Mazinger Z (Japanese: マジンガーZ Hepburn: Majingā Zetto, known briefly as Tranzor Z in the United States) is a Japanese super robot manga series written and illustrated by Go Nagai. The first manga version was serialized in Shueisha‘s Weekly Shōnen Jump from October 1972 to August 1973, and it later continued in Kodansha TV Magazine from October 1973 to September 1974. It was adapted into an anime television series which aired on Fuji TV from December 1972 to September 1974. A second manga series was released alongside the TV show, this one drawn by Gosaku Ota, which started and ended almost at the same time as the TV show.
In the United States, Three B. Productions Ltd., a production company headed by Bunker Jenkins, developed Mazinger Z for American television by producing an English-dubbed version, which Jenkins retitled Tranzor Z. This adaptation aired in 1985, and was, like many English-dubbed anime shows that were on American TV at the time, re-edited for American audiences. Many of the Japanese names used in Mazinger Z were changed for its adaptation into Tranzor Z; for example, Koji Kabuto became Tommy Davis, Sayaka became Jessica, Shiro became Toad, Professor Kabuto became Dr. Wells, Dr. Hell became Dr. Daemon, and Baron Ashura became Devleen. Only 65 out of the 92 episodes were dubbed into English, as 65 was the minimum amount of episodes required for syndication. An earlier English dub that was more faithful to the original was produced and aired in Hawaii for around 30 episodes in the late 1970s.
The Mazinger Z anime ran to a total of 92 TV episodes from 1972 to 1974. Its period of greatest popularity lasted from roughly October 1973 to March 1974, during which time it regularly scored audience ratings in the high twenties; episode 68, broadcast March 17, 1974, achieved the series’ highest rating of 30.4%, making Mazinger Z one of the highest-rated anime series of all time. It culminated in the destruction of the original robot by new enemies (after Doctor Hell’s final defeat in the penultimate episode) and the immediate introduction of its successor, Great Mazinger, an improved version of Mazinger, along with its pilot, Tetsuya Tsurugi. The idea of replacing the first robot with Great Mazinger (sometimes called Shin Mazinger Z) is a variation of a death-rebirth myth found in most Japanese action series: the title character, even if it is only a robot, is never truly defeated or destroyed, only improved upon, and replaced by the next version. Koji and Mazinger Z come back in the last episodes of Great Mazinger to help their successors defeat the forces of evil.
Mazinger Z has spawned several sequels and spinoff series, among them being Great Mazinger, UFO Robot Grendizer and Mazinkaiser. The shows spawned so-called “team-up movies” early on, which were like longer episodes that teamed up Mazinger Z with one of Go Nagai‘s other creations, as in Mazinger Z vs. Devilman (マジンガーZ対デビルマン) in 1973 as well as Mazinger Z Vs. Dr. Hell (マジンガーＺ対ドクターヘル) and Mazinger Z Vs. The Great General of Darkness (マジンガーZ対暗黒大将軍) both released in 1974.
On the franchise’s 45th anniversary, a Sequel film titled Mazinger Z: Infinity was announced, taking place 10 years after the events of the original series. It was animated by Toei Animation and directed by Junji Shimizu and written by Takahiro Ozawa. It is released theatrically in Japan on January 13, 2018. Viz Media licensed the film for its theatrical release outside Japan.