Sunday, September 06, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Zone Fighter



Toho Studios wasn't done with 1973 after Godzilla vs. Megalon. The studio had successfully ventured into tokusatsu television programming in 1972 with Warrior of Love Rainbowman (a name that will come up again later), and 1973 saw a new live-action superhero series with direct ties to the Godzilla franchise: Zone Fighter

The show famously included Godzilla as a recurring guest character, but also Godzilla villains King Ghidorah and Gigan, and a number of episodes were directed by Toho feature film directors Ishirō Honda and Jun Fukuda. The show began broadcasting on Nippon Television on April 2, 1973, but despite its pedigree, only lasted 26 episodes before cancellation. 




Zone Fighter, or Ryūsei Ningen Zone (literally “Meteor Human Zone”), tells the story of the Zone family, fugitives from the destroyed planet of Peaceland who fled to Earth and disguised themselves as the Sakimori family. However, the aliens who destroyed their planet, the Garogans, have come to Earth, and the Sakimori children, take up the fight to save their adopted planet.

       
 
The primary hero is the eldest son Hikaru Sakimori, who can transform into the masked Zone Fighter by shouting “Zone Fight Power!” He can additionally transform into a gigantic 62 meter (204 ft.) tall form by shouting “Zone Double Fight!” His sister, Hotaru Sakimori, can transform into Zone Angel, and their kid brother Akira Sakimori, can turn into Zone Junior. Neither Angel or Junior could become gigantic. Their dad, Yochiro Sakimori, is an inventor who works for a toy research institute, providing the heroes with various gimmicks and weapons. 
 
Zone Fighter himself takes obvious design cues from Ultraman, but with a predominantly silver and blue color scheme with red trim. Abilities include flight, defensive and offensive energy projection, grappling, wrist-mounted missiles, and even teleportation. Like contemporary giant heroes, he has a time limit on his giant form before he runs out of energy. And like the Ultras, Zone Fighter is not a robot, but a dude who can get huge. 
 
The Garogas are skull-faced aliens who aren't huge either. Instead, they launch their dreaded terror-beasts from space to Earth in rocket pods, like a kaiju ODST. The terror beasts are usually giant monsters or cybernetic mixtures of monsters with various metal parts bolted onto them. 


One of the terror-beasts, Jikiro is a full robot. Appearing in the second episode, Jikiro is launched to Earth to attack a weakened Zone Fighter, and nearly succeeds in killing him. Jikiro is a 78 meter (256 ft) tall metal monster with a hunchbacked, reptilian head and magnetic powers. It also has an adorable parachute that deploys after he hits atmosphere, allowing him to land safely.

       
 
Being a monster-of-the-week, Jikiro was destroyed, but he was rebuilt later in the series as Super Jikiro, with more powerful armor and weapons before being destroyed once more. 


Zone Fighter is an interesting side story of the Showa-era Godzilla franchise. Cancelled amidst poor ratings and an oil crisis, it nevertheless exists as an official part of Godzilla continuity taking place after Godzilla Vs. Megalon. After fleeing Earth, Gigan was captured by the Garogas and used to attack Earth, and he was killed by Zone Fighter. There were a few manga that ran alongside the show, but after its run the show drifted into obscurity. 

       
Curiously, in 2015, the YouTube channel Daikaiju Legends began a fan project/sequel series to Zone Fighter (called Zone Fighter) which uses American actors for the human cast and stop-motion action figures to represent the monsters and heroes including Zone Fighter and a bunch of Ultraman characters. Its odd, and the acting leaves no question that its a fan-film, but the stop motion effects are an interesting workaround to not having suit actors and miniature city sets, and the production quality jumped several levels of sophistication in the intervening five years.



 
Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Senkosha Productions goes from a King to a Baron.

Sources

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Godzilla vs. Megalon

 

For this titanic twentieth entry in Shin Super Robot Sunday, its fitting that the King of the Monsters should get the spotlight. 
 
Toho Studios unleashed Godzilla upon the world in 1954 through director Ishirō Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya (both well-represented in this survey through The Mysterians, King Kong Escapes, and the Ultraman series). By 1973, Godzilla had already been the star of 12 feature-length movies, going from a metaphor for the shadow of nuclear annihilation to a grumpy wild-card monster that mostly wants to be left alone, to an unlikely superhero that defends the Earth from the likes of King Ghidorah, to a single dad trying to raise his son on Monster Island. It was a long, strange trip through the Shōwa era (named after the era of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito), and the 13th Godzilla movie would be a high point for the kid-friendly, lovable superhero version of the character: Godzilla vs Megalon
 
Released on March 17, 1973 and directed by Jun Fukuda (himself a veteran director of several Godzila movies such as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Son of Godzilla, and Godzilla vs. Gigan) and the special effects direction of Teruyoshi Nakano (a former apprentice of Eiji Tsuburaya's who became the primary effects director for the later Shōwa Godzilla movies).

