We recently had a chance to chat with various producers and actors associated with the Viz Media release for Mazinger Z: Infinity. Check out our interview with localization manager Dave Casipit.
Erich Hai: When creating a dub for such a classic franchise, what are some of the challenges you face? Is it intimidating to work on such a unique property?
Dave Casipit: It was definitely intimidating. I had never seen the old series either in Japanese or English before beginning the project, so once things began I started doing lots of research. The internet is a great repository for all things niche and I was amazed at the dedication of the fandom. At the same time, anything found online is intrinsically untrustworthy, so fan-wikis were a great resource but often led to even more work confirming any questions they answered.
My next step was watching a bunch of the old episodes and reading up on the franchise history, but there was so much out there that there was no way I could get up to date quickly enough.
Also, since MAZINGER Z: INFINITY is more a sequel than a reboot, there’s a lot of reference to the old storylines and fan service about how things worked out for major characters. Fortunately, both the ADR writer, Clark Cheng, and the ADR director, Michael Sinterniklaas, were huge fans and helped me fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Part of being a good producer is hiring the right staff, then getting out of their way.
One particular challenge was the terminology. Because there were different properties in the franchise over a long period of time, there were discrepancies between translations. Fans, too, have created unofficial terms for things that were never translated. Furthermore, sensibilities about how things should be translated and adapted have changed a lot since MAZINGER Z was first brought to the West. So I had to weigh old terms which might be viewed oddly by a new audience against the expectations of the franchise fans.
MAZINGER Z is a property that’s fairly unknown to the American anime-watching public, what was it that brought about an English release of this movie?
MAZINGER Z isn’t that well known over here, but it is the big daddy of the Super-Robot genre, so we’re hoping to generate some combination of nostalgia and curiosity about it amongst the public. As for the dub, good dubs are never cheap, but they make things so much more accessible to the audience. It was worth it to do the dub and “invite in” any fans of Super-Robot and Mecha genres to this piece of anime history.
Tastes have changed quite a bit since the days of the original MAZINGER Z. How did the English dub handle the “cheesiness” of the super-robot genre?
I’d agree that there’s a cheesiness to the old dialog, plots, characterization, etc., for those of us who watch nowadays. But back then, of course, the cheesiness wasn’t there—it was all still fresh. So my approach was to try to be true to the characters and tone in the performances we asked of the dub actors, cheese be damned!
Of course, some of the lines could be painfully cheesy if delivered a certain way, or mocking if given self-awareness. My direction was to keep the characters believing in the story and their principles. In the audition side for Koji I wrote, “There is no trace of irony in Koji’s character.” I didn’t want any hint of a smirk in his delivery. He’s an old school hero, even though back in the day he was considered genre-breaking because of his brashness and disregard for authority.
I understand that the viewer might still find cheesiness in the subs or dub, but I didn’t want to play with that angle on purpose at all. I wanted it to be close to the experience I had when I was a kid when heroes could just be simple heroes, fighting evil because they’re on the side of good. There are a ton of complex and dark heroes and villains out there today, but Koji and Dr. Hell are from a time when things were more black and white, and we need that too. Sometimes you just want to sit down and be entertained, you know?
If we’d made the tone of the dub self-aware and smart, if we’d embraced the cheesiness, it would have taken the product in a very different direction. While I’m not afraid of a far-reaching adaptation in many cases, for MAZINGER Z: INFINITY that didn’t feel right. So we went forward with the intent of making a dub that would be so much fun the viewer wouldn’t be caught up by any cheese, or at the very least, it wouldn’t be cheese we were aiming to create. It would be…uh…organic cheese.
On the other hand, one of the kikaiju is a demonic Santa Claus robot.
Did you watch mecha shows growing up or have any affiliation with classic anime that made you want to work on this project?
I friggin’ loved mecha growing up. I’m part of that generation, where I watched Robotech and Voltron on TV, played BattleTech with my friends, and built custom “giant” robot gladiators out of legos. So even having known little about MAZINGER Z when the project kicked off, I was still delighted by all the cool animation, especially the details put into the Super-Robot and kikaiju designs.
Later as I did my research and learned about the property and Mazinger’s place in the history of the genre, I became even giddier to be working on it!
Was there any collaboration overseas with Toei Animation when making this dub?
I feel that my team is made up of pros who can develop the right vision for a property and bring that to fruition without huge amounts of input from Japan. Of course, that requires enough humility not to go crazy with a property and try to put your “imprint” on it, plus you have to do your homework to make sure you understand the original creators’ vision too.
Toei, to my everlasting gratitude, always believed in us and were constantly ready to help with questions I had (especially about terminology), but for the creative direction, we were pretty free to do what we believed was best. I hope where we ended up pleases the viewers, especially the old franchise fans, as well as the creators.
Do you think there’s a future for more MAZINGER Z releases in the years to come?
I’m ready and waiting for a renaissance of mecha anime in general. I think there’s a huge pool of people around my age who long for some stylish updates to the genre because when I talk to them it’s always a point we have in common. CG is getting better looking all the time (MAZINGER Z: INFINITY being a great example!) and mecha is such a natural fit for it, so I wonder if there isn’t a resurgence waiting in the wings. At least, that’s what I whisper into my pillow to send myself to sleep at night.
Are there any other classic properties that you think deserve a modern release?
Absolutely, but I’m saving those ideas to pitch to my boss for future acquisitions!
I will say that the major anime publishers certainly want to know what people want. It can only do good if fans who are looking for this or that property to get a modern release get vocal about it. It’s so easy to contact us these days, too, so let us know.
What’s your favorite special attack used in the movie?
You’ve gotta give up some love to “Rocket Punch,” and the scene where the Mazin Girls show up in their Super Robots to fill the skies with “Breast Missiles” cracks me up due to the heavy residual immaturity permeating my system.
But my secret favorite is Dr. Hell’s “Dissolving Bullets.” In the dub we got this great read from Mike Pollock, our Dr. Hell, that is wonderfully full of utter disdain for Koji and Mazinger Z’s puny attacks. Then the bullets melt the Chogokin New Z Alloy that Mazinger Z is made of into molten slag. Mmmmm, sooo goooood!
Dave Casipit Bio:
Dave Casipit runs a team of Localization Producers in VIZ Media’s Animation Department. Prior to anime, he localized games for Nintendo and attractions and shows for Tokyo Disney Resort. Some of his credits include Mazinger Z: Infinity, Megalobox and One-Punch Man. He’s won awards, but they were mostly in grade school for small art projects and creative writings filled with just God-awful puns.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Questions By: Erich Hau
Article By: John Schwarz