Giant Robo (tokusatsu)

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Giant Robo
Giant Robo.jpg
Giant Robo logo
Also known as Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot
Genre Tokusatsu, Fantasy, Kaiju, Superhero, Super Robot
Created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama
Based on Giant Robo by Mitsuteru Yokoyama
Country of origin Japan
Original language(s) Japanese
No. of episodes 26 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Mitsuteru Yokoyama
Production location(s) Tokyo, Japan
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) Toei Company
Release
Original network Japan TV Asahi
United States Comet
Original release October 11, 1967 (1967-10-11) – April 1, 1968 (1968-04-01)

Giant Robo, or (ジャイアントロボ, Jaianto Robo), known as Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot in the United States, 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 American 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).

Plot[edit]

Earth is invaded by an interstellar terrorist group, Big Fire (the Gargoyle Gang in the American 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 has been capturing scientists to create an army of monsters to help them conquer Earth. A boy named Daisaku Kusama (Johnny Sokko (acted out in the original series by Mitsunobu Kaneko, with actress Bobbie Byers providing his English-language dialogue)) 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 giant 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 only Daisaku. The boy is invited by Jūrō and his chief, Azuma, to join Unicorn and fight Big Fire with Giant Robo.

Cast[edit]

  • Mitsunobu Kaneko (as Daisaku Kusama/Johnny Sokko)
  • Toshiyuki Tsuchiyama
  • Koichi Chiba
  • Akio Ito
  • Shozaburo Date
  • Tomomi Kuwabara
  • Hirohiko Sato
  • Yumiko Katayama

American voice actors[edit]

  • Bobbie Byers
  • Ted Rusoff
  • Jerry Burke
  • Rueben Guberman

Characters[edit]

The Gargoyle Gang[edit]

In the American version of the series, the Gargoyle Gang is an ambitious, but incompetent, terrorist group with a high mortality rate. They wear Soviet and Wehrmacht military uniforms, Central American guerrilla clothing and Italian designer sunglasses. The members of the gang all have explosive devices implanted in their bodies that are to be detonated instantly if they are captured.

Monsters[edit]

In each episode, the Gargoyle Gang sends a monster to attack its enemies (the Japanese version's names are listed first, followed by the American version's):

  • Dakolar (Dracolon): Appears in episodes 1 and 11; swims, has tentacle arms and spits sand.
  • Globar (Nucleon and The Radion Globe): Appears in episodes 2 and 20; resembles a walking limpet mine.
  • The Satan Rose (The 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 and Stalker): Appears in episodes 6 and 21; powers include flight, swimming, missiles, invisibility and the abilities to consume aircraft and ocean vessels and grow and shrink in size (the last with the aid of a special device).
  • Ikageras (Scalion): 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.
  • Sparky (Tentaclon): Appears in episodes 9 and 22; powers include levitation, electric tentacles and rays.
  • Unbalan (Amberon): Appears in episode 12; powers include self-mummification, resistance to electricity and photosynthesis.
  • Gammons (Opticon in the episode, Opticorn in the episode's title): 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, sharp 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 head boomerang, burrowing and eye lasers.
  • Calamity (Cleopat): Appears in episode 22; made with armor that reacts to long-range attacks.
  • Hydrazona: Appears in episode 24; powers include an acidic body, freezing breath and swimming.
  • Drakulon: Appears in episode 25; powers include size-changing, vampirism, a shield and a rapier.

Emperor Guillotine[edit]

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, which he does only in the final episode of the series.

Guillotine leaves day-to-day matters in the hands of various commanders:

  • Spider, a human who is killed by a spray of acid from Ikageras' (Scalion's) mouth
  • Doctor Over (Doctor Botanus), a silver-skinned alien capable of teleportation
  • Red Cobra (Fangar, Dangor the Executioner), a bizarre alien
  • Black Dia (Harlequin), a human who is fascinated with playing-card suits
  • The Space Mummy, an alien resembling a clothed Egyptian mummy
  • Mr. Gold (The Golden Knight), a golden-armored knight
  • Doctor Eingali, an evil alien responsible for the creation of a Daisaku Kusuma android that briefly controls Giant Robo before its destruction
  • Drakulon, an evil alien vampire; he becomes gigantic in order to fight Giant Robo

Arsenal[edit]

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.

Alternate versions[edit]

The series, first broadcast in the United States in 1969 by AIP-TV, 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 also aired during the early 1970s in Australia, Brazil and various parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America.

In 1970, footage from episodes 1, 2, 10, 17 and 26 was edited together and released by AIP-TV as a 100-minute made-for-TV film called 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.

Home media releases[edit]

Toei Video released the series on LaserDisc in Japan during the 1990s. It is also available on DVD. In 1996, the series was re-released through distribution by Orion Home Video, containing eight episodes (in production order) on four volumes (two episodes on each videocassette). On March 26, 2013, Shout! Factory released the 26-episode, four-disc Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[1]

Controversy[edit]

Although the series was violent by 1960s American standards for children's programming, in Japan it was no more violent than other tokusatsu TV series 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, only a minimum of violence was removed. In addition to dubbing American voice actors for the American version, many of the show's sound effects were remixed or re-recorded.

Episodes[edit]

The following episode titles were transcribed from the on-screen title cards of the American version. They are in their original Japanese and American broadcast order, verified by previews for the next episode at the end of each one:

Title Directed by: Written by: Air date
1"Dracolon, The Great Sea Monster"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman11 October 1967 (11 October 1967)
Shipwrecked, Daisaku Kusama (called Johnny Sokko in the American version) and Juro Minami (called Jerry Mano in the American version), an agent for Unicorn, drift to an island which proves to be a base of the BF Syndicate, an extra-terrestrial terrorist group from the Planet Gargoyle, who are bent on conquering the Earth in the name of their boss, an alien known as Emperor Guillotine. They happen to discover a huge robot created by for the BF Syndicate while they are escaping. Meanwhile, Emperor Guillotine commands the BF commander Spider to send Dakolar, a monster that destroy Daisaku and Juro's ship the other night, on a mission to attack Tokyo, the source of the Unicorn headquarters. Now under the control of Daisaku, will Giant Robo destroy Dakolar before Tokyo crumbles under the weight of the monster's enormous might?
2"Nucleon, The Magic Globe"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman18 October 1967 (18 October 1967)
Emperor Guillotine, the leader of the BF Syndicate, plans to take back Giant Robo, and in order to do so, he sent Spider and his men to capture Daisaku, the only one that can give orders to the robot. The Emperor also sends a huge metal globe called Globar to Earth.
3"The Gargoyle Vine-A Space Plant"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman25 October 1967 (25 October 1967)
Under Emperor Guillotine's orders after being brought from the far planet, Dr. Over (called Dr. Botanus in the American version), another leading member of the BF Syndicate, comes to Earth with the seed of a devilish alien plant called the Satan Rose (called the Gargoyle Vine).
4"Monster Ligon-Tyrox, A Strange Monster"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman25 October 1967 (25 October 1967)
Emperor Guillotine sends his BF Syndicate minions (including Commander Spider and Doctor Over) and Ligon-Tyrox, a new weapon in the shape of a pyramid, to Earth. By operating Ligon-Tyrox, Dr. Over destroys oil fields in Arabia, one after another.
5"The Gigantic Claw"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman1 November 1967 (1 November 1967)
Dr. Tadokora develops QQV, a superstrong transparent metal. He tests it and QQV endures all the attacks of Giant Robo. The BF Syndicate watch the experiments using TV cameras and try to steal the specifications of QQV.
6"Dragon, The Ninja Monster"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman8 November 1967 (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 the Furenkov Republic when it is under the sea. This is the Emperor's plan to cause a world war.
7"Our Enemy-Scalion"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman15 November 1967 (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 FernandoReuben Guberman22 November 1967 (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 left it.
9"Tentaclon-An Electric Monster"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman29 November 1967 (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 60,000 spectators as hostages.
10"The Transformed Humans"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman6 December 1967 (6 December 1967)
Dr. Over and Black Dia makes the resurrected Ligon-Tyrox swallow a train near Lake Biwa to kidnap Suzuki, one of the passengers and head of the Kyoto branch of Unicorn.
11"The Terrifying Sand Creature"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman13 December 1967 (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 FernandoReuben Guberman20 December 1967 (20 December 1967)
Unicorn members locate the secret headquarters of the Japanese branch of the BF Syndicate. They attack the house and arrest Dr. Over by taking his blue star-shaped medal on his chest, the source of his power.
