Tetsujin 28 Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 28, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 24, 2006
What They Say
Never seen before in the UK, Tetsujin 28 is the brand new anime series from the maker's of Giant Robo. The journey begins when Professor Kaneda creates the ultimate soldier robot, Tetsujin as a substitute for his son, Shotaro, whom he mistakenly believed died in a bomb raid on Tokyo during World War II. Ten years after the war and after 28 failed attempts, Tetsujin is finally resurrected in the rubble of the Tokyo Tower. Shotaro, a lonely orphan, has grown up to become a genius boy detective. Shotaro joins forces with Tetsujin 28 and together they will fight the forces of evil in post war Japan.
1. The Resurrection Of Shotaro
2. No.28 vs No.27
3. The Arrival Of Monster Robot
4. The Other Tetsujin Project
5. Tetsujin vs Black Ox
Over forty years after the original series made its debut, Tetsujin 28 returns with a more up to date remake that doesn't forget its roots.
For this review I watched the episodes flipping between the Japanese and English 5.1 tracks. Since they're Manga's typical up-mixes, they don't sound particularly special with most of the focus on the front channels. I didn't notice any dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback. The English dub, produced by the Ocean Group, fits the tone of the show quite well and sticks quite faithfully to the original translation. The voices might take a bit of getting used to, especially Shotaro, but they will probably win you over quite quickly as Shotaro's youth comes through.
This release is presented in anamorphic widescreen, and looks pretty good. There are a few moments where compression artefacts are noticeable, especially during a couple of particularly high action scenes, but aside from that the transfer looked good, with vibrant colours and very little in the way of aliasing.
The subtitles are in a decent sized white font with a black border, and are clear and easy to read.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
Ah, the menus. What happened? For me, the menus are by far the worst aspect of this release since they implement my most hated method of selecting options " moving text. The four different menu options rotate in 3D in a circle around an image of Tetsujin 28, and you have press the enter button to select your option when it comes to the front. It's really annoying and needlessly adds to the time it takes to navigate the menus. Some music plays over the main menu, while the sub-menus are static and don't feature any music.
The series is a bit light on extras so far, with just a textless opening and Tetsujin 28 trailer to give the disc some added value.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I'll openly admit straight away that I've never seen the original Tetsujin 28 series, which spawned 83-episodes based on a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama. That series is better known in the west as Gigantor, an Americanised, 52-episode run of the show that aired throughout the US, and other territories, from the late 1960s onwards. The series has maintained popularity both in Japan and the US over the years, with another 51 episode series of New Tetsujin 28 airing in Japan in the 1980s. Finally, in 2004, another remake was produced, this time applying all the latest animation techniques to the old-style character designs and settings, bringing the series up to date for the latest generation. This is the 26 episode series released in the US by Geneon, and now hitting UK shores courtesy of Manga Entertainment.
I went in to this series with some caution, for while the character designs did have some kind of appeal despite their clearly classic, old-school look and feel, I couldn't help but find them a little amusing and let's face it, old stories that some of us have fond memories of don't always transition well when remade since times have changed so much from when they were originally produced. Sure enough, there is a sense of simplicity to the story, and at times there's a bit of ridiculousness, but in many ways it adds to the charms of the series, and it's easy to see that while director Yasuhiro Imagawa and his staff have stayed quite faithful to the original, with the retro look and feel, from the character designs down to the sound effects and music, they've also clearly tried to update it somewhat for today's tastes, adding a dark and ominous feel to much of the proceedings.
The story is fairly straightforward, starting in Japan in the late 1940s, after the last war. The country was dejected, and green lit several unorthodox projects to try and protect Japan from the suffering it was seeing, and one of those was the Tetsujin project. A scientist called Professor Kaneda was the leader of that project, which would create a giant attack robot, but it was never used and was sealed away, the Professor himself even proclaiming that these things should never see the light of day.
Ten years on, and the young detective Shotaro is chasing a group of criminals, amongst them Kenji Murasame. He finally corners them when a missile comes crashing down right on top of them. One of Kaneda's old assistants, Professor Shikishima, has invested considerable development into the city and it turns out that the activation of his company's new robot creation caused the launch of the missile. He arrives on the scene with the Police Chief, to find Shotaro emerging from the wreckage. He sees that the missile has his name on it, but the criminals soon start meddling, and Tetsujin 28 is activated, and begins a warpath of destruction.
While eventually it's tamed after the city takes heavy damage, Shotaro wants to know the truth and so Shikishima spills the beans on Shotaro's father " Professor Kaneda's " work. He ended up naming Tetsujin 28 after his unborn son, hence the two sharing the name. Shotaro goes about trying to use Tetsujin 28 for some good, and thus their up and down relationship is born. As Shotaro uses it to help fix the city, he discovers another unwieldy creation, this time an attempt by the aptly named Dr Franken to create a human life from someone who is dead. As the imprisoned Kenji Murasame breaks out and befriends the giant green monster, Shotaro and Shikishima must track down Dr Franken and stop the two from ever meeting.
So it is all a little predictable and the simplicity and clichéd nature of the stories are clear to see, but this is obviously a show aimed at a younger audience while trying to appeal to as many people as possible. Sometimes it might leaving you rolling your eyes a little, as the Police Chief is foiled for the umpteenth time and even acknowledges himself that the criminals are constantly one step ahead of him, or when Dr Franken seems to have a case of schizophrenia and not really know what he wants to do, but you can't knock Tetsujin 28 for not making it fun, because that's one of the series' biggest strengths.
Somewhat surprisingly as well, the story is a bit dark at times and threatens to tackle some interesting themes as it goes on. There's plenty of destruction and even (non-gruesome) death thrown in there, and there are a few almost tragic moments with characters sacrificing themselves (even if they are criminals) to protect others. Shotaro is an easy character to get behind and is quite likeable, and although at times he sounds a little bit whiney and immature he is only ten, after all, and he provides a good way of exploring some of the more intriguing aspects of the series, such as the other Tetsujin projects and what went on with his father back in war time. His emotions are always running high but it works in the context of what's happening around him.
It remains to be seen how deep the series will delve into some of the themes and issues it brings up, such as the creation of robots to be killing machines, and the creation of human life using dead bodies, and while I wouldn't expect it to go too far into anything I hope they're explored on even a basic level.
As mentioned, the new series retains a truly retro look, with the character designs clearly taking a big inspiration from the original source. Of course, nowadays they look a little simplistic but it does seem to work for the most part with this show. The biggest downfall are the robot designs, as while they may have looked good at the time of the original, they are somewhat laughable and look a little silly when compared to the menacing robots we see in other shows today. 28 itself is the biggest offender here, as Black Ox actually looks quite good for an evil robot.
Tetsujin 28 won't be everyone's cup of tea, since its retro look and feel, right down to some of the storylines, will be off putting for some. But if you can look past the exterior and even enjoy it for what it is, an updated version made in the original's style, you'll find the foundations of what seems to be a pretty solid show so far. This is one remake that manages to really work in the way it was done, and I look forward to seeing more.
Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Trailer
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: D
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tetsujin 28