Seiun Kamen Mashinman or Nebula Mask Machineman (星雲仮面マシンマン) is another offering from tokusatsu godfather, Shotaro Ishinomori. Broadcast on Nippon TV in 1984, Machineman ran for 36 episodes. The series follows Planet Ivy resident, Nick, after he arrives on Earth in his spaceship. Nick is visiting Earth to complete his university thesis – studying humans – and while here will go by the name Ken Takase because apparently Nick wasn’t quite “Earthy” enough. He has a companion, Ball Boy; a baseball with arms and legs that is also a boy, evidently. Good to know that America’s pastime has made it out to the Pleiades system. As part of his study, Nick becomes interested in Maki Hayama, a photographer and journalist at Shukan Hit newspaper and sends his Ball to follow her, which isn’t creepy at all.
Enter the head of evil organisation Tentacle, Professor K (Hideyo Amamoto), and his dastardly plan to kill all of the world’s children. Pleasant chap. Amamoto is well known to tokusatsu at this point having played Dr. Shinigami/Ikadevil in the original Kamen Rider series as well as roles in various Ultraman series and Godzilla movies. He has a pet mechanical parrot that, well, parrots his schemes back to him but I think some fun could be had with this bird as the series progresses and Prof K begins to fail consistently.
Machineman is rumoured to have been inspired by the DC’s Superman and, although this was never confirmed by either Ishinomori or Toei, the comparison is easy to make. Yes, it’s Machineman, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. With his sweeping haircut and thick framed glasses, Nick is Clark Kent if Clark Kent was born on Japanese Krypton. Maki Hayama is, of course, his Lois Lane, and Nick wastes no time in reenforcing that by carrying her in his arms mid flight after she fell of a building, as you do. There’s no real reason for the Machineman suit to have a cape either, but it does because, you know, Superdude. Things are different enough to not have the lawyers at DC Comics at the door but the similarities are undeniable.
This show uses a lot of repeated zoom shots, which actually hurt my brain a little, but other than that holds up quite well to other tokusatsu of the eighties. If you like the Toei big three – Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Metal Hero Series – then you’ll like this. The arriving/transforming out of a rocket powered car is pretty neat and unlike any other toku of the era. It’s definitely worth trying out the first two episodes, at least.
You can watch the first two episodes of Machineman now on the official Toei Tokusatsu World YouTube channel.