In post-WWII Japan, Prof. Shikishima has built up Shikishima Industries to be a technological powerhouse, working on developing robots. However, at the heart of their success lurks a dark secret from the war, something that cost the life of Prof. Kaneda, the mentor of Prof. Shikishima. Now Kaneda's son, Shoutarou, is about to learn the truth, and it will change him forever.
Having never seen the original Tetsujin 28/Gigantor, I came into this series not really knowing what to expect. The result was one of the best mecha anime I've ever seen, and I don't consider that an exaggeration.
The story is a complex and emotionally-charged one, set immediately after the Second World War and focussing on the American occupation of Japan and its reconstruction. This is handled tastefully and without pulling punches - and although the show is heavily supernatural (drawing on Yokoyama's original ideas and elements of Imagawa's earlier Giant Robo), episodes such as "The Melancholy of Dr Black" and "The Glowing Entity" have both alternate
history elements and science fiction elements, resulting in some powerful scenes.
To mention too much of the overarching plot would ruin the impact of the final arc, but one of the strengths of Tetsujin 28 is the way in which short plot arcs, one-off enemies and a series-long intrigue are all resolved in due time. Similarly, the robot itself is rarely the sole focus of an episode - for a portion of the show, it is not present and does not fight. This allows the series to focus on its characters, a varied and well-developed group from the constantly conflicted protagonists Shotaro and Dr Shikishima to even the more comic figures of Ohtsuka and Ms. Takamizawa. The enemies all have their own tragedies and intrigues, and as a result the show rarely feels like a simplistic rogues' gallery pitted against an elite heroic group.
The art style is a matter of taste - it has the big-eyed, expressive style that evokes early cartoons and animation, a far cry from Giant Robo's gritty and dynamic style or G Gundam's colourful and madcap designs. This is a strength of the series to my mind, since it really shows what it is - a child's eye view of terrifying and moving events. However, it will not appeal to people who prefer the heavy-lined and detailed style of 80s OVA animation.
In terms of music and sound, Tetsujin also excels. The opening theme is an upbeat march that puts many super robot theme tunes to shame in its cheerfulness and heroism, and this contrasts starkly with the world the series creates. The incidental music is period-appropriate and provides a good sense of drama without being overbearing.
To summarise, Tetsujin 28 is pretty much required viewing to any mecha fan. It draws on the very roots of the genre, and the mind of the great Yokoyama - mixing it with Imagawa's own genius. As a simple super robot remake it outdoes Shin Mazinger, but Tetsujin can be considered more than that. It's a show which challenges the idea of the super robot genre by setting it against a backdrop of conflicts and tragedies that no robot can easily fix.
This was my first series I finished watching in 2010 and what a treat this was! I’m actually quite glad the OP was so misleading, this is a great series, it’s touching, interesting, well written, and varied. This is how series remakes should be.
The plot is divided into clear arcs, the first 5 episode arc being an 10 rating without a doubt to me. There’s only one episode I could call truly throwaway, it’s not bad per se, but just that one episode is rather cliche ridden and unecessary. The rest of the series, while never being quite as good as the first 5
episodes, are still phenomenol in their own right, they all connect to an overall tale while at the same time being interesting in their own right and most of the arcs end shockingly tragically. That’s another thing, this isn’t necessarily a kiddy show, it might be drawn that way, but it takes its audience very seriously and never babies us through or betrays us. I think a few points were a bit made up at times, but when everything else is written this good, just run with it and enjoy yourself. It’s the type of series that will make you think during it when you’re done while never detracting from the entertainment value.
Characters aren’t quite as strong, but each contribute to whatever situation they’re in very well. Shotaro Kaneda isn’t exactly convincing as your average 10 year old, but he’s still interesting and well developed as he comes to terms with his feelings about the whole situation involving Tetsujin. The best character is probably Kenji Murasame, who looks exactly like his Giant Robo incarnation does except without a French accent. His problems with Tetsujin are a lot different when compared to Shotaro’s and watching Kenji learn if people can be trusted in certain situations is great. Everyone else is well enough and a lot of the story arc characters are actually very interesting, but Kenji and Shotari own the stage here.
The soundtrack is the first thing I want to mention, it’s really really good, the OP and ED are both old school sounding classic type epic good and the rest just fits so well. The ED is my personal favorite piece without a doubt, it fits the series like a glove as does the rest of the soundtrack. Now, animation and art on the other hand? It’s all solid, but nothing spectacular and is clearly went for a distinctive old-school type look that some series still go for nowadays.
The story is such an emotional and deep powerhouse here that I can’t help but give it a 9. The good characters are really good and the not as great ones still help out. Pardoning a single worthless episode, the story is just a masterpiece unto itself, it more than makes this series worth watching, multiple times even. It’s not at all a kiddy series once you’ve gotten past the character designs and the story will prove it to you by being dark and thought provoking.