An oddity among the tokusatsu status quo is the 1973 12-episode series Majin Hunter Mitsurugi, mainly for its use of stop-motion animation instead of stuntmen in rubber suits. It has its other quirks too, though, such as the heroes:
Sure, they look like the standard Science Patrol-type trio, but MHM is period-set in the Tokugawa era, so the bike helmets and hand grenades are rather outre choices. Not sure if there’s some sort of time travel gimmick here, but they’ve certainly taken the out-of-time Akakage costuming notions to a whole different level. Their skills are classic TV shinobi though, with shuriken and short swords at the ready.
The Shogunate is under attack from this arch demon…
…his mummy-bandaged horde…
…and the giant monster-of-the-week.
Luckily the heroes have magic swords and a gigantic armor suit of their own.
The creature design on MHM ranged from Ray Harryhausen influenced stuff to some downright Rankin-Bass holiday special looking silly critters. The show’s ambition sometimes outraced their ability to deliver, alas…
While the pimpled dodo-saurus above is a bit of a fail, the Jason and the Argonauts-inspired skeletal colossus is a major win!
And while this bastard love child of Reptilicus and The Giant Claw is a bit laughable…
…these insectiod hybrid creature remind me a lot of Micronauts. Too cool!
Seriously, how can you not love the day-glow green half-tarantula, half-skeleton unicorn hook-handed web spewer?
I love all these monsters, but it does seem multiple designers were involved, and someone didn’t get the memo that the rest of the show look was dark and moody, with bandaged swordsmen getting hacked up by grenade-throwing ninja. There are some very kid-y designs mixed in with the more legit monsters.
I’m also not sure they were up to the challenge of stop motion. Rubber suit shoots have a fraction of the shooting and production time, and the animation looks rushed and tragically under-budgeted.
Majin Hunter Mitsurugi is well worth seeking out. I dig the heroes, and the concepts are great. Any shortcomings in creature execution and animation are made-up for by the awesome villains, too.