The “Super Robot” genre of Japanese anime arguably began with with Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s 1956 manga Tetsujin 28-go, which was subsequently animated in 1963 and released abroad as Gigantor. But it was Mazinger Z, created by Go Nagai in manga and on TV in 1972, that most people believe defines the genre. The central feature is a huge robot piloted by a controller (often youthful) from within the robot itself. This trope became popular in innumerable manga, anima and TV shows.
Robot Taekwon V (known in the US as Voltar the Invincible) was the Korean answer to the popularity of Mazinger Z, and was arguably driven by political, or rather patriotic, sentiments in the sense that Taekwon V was designed to be a “Korean hero for Korean children” (as stated by creator Kim Cheong-gi). The Super Robot starred in an animated feature film that was released in 1976 to enormous box-office success.
Taekwon V remains a significant cultural icon even to today. The image below is of a statue of the Super Robot at Seoul Animation Center:
Incheon Metropolitan City is even planning to build a Robot Land park — to be opened in 2012 — which will feature a 40-floor high Robot Taekwon V Tower:
The original print of the influential Robot Taekwon V film was long thought lost, with remaining prints being of very poor quality and incomplete. However, when a duplicate print was found in a warehouse of the Korean Film Commission in July 2003, the Korean Film Council undertook a mammoth restoration project at a cost of 1 billion won. The pristine result was released to theatres in 2007 and set a new box-office record for domestic animated films, sparking renewed interest in Taekwon V. This interest manifest as large statues of the robot in various parts of Seoul, in art galleries across the country and even in front of the National Assembly building. Below is a rather humorous ad that utilises the Super Robot — you can work out what’s going on for yourself:
For some time now, word has been going around that Robot Taekwon V is being made as a 20 billion won (approx. US$20 million) live-action feature film by director Won Shin-Yeon (A Bloody Aria, The Wig, Seven Days), for release in June 2009 — in opposition to Transformers 2 perhaps. That plan may be optimistic, as very little has emerged about the film, including cast.
What we do know seems to rest in a few images and some robot test animation sequences (very impressive ones at that). They are gathered below. Click on the images to see them bigger (some are very big).
As you can tell from the following movement test footage, Robot Taekwon V takes its name from its use of taekwon-do, of which martial art its pilot is an expert practitioner.
Synopsis of the original animated film:
Dr. Kaff (or Dr. Cops; 카프 박사 in Korean), an evil scientist bent on world domination, creates an army of giant robots to kidnap world-class athletes and conquer the world. To fight off this attack, Dr. Kim creates Robot Taekwon V. Kim Hoon, the taekwon-do champion eldest son of Dr Kim, pilots Robot Taekwon V either mechanically or through his physical power by merging his taekwon-do movements with the robot. (Wikipedia)
Addendum: Another Funny Ad Featuring Taekwon V: