Japanese schoolboy with the machine gun – Tetsujin 28-go manga covers

tetsujin28_11I find these covers absolutely fascinating. Drawn in a style that reminds me of Soviet propaganda posters, they feature a young boy and his faithful robot. I found out that the manga and the following anime inspired the creators of Akira, Tetsuo, and lastly Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.

Tetsujin 28-gō (Japanese: 鉄人28号) was a 1956 manga written and illustrated by Mitsuteru Yokoyama. It features the adventures of Shotaro Kaneda, a young schoolboy (usually seen in his school uniform) who controlls a giant robot named Tetsujin 28, built by his late father as a secret weapon for the Japanese military during World War II. While the robot was made for evil purposes, the boy uses it to protect peace and fight crime.

The manga was later adapted into four anime TV series, a Japanese television drama and two films. Released in 1963, the first series was among the first Japanese anime series to feature a giant robot. It was later released in America as Gigantor, so some of you may be familiar with Tetsujin by that name.

tetsujin28_1Apparently one of the first original mecha mangas and animes,  Tetsujin 28-go is still popular in Japan. The 60-feet (18-metre) tall statue of the robot was built in Kobe in 2009. Of course, as it’s common in Japan, Mayor of Kobe decided to officially accept Tetsujin as a Kobe citizen in the process.

What fascinates me is this grotesque imagery: a small doll-like innocent boy wearing school uniform and a feeling of overall destruction that follows him. He uses a number of guns that don’t look futuristic or toy-like, but like real gear. It’s something totally unacceptable in today’s cartoons for kids. And this was an adventurous comic made for children. Of course it was not uncommon at that time. Violence, explosions and robots fighting look so menacing here – and no wonder, as the author still had in mind the atrocities of WWII.

My absolute favorite cover. It looks overwhelmingly epic!
My favorite cover. It looks overwhelmingly epic!

I won’t recommend watching the series or reading the manga itself unless entertainment aimed at children is what you like (no judgment on my part). However, the covers are so beautiful and bizarre that I would like one to hang on my wall for sure.

The composition and colors are great.

All images come from this GREAT collection of Tetsujin 28-go manga covers: http://pinktentacle.com/2010/10/tetsujin-28-manga-covers-1956-1966/ 

Many thanks for the poster!

I am no expert in mecha (a science fiction genre that centers on robots or machines controlled by people), so I will leave you with a few useful links if you want to learn more about this subject.