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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Daitetsujin 17

Daitetsujin 17 (大鉄人17) is what you get when Shotaro Ishinomori decides to make his own version of Giant Robo and it is fantastic. The 1977 series ran for a total of 35 episodes and even made its way over to the US, albeit in a rather unique fashion. Several of its episodes were edited into a movie, which was then released under a number of different titles – including “Brain 17” and “The Defenders and the Giant Brain”. The titular robot has also had numerous toys over the years, many of which I’ve been heartbroken to discover are inordinately expensive now. If you haven’t already realised, I REALLY liked this show.

The show opens at the International Peace Corps Research facility, which houses Brain – a giant supercomputer designed to help protect the Earth from disaster. However all of a sudden Brain goes haywire and starts firing at its guards, causing mass destruction as it up and leaves the facility. Already the show feels like a massive flex when it comes to visual effects. Brain is this elaborate construction of gears and globes, lit up like a neon-coloured monstrosity. Its escape comes at the total destruction of the Research Facility, already setting a high bar for miniatures and pyrotechnics. And this is only the first three minutes.

Both Brain and the renowned scientist Professor Hastler have gone missing, and its up to the International Peace Corps (also known as the Red Scarves, because Ishinomori loves a red scarf) to find them. A year later and they still haven’t had any luck, but on a routine patrol they meet Saburo and his family. His sister is off to get married, but the family’s truck has gotten stuck. The Red Scarves help out and everything seems normal.

But on their journey of course leads to disaster, when a landslide throws their truck off a cliff – killing the family instantly. Saburo is left as the only survivor, noticing a robotic cylinder at the top of the cliff before passing out. When he wakes up at a Red Scarves camp Saburo immediately runs off, making his way back to the cliff. On the way he falls into a cave, where he finds both Brain and its Nazi-esque bodyguards.

While making his escape he inadvertently activates a giant robot also being stored into the cave, which comes to life and brings Saburo to the surface. Saburo thinks he’s about to die, but the robot just offers him a strange helmet. This is another instance of the show excelling at visual effects, not just from the robot itself (complete with transformation sequence and vibrant disco light eyes) but also the camera trickery used to illustrate the sheer size of the machine.

After leaving the robot he’s found by the Red Scarves, and the group begin to theorise that maybe Brain has chosen to turn evil of its own volition. They don’t have much time to think about it though as a giant steamroller robot begins destroying the city, in an EXTREMELY impressive display of miniature destruction.

The military’s efforts seem futile, but then the giant robot appears to save the day! As it celebrates victory and turns to our heroes, is the robot friend or foe? The episode ends on this fantastic cliffhanger, and immediately I wanted to click over to episode two rather than writing down my thoughts.

Daitetsujin 17 has it all. It has action, tragedy, strong protagonists and the kind of unbridled action we all love to see in tokusatsu. If you’ve ever watched a Super Sentai series and wanted a little more focus on the mecha action rather than the costumed heroes, this is the series for you. There may be a wealth of anime out there to get your mecha fix from, but it’s not quite the same as seeing the style and craftsmanship of it all in live-action. Usually I save the majority of my miniatures praise for Tsuburaya Productions, but Toei seriously brought their A game on this.

Daitetsujin 17 is the last series I’ll be writing a review of for this project, and rather unexpectedly it turned out to be far and away my favourite. I loved every second of this episode and definitely want to see more. If the Giant Robo tokusatsu can get a fully subbed DVD release, then I can’t see any reason why this can’t as well.

You can now find Daitetsujin 17 as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Magical Girl Chukana Ipanema!

If there’s one thing to take away from the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, it’s that Shotaro Ishinomori was rocking the whole magical girl thing long before Sailor Moon became the cultural icon she is today. Among these is Magical Girl Chukana Ipanema! (魔法少女ちゅうかないぱねま!), the tenth entry in the series and direct sequel to Magical Girl Chukana PaiPai. Since both shows ran in 1989 for roughly six months, you could consider it the second season of a year-long piece on the Chuka Magic Realm.

