Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Classic TV Flashback: Gigantor (1964)

Debut: U.S. syndication 1964? 1966?
Created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Peter Fernandez
Starring (English dub): Billie Lou Watt, Ray Owens, Gilbert Mack, Sonia Owens
Synopsis: When terrorists, criminals, and aliens threaten, the virtually indestructible robot, Gigantor, is there to combat them, under the control (for some reason) of 12 year-old Jimmy Sparks.

Trey: According to Wikipedia, Gigantor is the English translation of a 1963 anime adaptation of Tetsujin 28-go, a 1956 manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama. It debuted on US television in January 1966 in syndication (Interestingly, IMDB disagrees and says it debuted in 1964). A direct translation of its Japanese name would be “Iron Man No. 28” but since Marvel had recently come out with a character named Iron Man, No. 28 became Gigantor.

The series did not exactly receive glowing reviews. Again according to Wikipedia, It was playing at 7:00 p.m. on New York's WPIX-TV when a review in Variety called it a "loud, violent, tasteless and cheerless cartoon" which was "strictly in the...babysitter class." The reviewer at least noted that it was popular; "Ratings so far are reportedly good, but strictly pity the tikes and their misguided folks."

Like Speed Racer and other anime, the names and places were changed for the English dub and the violence was toned down.

We watched Seasons 2, episodes 1 & 2 on Freevee on Amazon Prime. The first concerns the wealthy baddie whose name I can’t recall funding the evil Dr. Envee’s work to create a duplicate Gigantor under their control. The second is about that same bad guy trying to get the nation of Keenymeanie to produce an army of budget Gigantors from the plans from last episode in their war with the nation of Snork.

Jason, how did you find Gigantor?

Jason: I watched the first episode early Saturday morning, hoping to coax myself into a mindset receptive to an early 60's animated series for small children. I stopped short of pouring myself a bowl of mid-century breakfast cereal, which may have been a mistake, as the sugar rush could have helped sustain my interest and attention. As it happened, any initial goodwill eroded rapidly!

I thought the first episode was aggressively dull, boiling down to a contest of remote-control skills in the battle of the twin Gigantors. Distinguished only by their paint jobs (not ideal for black and white television!), their conflict looked like a visual representation of the battle between the writers and their creative powers. Or perhaps between the original creators and the translators. In either case, there were no winners.

The second episode, "The Ten Thousand Gigantors," promised more of the same (ten thousand times more!), but to my surprise, was much more engaging. It seemed like much more effort went into every aspect of this production. The animation seemed livelier, character designs more consistent, and more of them. The war between Snork and the Keenymeanies actually seemed to have stakes! Your thoughts?

Trey: I agree regarding the dullness of the first episode. I think it's mostly the tension and excitement free chase that takes up about half its allotted time that does it in, though. I was actually amused by the battle between the two Gigantors as their potbellies made me think of two sumo wrestlers going at it, and one's with humorously stove-pipe arms and legs, at that. There's a Tick Tock of Oz quality to the Gigantor design that gives it a bit of charm.

The second episode was better, but the whole enterprise is brought down by the really limited animation and character designs. The designs just aren't stylized, they seem amateurish at times. Much more dynamic and interesting is the American series I had mused might have been inspired by this (and this article at CBR suggests it was): Frankenstein Jr

1 comment:

Anne said...

I think maybe the best thing about Gigantor is the theme song, which is kind of a bop.


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