By 1980, Super Robots were just past their zenith, as Real Robots began to take hold, notably through reruns of Mobile Suit Gundam. However, Super Robots were still the bread and butter of the toy robot industry, and from there came the decision to revive one of the first - Tetsujin 28.
Famed Popy designer Katsushi Murakami (responsible for a staggering number of figures , including Raideen, Combattler V, Daitetsujin 17, Gardian, Voltes V, the Lightan series, Daimos, Godmars, Golion, Godsigma, Dairugger XV, Dyna Robo, Laserion and the Space Cobra Psychoroid, not to mention Popy's Meisaku Series figure of the original Tetsujin 28) was given responsibility for the redesign. He opted to modernise the look, making the robot more streamlined. It was also resized considerably to allow a wider range of features for the toys.
The new figure was issued by Popy in three sizes. The ST and DX versions came out under the Chogokin brand, and featured spring-loaded fists and rocket launchers - rather mild stuff compared to contemporaries. However, Murakami's main baby was the Chokinzoku Tetsujin 28 - 16" tall and packed with gimmicks, the most notable of which was sheet metal armour held on by magnets which could be removed to show the robot's internal workings. The figure was so expensive and difficult to produce it became the only toy in the Chokinzoku range, and it now commands four-figure prices. I've more or less come to terms with the fact I'm never going to own this thing... Chogokin guru Matt Alt has translated an account of the design process from the Chogokin Chronicle book which makes for fascinating reading.
A 51-episode anime series to promote the figure was commissioned from Tokyo Movie Shinsha (or TMS). This kept the same character names but had a typical contemporary style, and moved the story to the present day (rather than the year 2000 as in the original). It also kept the Tetsujin 28-go name of its' predecessor.
Despite all this, the new Tetsujin 28 doesn't seem to have been a conspicuous success. Both Super Robot anime and primarily diecast toys were on the start of a commercial decline, while the simplistic format of a boy and his remote-controlled robot probably seemed rather bland to children compared with the galactic adventures of various combining mecha.
The revived Tetsujin only had a scattershot release outside of Japan. In 1982, the Chokinzoku toy was issued as the centrepiece of the Godaikin range in America, but an $80 price tag (that was about four Optimus Primes, for a little context... obviously now $80 sounds rather good) put paid to any hopes that had. The series was dubbed in Arabic and Spanish (where the series was a hit under the name Iron Man 28 ). In 1993, thirteen years after its' premiere, Alan Ladd (who had packaged the original Tetsujin 28-go series as Gigantor in the 1960s) purchased the rights and dubbed it into English as The New Adventures of Gigantor . However, this series had only a brief run on cable TV, and has never been released on VHS or DVD.
Outside of toy collectors lusting over the Chokinzoku figure, the incarnation was largely forgotten. The 1992 revival Tetsujin 28 FX followed on from the 1960s series, ignoring the 1980s version, while nearly all merchandise focused on the original robot (it's actually probably literally all, aside from the FX tie-ins, I'm just covering myself in case there was some Gashapon figurine of the eighties Tetsujin I don't know about). However, in 2008, Bandai finally gave the design some love. A new figure was designed for the Soul of Chogokin range, coded GX-44. A boxed set also including the updated version of Tetsujin's archenemy Black Ox - I've never been that fond of the 1980s version of Ox, so just went with the single Tetsujin release.
Like the Soul of Chogokin version of the original Tetsujin 28 (a release I'll be referring to here as the Classic Tetsujin to avoid confusion), this figure stands at 7.5".
The figure is nearly 100% diecast - of the robot itself, only the head, the fists, the backs of the thighs and some of the joints are plastic. At a shade under a pound, the robot has a lovely weight to it.
The smooth, rounded look is very nice, being reminiscent of the original design without being a mere retread. Tetsujin 28 is all smooth, rounded parts in a lovely deep blue with a great metallic finish, with silver hoops at the joints giving it some definition. The large numbers on the forearms and belt also work nicely with the minimalism iof the rest of the design, keeping the lines clean without becoming boring.