Ipanema opens with our titular magical girl arriving on a deserted beach, proceeding to ask a number of sea creatures if they’ve seen her missing parents. Rather surprisingly a pair of them answer, revealing themselves to be Tigris and his son Euphrates – two other denizens of the Chuka Magic Realm. Neither character offer Ipanema much help, and neither show up in the episode again but it’s good to know they’re around I guess?

The action then switches to Takayama family, who aren’t properly introduced at any point in the episode but are immediately identifiable as the family Paipai lived with. This confirms Ipanema as a direct sequel, but the lack of introductions doesn’t really help anyone who’s jumping in with this series first. Turns out their battle-axe aunt Sangenjaya is making a comeback, so they’re in the market for another surrogate mother-figure.

This eventually leads to the kids crossing paths with Ipanema, who immediately spots the pendant Paipai left with them – a symbol of graduating Chuka Witch Academy. This causes a traumatic flashback where Ipanema was refused graduation because her parents are poor. Bit harsh really.

To cut a long story short Ipanema asks to live with the Takayamas just as Pai-Pai did, and all-male family being so desperate for someone to do their chores they quickly accept. Sangejaya however puts Ipanema through a number of impossible housewife duties to prove her worth, all of which she makes spectacularly worse by trying to use magic. Maybe she didn’t graduate for a reason other than being poor then?

Ipanema runs away and turns on the waterworks, so the youngest son tries to cheer her up with Paipai’s pendant. Doing so transforms her into Magical Girl Chukana Ipanema, and she makes puts her new powers to the test by turning the annoying old aunt into a walking gate.

After giving the pendant back Ipanema tells the kid that her identity as a magical girl must be kept a secret, to which he not only agrees but even pinky swears. So what’s the first thing he does? Tell his brothers of course! Until then it felt like the series had just been going through the motions, but that joke got a huge laugh out of me. The perfect note to end the episode on as well.

The lack of proper introductions make it really hard to recommend this series without having seen PaiPai first, but the general plot was easy enough to follow otherwise. For a comedy series a lot of it seemed to be surprisingly dramatic – Ipanema’s parents are missing and she cries an awful lot over the course of the episode, and not of it is ever played for laughs. These hints of a bigger story have me interested, but I am wary about just how reliant it’ll be on its predecessor.

You can now find Magical Girl Chukana Ipanema! as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Utau! Dairyugujo

Utau! Dairyugujo (うたう!大龍宮城 Sing! Great Ryugujo) is the 13th entry in the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, running for a total of 51 episodes in 1992. However, even among the rather unique selection of tokusatsu that make up the Fushigi Comedy Series this series is particularly unique, being a musical extravaganza loosely based on the fairytale of Urashima Taro. In this story, the titular hero was a fisherman who helped rescue a turtle and was rewarded by travelling to the Dragon Palace (Ryugujo) beneath the sea. There he spent what he thought was several days in the company of the princess Otohime, but when he returns home he discovers he was actually away for 100 years. Worse still, When he opens the forbidden jewelled box given to him by Otohime on his departure, he transforms into an old man.

However in this version of the story, Taro is a schoolboy who saves a taxi driver from a rather irksome television reporter. When the taxi helps Taro make his getaway, he discovers the driver’s name is Hiki Kameyama (Turtle Mountain) and jokes that now he should take him to Ryugujo like the old story. Of course, Taro didn’t expect to be quite so on the nose with this.

Arriving in Ryugujo he meets the princess Otohime, who proves her legitimacy by temporarily transforming Taro into an old man using the flute of the forbidden jewelled box. She explains that Ryugujo used to be a happy place full of fun and musical numbers, but pollution from mankind has thrown the kingdom into chaos. She begs Taro for help, and he agrees to think about – suddenly arriving back in the real world.

Meanwhile his parents are getting ready to jet off on a business trip to Fiji for a whole year like all Japanese parents tend to in these stories, but they can’t leave because they have Taro. Taro wants to get out of studying, and Otohime is looking for a new place to live so it looks as though everything is falling into place. Nice to know his parents are happy to leave him with a complete stranger.