       
 
In 197X, underground nuclear testing near the Aleutian Islands causes significant seismic disturbances that cause havoc on Monster Island. Unbeknownst to the surface world, the tests have devastated the scientifically advanced underground kingdom of Seatopia, which sank below the surface thousands of years ago like the mythical continents of Mu and Lemuria. In Japan, inventor Goro Ibuki, his kid brother Rokuro Ibuki, and buddy Hiroshi Jinkawa get caught up in a plot by Seatopian spies who hijack Goro's recently completed robot, Jet Jaguar, to guide the underground monster Megalon on a path of destruction across the surface. 

 

A lot happens on in the first half of the movie, with fistfights, car chases, Hollow Earth-style civilizations, and the giant insectoid Megalon laying waste to Japan. Its all very pulpy in its sensibilities. After some close calls, Goro is able to regain control of Jet Jaguar and sends him to Monster Island to summon Godzilla to defend the Earth. Godzilla can't fly, though, and Jet Jaguar's AI overrides external control and he grows to giant size to confront Megalon to buy time for the King of the Monsters to swim to shore. In the meantime, the Seatopians sent a signal to the M Space Hunter Nebula Aliens, who send Gigan to Earth as backup for Megalon. 

Godzilla really only features in the climactic fight scene of the movie: a two on two tag battle of Megalon and Gigan against Jet Jaguar and Godzilla. Gigan first appeared in 1972's Godzilla vs. Gigan, but Megalon and Jet Jaguar were new entrants to the series.

       
 
Megalon is a 55 meter (180 ft) tall giant beetle-like insectoid with a horn that shoots energy beams and two massive drill hands for digging through the Earth's crust. Viewed as a godlike protector by the Seatopians, Megalon isn't very smart, but he is durable, and a well-rounded battler. 

      

The real interesting story, though, centers around Jet Jaguar and his real-world origin. Initially the result of a contest held by Japanese department and grocery store chain Seiyu (now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart) to design a kaiju for the next Toho Studios movie, the winning design was for a brightly colored robot monster called Red Alone which subsequently underwent significant redesigns by Teruyoshi Nakano into Jet Jaguar, with a deliberately garish/obnoxious appearance to set him apart from the many, many, many Ultraman-like giant heroes of the early 70s. The movie project was initially to be called Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon, but in the crowded tokusatsu hero market of the time period, production was halted to add Godzilla and Gigan to the movie for added star power. 

 

Jet Jaguar doesn't have many powers at his disposal compared to an Ultraman (in this movie, at least), but he does have flight, super strength, and incredible durability, as well as the ability to speak with giant monsters and can grow to a height of 50 meters (164 ft). 

 

The movie was successful, making about $20 million at the box office for a cost of $1.2 million, and it would see significant foreign releases, most notably in the US in 1976 where it became a mainstay of home video and matinee TV showings. It earned a divisive position in the Godzilla fanbase for its frequent goofiness, which is also a large part of its cult classic status. In 1991, the movie was featured as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the first of two Godzilla movies featured on the show, the other being Godzilla vs The Sea Monster AKA Ebirah, Horror of the Deep), and added to the movie's goofy reputation. In the modern era, the movie has a Criterion Collection release (alongside all of the Shōwa era Godzilla entries), which solidifies the Godzilla vs. Megalon as not just a movie, but as a film.

       
Haters gonna hate. 
 
Jet Jaguar and Megalon have not made any subsequent movie appearances, but have appeared frequently in multiple Japanese manga, American comics, and video games.

        
 
Mexican heavy metal band Jet Jaguar (founded in 2014 in Cancún) released their first full length album, Endless Nights, in July of 2020. Mixing 80's aesthetics, power metal, and a dash of synthwave, the name can't be a coincidence considering Godzilla vs. Megalon's significant international distribution in the 80's and 90's. After all, what's more metal than a giant robot? 
 
      

Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Toho explores a newer zone: the small screen.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Jumborg Ace


The third of Tsuburaya Productions 10th anniversary shows, Jumborg Ace was different from Ultraman Taro and Fireman in that it was chock full of robots. Jumborg Ace began airing on January 17, 1973 on Mainichi Broadcasting System, the show ran for 50 episodes and was primarily produced by staff who had previously worked on Mirrorman under the direction of Yoshiyuki Kuroda. While the show debuted in 1973, a prequel manga, Jumbo X, was serialized in 1970, with a number of elements that initially tied it to the Ultraman franchise before it was ultimately spun off into its own project.



      


Naoki Tachibana is an air delivery boy who flies a Cessna. When the evil alien Anti Go-Ne from the planet Groth invades with giant monsters, Naoki's brother, Shin'ya, a member of the Protective Attacking Team (PAT), dies in battle with a giant monster. In revenge, Naoki tries to ram his plane into the monster on a suicide run, fails, and is transported to an energy dimension where an alien named Emerald from Planet Emerald, saves Naoki's life, modifies his wristwatch, modifies his plane, and sends him back home. Guided by Emerald's voice, Naoki uses the watch and the command phrase “Jum-Fight!” to transform the plane into the giant mecha Jumborg Ace.


Giant robot it most certainly is. Naoki pilots Jumborg from inside the robot's head using a movement control suit to mirror his own actions (a feature that would show up in later Mecha shows like Daimos and G Gundam). 


The 40 meter (131 ft) tall robot features the standard tokusatsu giant hero fighting abilities: grappling, flight (Mach 11, which is not bad at all for a souped up Cessna), strength, and an emphasis on beam and energy weaponry.


      


But that's not all. During the course of the show, Naoki meets the brother of Emerald, Kain, who gives the hero a second robotic ally: Jumborg 9. Instead of a plane, Jumborg 9 is disguised as a Honda Z minicar called the Jum Car Z, and can transform into a 50 meter (164 ft) tall half silver, half reddish-orange powerhouse. 


Jumborg 9 can't fly, but he can run at 900 kilometers an hour (560 mph), and hits like a truck. He's also piloted like a regular car, with gearshifts, pedals, and steering wheels.


      

The minions of Planet Groth also numbered quite a few robots, among them Airdolmen (a flying robot); Giant Robot Zero (which was recycled from Mirrorman's Noah robot costume); Flight King (a quadrupedal missile launching robot with a drill on its head); an imitation Jumborg Ace (armed with a whip and rocket punches, see above); Honest King (a king-themed robot that can transform into a dog disguise); Gold Dragon (a two-headed golden dragon robot); Mirrorking (a robot that can invade dreams) and two more that deserve a little more attention:


      


Dump Kong is a 46 meter tall robot made from a dump truck that looks like King Joe if it had been made from scrap parts, and can shoot hooks and tires at Jumborg Ace. Its awesome. 


      

The other one is Jum Killer. Much like Ace Killer, Jum Killer is a robot designed specifically for destroying the hero of the show, and actually defeats Jumborg Ace. Jum Killer is ultimately defeated by the newly acquired Jumborg 9. A second robot, Jum Killer Jr., was a bigger challenge, but still also defeated by Jumborg 9.


DUMP KONG

Reflecting the growing trend of super robots in a post-Mazinger world, Jumborg Ace did well with a piloted transforming super robot protagonist and would see a follow up the following year, but that deserves its own entry.


      

Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Toho brings out its heavy hitter.


Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumborg_Ace

https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Jumborg_Ace_(series)

https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Jumborg_Ace_(mecha)

https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Jumborg_9

https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%B8%E3%83%A3%E3%83%B3%E3%83%9C%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B0A

https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%B8%E3%83%A3%E3%83%B3%E3%83%9C%E3%83%BCX

https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Dump_Kong

https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Jum_Killer



Sunday, June 21, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Fireman



In 1973, Tsuburaya Productions released several shows as part of the company's 10th anniversary. The first one to see release was Fireman (or Magma Man in some markets), which began airing on Nippon Television on January 7, 1973, running until July for 30 episodes.

         
 
In Fireman, a string of natural disasters strikes the Earth, and giant mutant dinosaur appear and wreak havoc. Standing against them is the Scientific Attack Force (SAF) and their young archaeologist recruit Daisuke Misaki. Misaki is actually a member of an underground race of humans from the lost continent of Aban, which sank below the surface 12,000 years ago. Scientifically advanced, Misaki can use an object called the fire-stick to transform into the 50 meter (164 ft) tall Fireman to battle against threats to the Earth, both native and alien. 
 

