What’s “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?
Choosing a new anime to watch may not be as difficult as choosing to pilot a super robot into battle against subterranean dinosaurs, but it can still be a trick task. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they want to take an unknown series for a test drive.
What’s Robot Girls Z?
Robot Girls Z is a 2014 TV anime with direction by Hiroshi Ikehata and animation by Toei Animation. The series ran for 9 short episodes (later compiled into 3 full length episodes) on the Toei Channel, and its sequel series, Robot Girls Z Plus, likewise ran for 6 episodes in 2015. Crunchyroll describes the series as follows:
At the Nerima Ward Ooizumi Academy Photonic District, the Robot Girls are selling “Photonic Energy’, a new type of “cheap and green power.” The lab’s research has been going nowhere and their government funding’s been cut off, so their finances are a mess. Just when the three robot girls are bored out of their minds, the part-timers they hired arrive. They are Garada-K7, with her long pigtails, and Doublas-M2, who only speaks with the two hand-puppets she wears. But they soon realize that the two have come to stop them from selling Photonic Energy, and a battle begins.
This is a good description of the set-up of the first episode, but it neglects to mention the central premise of the series. Robot Girls Z re-imagines the mechanical heroes and villains of the numerous Go Nagai super robot TV series from the Seventies (Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Kotetsu Jeeg, etc.) as adorable anime girls, who proceed to pound the living snot out of one another.
Cruel Robot’s Thesis.
When viewed with modern eyes, many of the cartoons designed to sell toys to Japanese children in the late Seventies and early Eighties (such as Science Ninja Team Gatchman and Go Lion) are shockingly violent, and the Go Nagai super robot shows are no exception to this rule. In keeping with this tradition, Robot Girls Z has some of the most brutal physical comedy I’ve ever seen.
In a display of comical superpower, characters are frequently punched, pummeled, or pile-driven into the ground. Robot Girls Z takes great pleasure in illustrating both the distress endured by the minions of the Underground Empire and also the karmic beat-downs received by the Robot Girls, whose violent antics tend to level the city that they’re supposed to protect.
Deep Cuts (and Bruises).
Slapstick of mass destruction isn’t the only weapon in the comedic arsenal Robot Girls Z. The series is also steeped in referential humor, such that even a cursory knowledge of the source material vastly improves the viewing experience. For example, two of the background characters are Jack and Mary King, the pilots of the American super robot Texas Mack from the original Getter Robo TV series. In Robot Girls Z, the Kings sport cardboard armor and run a taco truck.
The referential humor isn’t limited to allusions to Go Nagai super robot shows. Instead, the references range far and wide. Robot Girls Z also pokes fun at such things as the competing “mecha-as-moe-girls” franchise KanColle, the Eighties classroom comedy Miss Machiko, and the concert performances of legendary enka singer Sachiko Kobayashi, just to name a few. The more broad your knowledge of Japanese pop culture, the more you’ll get out of Robot Girls Z.
A Note on Nerima.
Robot Girls Z is set in Nerima Ward, and making this location the center of mecha-girl mayhem is no coincidence. Although its corporate offices are located in Nakano Ward, Toei Animation has two studios located in Nerima: the Hikarigaoka Studio and the Ohizumi Studio. AIC, Mushi Production, and Studio Comet also have buildings in Nerima, so when the Robot Girls rampage, they destroy not only Toei’s buildings but also some of their peers in the animation business.
Photonic Energy Not Available in All Areas.
Crunchyroll currently streams Robot Girls Z and Robot Girls Z Plus in 62 territories worldwide. The series is available in the original Japanese language with subtitles in English, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. As of the time of this writing, no home video releases of the series are currently available in North America, although Discotek Media sells a smattering of the titles that Robot Girls Z parodies.
The comedy of Robot Girls Z is certainly not tailored to suit all tastes, but if you’ve got a high tolerance for cute girls getting comically clobbered, consider giving it a try. You can finish the whole series in about 2.5 hours. And if you want a crash-course in what elements define a hot-blooded Go Nagai super robot show so you can better understand the jokes, consider checking out Mazinger Edition Z, also available in select regions from Crunchyroll.
Is there a series in Crunchyroll’s catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.