After a brief musical number Taro discovers his plan wasn’t quite so flawless, as Otohime is actually really interested in studying since she isn’t allowed to do it back home. Not that she’s going to have much chance here either though, because her parents King Whale and Queen Coral have also decided to come and live here! They also partake in a rather jaunty musical number, and then everyone has a dance to Otohime’s magic music.

At the same time, the reporter from earlier has tracked the taxi driver down to Taro’s house, and witnesses the Otohime’s magic powers. So she kindly responds by turning him into a baby, and then dumping him far away until the magic wears off. And so the story and obvious shenanigans begin!

Utau! Dairyugujo certainly isn’t your conventional tokusatsu (when it comes to Western expectations of the word anyway) so will likely be overlooked by many, but if you’re into musicals and Japanese folklore adaptations this first episode suggests it should be a pretty good time. Otohime’s slow musical number does break the flow of the episode a little, but it’s a beautiful piece of music so can be forgiven. The characters are all extremely likeable and the show has a great sense of humour and uses the original Urashima Taro cleverly, so definitely feels like a winner in my book.

If you’re looking for something a little different from the norm (not that there isn’t plenty of that available on the Toei Tokusatsu World Official channel), then I highly suggest giving Utau! Dairyugujo a go!

You can now find Utau! Dairyugujo as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Combattler V

Chōdenji Robo Combattler V (超電磁ロボ コン·バトラーV) is the first instalment in Toei’s Robot Romance Trilogy, first airing all the way back in 1976. The series also made a name for itself in America, where the robot was a big part of Mattel’s Shogun Warriors toy line and released under the name “Combattra”. Shogun Warriors even had its own comic book mini-series, with the Combattler issues featuring a guest appearance from the Fantastic Four. That’s right, Combattler V has crossed over with Marvel’s first family. That’s pretty damn impressive even before you get into the first episode.

Millions of years ago, aliens arrived on Earth long before the evolution of humans and buried themselves deep underground – waiting for the opportunity to take the planet for themselves once more. Now these ancient aliens, led by the ruthless Garuda, are ready to attack with their army of giant Slavebeasts. Thankfully, the genius Doctor Nanbara anticipated this attack, building the giant super robot Combattler V and bringing together five candidates to pilot its various components. Though they don’t all get along just yet, Combattler V is able to save the day and show Garuda that the Earth is defended.

Though the specifics might be a little different, this is pretty much the same basic plot line you’ll find across all the super robot shows from the 70s and 80s. But if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and it’s those specifics that make Combattler V stand out from the crowd. The introduction to our motley crew of heroes is insanely fun. The situation is so desperate that each of them have been given a special pass that not only means every government department has to follow their orders, but they’re allowed to break any laws if it means getting to Nanbara’s lab.

So what do they do? We see hot-headed Hyouma trash some police cars in a dramatic motorcycle chase, sharp-shooter Juuzou take a loaded gun on a bullet train, wannabe artist Daisaku demand a lift to the lab in a fire engine and child genius Kosuke ignore all airport luggage laws. These guys may all be heroes deep down, but I respect the way they’re being complete asses about it. Rounding off the team is the doctor’s granddaughter Chizuru, who the whole team immediately seem to fall in love with because of course they do.

The sequence in which the pilots take to their vehicles was ripped straight out of Thunderbirds, and as a huge fan of Gerry Anderson’s works I’m always pleased to see just how his work influenced the worlds of anime and tokusatsu. The Combattler V components have all been carefully designed to match their pilots, with each of them getting to show off in the fight before coming together for the big combination. Another fun element of all these super robot shows is seeing how they explain away the pilots all being near-perfect at controlling it – this time their helmets download the controls into their brains. Simple, but certainly effective.

Finally we have the Campbellians – our rather strange bunch of alien villains. Garuda’s motivation to conquer Earth is so that he can finally address his mother as “mother” – and said mother also happens to be a giant statue. He starts out as a beautiful green skinned man, but quickly turns into a fierce bird man for no real reason. Also it looks like none of his subordinates have any legs. The deep underground is clearly a strange, strange place.

