Remembering Toei's Tokusatsu Shows In The Showa Era

As the Heisei era comes to an end -- I think about it whether or not the Showa era of Tokusatsu by Toei is going to be soon a "long forgotten thing" due to generation gap issues. The Showa era may no longer be so familiar with the new school era of Tokusatsu fans but I just feel like I want to remember the Showa era days and how it's probably my favorite era of Super Sentai (in terms of storytelling) and how I usually just don't bother with old school Kamen Rider of this era (though Kamen Rider Black is still a favorite of mine) as well as Metal Hero.

The 1970s can be considered to be very old now. Many shows today from that era would have entered their 40s. You can think of it that Battle Fever J and Skyrider are 40 years old. The first Kamen Rider is already almost 50 years old. Goranger turned 40 last 2015. This would be the era where there was a struggle of new ideas.

I heard that the idea of making Super Sentai was derived from the popularity of Kamen Rider. I think it was from a Questor magazine issue last decade where producers thought, "If one is a hit then why not make a team of five heroes?" The idea soon came out with the highly successful Himitsu Sentai Goranger in 1975 --  four year after the first Kamen Rider came out. After Goranger's two year run (it was a total of 84 episodes) was succeeded by the much less successful Dengekitai JAKQ -- which sadly got wrapped up pretty quick to only 35 episodes because of the lack of popularity. I wonder what did the late Masashi Ishibashi think about his character getting written off in such a ridiculous way in contrast to his later write-offs which looked like Michael Bay directed them?

Before Super Sentai established its "must release a new series every year" streak -- Kamen Rider had an unbroken streak for five seasons composed of seven Kamen Riders. So why did writers originally want to end the Showa era with Stronger? It's not entirely clear but it was in December 27, 1975 when Stronger ended. Goranger was still airing then so I guess Toei had no idea yet on what they wanted or needed to do with Tokusatsu. Also, while the less popular JAKQ aired -- there wasn't a new Kamen Rider season yet. This is what may be called the Ishinomori era of Super Sentai.

But during that gap -- I wonder how many have heard of the Japanese Spiderman in 1978? This was the time when Marvel actually adapted Spiderman? I was shocked when I shouldn't be that Toei actually got the rights of Marvel to make their own Spiderman. Why should I be shocked if Toei would later produce two Robocop inspired shows namely Mobile Cop Jiban and Detective Robot Janperson? The Japanese Spiderman sort of started to set the ground for more improvements (and the Bandai merchandise influx) for Super Sentai!

I was shocked to learn though that Goranger and JAKQ were only retroactively counted as Super Sentai in 1995 but not back in 1979. Battle Fever J and Kamen Rider (1979) which is referred to also as the New Kamen Rider or Skyrider (to avoid confusing him with the first Kamen Rider) -- it was probably intended as a reboot but you'd later see the first seven Kamen Riders appear and supposedly "die" (which they were probably revived due to severe backlash and this probably caused Kamen Rider Ryuki to press the reset button years later). Battle Fever J also introduced the giant robot concept -- something that would evolve overtime for better or for worse. 

What was interesting to know was that Battle Fever J had Marvel involved with Toei. Toei's contract with Marvel would later expire and what would be strange was that Marvel would later have a partership with Haim Saban -- the same person who would have a partnership with Toei Ltd. I even wonder did Toei refer Marvel to Saban for all we know? Saban would later enter into a contract with both Toei (for Power Rangers) and Marvel (for the award winning X-Men cartoon). Also, I wonder how true was it that Stan Lee nearly had Toei's permission to Americanize Sun Vulcan but it wasn't the right time then later said person had an alliance with Saban? Strange huh?

After Skyrider, we had Kamen Rider Super-1 which I heard didn't do so well. Kamen Rider came to a hiatus yet again after Super-1 ended in 1981 -- it took six years before Kamen Rider Black was born in 1987! So what happened? Personally, I think Super-1 wasn't anything memorable (as much as most Showa Riders) in contrast to the Super Sentai series of the 80s. The movie did bring back the eight Kamen Riders who were supposedly dead in Skyrider. I guess fan protest does work wonders in some way huh? Yet, it didn't get Burai brought back to life!

So before Goranger and JAKQ got into the "Super Sentai" list -- you could want to consider this important head writer nanely Shouzo Uehara for Super Sentai. He was the head writer of Goranger, JAKQ, Battle Fever J (though Susumu Takaku was was probably his joint partner), Denjiman and Sun Vulcan. At the same time, he was also involved with the Metal Hero Series from Gavan up to Spielban. 

What would be interesting was the birth of the Metal Hero franchise (most of them are heavily space-themed) which would sadly decline later in the late 90s. It's said that Ironman somewhat inspired the concept of Gavan, Gavan's design would somewhat inspire Robocop then Robocop would later inspire both Jiban and Janperson. The Metal Hero franchise during the 80s had the Space Sheriff Trilogy -- Gavan, Sharivan and Shaider -- who were followed up by Space Wolf Juspion (which featured Hikaru Kurosaki who married Farrah's actress the late Yuko Asuka) and Dimension Warrior Spielban which featured the return of Hiroshi Watari as a main character and featured a transforming female sidekick. But it was also time to change the pace with other stuff.

So we ended up having two more Metal Heroes during the Showa era namely Superhuman Metalder and World Ninja War Jiraiya (who would later get featured in Shuriken Sentai Ninninger) and the finale. Metalder was somewhat based on one of the older Showa heroes namely Kikkaider (who also featured different colors for both his halves) and also a robot with human disguises. I haven't seen Kikaider, Rainbowman or even Ninja Captor to truly comment on them. I may have missed a lot in my list of other heroes so please comment on what I've missed!

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I just wonder does anybody remember this short-lived slapstick series by Toei Ltd. where an alien assumes the identity of Ken Takase to study human behavior. Along the way, he ends up encountering the sinister organization known as Tentacle led by Jim Paredes-lookalike Professor K and later his niece Lady M temporarily takes over. So I even wanted to laugh at how this show was really a failure and I think it's in my list of childhood shows I don't want to rewatch or not. But I could remember it to be one crazy show that probably deserved all its criticisms!

The Showa era should also never forget who I call the biggest contributor to creative or innovative writing in Super Sentai -- the big man Hirohisa Soda! Some people could go ahead and bring up big names like Toshiki Inoue (who served as an important secondary writer for the Soda era and I just love many of his episodes), Yasuko Kobayashi or Power Rangers fan may bring up their beloved Judd Lynn. But I just think that Soda is too important to be neglected for his contributions to Super Sentai's progress!

After Sun Vulcan ended the Uehara era -- Dai Sentai Goggle V came next. I thought Sun Vulcan had really wonky merchandise and seriously what kind of vehicle was the secondary component of the Sun Vulcan Robo? Though if there's one thing positive I'd name about Sun Vulcan is the second half that features a better drive (first half was kinda boring) and Takayuki Hiba -- a red ranger who's certain to kick Rocky De Santos' butt as he started the trend of red ranger swordsmen! Goggle V was pretty basic but its success really made Toei give more workload to Soda himself -- before he burned out during the Heisei era! The success of Goggle V had him handle Kagaku Sentai Dynaman -- a series that I love to joke was directed by Michael Bay!

Soda would later slowly shift away from the lighthearted mood of Goggle V and Dynaman to focus on trying more serious themes. Both shows talked about the consequences of unethical science but not as deeply done as Chodenshi Bioman (though the death of Mika Koizumi was written due to actress Yuki Yajima suddenly leaving due to pay reasons), Choshinsei Flashman and Chojuu Sentai Liveman. Also, he was getting deep into sci-fi especially with Dengeki Sentai Changeman followed up by Flashman. I even think this guy's writing makes both Changeman and Flashman more appealing to me than how fan favorites Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy were carried out. 

His last two more solid shows for me were both Hikari Sentai Maskman (which introduced the first Super Sentai love story though I'd pick Jetman's Ryu and Rie over Takeru and Ial) and Liveman. I thought about how Maskman can be viewed as a weird show by newer fans but again I think it's just the generation gap. I thought Liveman itself was a very hooking show -- but too bad that Soda himself started losing it during the finale arc. For the success he did at the Showa era -- he certainly started to fade away in the Heisei era. Yet, without him I doubt it Heisei era writers such as Kobayashi and Junki Takegami would probably have no idea on what to do.

The final true Showa era Kamen Rider is Black. Black RX was soon crammed in between the Showa and Heisei era. Like Skyrider -- Black was intended to be a reboot. But unlike Skyrider, Black was originally meant to be its own continuity. For me, this was my first Kamen Rider and perhaps the only one that I hold in high regard from the Showa era. Sure, I do have a soft spot for Black RX but Black has had better writing and dramatics in spite of some issues such as how Bilgenia was handled and how the second half's staff change such as Shadow Moon awakening and Uehara leaving the show for personal reasons. The second half had some missed potential yet the show is still highly praised in spite of that! The success gave birth to the less successful Black RX -- which however is still way better than Saban's Mashed Rider even if said show wasn't popular. 


So what are your memories about the Showa era?


  1. Reading this article of the Shōwa era got me nostalgic and choked up as it got me reminiscing the years of Autumn of 1993-1999 when I was in both Junior High till Higj School.
    All those Toku Shows from Toei, Tsuburaya and Toho has got me hooked. Super Sentai, Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Cybercops, Guyferd etc. They all go my imagination running high and trying to mimic some of these characters through fashion(civilian clothes) to personality but not trying to fight evil which is going too far.
    Has spending my life from 1993-present has impacted my life positively? Yes and No but I wouldn’t miss it or change it for anything else.


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