December 12, 2005


TETSUJIN 28 (2004) - Volume 1
Hong Kong DVD release

This 2 DVD set includes episodes 1 to 13 of the newly re-imagined Japanese anime, remade for the fortieth anniversary of this classic story.

Also known in America as GIGANTOR, this is the story of a leftover giant robot, a weapon from WWII, now in the hands of Shotaro, the young son of its original inventor. The series is set in 1950's post-war Japan. Shotaro is something of a boy detective, who uses the Iron Giant to fight crime, and these adventures often lead to him fighting other giant robots.

Like the new ASTRO BOY series, TETSUJIN 28 appears childish at face value, but the stories are so serious, its themes so anguished, that I'd certainly hesitate in recommending it for pre-teens. The series constantly examines the physical and psychological problems faced by the Japanese people after the war, often through imaginary situations. There were no giant robots built during the war, but these plot devices mean that the moral implications for the inventors are examined. Other stories look at human medical experiments, American mobsters, and space exploration technology derived from rocket weaponry. Each story often involving a large amount of tragedy and suffering, in keeping with the subject matter. The stories are well told, dramatic and pacey. The animation veers between simple and spectacular - the rainy tableau for instance are quite beautiful - the action scenes are imaginative and suitably gigantic. I'm enjoying the series, but have got to be braced for the utterly downbeat aura of most episodes.

This DVD set from Hong Kong has split the 26 episode series into two volumes (the first is pictured here). It's reasonably priced, but has several drawbacks - as usual the quality of the english subtitles range from good to poor, in terms of translations. I often felt I was missing plot points, and there was no distinction made between lines spoken by different characters - it's just presented as a block of text - you have to work out which line is spoken by whom.

The other shortcoming of the set is that it has been cropped from the original 16:9 widescreen down to 4:3 fullscreen, severely chopping the compositions, and often cutting characters in half down the edge of the frame.

For these reasons, I'll be waiting for other future releases - the USA is gradually releasing the series at the moment - with Japanese or English audio tracks, and in widescreen. Also, hopefully the 2006 UK release will use the same specifications.

The story's popularity meant that Japan recently also made a live action movie of TETSUJIN 28 - it's currently available on DVD in Japan, but without english subtitles. So again I'm hoping for a promised UK release of the movie on DVD sometime in 2006.


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