Sunday, November 28, 2010

MARVELLLAAAAHHHHHHH

Supaidaman. I have to talk about this guy.

Back in '78, Marvel Comics made a deal with Toei. They basically said "you can use our characters in any way you want for four years." Lord only knows what the stipulations were on Toei's end. Maybe Godzilla comics?

But anyway, the deal was made, and one of the characters that Toei would use would be Spiderman. Originally the producers wanted the show to be faithful to the comic, but then Bandai showed up and started making demands. Demands that, to the face of any fan of the original comic, would be terribly horrifying (or mildly insane.)

With a heavy heart, the producers and writers reneged. Supaidaman was born.

And the world was better for it.

Peter Parker Yamashiro Takuya is a motorcycle enthusiast who has a scientist for a father. For some unexplicable reason, his father detects something approaching at high speed. It is actually a giant transforming leopard shaped spaceship called Marveller (get it?) that changes into a robot called Leopardon. ...yeah. Leopards, spiders... nothing's clicking in my brain here.

Anyway, his father gets mixed up in weird shit with the Iron Cross Army, led by Professor Monster and his sidekick Amazoness. For some reason, Amazoness looks like a 35 year old Yuko Oshima, so I tended to refer to her as Yuko Oshima whenever I saw her in the series.

Spiderman then battles hordes of minions (after posing stylistically several times,) that in the history of sentai have to be the most idiotic henchmen EVER. Spiderman dispatches of them by throwing them to one side or climbing in inaccessible areas a few feet above their head. Apparently the Iron Cross training manual didn't include punching upwards or throwing weapons.

"He's climbed the wall! Now we'll NEVER catch him!!"

He then fights the monster of the week, called Monster Bems, patterned after some kind of animal. He does this usually in two phases: one during normal size, and another where the Monster Bem turns into a giant version of itself. Supaidaman then calls upon Marveller using his bracelet, but treats his bracelet as if it were a hearing impaired 70 year old woman, because instead of a perfectly acceptable "Marveller!" we get

"MAHHHHVELAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!111"

Which honestly sounded like he was being stabbed by a serial killer and was screaming his lungs off.

Now this is the awesome part: for all the cheapness and drama, the giant battles in Supaidaman are (dare I say) the most realistic. Why? Because once Leopardon transforms, it immediately uses its finishing attack. Sometimes it doesn't even have to transform and pummels the poor monster to death. THIS is the answer to all the rational beings that have asked, "why doesn't the hero just use the finishing attack at the beginning of the fight instead of stalling for five minutes, THEN doing it?"

Why? Because sometime around episode 8, someone STOLE the Leopardon costume. What motivations a man might have to steal a foam costume that has no other practical use is baffling. Compounded with the fact that the special effects budget of the show ran out around this time as well, and you have a problem. Thus, they had to use stock footage and edit in reaction shots of the monster exploding. That is why Leopardon's finishing attack with its huge ass sword does not involve him doing any stabbing or slashing. The fucker literally hurls his sword at the enemy, exploding in the monster's face and ending the fight. However two wrongs made a right: big monster battles were short and practical, and the wirework that Supaidaman used was better off in the later part of the series anyway.

pictured: sword throwing action

In a series where the main character tends to climb whatever he can lay his hands on, you have to make a convincing special "climbing on walls" effect for our hero. In all fairness, for something that was made in the late seventies the effects are pretty decent. Sometimes though you can see where the SFX people spliced the film to hide the wires that were holding Spidey (Supaidi? hehe) in place. Astute observers will note one or two episodes where you can see the wire/rope holding our webslinger aloft thanks to reflections in building windows.

Speaking of "webslinger," Spidey's webs don't come organically from Spiderman himself. He fires it from his all-purpose bracelet. His "webs" are more like twine rope nets, and his Tarzan like swinging web is obviously a white rope. In fact the Spiderman costume shoots out of this bracelet and covers Takuya instantly, leaving him to zip the head part himself. The costume itself is hilarious if only for one simple fact: the tight spandex means you can see Spidey's crotch bulge. It's not a cup, it's not underwear. It disturbs me to no end. I'm scarred for life.

For an evil organization, the Iron Cross Army is pretty up there on the evil scale. Unlike totally harmless organizations (like those dudes from Shaider, whose existence seems to revolve around trolling little kids) the Iron Cross Army does have some pretty decent ideas of world domination (going along regular sentai standards, of course.) In fact, if there was an adult in an episode of Supaidaman, and he was not a main character, there's a good chance that by the end of the episode he or she will be dead, and Supaidaman would end the episode swearing revenge against the Iron Cross Army. The adult casualty rate is quite astounding, even compared to the sentai of the 80's, which is pretty "dark" to begin with.

That doesn't mean the Iron Cross Army comes up with brilliant ideas all the time; at times, the organization comes up with really stupid ideas, in others, the ideas are quite frankly quite ridiculous. One episode involved an illegal gambling ring where the gambling games are things you would see five year olds play, like racing bunnies and chicks.

HOT GAMING ACTION RIGHT HERE

A series of episodes featured the Kids Detective Group - a group of kids that stick their nosy noses in places they shouldn't stick em into. They basically do little more than serve as bait or cannon fodder, occasionally giving our spidery hero a clue or two in his investigation. Thankfully (or not?) none of the kids are in any real danger of death, as kids get special immunity from the grim reaper in Supaidaman.

The bad guys are pretty fruity as bad guys come. As previously stated, most of the bad guys are animals or plants given monstrous appearances. But other bad guys include masked shapeshifting magicians, gaijin amazonesses and even the devil himself.

The weirdness also didn't come only from the bad guys: some guest stars of Supaidaman are completely fucking ridiculous. One boy annoys the fuck out of everyone for collecting cockroaches. Another character is a down and out wrestler. Another is a shrine girl whose powers include kicking Spiderman's ass. Another, a gun-toting cowboy-like detective scares a bunch of people by throwing a stick of dynamite inside a room full of people.

You think I'm fucking kidding?

And one of the crowning moments of the series happens in that episode. Our cowboy muses on the circumstances of his son, who has lost his memory thanks to the death of his mother. While that happens, Freddie Aguilar's Anak plays in the background. I'm not fucking kidding.

Supaidaman left a lasting legacy on the world of Tokusatsu. Along with Battle Fever J, it was the grandfather of the Super Sentai genre. Most of the conventions it introduced into the genre (2 - tier fighting, transforming robots) endure to this day in the latest Super Sentai effort, Goseiger (which finishes early next year.) Despite the camp and the cheap special effects, it's one of those shows that you just have to watch.