12 Days of Anime 2012, Day 6: Super-Human Kelly

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.

shotaro what are you doing who let you drive that car

Shotaro what are you doing who let you drive that car you are ten years old you can’t even drive

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.

robot kellyBut 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.

robot kelly-1 robot kelly-2 robot kelly-3 robot kelly-4 robot kelly-5 robot kelly-6 robot kelly-7



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.


About BokuSatchii

Yoroshiku ne!
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7 Responses to 12 Days of Anime 2012, Day 6: Super-Human Kelly

  1. Shinmaru says:

    Awesome episode. It really got to me, too.

    Also, I read this whole post with the battle music in my head.

    • BokuSatchii says:

      I wrote it with the theme song playing in my head. I’m kinda surprised I didn’t randomly throw a BYUN~ TO TONDEKU TETUSJIN in the middle of a random sentence by mistake.

      …actually that probably wouldn’t be a mistake after all.

  2. Matt Wells says:

    LOVE this episode. I’m just glad somebody else has actually seen the damn show! I love how much emotional mileage Imagawa gets from the same sequence; the first time we think it’s the futile last attempt of a broken monster to sabotage humanity’s dream of the stars.

    And then when we get the whole pcture, it feels like punch to the nuts. With his dying breath, Kelly regains his stolen humanity. Just so raw and moving, the episode always moves me to tears.

    So much love for this show. Other favourite moments include the death of the Space Blob in episode 13, and the “HOLY SHIT” reveal at the end of episode 21 when we finally discover the resting place of the Bagume Bomb.

    • BokuSatchii says:

      Hooray! More people who have actually seen Tetsujin! I’m sure there must be more of us out there somewhere.

      I loved the space blob episode as well; it was tough to decide whether it would be that one or Superhuman Kelly that I would use for my list. The emotional reversal in both of them is just so brutal. Tetsujin loves to dabble in some of the most beautiful yet heartbreaking shades of gray.

      Kelly, though, was ultimately the one that stuck with me the most. I watched it together with a friend of mine, and whenever the topic occasionally comes up between us that “Oh man, Tetsujin 28 was so good,” the next thing either of us says will likely be a forlorn “Robot Kelly…” followed by a salute.

      …I’m still waiting for a new Imagawa robot series. I’ll be starting Shin Mazinger once I’ve finished watching five Gundams at once, but after that there won’t be any more left. ):

      • Matt Wells says:

        There’s one or two other bloggers who have it on their backlog, and even a few who started it. People who’ve actually watched it the whole way through are thin on the ground. I actually had to import the American DVDs just to see the whole thing; the UK distributors put out two volumes which never sold, so they cancelled it. A truly underated show!

        Twenty one gun salute for Kelly, man. Alas poor Space Blob, we barely knew him…

        The funny thing about those episodes is that Imagawa says that he always has one episode on every show that’s a complete standout. Something that isn’t connected to the overarching story, but is just so beautiful as a singluar episode. I get the feeling that the alien episode was that episode for him on this series.

        After you’ve seen Shin Mazinger (which you will ADORE, by the way), have you thought about watching Seven of Seven? It’s Imagawa’s own special take on the Magical Girl genre if all things, but true to form the fights are more like the Chinese Kung Fu flicks Imagawa loves so much. No giant robots, but it’s meant to pretty awesome. Worth a look maybe?

      • BokuSatchii says:

        That’s the worst, when the release gets cancelled partway through. It’s been three years since volume one of Monster got released on DVD here, and I don’t see any more coming anytime soon.

        I’m actually thinking that now may be a good time to start Shin Mazinger, since after I finish this next disc of G, I’ll be at the halfway point of all the Gundams I’m currently watching and it’ll be a good point to take a break. I’ve seen the first three episodes with my friend, and I am quite certain I’m going to love it.

        Actually, I have thought about watching Seven of Seven. It’s been sitting on my hard drive for a few months now and I’ll probably want to get to it soon since the DVDs seem to be slowly getting harder to find. It’ll be interesting to see how his style carries over to a non-robot show like this.

  3. what really gets me is kelly’s scream before he explodes

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