Every child goes through a phase in his or her life where they idolize a hero that they see on TV. This may be because of their super cool powers, hi-tech gadgets, or simply because they did so many good deeds that saved the world or made the world a better place. It might have been just a show and the heroes were probably fictional but the lessons they taught kids were definitely real. We all know how good Japan is at making stories and illustrating them as seen in the anime and cartoons they make but Japan was and still is pretty active in making the superhero shows that are broadcasted on TV too. If you are part of the majority that enjoyed these shows as a kid or even as adults, you might feel nostalgic as you go through the lists of some of their works as well as works of others who based their superheroes in Japan.
A List of Some Pioneering Japanese Superheroes from as early as the 1950’s that You Probably Heard about
We all know that superhero TV shows have been shows worldwide for numerous decades now. It might come as a surprise to you though that Japan’s first TV superheroes came in the 1950’s. One of them had different names depending on where it was being broadcast but essentially, it was known as Gekko Kamen or Moonlight Mask.
It made its debut in the year of 1958. Films then were still in black and white and Moonlight Mask might not have had the best costume considering that he wore white tights, a red and white cape, a white scarf, yellow gloves and boots, a pair of shades, face cloth, and a turban decorated with a moon ornament. That did not stop Moonlight Mask from being a complete success with children, however. This claim is proven by the people’s effort back then to catch it on the TV. A television set was new technology back then so not everyone had it yet. Those who didn’t would even go to their neighbors’ houses just to watch it daily.
His true identity was a detective named Juro Iwai and unlike the superhero stories of modern times, only the audience knows that he is also Moonlight Mask. This is a unique feature to the story because if you think about it, even Alfred (Bruce Wayne’s butler) knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman. Coincidentally, if you ask your elders who know of this superhero show which hero Moonlight Mask resembles the most in modern times, they would probably say Batman or Zorro. This is understandable because Juro Iwai’s only weapons as Moonlight Mask were his wits and some tools, very much like Zorro and Batman.
There are many recreations and adaptations of this series that came in the more recent decades but the original series comprised of 131 episodes that were shown throughout February of 1958 to July of 1959. There were also movies that came alongside the series and all of these productions were produced and distributed by the Toei Company, which is a well-known company in the superhero production business.
The other Japanese superhero series that actually came before Moonlight Mask, which officially makes his the first Japanese superhero, was the series called Ogon Bat or Golden Bat. It came out in 3 different live-action movies but the very first movie was in the year of 1950. The idea for the superhero came even farther back in time because it originally debuted in the kamishibai or paper theater. This means that it preceded western superheroes like Superman and Batman, who debuted in American comic books in the years of 1938 and 1939, respectively.
The Ogon Bat is depicted as a golden skull-shaped head who wears a white and green costume that is topped off with a high red collar. He also carries a rapier so he looks a lot like how the grim reaper is depicted in the modern day. His origin story is quite an interesting one because this superhero series actually started in Egypt.
An expedition group headed by a professor named Yamatone brought his family to Egypt. On this trip, they discover an ancient tomb and this already spells out that mystical things are about to happen. Upon walking around the tomb, the professor realized that this tomb was the tomb of a god of justice. As they ventured deeper into the tomb, they were ambushed by the antagonist of the story whose name is Dr. Nazo or Dr. Zero. They take the professor and his family as hostages and this was the moment that the professor’s daughter, Mari, pleads to the god of justice to save them all from this mess. When her tears hit the floor of this ancient ground, Ogon Bat was awakened and from then on, Ogon Bat would fight for the side of justice whenever the little girl would call on him for aid.
Another notable Japanese superhero that surely is considered a pioneer hero is the story of Ultraman. For those who do not know, Ultraman is a Japanese tokusatsu science fiction television series that was made by Eiji Tsuburaya. It was produced by Eiji’s production company named Tsuburaya Productions and was broadcast on one of Japan’s major broadcasting system which is the Tokyo Broadcasting System, or TBS. Like Moonlight Mask, there are also a couple of recreations of this series but the original series aired after the month of June in the year of 1966. It had 40 episodes in total and it was aired until April of 1967.
Ultraman may be a famous superhero worldwide but for those who don’t know much about him, according to the original series, he is a member of the Science Special Search Party named Shin Hayata. He obtained his powers from an accident that happens in the first episode of the show. As he was flying his plane, a red sphere crashed into him and his vehicle. The sphere turned out to be a mode of transportation for a giant alien being who refers to himself as Ultraman. Luckily, this alien was a compassionate one and he felt bad for putting Shin Hayata in a state of fatality. To help him survive, he merged his essence into Shin and this is how Shin got the ability to transform into Ultraman.
