Company: Delphi Associates
Format: 52 episodes
Dates: 1964 — 1966
It’s the far-off year 2000! A Space Age world of robots! And the biggest, most powerful robot of all is Gigantor! Controlled by 12 year old Jimmy Sparks, Gigantor helps fight evil all around the world with Jimmy, Inspector Blooper, and their friends.
Summary by Papa-san
Reviewed 1/31/17 by:
Highs: innovation, witty dialog, music, occasionally accurate scientific information
Lows: simplistic and repetitive plots, some inconsistent animation
This review breaks with standard Anime Academy guidelines on two levels. First, it is based purely on the American version, second, it is graded on a curve, you might say, allowing that it was intended for a very young audience.
Gigantor! For many American males of a certain age now, Gigantor was their first look at Japanese animation. To this day, the theme song, with its low rumbling refrain of Gigantor . . . Gi-ga-a-antor! still stirs a deep chord of fond recollection. Was it that good? Well — no, not really. But it was a groundbreaking series in the American market (and elsewhere), and it laid the foundation for later giant robot/mecha anime.
The series opens with no backstory: Jimmy, Gigantor, and the adults simply take their places on stage and go. The only real setup is the announcer telling us that this is set in the year 2000. Adult regulars are police officer Inspector Ignatz Blooper; Dr. Bob Brilliant, Gigantor’s creator and Jimmy’s legal guardian; and Dick Strong, a secret agent type with a knack for disguises and burglary.
Although Jimmy is 12, he has no hesitation driving a car, or carrying and using a pistol. He also pilots fighter jets. There is a surprising dose of violence: Gigantor smashes piloted aircraft out of the sky and tanks into the ground; bullets kill men. Yes, a LOT of bullets fly!
Gigantor introduced the idea of a robot which was not a purely autonomous mechanical man, but which was operated by a human being. Gigantor and most other robots are operated by remote control, but a few episodes feature robots which appear to be piloted. Apart from Gigantor himself, robots appear in nearly every episode, and a few could be models for later, more famous, robots. Two episodes feature entirely humanoid female robots, possibly the first of that type as well.
A children’s show, plots and dialog are fairly straightforward and simplistic. Good guys are good and bad guys are bad. Character development is entirely absent. Plots generally follow the formula of the mad scientist or general trying to take over the world. Still, there is a bit of depth: as early as the second story arc (The Spider), Jimmy and the adults wrestle with exchanging potentially deadly technology for the life of its inventor. Some threats seem disturbingly realistic, even contemporary: an airline is extorted with the threat to bomb one of its aircraft. A small desert kingdom rich with oil is threatened by a revolution egged on by an avaricious neighbor.
Many of the weapons are drawn quite realistically. Fighter jets follow designs of the time, and F-104 Starfighters are recognizable. Handguns look authentic, and at one point Jimmy wields what is recognizably a Japanese Nambu pistol. A number of times, some plot point will turn on a scientific premise which is reasonably accurate and plausible, such as a sunken island being moved by underwater currents, or the use of explosives to extinguish an oil field fire. On the other hand, one episode refers to an island located at 130 degrees North latitude! This same ep. also speaks of a “Telsa” Coil energy source, although I suppose it should be credited for alluding to a Tesla Coil at all.
Anime fans will recognize a number of number of familiar landmarks: Tokyo Tower figures in several stories, although it is identified simply as a radio/TV tower in a large city. Other references to Japan or the East are worked rather neatly into the dialog, such as Inspector Blooper explaining that he is practicing with chopsticks in anticipation of a trip. One of Tokyo’s old castles is identified as an “Oriental temple in the the park.” Picking out such adaptations is one of the unintended amusements of the series!
Gigantor is not without humor. Inspector Blooper provides most of the comic relief, but random quips and gags pop up all over. In one scene depicting a UN meeting, a delegate stands at the podium and announces, “Time for all nations to argue!” Most character names are rendered wittily: a zookeeper is introduced as Noah Zarky; a robot designer is Dr. Alec Tronic. Only one gag seems intended to go over the kiddies’ heads: one episode features a structure called Great Tinker’s Dam. One episode has a severe discontinuity which is so egregious I think –or hope– it was meant as humor: the crew is searching for lost treasure in what we are told are the Aleutian Islands, but these islands are a desert inhabited by Arabs!
Like any proper hero, Gigantor is not invincible and has his Achilles’ Heels. Never fear, though: with his master Jimmy Sparks at the controls, he always gets away from the bad guys! Gigantor performs a recurring “power-up” routine when activated, flexing his arms over his head and visibly radiating electricity. Gigantor is not just a battle machine, though. At one time, he helps save a flock of birds lost over the ocean, at another, he helps scientists capture wild animals for a zoo (this was a GOOD thing at the time). Ep. 32, “The Robot Olympics”, shows off Gigantor’s many skills, and is presumably a tribute to the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics (the same episode features a bad guy named Maxwell Shmoe, evidently a salute to then-new series Get Smart).
Gigantor is entirely in black & white, and artwork is generally bold and stark. The animation style itself is interesting, historically. It has not yet hardened into the strictly conventionalized style which we are more familiar with, and has a much more American look to it. Eyes tend to be solid black orbs, although in one episode, a kangaroo sports the characteristic “anime eyes”. Although characters often perspire freely, we do see an early (perhaps the first) use of the famous sweat-drop to indicate emotional intensity. Background art tends to be quite good, and a number of buildings show some quite creative & innovative architectural ideas. On the downside, Gigantor’s size seems to vary significantly, sometimes appearing his specification 60 feet tall, other times seeming only about twice human height. Late in the 2nd season, some of the artwork gets sloppy. In a few episodes, Jimmy appears to have grown into a rather chubby teen rather than a spare 12 year old. Bob Brilliant and Dick Strong appear less often, in favor of Jimmy and Blooper’s slapstick shtick.
The theme song has a couple of good hooks for the young viewer: we are told of Gigantor that “He’s at your command,” and “His power is in your hand.” Background music is quite good, if repetitive, and is mostly, but not always, jazz variations on the theme song.
Fortuitously, Inspector Blooper was drawn bearing a resemblance to a famous American radio character of the 40s & 50s, Throckmorton P. “The Great” Gildersleeve. A round face sporting a distinctive pointed mustache with Blooper’s voice acting very accurately reenact Harold Peary’s Gildersleeve character.
Curiously, the closing credits state that the show is “Based on characters created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama and Mary Shelley”! This may be just a reference to a 2nd season guest star.
All in all, this is a worthwhile watch for a modern audience — at least a few episodes, for its nostalgia (for some), for its historical significance (for others), and maybe for entertaining the little ones for an hour or two.
Gigantor is licensed in the United States by Peter Rodgers Organization (PRO FILMS and PRO Classic TV). Gigantor episodes may be legally viewed in the US at their site HERE, or purchased as a DVD collection from Fred Ladd’s official Gigantor web site HERE.