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Tetsujin 28 (2005)
18th Oct 06
Giant bad robot controlled by a maniac battles a giant good robot controlled by a 12 year old boy in downtown Tokyo, with fairly predictable results.
So, a giant flying robot known only as 'The Black Ox' suddenly appears in downtown Tokyo one afternoon and creates total havoc, laying waste to cars, buildings, you name it, in a good old fashioned Godzilla style 'stomp Tokyo' maneuver. Behind the attack is a former robotics engineer turned radical terrorist, who seems hell bent on taking revenge for the tragic death of his young son out on everyone, to the point where his ultimate plan becomes the destruction of all human life as we know it, leaving the world to be run only by machines.
Tokyo and in fact mankind’s only hope from destruction comes in the form of shy, innocent 12 year old boy named Shotaro. After the first Black Ox attack, Shotaro gets a call from a mysterious elderly gentleman who lets him in on a closely guarded secret. Shotaro's father was it seems a renowned government scientist working on a top secret project before he died unexpectedly. That project was Tetsujin, a giant radio controlled robot capable of defending Japan in its most desperate hour. That hour is now, but after rusting in an underground laboratory will Tetsujin be up for the job? And since Shotaro is the only one with the skills to pilot Tetsujin, will he be strong enough to guide our plucky giant robot to victory over the dreaded Black Ox and save the day?
Well, born out of the atomic paranoia that swept through the world throughout the late 50s and early 60s, Tetsujin 28 shares more than a little in common with your standard Godzilla type of story line, and in particular bears a distinct similarity to those hokey Godzilla movies the Japanese knocked out like crazy in the 60s and 70s in terms of both pacing and acting. Godzilla movies were always synonymous with notoriously dull side plots about scientists discovering something, or arguing over something, before a guy in a big rubber Godzilla suit and his mate in this movie’s guest baddie monster outfit turn up and have a Mexican wrestling match over a mini-Tokyo set, while loads of toy tanks shoot rockets at them. Well that happens here, except the big rubber monster suited fellas are now big CG robots, although sadly they’re not very good CG robots either. Plus they only fight twice, and not for very long, and they fight by standing in the street next to each other, punching away until one of them falls over.
In fact it’s a bit like watching someone play ‘Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots’. Santora, you see, is a bit of a whiny child, forever haunted by a flashback of his father pushing him away as a child, which have given him confidence issues, and the fights between him controlling Tetsujin and Black Ox tend to only go his way when his spirits are up, which isn’t very often. Thing is, the reoccurring flashback is of that fateful day at the lab where his father died in an explosion, and he was actually pushing Shotaro away to save his life because he loved him so. But the damage is done, Shotaro is a messed up little kid and the irony is he’s the only one that can pilot his dead father’s giant robot, apparently because he’s the only one he taught the controls too and because he has some weird photographic memory ability. Well, all I can say is thank goodness his mum turns up halfway through the final fight to offer some last minute words of encouragement, that’s all I can say.
And there are other weird plot irregularities too that you tend to think about when it’s so long between the fairly dull giant robot fights. For starters, what does have a photographic memory have to do with piloting a giant robot? And while we’re on the subject of giant robots, how come the government’s top expert on the subject is a teenage school girl? When the robots fight, how come Black Ox just doesn’t look down to the floor and stomp on that irritating kid holding the massive controller, thus ending the fight instantly? And why does the police chief have such a big, mad hairdo?
Too many questions, too little answers, at the end of the day I was expecting more from a movie based on a manga comic that’s been going strong for 40 years. My attention span struggled massively coping with a really predictable and very pedestrian plot and I find it hard to believe that children, and that is the target audience let’s not forget, would do any better. One for dedicated fans and anime aficionados only perhaps.
Versions Available on UK and US DVD, and there are tonnes of comics and cartoon versions if you care to look.