Archive for June 4th, 2008

Tetsujin 28-go [2004]: “Good or Bad, It Depends on the Remote Control Box”

Sadly, this screenshot is from the “Bad” side of things. Poor Tetsujin.

Tetsujin 28-go is, of course, quite awesome, thanks to Imagawa Yasuhiro. It is not quite yet on the level of Giant Robo, which is unspeakably awesome, but Giant Robo is kind of a high bar to reach, even if you are Imagawa, so that’s perfectly fine by me. What it is, though, is great retro anime, and we already know how much I like my retro anime. I’m not really all that far in the series, having seen just beyond the first arc, featuring Dr. Furanken (who has the exact same design as Professor Von Vogler in Giant Robo; I suspect this is because Yokoyama Mitsuteru, like Osamu Tezuka, liked to re-use designs in all his manga, although it may have been that Giant Robo cribbed character deigns from all his manga–who knows) and his wayward monster (no, you can’t spell his name “Franken” because it’s written with three kanji and not katakana), which served both as an introduction to Tetsujin 28-go, his eternal rival Black Ox, and Shotaro, the child detective who controls Tetsujin. With a remote control. With two levers and three dials. It’s slightly more believable than the method employed by Daisaku in Giant Robo, namely, Daisaku shouting incredibly vague commands into his wristwatch and Giant Robo somehow knowing exactly what Daisaku wanted him to do. Then again, the robots in Yokoyama’s manga actually had a mind of their own, of sorts. Giant Robo demonstrated it by crying. Tetsujin demonstrates it by rampaging across the city until someone finally grabs his remote control and stops him.

Which brings me to the title of this post, and to the apparent overall theme to the series: weapons can be used for good or evil, depending on who controls them. It is a theme that’s cropped up in mecha anime ever since, to a greater or lesser extent, but it’s strange that, in Tetsujin 28-go, this is represented in the same robot. I’ve no idea if this is in the original manga or not, and I suspect watching Gigantor won’t be of much help, and I don’t know where to begin looking for the manga. If this is in the original manga, then it’s rather strange that Tetsujin 28-go–the grandfather of all anime involving robots–should touch on such a theme. It’s most likely due to the proximity of World War II and the atomic bombings.

At any rate, the backstory of Tetsujin 28-go is as follows: Shotaro’s father, the creator of Tetsujin 28-go, seals the machine away and kills himself, because he (of course) has created something that should not exist on Earth. That something is likely Tetsujin itself, and, of course, when his apprentice Shikishima activates a certain control device, a chain of events is launched which results in Tetsujin marauding down Tokyo like a man in a rubber suit in a Toho studio. Shotaro seizes the remote control and restores order, of course, but now is forced with the task of controlling the iron behemoth.

The dual personality of Tetsujin, resting on both whether or not his remote control is being operated and who it’s being operated by, is a reminder that technology, especially technology as impressive as a giant robot (or, say, a nuclear weapon) is innately dangerous and deadly to human society, and must not only be policed by human hands, but by the right human hands. Tetsujin 28-go is, of course, a hero to Japan, both in and out of the context of his universe–but that’s only because he’s being used in the right manner. Sometimes. The last episode I watched (6) featured the plot development of Kenji Murasame (who, by the way, is so totally not Murasame the Immortal) stealing the remote control from Shotaro, leading to the screencap above. I expect a reign of terror to begin, and possibly resulting in the Good Guys using Black Ox on the side of good to stop Tetsujin on the side of evil while they conspire to steal the remote control back from the side of evil. If this is indeed what is going to happen, then it will only further drive home the point that technology is only governed by human hands–as Black Ox is most definitely Tetsujin’s rival, and by reversing the alignment of the robots leads to some extremely confusing action scenes indeed, as you start cheering for the robot that the series isn’t named after. Or something.

P.S.: Shotaro is the craziest ten year old ever. 1) He has a snappy fashion sense, much like Daisaku (and far better than my own) 2) He can drive a car 3) He is already a detective 4) He is macking on the police chief’s secretary. Considering that Shotaro is where the term “shota” comes from, this might be somewhat understandable, but still.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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June 2008