A boy detective named Jimmy Sparks has complete access to a giant robot named Gigantor which was created by his late father. With the usage of a remote control that allows Jimmy to control the robot, he is able to make Gigantor do incredible things that can help restore justice and fight off criminals and terrorists around the world.
So, what’s so special about this anime that even your grandfather was young when it aired and still deserves a place amongst the most influential anime ever made? Simple; it is the first giant robot anime ever made. Also, it is the second anime that time did not forget; the first being none other than Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy in the English dub). All anime made in the 50’s and the 60’s show a great admiration and fear towards technology and machinery. That is after all the thing which in a very short amount of time changed their world from the traditional feudal samurai era to the industrialized / capitalistic society it is today. So it is normal to understand how all anime made at that time were focusing way too much on the power that technology can offer to man. Of course, no action anime is good without action and thus an excuse exists to show the negative effects of technology as well. Before I begin I must point out that the creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama, as well as all animators of his time, spent their childhood in the fear, dread and hatred of the Second World War and that is infused in their works in the form of militarism, high ideals and lots of machinery being the driving force of any story. Mitsuteru’s depiction of a future world was much closer to a steampunk one than the hi-teck gadgets we have today. In fact, it wasn’t that different than Osamu Tezuka’s depiction since the art movement of Futurims of that time was always presenting a world full of pipes and steam and not the wireless micro-gadgets we have today. If some distinction is to be made is that the world of this show has a film noir feeling as is full of gangsters with Tommy guns and everybody wears long trench coats. Plus, the main lead is a boy detective himself, solving mysteries and chasing gangsters; so you get what I mean. One would almost believe the work was inspired a lot by the Dick Tracyline of comic books and they threw in huge robots. Now about the robots, back then they were all made to look bulky and crudely looking, which had the double benefit of making them look inhuman and easy to draw at the same time. It is harsh to be too critical of the animation and sound effects of that era as the guys were practically working with paper and black and white film, just so to create a series aimed at roughly a few hundred little kids. But the quality is obvious as they really tried to make things look and sound nice with everything they had. And we must also appreciate the fact that they were the first to do it in their country and the feeling of this particular anime remained intact for several decades until they finally decided to make more film noir anime like Giant Robo in the 90’s and Big O in the 21st century. Plus it still feels more genuine and nice than most of the generic mecha titles that followed its footsteps and are now forgotten by all. The reason it was not forgotten itself goes far beyond the plain fact it was the first anime with giant robots.Down to it, this series introduced the good hearted boy and its good natured robot in the anime world. It became quite the norm for all following series and one would argue that it is thus boring or even argue how Tetsuwan Atom did all that at the same time as this series. Which is not entirely true for aesthetic reasons mostly. Although the character designs are quite simple and bulky (robots are after all just buckets with spherical gizmos on them) they still get the message across, something that today’s anime mostly forgot and try to add as many details and polygons as possible in an attempt to hide the otherwise uninspired artwork. So even after all these decades the simplistic look of the lead pair of the boy and its robot are memorable in seconds while the complicating mecha designs of modern anime and their cookie cutter pilots seem far easier to confuse with one another and forget entirely (I’m looking at you Gundam multiverse). Heck, their OSTs seem even easier to forget, being the average instrumental / pop songs they are. Yet the cheery ballad of the series “Tetsujin, where are you?” (sounds like Scooby Doo, yes?) is far more straight and memorable despite its silliness in lyrics and the way too relaxed voice acting. So, we must at least appreciate the work they produced with the little they had and how they managed to create something so simple yet still memorable. Good story and characters is rather anal of us to expect in such an old series. It does have a premise, which became the formula of most b-grade sci-fi scenarios thereafter. Scientist creates super robot named Tetsujin 28 (renamed Gigantor in the dub because the literal translation was Iron Man, lol) later given to his ten year old grandson, Shotaro,to use it in defending his country from criminals, evil robots and aliens. Stand alone simple missions, no real continuity. And archetypical characters too. But as I said, it was the first giant robot anime ever and it does have elements that were never copied later (even Giant Robo is just a direct tribute to this one so it doesn’t count). For example, the boy does not pilot the robot. He doesn’t even get inside it! He has a watch that remotely orders the robot what to do. There is nothing extra to it, like combining with other robots to form a bigger one or pulling out a magic sword or anything. It is simple storming in, fighting with back turbines and rocket punches. Seems boring but as I said, it is straight at what it shows. Don’t you just find it lame when mecha have a dozen different weapons yet only one does all the work and they magically use it only in the end? Well, not here, all attacks are so simple that there is no super beam or kill-all sword. That is what makes it more credible that most action series out there; it is plain brawling that leads to something while most of the others in this genre simply fool around aimlessly instead of getting to the point. Still, as I said the stories are quite simple and short so don’t demand anything much.There is even another trait that was established here, something that Tetsuwan Atom failed on its part. While Atom was a robotic boy with various superpowers, Shotaro is instead a normal boy who controls a very powerful robot with similar superpowers. While as a character Atom’s personal drama of looking for acceptance by his father and making the world like him even as a robot strikes a lot more mature than Shotaro’s case, who is just a generic kid with privileges, at the same time it doesn’t help the audience to identify with him. Because let’s be honest, what is easier to compare yourself with; a robot with superpowers or a normal human being like yourself who uses machinery as superpowers? Where Atom wins in context, he loses it in empathy, as the target audience will most likely prefer Shotaro for being a normal guy like themselves. Sounds weird but that is the case with psychological fondness. And if you don’t believe me, just check out the following mecha titles after those two. It was always about normal humans using huge robots and NOT robots with superpowers. So ok, there was 009 and Casshan which came out roughly the same time, both featuring leads like Atom, that is humans who were turned to robots. But both those shows were quickly shelved as the audience didn’t feel empathy to their unearthly nature, despite being humans at their core. And seriously, huge robots wrecking havoc is plain more fun than normal sized androids going all emo with their cruel fate. It sounds like I am choosing the superficial brain dead action option instead of the more sophisticated and tragic one but in reality I am just expressing the opinion of the average mentality of the target audience. Little kids of the 60’s and the 70’s didn’t like emo androids as they did huge cool robots blowing up stuff. It was just a sign of those times, in the same way moe is a sign of the 2000’s. That’s what people wanted; plain and simple. But wait, there is another thing that this anime left behind in the anime world. Not only it initiated the Giant Super Robots genre, but it also gave its name to a whole kinky subgenre. Believe it or not, just like Lolita was the name of a girl that gave its name to lolicons, Shotaro the lead boy in this series, gave his name to the shotacons. Not that it is erotic in any way, it’s just that many found it very bold for such a nice looking boy wearing short pants working for the police and having a much more mature behavior than its age dictates. Apparently some found this an excuse to fill in the name of their kinky subgenre. Hell, that was enough to get a spot in history even if it weren’t the first of its kind. Anyways, this is a series that worked as the cornerstone of all mecha to follow. It set the rules and was simple enough to work with them. It will hardly seem interesting today as it has no real twist. Just like Atom, it also received various remakes; one in the 80’s. another in the 90’s, yet another in the mid 2000’ , none of which managed to rekindle the interest but still prove that just like Atom, the franchise is not forgotten. SUGGESTION LIST Giant Robo & Big O. Two very similar in looks mecha shows.
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