Not Plagiarism: Robot Taekwon V

“Robot Taekwon V” is a cartoon that captivated children’s imaginations in the 1970s, and had numerous sequels and remakes through the years. Recently, it was remastered for its 30th anniversary thanks to a lucky discovery of an undamaged print. If you’ve never heard of the Japanese anime Taekwon V, don’t be alarmed.

Because it’s Korean.

Looking at Taekwon V itself, “Mazinger Z” is probably the first thing that pops into your head. The resemblance is unmistakable, and it could easily fit into Nagai Go’s Giant Robot Pantheon. I’ve seen people online, mostly aggressive Japanese posters, decrying Taekwon V as a rip-off, a sign of plagiarism and uncreativity. The director Kim Cheong-gi has gone on the record stating the obvious influence that Mazinger Z had on his design. At the time, Mazinger Z was very popular in Korea and Kim wanted to created a Korean Super Robot so that kids would appreciate Korean culture. The likely scenario is that at the time he thought Mazinger Z was what all super robots should look like, so it’s no wonder that they look similar. That isn’t the reason why I say it’s not plagiarism though.

Taekwon V fights using its namesake, Taekwondo, and its animation reflects this fact. Mazinger Z and in fact every other super robot has never used Taekwondo. While Taekwon V resembles Mazinger Z heavily, its poses, mannerisms, and actions set it apart. Taekwon V is able to follow the movements of its pilot, a Taekwondo champion himself, two years before Daimos. It even has unique attacks, most notably its Rocket Chop (I don’t know the actual name for this), where Taekwon V makes a horizontal, back-handed chopping motion while simultaneously launching its hand to give it some added destructive momentum.

If it looks like a duck, but doesn’t walk like a duck, and it quacks in Korean, then it is Taekwon V.

By the way, this reasoning does not necessarily apply to other Korean Giant Robot shows. I’m looking at you, Space Gundam V.

16 thoughts on “Not Plagiarism: Robot Taekwon V

  1. Interestingly enough, on my visit to the Korean animation center, a line-up of the most popular Korean cartoon characters of all time on one wall featured Taekwon V, a character that looked almost exactly like Kenshin, and a character that looked like a Korean Bart Simpson. There were others that looked like copies of whatever else was popular at the time, but I can’t remember them all now.

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  2. You’ve got to be kidding me. The baseline designs for Taekwon V are clearly modeled after Mazinger Z. If Koreans want to make their own original content, that’s fine, but don’t try to “lift” Japanese concepts and claim they you made something original. I’m not anti-Korean, but compare what the Japanese made with mecha to the Koreans. You have Five Star Stories, Tekkaman Blade, Escaflowne, etc. Korea is nowhere near the creativity that Japanese are able to churn out.

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  3. The baseline designs for Taewkon V ARE clearly modeled after Mazinger Z, but it’s just a baseline design. And I agree that Japanese animation has done more with the concept of giant robots than Korea has, but I was not talking about the entirety of Korean mecha animation, I was talking about Taekwon V.

    I know that Space Gundam V is a giant Valkyrie/Reideen clone. I know that Mazinger 7 is a ridiculous bull-legged hideous chimera of other robot parts. But Taekwon V manages to rise above its physical similarities to Mazinger Z. It’s obvious that the creator of Taekwon V saw Mazinger Z and thought, “hey this is what giant robots should look like.” It’s like how early on a lot of superheroes resembled the archetypes, but they still managed to be their own stories, to be their own characters, to have their own fans.

    I am well aware of the level of talent and thought that has gone into giant robot anime. As much as I like Tekkaman Blade and Escaflowne, if you’re gonna give them as examples of the height of creativity when it comes to mecha-themed anime, then I think you need to do spend a little more time with these shows.

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  4. Then, what exactly are better examples of creativity than Tekkaman Blade and Escaflowne? I haven’t seen Korea make anything remotely near the level of VOTOMS, Nadesico, Dunbine, Galient, Gundam, Macross, RahXephon, etc.
    And if Korea wanted to make an anime that commented on Japan’s brutal occupation than they could have done what Ryosuke Takahashi did with Blue Comet SPT Layzner. Ryosuke Takahashi is one of the leading pioneers of realistic portrayal of warfare and characterization for mecha anime during the 1980’s. Due to losing his father in WW2, Takahashi depicted his mecha anime as a serious look into human conflict and sociology.
    Layzner clearly made allusions and correlations from the way the Gradosians (an offshoot of Earth-based humans with high-tech weaponry and a space-based empire) that conquered Earth and demonstrated an eerily similar occupational policy that the Japanese inflicted upon the Koreans. Earth music, literature, clothing, and even its language were banned and/or systematically destroyed by the Gradosians while the High Command propagated in the belief that Gradosians were “superior” to the lowly Earthlings even though it was later found out that Gradosians and Earthlings were descended from the same race. Had Korea made Taekwon V like this, I could have respected it. But not to sound anti-Korean, there has been a long established history of Japanese plagiarizing and ignoring Japanese copyrights for a long time. For a people that have a long-standing grudge against Japanese, I’m perplexed that they would readily use their ideas.

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  5. You’ve read my post and reply wrong a few ways.

