The Japanese Spiderman:
By now, everybody knows who Spiderman is. I mean how could anybody not know about him? He's one of Marvel Comic's most popular and well-known superheroes. And he's been around for 50 years now. And still to this day, after literally half a century, there are comics being made along with TV shows, theatrical movies, and a whole merchandise. And don't worry, I will review the movies eventually as soon as I get the chance to. Now, in the past, Spiderman has appeared pretty much everywhere in popular media. But did you know that there was also a Japanese Spiderman show? Yes, I'm not joking. Way back in the 1970s, there actually was a live action Tokusatsu Spiderman show, done in the tradition of series like Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and Power Rangers (which came in the 90s). Now, I found this to be most bizarre, because I didn't know about this show until many years later. But thanks to the modern convenience of the internet and YouTube, I did eventually learn about this show. It's also worth mentioning that this show was made by the famous Japanese studio Toei. And since this show was made by Toei, it's to be expected that the Japanese Spiderman was completely different from the Spiderman who we know and love. But this show is only loosely based on the source material. The series first aired on Tokyo Channel 12 on May 17th, 1978, to March 14th, 1979, and lasted for 41 episodes. There was also a theatrical episode that was shown in the Toei Manga Matsuri film festival on July 22, 1978.
Now, as you may have noticed from the images I used for this entry, the Japanese Spiderman wore the same costume as the American version. But that's pretty much the only thing this version of the character has in common with his American counterpart. While Toei's version of the character wore the same costume as his Marvel counterpart, the show's storyline and the origin of the character's powers deviated completely from the source material. In addition to fighting by himself, this incarnation of Spiderman also piloted multiple vehicles and a giant robot known as Leopardon, which he would summon to thwart off enlarged versions of the show's monsters. Toei would adopt the giant robot concept in subsequent incarnations of their own Super Sentai series. If you are familiar with the source material, then you already know that Spiderman's real name is Peter Parker. But rather than being Peter Parker, Spiderman's real name in this show is Takuya Yamashiro (山城 拓也, Yamashiro Takuya
), who interestingly enough, is a motorcycle racer rather than a photographer and a reporter. The story in this show is that a UFO called the "Marveller", lands on Earth from the planet "Spider". No doubt, those names are obvious homages to "Marvel Comics", and the animal that Spiderman is based on. So anyway, Takuya's father Dr. Hiroshi Yamashiro, a space archaeologist, investigates the case, but is killed upon finding the spaceship. The incident also attracts the attention of Professor Monster and his Iron Cross Army (鉄十字団 Tetsu Juji Dan)
, an organization of evil aliens who (you guessed it) want to rule the universe.
Takuya follows his father to the Marveller and discovers Garia, the last surviving warrior of Planet Spider, a world that was destroyed by Professor Monster and the Iron Cross Army. Garia explains to Takuya that he was hunting Professor Monster, but now needs someone to carry on the fight and he injects Takuya with some of his own blood. Garia's alien blood gives Takuya spider-like powers. He then gives Takuya a bracelet that can activate his Spiderman costume, shoot web-lines, and controls the Marveller ship (which can also transform into the giant battle robot "Leopardon"). Using his powers, Takuya fights Professor Monster's army and other threats to Earth under the name Spiderman. In this show, none of the Spiderman villains from the Marvel Comics universe exist. No Dr. Octopus, no Venom, no Rhino, nada.
From what I've heard, Stan Lee of Marvel Comics actually enjoyed this show. Yes, I'm not kidding. Despite the show being criticized for bearing almost no resemblance to the American Spiderman, the staff at Marvel Comics, including Stan Lee, praised the show for its special effects and stunt work, especially the dramatic movements and poses of the character himself. While it is said that Marvel initially opposed the addition of Leopardon, the robot was viewed as a necessary gimmick to attract younger viewers and was ultimately kept. The show's mechanical designer, Katsushi Murakami (a toy designer at the time), expressed concern about Toei's capability to market Spiderman to Japanese audiences and was given permission by producer Yoshinori Watanabe to take whatever liberties he deemed necessary. Murakami came up with the idea of giving Spiderman an extraterrestrial origin, as well as a spider-like spacecraft that could transform into a giant robot (due to the popularity of the giant robot shows in Japan at the time).
So, where do I stand in this might you ask? Well... This certainly is an interesting take on Spiderman. Although, this is not what fans are used to. To be perfectly honest, this show is pretty cheesy with its Super Sentai inspiration and its dated special effects of the 70s. But to be fair, I don't necessarily consider this to be an insult or a blasphemy to the franchise. But nor do I consider this to be the best thing that's happened to the franchise. Like I said before, as with every other long running series, there has been some experimentation and evolution. And there has been some ups and downs throughout the years. For me, I consider this to be one of the in betweens that Spiderman has had in the long years of his existence. I've seen the whole series on YouTube (as that was the only place where I would be able to find it given its rarity), and well... I didn't think it was such a bad show really. I mean it's far from the best, and it is pretty cheesy with its Japanese Tokusatsu take on Spiderman. But this didn't really bother me that much. Because well, this show has pretty much been forgotten, and very few people are aware of its existence. Now, like I said before, this was an interesting take on the franchise, as I am a fan of both Spiderman and Super Sentai. Though, I don't think those two concepts go together particularly well. While a Japanese Spiderman was a unique idea, I didn't really much agree with the idea of giving him so many vehicles and a giant robot. Because if you remember the original comics by Marvel, Spiderman never used a mecha. Not that he ever needed one to begin with, he has his own style. And not only that, but he fought against the usual run of the mill villains in the Marvel Comics universe. If I had to choose between Japanese Spiderman and the American Spiderman, I'd choose the latter. Again, I have nothing personal against this show, but it's not what I'm used to. And it doesn't really do the franchise any justice. But that's just me. You can judge for yourselves.