Tetsujin 28 created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama or Gigantor, as we know it in the west, is the first or one of the first mecha anime to ever exist. You know, if you don’t count Astro Boy because that depends on your personal definition of Mecha. Tetsujin 28 had the first pilotable robots, though they are driven by a remote control like an RC car. That distinctive change to being piloted happened when Uncle Go or Go Nagai wrote Mazinger Z a little bit later and the rest is history. While Gigantor or Tetsujin was unavailable to watch anywhere legally, a remake movie by the famous Yasuhiro Imagawa was available for cheap by Discotek so that’s what I am looking at today. (I need to watch the new series eventually.) Like a lot of the reboots I watch including Yamato 2199 and such, my thought pattern is not to replace the original, but to get a feeling for the show and enjoying the new vision from new creators. With this hour and a half film that Imagawa doesn’t like, this is how I plan on getting a feeling for this classic series for now. That doesn’t bode well, does it? Oh, maybe I shouldn’t say that.
Ten years after World War 2, a bomb is discovered underneath Tokyo that destroy anything man made like buildings and cars when it explodes, but doesn’t hurt human lives at all. The bomb was found by Tetsujin 28 who was piloted by the young boy, detective Shoutaro. Of course after the bomb is discovered, Tetsujin 28 is completely overwhelmed by robots that appeared out of nowhere. That changes when an older character also with the name of Shoutaro shows up to pilot the robot and defeat the enemies that appeared. It turns out that person’s name is also Shoutaro and is the other Shoutaro’s half brother. Older Shoutaro was the original designated pilot for Tetsujin 28 during World War 2 and was found on an island somewhere thinking the war was still going on until he was picked up. Now he makes his way to home to hopefully find a new life in a new Japan.
Quite a few mysteries to consider here with the bombs underneath Tokyo, the robots that attack Tetusjin 28 and him, and the two Shoutaros. All of those mysteries get some exploration considering that young Shoutaro knows nothing about what his father left him, besides Tetsujin 28. All of these things are Shoutaro’s father’s, the late Professor Kaneda fault because he built the robots, built the bombs underneath Tokyo for some reason, and kept older Shoutaro a secret from the younger one. With those facts and mysteries, there is also the heavy United States presence which makes sense considering that the U.S. occupied Japan for a while after World War 2. So that adds another complicated element of the U.S. not caring about what damage the bombs do to Tokyo as long as they can come in and rebuilt it at a cost. Not subtle messages here at all. Damn. You ever get the feeling that Japan doesn’t like us sometimes? Can you blame them?
With those elements, the rest of the movie is Tetsujin 28 finding a bomb while mysteriously being controlled and then young Shoutaro getting the bomb away from the city afterward with other things cut between it. Like the two Shoutaros hanging out with each other and bonding over the robot and enjoying each other’s company. There is a mysterious gang of thieves that shows up for some reason and the female has a crush on both Shoutaro’s for some reason. U.S. interest still plays a part in discovering the bombs, and oh yeah. An assassin in World War 2 garb threatens to kill young Shoutaro in his sleep every night or else they can gain Tetsujin 28’s remote, but they never have the guts to actually do it. All of this culminates in the end when the final war for Japan’s future is made and the final Shoutaro needs to be chosen or else.
To me, Morning Moon of Midday is a very allegorical film about Japan’s future after World War 2. The Shoutaros are characters in their own right because they have personalities, but they are more representations of different sides of Japan then anything else. Younger Shoutaro is the peaceful, modern Japan that we see today and older Shoutaro represents Imperial Japan who is war like and ready to kill at all times. Older Shoutaro doesn’t see the beauty in modern Japan and loves seeing Japan shredded apart in ruins and death instead. He stays in a tradition Japanese apartment complex for the majority of the series. The small battle of who gets to control Tetsujin 28 is the battle over who controls the future of Japan. Tetsujin is the modern industry of Japan or possibly Japan as a whole. It all culminates together where the place older Shoutaro used to stay was wrecking balled to only be replaced by a modern apartment complex. I suppose you know what that means in terms of Characterization. The United States business man controlling the giant Tetsujin in the end confirms this too. It’s a pretty easy film to read that way, but that isn’t a bad thing. I don’t think making something complicated for the sake of being complicated is good writing.
The weakest part of Tetsujin 28: Morning Moon of Midday for me is the lack of running time. I wish the film had at least half an hour more for running time to develop more things. Some important bits are either told through montages and narration or characters in a room talking to each other. How could would it be if those moments didn’t have to be montaged so they had more impact? There is almost no room for characterization in this film besides when the two thieves who are a proto-team rocket that at least knows what they want in life. Riches and fame. There is enough information to at least know these characters are, but I don’t really feel like I know them. Young Shoutaro is a detective, but we never see him do any detectivy things and that’s just a larger example of a great problem. I at least know who he is, but who are the people around him? I don’t remember them that well. I do think the film is well directed and well paced because the plot progression and escalation is great with all elements of the movie tying together in the end in a meaningful way, but I can’t say I got much from it other then the future of Japan at stake and Imagawa’s anti-war messages.
Morning Moon of Midday is also a beautiful film to look at. There is wonderful character designs from the 1960’s that I love and excellent facial and character animation through out the course of the film. Also, I love the time period in the designs of the film because that post war transitional feel is all over the place with the detail of Tokyo Tower still unfinished in the background and the technology from that period all over the place. Somehow, the Tetsujin 28 remote and robot looks like it belongs in this universe because of the way the robot is designed constructed. It’s a giant, bulky robot that looks like it might work in fiction maybe. You know those old science fiction movies of the age? Yeah, it looks like that. I do wish there was more beautiful and impactful robot fights though. The opening fight was a fast montage with voice over and while the rest of them are very well directed and full of impact, they don’t have the oompf that most robot fights seem to have because of the stakes at play? The final robot fight in the end of the film got close, but it was over too fast. That short run time really hurts the film a lot.
Yeah, I am going to give this film an ok. Why? Because I still think the strengths of the film still slightly outweigh the flaws so it’s about a like a 2/3 for me. It’s not that memorable, but it will at least give you a similar sort of feel that you will get when you watch something similar to watching the Original Godzilla unedited. The construction of Japan and the effects of the nuclear bombs on Japan all characterized by bombs underneath Tokyo through out it’s structure are very similar to a giant radioactive lizard in a lot of ways. It’s nice to get a feeling of “this is from Japanese culture” that most anime can’t give you other then animation style. Plus, I at least understand a little bit of Tetusjin 28’s/Gigantor’s backstory now. Tetsujin 28, the first giant mecha, is within my grasp of fully understanding and I want to know more. Maybe for next Mecha March I will review the new Tetsujin 28 series from 2004 or the one from the 1980’s. I’ll decide this by next Mecha March. For this film though, I just wish that it came with a better, more meaningful package though. Still, it did the best it could. I wouldn’t be happy with it either, Imagawa.