|Created by||Mitsuteru Yokoyama|
|Starring||Mitsunobu Kaneko</br>Shōzaburō Date</br>Tadayo Satō</br>Teruo Itō</br>Yumi Kuwabara</br>Yumiko Katayama|
|Narrated by||Kōichi Chiba|
|Country of origin||Template:Country data Japan Japan|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Producer(s)|| Shinichi Miyazaki|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||TV Asahi|
|Original run||October 11, 1967 – April 1, 1968|
|Related shows|| Giant Robo (OVA)|
GR: Giant Robo
The original tokusatsu TV series, produced by Toei Company Ltd., aired on NET (now TV Asahi) from October 11, 1967 to April 1, 1968, with a total of 26 episodes. The English dubbed version of the series is known as Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.
The Earth is under invasion by a terrorist group called Big Fire (Gargoyle in the US version), an illuminati style organization led by the alien Emperor Guillotine, who spends almost the entire series in a multicolored space ship hidden at the bottom of one of the Earth's oceans (presumably the Pacific) from where he issues his orders to the members of Gargoyle (frequently referred to in the series as "The Gargoyle Gang").
The members of Gargoyle, as it turns out, are an ambitious but somewhat incompetent bunch who appear to have a fairly high mortality rate due either to Unicorn actions or Guillotine's own fits of anger. Their wardrobe is an interesting collection of what appears to be an assortment of castoffs from Soviet officers, wartime Wehrmacht personnel, Central American guerillas, and the designers of Italian sunglasses. In addition, at least one Gargoyle member is always seen with a beatnik beard. Most of Gargoyle's members wear berets adorned with a skull on the front. All members of Gargoyle have an explosive device implanted within their bodies that can be detonated in the event they're captured, though this seems to be used only rarely.
Guillotine himself has a large blue head with tentacles extending from the bottom of the head; not unlike Cthulhu. He wears a long robe, and carries a staff with a white orb at its furthest end. Like his head, the rest of his body is blue. He is capable of growing to an enormous height, though this is only seen once in the series.
Guillotine leaves day-to-day matters in the hands of various commanders; principally Spider (a human who is eventually killed by a spray of acid), Doctor Botanus (Doctor Over in the Japanese series; a silver-skinned alien capable of teleportation), Fangar (Red Cobra in the Japanese series, and also alternatively referred to as Dangor the Executioner in the US series - a bizarre alien with a pegleg and crutch, a greatly enlarged forehead, protruding upper teeth, and a costume that looks like a traditional striped prison outfit in front and a red velvet jumpsuit in back), and Harlequin (Black Dia in the Japanese version, who has a fascination with the suits of playing cards).
The group captures scientists to create an army of giant monsters to rampage the Earth. But fate stumbles on a little boy named Daisaku Kusama (Johnny Sokko in the US) and a young man named Jūrō Minami (Jerry Mano in the US), the latter is secretly Member U3 of the top-secret peacekeeping organization, Unicorn. Daisaku and Jūrō are shipwrecked on an island after the ocean liner they were on was attacked by a giant sea monster called Dracolon, and are captured by members of Big Fire. When trying to escape, they end up in an elevator that leads down to a huge construction complex where a giant robot is being built. Pharaoh-like in appearance, this indestructible humanoid robot is being built by captive scientist Dr. Lucius Guardian, who decides to give the two escapees its control device, a miniature transmitter built into a wristwatch. The robot can only be controlled by the first voice that is recorded in its electronic brain (but he first needs to be charged up by atomic energy). Dr. Guardian helps Daisaku and Jūrō escape, only to be shot to death, but not before he set an atomic bomb that destroyed the base, the resulting explosion activates the giant robot, which moves to Daisaku's every command. As the controller of the robot (heretofore known as "Giant Robo," or just "Giant Robot" in the US), Daisaku is invited by Jūrō and his chief Azuma to join Unicorn as its 7th member, U7! As U7, Daisaku fights the evil forces of Big Fire with the help of U3/Jūrō and Giant Robo.
The Giant Robo has numerous weapons systems which Johnny can command the robot to use:
- Finger missiles: Fired from the fingers with an undetermined number of rounds
- Back missile: Fired from the back of the robot as the robot is lying on its chest facing toward its enemy. The back missile is considerably larger and more destructive than the finger missiles.
- Bazooka cannon: A weapon which fires out of the top of the robot's head - not so much a bazooka as a shower of sparks capable of blinding and disorienting an enemy.
- Eye beams: A twinned energy blast from the eyes.
- The center V on the chest can launch and ram against the enemy to force it back. In addition, the robot's "belt buckle" contains a long pole which can be used to hook onto an enemy.
- Flamethrower: The mouth of the robot can open up to reveal a small tube which acts as a flame thrower which is capable of melting through large metal walls with ease.
- Burning Cross Technique: The robot can mysteriously produce a flaming cross resembling a plus that is burning and cast it upon the enemy.
- Electrocution wires: the robot can produce wire that can give out high voltage electricity that can annihilate a monster without much trouble.
As a security precaution in case Johnny is forced to give unwanted orders, the boy can give a seeming line of gibberish into the communicator before doing so "Od ton yebo redro!", claiming it is a communication test. However, the Robot is programmed to play the message backwards as "Do not obey order!" With that message, the robot is programmed to take it as a signal that his controller is captured and regardless of any subsequent order, the Robot will launch and trace the signal to rescue his controller.
