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Tetsujin 28, vol. 1
A region 2 DVD review by CNash
 

Tetsujin 28 is a retelling of the classic "boy and his robot" animé story. The original Tetsujin series – better known as Gigantor in English – told the story of Shotaro Kaneda, a young boy detective, who fights crime in the year 2000 with the aid of his remote-controlled giant robot, also named Shotaro. This version places the action firmly in the 1950s, centering much of its background around Japan's technological boom period directly after the Second World War.

In all other respects, Tetsujin 28 follows exactly the same plot. Going by the opening sequence of the first episode alone, casual viewers might think that they've stepped into an 80s Saturday morning cartoon series – the precocious young hero battles nondescript gangsters and, obviously, saves the day. There's a thread of clear-cut "good guys vs. bad guys" that runs through all of the episodes on the disc, of which there are five:

1. The Resurrection of Shotaro 2. No. 27 vs. No. 28 These first two episodes detail the origin of the robot Tetsujin, as well as introducing the key players Shotaro, Shikishima, and the Murasame Brothers. A deadly relic from the war threatens to fall on the recovering city of Tokyo, but it's what's inside the missile that is truly deadly. Tetsujin rampages through Tokyo, and it's left to Shikishima's new robot, No. 27, to stop him. Meanwhile, the Murasame Brothers are out for revenge, and Shotaro is on the case.

 3. The Arrival of Monster Robot A trail of clues in an abandoned research facility leads Shotaro to Dr. Franken, a mad genius behind several wartime experiments – and a mysterious robot lurking in the darkness.

4. The Other Tetsujin Project Shotaro continues to chase down Dr. Franken, but now with the added problem of Kenji Murasame, recently escaped from prison with the aid of a new robot.

5. Tetsujin vs. Black Ox The hunt for Dr. Franken goes on. Some arms of the government want Franken to continue his experiments, and only Shotaro and Tetsujin stand in his way.

The series is produced in a faux-retro style, intentionally similar to the original Tetsujin series. The character's wide-eyed, rounded faces remind me mostly of the Tintin cartoon series, and although it's a nice homage to the original, it feels out of place in a modern animé series. While obviously the quality of the animation has been improved, notably with the addition of CGI effects, the overall style strikes me as something best used in kids' TV, and gives an unwelcome air of simplicity and childishness to what is trying to be a serious, modern animé.

However, the plot – as mentioned above, a carbon copy of the original – has been left exactly as it is. There's no real mystery to why the characters are doing what they're doing; no characterisation except for "he's good, he's bad, they're vaguely mysterious". Even the major villain of this volume, Dr. Franken, isn't original – his story and basic character having been (obviously) taken from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. There's a decent-enough prologue to the first few episodes that feels a lot like a lesson in post-war Japanese history, but adds in the series' own fictional "giant robot development" plotlines.

Soundwise, the English dubbing is excellent; I have no complaints. The opening theme (performed by a Japanese men's choir) is a rousing anthem to the series, and is reprised throughout the episodes – notably as a downbeat track using only a harmonica. Sound effects are well-volumed; once again, no specific complaints here.

I was disappointed with Tetsujin 28, mostly because I was expecting more from it than a rehash of an old plot dressed up in new CGI. If you enjoy mecha-oriented animé and manga (or a fan of the original looking for a nostalgia kick), you'll most likely lap this up, but I can certainly see how others would be disappointed.

sound and vision

The anamorphic 16:9 picture is clean and boasts reasonable detail and contrast, and seems right for the tetsujin 28's comic-book look. There are some minor compression artefacts visible in large areas of grey, but this is infrequent.

The usual three options – stereo 2.0, surround 5.1 and DTS – are all available in English or Japanese. The 5.1 and DTS are virtually identical, both being fuller, louder and more widely spread than the stereo track, although neither are spectacular. The stereo track does have a little more subtlety, though. The surrounds are not used with any purpose, just to expand the sound effects and music.

extra features

The disc is badly let down by the complete lack of unique extra features. All you get is a textless opening, Tetsujin 28's trailer, and the usual Manga collection of other trailers: Ghost in the Shell, Art of Animé, etc.

The disc menu also suffers from one of those "option carousel"-style displays, where you must wait for the option you want to come to the front before you can select it. 

Tetsujin 28
Vol. 1

Japan 2005
125 mins
director
Shin Togashi

DVD details
region 2
video
16:9 anamorphic
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
Dolby surround 5.1
DTS surround 5.1
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
extras
Textless opening
Trailers
distributor
Manga
release date
Out now
review posted
3 May 2006

related review
Tetsujin 28: The Movie

See all of CNash's reviews