The two that I remember most notably were Voltes 5 and Mazinger Z. I’ve been humming the themes to both of these shows for, well, decades now (remarkably, apparently in the correct key!)…and now you can too, thanks to the magic of youtube :) Check out the clips below to get a general gist of these two characters.
So what the heck do these robots teach us, Phyzz?
The yogic view of esoteric anatomy (i.e. the structure of your spiritual body) tells us that our ‘body’ is comprised of koshas– or sheaths. Five of them – earth, energy, mindstuff, wisdom, and bliss (by all means click here to learn much, much more about these), all of which surround the Atman, or true Self, better known to most as ‘soul’.
The human body is lifeless without the soul to ‘pilot’ it. Both of these robots illustrate this to some degree in that they are piloted by one or more humans, without which they are simply large and useless, lifeless machines.
Voltes 5 is formed when five people, piloting five separate (koshas?) vehicles, unite to form one robotic ‘being’, alluding to the ever-present illusion of separateness, or what is known as maya in Hindu philosophy. Mazinger Z is piloted by one cool dude in a bright, shiny red hovercraft that sits in the robot’s head. Yeah, I totally wanted to be him as a kid.
While I don’t want to counter-actively promote the ideas that 1) we are robots, 2) there are little yogic elves that live inside you, or 3) that your soul lives your brain (most contemplative disciplines will tell you it sure as heck does not), it’s particularly interesting to note that the ‘brain’ of both robots is chosen as the seat of ‘consciousness’ and control. It could have easily been the chest, the throat, or somewhere else less vulnerable to attack, so to speak.
Yes we have brains, yes they are the practical locus of mental control in our bodies, yada yada. But here’s the thing: we wouldn’t have contemplative practices like meditation or yoga if the objective of life was to live in our heads. These practices exist in spite of our attachment to our bodies and brains and, in theory, teach us how to manage them.
Both these robot characters remind us to ask ourselves, “just how much DO we live in our heads most of the time?” Both robots promote the concept of detachment to the body, something that is arguably quite faint these days in our beloved field.
Call it a stretch, but if you’ll look closely at the very end of the Mazinger youtube clip, when the pilot lifts back out of the robot body, he gives us a little smile as the cockpit glass slides back – perhaps an homage to the bliss of the soul when released from the body.
That said, as both robots illustrate, the body can be an extremely useful thing! We all have the fantastic capacity use our bodies in this lifetime to be as heroic as we can and even save our planet from destruction.
The extremely electric process (shown in every single episode while the theme music plays, naturally) of uniting the separate parts of Voltes 5 (in mid-air, no less) is only signaled when everyone cries “Let’s…volt…INNNNN!!” In the same way, the human race will remain riddled with separatism unless we propagate and apply clear intention to unite. Let’s volt in, shall we?
Side note #1: As a child I actually asked my mother to bring me back “a Mazinger hovercraft” when she went away on a trip. And I was supremely disappointed when she came back empty-handed!
Side note #2:I actually owned the die-cast metal Voltes 5 robot as a child. Christmas present from good ol’ grandma, I believe.
Side note #3: isn’t it interesting that the Japanese word for cartoon is anime, a word so closely related to the Latin roots anima and animus, both of which generally mean soul or spirit?
Boy, between the Star Wars metaphors and this, I think I’ve geeked out the entire planet by now!
Enjoy, and if you too grew up watching these cartoons, leave me a note in the comments, wouldya?