“Look at my big muscles.”

One of the reasons for March of the Robots here all this month is because I have recently rekindled a passion for Tetsujin 28, known here in the US as Gigantor. I’ll be reviewing some Tetsujin figures in the days ahead and today I’m going to be looking at the live action film from 2005. Tetsujin is a somewhat hard property to bring to life, because one of the main concepts is a boy who controls a giant robot. There is a real gap in reality that you have to get over before you can even begin to accept the premise of this film.

Anyway, the story is about Shotaro Kaneda who was known as Jimmy Sparks in the American 1960’s cartoon. Shotaro is a kid who doesn’t fit in and who has lost his father. The comparisons to Iron Giant are already pretty clearly at play here. Shotaro is having a recurring nightmare about his father and all he can remember is his Dad pushing him around. His father who is obviously dead, haunts Shotaro because he thinks his father may have hated him.

“Even my hair cut is evil.”

It’s not long after we see a giant robot attacking Japan. That robot is Black Ox, who is controlled by Dr. Reiji Takumi (Dr. Franken in the anime) who is bent on causing terrorism after the death of his son and his failed computer empire. While Black Ox is on the rampage, Shotaro’s mother is injured and he comes across an old dude who is a cross between Mr. Fuji and Colonel Sanders, who apparently worked with Shotaro’s father and grandfather in the Tetsujin project.

What’s the Tetsujin project? Well it was last ditch effort by the Japanese in World War II to turn the tide of the war, by building a giant robot killing machine. Unfortunately they took too long and had 27 failures before finishing Tetusjin 28. However, by the time Tetusjin 28 was ready, the war was lost. Since that time Colonel Fuji Sanders (I have no idea what his real name is, he’s not in the anime) has been the guardian of Tetsujin and now he’s here to give it to his rightful heir, Shotaro.

“We can rebuild him. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster, extra crispy.”

Shotaro is given control of Tetsujin and they head off to fight the Black Ox. Tetsujin isn’t fully finished and Shotaro pretty much sucks at controlling him. This was one of the more amusing parts of the film, as Shotaro loses in ridiculous fashion to Black Ox.

Tetsujin is nearly destroyed in the process. Lots of people are hurt and the Japanese government are angry that Shotaro would try to stop this terrorist on his own. Everyone then proceeds to tell Shotaro what a loser he is. Eventually though, they decide that Tetsujin is the best bet to defeat Black Ox. So they offer to rebuild Tetsujin and train Shotaro to use him.

The movie then becomes a bit like Rocky with giant robots, as Shotaro and Tetsujin are Rocky to Black Ox’s Ivan Drago. It’s a shame we couldn’t get “Eye of the Tiger” to play during the training sessions though. Why no one tries to use tanks or missiles to stop Black Ox, is beyond me. Maybe they saw how ineffectual those weapons usually are against Godzilla. Eventually there is a show down, the two robots do battle and well, the good guys win. If you were expecting something else, then you’re in the wrong genre.

So what did I think of this movie? Well it certainly captures some of the elements of Tetsujin. Most of the major characters appear, such as Inspector Otsuka (Inspector Blooper) and Professor Shikishima (Professor Brilliant) but they end up with bit parts. There are a bunch of new characters injected into the story that don’t really add much either way. There’s a scene with a dude who looks just like Yukijirô Hotaru from the Gamera films, but according to IMDB it’s not him.

There were also some strange changes as Black Ox can now fly and the Tetsujin redesign tries to fuse the 1980’s and 1960’s versions of the character. Personally I don’t think they nailed either. The CGI giant robot battles have a couple moments that are impressive, but ultimately they disappoint. For whatever reason Tetsujin really sticks out as a CG model. Black Ox, not so much.

There is no dubbed version of this film, so you have to watch it in subtitles. I forced my poor GF to watch this with me. Ultimately it’s a decent giant robot movie and it isn’t a terrible transition of Tetsujin from anime to film, but it certainly leaves a lot to be desired as well. It’s definitely not your standard kid’s film though, with some heavy topics discussed and a fair amount of blood and guts. It’s a mild recommendation if you have two hours to kill or if you’re a fan of Tetsujin.

I’m sad that Imagi (the company that made TMNT and Astro Boy movies) went out of business as they had planned to make a Tetsujin 28 film as well. Below is the preview treatment they did and it looks leagues better than this 2005 live action effort.

Keep checking in all month long for more March of the Robots content!

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