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Giant Robo (tokusatsu)

Giant Robo (tokusatsu)

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, is a manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

 and tokusatsu
is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that usually features superheroes and makes considerable use of special effects ....

 series created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama
Mitsuteru Yokoyama
was a Japanese manga artist born in Suma-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo. His personal name was originally spelled , with the same pronunciation. His works include Tetsujin 28-go, Giant Robo, Akakage, Babel II, Sally, the Witch, Princess Comet, and adaptations of the Chinese classics Outlaws of the Marsh and...

. It is similar to his famous Tetsujin 28-go
Tetsujin 28-go
is a 1956 manga written and illustrated by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, who also created Giant Robo. The series centred on the adventures of a young boy named Shotaro Kaneda, who controlled a giant robot named Tetsujin 28, built by his late father....

Gigantor is an American adaptation of the anime version of Tetsujin 28-go, a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama released in 1956. It debuted on U.S. television in 1964. As with Speed Racer, the characters' original names were altered and the original series' violence was toned down for American viewers...

in the US), though Giant Robo has more fantastic elements.

The original tokusatsu
is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that usually features superheroes and makes considerable use of special effects ....

 TV series, produced by Toei Company Ltd.
Toei Company
is a Japanese film, television production, and distribution corporation. Based in Tokyo, Toei owns and operates thirty-four movie theaters across Japan, a modest vertically-integrated studio system by the standards of the 1930s United States; operates studios at Tokyo and Kyoto; and is a...

, aired on NET (later re-named TV Asahi
TV Asahi
, also known as EX and , is a Japanese television network headquartered in Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. The company writes its name in lower-case letters, tv asahi, in its logo and public-image materials. The company also owns All-Nippon News Network....

) from October 11, 1967 to April 1, 1968, with a total of 26 episodes. The English-dubbed version of the series was produced by American International Television
American International Pictures
American International Pictures was a film production company formed in April 1956 from American Releasing Corporation by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures, and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer...

, with Reuben Guberman as line producer, under the title Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot.


The Earth is under invasion by a terrorist group called "Big Fire," "Gargoyle" in the US version, an illuminati
The Illuminati is a name given to several groups, both real and fictitious. Historically the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1, 1776...

-style organization led by the alien Emperor Guillotine, who spends almost the entire series in a multicolored space ship hidden at the bottom of one of the Earth's oceans (presumably the Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

) whence he issues his orders to the members of Gargoyle, frequently referred to in the series as "The Gargoyle Gang."

"The Gargoyle Gang"

The members of Gargoyle, as it turns out, are an ambitious but somewhat incompetent bunch who appear to have a fairly high mortality rate due either to Unicorn actions or Guillotine's own fits of anger. Their wardrobe is an interesting collection of what appears to be an assortment of castoffs from Soviet officers, wartime Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 personnel, Central American guerrillas, and the designers of Italian sunglasses. In addition, at least one Gargoyle member is always seen with a Castro-esque
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

Beatnik was a media stereotype of the 1950s and early 1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s and violent film images, along with a cartoonish depiction of the real-life people and the spiritual quest in Jack Kerouac's autobiographical...

 beard. Most of Gargoyle's members wear beret
A beret is a soft, round, flat-crowned hat, designated a "cap", usually of woven, hand-knitted wool, crocheted cotton, or wool felt, or acrylic fiber....

s adorned with a skull on the front. All members of Gargoyle have an explosive device implanted within their bodies that can be detonated in the event they are captured, though this seems to be used only rarely.

Guillotine The Emperor

Guillotine is a blue-skinned alien who has tentacles extending from the bottom of his large head, not unlike Cthulhu
Cthulhu is a fictional character that first appeared in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu", published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928. The character was created by writer H. P...

. He wears a long robe, and carries a staff with a white orb at its furthest end. He is capable of growing to an enormous height, though this is only seen once in the series; specifically, it is only seen in the last installment, where he himself actually fights, and loses to, the Flying Robot.

His field subordinates

Guillotine leaves day-to-day matters in the hands of various commanders; principally Spider (a human who is eventually killed by a spray of acid), Doctor Botanus (Doctor Over in the Japanese series; a silver-skinned alien capable of teleportation), Fangar (Red Cobra in the Japanese series, and also alternatively referred to as Dangor the Executioner in the US series - a bizarre alien with a pegleg and crutch, a greatly enlarged forehead, protruding upper teeth, and a costume that looks like a traditional striped prison outfit in front and a red velvet jumpsuit in back), Harlequin (Black Dia in the Japanese version, who has a fascination with the suits of playing cards), and The Golden Knight (Mr. Gold in the Japanese series; a gold colored armored knight).

Johnny Sokko and Jerry Mano find the Flying Robot

The group captures scientists to create an army of giant monsters to rampage the Earth. But fate stumbles on a little boy named Daisaku Kusama, Johnny Sokko in the United States, and a young man named Jūrō Minami, Jerry Mano in the US; the latter is secretly Member U3 of the top-secret peacekeeping organization, Unicorn. Daisaku and Jūrō are shipwrecked on an island after the ocean liner
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

 they were on was attacked by a giant sea monster called Dracolon, and are captured by members of Big Fire. When trying to escape, they end up in an elevator that leads down to a huge construction complex where a giant robot is being built. Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

-like in appearance in that the design of his head resembles the headdresses worn by the Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

s of ancient Egypt, this nearly indestructible humanoid robot is being built by captive scientist Dr. Lucius Guardian, who decides to give the two escapees its control device, a miniature transmitter built into a wristwatch. The robot can only be controlled by the first voice recorded in his electronic brain; however, he first needs to be charged up by atomic energy. Dr. Guardian helps Daisaku and Jūrō escape, only to be shot to death, but not before he set an atomic bomb that destroyed the base, the resulting explosion activates the giant robot, which moves to Daisaku's every command. As the controller of the robot (heretofore known as "Giant Robot," or just "Giant Robot" in the US), Daisaku is invited by Jūrō and his chief Azuma to join Unicorn as its 7th member, U7. As U7, Daisaku fights the evil forces of Big Fire with the help of U3/Jūrō and Giant Robo.

The Flying Robot's arsenal

The Giant Robot has numerous weapons systems which Johnny can command the robot to use. They are these:
  • Finger missiles he fires from his fingers, with an undetermined number of rounds.
  • A back missile, which is fired from the back of the robot as the robot is lying on his chest facing toward his enemy. The back missile is considerably larger and more destructive than the finger missiles.
  • The bazooka cannon is a weapon which fires out of the top of the robot's head—it is not so much a true bazooka as a shower of sparks capable of blinding and disorienting an enemy.
  • Eye beams consisting of a twinned energy blast from the eyes.
  • The center V on the chest can launch and ram against the enemy to force it back. In addition, the robot's "belt buckle" contains a long pole which he can use to hook onto an enemy.
  • A flame-thrower. The mouth of the robot can open up to reveal a small tube which acts as a flame thrower with which he is capable of melting through large metal walls with ease.
  • The "Burning Cross" Technique. The robot can mysteriously produce a flaming cross resembling a burning '+' sign and cast it upon the enemy.
  • Electrocution wires. The robot can launch wires capable of projecting high-voltage electricity that can annihilate a monster without much trouble.

In addition, the Flying Robot has the capability of "power punches," also later called "megaton punches" or "mega-punches" by Johnny Sokko himself; these consist of the Flying Robot throwing nearly all his mega-strength into a punch to whatever enemy he is facing off against in an episode.

Precaution if Johnny is taken captive

As a security precaution in case Johnny is forced to give unwanted orders, the boy can give a seeming line of gibberish into the communicator before doing so, "Od ton yebo redro," claiming it is a communication test. However, the Flying Robot is programmed to play the message backwards and interpret it as, "Do not obey order!" With that message, the Flying Robot is programmed to take it as a signal that his controller is captured and regardless of any subsequent order, the Flying Robot will launch and trace the signal to rescue his controller.

The US Version

The entire series was first broadcast in the United States in 1969 by American International Television
American International Pictures
American International Pictures was a film production company formed in April 1956 from American Releasing Corporation by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures, and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer...

, and became popular in syndication over the next several decades, particularly from 1971-74 when it reached its peak in distribution. The series was still in active syndication through the early 1980s. It was telecast in India in the early 1980s. In 1970, several episodes were edited together to create the movie Voyage Into Space, which has now reached cult film
Cult film
A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...


DVD status

While recently released on DVD by Toei Video in Japan (the entire series was previously issued on laserdisc
LaserDisc was a home video format and the first commercial optical disc storage medium. Initially licensed, sold, and marketed as MCA DiscoVision in North America in 1978, the technology was previously referred to interally as Optical Videodisc System, Reflective Optical Videodisc, Laser Optical...

 in the 1990s), the complete series has yet to be released on Region 1 DVD; only ten episodes (some out of broadcast order) had been released on videocassette by Orion Home Video in the United States, which have long since gone out of print. The movie has also yet to be released on DVD.

Copyright status

Following Orion's bankruptcy, MGM acquired a majority of their holdings of the American International Pictures
American International Pictures
American International Pictures was a film production company formed in April 1956 from American Releasing Corporation by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures, and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer...

 library (which had previously been owned by Filmways
Filmways, Inc. was a television and film production company founded by American film executive Martin Ransohoff in 1958...

), and the MGM Television Studios controls the television distribution rights only. However, bootleg copies of the entire US version of the series have long been available on both VHS and DVD. Episodes are also available as legal downloads from such sources as the iTunes Music Store and Amazon.com's Unbox (and more recently, the Hulu
Hulu is a website and over-the-top subscription service offering ad-supported on-demand streaming video of TV shows, movies, webisodes and other new media, trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes footage from NBC, Fox, ABC, and Obstacle on October 20th 2011 Nickelodeon and CBS and many other...

 online video service).

Violence concerns

The series was astonishingly violent by American standards of children's programming in the 1960s; in its home country of Japan, though, it was no more violent than any other tokusatsu airing at the time. Gunfights are staples of every episode of the series, and the series' two child leads—Johnny Sokko and Mari Hanson; the latter, called Mari Hanamura in the Japanese version, is a 9-year-old girl, introduced in the seventh episode, who speaks 39 languages and is a crack shot with a firearm—were frequently seen shooting along with the rest of the Unicorn agents. In one episode, Johnny and Mari are captured and tied to trees by Gargoyle, and are within seconds of being executed by firing squad, when Unicorn agents rescue them. Oddly enough, though practically every Japanese anime exported to the United States during that period was edited due to violent content, Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot seemed to have escaped close scrutiny in that regard, and what editing was done on the show seemed to have been more for the purposes of squeezing in another commercial or two rather than in the interest of curbing the show's violence. (At least one US TV station, WXON
WMYD is the MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station for Southeast Michigan licensed to Detroit. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 21 from a transmitter on Eight Mile Road in Oak Park along the Oakland and Wayne County line. The station can also be seen on Comcast...

 in Detroit, ran disclaimers before each show saying, "Remember, kids, Johnny Sokko is make-believe and the actors are just pretending.")

It should be noted that in addition to dubbing American voice actors for the US release, many of the show's sound effects were also remixed or re-recorded entirely. And though the show's jazz-influenced score by the prolific Takeo Yamashita was used, it was frequently tracked in different places from the Japanese version of the series. Interestingly, the credits for production and direction in the U.S. version seem to be randomly chosen American names of several ethnicities.

After the show

These are the known updates of cast members:
  • Mitsunobu Kaneko (who had played Daisaku Kusama/Johnny Sokko in the original series) retired from acting in 1969. He died in 1997, according to series producer Tohru Hirayama.
  • Mitsuo Ando (Doktor Over/Doctor Botanus) also died in 1997, according to one unverified source, after a long acting career playing villainous characters in yakuza
    , also known as , are members of traditional organized crime syndicates in Japan. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call them bōryokudan , literally "violence group", while the yakuza call themselves "ninkyō dantai" , "chivalrous organizations". The yakuza are notoriously...

     movies and tokusatsu
    is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that usually features superheroes and makes considerable use of special effects ....

     programs, most notably as Professor Gill in Android Kikaider.
  • Japanese narrator Koichi Chiba died in 2001, having played a number of roles until the year before his death. Interestingly, he was the only person associated with the 1966 series who was also involved with the OVA, voicing Dr. Franken Von Vogler.
  • Hideo Murota, who played the villain known as Black Dia/Harlequin, died of lung cancer in 2002, having spent his entire life following Giant Robo in a variety of film and TV roles.
  • Akio Ito (Juro Minami/Jerry Mano) reportedly subsequently became a production designer.
  • Yumiko Katayama (Mitsuko Nishino/Mitsuko Hino) also appeared in the 1969 Japanese TV series Playgirls. Other than Giant Robo she has appeared in several of Toei's "Pinky Violence" films in the early 1970s; 1971's Zubeko bancho: zange no neuchi mo nai (Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess) and 1973's Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi (Criminal Woman: Killing Melody). Her acting career appears to have ended after 1973.
  • Matasaburo Niwa (Spider) was a Toei character actor prior to Giant Robo. His only notable tokusatsu
    is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that usually features superheroes and makes considerable use of special effects ....

     role following Giant Robo was as the villainous Black Shogun in the 1971 TV series Kamen Rider
    Kamen Rider
    , is a weekly science fiction story created by Japanese manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori. It debuted as a tokusatsu television series on April 3, 1971 and ran until February 10, 1973, airing on the Mainichi Broadcasting System and NET TV . A manga adaptation was also featured in Shōnen Magazine...

  • Catherine Byers (aka Bobbie Byers), who provided Johnny Sokko's English language voice, has had a lengthy career since the 1960s. She is also known for having voiced Captain Bonnie (Bokko) on the English language version of The Amazing 3
    The Amazing 3
    The Amazing 3, known in Japan as , is an Osamu Tezuka manga and a black and white anime series from the 1960s. It involves the adventures of three agents from outer space who are sent to Earth to determine whether the planet, a potential threat to the universe, should be destroyed...

    as well as Prince Planet
    Prince Planet
    Prince Planet is the English name given to one of the earliest Japanese TV anime series, , when it was televised in America in the mid-1960s...

     on the series of the same name. She appeared on-camera in two 1960s biker films; 1967's Wild Rebels and 1968's Savages from Hell. Since then she has focused on voice acting (primarily talking books) and stage work. Her Amazing 3 coworkers—Neil Patrick, Paul Brown, Kurt Nagel, and Jerry Burke—also provided various voices on Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot.

Episode titles

The following episode titles have been transcribed directly from the on-screen title cards of the US version (which were rendered in capitals), including punctuation. These are presented in their original US and Japanese broadcast order (verified by the previews for next episode at the end of each show).

01. Dracolon, The Great Sea Monster

02. Nucleon, The Magic Globe

03. The Gargoyle Vine - A Space Plant

04. Monster Ligon-Tyrox, A Strange Monster

05. The Gigantic Claw

06. Dragon, The Ninja Monster

07. Our Enemy - Scalion

08. The Challenge of the Two-Headed Monster

09. Tentaclon - An Electric Monster

10. The Transformed Humans

11. The Terrifying Sand Creature

12. Amberon The Synthetic Monster

13. Opticon Must Be Destroyed

14. The Monstrous Flying Jawbone

15. Igganog - The Ice-Berg Monster

16. Torozon - An Enemy Robot

17. Destroy the Dam

18. X-7, A Mysterious Enemy Agent

19. "Metron" - The Mysterious Space-Man

20. Beware - The Radion Globe

21. The Terrifying Space Mummy

22. Clash of the Giant Robots

23. "Dr, Eingali - Master of Evil"

24. "Hydrazona" - A Terrifying Bacteria

25. "Drakulon" - Creature of Doom

26. The Last of Emperor Guillotine

Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still

is an Original Video Animation
Original video animation
, abbreviated as media , are animated films and series made specially for release in home-video formats. The term originated in relation to Japanese animation...

 series written and directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa (G Gundam, Seven of Seven
Seven of Seven
is an anime TV series created by Yasuhiro Imagawa and produced by A.C.G.T.The TV series premiered January 10, 2002 on TV Tokyo and finished in run on June 27, 2002, totaling 25 episodes. A New Year's special episode was included in the seventh DVD volume released on October 2 of the same year...

). It takes place in the near future, 10 years after the advent of the Shizuma Drive triggers the third energy revolution, and follows the master of the titular Robo, Daisaku Kusama, and the Experts of Justice, an international police organization locked in battle with the BF Group, a secret society hell-bent on world domination.

GR: Giant Robo

is an animated TV series written by Chiaki Konaka (Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is an anime series directed by Ryutaro Nakamura, original character design by Yoshitoshi ABe, screenplay written by Chiaki J. Konaka, and produced by Yasuyuki Ueda for Triangle Staff. It was broadcast on TV Tokyo from July to September 1998...

, The Big O
The Big O
is a Japanese animated television series created by director Kazuyoshi Katayama and designer Keiichi Sato for Sunrise Studios. The writing staff was assembled by the series' head writer, Chiaki J. Konaka....

) and directed by Masahiko Murata (Jinki:EXTEND
is a 13-episode mecha anime series that aired on TV Asahi in 2005 as well as a currently running manga series. It takes place in two parts, in Venezuela during 1988 , and in Tokyo, Japan in 1991 The story revolves around two girls who end up piloting giant humanoid robots called "Jinki" and the...

is an anime OVA series, inspired by Go Nagai's Mazinger series. The OVA follows Kouji Kabuto, Tetsuya Tsurugi and the rest of the "Mazinger Team" as they fight against Dr. Hell's Mechanical Beasts....

). At the dawn of the 21st century, the Earth is overrun by giant robots. Daisaku Kusama encounters one of these monsters, the titular Robo, in a ruin in Okinawa. Beckoned by forces he cannot understand, Daisaku is made to bond, body and spirit, with the ancient weapon and defend his homeland from the incoming evil.

In other media

  • Avant-garde guitarist Buckethead
    Brian Carroll , better known by his stage name Buckethead, is a guitarist and multi instrumentalist who has worked within several genres of music. He has released 34 studio albums, four special releases and one EP. He has performed on over 50 more albums by other artists...

     was highly influenced by the series, naming two releases Giant Robot (1994 and 1996) as well as a section of his debut album Bucketheadland
    Bucketheadland is the debut album by musician Buckethead, released on John Zorn's Japanese record label Avant in 1992. It features several samples of the 1960s Japanese television series Giant Robot amongst guitar riffs by Buckethead...

    (1992). He also is known to perform the theme from Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot at his live shows. A recording can be found on the Praxis
    Praxis (band)
    Praxis was the name of an ever-changing musical project, led by prolific producer Bill Laswell. Praxis combine elements of different musical genres such as funk, jazz, hip-hop and heavy metal into highly improvised music...

     release Zurich
    Zurich (Praxis album)
    Zurich is a live album by Praxis, released in 2005 by the label Innerhythmic. The album is a recording of their performance at the Jazznojazz Festival in Zurich, Switzerland on June 21, 1996. Other selected parts were recorded live at the Knitting Factory, NYC on June 30, 2000.The song...

  • A model toy of Giant Robo can be seen on the desk of one of the child characters in volume 16 of 20th Century Boys
    20th Century Boys
    is a science fiction-mystery manga created by Naoki Urasawa. It won the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award in the General category, an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival, and the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category. The last two volumes of the story were serialized under...


External links