Tetsujin 28 Volume 1

Towards the end of World War II, Professor Kaneda put the finishing touches to a terrifying new weapon, but vowed to never allow it to be unleashed. Several years later it is inadvertedly reawakened by his understudy Shikishima, and goes on a rampage through Tokyo. It’s up to Shotaro, the boy detective, to bring it under control before it destroys the city – but his life suddenly changes when he discovers that this monster is his father’s last creation – the giant robot, Tetsujin 28.

There have been many remakes and updates of classic anime titles in the past, some good, some bad. Many rework and tweak the original concepts to be more appealing to younger audiences, and the end result is sometimes so different that it’s unrecognisable. Tetsujin 28 takes a different approach. As a remake of the manga and anime series of the 1960’s (also known as Gigantor), it quite bravely attempts to recapture what made the original so special by staying close to its roots. And, for the most part, it succeeds.

Those expecting a straight up rehash of the old adventures may be in for a surprise, though – what we get is dark, serious drama that is as engaging as it is full of twists and turns. It’s through the characters that this title shines, with a solid cast that are just full of surprises. Everyone has a story to tell, and as the story progresses more and more deep, dark secrets and shocking revelations are brought out into the open. Not everyone is as they first seem -the bad guys aren’t that bad, the good guys aren’t that good- and Shotaro soon finds that life is not so black and white – a stark contrast to the ideals of the earlier series.

It’s not always as believable as it would like, though, and sometimes there are holes in the plot that are left unexplained, partly due to the swift pace at which the story moves. There are instances where someone or something seems to just pop up quite unexpectedly and with little or no reasoning behind it. Tesujin’s hand, for example, is somehow in Japan as the island on which it was developed is destroyed, and its remote control unit just happens to be in its hand – convenient, eh? It also sometimes takes itself a bit too seriously, bordering on cheesy in places, with exaggerated and over-dramatic actions. That said, it is an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, and if you can look past these distractions you will find it all the more enjoyable.

Visually, the series has a wonderful, unashamedly retro style. The robot designs are gloriously simple and impractical, with Tetsujin 28 itself looking somewhat akin to an anthropomorphic barrel, and harkens back to a time where the very idea of a giant robot was more important than how it worked. The character designs are similarly old-skool, with a heavy Tezuka influence, drawn in such a way that they reflect the era of their creation while still looking sharp and clean for the digital generation. The animation is also impressive, and the robots are given a lumbering weightiness that makes them feel heavy and real.

It sounds great, too, with a full orchestral score that rivals many movies and OVAs. The music is stirring and emotive, capturing the mood of every scene with impressive ease. The opening and closing themes are also as retro as they come, with rousing -and oddly memorable- chouses reflecting the old era and further reinforcing the authentic feeling (if you’ve seen the trailer for the recent live-action adaptation, you know the opening theme already). Additionally, the dub is of a good standard, with the script sticking close to the original and the cast delivering their lines comfortably.

In Summary

While some remakes go out of their way to update and reinvent themselves for a new audience, Tetsujin 28 revels in its old-skool ways, and is an enjoyable slice of retro mecha action as you’re likely to find. Even if giant robots aren’t usually your thing, the strong drama and characterisation mean that it’s well worth taking a look. If this first volume is any indication, things are only going to get better.

8 / 10