If you’re a fan of classic super robot shows, then Combattler V is a must-watch. While it doesn’t exactly break the mould, it gets all of those popular tropes right to create the perfect package.

You can now find Combattler V as well as many other anime shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Robot 110-Ban

Robot 110-Ban (ロボット110番) is another of Shotaro Ishinomori’s mascot-robot shows, which given the sheer amount of them on this Youtube channel alone just goes to show how much he and the Japanese public seemed to love them. This one ran for a total of 37 episodes in 1977, and featured the legendary Masako Nozawa (Dragon Ball’s Goku, Gohan and Goten) as the voice of the lead robot Gan-chan. The show is named 110-Ban after the emergency service number Japan had at the time.

Meet the Robot 110-Ban, a group of robots created by the aptly named Dr Robot (portrayed by Ishinomori himself, albeit just as a photograph) to help serve humans in any way they’ve can. To do so they’ve set up their own business, and are hoping to raise funds to build a proper robot research centre that’ll make their creator proud. The team consists of the big orange “tin can” Gan-chan, clockwork robot Kei-kun, the stern Mr. Chief and the sole female robot of the group Pearl. As is typical for these shows, Pearl is portrayed by an actress in a sci-fi costume rather than a giant foam suit.

The 110-Ban don’t get off to a great start by building their HQ on someone else’s land, which leads to Gan-chan having an angry tussle with a group of construction workers. It’s nice to see Gan-chan channeling some of the original Robocon’s sass, as he’s having none of these annoying humans’ nonsense. Eventually the police and other robots turn up to smooth over the situation, and the 110-Ban find a new home renting out a family’s garden.

While the children might be enjoying having a group of robots hanging out in their garden, their mother isn’t as enthralled by the prospect. Especially when Gan-chan starts messing things up – first damaging clothes whilst ironing and then accidentally releasing the family’s precious pet bird. While Gan-chan is tasked with tracking down the bird, Kei-kun joins the police in hunting down some wanted jewel thieves.

Unfortunately, the jewel thieves decide to hit the family home while the robots are out, tying them up and holding them at gunpoint. It’s only when Gan-chan crashes through the ceiling looking for the bird (which has found its own way home) that the day is saved, and Gan-chan is pretty pleased at the reward money he’s earned from the capture; That is until Mr. Chief reminds him of the numerous bits of property damage he caused looking for the bird, and that in reality he’s actually 67,000 yen in debt. If that wasn’t enough to put the poor robot down, Chief also gives him a huge punch for good measure.

Robot 110-Ban is a fun show with plenty of laughs, but the trouble is its way too similar to Robocon – which is arguably the superior show. Gan-chan may look a little different but he’s exactly the same brand of chaotic good, and sports exactly the same mannerisms and gimmicks. His enthusiasm is just as loveable though, and I enjoyed him tapping into his “tin can spirit” to complete his mission.

While there are definitely better shows on the Toei Tokusatsu World Official channel that fill this obviously popular niche, Robot 110-Ban is still a good time and it’s equally wonderful to see all these strange shows that most fansubbers probably wouldn’t even touch. The big question is, when are we going to get our Super Hero Taisen style film for all these robots?

You can now find Robot 110-Ban as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Nemulin

If you’ve been following these reviews as they’ve been published, then you’ll know that the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series have been a particularly divisive topic among the Toku Toy Store writing crew. Some have been ridiculously fun, while others have left us scratching out heads. Nemulin (どきんちょ!ネムリン Dokincho! Nemurin) is whole different experience though. The fourth entry in the series, the series ran for a total of 31 episodes between 1984 and 1985.

The series opens fourth-grader Mako Oiwa (played by a young Sayuri Uchida, who would later go on to portray Ako Hayasaka/Blue Swallow in Chojin Sentai Jetman) lamenting the fact her boyfriend Akira broke up with her. When she tries to burn of photo of them together the photo suddenly flies off, leading her to a mysterious dimension. All of a sudden what can best be described as a furry pink baby with moth wings for ears flies towards her, and she wakes up at home with two strange dolls and no photographs.

After being introduced to Mako’s family and seeing her get a little moody seeing couples at school, Mako comes to find that creepy baby at home casually drinking some milk. After frantically flying around the room the creature identifies itself as Nemulin, berating Mako for stealing “Vivian and Monroe” and waking her up from an 800 million year sleep.

The two argue for a bit, and then Nemulin uses her magic conch horn to awaken Vivian and Monroe – the two strange dolls Mako woke up with. At this point I was already pretty weirded out by this point I was downright horrified. The giant rock monster Monroe wasn’t so bad, but Vivan – a weird mouse/bat-creature in a glittery gold jumpsuit, was something out of my nightmares. Especially when it starts crawling up the walls and ceiling like the baby in Trainspotting.

Nemulin’s unholy hell spawns are hungry so start causing a ruckus at home, which freaks out Mako’s older brother Tamasaburo (I don’t blame him either). He runs out to get his mum, but she just blames him for the mess while the unwelcome trio hide on a shelf. After some good old fashioned child beating Tamasaburo leaves the house furious, and in his anger starts attacking both his friend and a couple of kids just holding hands. The Oiwas aren’t the most balanced of families.

Mako runs out to find her brother and calls on Nemulin to help save the day, who uses her magic again to wrap him up in a hose and spray him with water. After that she tells Mako to treasure her memories with her ex, turning her lost photos into a nifty little box. The family all arrive home, and find out they have a new lodger in the form of this furry pink monstrosity. And that readers, is the first episode of the strange little series we call Nemulin.

Unlike some of the other Fushigi Comedy Series I’ve watched none of the jokes really landed for me, though that might be because I was just so distracted by Nemulin and her compatriots. Nemulin looks like something that jumped out of an unsettling doll collection, and the less said about Vivian the better. I did quite like how Nemulin wasn’t on some sort of great mission and made just as much trouble as she helped, but that puppet is going to haunt my dreams for a good while.

I’ve never partaken in hallucinogenic drugs, but I imagine the experience to be something akin to watching Nemulin. If the weird pink baby moth isn’t enough to creep you out, then the downright terrifying bat man should do the trick. Having seen far better shows on the channel it’s hard for me to recommend Nemulin, but if you do want to give it a shot then I suggest avoiding the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’ll only make it all the weirder.

You can now find Nemulin as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Henshin Ninja Arashi

Henshin Ninja Arashi (変身忍者 嵐) is another series that occupies a particularly interesting place in the greater tokusphere. Created of course by Shotaro Ishinomori, the series ran for a total of 43 episodes between 1972 and 73. However fast-forward to 2003 and the early planning stages of Kamen Rider Hibiki, and there were originally talks for a Henshin Ninja Arashi remake rather than continuing on the Kamen Rider branding. Just how much of Hibiki was originally intended to be a different series entirely has gotten conflated over the years, but the very least we know that Arashi was a series in the running at the time. So what’s so great about the original that it deserved a shot at a comeback?

Taking place during Japan’s Edo period, the Blood Wheel Clan are a shadowy group of ninjas that plan to destroy the country’s peace and prosperity. During an attack their general Gaitokusmaru unveils the Poison Moray Eel – a monster ninja able to reduce people to mulch with its poison gas attack. Wishing to fight back against the evil clan, Hayata persuades his father Kiju to help transform him master the secret art of becoming a Henshin Ninja – a mix of human and animal. In the past Kiju had helped the Blood Wheel Clan create their own Henshin Ninjas, but became disillusioned when they revealed their evil intentions.

Fired up with a heart of justice, Hayate undergoes the painful ritual of having his whole cell structure altered – becoming the bird-like ninja Arashi. The Arashi suit is just incredible – the designer went all in on the bird-motif, giving the ninja a feathery body as well as clawed hands and feet. The helmet is also extremely elaborate with its bird-faced crest and feathery plume. There are some really great superhero suits from around this period but Arashi is easily one of the best, which makes it all the bigger shame that this series doesn’t have that wider recognition outside of its home country.

