Giant Robo (tokusatsu)

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Giant Robo, or (ジャイアントロボ Jaianto Robo?), is a manga and tokusatsu series created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama. It is similar to his famous Tetsujin 28-go, which was called Gigantor in the US, though Giant Robo has more fantastic elements.

The original tokusatsu TV series, produced by Toei Company Ltd., aired on NET (later renamed TV Asahi) from October 11, 1967 to April 1, 1968, with a total of 26 episodes. The English-dubbed version of the series, which Reuben Guberman developed for American television, was produced by American International Television, with Salvatore Billitteri as line producer and Manuel San Fernando as primary director, under the title Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot.

Plot[edit]

Situation[edit]

Earth is under invasion from an interstellar terrorist group called "Big Fire," called "The Gargoyle Gang" in the English-dubbed version, an illuminati-style organization led by the alien Emperor Guillotine, who spends almost the entire series in a multicolored space ship hidden at the bottom of one of the Earth's oceans (presumably the Pacific) whence he issues his orders to the Gargoyle Gang.

"The Gargoyle Gang"[edit]

"Big Fire," which, as mentioned above, is renamed "The Gargoyle Gang" in the US version, is an ambitious but somewhat incompetent gang whose members appear to have a fairly high mortality rate due to either Unicorn actions or Guillotine's own fits of anger. Their wardrobe is an interesting collection of what appears to be an assortment of castoffs from Soviet officers, wartime Wehrmacht personnel, Central American guerrillas, and the designers of Italian sunglasses. In addition, at least one Gargoyle member is always seen with a Castro-esque beatnik beard. Most of the Gargoyle Gangsters wear berets adorned with a skull on the front. All Gargoyle Gangsters have an explosive device implanted within their bodies that can be detonated in the event they are captured, though this seems to be used only rarely.

The monsters[edit]

In every episode of the series, Gargoyle would use a monster for destruction, be it organic or mechanical, the latter of which are commanded by remote control. The monster Draculon appeared as a Gargoyle commander before revealing his giant form, something which other villains, let alone for Emperor Guillotine himself, could not do. Most of the monsters had their names changed from the original version of the show to something more western sounding. In cases in which a monster made a return appearance it was usually given a slightly different color scheme, though this often made the reuse of footage from the previous appearance un-matching.

  • Dakolar (Dracolon) Appears in episodes 1 and 11. Powers include swimming, tentacle arms, and manipulating sand from his mouth. Dakolar is a sea monster resembling a combination of sea life such as fish and octopus. Though it also has bat-like webbing under its two tentacled arms. It's appearance in episode 11 is rather unusual as it is now a sand spewing tunneling monster.
  • Globar (Nucleon/Radion): Appears in episodes 2 and 20. Looks very much like a walking limpet mine. Powers include flight, a ball form by tube retraction, tube rockets from one tub having an 11-tube missile launcher, a pair of magnetic cables, and one tube armed with a laser. When it's outer shells are destroyed it expels a smaller version of itself and an even smaller one if the second is smashed.
  • Satan Rose (Gargoyle Vine): Appears in episodes 3 and 17. First appearing as a water guzzling tentacle it grows into a giant thick trunk. Powers include fast growth, constricting tentacle-like vines, suction flowers, and lava bombs from its top after consuming a lakes-worth of water.
  • Lygon: Appears in episodes 4 and 10. Resembles a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis. Powers include a forehead horn drill, mouth flames, a wrecking ball called the Neck Chain, and swimming. It is a walking mechanical prison that holds prisoners it swallows. Is renamed Tyrox, ""Ligon"" and Lagorian, respectively, in the English version.
  • Gangar: Appears in episodes 5 and 18. An enormous dark red metal hand covered in rivets. Powers include flight, four back missiles, and a restraining rope. Is renamed The Giant Claw and Iron Claw or simply ""Claw"", respectively, in the English version. It is sometimes spelled ""Klaw"" in publications.
  • Dorogon (Dragon/Stalker): Appears in episodes 6 and 21. Powers include flight, swimming, mouth missiles, invisibility and the ability to eat aircraft and ocean vessels whole. Apparently artificial, in its second appearance its body is covered in cracks signifying where it was reassembled after being blown apart in its first episode.
  • Ikageras (Scaleon): Appears in episodes 7 and 26. Resembles an upright walking stingray. Powers include swimming, hurricane winds from the wings, and acid spray from the mouth.
  • Doublion: Appears in episode 8. A walking humanoid shaped stone construct. Powers include head rotation, expels a sticky petroleum based liquid from the mouth of the frontal face, and mouth flames from the back face which can ignite it. Is renamed Double Head in the English version.
  • Sparki: Appears in episodes 9 and 22. Resembles a gigantic man-o-war jellyfish. Powers include levitation, electric tentacles, and electric rays from the body. Is renamed Tentaclon in the English version.
  • Unbalan: Appears in episode 12. Powers include self mummification, a high resistance to electricity, and growth by sunlight. Is renamed Amberon in the English version.
  • Ganmons (Opticon/Opticorn): Appears in episodes 13 and 26. It is a gigantic eye with a moving protective eyelid and long tentacles dangling from its bottom. Powers include levitation, retractable legs, and a vacuum, a searchlight, and energy ray from the eye.
  • Iron Power (Iron Jawbone): Appears in episode 14. An enormous flying mechanical mouth with fins and eyes making it look like a cross between a barracuda and a flat fish. Powers include flight, teeth, and body separation to clamp onto enemies.
  • Icelar (Igganog): Appears in episodes 15, 24, and 26. Powers include burrowing, freezing winds from a pair of tube-like horns on the sides of its face and mouth, and a low body temperature.
  • GR-2 (Torozon): Appears in episodes 16 and 19. Powers include a bladed boomerang on the head that can launch and emit electricity, burrowing, launchable arms, and eye lasers. In its second appearance it is able to launch its head through the air and use its boomerang shaped horns and grasping claws.
  • Calamity (Cleopat): Appears in episode 22. Its only known power is having armor that reacts to long-range attacks by reflecting them back to their sources. Unlike other enemies of Giant Robo, it was not built by Big Fire, aka "The Gargoyle Gang;" rather, it was built in Armenia and later stolen and reprogrammed by Big Fire.
  • Hydrazona: Appears in episode 24. Powers include an acidic body and swimming.
  • Draculan: Appears in episode 25. Powers include size changing, vampire converting bites, a round shield, and a rapier. Sometime referred to as ""Count Draculan"" in printed material.

Emperor Guillotine[edit]

Guillotine is a blue-skinned alien who has tentacles extending from the bottom of his large head, not unlike Cthulhu. He wears a long robe, and carries a staff with a white orb at its furthest end. He is capable of growing to an enormous height, though this is only seen once in the series; specifically, it is only seen in the last installment, where he himself actually fights, and loses to, the Flying Robot.

Field Subordinates[edit]

Guillotine leaves day-to-day matters in the hands of various commanders, such as the following five:

  1. Spider, a human who is eventually killed by a spray of acid;
  2. Doctor Over (Doctor Botanus), a silver-skinned alien capable of teleportation;
  3. Red Cobra (Fangar/Dangor the Executioner), a bizarre alien with a pegleg and crutch, a greatly enlarged forehead, protruding upper teeth, and a costume that looks like a traditional striped prison outfit in front and a red velvet jumpsuit in back;
  4. Black Dia (Harlequin), who has a fascination with the suits of playing cards; and
  5. Mr. Gold (The Golden Knight), a gold-colored armored knight.

Daisaku Kusama and Jūrō Minami find the Giant Robo[edit]

