Saturday, August 6, 2011

JSM@CDS: An Introduction to Supaidaaman

Welcome to Japanese Spider Man at Cat Demon Spirits! For two whole months, I will be blogging nonstop about the japanese live-action tokusatsu (special effects) adaption of Marvel Comics' most famous superhero.

When I started reading comics, I (like pretty much everyone else) devoured the super hero genre. I mostly read Marvel, and there was no comic book hero I liked better than Spider-Man. I didn't just read Spider-Man, I absorbed Spider-Man. I'm not sure how well I'd remember everything as well at this point, but at the time, I could tell you in excruciating detail all every "fact" there was about the spider-verse. Anyway, as a former diehard superhero fan, I can tell you one important fact about super heros: Every super hero is two characters: on one hand you have the costumed hero, the powers, personality, gimmicks, etc. set up by what can sometimes be half a century continuity. Then you have the CHARACTER. The man behind the mask and the world he inhabits, a character that can be changed and interpreted in different ways by any artist, half a century of continuity be damned.

Which is why, sometimes, Spider-Man gets to have a giant robot.

Japanese Spider-Man (Supaidaaman) is a tokusatsu TV show created for Toei's Super Sentai series (actually the second one ever made, and even predates The Power Rangers!) starring Shinji Todo as Spider-Man, and aired on what is now TV Tokyo. The show takes rather massive liberties with the classic Spider-Man storyline, replacing Peter Parker with Takuya Yamashiro, a motorcyclist who seeks revenge (no power/responsibility dynamic here) for the deaths of his father (Fuyuki Murakami) as well as the space alien Garia (Toshiaki Nishizawa, who gives Spider-Man his powers as well as sage advice) at the hands of the evil *cough-Dr. Doom-cough* Professor Monster (Mitsuo Ando) , Amazoness (Yukie Kagawa), and their world-domination plotting Iron Cross Army. In each episode, Takuya/Spiderman encounters some dastardly plot that the Iron Cross Army has cooked up, usually involving their rubber-suit monsters-of-the-week known as Machine BEM (voiced by Shozo Iizuka, Hisako Kyoda, and Shin Aomori, generally appearing in the last five minutes). When the Machine BEM grow big, Spiderman calls upon his transforming ship The Marveller (that's right, MARVELLER), which morphs into a big robot called Leopardon and then the robot blows up the monster. Oh yea.

About three years ago Marvel started putting up episodes of Japanese Spiderman on their official website, around the same time I started reading manga (Okay, I admit it, I'm a bit of a noob). At the time I was mostly reading classics like Phoenix, but for me, Japanese Spiderman was a revelation. It was strange, unique, and by far the most fun I'd had with Spider-Man in ages. It made me want to know what kind of culture could create a show like this, and, well... look at me now! Welcome to JSM@CDS.

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