If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Robocop was a tokusatsu show, the answer is Jiban. Mobile Cop Jiban (機動刑事ジバン) is the eighth Metal Hero Series, coming after Jiraiya chronologically but tells a completely different story to it’s predecessor, as Toei’s programming often does. Despite coming out in 1989, this show is very nineties using such hallmarks as floppy disks and video playback via 5mm jack. Classic.
About that floppy disk sighting; I love a good floppy disk in television… it’s a lost prop, sadly. Whipping out a USB stick or doing a data transfer just doesn’t have the same appeal. These villainesses were pretty miffed to have lost their floppy disk and I can’t say I blame them. Sad times, indeed.
Though it’s not explained in the first episode, Jiban is a man named Naoto Tamura whom, after being killed in the line of duty, is brought back to life as a cyborg. While he spends most of the episode in his robot form, he is able to transform into his human form to and does so at the end of the episode. I don’t quite understand if he’s a dude in a suit or whether his human form is just an illusion but, if he is a dude in a suit, he sure moves robotically. I guess the goal was to emulate the movements of Robocop as well as plagiarise its story. Robocop was super popular at the time so I suppose you can’t blame Toei for wanting a piece of that pie.
Some things are thrown in just to make Jiban seem more robot-y… like, I’m not sure hiding away his badge / warrant card in a hidden waist compartment, behind a red button, is completely necessary. Not to mention it takes him several second to lift his arm but he has a super-speed mode in which he can cross a room in less time. Just seems like they might have been trying too hard…
The villains are a touch generic. The Criminal Syndicate Bioron, led by Dr. Giba, are your run of the mill, take over the Earth kinda bad guys. The first episode did little to explain their motivations for that but did establish that their modus operandi is bio-weaponry, which I don’t remember seeing a whole lot in other toku genre shows. The suits are fairly nifty and slightly ahead of their time in comparison to other shows of the late eighties. It probably would have made a great Saban adaption of it want going to get their pants sued off by Orion Pictures.
Overall, if you can get over the fact that this show is basically the Adventures of Robocop in Tokuland then I’d say it’s worth a watch. I’m not sure you’re going to get too much in the way of character development but making that assessment based on the first episode alone may be grossly unfair. I’ll watch it all one day and let you know.
You can watch Mobile Cop Jiban as well as the other Metal Hero Series, and so much more, on Toei Tokusatsu World’s official YouTube channel.