I especially like the rounded feet. Tetsujin 28 is, in short, very easy on the eye. The design does loose a certain something by not going with the chunkiness of the 1980s figures I suppose, but then we've got a chunky '80 Tetsujin available in three sizes, and this anime-accurate figure is a welcome angle.
Even by the lofty standards of Soul of Chogokin, Tetsujin 28 is incredibly dynamic. Every joint possible on such a robot is present, and most can rotate as well, meaning the figure has a massive, massive range of decent poses available. It's probably not an exaggeration to suggest the toy is as well-articulated as the actual cartoon character - I've yet to devise a likely pose that the figure can't replicate, anyway. Sadly, only three months down the line the ankles seemed to have loosened - they can still take Tetsujin's weight for the most part, but some of the more extravagant poses can't be held anymore.
Special praise goes to several points - the head can move unlike the Classic Tetsujin, while there are neat spring-loaded plates in the backs of the legs allowing them to almost fold back on themselves, without having massive gaps in the rear view. The arms are similarly capable of being posed in a U-shape at the elbows, while there is what seems like a ball joint inside the chest, allowing the upper torso to tilt a little. Good stuff.
Where Tetsujin loses out on purely toy terms is a near-total lack of gimmicks. The Soul of Chogokin range is geared towards accurately representing the anime characters rather than the original toys (though references to the latter aren't unheard of, they tend to be bonus features rather than the drive of the figure), so Popy's additions to the design, such as the chest-mounted missile launchers, the lift inside the left leg, the crest-styled axes and the 'dustbin' cockpit for Shotaro concealed in the crotch don't make the cut.
There aren't any electronics like the Classic Tetsujin either, though they were more of a novelty feature (and the painted yellow eyes stand out better on display than the unlit transparent ones on the Classic figure) anyway. The robot does come with four pairs of hands, though - two different open palm sets (one with fingers together, one with them spread), a set of balled fists and a set of flat hands.
The figure does have a few extra items, though.
The main one is the rocket pack. This attaches to Tetsujin's back via a magnet, and pressing it in causes a small pair of wings to pop out. The spring is perhaps a little sensitive, but it rounds out the look nicely. The flat hands are intended to be used for a 'flight mode' configuration, in conjunction with a second head.
The standard head can be removed and replaced by one with an adjustable crest and face, allowing Tetsujin to look straight up (or ahead if he's flying along). It's a neat way of eliminating a problem with the Classic Tetsujin, which had to look down rather than ahead when flying.
Also packaged are some painted miniature plastic models for interacting with Tetsujin. The largest of these is the Clipper, a small flying shuttle used by Shotaro. This was actually produced in diecast as part of the Popinika range in 1980 (I believe made in scale with the Chokinzoku figure, though I could be wrong). It's nicely detailed, but hardly a fun extra. A small painted figurine of Shotaro is included which can sit in the Clipper, or be cradled in the open-palm fists (though I don't think this is intentional).
These three figures are tiny - the droid is half an inch tall standing, with the sedentary Shotaro figures around half this again. The detail on the latter is low, but it's nice they bothered. The droid is alright, though, being all-metallic green.
The other accessory is a non-scale remote control (again, as with the Classic Tetsujin). The controller from the 1980 series was carried in a stylised briefcase, and is faithfully reproduced here.
Sadly, as with the Classic Tetsujin, the stand drops the ball a little. Whereas the previous one had no place for Shotaro, the New Tetsujin is missing a place for the neat remote control, which is a shame.
| In general
terms, Tetsujin 28 is maybe lacking much in the way of action features.
However, the design is beautiful and I can think of few figures as thoughtfully
and exhaustively articulated as this, let alone made in such high quality
materials. You can't really blame Bandai for taking the lead of the TV
series for the robot's, however, and the Popy versions have the bases
covered for mad, irrelevant features. This beauty does all you'd want
from a Tetsujin 28 toy, and is a must for any fans of pretty diecast robots.