Among the TV tokusatsu series we had as a kid including the products featuring a boy protagonist, Kaiju Oji(Kaiju Prince: 1967-1968; 26 episodes) seems to be rarely talked about among tokusatsu fans here in Japan.
Although it aired around the same time as Ultraseven and Giant Robo, I have to admit Kaiju Oji was much less impressive than them. While it features dinosaurs in spite of the title announcing kaiju, I don’t remember the episodes and characters including the dinosaurs at all.
The story is about a boy named Takeru (played by Mitsunori Nomura: 1956-present; unrelated to this Takeru) living in a jungle like Tarzan on a volcanic island crustal changes made appear in the Pacific Ocean as he was a survivor in an airplane accident after the plane crashed into the sea.
Takeru (his yell is “Awwwrahhh!”) is often found to swing on a vine and ride on top of the head of Nessie who is a friend of Takeru’s or to glide with a handmade equipment like a hang glider found least likely to be capable to glide anyway we look at it.
While the series was produced by P Production after they made Magma Taishi(Ambassador Magma) at the request of an ad agency which signed up with a US TV company to export the tokusatsu TV show to the US, it didn’t get to win sufficient viewership and the season seems to have been shortened from 52 episodes to 26.
It was to feature monsters/dinosaurs modeled by Fuminori Ohashi (1915-1989), his suit was elaborated too much for an actor to play inside with its heavy weight and rigidity which made it hard to deal with, Ryosaku Takayama was appointed to remodel the suit as Takayama’s name can be found in the opening credits seemingly on the regular basis.
As I have posted in my recent articles, we had some boy heroes in our childhood including the characters acted by the two Kanekos.
They should have been truly heartthrobs for kid viewers watching the shows in which they appeared back then with Hoshino-kun (kun is an honorific title for boys and juniors) who appeared in Ultraman included as another unforgettable kid character.
As to Hoshino-kun, he disappeared in the midst of the series after his appearance in Episode 25 without any explanation about it in the episodes.
Akihide Tsuzawa (1954-present) who played Hoshino-kun says he pulled out of the show as he broke his leg while skiing on the artificial slope in the amusement park Yomiuri Land still existing in the suburb of Tokyo he visited privately.
Tsuzawa says he was forcibly invited by his older brother who wanted to show his brother with great popularity as Hoshino-kun to his girlfriend, and, after the injury which required two months to heal, he says he quit his acting career as he was.
As expected it seems that he gained enormous popularity as a kid actor while playing Hoshino-kun then.
In spite of a kid character, Hoshino-kun often played an important role in many episodes as an excellent apprentice member of the SSSP, and I think Tsuzawa got to act Hoshino-kun impressively enough such as in Episode 21 while I find it most impressive that Alien Zarab’s restraints that left Hayata tied up easily came apart with Hoshino-kun’s tears (of innocence) falling on them in Episode 18.
Yokais were characters featured in tokusatsu products in my childhood along with kaijus.
We had two tokusatsu drama series with yokai characters featured which were strikingly impressive: Akumakun (1966-1967: 26 episodes) and Kappa No Sanpei Great Operation Yokai (Yokai Daisakusen) (1968-1969: 26 episodes).
Both of them were based on the manga products created by Shigeru Mizuki and produced by Toei Company.
Akumakun is about a boy nicknamed Akumakun (akuma means devil/demon/satan; kun is a Japanese honorific title) who can summon a devil named Mefisto and fights against evil yokais and kaijus with his help.
Kappa No (no is the word showing possession) Sanpei is also about a boy named Sanpei gifted with supernatural ability from the kappas whose member Sanpei saved depicting his fights against evil yokais during his trip searching for his mother captured by those yokais.
All of them were produced by Toru Hirayama, Toei producer, including Giant Robo (1967-1968: 26 episodes) and Masked NInja Akakage (1967-1968: 52 episodes).