The remainder of the episode sees the Blood Wheel Clan show their hand but swiftly taking out any ninjas that stand against them – until Arashi shows up that is. The Henshin Ninja is the only one able to put up a defence against Poison Moray Eel, and the clan immediately identify him as Kiju’s handiwork. The punishment for this betrayal is so severe that even the clan’s great leader Devil Sai shows up to sentence him, and though Arashi is able to save the day he isn’t able to save his father from death. With Devil Sai having reclaimed the Henshin Ninja scroll, Hayata begins his new mission to reclaim the scroll and put an end to the Blood Wheel Clan once and for all.

Despite having an all-too familiar plot, what really makes Henshin Ninja Arashi stand out are its visuals. Taking place in the past naturally means its all done with a very traditional look, and there’s a wide variety of rural locations used for the fight sequences. Shots such as Arashi riding off into the future against the backdrop of Mount Fuji are particularly powerful. It just goes to show that when a core story is that good, you can rework all the elements around it and it’ll still be just as effective.

One thing that is worth mentioning about this episode though is that the subs aren’t great. They’re perfectly legible, but whoever was in charge of inputting them clearly had some sort of html disaster as it’s littered with line break code. By no means a deal breaker, but pretty unfortunate for an official outlet.

Henshin Ninja Arashi is very much just “Kamen Rider with ninjas and horses”, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. Between the fantastic suit design, Edo period aesthetics and the sheer sense of scale it has with the visuals this looks to be a rather special series indeed. While it’s clear that Kamen Rider Hibiki went on to become something different you can certainly see the inspiration it took from this, and it’s a bit of a shame it never came back in full force. I think I’d have even just settled for a crossover somewhere.

You can now find Henshin Ninja Arashi as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Go! Robottie (aka Moero!! Robocon)

Proof that you can’t keep a good robot down for too long, Shotaro Ishinomori’s Robocon returned to Japanese television screens in 1999 in a brand new reboot. Moero!! Robocon (燃えろ!!ロボコン) occupies a particularly interesting place in the tokusatsu timeline, bridging the gap between the end of Robotack (the last of the Metal Heroes series) and the beginning of Kamen Rider Kuuga. The updated Robocon even got to meet his past self in a special direct to video crossover movie. Much like its predecessor, Toei have added it to their channel under the alternate title of Go! Robottie (aka Robocon) presumably used for international press.

The premiere of this reboot roughly follows the same beats as the original Robocon, but does change the scenario a fair bit as well. Here Robocon has assigned via a televised lottery to the Kurihara family, where the robot is to learn all about befriending and serving humans. Professor Gantz’s score system has also been streamlined somewhat – every time a robot receives 100 points from their creator they’ll earn a heart, and if Robocon can earn ten hearts in a year he’ll graduate robot school!

Unfortunately, this version of Robocon turns out to be just as hapless as the original. First he crashes through the roof of the Kurihara household to make his grand entrance, and then he tries to persuade the whole family to take a bath because “the best way of getting along with humans is by getting naked together”. Of course by Japanese customs and sensibilities he’s not exactly wrong, but the family are still a little overwhelmed by how insistent this strange robot they’ve only just met is being. Robocon’s still deathly afraid of cockroaches too, so one showing up in the bathroom causes all kind of destructive shenanigans.

The Kurihara family aren’t putting up with any of this nonsense, so they quickly make their escape in the family car. Poor Robocon gives chase, meeting a number of Gantz’s other creations along the way. Eventually the Kuriharas loose control of their car and it’s up to Robocon to save the day. The family can’t understand why he’d help them considering all they did was run away from him, but Robocon tells them it isn’t about the grades – all he’s ever wanted was human friends. Well I hope the Kuriharas feel terrible.

The episode ends with Robocon being welcomed into the family, but failing to gain any points because of all the needless destruction he caused along the way. This only makes him more determined than ever, but of cause his clumsiness will always have hilarious consequences!

It’s nice that despite the 20 year age difference Toei didn’t play with the designs too much for this reboot, with both Robocon and Professor Gantz still very recognisably the same characters they were back in 1977. All they’ve really done is sharpened their looks, as well as updating Robocon’s interior and gadgets. His chest has also been slightly reshaped to make the car bonnet motif far more pronounced. This version of Robocon sadly isn’t anywhere near as sassy as his 70s counterpart though, which is a little disappointing but definitely sells him harder as this wholesome mascot character.

Moero!! Robocon isn’t quite as fun as the original, but it’s still a very heartwarming and wholesome tokusatsu show that provides plenty of laughs. The opportunity to compare and contrast the two versions is very interesting though, and with yet another reboot (this time as a movie) set to drop later this year I’m curious to see how the story will be mixed up yet again. If you decide to check out one of these weirdly endearing robot shows on the Toei channel, make it a Robocon one.

You can now find Go! Robottie (aka Moero!! Robocon) as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Dear Robottie! (aka Ganbare!! Robocon)

Ganbare!! Robocon (がんばれ!!ロボコン) is a 1974 comedy series by Shotaro Ishinomori and by all accounts must have been pretty popular, given that it ran for a whopping 118 episodes and was rebooted in 1999 as Moero!! Robocon. Both of these series have been released on the Toei Tokusatsu World channel, but just to make things extra confusing neither shows use those titles on there. Instead the 1974 version goes by the name Dear Robottie! (Robocon), which appears to be an old title Toei used for international marketing. 

Meet Robocon, a hapless robot who was built by the robot teacher Professor Gantz with the sole purpose of becoming an A grade robot. To do so he needs to earn heart marks by doing what any good robot should be doing – serving humans. Only problem is that Robocon is pretty dreadful at it, not only scaring the very people he’s supposed to be helping but also ripping the doors off their houses when they refuse him. He’s a wonderful disaster akin to British treasure Mr Blobby and I love him all the more for it. Better still is that deep down he knows that as a robot he’s better than humans and if anything they should be serving him, but he goes along with it anyway.

Eventually Robocon finds a family prepared to take him in and naturally hi-jinx ensue. After smashing all the dishes because he saw a cockroach (which he’s deathly afraid of) the Oyama family try to kick him out, but their kids are able to turn their parents around when they point out that he can be used as free electricity. Such subjugation makes Robocon hungry, so young Makoto Oyama helps him guzzle down on father’s gasoline before the pair fall asleep outside.

The next day Makoto falls ill and Robocon runs away believing it to all be his fault. He gets a dressing down from his creator, who not only tells him that Makato has run away trying to find him but also that the robot with a hammer for a face fits into society better than he does. The world is not kind to poor old Robocon.

Robocon goes off to find Makoto and hi-jinx ensue once again, with the robot eventually saving Makoto from being stranded in a river despite not being able to swim. The Oyama family welcome Robocon back with open arms, and everything seems like it’s going to be okay.

Except it really isn’t, because Professor Gantz doesn’t even give Robocon any points or heart marks for his efforts! Apparently all the business with ripping doors off brought down the whole rescue thing. Despite a little tantrum, Gantz assures Robocon that he has the qualities to become a great A grade robot one day.

I’m not sure if Robocon was one of the first “mascot robot lives among human” shows that seem to be a dime a dozen on the Toei channel but it certainly feels like future ones took inspiration from it. Robocon himself is an extremely simple design but it’s very recognisable and kid-friendly, which are the two thresholds you should be hitting for a successful family show like this. All the detailing inside his car bonnet-like chest is really cool as well. His colourful robot compatriots only appear briefly but appear to be a mix of trippy to downright horrific – as well as the aforementioned hammer face there’s also some sort of purse monster and a creepy octopus clown. And a girl robot who just appears to be a normal Japanese girl, because of course there is.

Ganbare!! Robocon (Dear Robottie! is a stupid name) is somewhere between a heartwarming comedy of errors and a supervillain origin story in the making. Well maybe not quite the latter, but the fact that Robocon is a bit of a dick (not to mention people being a dick to him as well) and completely inept at his purpose made the episode a whole lot of fun. I don’t know if it would hold my attention for a whole 118 episodes, but I’d certainly like to check out more and see how the 90s reboot compares.

You can now find Dear Robottie! (aka Ganbare!! Robocon) as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Batten Robomaru

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.