The group captures scientists to create an army of giant monsters to rampage the Earth. But fate stumbles on a little boy named Daisaku Kusama (Johnny Sokko), and a young man named Jūrō Minami(Jerry Mano), secretly Member U3 of the top-secret peacekeeping organization, Unicorn. Daisaku and Jūrō are shipwrecked on an island after the ocean liner they were on was attacked by a giant sea monster called Dracolon, and are captured by members of Big Fire. When trying to escape, they end up in an elevator that leads down to a huge construction complex where a giant robot is being built. Pharaoh-like in appearance in that the design of his head resembles the headdresses worn by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, this nearly indestructible humanoid robot is being built by captive scientist Dr. Lucius Guardian, who decides to give the two escapees its control device, a miniature transmitter built into a wristwatch; Daisaku/Johnny refers to this device as "the control" in the US version, whereas the others call it "the watch." The robot can only be controlled by the first voice recorded in his electronic brain; however, he first needs to be charged up by atomic energy. Dr. Guardian helps Daisaku and Jūrō escape, only to be shot to death himself. But before he is shot and killed, Dr. Guardian triggers an atomic bomb that destroys the base. The resulting explosion activates the giant robot, which moves to Daisaku's every command. As the controller of the robot (heretofore known as "Giant Robot," or just simply "Robot" in the US), Daisaku is invited by Jūrō and his chief Azuma to join Unicorn as its 7th member, U7. As U7, Daisaku fights the evil forces of Big Fire with the help of U3/Jūrō and Giant Robot.

Giant Robo/Flying Robot's arsenal[edit]

The Giant Robo/Flying Robot has numerous weapons systems which Daisaku/Johnny can command him to use. The robot is 30 meters tall, weighs 500 tons, and has a maximum flight speed of Mach 19. The weapons in the Giant Robot's arsenal include these:

  • Finger missiles which he fires from his fingers, with an undetermined number of rounds.
  • A back missile, which he fires from his back as he is lying on his chest facing toward his enemy. The back missile is considerably larger and more destructive than the finger missiles.
  • The bazooka cannon is a weapon which fires out of the top of the Flying Robot's head; it is not so much a true bazooka as a shower of sparks capable of blinding and disorienting an enemy.
  • Radion Eye beams consisting of energy blasts from the eyes first appeared in episode 4
  • The Flying V Missile The center V on the chest' can launch and ram against the enemy to force it back.
  • In addition, the robot's "belt buckle" contains a long pole which he can use to hook onto an enemy.
  • A flame-thrower. The mouth of the robot can open up to reveal a small tube which acts as a flame thrower with which he is capable of melting through large metal walls with ease.
  • The "Burning Cross" Technique. The robot can mysteriously produce a flaming cross resembling a burning '+' sign and cast it upon the enemy.
  • Electrocution wires. The robot can launch wires capable of projecting high-voltage electricity that can annihilate a monster without much trouble.

In addition, the Flying Robot has the capability of the "Atomic Punch (1st episode)," "power punches," also later called "megaton punches" or "mega-punches" by Daisaku/Johnny himself; these consist of the Flying Robot throwing nearly all his mega-strength into a punch to whatever enemy he is facing off against in an episode.

Precaution if Johnny is taken captive[edit]

As a security precaution in case Johnny is forced to give unwanted orders, the boy can give a seeming line of gibberish into the control before doing so, "Redro yebo ton od," claiming it is a communication test. However, the Flying Robot is programmed to play the message backwards and interpret it as, "Do not obey order!" With that message, the Flying Robot is programmed to take it as a signal that his controller is captured and regardless of any subsequent order, the Flying Robot will launch and trace the signal to rescue his controller.

American version[edit]

The entire series was first broadcast in the United States in 1969 by American International Television, and became popular in syndication over the next several decades, particularly from 1971-74 when it reached its peak in distribution. The series was still in active syndication through the early 1980s. It was telecast in India in the early 1990s.

In 1970, several episodes were edited together by American International Television to create the 95 minute "movie" Voyage Into Space. As the series has a true "final" episode, it made creating a "movie" possible.

A 10-minute "edited highlights" version of Voyage Into Space was created for the "Super 8" home movies market in the early 1970s by Ken Films. It was available in both sound and silent versions, either in color or B&W, with artwork of the Giant Robot on the cover.

DVD status[edit]

While recently released on DVD by Toei Video in Japan (the entire series was previously issued on laserdisc in the 1990s), the complete series was not released on Region 1 DVD for years; only eight episodes (some out of broadcast order) had been released on videocassette by Orion Home Video in the United States; these subsequently went out of print.

On March 26, 2013, Shout! Factory released Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot- The Complete Series: Collectors Edition on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[1] The 4-disc set featured all 26 episodes of the series.

English version copyright status[edit]

Following Orion Pictures' bankruptcy, MGM acquired their holdings of the majority of the American International Pictures library (which had previously been owned by Filmways),with MGM Television overseeing distribution.

Episodes are available as legal downloads from such sources as the iTunes Store and Amazon.com's Unbox. The series is also available for viewing on Hulu. (Unauthorized versions also appear on Veoh and YouTube.)

Violence concerns[edit]

The series was astonishingly violent by American standards of children's programming in the 1960s; in its home country of Japan, though, it was no more violent than any other tokusatsu airing at the time. Gunfights are staples of every episode of the series, and the show's two child leads—Johnny Sokko and Mari Hanson; the latter, called Mari Hanamura in the Japanese version, is a 9-year-old girl, introduced in the seventh episode, who speaks 39 languages and is a crack shot with a firearm—were frequently seen shooting along with the rest of the Unicorn agents. In one episode, Johnny and Mari are captured and tied to trees by Gargoyle, and are within seconds of being executed by firing squad, when Unicorn agents rescue them. Oddly enough, though practically every Japanese anime exported to the United States during that period was edited due to violent content, Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot seemed to have escaped close scrutiny in that regard, and what editing was done on the show seemed to have been more for the purposes of squeezing in another commercial or two rather than in the interest of curbing the show's violence. (At least one US TV station, WXON in Detroit, ran disclaimers before each show saying, "Remember, kids, Johnny Sokko is make-believe and the actors are just pretending.")

In addition to dubbing American voice actors for the US release, many of the show's sound effects were also remixed or re-recorded entirely. And though the show's jazz-influenced score by the prolific Takeo Yamashita was used, it was frequently tracked in different places from the Japanese version of the series. The credits for production and direction in the U.S. version seem to be randomly chosen European names of various origins.

Episode titles[edit]

The following episode titles have been transcribed directly from the on-screen title cards of the US version, which were rendered in capitals including punctuation. These are presented in their original US and Japanese broadcast order, verified by the previews for next episode at the end of each show.

  1. Dracolon, The Great Sea Monster
  2. Nucleon, The Magic Globe
  3. The Gargoyle Vine - A Space Plant
  4. Monster Ligon-Tyrox, A Strange Monster
  5. The Gigantic Claw
  6. Dragon, The Ninja Monster
  7. Our Enemy - Scalion
  8. The Challenge of the Two-Headed Monster
  9. Tentaclon - An Electric Monster
  10. The Transformed Humans
  11. The Terrifying Sand Creature
  12. Amberon The Synthetic Monster
  13. Opticon Must Be Destroyed
  14. The Monstrous Flying Jawbone
  15. Igganog - The Ice-Berg Monster
  16. Torozon - An Enemy Robot
  17. Destroy the Dam
  18. X-7, A Mysterious Enemy Agent
  19. "Metron" - The Mysterious Space-Man
  20. Beware - The Radion Globe
  21. The Terrifying Space Mummy
  22. Clash of the Giant Robots
  23. "Dr, Eingali - Master of Evil"
  24. "Hydrazona" - A Terrifying Bacteria
  25. "Drakulon" - Creature of Doom
  26. The Last of Emperor Guillotine

Related series[edit]

GR: Giant Robo[edit]

GR: Giant Robo (GR ジャイアントロボ GR: Jaianto Robo?) is an animated TV series written by Chiaki Konaka (Serial Experiments Lain, The Big O) and directed by Masahiko Murata (Jinki:EXTEND, Mazinkaiser). At the dawn of the 21st century, the Earth is overrun by giant robots. Daisaku Kusama encounters one of these monsters, the titular Robo, in a ruin in Okinawa. Beckoned by forces he cannot understand, Daisaku is made to bond, body and spirit, with the ancient weapon and defend his homeland from the incoming evil.

In popular culture[edit]

American guitarist Buckethead is a fan of Giant Robo and references to the series are found in several albums in his discography. His debut album Bucketheadland, for example, features songs Giant Robot Theme, Enter Guillatine, and Giant Robot Vs. Guillatine, as well as audio clips from the English-dubbed version.

Frank H. Wu was a devoted Johny Sokko fan growing up, and he recounts several episodes of the show in his book Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot - Shout! Factory's Package Art for 'The Complete Series' DVD
  2. ^ Wu, Frank H. Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Print.

External links[edit]