I was nervous about starting this anime for a long time. After watching Giant Robo by Yasuhiro Imagawa a couple years ago which you can read about here: Link, I was nervous about starting another one of Imagawa’s works with that one I didn’t feel completely ready yet. That was two years ago, so I finally felt it was the right time to check this one out. Seeing Yasuhiro Imagawa’s reimagination of Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s work that started the mecha genre itself. From everything that I’ve seen from Imagawa, he loves older shows and includes a lot of older references to older works and other shows in his works which means that this edition of Tetsujin 28-Go has some of that too. It’s really cool.
Ever feel like a show who obviously wasn’t meant for your country at all? Something that was meant for Japan? I mean, as anime fans that is most of us all the time because a lot of anime are created for Japanese audiences that somehow get popular around the world. Considering that this story features a lot of characters who were stuck in WW2’s point of view against the hope for a more hopeful and modernized Japan. I am honestly surprised that we were all allowed to see this one at all because it explores a lot of tension from that time period to now. Just saying that it looks like we are looking at some intimate moments we shouldn’t be. I don’t know.
Set ten years after WW2, a young boy detective named Shotaro Kaneda gets a gift from long lost father. His father, Dr. Kaneda, was involved with secret projects for the Japanese military during that war and he never came back. The young boy was raised by Dr. Kaneda’s assistant Dr. Shikishima. The gift itself is the large robot by the name of Tetsujin 28. A robot that Shotaro uses to help him solve his cases when things get too much for him. Or just general robot combat in order to save Tokyo. Possibly even facing the opponents of Shotaro’s fathers and Japan’s imperialist WW2 past and those who suffered from it
I love the way this anime’s world is put together. Everything has an older mechanical design or even just monster design aspects that sell the world of being in the 1950’s. All the clothing designs are suits and dresses from that time period. Same with the older bits of architecture. The little bits of mechanical attributes of this show from the technology and all sorts of gauges and wires and other things adds quite a bit to it. All put into references to universal monsters from the time period put into the mechanical designs of the robots. Like there is a Dracula Robot and even space alien robots. It feels like a believable world despite all the ridiculous super robot nature of it all
Directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa, this show is incredibly well animated and so well directed. Something which all of Imagawa’s works are. Even with a lot of minimal movement by a robot’s movements, the camera is able to make the watcher feel so much of the weight they carry as some fly through the sky, punch holes into Tokyo, and destroy whatever landscape is around them. Imagawa always had an eye for making the most dynamic and beautiful shots possible to capture the watcher’s animation and that allows the show to push things as much as possible while being completely grounded somehow. Tetsujin 28 Go never speaks a single word, but the way some shots were framed give him a personality that he would not have otherwise.
This show is completely unfair towards Shotaro Kaneda and his robot pal. Especially since it feels like he got his own life taken from him so he couldn’t live a normal life. While he is well off, Shotaro is a ten year old who was forced to grow up too fast for his own good. He already works with the Tokyo police department under Chief Otsuka to solve cases across the city. Shotaro also carries a burden that was never his, Dr. Kaneda’s Tetsjujin 28 and so many other doctors who were his friends and their war machines. Before diving into this story, Shotaro Kaneda already has a tragic life that he eventually can leave behind.
The burden continues into so many of its side characters in this series. All sorts of them from those who were poor during the war and continue to never waste food because they don’t know when food will become scarce again. Mobsters from the United States tried to mine Japan for the riches it gained from the war until it was stopped. Kenji Murasume, while being annoying through most of it, had the motivation of never wanting to see weapons used after everything. There are so many mini arcs with super weapons from all wars across the escalation of it all. Same with other characters who want to destroy the city of Kyoto because it did not get damaged during the war at all. All of them feel like personal stories that came from somewhere.
The show really is about the times and trials of Tetsujin 28 itself. Or should I say himself. From the way he is shot and the way it’s directed, Tetsujin feels alive with a personality even if he never says anything besides “rawr”. There is a lot of changing of hands from his remote control because I feel like Shotaro only has him half the running time of the show. Bad guys take over his control a lot and cause damage. Even Shotaro causes damage with him across Tokyo as well. An entire arc of the story focuses on Tetsujin 28 on trial and characters have to defend his and other robots/power machines rights to exist in the first place. It is a very good look at super weapons and whether people actually need them by giving it a personality. The show and the main character never really see eye to eye leading to a powerful conclusion. Especially since us as an audience can easily get attached to Tetsujin throughout the entire show.
Can I just say that the conclusion of this entire story hits so hard because of this fact. This show feels like an alternative history that still follows the path of how the country went into this current world. As an alternative history where Japan seemed to have all the material and resources it needed to make giant robots and super weapons it never had. Or possibly even go into space in the 1950’s way ahead of the Soviet and the United States and super weapons that could destroy the Earth’s atmosphere in an instant. Yet, the way the story is robot-less and doesn’t have any of these things happen tells you the story of what happens in this anime. A sad tragedy about a past that needed to be let go in order for Japan to find a path forward.
Tetsujin 28 Go (2004) is another modern marvel of mecha anime that feels like required viewing for any person who wants to dive more into the genre. This is not the original series of Gigantor. This is a look at the original series from the point of view of someone who obviously loved that story and wanted to share how he saw it. That is how Yasuhiro Imagawa takes a lot of his projects because no one else but him can create mecha anime the way he does. I’m sure that many have tried and many have failed at achieving his caliber of direction and writing. This is the story of a young orphaned son coming to terms with his father’s dark past which is the dark past of a country he never knew. Yet, he is thrown into it anyway. What a great generational tale that means so much. Mecha has been a political genre since it existed.