Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Toei Tokusatsu Hero Box - Disc 4

(See? I haven't forgotten this.)

Some odd shows cropped up in the latter half of the 1970s. I know there are folks who would label the entire tokusatsu genre "odd", but Toei really seemed to be trying to do something different from the standard henshin hero at that time. The results were...well, mixed. This disc contains some cinematic artifacts of that period.

THE KAGESTAR was apparently an attempt to do an "American" style superhero show. Check out the dude's overly large star-spangled cape just for starters! As I understand it, there were also a lot of villains who were completely unconnected to one another. Well, they get to team up here, but my enduring memory of this featurette is the hero jumping to kick a huge satellite dish OFF A MOUNTAIN. This was sort of out there even by the standards of the folks who gave us the Kamen Riders.

KYODAIN is the slightly unholy result of merging the Toei hero aesthetic with a style akin to ROBOKON. I can't call it bad, per se, but some of the action sequences are almost headache-inducing the way they are set up. This series is notable for being the only non-Rider tokusatsu to feature Takeshi Sasaki ("Hayato Ichimonji"), and it co-stars singing star Mitsuko Horie.

NINJA CAPTOR is obscure even by Toei superhero standards, and that is saying something. It's a 7 member team of heroes, in a move that both does and doesn't anticipate super sentai (it comes after GORANGER, but before BATTLE FEVER J). The real novelty is that the team includes both Daisuke Ban (Naoya Ban here) and Kenji Ushio! Yes, you too can marvel to Jiro and Jigoku Daishi fighting for the same side!

DAI TETSUJIN 17 ("Giant Iron Man 17") is represented with two separate movies. The first is made up primarily of the first episode, with some of the second one thrown in for good measure. The editing on this pretty much throws continuity out the window. The second is a full episode, and is the last stand of the villainous Captain Roper! OK OK, that's his character's name in the American English dubbed compliation video BRAIN 17, but you've got to admit it has a nice ring! And you sure can't go wrong with legend AKIHIKO HIRATA in the role, either!

DAI TETSUJIN 17 is a show of many influences. Though credited to the pen of Shotaro Ishinomori, it's hard to miss its similarties to Mitsuteru Yokoyama's TETSUJIN 28/GIGANTOR and GIANT ROBO/JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT. If this wasn't a Toei show, it would probably be actionable. There are also strong thematic connections to both the animated "super robot" shows and Tsuburaya's giant hero genre. In many ways, I'd call DAI TETSUJIN 17 Toei's most atypical 1970s tokusatsu show. I also think it may be one of my favorites.

With the possible exception of DAI TETSUJIN 17, none of the shows featured on this disc are well-remembered today even in tokusatsu fan circles. While I wouldn't call any of them a "must see", they all manage to be entertaining in their own right. Well, maybe not KYODAIN - I'll let you judge that for yourself if you get the chance.

Next time in this ongoing review series (when I remember it), we'll talk about Disc 5! That's right, I have no special hook for you on this entry. Sadness.

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