I hope you didn't find out anything about this episode during the wait for its release: I know I avoided every place that might possibly have been talking about it. I was pretty sure of the big thing (we'll get to it), but the rest of it was a series of very happy surprises.
Dr. Hell's King of Hell (which has faces on the sides of its face) is rampaging around, and both the Mazinger Army and the fancy new weaponized Photon Power Labs are completely useless against it. Obviously, it falls to Kouji to take care of it.
Now this is where the Baron Ashura Show (and make no mistake, we were warned halfway through the series for very good reason) gets complicated: it is revealed that Ashura had actually joined forces with Tsubasa and Kouji, unbeknownst to everybody, when they were inside the Mycenae pillar. Why would this happen? Remember that there was a part of the Kedora's memories that we were never shown: Kouji would just say "we saw a lot of things in there I don't wanna talk about." What they actually saw was grounds for Ashura to backstab Dr. Hell. Remember that Ashura is supposed to be a fusion of two half-rotted bodies, and that the rotting is never really accounted for in the story of this show or the original Mazinger. It just kind of happened.
The truth is much nastier: Dr. Hell and Kenzo Kabuto actually half-rotted the bodies themselves so as to have one less person to deal with when they stitched it back together. For good measure, they obliterated the remains of the Mycenae civilization that was preserved inside of Bardos. So, as it's all part of the plan, Ashura fishes a waterlogged Kouji and his Pilder out of the ocean to fight Dr. Hell. But wait, Mazinger's still down there! What the hell is Kouji going to do from his Pilder against this mightiest of evil robots? Isn't it obvious? He's going to punch it. Over and over again, in the most awesome way possible. No, seriously, if you haven't seen this, then don't let me be the one to tell you how it happened.
Kouji makes it rain. Inside the mechanical corpses of the defeated Mazinger Army are hundreds of Rocket Punches, which fly up and fall onto the King of Hell from the sky. Kouji wrecks the body with a machinegun hail of Rocket Punch fire. He then calls back all the punches to become one huge Rocket Punch, which he then flies directly through the King of Hell's body before completely obliterating it with a Big Bang Punch. Meanwhile, the show is hinting that this was actually a terrible idea, but I, the viewer, cannot bring myself to care because what just happened is so fucking awesome.
Well, it was a terrible idea anyway, and here's why: this was all stage two of the Baron Ashura Triplecross. Let's give Baron Ashura a hand: for all the scheming that was going on in this show, Ashura, of all people, ends up the decisive winner. It turns out that Dr. Hell's goal was not to take over the world and Photon Power for its own sake: it was to take over the world and defend it from the Mycenae with Photon Power. Oh, Dr. Hell. You could have been less of a dick about protecting the earth from giant god-monsters. If you'd just sat everybody around a table and had a talk, maybe they could have worked this out. But they didn't, and Dr. Hell's death actually makes a huge mess of everything. Remember how Ashura couldn't commit suicide as long as Dr. Hell was alive? Well, that's pretty important, because as it turns out, it is Ashura's blood that is necessary to revive the ancient gods of Mycenae. As the credits roll, Ashura tears itself in half with its bare hands, and an army of seven appears before Kouji. They are led by the Grand General of Darkness (Ankoku Daishogun), who, in the final moments, unsheathes his sword and slices Mount Fuji in half.
And that's exactly where it ends. I had said a few posts back that the best possible conclusion would be a revisiting of the fantastic 70's movie Mazinger Z vs. Ankoku Daishogun (which transitions from Mazinger Z to Great Mazinger) in the form of a movie or special, and this has got me very hopeful. This show isn't over. Great-hen is probably going to happen, and there's a possiblity of the movie or special I was talking about, but nobody's said anything and any new stuff is probably a ways off. You'll live.
So how about this show, you guys? Putting the inconsistent animation aside, this was a hell of a ride all the way through. Giant robots are fun and all, but as Tomino will tell you, they're not enough by themselves. This show really sold on its twisting narrative, strong characters, and, of course the fact that nearly every episode had some kind of "oh my god holy shit" payoff. It's great to see Imagawa get to make an epic again, and I really hope everything continues to go as planned. For the time being, though, these writeups will end and I'll have to find something else to talk about. Oh well!