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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Kikaider

Android Kikaider (人造人間キカイダー), or simply Kikaider, is the 1972 series that was created by Ishinomori and is one of the quintessentially iconic tokusatsu shows, being one of the first to air in the West.

It sees the android Jiro fight for justice, and revenge for his creator, against the despicable DARK and their Dark Destruction Corps. It’s basically another Kamen Rider except this one looks really, really daft.

kikaider rhino

I know I’m supposed to give the show the benefit of the doubt because of it’s age but I’ve put up with a lot of Ishinomori’s nonsense over the course of these past two months and having to watch his best idea but worse isn’t exactly endearing to me.

kikaider entrance

I will say that Jiro, played by Daisuke “Battle Cossack” Ban, looks good in the role and I now have more of an appreciation for Rento Makina, the Rider homage to Kikaider in Kamen Rider Zi-O. They nailed that 70s denim and flairs aesthetic that looks really cool for some reason. I can’t really speak to the other cast members because they’re not given a lot of lines to work with.

The fight choreography is really stilted and that’s a massive drawback for me. I’ll forgive a lot of nonsense for cool action but Kikaider’s got nothing in a fight except a lacklustre chop. You’re a machine man, throw a punch! I did like the rhino monster and the stylised tease of the monsters we can expect as the show goes on but I wonder if Kikaider suffered from monster recycling like more modern toku does?

kikaider end

Kikaider is an iconic tokusatsu that you will no doubt recognise from look alone so while you’ve got access to a subbed version, I recommend checking it out so you can say you’ve watched it at least. You might as well, eh? Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Kikaider 01, which was due to be reviewed by me but since it has no English subs (not even auto-generated), I skipped it in favour of this show.

You can now find Kikaider, 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: Yojutsu Bugeicho

Yojutsu Bugeicho, or… Something, I can’t find anything about this nuts-o chambara show online other than it’s soundtrack so your guess is as good as mine when it comes to release and the history of the show. Shout-out to one great commenter on the video though for giving me the name of the leading man! Arigato, Daniel de Souza Celestino!

yojutsu bugeicho titleYojutsu Bugeicho is a 1969 samurai tokusatsu that puts me in mind of the Journey to the West homage Monkey (aka Monkey Magic) from 1979. It looks pretty cheap but the narrative style, gory effects, and colourful aesthetic really make this show pop, especially for it’s time. It follows a samurai who combats an evil Brahman sorcerer named Bisho Dojin alongside a chaotic neutral monk and a wise shogun lord.

yojutsu bugeicho kidoKido Makoto-no-suke, the aforementioned samurai, is played by none other than Isao Sasaki! Yes, the man who sung the opening themes to Goranger, JAKQ, Daimos, and dozens of others as well as dubbing Sylvester Stallone and Christopher Reeves is their most seminal movies! He barely talks in this but he’s got a real screen presence and big Elvis Presley energy. That hair is something to behold.

The Brahman forces are an odd bunch, employing all manner of weird magics and coming across as almost Naruto-esque in their utter reluctance to just be cut in half by a sharp blade. Right bunch of weirdos and I can only assume they get weirder as the show goes on.

There’s maybe 5 minutes of plot, which is to thwart Bisho Dojin’s plan to steal a princess, and the rest is mostly Kido and Kakuzen, the DiEnd-like monk, fighting a bunch of his men in a weird supernatural plain. There’s good banter between the two and I can see their friendly rivalry being a fun component of the show.

yojutsu bugeicho strangeYojutsu Bugeicho is a no frills supernatural samurai show that doesn’t demand too much brainpower but rewards the viewer with interesting visuals and some genuinely cool fights so I recommend checking it out!

You can now find Yojutsu Bugeicho, 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: Guy Slugger

Glacier Warrior Gaislugger (氷河戦士ガイスラッガー), or simply Guy Slugger, is a 1977 Toei animation that feels like a parody of Japanese anime of the 70’s. The characters looks like something out of Cyborg 009, they’re a sentai-esque team, there’s a child and animal mascot duo, and the aliens are green and spiky. It’s proper generic anime and is charming despite that.

Due to a hibernation experiment gone wrong, five Solon cybernoids find themselves awakening 30,000 years in the future on modern day Earth, just in time for their Inbem enemy to return to invade! It’s dead simple plot-wise but it’s not boring and feels like the time passes quick with it.

Each of the characters are fairly stock. Red Hero, Arsey Blue Hero, Girl, Child & Mascot Duo, Robot, and Human Scientist With Beard, all the old tropes you’re familiar with but with some quirks like Kaya’s face being looking the way it does and Ken having the name “Ken” and 70s anime hero hair.

