Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Toei Tokusatsu Hero Box - Disc 6

(We're in the home stretch now!)

One of the confusing things about Japanese superheroes to the outsider is the maddening array of sub-genres available in something that looks all the same to them. Is it a Rider show, or a sentai show? How should they know? But at least there is some logic to why those shows are slotted into those categories. Not so much for the "metal hero" genre, which is based on two factors : 1) shows that aired in the same time slot on a certain network and 2) heroes that use metal.

Pretty flimsy basis for a genre, don't you think? Yet "metal hero" is a commonplace shorthand even for Toei, despite the fact that it covers everything from armored heroes to robot policemen to heroic ninja to mechanical dog things. By pure happenstance, Disc 6 of this collection turns out to be a "metal hero" disc. This is a much better thing than you'd probably gather from my intro.

It is worth noting that METALDER is considered one of the best Japanese superhero shows ever by a number of people who've seen a lot of them. I'm not sure I agree, but it's dark and somber and filled with robots whaling the hell out of each other. It's also sort of loosely based on KIKAIDER, and later became an aspect of the nearly forgotten American series VR TROOPERS.

The JIBAN movie is entertaining and filled with creepy monsters (courtesy of Keita Amemiya, color me unsurprised). I was not expecting this. JIBAN is one of those shows that is known for dialing down the action content, but they amped it up a little here. Jiban himself? Though there are obvious differences, he owes a certain debt to a chap named RoboCop.

Speaking of RoboCop, an old penpal of mine once exclaimed "A purple RoboCop!" regarding the JANPERSON movie. He wasn't wrong. Janperson is possibly even more influenced by the character than Jiban. Though this story lacks both Bill Goldy and Gun Gibson from the series (don't ask), it still manages to be complete insanity. To give you an idea - evil clowns are only the BEGINNING.

BLUE SWAT has a not undeserved reputation as one of the most boring tokusatsu series ever. The movie does little to persuade me otherwise, though it isn't horrible. I'm a little vague as to whether it is original, re-edited from the series, or some combination of the two. I haven't ever found myself caring enough to research this.

B-FIGHTER was touted by some as a return to form for the "metal hero" genre (cough cough). That's debatable, but there are certain similarities to the fast-paced, action-packed "space sheriff" shows which launched the whole shebang in the first place. After several years of stoic armored/robotic champions, the B-Fighters were a breath of fresh air. The insect-themed gadgetry added to the novelty, and toy sales, too. I'd still sort of like one of those functionally improbable "Input Magnums".

And on that toy-focused note, we conclude this installment of this seemingly never-ending review series. But fear not! This is the penultimate chapter, and whenever I next discuss this set (don't wait up), we'll bring the proceedings to a rousing conclusion! Well, no, probably not, but it sounds better that way.

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