The boys who starred Akumakun and Kappa No Sanpei were Mitsunobu Kaneko (1957-1997) and Yoshinobu Kaneko (1955-present) respectively. Although both of them are Kaneko and their first names also sound alike, they are no kin.
Mitsunobu is also well known for his starring role as Daisaku Kusama in Giant Robo and Yoshinobu also gained popularity for his leading role as Aokage (blue shadow) in Akakage.
Incidentally Sanpei’s fellow kappa Rokubei in Kappa No Sanpei was acted by Fuyuhiko Maki who also regularly played Shirokage (white shadow) in Akakage.
When watching Ultraman Gaia with my kids as it aired for the first time and seeing Gan Q appear in the show, the first thing the monster reminded me of was Ganmons.
Gan is the Japanese word for eye while the word me (/meh/) is more customarily used, and, as gankyu means eyeball, Gan Q is a sort of phonetic equivalent or pun of the term.
While I don’t know much about Gan Q featured in the recent series after Ultraman Gaia, I think the Gan Q that appeared in Gaia didn’t have its eyelid (I may be wrong).
Ganmons of Giant Robo, however, had its eyelid and it was forced to be closed by Robo with his reacher-like equipment coming out of, if my memory is correct, his buckle before being beaten by him.
Actually we had another eyeball monster which appeared in Masked Ninja Akakage and is called Hitotsume (single eyed).
This is a monster regularly summoned by a villain ninja through his yojutsu (mysterious skill), and, as Akakage and Giant Robo were produced by the Toei Company, Ganmons might have been a developed form of Hitotsume in terms of the idea.
It is fully thinkable that the Tsuburaya people could have created Gan Q inspired by Ganmons although I don’t think they publicly referred to it.
As Giant Robo was also repeatedly rebroadcast alongside of the Ultra Series in my childhood, I remember I enjoyed watching it every time it aired.
The product has not been publicly reviewed so much as the Ultra Series, I don’t remember the details of each episode unfortunately as I previously said.
But the monsters which appeared in the series remain in my memory quite vividly because of their unique appearances and characters.
Generally speaking, while it’s true of any other TV tokusatsu series back then, the monsters and villain characters looked so weird lacking the beauty and cleanness the Ultra Monsters designed by Tohl Narita.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that we were also drawn to such weird-looking monsters as a kid.
Giant Robo also had its unique-looking, impressive monsters which I can’t forget even now such as Ganmons, Glober, Iron Power and Ganger.
While each of them is a monster and robot with an enlarged human body part featured or distorted shapes of real-life creatures, they looked so striking with much impact in their own way.
It was fun to find a series of GR type robots controlled by the BF such as GR2 and Calamity appeared although, if my memory serves me right, Calamity didn’t move at all to the end because of the technical malfunction the BF suffered in the episode.
Getting it straight, it is “Giant Robo” who can be deemed as the rival of Ultraseven.
That’s another tokusatsu product which aired around the same time as Ultraseven from 1967 through 1968 on NET while produced by Toei Company (looks like it aired as “Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot” in the US).
The product based on a manga series created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama was about a 30 meters tall giant robot named Giant Robo (GR1) as it is that was constructed by the BF (Big Fire), the secret alien organization plotting to conquer Earth.
While Robo is a robot which obeys a person who has initially recorded his voice on the control device shaped like a watch, Daisaku Kusama (acted by Mitsunobu Kaneko: 1957-1997), a team member of the United Nations Police Organization ‘Unicorn,’ got to record his voice onto the watch (although he looks too young to be the member).
Thus Robo ends up fighting against the BF in cooperation with the Unicorn members.
As Daisaku’s code name is ‘U7,’ it is said that it implies that the Toei people were fully aware of the presence of Ultraseven.
In a word, Giant Robo was a great product we children were irresistibly drawn to even no less than Ultraseven while featuring quirky and weird-looking monsters with totally a different feel from those of the Ultra Series.
While Toei produced a lot of TV tokusatsu series including Captain Ultraand Masked NInja Akakage I already talked about on this blog, I think GR was the most exciting product among them.