The alien Inbem look like the villains from Gatchaman and pilot saucers and blimps because why not? I’m sure they’re you’re standard warrior race bent on conquering Earth because there’s not a lot to indicate otherwise.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this because it’s so utterly generic that you’ve probably seen half a dozen shows similar (hell, I think Voltron stole the Solon crest thingy) but I do recommend giving it a shot if you want to see an old animated show from the 70’s that isn’t bad at all.

You can now find Guy Slugger, 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: Masked Rider Shin

Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue (真・仮面ライダー 序章 (プロローグ), also known as Masked Rider Shin, is a 1992 V-Cinema that came about in the period between what we now know as the Showa and Heisei eras. Technically part of the former, the V-Cinemas of Shin, ZO, and J are all stand-alone and really stand apart from both eras with their combined aesthetic.

masked rider shin henshin

As the 20th anniversary of the Kamen Rider franchise, Shin shares a lot of thematic elements with it’s progenitor, the original Kamen Rider series. A shadowy organisation, heavy influences of the military-industrial complex, cyborgs, grasshoppers, it’s got it all! Not only that but the version available on the Toei Tokusatsu World account is the uncut version so there’s a heaping helping of haemoglobin and some cheeky T&A so it’s got all the makings of an early 90’s B-movie monster action movie.

masked rider shin win against god

It’s a shame that it’s boring as sin. It’s plodding, it’s more padded than the Shin suit, and the characters are the blandest, one-note character archetypes they might as well be 2D. If you’ve seen any kind of Kamen Rider series, you know what this movie is about and if you’ve ever seen 1991’s The Guyver then you’ve seen a better movie than this and should really watch it again.

masked rider shin dream

Shin Kazamatsuri is a human test subject for his father’s cancer/AIDS research and, thanks to the manipulation of the higher-ups, is secretly fitted with a bunch of bio-engineered cybernetic nonsense to turn him into a really dumb-looking karate bugman. The transformation scenes takes obvious cues from American Werewolf in London and the main antagonist is basically a Tyrant from Resident Evil with a swiss army knife for an arm.

masked rider shin baby

There’s also this roach fetus because… Why not? That’s some horrifying Cronenbergian nonsense.

masked rider shin good shot

Technically, the film is serviceable and the effects are on-par with what you’d expect of tokusatsu of the time but it’s biggest deficit is the plot and if you’re looking for something similar, I’d say you’d have more fun watching Kamen Rider Amazons because they’re pretty similar but the latter has a better plot overall.

masked rider shin ishinomori

Oh, there’s also an Ishinomori cameo, which I found delightful.

Fellow Toei World reviewer, Alex, said that watching Shin is “an experience” and I’m certainly of that mindset right now. I definitely “experienced” this movie but I don’t think it’ll be a lasting one.

You can now find Masked Rider Shin, 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: Guruguru Medaman

Guruguru Medaman (ぐるぐるメダマン) is a 1976-1977 Toei production that ran for 30 episodes and is definitely a show in the same vein as Robot 8-chan and Robomaru, which is Big Mascot Energy. I’d also go out on a limb and say this could be a precursor to the infamous Toei Fushigi Comedy series, pre-dating Robot 8-chan by five years!

medaman whyThe story follows Mami, a right little brat who stole a haunted amulet out of her parents’ belongings and then goes on to terrorise the dead. Seriously, Mami almost gets Medaman killed (again) because she’s more concerned with getting the ghosts to do her bidding. Proper little sociopath, this girl.

Medaman is the well-meaning but inept leader of a group of ghosts that each subscribe to a common yokai/monster archetype including a kappa and a mummy but, most importantly, they’re 100% comedy schtick.

medaman saveThe haunted amulet was payment to Mami’s painter ancestor and holds the souls of 108 ghost souls and one odd old man who forces Medaman to do good for Mami, despite her being a right brat and refusing to give back the SOULS OF THE DEAD because she likes this ugly-ass necklace. In terms of an inciting incident and a driving plot going forward, it’s not the worst but it doesn’t exactly endear Mami to the audience but maybe that’s to get you on Medaman’s side as a bumbling ghost under the thumb of an evil child.

medaman whatI did get a couple chuckles out of this show, mostly due to Mami’s father and his reactions to Medaman and the other ghosts. Solid slapstick shenanigans. I can recommend this if you want something a little goofy and low-stakes, you can’t go wrong with this show.

