Tele-Cartoon Japan/Delphi Associates (1966), E1 Entertainment (September 15, 2009), 4 discs, 650 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $39.98
The space age robot returns with the final set of 26 English language episodes.
The Sweatbox Review:
The second four-disc volume of Gigantor brings the rest of the original 52 English language episodes to DVD. As with the first volume, these are shows adapted from the Tetsujin 28-go Japanese animated series, based on a well-liked manga. The last time these episodes were released on DVD was when Rhino did so in a very similar 2003 set.
There is little to differentiate these episodes from those in the prior volume. They are basically all of the same run, with little continuity except for within sets of three or four episodes at a time that feature the same villain or plot points. One shouldn’t expect any character growth from our leads. In fact, the main character never utters a word. Even the human characters are laughably bland and one-dimensional, though there is something uniquely appealing about a boy hero in a jacket and tie. However, there were times that I wished that secret agent Dick Strong would just take over the whole show. He seems way cooler than Dr. Bob Brilliant.
It’s a little hard to imagine anyone ever working their way through all 26 episodes of the first set, never mind an additional four discs’ worth, but for completists (or those just looking for their favorite episode from their childhood), it’s very nice to see the entire series being released within a year. With six years having passed since these were last out, no doubt E1 should be able to attract some nostalgia sales.
This volume sees the near-indestructible giant robot take on more baddies of various descriptions, all named in a truly silly manner by the folks at Delphi Associates— mainly producer Fred Ladd. The first episodes in the set deal with the old doppelganger routine, as the envious Dr. Envee is bankrolled by a lurking schemer named Lurks (you see how the naming works?) to create another Gigantor; then Lurks improves on his idea when he has a tiny nation named Keenymeany manufacture thousands of Gigantors. As the episodes proceed through the set, Gigantor takes on pirates led by Rapscallion, a master thief named Gypsy, aliens who can take human form, the super robot Magnaman, a giant robot named Blastro, dinosaur robots… suffice it to say that there is a lot of giant robot action.
The animation remains as primitive as ever in these episodes. Characters fail to exhibit appealing designs, movement is stilted, and backgrounds are simple. Plots are pretty straightforward, and there is never any doubt as to who is a villain and who is a good guy. The idea of a lengthy marathon of Gigantor is not all that appealing, but these shows are a perfect “snack” before bedtime… especially for little ones.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The aforementioned Lurks trilogy gets a trio of audio commentaries from English language producer Fred Ladd, which have some nice bits in them. For example, he discusses modifying the Japanese story arcs for western syndication markets (including the shooting of special footage), as well as voice casting. However, there are also some long pauses (skimming through them actually makes it hard to find Ladd speaking at all) as well as some pretty basic information.
A new (June 2009) interview with Fred Ladd about Gigantor creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama (20:43) nicely addresses the deficiency of the previous Gigantor set, which was woefully short on material about the prolific Japanese cartoonist. Aside from giving Yokoyama his due, this interview also goes into the dubbing of the show, including the choice of sound effects, and the renaming of the characters. He also explains why the English language version only started with Japan’s episode #27.
A Publicity Photo Gallery offers a dozen or so images of material pertaining to promoting the show and celebrating its ratings success, as well as a photo of some of the creators of the English language version.
DVD-ROM: The first disc carries .pdf files for Antarctic Press’s 2000 Gigantor comic book, issues 7-12 , completing the run that was re-presented starting in the first volume of this DVD series. While it would have been easy to not include these, it is awfully nice to have them archived here, and gives this DVD set another step up on its Rhino predecessor.
The four-disc digipack folds out into three sections. The first holds a booklet, and the next two each have a pair of overlapping discs. (The discs are numbered 5 through 8, as a continuation of the previous set.) The booklet has an episode guide that carries summaries of each episode, including designating each as part of a “series” that feature the same story arc. In the back of the booklet is a six-page advertisement that appears to have been used to promote the show to potential TV stations for syndication back in the 1960s. The final page of the booklet shows off the covers of the six comic books from the DVD-ROM section.
Ink And Paint:
To call these transfers lacklustre is to be kind. This is about the dingiest looking show I’ve ever seen. The production design and artistic stylings don’t help, but there is very little to smile about when considering the image. Black and white cartoons can sometimes look extremely appealing, but these episodes look plain dull. Greys smear together, and there is very little that seems absolutely black or white. Add in plenty of physical artifacts like dust and scratches, and you’re left with a lower than average video score. It could have certainly been worse yet, but what is here isn’t terribly good either.
There is also a pretty narrow band of auditory stimulation offered. The episodes basically sound okay, but the lack of range in the soundtrack does nothing to add to the A-V appeal. At least there is no significant hiss or pops.
I would hesitate to call Gigantor a classic, but I know that the series has many fans. There is some old-school charm to the show, though I confess I’m a little amazed by its enduring popularity. Much of its status has to do with it being the first “giant robot” show, and certainly its use of a young boy as the protagonist who controls a giant robot was a brilliant way to make the show popular among its target audience. As someone who comes to the show for the first time as an adult, I appreciate it more for its historic significance than its inherent quality. The video and audio quality do not overly impress, yet the show likely didn’t look much better than when it was originally broadcast (considering its dubbed origins), so I wouldn’t discourage fans from purchasing this set. The bonuses are actually pretty nice, including information on Gigantor’s creator that was sorely lacking in the previous set, as well as a photo gallery and a half-dozen comic books on DVD-ROM. All told, it’s a nice set for fans, though less likely to convert anyone who wasn’t already a childhood admirer of the show.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?