Fireman himself is something of an inversion of the Ultraman formula. Red with silver highlights, he fights with similar flight and grappling abilities. Naturally, his energy attacks are all fire themed, and instead of a color timer limiting his giant form, his people have lived underground for so long that he can only sustain his giant form for three minutes at a time before sunlight will kill him. 
 

What's interesting is that the actor for Daisuke Misaki, Naoya Makoto, would later play a more famous red suited tokusatsu hero in 1975: Tsuyoshi Kaijo AKA Akarenger in Himitsu Sentai Gorenger, and the very first Red Ranger in the storied history of Super Sentai


More important than that (for our purposes here at least), is episode 10 of Fireman: The Iron Monster that Attacked Tokyo. In the episode, an alien from the Baranda race attacks (naturally) Tokyo with the Baranda V robot. Baranda V is a 51 meter (167 ft) tall piloted robot. In addition to general stompiness, the robot features an array of weapons from powerful chest guns, finger lasers, electromagnetic levitation, a force field, and most interestingly in a post-Mazinger Z environment, a rocket punch attack. 

         
 
The biggest show from Tsuburaya's big anniversary year would be Ultraman Taro (which has a lack of giant robots), but Fireman had a respectable run and would eventually see a spiritual successor of sorts several decades later. As for the third Tsuburaya Productions show from 1973, that's the topic for the next Shin Super Robot Sunday. 

Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Aces and Nines.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Babel II



Mitsuteru Yokoyama wasn't done with the giant robot genre after Tetsujin 28-go and Giant Robo. In July of 1971, Babel II began publishing within the pages of Weekly Shōnen Champion, another shōnen adventure manga, that ran until May of 1973. On January 1st of 1973, an anime adaptation directed by Kozo Morishita and produced by Toei Animation began airing on NET. 
 

       

5,000 years ago, an alien named Babel crash landed on Earth. Equipped with advanced technology and psychic powers, he constructed a gigantic tower to send a distress signal to his home planet. Unfortunately for him, it was destroyed just before completion. Forced to give up, Babel settled down and married an Earthling girl and used what remained of the Tower to create three protectors who would aid his descendants.


In contemporary times, Koichi Yamano is an ordinary Japanese student who is plagued by strange dreams that are affected by signals from the Tower of Babel. Koichi is one of the strongest descendents of Babel, developing a multitude of psychic and physical powers ranging from ESP to regeneration to super strength, and more. The Tower recognizes Koichi as being the second coming of Babel due to his power (a Babel Junior or Babel II, if you will), and dispatches the three guardians to aid him, because another, evil, descendent of Babel, Yomi. Yomi was summoned to the tower previously, but the computer judged him unworthy, and he tries to take over the world by infiltrating governments with robotic humans to exert his influence. He's also got an army of larger robots for general destruction.

 

Koichi's three guardians are: Rodem/Lodem, an agile, shapeshifting creature that is the smartest of the three and most commonly takes the form of a black panther; Ropross/Lopross, a giant robotic pterodactyl that can fire beams and rockets; and Poseidon, a giant silver humanoid robot that is primarily built for aquatic combat but can stomp around on land too. Poseidon carries a lot of visual similarity to Giant Robo, with a regal face and finger missiles, and a rounder barrel-shaped body reminiscent of Tetsujin 28. 

 

The show ran for a successful 39 episodes. Yokoyama wrote a sequel in 1977 called His Name Is 101, in which Koichi is imprisoned in a secret CIA facility where his blood is used to infuse agents with psychic abilities (which is not the most far-fetched thing the CIA has done). Registered as Subject 101, Koichi escapes and has to fight various evil “Espers” (psychics) on his own, since his three companions are locked up in a vault by the CIA. This sequel was noted as a darker story, and didn't receive an animated adaptation. 


        
 
While not a huge impact on the Mecha genre like Yokoyama's previous works, Babel II was still significantly influential. Hirohiki Araki of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure fame homaged Koichi's school uniform with Jōtarō Kūjō's outfit in the Stardust Crusaders (AKA "the one everybody knows about") story arc. Rugal Bernstein from the King of Fighters fighting game series, is accompanied by a black panther named Rodem in another direct homage. The only Western release of the show seems to have been Babil Junior, an Italian dub which The show received a Blu Ray video release in Japan in 2015.

       

Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Tsuburaya Productions brings the heat. 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babel_II

https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%90%E3%83%93%E3%83%AB2%E4%B8%96

https://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2015/09/18-1/babel-ii-tv-anime-receives-japanese-bluray-boxed-set

  

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Mazinger Z



Throughout the course of this survey, giant robots have appeared in two forms: an enemy to be defeated by the hero, and a powerful external sidekick to the hero. 

