About fifteen years ago now, I purchased a small collection of Bullmark Tiger Mask vinyl figures (like these) at a toy show in Ohio. Erroneously in that batch was this 13″ Kaiketsu Lion Maru figure, vintage early 70′s. It has no manufacturer’s markings or date, and I’ve been told it is likely a Chinese knock-off or unlicensed piece, which makes it even cooler.
I’m assuming this piece is indeed contemporary with the show’s original run, as it was in a collection of early 70′s vinyl that has never been reissued. It’s in amazing shape for its age, too. The rooted hair is still silky, no splits on the vinyl cape or cuffs, rubber boots still soft. I’m lucky I guess. Over the years I’ve entertained some offers from other collectors on this, but you’d have to be swinging some heavy yen…
The Dokuro ninja jobber is a modern piece in the same vein, released late 2009.
Tags: Bullmark, Lion Maru, Monsters and Masks 2010, vinyl
Pink Tentacle has a terrific series of images from profound illustrator Ishihara Gōjin, including these pages from a Kaiketsu Lion Maru ‘sonosheet’ book:
Otherwise known as ‘Gekko Hayashi,’ Gojin’s paintings and illustrations range from kids superhero and sci-fi books to horrific yokai to homoeroticism. I have a few books of his, and there sure is a damn strange quality to his art, even the most vanilla of subjects done for the mainstream. Figures are strangely stiff, but somehow bouncy and gung-ho at the same time. His girls are often mannish and his male figures are, well… often not so mannish. His macabre stuff is just astounding.
There’s a Japanese language shrine to Ishihara Gojin here, and an in-depth look at the artist’s Jubei Yagyu manga at Comic Press.
Tags: Ishihara Gojin, Lion Maru, sonosheets, yokai
I’m of two minds about the classic Kaiketsu Lion Maru tokusatsu series. I basically love everything about it… except for the heroes. The character designs of the lead and his rival Tiger Joe sort of creep me out. Tiger I find creepier than Lion, because whereas Lion Maru is at least fully clothed, Tiger Joe is walking around PANTLESS! Seriously, look at the above image in anthropomorphic terms – if he’s human, he’s wearing a cape, a chestplate, cowboy boots with spurs, and a smile. Ew…
Tags: Lion Maru
Scored a few more menko cards, these feature some surprisingly ON-model art and photo collage work.
Illustrations of HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI, among the better third-party artwork I've seen on these cards.
KAIKETSU LION MARU and FUUN LION MARU use actual photos of these creepy heroes.
Tags: HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI, Lion Maru, menko cards
Kaiketsu Lion Maru‘s simple skull-masked ‘shockers’ were absolutely awesome, and I believe for the first time there’s a licensed action figure representing them!
This 5″ vinyl boutique figure is from RealxHead / Fewture Models. Jointed arms, rotating hands and head, with sword accessory. Check out the matching Lion Maru below – I like the stylized head design.
Blog coverage at Toybot Studios and Kaiju Chronicle.
Tags: Lion Maru, Monsters and Masks 2009
Yesterday we looked at the early 70′s TV sword-girl standout Saori – whose taut legs and exposed athletic thighs were obviously secondary concerns to her self-accomplished heroism, kick-ass attitude in a man’s world, and defiance to the salacious agendas of cameraman and pre-pubescent pervs in the audience. Seriously, none of us here ever popped a kid-chubbie to Wonder Woman or Isis or Electra Woman and Dyna Girl did we? No, we were watching for the empowered heroism that served as an example to all genders, just like the Japanese.
It was about a tough, self-made woman fighting for her life, right...
...not trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of the bikini area.
No matter how often the directors and camermen provided one.
Saori, scantily clad as she was in a world of armored men with super-poweres, was there to jump to the rescue of her male companions.
Building relationships, bridging the gender gaps.
It wasn't about repeatedly putting her in fetishized peril awaiting rescues.
And she wasn't girly and afraid of creepy crawlies, either.
The outre boss-monsters of the week would never get a little grabby while tying her up, either. No way.
OK – in all seriousness…
Here’s the lowdown on Saori, Akiko Kujo and Lion Maru. It was a kid’s show, but someone sure was crow-barring in some cheeky content for older brother and dad. Season two, her get-up changed a bit and she ended up with more modest unmentionables and way less camera up the skirt, so that same someone may have gotten bus-ted!
Through it all, Kujo was a real trooper! Athletic build (possibly dancers legs?) lent her terrific leaping ability. She was a game acrobat, did a lot of her own fight scenes and trampoline work, and made the most out of a role that could have been completely laughable if not for her effort. Her frequent fights against multiple skull-ninja are always great.
Being a girl sidekick on a Japanese boy’s TV show was innevitably going to be exploitive in some degree, but within that realm, Akiko Kujo really did hold her own, kicked some real ass, and should have been a more influential model for a progressive breed of girl-hero that Japan sadly never developed.
She’s so good, you end up looking at this show in a modern context and you want MORE of her and less of the big fuzzy dude in red.
Official DVD site, Henshin Hall of Fame, Italian fan site.
BONUS TOY COVERAGE HERE!
Tags: Lion Maru, Monsters and Masks 2009
As a post Halloween bonus, we’re going to honor the Latin world’s Dia de los Muertos with a look at some skull-masked shinobi. MONSTERS AND MASKS month has been sadly bereft of our beloved Sword Girls, too, so we’ll wrap things up with Saori – the ferocious flipping female sidekick from Kaiketsu Lion Maru.
Akiko Kujo starred as the muscular-legged kunoichi companion of the super-powered proto-furry superhero, and while he had a magic sword, a pegasus, nigh-invulnerability, the ability to make monsters explode, etc, Saori was content with a simple short sword and an even shorter skirt…
Here's the happy and heroic cast...
...and these are the evil henchmen. Amazing how the addition of a simple skull mask over an off-the-rack ninja suit equals INSTANT AWESOME!
Yeah, it's a Japanese show, and some assume they're all pervs and even a heroine in a kid's show would be there for one reason and one reason only, but that's just not true here. Take a look at action shots like this. They're obviously NOT about the gratuitous panty flashes...
No, they're about one woman standing up to a man's world. One rather under-clad woman... often standing slightly above the camera's sightline...
See, she's a wildcat. She's... what are all those cliches the comic book industry clings to... oh yeah - she's EMPOWERED by her sexuality, a combatant unencumbered by flesh-concealing protective gear...
She wears her gender on her sleeve, she's a GRRRL man, yeah, that's it. That's a warrior right there, not an underwear model exposed at every possible opportunity by lascivious camera operators and hand-gnashing directors...
In the end, she's not a damsel in distress or a ditzy assistant, she's the scourge of these skull-masked houligans!
These lucky, lucky, lucky skull-masked houligans.
TOMORROW – more skull masks and more skivvies…
Tags: Lion Maru, Monsters and Masks 2009
Somehow, it’s the last week of October… Time flies when you’re running around in an Oni mask like a maniac. Actually, some mid-month travel put a dent in what I wanted to be a more prolific output for MONSTERS AND MASKS MONTH, but such is life.
Coming in the next few days, kaiju mayhem in MASKED NINJA AKAKAGE, freaky villains in WATARI THE NINJA BOY, maybe a flaming demon head floating around in a smoke cloud or two, and for Dia de los Muertos a look at the skull-masked ninja ‘shockers’ of KAIKETSU LION MARU.
Here’s a preview – a Mexican lobby card for the theatrical release of one of the composite Akakage films, which internationally were often mis-titled as “Watari” flicks. Note that it’s presented in “violent color” – god I love Mexico…
Tags: Akakage, Lion Maru, Maki Fuyukichi, Monsters and Masks 2009, Watari
And a few more awesome sonosheet sets from Japanese eBay:
The photo cover from this KAIKETSU LION MARU set is cool enough, but the illustrated interiors are fantastic!
Another ninja series from Japan translated into English that never made it to US shores - PHANTOM AGENTS. Again, those darned Aussies got this, a cult hit there alongside THE SAMURAI.
See more of these 70′s Flexi-Discs, in all genres, at the great Pink Tentacle blog.
Tags: Lion Maru, Phantom Agents
Now these are some awesome menko cards! Watari the Ninja Boy, Sasuke, Tange Saezen and more, represented by original art from the card company – hence the slightly off model illos. And do we really need that male nudity???
This un-punched sheet of circular menkos is a lot more off-model. I’m pretty sure two of them are supposed to be Kagemaru of Iga, but the rest are a crapshoot.
OK, the rectangular Henshin Ninja Arashi cards are pretty good, but that circular ‘POG’-like one in the middle is just awful! But these aren’t the best of the worst…
Kaiketsu Lion Maru my ass… I’m calling total bullshit on the disc on the right! That’s just some nature book painting of a lion’s head with some hastily drawn gloves coming in from the sides. Even the more on-model rectangular card is pretty wonky in the too-human face. Looks more like that old Ron Pearlman Beauty and the Beast TV monster than the white-maned transforming ninja hero of the 70′s.
Tags: HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI, Kagemaru, Lion Maru, menko cards, Sarutobi Sasuke