SPIES, ROBOTS, AND MONSTERS II
Japanese monsters and robots conclude their attack on Spy Vibe, as I highlight the second show from my course last week, Gigantor! Based on the Japanese comic and animation, Tetsujin 28, Gigantor was developed for western viewers by Fred Ladd. Ladd was inspired by an image he saw from Testsujin 28 of an empowered boy controlling a giant robot. Working on the Astro Boy cartoons at the time, Ladd formed his own production company in 1963, Delphi Associates, for the purpose of adapting and distributing Testujin 28, now dubbed "Gigantor," for American television.
Much like the character dynamics seen years later in Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, Gigantor featured a heroic boy thrust in the middle of international intrigue. With the help of his radio-controlled robot, Gigantor, young Jimmy Sparks helps secret agent, Richard “Dick” Strong, and his uncle, Dr. Bob Brilliant, to battle global terrorists. In the first episode, we learn that the various stations set up by countries from around the world on Antarctica have been destroyed. Jimmy joins a team to investigate. They are ambushed by the machine gun-toting henchmen (who first appear disguised as penguins!) of the evil Dr. Katzmeow. As Dick infiltrates the terrorist organization to cripple it from within, Jimmy and Gigantor help to destroy the enemy troops on the battlefield and to crush the evil lair of Katzmeow. And so the formula goes for the show’s run of 52 excellent episodes.
Gigantor has a terrific blend of fast-paced spy and robot action with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The episodes were made in black and white, which gives the thin-black-tie fashion of the show a cool Spy Vibe. A long-time favorite on Adult Swim in the US, Volume One of the Gigantor DVDs (I believe remastered) will be back in print on May 5th! The DVDs are available for pre-order on vendor sites. You can see a brief interview with Fred Ladd on the Amazon website. iTunes has both original DVD volumes of Gigantor available for download and Netflix has them for rent.
Speed Racer (1967-1968)
The heroic Jimmy Sparks and Johnny Sokko have a slightly older incarnation in the Japanese comic and animation, Mach Go Go (Speed Racer). Here's another lad who gets to drive fast and pack a pistol! Speed Racer starts as a series about industrial espionage. With secret plans written in invisible ink on his windshield, Speed helps his inventor/father in a high-octane battle against enemy spies. If you think the monkey is too sily, just remember that Speed Racer drives a gadget-filled race car that would make 007 drool. The costumes are racing-stripe cool, and the machine gun-toting baddies on motorcycles give the show extra Spy Vibe points. This is another first-wave adventure show from Japan that is worth re-visiting. See the SpyVibe.com website for related video.