Kyodai Hero (巨大ヒーロー Kyodai Hīrō, "Giant Hero") is a subgenre in tokusatsu that involves Japanese superheroes or robots with the ability to grow to immense heights to fight giant monsters. The Kyodai Hero is the mainstream superhero genre that is widely popular in Japan. The first and most famous Kyodai hero is Ultraman who made his debut in 1966. Since then, Ultraman has helped spawn the Kyodai hero genre with countless shows such as Godman and Iron King.
The inception of the Kyodai hero genre initially began with Godzilla in the film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Godzilla is portrayed as a personified natural disaster at first but over the course of the film franchise's many monster battles he is gradually put into the position of protector of the human race, a key trope of the Kyodai hero genre. Though Godzilla established the minor concept of the Kyodai hero, the genre technically began with P-Productions live action adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's Maguma Taishi which predated the popular Ultraman franchise, by six days. Ultraman was created by Godzilla films Special Effects Director and Supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya. Ultraman quickly became very popular in its initial run that Tsuburaya Productions (the now owner of the Ultraman series) produced a sequel show called Ultra Seven, the second Kyodai hero show ever produced. Though technically a Kyodai hero, Ultra Seven mainly fought aliens throughout the show. Ultra Seven was the last Tokusatsu Kyodai hero show Eiji Tsuburaya ever produced. He died in 1970. Since then, the increase in Ultraman's popularity was so great that Tsuburaya Productions decided to bring back Ultraman indefinitely, spawning dozens Ultraman shows now referred to as the Ultra series.
The 70s saw the decrease of Kaiju films and the uprising of Tokusatsu and Kyodai hero shows. Tsuburaya Productions rebooted the Ultraman character with The Return of Ultraman. This reignited high interest with studios to produce their own tokusatsu shows. Many of the tokusatsu shows from the 70s era mainly featured Kyodai heroes such as Godman and Super Robot Red Baron. By 1975, Tokusatsu shows were highly popular in Asia. Toho Studios even invented its own Kyodai hero to fight alongside Godzilla, Jet Jaguar in the film Godzilla vs. Megalon. In Hong Kong, Shaw Brothers Studio produced its own Henshin/Kyodai hero as well with The Super Inframan. Though stylistically more akin to Kamen Rider, Inframan mixed Kyodai Hero elements into its formula, allowing the titular hero to grow to gigantic size.
Style & techniques
The Kyodai Hero genre usually involves a man who transforms into the eponymous hero, usually an organic cyborg, android, or robot, and changes to an enormous size to battle a giant monster or aliens. The special effect techniques usually use suitmation and miniatures, a SFX tradition in Asia.
List of Kyodai Hero characters
- Ultraman from the Ultra Series
- Ambassador Magma
- Daitetsujin 17
- Emerald Seijin Kain (from Jumborg Ace)
- Giant Robo (tokusatsu)
- Gridman (adapted into the US as Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad)
- Iron King
- Jaguarman (from an aborted TV series)
- Jet Jaguar (from Godzilla vs Megalon)
- Jumborg 9 (from Jumborg Ace)
- Jumborg Ace
- Mach Baron
- Majin Hunter Mitsurugi
- Mirrorman Reflex
- Red Baron
- Silver Kamen
- Thunder Mask
- Zone Fighter