I stand (well, sit) in the presence of history. Not only is this the first black and white anime I've seen but is also the first ever giant robot anime. The grand-daddy of the genre that eventually led to material like Gundam and Evangelion. Although how to actually review this material is somewhat troubling.
Once again the episodes I got my hands on don't actually include the `start' of the story. However the important fact is that a young boy got built a remote control toy by his father. Although since father is a scientific genius it's a touch more impressive than you might expect. What he got was a robot called Gigantor (Tetsujin-28 in the original Japanese, which is Iron-man) that stands many meters in height. It's also massively armored, strong and capable of flight. As a result the young owner now has control of one of the most powerful military forces in the world.
Which is a good thing, because this world is full of criminal masterminds, evil dictators and treacherous villains who constantly plot to dominate the world. And they're not without some super-tech of their own. Time and time again Gigantor must be called upon to save the forces of goodness and rightness from their dastardly plots. Fortunately the young boy has loyal friends and allies including scientists and the chief of police who are not without a few tricks of their own.
While it may be painfully obvious one thing must be said. This anime is old. Not old as in `looking a bit faded' but more like digging up a relic of the past. It's so clearly a product of a different time that it's actually rather intriguing...to some people. Those who want only the latest and greatest can safely move on. Those interested in anime history and exotic stuff, even if they just want to laugh at it, might find it quite an unusual experience.
The first thing I should mention is that I'm still deeply confused by the story. I'm going to assume it was meant to be a little over the top, or else the sense of humor has changed more than I expected. In terms of years the anime isn't that old but the show is really rather amusing. The mad scientists with exotic hair, hidden bases and outlandish gadgets are straight out of a B-movie. The goofy plans, weird henchmen, exotic locales and huge battles almost make it feel like a retro-classic. Which is strange when this is one of the first anime. Perhaps it was making fun of the TV series of the time? Perhaps it was meant to be dead serious but has become surreal and humorous over time? I just can't tell. Sadly, with any historical material, a lot of context is lost.
The fact that this humor exists in the animation tells me it is not purely due to clever editing. But the voices and dialogue also enhance the humor of the title. The completely dead-pan lines, the strange character names (dick strong? chief muttonchop?) and some of the things they say are just such classic `boys own adventure' lines I can't help but grin. This is enhanced by the gung-ho attitude of the characters and the dialogue they share. The simplicity, and scale, of the story is not without a certain charm.
I'm tempted to say something about the attitude to technology, but I don't know that it's relevant. Gigantor is basically a huge mechanical man, assumedly somewhat intelligent but mute, who follows the directions when his control box is messed with. The question of how a robot is controlled with a single joystick being one that will haunt those who like their technology to make sense. He represents power, which I guess means the power of technology, while supplying action, keeping the young boy in the story and allowing the team to win. But does he himself have deep symbolic meaning? not that I could notice. I think it just seemed like a bit of fun.
And then there's the animation...wow. It's very, very different. Much more like a sequence of drawings than what we consider `basic' animation now. Its just obvious that every frame takes a sizable amount of work. As a result motion is made up from a very small number of frames with the mind being forced to infer the connection between them. The characters, and especially objects, are dramatically simplified. It feels more like dolls and toys than a depiction of reality. It also indicates where a lot of the anime standards came from, streams of bullets, explosions that conceal the object being destroyed and all sorts of other tricks are used to keep the animation manageable. I'm not sure if the animation was impressive in its time but it has definitely faded over time. On the other hand the sheer oddness of the depiction, and the chance to see the foundation of anime, is not without some excitement of its own. The voices are fitting, although even then way too much attention was paid to lip sync. The chanted opening and interesting instrumental ambient music had my brother running for his sampler, such classic material indeed.
None of my regular sources has a review of this anime.