Ban Daisuke Meets Fans in Little Tokyo
KIKAIDA star appears at Los Angeles Nisei Week events
Author: Richard Pusateri
Official Sites: Anime Jungle, Generation Kikaida, www.bandaisuke.com
Special thanks: Joanne Ninomiya, Tetsu Shiota, August Ragone
Ban Daisuke’s recent visit to Los Angeles, hosted by Anime Jungle, demonstrated that the appeal of KIKAIDA is not limited to markets where the Japanese TV program aired in the United States. After much success at personal appearances in Hawaii, San Francisco and at San Diego Comic Con in years past, Mr. Ban met his enthusiastic Los Angeles fans August 14 and 15 during Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week celebration.
Originally broadcast in Japan 1972, KIKAIDA (Jinzoningen Kikaida or ANDROID KIKAIDER) became a hit on Hawaiian television in 1974. Mr. Ban portrayed Jiro, the guitar-playing, motorcycle- riding hero who transformed into the android Kikaida.
Mr. Ban soon started making wildly-received personal appearances in our 50th state. According to Joanne Ninomiya of JN Productions, the first of several live shows was in 1975. A major KIKAIDA show also took place in 2001 when JP Productions began producing KIKAIDA DVDs. Recently box sets of KIKAIDA and INAZUMAN became available, and they sold well at Anime Jungle during Mr. Ban’s appearances.
KIKAIDA’s popularity remained strong in Hawaii and Mr. Ban continued to appear many times after 2001 on Oahu, Maui and “The Big Island” of Hawaii. Those personal appearances were in sharp contrast to Japan fan parties. Mr. Ban said “At the fan club parties, Japanese fans are very well-mannered and polite, they don’t say much but Hawaiian fans just express themselves, they yell and applaud, they shout out… a very fun thing.”
On the afternoon of August 14, Mr. Ban and Ms. Ninomiya sat down to chat with Richard Pusateri of SciFi Japan and Ed Holland of Monster Attack Team.
Mr. Ban said “never in his wildest imagination” did he think when KIKAIDA was in production that forty years later fans around the world would be watching episodes over and over on home video. Mr. Ban also starred in INAZUMAN which may have been more popular than KIKAIDA in Japan, and he appeared in many other Japanese TV shows and motion pictures. However in the United States, it is KIKAIDA that has taken on almost cult status.
In 1975, at the first Hawaiian event, he was “shocked and really in awe of the number of people that showed up.” The families with moms and dads, especially impressed him. He was amazed that “entire families with children still enjoyed the old shows.”
When asked if parts of Japanese TV programs might be difficult for non-Japanese audiences to fully understand, Mr. Ban replied “Both sides seem to capture the emotions portrayed in the production… because it’s moving and you can see [the action] and movement, both sides catch on.” Ms. Ninomiya said the appeal of KIKAIDA seems to be “borderless; internationally accepted.”
Mr. Ban added “Kikaida is so simple that it can be done in any language, in any country and you’ll get the same reaction. [Both] audiences get the emotions and the laughs. Kikaida has all the elements of laughter and getting mad and so everyone understands it.”
During an Saturday afternoon autograph session, Mr. Ban met many of his fans. Saturday evening, Mr. Ban was the guest of honor at a dinner show, similar to fan events in Japan. After a meal and spoken presentation, Mr. Ban greeted fans and spent time at their tables. Some fans came from Hawaii and Japan to attend the show.
On Sunday, Mr. Ban was well-received in the Nisei Week parade. While a few people enthusiastically but erroneously yelled “Ultraman” many more correctly recognized the costumed Kikaida and they loudly vocalized their welcomes.
After the parade, Mr. Ban sat for another autograph session, signing many various KIKAIDA items, including a guitar (similar to one played By Jiro, Mr. Ban’s character in KIKAIDA) and taking time to patiently pose for many pictures with male and female fans of many ethnicities and ages.
While beginning to show some fatigue at the end of a demanding weekend, Mr. Ban still seemed genuinely happy to be meeting so many of his fans and share in the celebration of KIKAIDA. Mr. Ban’s ultimate message to the fans is “Just keep watching KIKAIDA over and over again because there is something about the series that will draw you to it.”