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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: Robotack

Robotack begins as most of these robot buddy programmes do… without any context as to where the robots came from. This one is a dog and a detective as well, though, so I guess everything is alright? Tetsuwan Tantei Robotack (テツワン探偵ロボタック) is actually the last of the Metal Hero Series’, bringing to a close the franchise after seventeen series. It was a sequel, somewhat, to its predecessor B-Robo Kabutack in that some of the characters carried over and the cute, loveable, small bots can transform into larger fighting machines but, from what I gather, the similarities pretty much end there.

The premiere begins with the titular character, Robotack, roaming the streets in search of food. He stumbles into the office of the Shardock Private Detective Agency where the agency’s president, Kaoru Sugi, is also hungry and begging money from his nephew, Kakeru Yukiyanagi so that he can order takeout. Now indebted to Sugi, Robotack joins the detective agency. This begins to work in Robotack’s favour quickly as young Kakeru resolves to help the robodog with his mission: find the Land Tool, the secret treasure of the Harappa Land.

Robotack and Kakeru happen upon a clue in the search for the Land Tool while on an errand of Sugi but, in the same vein as Kabutack, they are thwarted by two other robots called DarkCrow and Kabados and are whisked away to undergo a trial in order to earn the Congra Trophy, essential trinket fodder to find the Land Tool. In charge of the challenge is Master Ranking, a Ganesh-like elephant robot, who will award the winner of the Ranking Game with a trophy and dole out a failure game to the loser.

In order to help them complete challenges, the robots can Magnet Change into larger, more nimble forms. The evil robots seem to be able to do this at will, for a limited time, but Robotack’s transformation is linked to an instrument called the Magnet Flute. More will become of that as the series progresses, I’m sure.

Robotack is another in the line of fun-loving buddy robot tokusatsu that we’ve looked at a lot during these Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews. I think, at this point, you either like this style of show or you don’t. They were clearly very popular with Japanese audiences because they just kept them coming! Robotack, much like Kabutack, had some cute, colourful characters that were designed to sell toys. I’d say it’s worth a watch especially for those keen to watch all of the Metal Hero Series.

You can watch Tetsuwan Tantei Robotack and all of the other Metal Hero Series (that weren’t adapted by Saban) on the Toei Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel.

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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: Pettonton

Joining the ranks of programmes on Toei Tokusatsu World to blatently plagiarise Hollywood blockbusters is Pettonton (ペットントン), the third entry in the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series. It starts as many of the Fushigi alien encounter series does… 1) Boy finds alien, 2) Boy inexplicably loses conciousness 3) Boy wakes believing the encounter was a dream, 4) Boy finds it wasn’t a dream and the alien crashes the family unit to much hilarity. In this case, step 4 is put on hold as the boy ditches the alien, or E.T. as they call him and he eats grass and gets sick. He’s taken to a veterinary surgery where he randomly injects himself with something and is miraculously better. Incredulous that his child has failed to appropriately ditch the alien, Dad shoves it on the back of a truck and allows it to be driven away. Stellar parenting and animal care going on here.

The joke is on Dad, though as the alien, Pettonton, find his way back to his home and is chased and attacked by the boy’s mother and grandmother. Resolved to prevent the destruction of Earth, because all mistreated aliens will eventually call for reinforcements and kill us all, the boy, Negita, tries to leave home with Pettonton in tow. This plan comes undone when Dad nearly falls to his death from a balcony, Pettonton saves him and the vet arrives to tell the family what a wonderful creature the alien is. Now, they decide to keep him, obviously. Thrilled, Pettonton swells up like a balloon and he floats up into the sky with a grinning Negita holding tight to him.

This show was an assault on my brain and, honestly, I don’t know how they’re going to drag this out for 46 episodes. Like many of the other Fushigi Comedies, the humour either goes over my head as a non-Japanese native or… it just isn’t very funny. Apparently, a bounty arrives to try and take Pettonton later in the series but, honestly, I don’t think that’s worth waiting for.

If you’re looking for a watered-down, Japanese version of E.T., then this is the show for you. If not… try something else.

Pettonton, as well as all of the other Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, are available to view on Toei Tokusatsu World’s official YouTube channel. There’s lots of much better stuff, too…

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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: 5 Nen 3 Kumi Mahougumi

With a quick Google search bringing up relatively little about 5 Nen 3 Kumi Mahougumi, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found in its first episode. This despite the fact that I’m, personally, not all that into magic related stuff and that this series is decidedly lacking in many of the hallmarks of a tokusatsu, there’s enough here for the average toku nerd to get into… mostly because of a very familiar face.

5 Nen 3 Kumi Mahougumi (5年3組魔法組) literally translated as 5th Grade, 3rd Class Magic Group was broadcast on TV-Asahi throughout 1977. It is perhaps most famous, and most interesting, for starring a young Machiko Soga as Bellbara the Witch. Soga is best known for her roles in Super Sentai, including Witch Bandora in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, but will be very familiar to Western audiences because of this character’s adaptation as Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. In this episode, Bellbara is somewhat Bandora-like in her mannerisms but lacks the evil desire to take over the world of her Zyuranger counterpart. Instead, Bellbara is somewhat of a bumbling character. She is struck on the head by a can that the title group of 5th graders are kicking around; frustrated, she kicks a lamppost and the children take her back to a barbershop owned by one of their fathers. Here, she recovers and flees fairly quickly, leaving behind a gigantic handbag with a silhouette of a witch painted on it.

The children chase her down in an attempt to return it to her but, when they fail, the start to experiment with the magical trinkets within, guided by an elf-like character on a screen inside. First of all, they summon a giant, floating multicolour liferaft, called the Magikar, that they use to travel around the town. The also use a magical grappling hook that can pull any object they can picture from anywhere, a book that can metamorphosise any person or animal into another person or animal, and a strange shuriken shaped viewing device that shrinks down one of the children’s mothers before she catches them in the magic act. Nothing malicious so far, just pure kiddie hi-jinks.

It appears, then, that this series will simply follow this group of children as they dick around with magic for 41 episodes. Bellbara the Witch turned up again at the end, giggling that misfortune will follow if the kids use the last trinket in her bag but it remains to be seen what her role in this will be going forward. Perhaps we will start to see a hatred of children begin to surface as the series goes on but that may just be wishful thinking on my part, that she may be similar to her Zyuranger witch-counterpart.

Machiko Soga as Witch Bandora in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger

All in all, this episode wasn’t offensive and the series may be worth the watch. If no further overarching story develops from Bellbara the Witch then it will risk becoming a bit formulaic but, still, it could be nice as a diversion if only to watch Machiko Soga masterfully do her thing.

You can watch 5 Nen 3 Kumi Mahougumi as well as a wealth of other Toei produced television on the Toei Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel.

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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.