You can now find Guruguru Medaman, 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: Laserion

Video Warrior Laserion (ビデオ戦士レザリオン), or simply Laserion, is a 1984-1985 anime series from Toei that tells the story of a young boy’s video game robot come to life and only he can save the Earth from the evil Jack Empire! It’s a pretty standard wish-fulfilment story that borrows heavily from other mecha anime of the time.

laserion robotThe visuals are bold, there’s some very interesting animated sequences, plus plenty of others that get reused a lot along with some other real cheap shortcuts. There’s a literal visual novel slide across screen and I had to pause the video while I got all the laughs out because it came out of nowhere. The animation is as good as you can expect for this period of time and, naturally, it shares the Gundam/hot-blooded mecha pilot stylings of the time.

That said, I’m going to tell you all not to watch this show on the Toei Tokusatsu World YouTube channel because there are no English subtitles. I had to watch the first episode with auto-generated English subs and, while hilarious, it’s nigh-unwatchable and certainly not conducive to a review of a service that is supposed to allow English speakers to watch these shows.

laserion nonsenseSo yeah, Toei dropped the ball on this one and the end result is utter nonsense but there’s plenty of other mecha anime on the service, some of which I’ve reviewed here so why not check those out!

You can now find Laserion, 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: Gambare! Red Vickies

Ganbare! Red Vickies (がんばれ!レッドビッキーズ), or misspelled as Gambare! Red Vickies on the Toei Tokusatsu World YouTube channel, is a youth baseball show that doesn’t have explosions, rubber monsters, or any kind of panache or flair. In short, this was boring!

red vickies girl

Have you ever seen a sports movie? Literally any of them? Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, Rookie of the Year, Bad News Bears, Angels in the Outfield, A League of Their Own, Little Giants, et al? Then you know what Red Vickies is and oh boy is this an arduous watch, let alone write about.

red vickies coach

This 1978 series stars Hiroko Hayashi as Reiko Esaki, a high school girl who loves baseball but is denied access to it because A) she’s a girl and 2) this is a sports movie in need of an inciting incident. Fresh off of the 70’s “family friendly” brand of sexual harassment, Reiko decides to become the coach of a little league team and wastes no time in recruiting a team of no-hopers, tropes, and obvious ringers.

red vickies cutin

The show features these cute cut-in title cards drawn by Ishinomori himself, which are meant to reflect the characters’ emotions which I guess works because all the child actors are bad. They scream their lines and all have that one face children have when told to read lines.

red vickies fail

The show does set-up a lot of the ancillary characters that we’ll be seeing throughout the show like the other baseball coach who tells Reiko to disband the team and the comedic owner who’s son is on the team, I appreciated that most of the characters got a little something to1 establish their schtick for the series to come.

red vickies punks

Because this is an Ishinomori show, it’s understandable why it’s on the TTW channel but it’s definitely not one for the standard tokusatsu audience but it’s not particularly bad so it’s there if anyone is curious!

You can now find Gambare! Red Vickies, 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: Solbrain

Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain (特救指令ソルブレイン), or simply Solbrain, is exactly the kind of Metal Hero show I was expecting and I enjoyed the heck out of it. It’s the kind of show I expected Winspector to be but didn’t get but it still defied some of my expectations.

solbrain that guyWe kick off with a seeming alien invasion and the Special Rescue Command scrambling to combat the threat and assist civilians. There’s a real Gerry Anderson vibe going on and I really appreciate that. A familiar-looking commander dispatches his top agent, Daiki Nishio, to interrogate a professor who created the space station that is suddenly going mental above the city.

solbrain professorTurns out that Dr Inagaki has gone full mad scientist and is allowing his AI creation to run amok in the name of scientific progress, consequences be damned. He even tries to sacrifice his son to his new AI overlord and I can’t believe he doesn’t get arrested immediately afterwards. It baffles me that his realisation that maybe he was a bit wrong to create a murderous AI and want his son to have his brain scooped out is enough for the Solbrain team and he isn’t in cuffs.

solbrain teamThe Solbrain team is pretty cool. You’ve got Daiki (aka SolBraver), your typical hot-blooded hero, Reiko Higuchi (aka SolJeanne), the medic/support heroine, and then there’s Jun Masuda who, surprisingly, isn’t the pilot of the yellow construction suit. Why? He seems cool! Give him a suit!

The Solbrain team also has a Thunderbirds-esque vehicle called the Solid States piloted by a bunch of no-names and is essentially a giant fire engine that can fly. That’s brilliant and I immediately went looking for a toy version!

solbrain peaceAfter the day is saved, and Daiki takes off his helmet to reveal a sweat-drenched horror grin, is when I realised that the commander is the same guy from Winspector. I thought he looked familiar but didn’t want to say because “all Japanese toku commanders look alike” isn’t a great stance to have but blow me down, it was! This is a sequel to Winspector! The episode ends exactly the same way!

solbrain brain attackSolbrain is the better version of Winspector to me. It plays out in much the same way as Winspector’s first episode does but with better pacing, establishment of threat, and no comedy robots. Even the sole child actor serves a purpose!

It’s a fun first episode and I may continue on and see where it goes and I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves!

You can now find Solbrain, 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: Robot 8-Chan

Robot 8-Chan (ロボットはっちゃん) is the very first of the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series and was aired between 1981 and 1982. It shows. I really need to stop randomly picking these shows because I feel I’ve been hoodwinked into reviewing too many of these bizarre anarchic Toei shows and the only person I can blame is Ishinomori for making all these utterly bizarre shows.

Robot 8-Chan takes place in a world where big comedy robots are the norm and there are those who wish to do harm or exploit them. 8-Chan is a “lost robot” with bizarre abilities and even more bizarre personality quirks. In the first episode, this draws the ire of the Disassembly Man, an government stooge who revels in taking robots apart.

8chan allyRescued by a kindly professor and some children, because it’s always children, 8-Chan is taken in by a family-run robot repair shop. Whilst on the job, three humans pretend to be robots (by way of shuckin’ and jivin’) and botnap Mairodi, a female singing assistant to the professor, because they want to mass-produce her.

8chan botnapped8-Chan chases them down and is about to go full singularity on their asses when the Disassembly Man intervenes. Losing his pursuer, 8-Chan confronts the botnappers but is defeated by green peppers. One of the children then kisses his hand and 8-Chan releases a gas and a sick beat to make the botnappers dance themselves into the harbour.

As you can tell, this show sounds like an Astro Boy story that developed into a fever dream on acid. I’ll fully admit that I struggle to understand these Fushigi shows because not only am I not the intended audience for them but my only real exposure to Japanese comedy is through Terrace House and Kamen Rider Zero-One and I’m pretty sure most of the laughs elicited are unintentional. I did get one sensible chuckle when the kids were revealed to not be driving a car to chase the botnappers but were being towed, instead.

It’s a curious show that should be viewed as such.

You can now find Robot 8-Chan, 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: Kagestar

The Kagestar (ザ・カゲスター), or simply Kagestar, is a 1976 circus of bizarre ideas and the tropeiest of toku tropes and I actually kind of dig it for that. There’s some interesting stuff here but let me start with the costumes.

kagestar kage belle

Kagestar and Bellestar’s costumes are whack. Those big googley anime eyes? Whack. The Evel Knievel capes? Whack. The spirals? Whack! These suits are no good for any number of reasons but I think that Kagestar looking like Toku Deadpool is the most egregious. Yeah, Kagestar came first but no one remembers him! Look at him, he’s a dope!

kagestar hero

That said, the characters of Kageoh Sugata and Suzuko Kazamura look as fly as Japanese fashion in the 70s can allow and that’s pretty fly. They look like an awesome crime fighting duo and I like their chemistry, it’s just a shame their hero forms let them down.

kagestar doll

So the story is that Dr. Satan (I’ve been waiting for a Dr. Satan, you have no idea) and his Poundland Putties are scheming to kidnap the daughter of a major CEO and succeeds after Kageoh and Suzuko are finished performing shadow puppet theatre for children.

kagestar villains

Despite looking like Paul Bearer in a White Snake wig, Dr Satan simply wants money but is foiled when his hostages escape and fall onto an electrical substation nearby. This grants Kageoh and Suzuko the amazing power to fuse with their shadows and become Kagestar and Bellestar!

kagestar explain

Don’t question how! It’s cell division or something! But the idea of fusing with or controlling your shadow marks the second timely reference to Persona 5 I’ve made because that’s pretty bang on and, given the time frame, could have inspired the early SMT games? I dunno, it wouldn’t surprise me given some of the goofy shadow designs.

kagestar kage shadow

There’s eventually a second kidnapping and another transformation. The Stars beat Dr. Satan with their shadow powers and the series kicks off for our two new heroes; it’s all pretty standard but I really did enjoy it.

I don’t know if I’m giving it more slack because of it’s age but apart from the era-appropriate bad costumes, I think this is a solid origin and pilot. Hell, I may even give it my usual three episodes to dig it’s claws into me but I think the first episode is worth checking out at the very least.

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