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Gigantor vs. Giant

[whitespace] FOR MANY YEARS, teams of little boys and giant robots have kept the crime rate of Japan low. It's a program our own law enforcement officials might want to consider. To name a few of these units: Johnny Socco and his flying robot; Rusty and Big Guy, in Big Guy Comics (Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, Dark Horse, 1995). Best known of all: Jimmy Sparks and his own 80-foot-tall iron giant, Tetsujin 28-go (Iron Man 28), better known here by his nom de guerre, Gigantor.

The cartoon adventures of Gigantor were imported to the U.S. in 1966. Tetsujin 28-go has also been featured in Japanese comic books and two other Japanese animated series made in 1980 and 1992. Various web sites will play for you Gigantor's irresistible calypso theme song, once covered by the Dickies. All together now: "Gigantor, the space-age robot/He's at/Your command/Gigantor, the space-age robot/His power is in your hand." Some Gigantor fans fear that The Iron Giant will be another example of American cultural hegemony. The startling similarities between Japan's Kimba, the White Lion and Disney's The Lion King hasn't been forgotten by anime fans.

Though Tetsujin 28-go and the Iron Giant are both are colossal flying robots with metal crests on their heads, there are differences. The Iron Giant is wasp waisted and lantern eyed, a retro-robot drawn as if by Chris Ware or Winsor McKay. Gigantor is shaped more like a mammoth cocktail shaker with legs. Gigantor goes dead when you turn off his remote controls and has no brain of his own; the Iron Giant speaks and has his own personality.

At this point, Brad Bird is well aware of the wrath of Gigantor fans--obviously preferable to the wrath of Gigantor himself. "I'll look at some Internet dialogue from some angry people," Bird figures. "I say, calm down! I grew up in Corvallis, Ore., and they didn't even have Gigantor there. I am not claiming The Iron Giant is the first boy and robot movie, that's absurd. But I hope it's the best!"

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From the August 5-11, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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