Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Toy Review - Tetsujin 28 Minifigure

Tetsujin 28 is the daddy of the giant robots. Debuting as a manga in 1956 and an anime in 1963 the show featuring a giant former Japanese super-weapon left over from the war put to good use by Shotaro Kaneda, son of its' inventor, was one of the earliest robot stories of its' kind, paving the way for Mazinger Z and the whole butterfly effect that's led to all robot fiction as we know it. 

It was also made a major splash in America when it was imported and dubbed as Gigantor in 1964, a property which still evokes a certain nostalgia on that side of the Pacific. In his home country Tetsujin 28 has been revived three times; a 1980 series rebooted the character for the new generation of robot fans (and was also dubbed for the American market as The New Adventures of Gigantor but not screened until the mid-nineties); 1993's Tetsujin 28 FX was a sequel to the sixties show featuring Shotaro's son Masato in charge of a new robot and a 2004 remake of the original. There was also a live-action film in 2005; sadly, Imagi's CGI feature T-28 was cancelled after a drool-worthy teaser.

The 1980 incarnation wasn't actually a huge success, coming out after Gundam had redefined the robot anime landscape and moved the medium in a more realistic direction. However, it did have the famous legacy of the Chokoginzoku figure, a massive toy was designed by Popy based on the new look featuring removable magnetic panels to see the robot's innards and innumerable other action features. It's rightly seen as a work of art and cost an eye-watering amount even then (it cost so much it was the only Chokginzoku figure to actually be released); these days a complete one will set you back somewhere between one and two grand, depending on whether it's the original Japanese version or the version imported to America as part of Godaikin (which retained the Tetsujin 28 name). The design also received a new figure as part of Bandai's Soul of Chogokin series, which is rare itself, though to nowhere near the same magnitude.

The more prurient route is a Lego-type Minifigure, however. The Japanese-based HobbyBrick - best known for their superhero designs which feature weird quasi-realistic printed faces - designed a version again based on the 1980 version, which is somewhat unusual as it's much less famous than the original. Of course, for fan designs all that's required is for the customiser to be a fan of the character and have the willpower to put it into existence, with little regard for absolute sales. More recently Chinese bootleggers Lele have made a cheap copy of the figure, which at something like 79p shipped fitted my means better.

To work as a Minifigure some considerable tooling was needed. The robot was humanoid enough for Lego's torso, arm and leg parts to be reused but the head is an entirely newly-cast bespoke piece, featuring the updated version's crest, less pointy nose, silver visor and grill-like 'mouth'. The piece is considerably oversized but this actually works, notably allowing an excellent degree of detail. There's also a newly cast backpack piece which fits like any other Lego backpack via a thin hoop over the neck joint but is another special piece closely modelled on the original design's rocket pack. 

As well as the moulding the figure features a lot of painted detail. including the correct colours on the head, the belt on the torso, the 'joint' lines on the shoulders, legs and arms and the '28' markings on he forearms. It's rendered in a lighter blue than the toys but this might just be a nod to the anime, which had a lighter palette. Lele's reproduction is largely decent, with only a couple of stray bits of paint that are nearly invisible.

Overall it's a really fun way of getting a representation of the character that's cheap and small, and it lines up well with the extant cheap releases of Godmars, Golion and Gundam. More Super Robots please, uncaring Chinese toy thieves!

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