Tetsujin 28 Vol. 1: Monster Resurrected
Following in the footsteps of the recent revival of classic anime series such as Metropolis, Kikaider, and Cyborg 009, fans of the golden years now have something new to look forward to - Tetsujin 28. Released in the United States as Gigantor, this updated version of the original series is surprisingly pretty solid.
Set about a decade after the end of World War II, Tetsujin 28 quickly establishes a very realistic atmosphere despite its focus on a giant mechanical being - the titular Tetsujin 28 - and the young boy who controls him.
Tetsujin 28 was developed by a brilliant scientist by the name of Professor Kaneda. While Kaneda despised killing in any of its forms, he had little choice but to develop weapons for Japan during the war. He had trouble perfecting his masterpiece - a giant nigh-invincible humanoid machine - until news reached him of the bomb-wrought death of his wife in Tokyo. At the time, she was carrying his child. When Kaneda lost his family, Tetsujin 28 became his reason for living. The 28th attempt in a long and painful series of failures ended up being his finest work. He loved the machine so much he even gave it the name he had been saving for his lost son - Shotaro.
Soon after finishing Shotaro, however, the government informed Kaneda that it would be deployed to thwart the enemy as soon as possible. Realizing that he had created a being capable of near-limitless devastation, Kaneda leaked information of his whereabouts to America in the hopes that the machine would be destroyed along with all of the evidence of his work. He couldn't bear the thought of Shotaro being used as a weapon of mass destruction, and his life had no purpose left anyway, and so Kaneda stayed on the island as it was carpeted by bombs from a U.S. squadron.
What Kaneda didn't realize, however, was that his son - his flesh and blood son, also named Shotaro - survived the bombing of Tokyo. Though orphaned at birth, Shotaro grew up to be a precocious boy detective by the age of ten. He received a significant amount of help from Kaneda's closest friend and protégé, Professor Shikishima, and the town's police chief, Chief Ootsuka.
Now that the war is over and Japan has entered the Showa Era, the nation is on the verge of an economic explosion. Much of the country's future depends on its ability to deftly produce machinery, and Shikishima Heavy Industries - founded by Kaneda's protégé - is a leader in the growing market for mechanical goods. Though the war is over, Shikishima was attempting to perfect a giant humanoid robot once again - Tetsujin 27. After repeated failures, he decided to use the control unit for No. 28 instead of the older parts for No. 27.
Naturally, it didn't take long until they discovered that No. 28 really wasn't destroyed all of those years ago, and that it still responds quite swiftly to its own control unit. After blazing a path through Tokyo, Ootsuka, Shikishima, and Shotaro manage to gain control of Tetsujin 28, and it's clear that this is only the start of a beautiful friendship.
I haven't seen many anime series that so blatantly reflect the common sentiments towards America in the 50s. The Japanese people were already eager to end the U.S. occupation of their nation and go about restoring the country to a more normal way of life. Tetsujin 28 is obviously meant to represent Japan's answer to the atomic bomb, only he's even more terrible (if that is conceivable) than the weapon that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens in two fell swoops.
Even though this is a recently produced series, it retains the visual style of the original show, which may convey the inaccurate impression that this is a show for young kids. Sure, there's a giant robot in it, but in the first two episodes, at least three people die rather emotional deaths. Also, with the geopolitical underpinnings of Tetsujin 28, it's easily a series that's complex enough for adults - despite its look.
Animation is very solid - again belying the retro character designs - with good use of subtle CG effects where appropriate. The audio is only in stereo, but there was plenty of movement across both channels during the fights on the first disc for me to be happy even without 5.1 channel sound.
Extras are slim; on this disc, they're limited to a non-credit opening. Then again, there are five episodes on the disc, which I'd take any day over a release with three episodes and a slide show of low-quality stills.
Tetsujin 28 is a series with far more depth than it appears to have at first glance. It pulls no punches when depicting the open hostility towards the occupying American forces. Shotaro - the boy - quickly divulges one of the show's major philosophical foundations: weapons are not inherently good or evil. They are merely tools. It is the actions of those who wield them that can be judged as right or wrong. In that sense, though Shotaro (the robot) is a creation representing potential devastation, he can also be used to effect tremendous good. And together, both Shotaros are going to prove it.