Mazinger Z would add an entirely new dynamic to the Mecha genre. 

Go Nagai, the pen name of Kiyoshi Nagai, began working as a manga artist in the 1960s. In 1968, he was invited to be a contributor to the very first issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump (intended as a competitor to the already successful Weekly Shōnen Magazine and Weekly Shōnen Sunday magazines aimed at teenage boys). His contribution was Harenchi Gakuen (Shameless School) a high school sex comedy series that inadvertently created the ecchi genre of manga. Controversial at the time, it proved to be a big success for Nagai, because if there's anything teenage boys like, its sex jokes and boobs. Despite outraged PTO groups, the series would eventually spawn multiple live action and animated adaptations, and the success of the comic allowed Nagai to start up Dynamic Productions in 1969 to manage his business relations and contracts, and it evolved into a kind of studio, with Ken Ishikawa joining the same year as an assistant and becoming a major manga artist in his own right (more on him in a later entry).

     

In June of 1972, Nagai's Devilman manga began, and in July an anime based on it began airing. A horror-action series that would become one of his flagship franchises, the anime was significantly toned down for television. The same year, on October second, Mazinger Z debuted in Weekly Shōnen Jump and a subsequent anime series from Toei Animation would begin airing on December third. 

 

A fan of Astro Boy and Tetsujin 28-go, Nagai added a significant twist to Mecha. The hero, a teenage boy instead of an adolescent or young adult, would pilot the robot from inside as a kind of alter ego. Giant heroes fighting monsters were not new. Giant robots with pilots were not new. Teenage heroes were not new. Combining all three of those element together was new. The pilot was now the superhero, and the giant robot was his costume. The Super Robot had arrived.

     

The hero in question is one Kouji Kabuto, a motorcyle riding average teenager with a kid brother Shiro, living with his grandfather Juzo Kabuto. Juzo is a scientist, and has been secretly building a giant robot, Mazinger Z, to combat the coming threat of Dr. Hell, a former colleague who went mad after discovering the ancient ruins of the Mycenae Empire and their mechanical beasts. 

Dr. Hell makes a power play to assassinate Dr. Kabuto, and succeeds, but not before Juzo gives Kouji control of the 18 meter (59 ft) tall robot, telling him he can have the power of a god or a devil with the robot. Without any training, Kouji's first attempts to pilot the robot are disastrous, until he teams up with Professor Gennosuke Yumi, the leader of the Photon Power Laboratory and former colleague of Juzo, and Yumi's tempestous daughter, Sayaka.

     

Sayaka has her own robot, first the Aphrodite A and later the Diana A, and Kouji is later joined by high school rival/biker/braggart/comic relief Boss, who gets his own robot later, the comical Boss Borot. 

Kouji fights his way through Dr. Hell's army of mechanical beasts and the mad scientist's lieutenants like Baron Ashura (a man and a woman merged together through bizarre superscience into a literal half-man half-woman), Count Brocken (a Nazi officer with a monocle whose body carries around his disembodied head), and the anime exclusive Viscount Pygman (a muscular tribal warrior with the upper torso of a pygmy where the head would normally be). 

Dr. Hell's into some weird stuff.

     

The manga and anime would bake a number of story tropes directly into the genre. Kouji is a hot-blooded hero with more courage than sense, which gets him into, and subsequently, out of danger. Sayaka is equally hot-blooded and she and Kouji bicker constantly, mixing arguments where they slap each other with moments of genuine care for each other. Kouji calls out most of his attacks, with his most signature move, the rocket punch (itself drawn from Giant Robo) becoming a signature element in mecha stories moving forward. Mazinger Z gets an upgrade partway through the series (the Jet Scrander, which allows him to fly). Sayaka gets an entire new robot after the Aphrodite A is trashed too many times. Not to mention things like a super metal alloy that allows the robot to survive punishing combat, and the oppai missiles, which are literal boob missiles. 

Mazinger Z was a smash success. The manga would run in both Weekly Shōnen Jump and Boken Oh (another shōnen magazine) until 1947.The anime itself would air for a staggering 92 episodes, concluding in September of 1974. Mazinger Z toys brought a new level of merchandising synergy to an animated franchise, The anime industry, which was in a general decline at the time, would rev up in response to the success of Mazinger, and the Super Robot boom of the 70s would follow.

