One of the oldest Super Robots, Tetsujin 28 (translating as Iron Man 28) has had so many incarnations and relaunches it's going to be difficult to cover them all.
The robot began as the titular star of Shônen manga series Tetsujin 28-go, created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama in 1956. Tetsujin-28, remote-controlled by schoolboy Shotaro Kaneda battled numerous enemies and criminals (most notably the robot Black Ox), was hugely popular, and it wasn't long before the creators were weighing up taking the series to television.
The first attempt was a live-action version, made in 1960. Sadly, Tetsujin was represented by a slightly taller than average man in a suit - the underwhelming result never got further than the pilot stage.
Considering the limitations of special effects at the time, it was decided than Tetsujin 28-go would work better as an animated series. The resulting black-and-white anime (made by Tele-Cartoon) from 1963 to 1965, and was a great success. It would also find fame in America when Alan Ladd's Delphi Productions would import the series and translate it into Gigantor.
The character had been popular in the toy market for some time, with Nomura's tinplate robots (which often incorporated a clockwork mechanism) amongst the most successful. The manga finished a year after the anime, in 1966, and everyone involved moved onto other projects.
Ten years later, Tetsujin 28 received his first diecast toy. Popy had been experiencing massive success with their Chogokin series of diecast metal figures, and decided to hire a few older licences for their Meisaku (roughly 'Masterpiece') sub-series. The Chogokin Tetsujin-28 appeared in 1976, alongside figures based on Tetsuwan Atom (best known in the West as Astro Boy), Ohgon Bat, Obake no Q-tarô, Issun-bôshi and other characters that were popular with Japanese children in the 1960s. Despite its' small stature, and its' impressive feat of looking even more portly than the Anime incarnation did already, the Meisaku Tetsujin-28 is considered one of the most desirable Chogokin figures.
In 1980, the Tetsujin 28 mythos would get a more thorough relaunch. The robot was substantially redesigned, and a 51 episode colour anime series (again called Tetsujin 28-go ) was produced by studio Tokyo Movie. The diecast robots for the line were again handled by Popy (the largest, the sole entry in the Chozingoku series, was also issued as part of the Godaikin range, keeping the Tetsujin 28 name). In 1993, Alan Ladd again imported this series and dubbed it as The New Adventures of Gigantor.
By this time, a third Tetsujin series was out in Japan. Tetsujin 28-go FX was a sequel to the original anime, this time featuring the son of Shotaro and a new, updated Tetsujin robot (the original Shotaro apparently more or less takes over the role of Doctor Shikishima as the scientist/mentor, while the original Tetsujin also made cameo appearances). It would seem this didn't go down spectacularly well.
Come 2004, the Tetsujin 28 franchise was given another significant relaunch. Leading off was a new anime series from Palm Studio. This moved the story back to the late 1950s, and used the original designs and cast for the large part. Recently the series was issued in the West on DVD, keeping the Tetsujin 28 name, with the episodes available both with subtitles and a very good English language dub. If you get a chance to see it, take it - not only is the animation gorgeous, but there's a beautiful post-war melancholy to the whole thing.
September 2004 saw the release of the Soul of Chogokin Tetsujin 28 figure, faithfully based on the original character. 2005 was another busy year - not only was a SoC Black Ox figure issued, but a live-action film was also made, modernising the story to the present day (but keeping the original robot designs). Like the Palm series, this is a lovely piece of whimsy with some surprisingly poignant moments.
Bandai get the size of Tetsujin just about right - the robot is just under 7" tall, meaning there's some height to it, but the design isn't overstretched. For the most part Tetsujin is smooth and largely featureless, so pushing the figure up to around 10" would have made it look rather under-detailed.
The shape of the robot is also spot on - the classic portly look is retained without Tetsujin looking like an egg on legs, while the proportions of the limbs are well proportioned without losing the 1950s feel. Tetsujin manages the not inconsiderable feat of looking cute (my girlfriend firmly believes this to be the greatest toy I own) and powerful.
The toy doesn't have a massive level of detail, but then neither did the original robot, and all the right stuff is here, including a row of rivets around the collar. The red and green belts serve to break up the blue as well. One nice addition with this release is a tree of plastic plugs to cover the screw holes in the back of the figure. The joints don't compromise the deign too much, apart from maybe the grooves in the toes.
As I'm beginning to expect from Soul of Chogokin, Tetsujin has fantastic articulation, probably more than his television counterpart... Indeed, considering the head is fixed on the 'real' thing, it's difficult to see how they'd make him more poseable.
A special mention should go to the groin (I can't think of a better way of phrasing that, but we're all adults here... well, in terms of physical age anyway...), which allows the figure to sit down via a nicely engineered joint that moves down as the legs move up. However, due to the big heavy body, Tetsujin can get unbalanced in certain poses.
For such a small, simple figure there are also a couple of features. The rocket pack on his back can be removed - either the green belt can fold out, or just the pack itself can pop straight off. The covers of the rocket pack can also come off the show off the motors themselves.
Tetsujin also has electronics for his eyes, which can light up in yellow through a switch concealed under the backpack. This works rather well, though it isn't particularly photogenic - in most of the pictures the electronics are off, and the eyes don't really look that dull, but the visor keeps them in the shade. In the picture to the right, the eyes are on, but they sort of get lost under the spotlight. There's an additional twist too - the set includes an oversized remote control; placing this against Tetsujin causes his eyes to glow red. This feature is also activated when the fists of SoC Black Ox connect with his chest; I'm guessing the remote is included with this set so you can still see the red light even if you only have one of the figures.
Tetsujin also includes no less than four pairs of hands - two fists, two closing fists (which look like Tetsujin's about to seriously ruin some bastard's day), a pair of open hands for holding Shotaro (see below) and a pair of flattened hands for flying. For once, these are all about the same size, and are painless to switch between.
In the days when Tetsujin was first created, just being a robot was enough of a twist, so the figure doesn't really come with many accessories. Indeed, aside from the fists, he only has two really: -
One is a little figurine of Tetsujin's operator, Shotaro Kaneda. Typically, this 1" plastic figure is 100% accurate to the 2004 cartoon, and beautifully detailed. He can be held in the aforementioned open palm fists by Tetsujin, though balancing him can be a bit of a pain - there's only about one position where Shotaro can actually stand up in Tetsujin's hands.
The other is a little stump with wires and circuitry sticking out of it. The forearms of Tetsujin are held in place by magnets, and can be removed and replaced by this stump, to simulate the robot having lost an arm in battle (it can't be a coincidence that the dormant Tetsujin 28 at the start of the 2004 Palm series is missing a forearm). Neat.
Tetsujin also comes with a stand to accommodate his accessories. Due to this being a smaller figure, the robot can actually fit on the stand, making it a great display piece rather than a glorified weapons rack. A large post connects with Tetsujin's rocket pack and actually takes most of the weight of the figure, meaning you can actually pose him a bit on the stand. The only problem is there isn't a slot for Shotaro, who either has to rest on the front of the stand, or be held by Tetsujin.
28 keeps things simple, but is done with such quality and verve that it's
difficult to hold this against him. Beautifully designed and masterfully
crafted, there's enough to do with Tetsujin to keep the attention. It's
hard to imagine a much better interpretation of a classic character.