Batten Robomaru (バッテンロボ丸) is the second entry in the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, and another entry that continues Tokusatsu’s long obsession with mascot robot characters. But then, when Japan is so obsessed with mascots in general a show like this seems like an easy sell.
The series begins with the boys and girls baseball tournament of Karinto New Town, which is being commentated by a fully-suited female character we don’t find out anything about in this episode. But she’s there and no one’s raising an eyebrow, so we already know that the inhabitants of Karinto Town must have a fairly high tolerance for weirdness. But when Nanako hits a home run, the ball flies into the spaceship of an unsuspecting Robomaru – hitting him on the bellybutton and causing him to crash land in the middle of the game.
After making a brief introduction, Robomaru falls unconscious and its left up to Nanako and her friends to help him. During their travels we also meet Dr Tonda and Chairman Himada, who are looking for the Rock Paper Scissors Trio and Pouchie respectively. Absolutely no reference to who these people are, but we’ll find out soon enough.
When Robomaru eventually awakens we find out he’s an ally of justice from outer space, whose mission is to stop the war on the planet Pekeiru. Despite him only telling this to Nanako’s family, suddenly there’s a robot made up of various bits of sound equipment on the news making a public broadcast about it! This show is inexplicably weird and never bats an eyelid at any of it.
From there we see Robomaru go out and meet all of the weird and wonderful people that live in Karinto New Town, until we discover that the Rock Paper Scissors Trio and Pouchie have taken Robomaru’s spaceship for a joyride! Robomaru flies into action to save the day, eventually bringing his spaceship back down to Earth. Inside we discover that the Rock Paper Scissors Trio are also mascot robots – named Gutto, Parakitto and Chokkito. Robomaru isn’t too pleased his spaceship is banged up, but at least no one was hurt.
The only missing link now is, where is Pouchie? And more to the point, what is Pouchie? The way everyone’s talking you might just think it was a dog or something, but then all of a sudden a dinosaur comes parachuting down. That’s right, Pouchie is actually short for Pouchisaurus – bet you didn’t see that coming.
So now Robomaru’s stuck on Earth, but he’s been invited to come and live with Nanako’s family (including a random guest who just announces herself out of a window right at the end), so it all ends with a jaunty musical number. What the hell did I just watch?
Despite looking like a giant number eight with eyes Robomaru has quite a fun design, and the way his eyes and head shape change depending on his mood is quite clever (and perhaps more importantly, extremely toyetic). Of course, his biggest selling point is that he’s also voiced by Machiko Soga – the tokusatsu legend more famously known for her role as Witch Bandora in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. His spaceship is pretty cool too, especially with the way it can transform between a UFO and a cosy-looking house. Sadly the rest of the suited characters here are a lot less memorable (other than the fact there’s a bloody dinosaur amongst them). Also living in Robomaru’s spaceship is the space creature Nekurage, who can only be described as a block of polystyrene with some red bits stuck into it. Whoever the character designer was, he was really having an off-day there.
I’ve watched a lot of tokusatsu in my time and have a particularly fondness for the classics, so I’d like to think my tolerance for weirdness is fairly high. I was not prepared for Batten Robomaru. Whether thats a criticism or endorsement I’ll leave you to decide, but either way one episode of this is a pretty unforgettable experience.
You can now find Batten Robomaru, as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.