Godaikin Tetsujin 28
|Character Design||Mitsuteru Yokoyama|
|Toy Design||Katsushi Murakami|
Review by Sanjeev
Perhaps American readers will be more familiar with Mitsuteru Yokoyama's classic, Tetsujin 28 Go, under the Fred Ladd-imported name, "Gigantor". Regardless of the name you use, the titular giant robot, Iron Man #28, is generally considered the first of his kind. Both Go Nagai and Yoshiyuki Tomino certainly owe much to Yokoyama for T-28's clear influence on their own respective juggernauts, Mazinger Z, the first modern Super Robot, and Gundam, the first "real-robot" or mecha. With no foreseeable slow-down in robot genre, Tetsujin's giant footsteps will, no doubt, be heard for quite some time to come...
Just as significant as the works of these pioneers of animated fiction, in this writer's opinion, are the myriad masterful works of the ingenious toy designers who wrought these characters into life with brilliantly-painted tin, vinyl, diecast metal, and plastic. Among the greatest examples of vintage Japanese robot toys is Popy's Chogokin--"super-alloy", a phrase lifted from the pages of the Mazinger Z cartoon by Popy to describe their toy line; a term now used as a catch-all term for any diecast Japanese character toy. These toys typically feature copious use of diecast metal, high-gloss enamel paint, chrome bits, and gimmicks that prioritized fun over accuracy to the source material.
Indeed, it is quite arguable that it was this artistic license taken by the Japanese toy designers of yesteryear that truly allowed their work to transcend mere commodities to entertain/distract children...and evolve into critical art. One such designer was Katsushi Murakami. In 1981, he was tasked with renewing the Tetsujin 28 franchise with a new large-scale toy design to be developed alongside a new anime series (a cartoon later brought to the States as The New Adventures of Gigantor).
Matt Alt, of ToyboxDX (a Japanese robot toy fansite) fame and co-author of Super #1 Robot, has graciously translated portions from the book, Chogokin Chronicle. In one section, Katsushi Murakami talks about the initial conceptualization of this toy, to be called the "Chokinzoku". Please have a look: ULTIMATE: Forging the Ultimate Toy from Sheet Steel.
So, the result--Popy's Chokinzoku Tetsujin 28--served as a sort of last hurrah for the classic chogokin era. While perhaps not a huge success upon release (it retailed in the neighborhood of $80USD--early 1980's dollars), the toy enjoys a considerable amount of niche stardom as a "holy grail" of sorts in the collector aftermarket. Boxed, complete specimens in excellent condition typically fetch on the order of $3000USD. But there are certainly rarer Japanese robot toys out there. So why is the demand so high for such a commercial flop?
Simple: this toy is nothing short of amazing.
Previously reviewed on CDX was the original Popy SG-01 Chokinzoku Japanese release. Bandai, Popy's parent company, repackaged the same toy for US distribution under Bandai America's "Godaikin" line in 1984. The item number ("SG-01") and "Chokinzoku" moniker were dropped and the result, the Godaikin Tetsujin 28, is the subject of this review. (See also Robot-Japan's coverage of this toy for more info and pics.)
The box, alone, for this monster is impressive. At over 21 inches tall, it rivals some Jumbo Machinder boxes. The box is over 15 inches wide and 5 inches deep. Underneath the main lid is a secondary inner lid with many punched holes covered with clear cellophane to spice up the display and add some visual appeal. The right side of the box features an opening for a thin plastic handle that hooks into the inside of the main box. Fortunately, the handle and surrounding cardboard on the box and lid with this specimen are in good shape.
Immediately, you can see the first flaw with this specimen: aside from the minor scratches and chrome wear from general play, the "28" stickers are missing from the forearms of the figure. Besides the main figure, we have a number of parts and accessories. First is the instruction booklet. In classic Godaikin fashion, the glossy, colorful booklet contains information about the toy's gimmicks accompanied by clear photos (please see the Gallery for detailed images of the instruction booklet pages). Also, in terms of paperwork, there was a folded postcard in Japanese. I am unable to tell if this was actually included in the original Godaikin release, but it was there when I obtained this specimen from eBay. Strange to have something in Japanese language in a US release... Then again, none of the English text anywhere on the box and paperwork makes any reference to "Gigantor" or any of the English release names.
Besides the paperwork, we have four figures: two "Roboboys" (ostensibly the boy operator/partner of Tetsujin 28, Shotaro Kaneda--or Jimmy Sparks in the English cartoon) and two wonderfully chromed "Maintenance Robots". The figures are actually rather impressive: they feature a magnet embedded in the sole of each left foot; these allow the figure to attach to the main robot's armor and other areas. More interesting, however, is that each Maintenance Robot has four points of articulation, while each Roboboy boasts seven. Tetsujin 28, on the other hand, has two. Two.
Incidentally, many specimens of this toy that show up on auction sites are understandably missing these figures. Of course, to the completist collector, this is no good. But very reasonable facsimiles are available to those less worried about a complete set: Starcom! This was a 1986 toy line by Coleco, comprising astronaut-themed figures and vehicles. Most of the toys featured magnet-driven gimmicks, and yes, you guessed it: not only are the figures in scale with those included with Tetsujin, but they indeed have magnets in their feet!
