Thursday, July 14, 2011

Land Lion

Last night, my mind was idly wandering, and I somehow got to thinking about the sentai series LIVEMAN. Specifically, I found myself wondering about the process that went into the mecha Land Lion (pictured). I'm not sure anyone realized it, but Land Lion was something of an innovation. In fact, it was the precursor to a whole new type of sentai machine.

I'm not so much talking about the Land Lion toy (seen here), but more the portrayal of Land Lion in the show itself. Prior to LIVEMAN, the component vehicles were portrayed strictly as vehicles. They might have been vehicles of questionable practical design, but they were recognizably vehicles. Land Lion is the first time I can recall where one of the sentai component mecha was presented as something that blurred the line between vehicle and robot.

Think about it. Land Lion has legs. Instead of moving on wheels, it runs. It was also capable of a range of motion not previously seen. I'll bet it was quite the challenge for Nobuo Yajima and his crew!

What's funny is that this radical new approach was not immediately followed up on in subsequent sentai. TURBORANGER, FIVEMAN, and JETMAN returned to mecha motifs that were strictly vehicle-based. It wasn't until ZYURANGER and its Guardian Beasts that the idea of component mecha that were ALSO robots reappeared. The Saber Tiger was realized in a method very similar to Land Lion, while the Tyrannosaurus was a straight-up man in a suit.

You can point to ZYURANGER as the series that truly changed the approach to sentai mecha for good. However, let's remember that it was Land Lion that blazed the trail. I wish I could have seen the meetings leading up to his creation.


  1. Very cool looking mecha. I'm so used to the more recent sentai having a bunch of sentient robot animals, that it's surprising to think of how this guy came across when he came out.

    Was it animated through stop motion? I ask, because that is the feeling I get from that photo. (I love stop-mo animation, and have been digging episodes of Demon Hunter Mitsurugi with it's stop-mo monster battles.)

  2. Y'know, I'm not exactly sure. The movement doesn't feel like stop motion to me, but more like the wire-operated style. If you've seen the Tiger from the ZYURANGER footage, Land Lion moves pretty much exactly like that.

    You can see him in action via these links: the LIVEMAN opening and Live Robo in action

    ...A little bonus for people who read the comments!

  3. Yeah, I can see what you mean. I wonder how they did that... Pity there isn't a more solid fanbase for Sentai in the US, I'd love to see some behind the scenes videos on the making of these shows.

    Also, I had to laugh when they did the finisher in the second clip; they totally "formed blazing sword"!

  4. I suppose there'd be a bigger fan base for Liveman in North America had it actually aired here. People don't have that sort of sentimental attachment to the series if it wasn't part of their childhood. Liveman is my favorite season of all the super sentai because the story was great, the characters were very likable (well...maybe not additional 2 Liveboxer guys who came in mid-way through) and the mecha were amazing. It's a shame it's not as well-known as other super sentai shows.