Amazon Killer declaring a challenge in this still from SUN VULCAN.
Fun sidenote: Yukie Kagawa also played Amazoness in SPIDERMAN, one of the other Marvel/Toei-produced shows along with SUN VULCAN and BATTLE FEVER J. Though Amazon Killer is specifically revealed to be a survivor of the Vader Clan from DENZIMAN, there are those who believe that Amazon Killer is basically designed to be an expy of Amazoness. Which is great because both characters are fantastic.
What do you think of the Japanese Spider-Man series?
I love it! No, seriously I love it as not just an important piece in the evolution of tokusatsu into what we have today but as a strange, mirror image of something decidedly American translated for a Japanese audience.
Instead of a meek High School geek named Peter Parker, our Japanese Spiderman starts out as a motorcycle racer named Takuya Yamashiro. This played into Toei’s strengths as the Kamen Rider franchise had shown they could do some pretty impressive motorcycle stunts and made the character more appealing to the kids of 1970s Japan.
The radioactive spider bite origin was tossed out as well with Takuya getting his powers from an alien race from the planet Spider. They also gifted him with a car called the Spider Machine GP-7:
And a giant robot called Leopardon:
This aspect would be the most popular of the show, allowing Bandai to sell toys based on the robot and turn a pretty healthy profit. Giant Robots were all the rage at the time in Japan with Toei ruling the roost thanks to their animated offerings like Mazinger Z, Getter Robo and Grendaizer. Being able to merge that success with their already profitable live action division would create a template from which modern Super Sentai would grow starting with 1979′s Battle Fever J.
Now, not everything about the Japanese version of Spider-Man would be unfamiliar to American fans. He still retained mostly the same costume.
And most of the powers including wall-crawling, his spider sense and most importantly, web-shooting thanks to the bracelet on his arm that functions as both a web shooter and a communication device.
The wall-crawling effects in particular are actually very well realized, especially when compared to the American live action Spider-Man series produced around the same time. I would even say that the Japanese version was better in almost every aspect with more exciting adventures, better stunt work (courtesy of Sonny Chiba’s Japan Action Club) and more interesting plots.
While the American show was trying not to violate the audience’s suspension of disbelief (or their meager budget) and toned down the wild aspects of the comics, the Japanese version was going all out to create wild spectacles and colorful monsters.
Chief among these enemies is the series’ big bad, Professor Monster who looks like an early version of Doctor Doom.
He is responsible for the evil organization the Iron Cross Army and creates the Machine BEM monsters each week. His chief underling is Amazoness, played by Yukie Kagawa who would later go one to play the very similar Amazon Killer in Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan 4 years later.
So yeah, I adore Japanese Spider-Man for being just similar enough to please my comic fanboy heart and so utterly tokusatsu that it makes me grin watching it. Just check out the OP!
Heck, the series was influential and popular enough that Marvel Comics in the US actually canonized it as one of the alternate universes in their recent Spider-Verse storyline!
Now, if you are interested in seeing this show for yourself I know of two ways to do it. Marvel’s own website streams the series here. If you own a Roku player there is also a free streaming channel called Cape Television devoted to superhero programming that has the entire series to watch. I highly recommend it!
Hey, can you really live with yourself to miss the backstory behind this?
A poster for the DVD-BOX release of Toei’s 1978 version of Marvel’s Spider-Man!
The reason I am posting this is twofold:
1) If it hadn’t been for the massive success of the robot Leopardon in this series Sentai would never have become Super Sentai or have mecha in it at all.
2) This series is awesome and features a lot of the actors who would appear in later Sentai series, most prominently Yukie Kagawa who played Amazoness in this series (she’s the one on the right, not the lizard monster).
She would late go on to play the very similar Amazon Killer of the Vader Clan in Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan.