Moonlight Mask

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Moonlight Mask (月光仮面, Gekkō Kamen) (aka The Moonbeam Man)[1] is a fictional superhero that has appeared in Japanese tokusatsu and anime television shows and movies since his TV debut in 1958. The films were made in black and white/ToeiScope format.[2] Created by writer Kōhan Kawauchi, Moonlight Mask is best described as Japan's answer to The Lone Ranger, Batman and Zorro.

Japan's first TV superhero[edit]

Where as Super Giant (Starman) is Japan's first celluloid superhero (i.e.: he had debuted in movies), it was Moonlight Mask who set the standard as Japan's first live-action TV superhero, and was a huge success with children. Television was already new in Japan, so many children who didn't have a TV set were gathered around to watch it at a friend's or neighbor's house. Children also bought toy capes, sunglasses, masks and pistols, and played Moonlight Mask in schoolyards and backyards (but as with every children's superhero, Japanese or American, Moonlight Mask was not without liability casualties; See "Liability Issues & Cancellation").

Who is Moonlight Mask?[edit]

Moonlight Mask's identity has always been a mystery (which is why the Moonlight Mask persona is credited as being played by "?" in the original series).

Decked out in white tights, a white & red cape, a white scarf, yellow gloves & boots, dark glasses, a cloth face mask and Indian-style turban (pinned with a "moon" ornament), Moonlight Mask is armed with a whip, two six-shooters, shuriken and moon-shaped boomerangs, and rides a motorcycle.

However, only audiences know that Moonlight Mask could very well be detective Jūrō Iwai (祝 十郎, Iwai Jūrō), who seems to disappear from his friends just before the caped crusader rides to the rescue on his motorcycle! Even his comical assistant Gorohachi Fukuro (袋 五郎八, Fukuro Gorohachi), his friend Inspector Matsuda, and children Shigeru, Kaboko and Fujiko are oblivious to Iwai's secret identity.

The original 1958 TV series[edit]

The original B&W Moonlight Mask (月光仮面) tokusatsu TV drama series, produced by the advertising agency Senkosha, was aired on KRTV (now TBS) from February 24, 1958 to July 5, 1959, with a total of 130 (or possibly 131) episodes, divided into 5 chapters or story arcs. Jūrō Iwai/Moonlight Mask was played by Ose Koichi.

Chapters[edit]

  • Skull Mask (どくろ仮面 - Dokuro Kamen) - Episodes 1-72, 72 episodes (February 24, 1958-May 17, 1958)
  • The Secret of the Paradai Kingdom (パラダイ王国の秘密 - Paradai Ōkoku no Himitsu) - Episodes 73-93, 21 episodes (May 25, 1958-October 12, 1958)
  • Mammoth Kong (マンモスコング - Manmosu Kongu) - Episodes 94-104, 11 episodes (October 19, 1958-December 26, 1958)
  • The Ghost Party Strikes Back (幽霊党の逆襲 - Yureitō no Gyakushū) - Episodes 105-117, 13 episodes (January 4, 1959-March 29, 1959)
  • Don't Turn Your Hand to Revenge (その復讐に手を出すな - Sono Fukushū ni Te wo Dasu na) - Episodes 118-131, 14 episodes (April 5, 1959-July 5, 1959)

The 6 theatrical movies[edit]

To coincide with the Nippon Gendai/Senkosha TV series, Toei produced six Moonlight Mask theatrical movies. This was Toei's first involvement in the tokusatsu superhero genre (although their first original superhero production was the TV series 7-Color Mask in 1959). All 6 movies (which are in black-and-white, just like the TV series) are basically feature adaptations of the tv show's story arcs, and were filmed in "ToeiScope" (2.35:1). Three were released in 1958, and three in 1959. For these movie versions, Jūrō Iwai/Moonlight Mask was played by Fumitake Omura.

  • Moonlight Mask (月光仮面 - Gekkō Kamen) July 30, 1958; Directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi
  • Moonlight Mask - Duel to the Death in Dangerous Waters (月光仮面 - 絶海の死斗 - Gekkō Kamen - Zekkai no Shitō) August 6, 1958; Directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi
  • Moonlight Mask - The Claws of Satan (月光仮面 - 魔人〈サタン〉の爪 - Gekkō Kamen - Satan no Tsume) December 22, 1958; Directed by Eijiro Wakabayashi
  • Moonlight Mask - The Monster Kong (月光仮面 - 怪獣コング - Gekkō Kamen - Kaijū Kongu) aka The Monster Gorilla; April 1, 1959; Directed by Satoru Ainoda
  • Moonlight Mask - The Ghost Party Strikes Back (月光仮面 - 幽霊党の逆襲 - Gekkō Kamen - Yureitō no Gyakushū) aka The Challenging Ghost; July 28, 1959; Directed by Shoichi Shimazu
  • Moonlight Mask - The Last of the Devil (月光仮面 - 悪魔の最後 - Gekkō Kamen - Akuma no Saigo) aka The Last Death of the Devil; August 4, 1959, Directed by Shoichi Shimazu

Manga adaptation[edit]

A few months after the show first aired, a manga (comic book) tie-in was commissioned. There were different artists drawing the manga, the majority of which was done by young artist Jiro Kuwata (who would later become the co-creator of 8 Man).

Liability issues and cancellation[edit]

Children watching superhero shows sometimes attempt to imitate the hero's dangerous and impossible feats, and Moonlight Mask was no exception. Because a boy in Japan jumped to his death imitating Moonlight Mask's dangerous stunts, the show was unfortunately cancelled on July 5, 1959, following the ending of the final story arc, Don't Turn Your Hand to Revenge. Toei's movies, however, continued well into August of 1959. (Fortunately, this would not be the end of Moonlight Mask. He made his return to Japanese TV 13 years later.)

The 1972 anime series[edit]

The anime adaptation Seigi wo Ai Suru Mono - Gekkō Kamen (正義を愛する者 - 月光仮面), translated as The One Who Loves Justice: Moonlight Mask, was produced by Knack, and aired on Nippon Television from January 10, 1972 to October 2, 1972, with a total of 39 episodes (divided into three chapters or story arcs). The show also became very popular in Latin America under the title Centella. Japanese voice actor Michihiro Ikemizu provided the voice of Jūrō Iwai/Moonlight Mask. The hero now wears an open face helmet instead of a turban, and his cape has an ornament with the scarf attached.

Chapters[edit]

  • The Claw of Satan Series (Episodes 1-13)
  • The Mammoth Kong Series (Episodes 14-26)
  • The Dragon's Fang Series (Episodes 27-39)

The 1981 movie[edit]

The tokusatsu movie Moonlight Mask (月光仮面), produced by Purumie International/Herald Enterprises and distributed by Nippon Herald Pictures, was released theatrically on March 14, 1981. Considered Japan's answer to the American box-office fiasco, The Legend of the Lone Ranger (released the same year), this updated version of the Moonlight Mask legend bombed at the Japanese box-office. Daisuke Kuwahara (who, like Klinton Spilsbury, disappeared from doing films) played George Owara (Moonlight Mask's new alter-ego), and the rest of the cast made up of veteran action starlet Etsuko Shihomi, Daijiro Harada and Takayuki Godai, with none of the original characters turning up. The movie was directed and co-written by Yukihiro Sawada.

The 1999 gag-anime series[edit]

The gag-anime series We Know You, Moonlight Mask-kun! (ごぞんじ!月光仮面くん - Gozonji! Gekkô Kamen-kun), a very comical take on the famous masked hero, was produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha and broadcast on TV Tokyo from October 3, 1999 to March 26, 2000, with a total of 25 episodes. The opening theme song is an updated version of the original theme song, and is sung by COA.

Parodies[edit]

Kekkō Kamen[edit]

Controversial manga artist Go Nagai made a very raunchy parody of Moonlight Mask, titled Kekkō Kamen (けっこう仮面 - Kekkō Kamen, roughly translated as "Splendid Mask"), a pun on Gekkō Kamen (Moonlight Mask's Japanese name). The manga depicts the adventures of a young superheroine who wears a red mask, scarf, an occasional cape, gloves, boots and nothing else. She has various weapons like nunchaku and a feather on her mask.

Moonlight Knight (from Sailor Moon)[edit]

In the anime Sailor Moon, the character Mamoru Chiba appears in the Makaiju arc as the "Moonlight Knight" dressed in a white costume and turban similar to that of Moonlight Mask.

Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoiyo Masaru-san[edit]

In the anime Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoiyo Masaru-san, Yoroshiku Kamen and his various previous reincarnations (Bye-bye Kamen, Aisatsu Kamen, etc.) all parody Gekkou Kamen and his appeal to children.

Spectreman[edit]

In episode 42, Spectreman faces a mysterious new villain called Solar Mask, a reversed parody of Moonlight Mask whose looks greatly resemble the original hero.

Yo-Kai Watch[edit]

The second entry of the Yo-Kai Watch video game series produced by Level-5 features an in-universe fictional character called "Guts Kamen", or "Moximous Mask" in the English translation, who is modeled after Showa period superheroes in general, and Moonlight Mask in particular.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Galbraith,Stuart (1994). Japanese Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Films. McFarland and Co., Inc.
  2. ^ Galbraith,Stuart (1994). Japanese Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Films. McFarland and Co., Inc.

External links[edit]