JN Productions Continues the KIKAIDA Saga!
When Toei’s KAMEN RIDER TV series hit the airwaves in 1971, it changed the face of Japanese superheroes. Before Kamen Rider, Japanese superheroes fell into two basic camps; the giant alien or robot (aka; Ultraman, Giant Robo, Magma Taishi) or US inspired heroes with capes and/or masks (aka; Moonlight Mask, Starman). Kamen Rider was the first of the henshin cyborgs. Part human, part machine. Suddenly Japanese superheroes had another identity. One that still persists today.
Hot on the heels of KAMEN RIDER were a number of sequels and imitators. Literally dozens of cyborg and transforming heroes began facing off with the forces of evil on weekly Japanese TV in the 1970s.
One of the more popular also came from Toei and, like Kamen Rider, sprung from the fertile mind of Shotaro Ishimori. Premiering in July of 1972 was JINZO NINGEN KIKAIDA, a hero with a conscience… or part of one. For 43 episodes, Kikaida attempted to thwart the evil Professor Gill and his android armies. Kikaida was created by Dr. Komiyoji and had an incomplete conscience circuit. The circuit is what gave Kikaida his humanity. When Professor Gill would play his flute, the circuit would malfunction and Kikaida would turn on friends or comrades until another sound would inadvertently drown out the flute and allow Kikaida to return to the side of good and defeat that week’s android monster.
Later in the series, an “anti-Kikaida” was created. Called Hakaida, this new android had the brain of Dr. Komiyoji housed in his head, making him a deadly foe who knew all of Kikaida’s weaknesses and also one Kikaida could not defeat without sacrificing his creator.
The KIKAIDA series was popular enough to spawn a sequel, KIKAIDA 01, a 46-episode series that began running the week after KIKAIDA ended in May of 1973, though took place three years after the first series.
Kikaida 01 was the older brother of the original Kikaida and for the first half of the series battled the Hakaida Force, lead by the original Hakaida, though this time with Professor Gill’s brain in place of Dr. Komiyoji’s. Three other Hakaidas, each with a different weapon and each housing the brain of Professor Gill’s most brilliant scientists, made up the deadly team.
Kikaida 01 is joined in episode three by the original Kikaida and the two of them combine forces in various episodes throughout the series. Kikaida 01 is also joined by a female cyborg, Bijinda.
Once the Hakaida Force is defeated, about halfway through the series, the evil Shadow Organization takes over with plans to kill a tenth of Japan’s population, the victims being chosen by a computer referred to as “Black Satan”.
The popularity of both KIKAIDA and KIKAIDA 01, as well as numerous Japanese superhero and anime series, extended across the Pacific Ocean and into Hawaii, thanks to KIKU-TV and their then programming director, Joanne Ninomiya, who now heads up JN Productions and Generation Kikaida.
After having success with the release of KIKAIDA on a series of nine individual DVDs, JN Productions followed with the sequel, KIKAIDA 01, though this time in a six-DVD set packed full of extras!
The quality of the episodes is excellent and it is hard to remember you are watching a vintage series from over three decades ago.
As with the first set of KIKAIDA discs, 01 has extensive notes or “factoids” for each episode, detailing actors, locations, trivia and minute details about the series. These and an essay on the history of KIKAIDA 01 and the henshin hero are written by Japanese tokusatsu historian August Ragone.
Also included on the bonus disc for the set are a virtual treasure trove of extras.
Joanne Ninomiya interviews both Ikeda Shusuke (Ichiro/Kikaida 01) and Ban Daisuke (Jiro/Kikaida) about their involvement with the series and also memories of personal appearances they made in Hawaii from the 1970s through the yearly Kikaida conventions still held today.
In another segment, Joanne recounts her past with KIKU-TV and the acquisition of many series she brought to the station, including not only KIKAIDA and KIKAIDA 01, but also GO RANGER (the first of the sentai/Power Rangers type series), INAZUMAN, KAMEN RIDER V3, YUSHA RAIDEEN, UFO DAIAPOLLON, CAPTAIN HARLOCK and others. It is an interesting look at the migration of these series from Japan to Hawaii in the 1970s.
She also tells of the appearances that were made in Hawaii as Shusuke and Daisuke would travel to the islands for stage shows, along with the Kikaida and Kikaida 01 suits. Even meeting with the governors of Hawaii at various times over the years for proclamations and tributes.
Aside from the requisite character profiles and monster files, there is also an interactive Kikaida 01 3D model, which shows off his various attacks, a “How to draw Kikaida 01” tutorial, Kikaida 01 karaoke and a trivia quiz.
The series itself is a bit dated, but if you can look past the effects, there is plenty of action and great fights, courtesy of actors and stunt people from Sonny Chiba’s Japan Actors Club or JAC, a stunt school created by Chiba, which has been supplying Japanese superhero series with actors and stunt people for decades.
The musical score by Chumei Watanabe, a man responsible for many of Toei’s more memorable scores, is excellent and another element tying the two series together.
KIKAIDA 01 is on less of a strict formula than KIKAIDA, in which the android of the week would be defeated at the end of every episode. However, both series have much more depth and imagination than most shows of their kind.
If you like your superheroes colorful and action-packed, neither KIKAIDA nor KIKAIDA 01 will let you down!
Both series, as well as KAMEN RIDER V3, can be purchased directly from JN Productions at www.generationkikaida.com. Tell ‘em SciFi Japan sent you!