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:
- "Dracolon, the Great Sea Monster"
- "Nucleon, the Magic Globe"
- "The Gargoyle Vine – A Space Plant"
- "Monster Ligon-Tyrox, a Strange Monster"
- "The Gigantic Claw"
- "Dragon, the Ninja Monster"
- "Our Enemy – Scalion"
- "The Challenge of the Two-Headed Monster"
- "Tentaclon – An Electric Monster"
- "The Transformed Humans"
- "The Terrifying Sand Creature"
- "Amberon, the Synthetic Monster"
- "Opticon Must Be Destroyed"
- "The Monstrous Flying Jawbone"
- "Igganog, the Iceberg Monster"
- "Torozon, an Enemy Robot"
- "Destroy the Dam"
- "X-7, a Mysterious Enemy Agent"
- "Metron, the Mysterious Spaceman"
- "Beware the Radion Globe"
- "The Terrifying Space Mummy"
- "Clash of the Giant Robots"
- "Dr. Eingali, Master of Evil"
- "Hydrazona, a Terrifying Bacteria"
- "Drakulon, Creature of Doom"
- "The Last of Emperor Guillotine"
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♪