     

Mazinger Z would see significant overseas success, as well. The show was exceptionally popular in Spanish speaking regions, from Spain to Mexico. So popular, that in the 1980s, a 40ft tall statue was built in Tarragona, Spain at the entrance of a planned suburban development. The suburb never materialized, but the statue still stands. 

     

In the US, a cut down version would be aired in Hawaii with an English dub for about 30 episodes. Notably, it had an English version of the theme song sung by the original singer, Isao Sasaki.

     


The anime would see a second release in 1985 as the heavily edited Tranzor Z, by Three B. Productions Ltd. Only 65 of the 92 episodes were aired, and everyone's names were Americanized, which was typical for the era. Hence, Kouji Kabuto became Tommy Davis, and so on. 


Releases of the actual show have been hard to come by over the years, with an infamously bad Hong Kong subtitle lovingly referred to as the "Crabstick Sub" as one of the few ways to watch the show in the past. In 2013, Discotek Media announced a Western DVD release for the series (along with other Go Nagai-created series like Devilman and Cutie Honey).

     

As the functional equivalent of Superman for the Super Robot genre, Mazinger Z has become a staple of the Super Robot Wars series of crossover strategy games from Banpresto. Super Robot Wars deserves its own entry because of how complicated it can get, but in brief, its a long-running series of tactical strategy games (in the vein of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics) that features multiple Mecha series and their plotlines colliding in a crossover storyline. Mazinger, in one form or another, has appeared in every installment of Super Robot Wars, not counting the Original Generations series (again, its complicated).

     

Its not an exaggeration to say that Mazinger Z was a sea change for Mecha as a genre. Its success led to an immediate shift in giant robot storytelling and most subsequent Mecha series were an imiation or reaction to the kind of stories Mazinger Z was telling. This includes the birth of the Real Robot genre at the end of the 1970s. 



Go Nagai hit a goldmine with a combination of pure heroism, cool robots, freaky monsters, and beautiful women.

     

Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Mitsuteru Yokoyama returns. Again.


Sources:






Sunday, May 10, 2020

Shin Super Robot Sunday: Iron King


Last time I hinted that the next entry would be a Go Nagai story, which turned out to be wrong. I was looking at an outdated chart and for that, I apologize. There's one more tokusatsu show to cover before that. 

Iron King was produced by Nippon Gendai and Senkosha, and aired on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) starting on October 8, 1972 and running for 26 episodes. A spiritual follow-up to the previous Silver Kamen show, both shows had former Tsuburaya Productions employees working on them. Iron King's design in particular resembles a bunch of Ultraman designs, particularly Ultra Seven.

     

The plot revolves around secret agent Gentaro Shizuka of the National Security Organization, who dresses like a singing cowboy (this makes some sense because pop singer Shoji Ishibashi played him) and his sidekick Goro Kirishima (who's dressed like a mountain climber) investigating terrorist threats. These threats take the form of the Shiranui Clan, descendants of a race of nomads that were exiled 2000 years ago by the Yamato Clan, the ancestors of the modern Japanese people. The Shiranui Clan are back and they want REVENGE. To that end, they deploy armored ninjas who can summon and control giant robots to overthrow the government. 


Naturally, to stop a giant villain you need a giant hero; in this case the titular Iron King, a 45 meter (148 ft) tall red and silver cyborg who can can brawl and produce energy blasts and beams. Surprisingly, its not the heroic Gentaro who transforms, but rather the goofy Goro, who activates the transformation by touching the medals on his hat and shouting “Iron Shock!” 

The Iron King form is powered by water, and Goro can only maintain that form for about a minute before becoming dehydrated. Human form Goro is incredibly thirsty as a result. Gentaro isn't helpless against the giant enemies, and wields the Iron Belt, which can turn into a sword or a whip, and is capable of damaging giant enemies. 

 

After the Shiranui Clan are defeated, a new threat arises in the Phantom Militia, who use dinosaur-themed giant robots, and subsequently the alien Titanians, who can assume giant insect forms. 

      

The most obviously robotic enemies were the Shiranui Clan's, with names like Vacumira (who has a powerful vacuum hand), Jairoges (who has a cutting hand), Silver Rider (who's got wheels instead of legs), and Double Satan (who can make duplicates of itself). 

Yes. DOUBLE SATAN. 

While the show was one of many, many tokusatsu series from the 1970s, it managed to see two video releases in the west. First in 2007, from BCI Eclipse, and a 2010 release from Mill Creek Entertainment.

 

Next time on Shin Super Robot Sunday: Crabsticks.


Sources