There have been many alien/robotic superheroes that came before Ultraman but it did pioneer in something. The Ultraman series was the first superhero series to used various monster costumes, or kaiju, for the show. These monster type costumes can be seen used in several of the newer superhero series’ like the Super Sentai, which is like the Japanese version of America’s Power Rangers.
A Great Japanese Superhero Show on TV that You Might Want To Check Out
The show you will find here may be a show that you have already watched or already know about. In any case, that is an understandable scenario because this show truly is great one especially if you are looking for an amazing and attention-grabbing storyline. It is the superhero series of the Kamen Rider.
The Kamen Rider is another tokusatsu superhero television series that was released alongside its manga version made by Shotaro Ishinomori. It is the type of show to keep you occupied from March to September then to November and maybe even December because you’ll want to re-watch it over and over again. There are many superhero shows in modern times that make use of this storyline nowadays but considering that Kamen Rider was released in 1971, it’s more likely that Kamen Rider was the basis of all these newer series.
In the series, there exists a global terrorist organization called Shocker. This organization was supposedly formed by the remaining Nazis of that time. They did their evil doings by kidnapping innocent citizens to make them guinea pigs for mutant and Cyborg testing. After they have been transformed through multiple experiments, Shocker then sends them into a brainwashing program to make them mindless minions to their evil cause.
As fate would have it, there would be one experiment, named Takeshi Hongo, who gets to escape before the brainwashing program was completed so he was able to keep his newly obtained superpowers as well as his human consciousness. He then makes a promise to himself that he will do everything in his power to stop Shocker from taking over the world with his super-powered mutant army and this was when the Kamen Rider was born.
In the TV show, a Kamen Rider 2 would be introduced as another victim of Shocker that Kamen Rider helped to escape, just like he did. Because of this good deed, the escaped victim, named Hayato Ichimonji, would become his partner as Kamen Rider 2. It was mentioned earlier that the manga version of the Kamen Rider was released alongside the TV show and the interesting fact about this is that the stories of the manga and the TV show eventually go in different directions.
This is a thing that people loved because it gave the story so many dimensions and possibilities. You already know some major events from the TV show version as stated above. In comparison to the manga, the Kamen Rider never saved Ichimonji so he becomes a minion of Shocker. Hongo also leaves Japan to fight Shocker in other countries and this was when he got ambushed by a team of Shockers. This team of Shockers was also the team Ichimonji was a part of and during their fight, Hongo, or Kamen Rider, causes Ichimonji to get a really bad head injury. Because of this injury, some of the brainwashing done on him wore off and he regained his real consciousness once again.
He saved Hongo from the rest of his former team but sadly, it was a little too late because Hongo had already been hurt to the point that he lost control of his body. Despite this loss though, Hongo did not stop on his quest and he used his mind and experiences to guide Ichimonji into becoming the next Kamen Rider. There are many more differences between the manga and the TV show so if these details peaked your interest, be sure to check it out.
You can also check out this superhero crossover movie series called Super Hero Taisen. It includes a constant crossover with the storyline of the Kamen Rider as well as other Japanese superheroes like the Super Sentai, Heisei Rider, Space Sheriff, Ultraman, Sailor Moon, and many others.
A List of Most Famous Japanese Superheroes throughout the History of TV
Some of the most famous Japanese superheroes have already been named earlier like Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and Space Sheriffs but there are still some amazing Japanese superheroes that have not been mentioned yet. These are the likes of Goku, Astro Boy, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Sailor Moon, and Honey Kisaragi.
Honey Kisaragi is a famous superhero not just because of her amazing android abilities but because she’s pretty attractive too. With her red hair, athletic physique, and sexy uniform, it is no wonder that young and adolescent boys go crazy over her. This point of attraction can also be applied to Sailor Moon because they are all also drawn very attractively. This, of course, is not to take away from their amazing storylines too because they are great ones and you will learn of that when you watch the likes of these superhero series mentioned above.
As you can see, superheroes may be an imaginary creation of a writer or producer but it is imprinted into the people that take the time to watch and get brought into the world of each superhero. Everybody looks for someone to look up to and these shows have given them just that in the purest way possible. There are many other Japanese superheroes that are quite unique compared to the western superheroes so if you liked what you learned here, feel free research and learn more about the older shows and news on the newer ones coming out. A majority of these films and series are out on DVDs too so check them out.