Azumaizer 3 (アクマイザー3) is another Shotaro Ishinomori classic that modern Kamen Rider fans may already be a little familiar with. Though the trio were eventually reimagined as villains for 2012’s Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider Wizard & Fourze: Movie War Ultimatum (which also featured Poitrine), in the original 1975 version they were of course heroes. Though it never reached the heights of Kamen Rider the show was still fairly popular, and did receive a sequel in the form of Choujin Bibyun.
While the premiere episodes for Showa era tokusatsu always tend to operate on a much faster pace to their contemporaries, this rings extremely true for Akumaizer. The episode barely takes a second to settle down, and is crammed with so much wonderfully bizarre imagery that you can’t help but be swooped up in it all.
The episode opens in typically crazy fashion with a flying pirate ship floating above Japan, accompanied by a giant golden arm that’s plucking people from the ground. A group of journalists are saved by a shadowy swashbuckler, who later reveals himself as Zabitan – a refugee from the subterranean demon clan who has vowed to battle against his evil race.
The group don’t get much time to get acquainted before Zabitan is challenged by Ibiru and Gabura – two other demons that have been sent to hunt down to rogue Zabitan. Our hero easily bests Gabura in combat, but the latter is rather confused when Zabitan spares his life. Ibiru is not so easily beaten though, wounding Zabitan who then takes refuge with his new human friends.
Eventually all are brought underground to face the evil Mezalord, with Zabitan leading a daring rescue that not only sways Gabura to the side of justice, but eventually Ibiru as well. Escaping in the pirate ship (which then transforms into pretty nifty mechanical demon fish-thing), the trio form the Akumaizer 3 and vow to continue their fight against the demon clan.
If that sounds a lot to you then it’s because it really is, frantically jumping from scene to scene in order to get it all into 24 minutes. But as is the case with all these shows you don’t need a lot of detail to grasp the base premise, and instead the joy comes from watching the action unfold onscreen. Akumaizer 3 has a really unique feel with its constant swordplay and fencing choreography, which plays in nicely to the Three Musketeers-vibe Ishinomori was going for. A lot of the special effects are pretty dated now (such as the numerous shots of models “flying” across the sky), but that really is part of the charm. Don’t look at as something that’s aged poorly, look at it as something that shows real scope and imagination for its time.
Admittedly, though, the suits themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. Clearly the most effort went into Zabitan, who looks pretty great in his black and red livery with wing-like ears protruding from his head. While most will scoff at the chunky Gabura (a more colourful version of retired McDonalds mascot Grimace), it’s actually Ibiru I find to be the most underwhelming. Gabura might not gel well with the other two but at least he has a distinct look to him, whereas Ibiru just feels like a less detailed version of Zabitan.
A fun bit of trivia to round this off is that all three of the Akumaizers are voiced by prolific anime seiyu. Zabitan is voiced by Makio Inoue (aka Captain Harlock), Ibiru by Kōji Yada (Mazinger Z’s narrator and Dragon Ball’s Dr Gero) and Gabura by Jōji Yanami (Kaiō-sama/King Kai in Dragon Ball).
The Akumaizer 3 are characters that many fans will probably have the wrong impression of these days thanks to their Kamen Rider revival, but now’s the chance to get the real history of these guys. This first episode is a lot of fun, and definitely worth checking out.
You can now find Akumaizer 3, as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.