“Pacific Rim’s” Gipsy Danger and Gigantor: Separated at birth?

Pacific_Rim_FilmPosterJust when we thought the giant monster versus giant robots genre was dead, Guillermo del Toro delivers a rocket-assisted punch of awesome to the nerdscape. Pacific Rim, due out in July 2013, tells the story of giant monsters called kaiju that emerge from an inter-dimensional portal in the Pacific Ocean to ravage humanity. To stop the kaiju, the world’s nations build giant fighting robots called jaegers.

Del Toro calls the movie a “beautiful love poem to giant monsters,” and, if that doesn’t make you want to see Pacific Rim, you should check out the trailer.

Any movie about a showdown between giant monsters and robots owes a debt to Japanese pop culture. “Kaiju” is after all, a Japanese word denoting giant creatures from Godzilla to the antagonists of various tokusatsu live-action television shows and movies. Literally translated, it means “mysterious beast.”

The plot of Pacific Rim will also sound familiar to fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but hopefully there will be a little less weirdness and existential angst than in that robots versus monsters anime.

The design of the main jaeger also seems familiar, at least to me. Pacific Rim’s two protagonists, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kickuchi) pilot the United States’ Gipsy Danger, a supposedly obsolete model that looks a bit like the grandfather of all giant robots.Gigantor

Gigantor made his debut in manga form as Tetsujin 28 (Iron Man 28) in 1956, and came to the U.S. as a cartoon in 1964. In the American version of the story, Gigantor fought criminals and megalomaniacs with 10-year-old Jimmy Sparks, who used a remote control to operate the giant robot.

Gigantor had no neck, and a large round torso that made him look like a garbage can with limbs. Gipsy Danger is obviously more sophisticated, but when I saw its visored “eyes” peering out from behind a high collar, I immediately thought of Gigantor. Gipsy’s long limbs and dark blue color clinched it.

I’m certain this wasn’t intentional, but it is fitting that the latest and greatest giant robot resembles its literal ancestor. Along with Speed Racer, Astroboy, and 8 Man, Gigantor was one of the first Japanese pop culture exports, robot or otherwise, to make it big. If it wasn’t for that walking trash can, we wouldn’t be awash with anime and manga, and we wouldn’t have Pacific Rim.

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