Friday, February 1, 2013

My Favorite Moment From KIKAIDA

Please be advised that this entry contains SPOILERS for the final story arc of the series JINZO NINGEN KIKAIDA. If you haven't seen it and have plans to watch it, tread carefully if you want to be surprised!

The screenshot from KIKAIDA episode 40 that leads off this post up top is rather inauspicious-looking. Yet, it is from what I call my favorite moment of the whole series. Why? Well, we'll get into that.

By the time Episode 40 rolls around, KIKAIDA (the show) is well into its justly-famous climactic storyline with Hakaida. And let's just say things look pretty bad for our hero Jiro by this point. It's all too involved for me to go into detail, but he not only has to contend with Hakaida and the rest of the forces of DARK, but also the police as well. They think he murdered his creator Dr. Komyoji, and they aren't the only ones. Masaru, Komyoji's young son, is convinced by the overwhelming evidence that Jiro has malfunctioned and gone rogue.

It's a frame-up, of course. But Saburo (Hakaida's alter ego) takes full advantage of Masaru's disillusionment with his hero. He enlists Masaru in his effort to destroy Jiro/Kikaida in Episode 39 by giving the kid the "Death Whistle." The Death Whistle has two functions - 1) it can immobilize any machine (including Kikaida) and 2) it's a whistle (dur) that will summon Saburo. With Masaru believing in Jiro's guilt and wielding such a device, the future looks pretty bleak for our hero.

But then, Masaru unwittingly loses the whistle. Jiro ends up with it and he GIVES IT BACK TO MASARU. It subsequently changes hands during the course of the action, but by the time this screenshot occurs, Jiro is returning it to Masaru.

As Jiro backs away, the words he spoke the first time he handed it to Masaru are heard again.
"Masaru...I don't want to go on living without your trust."
Masaru looks at Jiro and he considers using the Death Whistle. Finally, he realizes the truth - that Jiro is innocent - and throws down the device. He runs to Jiro and embraces him with tears in his eyes.

It's not as if things get easier for Kikaida immediately after this episode, but this one moment always gets to me. For while I love the action, the color, the imagination, and the outrageousness of Japanese superheroes, the part that makes them truly special is their heart. Not every series manages it, but many of them rise above their humble kid's show origins and become both surprisingly sophisticated and touchingly human.

Jiro isn't human - he's an android, and we are never allowed to forget that for very long. But in many ways, that very lack of humanity makes him an even more poignant figure. And his simple assertion to Masaru is a profound sentiment indeed. Would you find that in a Western kid's superhero show? Maybe today, but certainly not in the early 1970s.

KIKAIDA is one of the best superhero shows ever made. I hope, in some small way, I've given you just one example why. You can learn more about it (and even buy it!) from the fine folks at Generation Kikaida.

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