up knockoff. Funding for these films comes from a South Korean production company, with the animation being produced in Europe or Australia, and most of the voices being Australian (possibly the same group that did the Singapore dubs of the various Transformers anime).
Heroic and doughty earth people, armed only with a massive and seemingly invulnerable mecha, go off to rout the nasty, but incompetent alien invaders. This very suspicious title seems to be seriously archaic giant robo anime given a quick coat of paint and sold to the unsuspecting. I might enjoy it if it didn't smell so suspicious, but the vast majority of anime fans will probably find it boring and suspicious.
You must be kidding. I can't even find any references to this title online, and I have the feeling it never made it out of Australia. As a result I never expect to see a review of it from my regular, or in fact any, sources.