Mazinkaiser SKL is exactly the kind of anime a 14 year old would define as cool. Extremely powerful main characters? Check. Edgy designs? Check. Enough attitude to make 90s-era WWE blush? Why, it has it in spades! There’s so much to list off, that you may be wondering why you should even bother with it. Well that’s because that 14 year old is completely correct; Mazinkaiser SKL is some of the most fun and exciting experiences I’ve gotten from an anime for quite a while.
Mazinkaiser SKL is a three episode OVA series released in 2010-2011, although it has later been cut together to be a 75 minute movie. It’s a spin-off of Mazinkaiser, which itself is a spin-off of the Mazinger series created by the legendary Go Nagai. Mazinkaiser SKL is a very unique beast; as it’s a lot more in tone with Go Nagai’s other series like Devilman and Violence Jack, but still completely grounding itself as part of the Mazinger series.
Mazinkaiser SKL in all its beauty
The atmosphere feels very much inspired by themes of Hell and the apocalypse. The overarching plot follows the Skull Force, consisting of Kaiser pilots Ken Kaido and Ryo Magami (Death Caprice Squad) and a sizeable squad of backup foot soldiers (Gren Falcon Squad), as they’re sent on a mission to Machine Island to shut down the “gravity curtain” before it explodes and destroys the Earth. It’s a ridiculous take on the “End of the world/Humanity’s last hope” plot which is something straight out of a 70s B-movie, and Mazinkaiser SKL completely revels in it. Machine Island itself is a place which just immediately shouts “apocalyptic”. The island is a place that has been mostly destroyed even before the Skull Force start their mission; the design of many of the locations are vast and empty, and any places which are inhabited have clearly seen some decay and damage over time. These places have also been overtaken by factions which have popped up across the island, and are in a constant war to take control of it.
With all this talk about the apocalypse and hell, why did I have so much fun with it all? The main reason why is how it creates a unique identity for itself, and how much it enjoys itself. It’s absolutely chaotic and rarely ever does it let itself slow down to take a breather. Almost instantly it throws itself into large scale battles, with a heavy metal soundtrack blasting in the background and sets out a singular goal: To cause as much carnage as possible, and to look as cool as possible whilst doing so. It’ll have no qualms about being in your face in order to demand attention, yet despite this it never feels obnoxious or detrimental to the action on screen. The Death Caprice Squad themselves are the perfect lens to experience it with as well, as their extremely corny lines and no-nonsense attitude makes them both extremely cartoony but yet oddly charming.
Wiggle and Mazinkaiser SKL
Its sense of styled is only heightened from the fantastic visuals and animation. In an age where digital and 3DCG animation have become a lot more common in mecha anime, Mazinkaiser SKL is mostly animated in more traditional 2D, with help from modern day digital effects. The animation is wonderfully crisp, with the mecha fights being the highlight. Even with the frantic action, a surprising number of cuts focus on the action for a good number of seconds, allowing the animators to flex their muscles instead of relying on a large number of short, stilted cuts in order to show action. More importantly however, is the art style and colours. The colour palette is what’s most striking, with a lot of reds, yellows and golds used to highlight objects and places in a mostly grey and lifeless world. The designs as well are extremely befitting of the series. The best example of this would be the Mazinkaiser SKL design itself and how it becomes the perfect embodiment of hell. The colour red, demons, skulls, fire. These are all things that’s most commonly associated with hell. Now look again at the Mazinkaiser SKL design; not only does it perfectly encapsulates all of these, but it manages to become the absolute embodiment of hell itself. This is even referenced by characters in-world, calling it the “demon” and the pilots “emissaries from hell”.
But what really ties the experience together is the soundtrack and sound design. The soundtrack is entirely made up of heavy metal and metal-inspired music. Loud guitars and banging drums is the backdrop for the action, to the point where it can even feel like watching an extended metal music video at point. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though, as the tracks that play during the big fights are performed by LOUDNESS, a metal band which was formed all the way back in 1981 and are still performing to this day. The highlight of their tracks has to be the opening itself, which never failed to get me excited for what was to come (and is also extremely endearing due to slightly wonky English lyrics). Outside of the soundtrack, the voice acting for most of the characters are exaggerated and quite corny at times, but it never gets to the point where it’s laughably bad and helps to make the series a lot more charming. Sound effects such as clanks of metal hitting each other and explosions feel extremely punchy, and are lovingly woven in with the soundtrack to create an extremely loud and weighty audio experience.
Mazinkaiser SKL is something I had no idea I would love as much as I do. It doesn’t have the fleshed out characters, or present plenty of ideas which I can take away and think about long after like what many of my favourite anime end up being. But what made me end up loving it was something completely different, its confidence in itself. It will be un-relentless in how big, bold and loud it wants to be, with the end result is something that is wonderful sight to behold and a thrilling ride from start to finish.
Mazinkaiser SKL directly appeals to my inner rebellious 14 year old, and sometimes that’s all you need to be.