    I am not saying that Korea’s output of giant robot-themed cartoons was superior to what the Japanese have come up with. When I said that the previous commenter should watch more mecha-themed anime, I meant the shows you mentioned: Gundam, Macross, Dunbine, Votoms, etc. Please do not respond to something that is not there.

    I am not saying that Taekwon V is better than any of the titles mentioned. I am not saying that Taekwon V is more creative than Mazinger Z, Evangelion, Tekkaman Blade, Orguss, Voltes V, or whatever. When I say that Taekwon V managed to rise above its similarities to Mazinger Z, I am not saying that it ended up superior TO Mazinger Z.

    What I am merely saying that Taekwon V was pretty creative for its time given the situation it came out of, and far more creative than other KOREAN animation.

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  6. “As much as I like Tekkaman Blade and Escaflowne, if you’re gonna give them as examples of the height of creativity when it comes to mecha-themed anime, then I think you need to do spend a little more time with these shows.”

    What are you talking about??? Tekkaman Blade and the Vision of Escaflowne have both been regarded as some of the best mecha series in the 1990’s by critics and fans. Spend a little more time with these shows? I think the original poster indicates that he/she has a good grasp of what good mecha anime consists of. I also notice how you ignore the Five Star Stories in your response.

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  7. “Ryosuke Takahashi is one of the leading pioneers of realistic portrayal of warfare and characterization for mecha anime during the 1980’s. Due to losing his father in WW2, Takahashi depicted his mecha anime as a serious look into human conflict and sociology…Had Korea made Taekwon V like this, I could have respected it.”

    there’s no doubt takahasi is a bigger talent than Kim Cheong-gi, but you’re ignoring the historical conditions surrounding kim’s RTKV. post-colonial, culturally poor environment where you have no predecessors, mentors, competing contemporaries to egg each other on. there was NO SCENE, no subculture. it all had to start somewhere, and they were desperate for symbols. taekwon V is a very complex legacy of colonial occupation. complex because the childhood memories, hopes and dreams attached to it were sincere and “pure” as innocent dreams are. it’s not the kids’ fault that they were riding on a maimed horse running on a maimed leg. it’s not simply a “it’s a copy/it’s not a copy”.

    nobody’s asking you to afford the same respect to RTKV/kim as you do for takahashi. we have a controversial cultural legacy on our hands, and the generation of kids’ imagination spawned from that — do you tell children sired from GIs raping native women, that their existence is wrong? or do you acknowledge and lament the conditions that brought them into life, and MOVE ON to make the most use of the opportunity to breathe (which in our case is asking Qs like: HOW did koreans appropriate mazinger? what precisely did RTKV function as on cultural, political levels? somebody did a study on government censorship, promotion of militarized culture, taekwondo, and using RTKV symbol.) but you’re using your personal yardstick (which you’re entitled to!) as the only criterion to measure a multi-faceted phenomenon.

    “But not to sound anti-Korean, there has been a long established history of Japanese plagiarizing and ignoring Japanese copyrights for a long time. For a people that have a long-standing grudge against Japanese, I’m perplexed that they would readily use their ideas.”

    you’re perplexed because you’re CONFLATING the copyrights issue w/ the immediate postwar poverty of pop korean culture. original historical conditions in which RTKV was made go back FURTHER than the rights, which came later when korea was industrialized enough with stable consumer economy. then the opportunists took advantage of the Japanese culture-ban in korea, thus making buying rights a matter of conscience?!

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  8. If South Korea wants to be treated as a respected member of the international business community, then it has to give respect to the original copyright holders.
    Look at some of these examples found here:
    http://comipress.com/article/2006/10/28/938

    Nobody here has an anti-Korean agenda (except for obvious trolls), but taking Japanese manga and anime for domestic usage and paying lip-service to the Japanese creator is immature. Must we go into the illegal Fist of the North Star movie that South Korea made without the author and publisher’s consent? Or even paying for the rights to make that movie?
    http://comipress.com/news/2006/07/29/541

    I’m not blaming or condemning the entire South Korean people, but I am disgusted at the South Korean individuals who ignore international law on copyrights.

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    • Did you actually read the article because you did, you would’ve noticed this:

      “By the way, this reasoning does not necessarily apply to other Korean Giant Robot shows. I’m looking at you, Space Gundam V.”

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  9. I love korean animation but my passions aside, kim cheong-gi could of used the base design and still changed it more than he had. The fact that it did resemble Mazinger helped it’s success and yet also hurt it. I mean Mazinger was popular so making something similar is also going to help popularity. Yet people are going say it’s a rip-off. He Clearly had his own story that was much different than Mazinger but to make sure it was popular he checked out what was popular at the time and used that as his base design to appeal to people. I love the show but in style, it is very similar and there is no argument there. Btw did you know that Kim Cheong-gi also did Space Gundam V?

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  10. Pingback: Easily Misconstrued Title: Taekwon V Invades Japan « OGIUE MANIAX

  11. 저는 비록 한국인이지만 태권브이(원제 마징거태권)는 우리나라의 수치스러운 표절작입니다. 대한민국으로써 쪽팔린다. 글쓴이씨 부끄러운줄알아야지.

    Im korean.
    TekonV (=original name:Mazinger Taekwon) is plagiarism.
    It is shameful.

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