I am a fan of Japanese culture. Not so much the anime aspect, but the folklore and history. So why am I mentioning this? Well, Japan and Spider-Man have had an interesting history. See, Spider-Man has made a mark on Japanese pop-culture and vice versa. For instance, did you know that Spider-Man had the first giant mecha on Japanese tokusastu (live-action adventure) shows? No? Well lets start there then.
This is the title screen for the Toei produced series Supaidaman (That is really how you pronounce Spider-Man in the Japanese tongue). It aired from May 1978 to March 1979. It was part of deal that also would have had Captain America have a series of his own. That series became the Super Sentai series Battle Fever J (Cap did not wind up in it). Also as part of the deal an animated movie was made based off of the Tomb of Dracula comics. In return Marvel would be able to use two of Toei’s main robot characters in their comics.
The main character of the series was not Peter Parker, but Takuya Yamashiro, a motocross racer. He wears the classic red and blues, in the series known as the Spider Protector. This version also lacks web-shooters, instead having a single Spider Bracelet. With these and the Spider Machine GP-7 (A car that can fly) he fought the Iron Cross Army, an alien force with a pretty standard goal. Conquer the galaxy or, if that fails, destroy it.
The show was your standard monster of the week fare. Monster attacks, Yamashiro makes some kind of dramatic entrance, beats the monster, monster grows, Spider-Man summons his giant robot to beat the monster. Yeah that last part is a thing. He had a giant mech called Leopardon and transformed from a spaceship called Marveler (Get it…).
See, the Toei Spider-Man series kind of gave birth to the whole monster gets bigger so beat it with a big robot trope. It would later be carried over to Toei’s Super Sentai series. I should maybe explain what Super Sentai is. Super Sentai translates to Super Squadron. Its normally a group wearing brightly colored spendex, and fighting against some great evil with the fate of the world at stake. One series had footage from it spliced into an American TV series in 1993 and gave birth to a cultural phenomenon. That series is still running today. What series is that? Well…
Yep, we can thank Spider-Man for Megazords. The sad part is if you watch the battles with the Leopardon, it didn’t do much. See this was the first time they had done the giant monster vs. giant robot serialized like this and the suit was kind of fragile. Eventually the suit was even lost, so they had to use stock of its final attack. This gave the suit the impression of being practically indestructible. Irony, it looked so powerful because it was so fragile.
Anyway, the series lasted for 41 episodes, all of which can be found here on the Marvel website. It was also released as a region 2 dvd set. So if you don’t live in Europe or have a region free dvd player, your best bet to legitimately watch the series is the Marvel website. Other then those, there are the more unscrupulous methods that I will not mention here. You know what though? Recently Toei has started rebooting some of their old franchises. Kikaider and Space Sheriff Gaven have received the treatment. Also Toei and Marvel are still on good terms, currently working together on the Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers (Spider-Man plays a role in the first few episodes, so I may look at this in another part of this series. Haven’t decided yet.) So I kind of wish that this series would get a reboot as well. Knowing more then they did then, they could do more with Marveler/Leopardon. That may just be me though, as the series is not looked very fondly on.
Next time I take a look at one of the three manga interpretations of Spider-Man. One that will leave you with one question. What the hell does J stand for?