13"Opticorn Must Be Destroyed"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman27 December 1967 (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 FernandoReuben Guberman3 January 1968 (3 January 1968)
The office of Unicorn's 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 FernandoReuben Guberman10 January 1968 (10 January 1968)
Daisaku and Minami suspect that a strange villa standing in the heart of the Japanese Alps is a secret base of the 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 FernandoReuben Guberman17 January 1968 (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 FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
24 January 1968 (24 January 1968)
The Satan Rose is back and this time it has sucked up all of the water in a lake, with Dr. Over and Red Cobra overseeing the monster's rampage. Will it grow to an incredible size and defeat the combined military might of Earth? Will Giant Robo defeat the Satan Rose again for the sake of Japan and the rest of the Planet Earth? And if so, what will happened to Dr. Over himself when he failed a raging Emperor Guillotine one final time?
18"X-7, a Mysterious Enemy Agent"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
31 January 1968 (31 January 1968)
The mysterious enemy agent X-7 is assassinating Unicorn operatives around the world with the help of a flying giant mechanical hand. As a precaution, Jerry is assigned to protect Johnny, since only U7 can control Giant Robo. That same day, a new kid named Kenny joins Johnny's class in school. Coincidence?
19"Metron-The Mysterious Space-Man"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
7 February 1968 (7 February 1968)
The mysterious space-man Metron lands in his flying saucer and befriends the Unicorn crew. Yet it should come as no surprise that he is actually working for Gargoyle. Torozon makes an encore appearance, but Giant Robo literally tears him apart.
20"Beware-The Radion Globe"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
14 February 1968 (14 February 1968)
The Radion Globe, a close relative of Nucleon, captures Giant Robo and Fangor is going to replace the robot's electronic brain. Johnny and Jerry find Giant Robo. Johnny's tears of frustration reactivate Giant Robo's brain so that it can fight the Radion Globe.
21"The Terrifying Space Mummy"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
21 February 1968 (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 disguised 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 Starker, a monster that Space Mummy can cause to grow and shrink in size with the aid of a special device.
22"Clash of the Giant Robots"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
28 February 1968 (28 February 1968)
The country of Melcon wants their own giant robot and the anniversary of Giant Robo's creation is spoiled by the news. The Melconians build Cleopat, but the Golden Knight steals it. Gargoyle scientists cannot activate Cleopat, but the robot's defense reaction disables Giant Robo by using his own attacks against him. Even though it is temporarily blinded, Giant Robo defeats Tentaclon and throws it at Cleopat, destroying them both.
23"Dr. Eingali-Master of Evil"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
28 February 1968 (28 February 1968)
Johnny Sokko is the only one who can control Giant Robo with a controller disguised as an ordinary wrist watch. On day, he receives a parcel from his father as a birthday gift; it is a kit for constructing a child-sized robot. However, the "gift" is not all that it seems to be. It turns out to be an android duplication of Johnny, created by Emperor Guillotine's new accomplice Dr. Eingali to steal his controller and turn Giant Robo against Tokyo.
24"Hydrazona-A Terrifying Bacteria"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
18 March 1968 (18 March 1968)
25"Drakulon-Creature of Doom"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
25 March 1968 (25 March 1968)
Drakulon, a vampire from the Planet Gargoyle, has transformed a lot of people into vampires in an effort to conquer the Earth for Emperor Guillotine. Will Johnny Sokko and Jerry Mano hold off Drakulon's bloodthirsty slaves until Giant Robo arrives to help them, or will they too be turned into vampires?
26"The Last of Emperor Guillotine"Manuel San FernandoReuben Guberman,
Masaru Igami,
Hirô Matsuda,
Mon Shichijô
1 April 1968 (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 cannot defeat him, because Guillotine is made of atomic energy and traditional attacks would blow up Earth. Will Giant Robo make the ultimate sacrifice to save the planet and Johnny?

Related series[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, Earth is overrun by giant robots. Daisaku Kusama encounters 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]

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.[2]

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.

Punk band The Vandals recorded "Big Bro vs. Johnny Sako" on their 1984 album When in Rome Do as The Vandals.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot – Shout! Factory's Package Art for 'The Complete Series' DVD Archived February 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Wu, Frank H. Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Print.

External links[edit]