Again, I don’t want to spoil this moment for you if you haven’t yet seen the 2004 Tetsujin 28 remake. And you should see Tetsujin 28. It’s about giant robots and sadness and feelings and the definition of weaponry and ten-year-old boy detectives driving cars, and it’s criminal how little-known it is. So, as with 20CB, if you haven’t seen it, you can read this post up to the spoiler warning. And then you can stop reading and go watch the series because I like it and therefore it must be good.
Tetsujin 28 was part of the massive impact that 20th Century Boys had on my anime-watching habits for the rest of the year, along with a rewatch of Monster and an increased interest in giant robot shows as a whole. But of those giant robot shows, Tetsujin was special, in that it was so heavily referenced by 20CB and that it was based on a manga from the creator of Giant Robo. Not only that, but it was adapted by Yasuhiro Imagawa, the director of the epic Giant Robo OVA.
Where most people have a way with words, Imagawa has a way with pictures. There’s something about the way he frames and times his shots that magnifies everything a hundredfold – all the impact, all the power, all the emotion, all the sadness, all the triumph. The love, the anger, and all of the sorrow shine through in a passionate, magical way I just can’t put my finger on. And it’s a perfect match for the giant robot series he so loves to direct.
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think there’s any single moment from Tetsujin 28 that immediately makes me think “this is one of the twelve best moments of anime I’ve seen this year.” This moment is here more due to the fact that the whole series is so consistently moving and thought-provoking and good that I had to pick a placeholder to get it in my 12 days somehow.
The story of Superhuman Kelly was, of all the tragic tales that Tetsujin had to tell, the moment that got the biggest reaction from me and my 20CBro, and the one that has stuck with us the longest. Fittingly, with all the bittersweet stories of characters who lived for and were doomed by their humanity, it was Kelly’s that felt super-human (as in “very human”, not as in “superhuman”). Kelly had a dream. He had a grand, noble, naive, human dream – a dream to escape to a world free of the violence that had so wronged him – and he was willing to do whatever it took to achieve it, at any cost to his own body. Not even death itself could stand between him and his dream of living peacefully amongst the stars.
But it was that same single-minded devotion that stood in his way again and again on the path to his dream. His transformation into a superhuman repeatedly became his downfall, as he and those who helped him eventually fell victim to his imperfect new body. And finally, as he leaped aboard the rocket that took him to the stars, he experienced the ultimate irony. His body literally dissolving under the strain, he burst through the clouds, and he was there. He could see it, the beautiful, starry night sky that he had so longed to reach. And at that moment, his body finally gave way. His dream literally slipped from his grasp as he fell to the earth, the sky getting ever farther from his reach.
But for that one moment, he was there. He was as close to the sky as he had ever been. He made it to the literal high point of his life, and with his limits exhausted, with nowhere to go but down, his stubborn denial of his own fate and abilities was what brought that fate about after all. But with the last of his strength, with what little remained of his broken body, he threw himself at the sky and got closer to his dream than he ever had before.
There’s a lesson to be learned here somewhere, but the more important point to be taken from this scene is that I am an enormous sucker for misunderstood tragic characters.