E1 Entertainment // 1964 // 650 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // May 30th, 2009
Gigantor the space-age robot,
Is at your command!
Gigantor the space-age robot,
His power is in your hand!
-- Gigantor theme
The sum total of my experience with anime comes from the kids' shows I watched when I was but a wee lad. Every morning I'd fill my head with the adventures of David the gnome or that girl who visited a magical koala land via a eucalyptus tree planted outside her bedroom window while wearing a pink koala mask as a disguise. It's a wonder I grew up without become a heavy drug user considering that last one. Before there were pink koala masks and before there were Transformers, there was Gigantor, one of the first Japanese cartoons to land and land big in America.
Gigantor is a space-age robot, who is, perhaps, bigger than big and taller than tall. He is under the control of twelve-year-old Jimmy Sparks, who uses a remote control to pilot the automaton. Helping Jimmy are scientist Dr. Brilliant, police chief Inspector Blooper, and agent Dick Strong. Together, they fight off numerous evil dictators who try and take over the world.
There are 26 episodes total on four discs:
* "Struggle at the South Pole"
* "Battle at the Bottom of the World"
* "Sting of the Spider"
* "Return of the Spider"
* "Spider's Revenge"
* "The Secret Valley"
* "The Diamond Smugglers"
* "The Dangerous Doctor Diamond"
* "Force of Terror"
* "World in Danger"
* "Badge of Danger"
* "The Smoke Robots"
* "The Freezer Ray"
* "The Magic Multiplier"
* "The Submarine Base"
* "Treasure Mountain"
* "The Mystery Missile"
* "The Giant Cobra"
* "The Great Hunt"
* "The Deadly Web"
* "The Atomic Flame"
* "The Incredible Speed Machine"
* "The Monster Magnet"
* "Target: Jupiter"
* "Trap at 20 Fathoms"
* "Monster from the Deep"
In the early 1960s, Fred Ladd, who was best known at the time for the hit series Astro Boy (also a Japanese creation), grabbed Tetsujin 28-Go, renamed it Gigantor, and unleashed it on American audiences, who promptly gobbled it up. It attained a cult status and lead to the creation of a second and third series, though the third series never received the Americanization treatment. In this volume, Entertainment One released the first half of the original 52 episodes, no doubt in preparation for the CGI feature film due to be released in two years (which honestly looks like a hell of a lot of fun).
Ignoring that Gigantor is in black-and-white, going against the modern notion that cartoons should be violently, abrasively colorful, it probably would still resonate with kids today. The idea of a twelve-year old controlling a twenty-ton, unstoppable robot, while terrifying to anyone past puberty, taps into that primal element in the kid psyche to destroy things. The villains are all colorful, in spite of their monochromatic hues, and their general goofiness makes them less a viable threat and more clown-faced punching bags for Gigantor to wail on.
It's also a truly bizarre show. Suffering from the same problems as any repackaged, imported cartoon, the characters all speak in bizarre ways in order to match up with the mouth movements. While they did a great job of matching it up, largely avoiding the Godzilla style-dub of people moving their mouths long after the words have stopped, they speak with the oil-slick speed of auctioneers.
Really, any problems I point out with the show are there in any children's program. It's patently bizarre (Deadly robot penguins! Poison candy! Dr. Brilliant's son!), the dialogue will make your brain do loops trying to make sense of it, and the animation gives the impression humanity evolved without bones as arms and legs stretch and twist in ways that could make a contortionist wince. It also suffers from copy-and-paste animation, with the same scenes being used over and over again. You liked that shot of Gigantor throwing a tank? Well, here it is again for your viewing pleasure!
It's funky, though, and fun and the whole old-fashioned feel of the show somehow boosts the appeal. The retro designs of the robots, the strange names (Doctor Katzmeow? Seriously?), and the otherworldly plots create a high-camp cartoon, the Mona Lisa of campy cartoons if you will.
There are, of course, the negative aspects of its age. In one episode, Australian Aboriginals are called savages and whoop and holler like stereotypical American Indians in an old Western, allowing Gigantor to offend two completely different ethnic groups at the same time. Women are either absent or don't do much, save for the occasional femme fatale who tries to murder our brave heroes.
Father Time has been less than kind with the picture and sound quality of the show. The audio and video transfer leaves something to be desired. There's a lot of pop and crackle on the track and dirt and scratches on the screen. I'm willing to cut them some slack though, seeing how this is a forty-year-old cartoon that probably wasn't afforded the same level of preservation as, say, Citizen Kane.
As if to make up for the quality of the transfer, E1 has included a huge amount of extras. Fred Ladd provides commentary for three of the episodes and there's also a half-hour interview with the man. Casual viewers beware and only the most diehard fans should check it out. He talks mainly about the sound and dubbing process on the commentary tracks. It's not terrifically exciting stuff and he has a tendency to ramble in both the interview and the tracks.
The interview with Fred Pattern, an anime historian, is far more interesting and I recommend it for anyone remotely interested in anime or animation history.
There are also six Gigantor comics included on the DVD that you can access on the computer. They're just as bizarre as their animated counterpart, but different enough to feel new. If you like the show, check out the comics and keep an eye out for the strange parodies of the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom.
Gigantor had a large impact on the shape of animation, both in the States and in Japan. E1 has put together a great package and for any fan of the series, it's well worth picking up. It's still fun to watch, even for a grumpy twenty-four-year-old, and somehow manages to hold together as well as any cartoon I used to watch as a kid. Except for the one about sentient koala bears, nothing could top that.
This judge commends Gigantor for his service to humanity, but really wishes someone would take the remote control away from that kid before he hits adolescence.
Review content copyright © 2009 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD-ROM Content