Movie: In recent years, I've seen a lot of remakes that left me cold. Most of the time, this was due to the way big budgets and special effects were substituted for talented writing and adhering to the factors that made the original interesting in the first place. Other times, albeit rarely, the show turned out very well, like the newly released anime series Seven Samurai. Today's review is on an anime series that pays tribute to several releases over the years, Tetsujin 28: Monster Resurrected, the original release having been popularized by the American version called Gigantor.
For those of you into the retro anime movement, this series has an awful lot to offer. For those of you too young to remember the original release back in the 1960's (it was a contemporary show to a little show known as Astroboy or Tetsuwan Atom. The story is set in the mid 1950's. Japan is being rebuilt by the American forces that occupy the country after defeating it in WWII. In flashback form, the brief history of a military program (near the end of the war) to defend the country by means of large robots is unveiled, led by the genius of Professor Kaneda. After 27 failed attempts, the final robot, Tetsujin 28, is a success but the professor, an adamant pacifist, decides his creation is simply too powerful to unleash on the world. Knowing that such a weapon would assist the world in continuing the spiral of destruction that has killed his wife and son, he hides his robot on his workshop island, never learning his son, Shotaro Kaneda, is still alive (a happy baby boy). In the ensuing ten years that follow, Shotaro grows up with a similar genius as his father but puts it to use to catch criminals as a young boy detective.
The episodes here were, 1) The Resurrection of Shotaro, 2) No. 28 Vs. No. 27, 3) The Arrival of Monster Robot, 4) The Other Tetsujin Project, and 5) Tetsujin Vs. Black Ox. As the story unfolded, the background of the robot creation and Shotaro (the actual name of the robot as well as the boy) were slowly unveiled, as well as some of their adversaries. The artwork, the story, and even the background of the show were very similar to the original series released over 40 years ago. As such, fans of the original will probably like this one a whole lot and even appreciate the updated concepts, although they'll also recognize the basic characters as looking nearly identical except in black & white (it looked far more true to form than the remake from the early 1980's in fact). Here's what the box cover said about it:
"The journey begins when Professor Kaneda creates the ultimate soldier robot, Tetsujin, as a substitute for his son, Shotaro, whom he mistakenly believed died in a bomb raid on Tokyo during World War II. To prevent the army from using Tetsujin as a tool for destruction, the professor hides the robot on a remote island. Ten years after the war, Tetsujin is finally resurrected after 28 attempts made by the late Professor Kaneda's protégé, Professor Shikishima. Meanwhile, Shotaro has grown up to become a genius boy detective and now joins forces with his beloved Tetsujin to wage a courageous battle against evil! A legendary masterpiece, which shines in the history of postwar manga, is now resurrected brilliantly!"
This set of five episodes established the pattern of the series with a slowly evolving set of characters. Young Shotaro controls Tetsujin 28 via a remote control box but at this stage of the series seems to be having some issues handling him as well as he could. I found this more realistic than the hero that jumps into an unknown robot and all of a sudden appears to be a mechanical genius at operating it without any lessons (one of the clichés of anime I'm afraid). On the other hand, that the police department would treat Shotaro as their superior without reserve is the stuff of fluffy children's shows. The elements of the original were retained however and this will appeal to the younger crowd as much as fans of the original show.
I know I've railed more than a few times at shows that lack creativity and a fresh approach to material we've all seen before yet I still managed to enjoy this one nearly as much as the original (well, the Americanized version at least) when I was a kid. If the rest of the series manages to be as entertaining as this set of episodes, I'll probably be rating those volumes a Recommended, just like this one. Yeah, the designs were kind of old fashioned (intentionally so I might add) and those of you into more modernized story lines might think certain aspects of it to be kind of hokey, but I'd offer this up as something for the kids far more readily than most of the anime releases that were derived from the same material.
Picture: Tetsujin 28: Monster Resurrected was presented in the original 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen it was made in for Japanese television. The cover doesn't do this one justice as the shadowing, combination of traditional anime styles and CGI, and other visual effects were tweaked as if to take an older show and modernize it without losing the "look" of the original. In some ways, it was more like a movie in terms of how good it looked, although the cartoonish aspects were retained too. Give it a look and you'll immediately see what I mean. There were no compression artifacts though so even the DVD mastering seems to have been handled well.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices of the original Japanese or a newly made English dub, each in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles. The special effects and music sounded similar in each version although I believe the dub had some volume that added to the presence of that track. The choice between the original language track and the dub will depend on your personal preference but I liked both with a slight leaning toward the dub this time. The subtitles didn't exactly match the English language track but they were very close. Lastly, there were two subtitle streams, one for signs only and one for the vocals too.
Extras: With five full episodes, I didn't expect a lot of extras and I was correct in my assumption here. There were some trailers and a clean opening but that was it on the DVD itself. Inside the case was a paper insert that mimicked the covers and listed the episodes yet provided little by way of value for me.
Final Thoughts: Tetsujin 28: Monster Resurrected was not my usual type of preferred anime series but it had an appeal that I couldn't deny. I admit to enjoying the original so many years ago and that probably colors my perceptions of this one but it was still worth a rating of Recommended for fans of retro anime. The story itself has provided fodder for dozens of other series based in part on it (as well as mainstream titles like the Johnny Sokko & the Giant Robot series) and this update was something fans of the original will probably view as a worthy addition to the franchise. With solid technical values, a nice set of episodes, and a timeless appeal, Tetsujin 28: Monster Resurrected might not be the best release of the year but it sure had this fan on the edge of his seat.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk