Giant Robo (tokusatsu)
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Giant Robo logo
|Also known as||Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot|
|Genre||Tokusatsu, science fiction, Kaiju, superhero, action, adventure, Super Robot, espionage|
|Created by||Mitsuteru Yokoyama|
|Based on||Giant Robo by Mitsuteru Yokoyama|
|Country of origin||Japan|
|No. of episodes||26 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Mitsuteru Yokoyama|
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Toei Company|
|Original network||TV Asahi The Works (TV network)|
|Original release||October 11, 1967– April 1, 1968|
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 Yokoyama's Tetsujin 28-go (known as Gigantor in the US), but Giant Robo has more elements of fantasy.
The original 26-episode tokusatsu TV series, produced by the Toei Company, aired on NET (later renamed TV Asahi) from October 11, 1967 to April 1, 1968. The English-dubbed version of the series, developed by Reuben Guberman for American television, was produced by American International Television and directed by Manuel San Fernando (with Salvatore Billitteri as line producer) as Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot.
Earth is invaded by an interstellar terrorist group, Big Fire (the Gargoyle Gang in the English version), led by Emperor Guillotine. Guillotine spends most of his time in a multicolored space ship hidden at the bottom of an Earth ocean, from which he issues his orders.
The group captures scientists to create an army of monsters to rampage on Earth. A boy, Daisaku Kusama (Johnny Sokko), and a young man named Jūrō Minami (Jerry Mano, a member of the secret peacekeeping organization Unicorn) are shipwrecked on an island after their ship is attacked by Dracolon (a sea monster) and captured by Big Fire. They end up in an elevator leading to a complex where a Pharaoh-like robot is being built by captive scientist Lucius Guardian, who gives Daisaku and Jūrō its control device. Guardian helps them escape before he is shot to death; before he dies, he triggers an atomic bomb which destroys the base. The explosion activates the robot, which obeys Daisaku. The boy is invited by Jūrō and his chief, Azuma, to join Unicorn and fight Big Fire with Giant Robot.
In the US version, the Gargoyle Gang is an ambitious, incompetent group with a high mortality rate. They wear Soviet and Wehrmacht military uniforms, Central American guerrilla clothing and Italian designer sunglasses. Each member of the gang has an explosive device implanted in their body, to be detonated if they are captured.
In each episode, the Gargoyle Gang sends a monster to attack its enemies:
- Dakolar (Dracolon): Appears in episodes 1 and 11; swims, has tentacle arms and spits sand.
- Globar (Nucleon, Radion): Appears in episodes 2 and 20; resembles a walking limpet mine.
- Satan Rose (Gargoyle Vine): Appears in episodes 3 and 17; powers include fast growth, constricting tentacle-like vines, suction flowers, and lava bombs.
- Lygon: Appears in episodes 4 and 10; powers include a forehead horn drill, mouth flames, a wrecking ball and swimming.
- Gangar: Appears in episodes 5 and 18; powers include flight, missiles and a rope.
- Dorogon (Dragon, Stalker): Appears in episodes 6 and 21; powers include flight, swimming, missiles, invisibility and the ability to consume aircraft and ocean vessels.
- Ikageras (Scaleon): Appears in episodes 7 and 26; powers include swimming, hurricane winds and acid spray.
- Doublion: Appears in episode 8; powers include head rotation, a sticky petroleum-based liquid and mouth flames.
- Sparki (Tentaclon): Appears in episodes 9 and 22; powers include levitation and electric tentacles and rays.
- Unbalan (Amberon): Appears in episode 12; powers include self-mummification, resistance to electricity, and photosynthesis.
- Ganmons (Opticon, Opticorn): Appears in episodes 13 and 26; powers include levitation, retractable legs, a vacuum, a searchlight and an energy ray.
- Iron Power (Iron Jawbone): Appears in episode 14; powers include flight, teeth and body separation.
- Icelar (Igganog): Appears in episodes 15, 24 and 26; powers include burrowing, freezing winds and low body temperature.
- GR-2 (Torozon): Appears in episodes 16 and 19; powers include an electric boomerang, burrowing and eye lasers.
- Calamity (Cleopat): Appears in episode 22 with armor that reacts to long-range attacks.
- Hydrazona: Appears in episode 24; powers include an acidic body and swimming.
- Draculan: Appears in episode 25; powers include size-changing, vampirism, a shield and a rapier.
Guillotine is a blue-skinned alien who has tentacles extending from the bottom of his head. He wears a long robe, carries a staff with a white orb at one end and can grow to a great height. Guillotine leaves day-to-day matters in the hands of commanders:
- Spider, a human who is killed by a spray of acid
- Doctor Over (Doctor Botanus), a silver-skinned alien capable of teleportation
- Red Cobra (Fangar, Dangor the Executioner), a bizarre alien
- Black Dia (Harlequin), who is fascinated with playing-card suits
- Mr. Gold (The Golden Knight), an armored knight
Giant Robo has a number of weapons, including finger missiles, a back missile, a bazooka cannon, radion eye beams, a flying-V missile, a flamethrower and electric wires.
The series, first broadcast in the United States in 1969, peaked in distribution from 1971 to 1974 and was in syndication through the early 1980s. Giant Robo was broadcast in India from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. It aired during the early 1970s in Australia, Malaysia and Brazil, and in the United Arab Emirates during the late 1980s. In 1970, several episodes were edited together to create the 95-minute Voyage into Space. A 10-minute highlight version of Voyage into Space was created for the Super 8 home-movie market during the early 1970s by Ken Films.
The series was released on DVD by Toei Video in Japan, and had been released on laserdisc during the 1990s. Eight episodes (some out of broadcast order) were released on videocassette by Orion Home Video in the United States and are out of print. On March 26, 2013, Shout! Factory released the 26-episode, four-disc Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot- The Complete Series: Collectors Edition on DVD in Region 1.
Although the series was violent by 1960s American standards for children's programming, in Japan it was no more violent than other tokusatsu airing at the time. Gunfights are staples of each episode, and the show's two child leads (Johnny Sokko and Mari Hanson) were frequently seen shooting with the other Unicorn agents. In one episode, Johnny and Mari are captured and tied to trees by Gargoyle, and are within seconds of being executed by a firing squad when they are rescued by Unicorn agents. Nearly every Japanese anime exported to the United States during that period was edited for violence, but in Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot a minimum of violence was removed. In addition to dubbing American voice actors for the US version, many of the show's sound effects were remixed or re-recorded.
The following episode titles were transcribed from the on-screen title cards of the US version. They are in their original US and Japanese broadcast order, verified by previews for next episode at the end of each one:
|Nº||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|1||"Dracolon: The Great Sea Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||11 October 1967|
|Shipwrecked, Daisaku (Johnny Sokko) and Juro Minami, an agent for Unicorn, drift to an island which is a base of the BF gang. They happen to discover a huge robot while they are running away.|
|2||"Nucleon: The Magic Globe"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||18 October 1967|
|Emperor Guillotine, king of BF Syndicate, plans to take back Giant Robo and to arrest Daisaku, the only one that can give orders to the robot. He sends a huge magic metal globe called Glober to the earth.|
|3||"The Gargoyle Vine: A Space Plant"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||25 October 1967|
|Under Emperor Guillotine's orders, Dr. Over, a leading member of BF Syndicate, comes to the Earth with a fossil of a devilish space plant called Satan Rose.|
|4||"Monster Ligon-Tyrox: A Strange Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||25 October 1967|
|Emperor Guillotine sends Dr. Over and Ligon, a new weapon in the shape of a pyramid, to the Earth. By operating Ligon, Over destroys oil fields in Araia one after another.|
|5||"The Gigantic Claw"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||1 November 1967|
|Dr. Tadokora develops QQV, a super-excellent transparent metal. He tests it, and QQV endures all the attacks of Giant Robo. BF Syndicate watch the experiments using TV cameras and try to rob the specifications of QQV.|
|6||"Dragon: The Ninja Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||8 November 1967|
|A monster called Dorogon swallows a jet plane of the Commonwealth of Sordia when it is flying and an atomic submarine of Furenkov Republic when it is under the sea.|
|7||"Our Enemy: Scalion"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||15 November 1967|
|The decoding office of the Japanese Branch of Unicorn Organization is in the basement of a lighthouse on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.|
|8||"The Challenge of the Two-Headed Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||22 November 1967|
|Daisaku and Minami happen to help a one-eyed man whom BF members are chasing. According to the man's story, they are trying to kill him as a traitor because he became frightened by the inhumanity of the Syndicate and quit it.|
|9||"Tentaclon: An Electric Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||29 November 1967|
|Emperor Guillotine gives Dr. Over a spaceship equipped with all kinds of scientific weapons. After landing on Earth, Over sends an electric monster called Sparky to the grounds of a soccer game and kidnaps all 30,000 spectators as hostages.|
|10||"The Transformed Humans"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||6 December 1967|
|Dr. Over makes Ligon swallow a train near Lake Biwa to kidnap Suzuki, one of the passengers and head of the Kyoto Branch of Unicorn Organization.|
|11||"The Terrifying Sand Creature"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||13 December 1967|
|The underground office of the South Pole Unicorn Branch is buried in red sand which suddenly started to gush out in the ice field. As the communications are cut off, Azuma sends Daisaku and Ninami there to see what happened.|
|12||"Amberon: The Synthetic Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||20 December 1967|
|Unicorn members locate the secret headquarters of the Japanese Branch of BF Syndicate. They attack the house and arrest Dr. Over by taking his blue star-shaped metal on his chest, the source of his magical power.|
|13||"Opticorn Must Be Destroyed"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||27 December 1967|
|There is a small quiet Allah Republic at the foot of the Alps; the only product of this beautiful country is gold. Her peace is broken when a vein of new ore is found in a gold mine.|
|14||"The Monstrous Flying Jawbone"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||3 January 1968|
|The office of Unicorn Chinese Branch is attacked by tank corps led by Red Cobra. Chang, its head, asks the help of the Japanese Branch. Azuma, Daisaku and Minami fly there on Giant Robo's back.|
|15||"Igganog: The Ice-Berg Monster"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||10 January 1968|
|Daisaku and Minami suspect that a strange villa standing in the heart of the Japanese Alps is a secret base of BF Syndicate. They approach the house to get some proof, when men in the house notice them and look for them.|
|16||"Torozon: An Enemy Robot"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman||17 January 1968|
|Beginning with the Swiss Branch, the Unicorn branch headquarters are mysteriously destroyed one after another — Rome, Cairo, Bombay, Singapore, Hong Kong, then Tapai. It is easy to guess that Tokyo will be next.|
|17||"Destroy the Dam"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|24 January 1968|
|The Gargoyle Vine is back, and this time it's sucked up all the water in a lake. Will it grow to an incredible size and defeat the combined military might of the Earth?|
|18||"X-7, a Mysterious Enemy Agent"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|31 January 1968|
|The mysterious enemy agent X-7 is assassinating Unicorn operatives around the world with the help of a giant flying hand. As a precaution, Jerry is assigned to protect Johnny, since only U7 can control Giant Robo. That same day, new kid Kenny joins Johnny's class. Coincidence?|
|19||"Metron, the Mysterious Space Man"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|7 February 1968|
|The mysterious space man Metron lands in his flying saucer and befriends the Unicorn crew. And yet, it should come as no surprise that he's actually working for Gargoyle. Torozon makes an encore appearance, but Giant Robo literally tears him apart.|
|20||"Beware the Radion Globe"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|14 February 1968|
|The Radion, close relative of the Nucleon, captures Giant Robo, and Fangor is going to replace the robot's electronic brain. Johnny and Jerry find the robot. Johnny's tears of frustration reactivate the robot's brain so it can fight Radion.|
|21||"The Terrifying Space Mummy"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|21 February 1968|
|The Space Mummy has poisoned the water supply so anyone who drinks it is turned into a mummy. Space Mummy and Gargoyle are hiding out in a convent dressed as nuns. Agent U5 is captured, and Jerry dresses as a nun to save her. Marie storms the convent with guns blazing to save them. Giant Robo must fight the Starker, a monster that can change size at will.|
|22||"Clash of the Giant Robot"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|28 February 1968|
|The country of Melcon wants their own giant robot, and Giant Robo's birthday is spoiled by the news. The Melconians build Cleopat, but Goldenaut steals it. Gargoyle scientists can't activate Cleopat, but the robot's reaction defense disables Giant Robo by using his own attacks against him. Even blinded, Giant Robo defeats Tentaclon and throws it at Cleopat, destroying them both.|
|23||"Dr. Eingali, Master of Evil"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|28 February 1968|
|Johnny Sokko is the one who controls the gigantic Giant Robo with the wrist-watch controller microphone. One day, he receives a parcel from his father as a birthday gift; it is a kit for constructing a man-size robot.|
|24||"Hydrazona, a Terrifying Bacteria"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|18 March 1968|
|25||"Drakulon, Creature of Doom"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|25 March 1968|
|26||"The Last of Emperor Guillotine"||Manuel San Fernando||Reuben Guberman,
|1 April 1968|
|Johnny is shot by a very careless assassin, and Emperor Guillotine pulls out all the stops, throwing his three remaining monsters at Giant Robo. Guillotine then grows to an incredible size and declares himself ruler of the world. Giant Robo can't defeat him, because Guillotine is made of atomic energy and traditional attacks would blow up the Earth. Will Giant Robo make the ultimate sacrifice to save the planet and Johnny?|
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, Earth is overrun by giant robots. Daisaku Kusama encounters the titular Robo in Okinawa ruins. Beckoned by forces he cannot understand, Daisaku is made to bond with Robo and defend his homeland from the incoming evil.
In popular culture
Frank H. Wu, a Johnny Sokko fan as a child, describes several episodes of the show in his book Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. Guitarist Buckethead named his early band and second studio album after the series, including several references to characters and events from the TV series in his music.
- Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot – Shout! Factory's Package Art for 'The Complete Series' DVD
- Wu, Frank H. Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Print.
- The Johnny Sokko Forum – Started on May 16, 2008
- A Complete Guide to Toei's 1960s Sci/Fi Series by Keith Sewell
- Giant Robo (tokusatsu) (anime) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- Giant Robo at the Internet Movie Database
- Episode synopses at scifijapan.com
- Yumiko Katayama blog 片山由美子の70's メモリー☆そして今♪