The US VersionEdit
The entire series was first broadcast in the United States in 1969 and became quite popular in the next few years, particularly during the 1971 to 1973 period when it reached its peak in distribution and popularity. In 1970, several episodes were edited together to create the movie Voyage Into Space which has now reached cult film status.
While recently released on DVD by Toei Video in Japan (the entire series had also been available on laserdisc during the 1990s), the 26 episode series and the movie have never been officially released in the United States, with the exception of the first eight episodes, which were released on videocassette by Orion Home Video.
Following Orion's folding into MGM, and MGM's purchase by Sony of America, the American rights to the series are now in the hands of Sony. However, bootleg copies of the entire U.S. version of the series have long been available on both VHS and DVD. Episodes are also available as legal downloads from such sources as the iTunes Music Store and Amazon.com's Unbox.
The American version of the series was astonishingly violent by the standards of children's programming in the 1960s, and would certainly never pass muster today. Guns and shooting are staples of every episode of the series, and the series' two child leads - Johnny Sokko and Mari Hanson (Mari Hanamura in the Japanese version; a 9-year-old girl introduced in the seventh episode who speaks 39 languages and is a crack shot with a firearm) - were frequently seen shooting along with the rest of the Unicorn agents. In one episode Johnny and Mari are captured by Gargoyle, tied to two trees, and are within seconds of being executed by firing squad when Unicorn agents rescue them. Oddly enough, though practically every Japanese anime exported to the United States during that period was edited due to violent content, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot seems to have escaped close scrutiny in that regard, and what editing was done on the show seems to have been more for the purposes of squeezing in another commercial or two rather than in the interest of curbing the show's violence.
It should be noted that in addition to dubbing American voice actors for the U.S. release, many of the show's sound effects were also remixed or re-recorded entirely. And though the show's Japanese musical soundtrack was often used, it was frequently used in different places from the Japanese version of the series, or replaced altogether by a jazz-influenced score.
After the showEdit
- Mitsunobu Kaneko (who had played Daisaku Kusama/Johnny Sokko in the original series) died in 1997. His acting career appears to have completely ended after Giant Robo.
- Mitsuo Ando (Doctor Over/Doctor Botanus) also died in 1997, having spent his acting career playing various characters in children's shows.
- Japanese narrator Koichi Chiba died in 2001, having played a number of roles until the year before his death. Interestingly, he was the only person associated with the 1966 series who was also involved with the OVA, voicing Dr. Franken Von Fogler.
- Hideo Murota, who played the villain known as Black Dia/Harlequin, died of lung cancer in 2002, having spent his entire life following Giant Robo in a variety of film and TV roles. It's fair to say that of all the series' regular actors, his career was the most successful.
- Akio Ito (Juro Minami/Jerry Mano) is reportedly now a production designer.
- Yumiko Katayama (Mitsuko Nishino/Mitsuko Hino) also appeared in the 1969 Japanese TV series Playgirl. Other than Giant Robo she is probably best remembered for having appeared in two of the early '70s "Pinky Violence" films; 1971's Zubeko bancho: zange no neuchi mo nai (Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess) and 1973's Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi (Criminal Woman: Killing Melody). Her acting career appears to have ended after 1973.
- Matasaburo Tamba (Spider) had played small roles in several movies prior to Giant Robo. His only role of note following Giant Robo was as the villainous Black Shogun in the 1971 TV series Kamen Rider.
- Catherine Byers (aka Bobbie Byers), who provided Johnny Sokko's English language voice, has had a lengthy career since the 1960s. She is also known for having voiced Captain Bonnie (Bokko) on the English language version of The Amazing 3, as well as Prince Planet on the series of the same name. She appeared on-camera in two 1960s biker films; 1967's Wild Rebels and 1968's Savages from Hell. Since then she has focused on voice acting (primarily talking books) and stage work. Her Amazing 3 coworkers Neil Patrick, Paul Brown, Kurt Nagel, and Jerry Burke also provided various voices on Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot.
- The careers of the series' other actors appear to have ended entirely after the early '70s, if not before.
Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood StillEdit
Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still (ジャイアント・ロボ 地球が静止する日 Jaianto Robo: Chikyū ga Seishi suru Hi?) is an Original Video Animation series written and directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa (G Gundam, Seven of Seven). It takes place in the near future, 10 years after the advent of the Shizuma Drive triggers the third energy revolution, and follows the master of the titular Robo, Daisaku Kusama, and the Experts of Justice, an international police organization locked in battle with the BF Group, a secret society hell-bent on world domination.
GR: Giant RoboEdit
- Main article: GR: Giant Robo
GR: Giant Robo (GR ジャイアントロボ GR: Jaianto Robo?) is an animated TV series written by Chiaki Konaka (Serial Experiments Lain, The Big O) and directed by Masahiko Murata (Jinki:EXTEND, Mazinkaiser). At the dawn of the 21st century, the Earth is overrun by giant robots. Daisaku Kusama encounters one of these monsters, the titular Robo, in a ruin in Okinawa. Beckoned by forces he can't understand, Daisaku is made to bond, body and spirit, with the ancient weapon and defend his homeland from the incoming evil.
- A Complete Guide to Toei's 1960s Sci/Fi Series by Keith Sewell
- Giant Robo (live-action) (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia