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Tetsujin 28 Go

Entry updated 20 February 2023. Tagged: Film, Publication, TV.

1. Tetsujin 28 Go ["Iron Man #28"] (July 1956-May 1966 Shōnen Magazine). Manga written by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, who was influenced by the idea of super-Weapons that might have changed the course of the war (such as the German V-1, V-2 and V-3) and the destruction wrought upon his hometown by American bombers. The Comic tells how, during World War Two, Scientists Dr Kaneda and Professor Shikishima were developing a giant Robot for the Japanese military; but by the time they had succeeded, after 27 failures, the war was over. Some time later Dr Kaneda dies and Shikishima takes the Doctor's ten-year-old son, Shotaro, to see their creation – Tetsujin 28 Go. Nearly 20 metres high, the robot's appearance is aesthetically unappealing, neckless with a barrel-like torso, a small head and a carrot-shaped nose – but is immensely strong and has a jet pack. It is controlled remotely, usually by Shotaro; the control box occasionally falls into the wrong hands. Shotaro, a boy detective who despite his youth carries a gun and drives a car, is accompanied by his friend and comic relief, Tokyo Police chief Inspector Ootsuka. Shotaru uses the robot to fight everything from criminal organizations to Aliens bent on conquering the Earth (see Invasion), which frequently involves Tetsujin 28 battling other giant robots.

2. Tetsujin 28 Go (1960). Japanese tv series. Hitachi Ltd, Matsuzaki Productions. Thirteen 26-minute episodes. Black and white.

Various changes were made to the story, such as Shotaro being unrelated to Dr Kaneda; whilst, this being a live action show, budgetary and special effects limitations meant that Tetsujin 28's size was reduced to that of a man in a robot suit.

3. Tetsujin 28 Go (1963-1966; vt Gigantor). Japanese animated tv series. Television Corporation of Japan (TCJ). Directed by Yonehiko Watanabe. Written by Kinzo Okamoto. Voice cast includes Kazue Takahashi as Shotaro Kaneda, Kōsei Tomita as Police Chief Ōtsuka and Minoru Yada as Professor Shikishima. 97 27-minute episodes. Black and white.

This Anime stuck closer to the manga than 2 above, with Tetsujin 28 now being full-sized. Stories were usually serialized over several episodes. The animation itself is mediocre, even for the time, though there is a slight improvement for the last two-thirds of its run. Plots often involved travelling the world seeking an evil organization's secret base – usually defended by giant robots, some in animal form, such as Dinosaurs and penguins. However, mind control Technology and a version of the Frankenstein Monster also appear; more atypical stories have Tetsujin 28 helping a flock of migrating birds and participating in the robot Olympics (see Games and Sports). Puzzlingly, one episode has our heroes in the outback of Australia, where they are attacked by the indigenous population ... whose design and behaviour is are crude stereotypes of the Native American Indian. Though the series has sometimes been called the first Mecha anime, it depends on the definition used: Tetsujin 28 is remotely controlled, not piloted.

This anime is better known in the West as Gigantor (1964-1966), the name change being due to Marvel Comics' Iron Man having appeared in 1963. 52 episodes were adapted by Fred Ladd, who had previously adapted Astro Boy: the earliest used was #27, due to the poor animation quality and some anti-west sentiment in previous episodes. Many changes were made to the scripts and backstory: Shotaro became twelve-year-old Jimmy Sparks and the setting was moved to 2000 (see Near Future). As often with Ladd's adaptations, flippant character names were often used, such as Ōtsuka becoming Inspector Blooper. Not unsurprisingly, a series with a gun-toting child as the hero was not loved by critics; equally unsurprisingly, it was very popular with children. Guillermo Del Toro has observed, "I grew up with Gigantor and Tetsujin 28 ... there is a deeply rooted bond between kids and robots. Like, as a kid your biggest dream is to have a gigantic pet robot."

The modern viewer might find this Anime unremarkable – particularly when compared to its contemporary, Astro Boy; but by virtue of it being one of the first giant robot shows (and one of the first anime broadcast in the West) it has proven very influential. This was reflected in the lead character of Akira (1988) being named Shotaro, one of many references to the show in that film; it was also a major influence on Del Toro's Pacific Rim (2013).

4. New Tetsujin-28 (1980-1981). Japanese animated tv series; original title Taiyō no Shisha Tetsujin 28 go ["Solar Messenger Iron Man #28"]; vt Shin Tetsujin 28-go; vt The New Adventures of Gigantor. Based on the manga Tetsujin 28 Go by Mitsuteru Yokoyama. Tokyo Movie Shinsha. Directed by Tetsuo Imazawa. Writers include Yoshihisa Araki, Keisuke Fujikawa, Masaaki Sakurai and Noboru Shiroyama. Voice cast includes Eiko Hisamura, Yoshio Kaneuchi and Osamu Kobayashi. 51 22-minute episodes. Colour.

The setting is 1990, when solar energy, collected and stored in space, has mostly replaced oil and nuclear power (see Power Sources). Before he died, Scientist Dr. Kaneda built the giant robot Tetsujin-28 to fight threats to world peace: his assistant, Professor Shikishima (Kaneuchi), hands the controls to the Doctor's son, Shotaro (Hisamura), telling the ten-year-old, "You must fulfil your father's wishes."

The robot is less clunky than its original design, now being in possession of a waist. Plots often feature antagonists whose plan is to take over the world using giant robots. The first such is Branch (Kobayashi), who steals solar energy to build robots: he is defeated by Shotaro and Tetsujin-28, and the boy is rewarded with membership of Interpol and given a Ray Gun. A different would-be conqueror uses a Mecha dragon, another – a descendant of racist pharaohs – a robot sphinx; further stories include a Supervillain ornithologist destroying Polluting factories; an alien who grows when it absorbs energy, and a robot King Kong.

However, the most powerful opponent is the demonic alien Uchuumaou, whose story dominates the latter half of the series: a formidable opponent who at one point crucifies Tetsujin-28. Uchuumaou comes from a solar system exactly like ours, save that its sun has recently exploded; whereupon he combined with a Black Hole, surviving the experience through strength of will. His ambition now is to have his son rule our Earth. The series ends firstly with a robot battle on Pluto (see Outer Planets), resulting in the son's death, followed by Tetsujin-28 and an Earth Spaceship – untroubled by Physics or Relativity – entering the Black Hole to destroy the Black Sun at its heart, and thus Uchuumaou.

As with the 1963 Anime the series was adapted by Fred Ladd, this time for broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel (from 1993) and retitled The New Adventures of Gigantor. Changes include its being presented as a sequel (with a clip from the 1963 series inserted) and Ladd continuing his habit of using silly names – for instance, Branch is now called Dr Murkybottom.

5. Tetsujin 28-go FX (1992-1993). Japanese animated tv series; original title Chō Dendō Robo Tetsujin 28-go FX. Tokyo Movie Shinsha. 47 25-minute episodes. Colour.

Here Tetsujin 28 is controlled by Shotoro's son, who works at a detective agency with other children, including Otsuka's granddaughter.

6. Tetsujin 28 (2004; vt Tetsujin 28-gō). Japanese animated tv series. Palm Studio. Directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa. Written by Yasuhiro Imagawa. Voice cast includes Shōzō Iizuka, Motoko Kumai, Yuji Mikimoto, Taimei Suzuki and Shigeru Ushiyama. 26 25-minute episodes. Colour.

This series returned to the post-World War Two setting of the source manga and first anime, its retro animation style reflecting that era. However – despite a deliberately misleading opening credits sequence – the tone is darker. Tetsujin-28 is initially seen swathed in giant bandages and portrayed as a thing of dread; its creator, Dr. Kaneda (Iizuka), had named it Shotoro after the son he believed had perished in the firebombing of Tokyo. Fearful of what he had made ("Some things should never have been brought into this world"), he told the USA his Island laboratory's location, wishing it bombed and the robot destroyed. However, it survived the attack; when the island is revisited in the mid-1950s it revives and journeys to the Tokyo factory of Dr Kaneda's assistant, Professor Shikishima (Ushiyama), to reclaim the missing arm stored there. The doctor's son, Shotoro (Kumai), had survived the firebombing and is now ten years old and a boy detective: when he learns of Tetsujin-28's origin, he considers it his brother.

The series looks at Japan in the 1950s: the end of American occupation, the new sense of optimism and the era's economic growth; but we see the other side of the coin, such as the children orphaned by the war, now adults and with mental scars, represented here by the petty criminal Kenji Murasame (Mikimoto). Shotoro finds the war still has its secrets, which those who run the country wish to keep buried. These include the experiments of Dr Furanken (Suzuki), who was tasked with using corpses to create soldiers as in William Tenn's "Down Among the Dead Men" (June 1954 Galaxy); the one we see resembles a Frankenstein Monster and was made from Dr Furanken's dead son; it is described as "artificial life" rather than a Zombie. We eventually discover that Tetsujin-28 was intended to be the Sun Bomb, its purpose to destroy the world should Japan lose the war – thus Dr Kaneda's response. Though used to defeat several threats, the robot is presented as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past: in the end, as a foundry is destroyed, the molten metal melts Tetsujin-28, whose final act might, or might not, have been to protect Shotoro,

Though sometimes a little melodramatic, this is a notable series: despite using the original clunky design of Tetsujin 28, the robot – particularly the eyes – has a ominous look: the viewer is kept unsure whether it is a force for good or evil. This reflected Yokoyama's own opinion (based on his view of Frankenstein's monster) that such Monsters are neutral, it is how they are used that is important.

The film The Morning Moon of Midday (2007; original title Tetsujin 28-gō: Hakuchū no zangetsu) was a sequel to this series.

7. Tetsujin 28-go Gao! (2013-2016). Japanese animated tv series. Eiken. 139 five-minute episodes. Colour.

This was less action-oriented than the previous shows, focusing on Shotoro's school life.

There has also been a live action film, Tetsujin 28: The Movie (2005; original title Tetsujin niju-hachigo) and a new manga series written by Atsushi Oba. [SP]


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