Also, eight red missiles are normally included with the toy, though this specimen is missing one (the second flaw). Not a huge problem, however, since only two can be displayed in the chest launchers at once and there are no other display/storage places for them. The missile-firing button is found on the back: pressing the bright yellow button halfway will discharge the first missile, fully will launch the second. Yes, they will put your eye out.
Launching missiles are, of course, a must--regardless of whether the robot character in the cartoon was actually equipped with them or not! The other obligatory chogokin gimmick is launching fists. Yup. The staple of any great robot toy: the ability to torment your pet with appendages that can fire with violent force. The fists on Tetsujin 28 can be locked into the wrists at 90-degree intervals due to their square pegs; the launch buttons are on top of the forearms. The fists also feature articulated fingers: the four fingers are mounted on a ratcheted hinge. This allows Tetsujin to grasp one of the two included chrome hatchets patterned after his helmet crest (NO, the actual crest on his head does not come off!! Many specimens of this toy show a great deal of chrome wear on the helmet crest, suggesting this popular, but unfortunate, misconception!).
For the uninitiated, you may be wondering why Tetsujin 28 appears naked in many of these photos. Well, this brings us to the main feature on this toy: the "ingenious use of powerful magnets" coupled, of course, with the use of pressed sheet steel in the manufacture of the armor pieces. There are a total of eight magnetic connections in the toy (not including the Roboboys and Maintenance Robots): the large chest plate, the rocket assembly on his back, the two upper arm coverings, the two thigh coverings, and the two lower leg coverings. The chest plate and rocket pack attach very simply by popping on and off. The limb coverings actually mount to moveable bare metal arms that hinge open like a door (without having to remove the armor piece). What fun!
Another subtle thing you can pick up from the images is that there is a door that swings down from just underneath the missile tubes to expose them. The chest plate actually has an opening for this door, so whether the armor is attached or not, the missile door is free to open or close. Next, just below the missile launchers, in the robot's...*ahem*...crotch, is the cockpit (hehe). Seriously: this robot thinks with his...well, y'know...
What's neat about the cockpit feature besides the gorgeous mold and sticker detail (and, of course, the "crotch-pit" jokes) is that the chair is actually hinged and can swing up into the robot's abdomen--even with a Roboboy figure still sitting in it! When closed, the chair clicks firmly into place; unfortunately, the only other flaw of this specimen is that the locking mechanism appears to be broken. Now, if you're at all familiar with the original cartoon, you're probably wondering why there's a cockpit at all! Shotaro/Jimmy controls Tetsujin/Gigantor via an Atari joystick-like remote control. So what's the deal...? The answer? Shut up, it's cool.
Moving on. We next have the upper arms. Not much really to say here. If you open the hinges, you can see some nicely molded chrome detailing. Lovely for display...not terribly fun for playing. The legs, on the other hand, are great!
In the right thigh (upper left in the image above), we just have an empty room. Sure, there's some nice molded plastic detail, but still not a lot going on. This is that spare/guest room for your in-laws whenever they're in town visiting. At least it's got a metal floor, so any figures standing in it won't fall over when you're gleefully zooming Tetsujin around your living room.
Anyway, I generally use that room to hold the missiles when not displayed in the launchers. Below that, however, is a much more visually interesting chamber. There's some cool, chromy doo-hickey coming down from the roof and a lot more wall detail thanks to a colorful sticker. Also, the floor is again metal, but this time, it also features a sort of turntable-like construction: the floor actually rotates. Great for having a couple figures in there, re-enacting a classic Star Trek fight scene or...I dunno...a Waltz?
The left leg, however, is where the magic takes place! Running the entire length of the leg, you'll immediately see a sort of corkscrew shaft. There is a metal platform attached to this column that folds up when the armor is in place. Figures can obviously stand on this platform, and by way of a small crank on the back of the heel, the column rotates, driving the platform up or down!
Oh yeah, an elevator...in his leg!! How can you NOT love that!? The charm. The absurdity. The utter disregard for the cartoon the toy is based on! That's love right there, folks. That's a toy designer taking pride in his work and designing something crazy for no other reason than just plain fun.
So there you have it. The Godaikin release of Tetsujin 28. A 16 inch pillar of chromy, glossy plastic and steel...chock full of gimmicks that simply don't get boring. You just can't help it: when handling it in person, every square inch fills you with wonder--either the fired-up imagination of that young person in all of us or the more adult, art collector side of us trying to fathom just what Katsushi Murakami was thinking! Either way, you just can't help smiling with this toy in your hands.
Y'know, some people collect certain things because they see some kind of intrinsic value in them that others may not. Some people collect things simply because they're rare. Who's right, who's wrong--I'm not qualified to say. All I can say is that even if Bandai were to reissue this toy and flooded the market with thousands of identical replicas for $100 a pop, I wouldn't bat an eyelash. Oh, sure, I'd lament the cash I dropped on my vintage one...while signing a check for two or three of the reissues! But in my mind, rarity has no bearing on the value I personally see in this toy.
It's pure love!
|Posted 13 January, 2007 - 15:13 by Sanjeev|