Monsters and martial mummies in MAJIN HUNTER MITSURUGI

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 0

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.


JIRAIYA vinyls

Picked there up in an anime/manga shop in NYC back int he early 90s, had no idea what they were from or who they were, but I guess I recognized coolness when I saw it. 15+ years later I finally see some old World Ninja War Jiraiya episodes and eureka…

See the great costumes in the companion photo book we featured here and here.

The evil ninja shapeshifter Benikiba. I owned this androgynously sculpted figure for all those years and never realized it was a female character until I finally saw the TV show.





posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 0

Gotta wonder about the mentality of the ‘monster-of-the-week’ in these tokusatasu properties…

I can see the first boss baddie being all gung-ho, the second and third obsessed with revenge and whatnot, but after a year or two of the mystically-invulnerable hero going through your comrades like melted butter, wouldn’t you sort of doubt your lot in life?

Oh yeah, he’s killed the past 73 monsters we’ve sent up against him, and no-sells every offensive onslaught we can muster, but I’M THE ONE who’s finally gonna break the streak! YEAH!


ARASHI paper dolls

posted in: 4 - Collectibles | 0

I’ve featured all sorts of collectibles based on the early 70s property Henshin Ninja Arashi. These might be the cheapest of souvenirs, but they’re among the coolest in my opinion.

When punched-out and assembled, these 8″ cards produce nifty 6.5″ semi-articulated paper dolls. Looks like the transforming bird-themed super ninja has been portrayed by a third party artist working for the licensors, the art sits somewhere between the manga and television versions of the character design.

I especially love these villain cards, which are closer to the manga:

Here’s an assembled hero:

ARASHI 7″ vinyl

I love the somewhat goofy Henshin Ninja Arashi and I love this cheap 7″ semi-articulated vinyl figure too. Bandai produced this in 2005, and it sold for $10-14. I dig this size and price range of collectible – one only has so much space and funds…

I also admire the simplicity of the sculpt, and the fealty to the TV show suit – there are folds and seams, it looks like an actor in a costume. Modern toys can go overboard on the reinterpretations and EXTREME-ness of figures, almost like trying to apologize for their 70s Saturday morning roots (ala this 2009 re-imagining), but this retro piece is just perfect.

Not that I wouldn’t collect the vintage stuff, especially the monster baddies, but I’d run out of organs to sell real quick trying to put together a run like this:

But give me a cheap figure that still captures the essence of the media property, and I’m a happy Transforming Ninja nerd.



NINJA CAPTOR vintage vinyl

I’m not especially familiar with the 1976/77 Toei tokustatsu property Ninja Captor, but I do like the character design.

The elemental-themed costumes combined garishly decorated crash helmets, superhero utility belts and go-go boots with primary-colored mesh that evoked ancient armor. I also like the fact that there’s a fat guy on the team…

These 5.5″ vinyl figures manufactured by Popy were contemporary to the 43 episode TV run back in the day. They are articulated at the shoulders and waist, and included a red plastic handheld signature weapon. While the figures, often in beater condition, and somewhat common, those little red daggers and ray guns seldom survived some Japanese kid’s childhood to today.

Fire-Stealth Captor 7, like all red 'ranger' types was team leader.
Gold-Stealth Captor 5 is the super-car and robot mechanic.
Flower-Stealth Captor 3 is a girl, so she gets a pink flower theme... cuz she's a girl. Girl.
Water-Stealth Captor 2. There's always one guy on these teams with the sense to pack a good old fashioned GUN instead of some flying boomerang or magic wand.

In addition to these, there are brown, green and orange figures I have yet to score. Being a very cheap line, they all use the same body mold, even for the girl, the short guy and the chocolate chunk.

Check out this fantastic pop-up book over at A Japanese Book. You get a better notion of the notion of that futuristic superhero ninja motif from this art. The TV show seems more concerned with the transforming giant robot stuff…

Something I bought for myself LAST Christmas…

When you’re a niche geek within an already geeky niche you tend to do your own gift shopping. My session of retail therapy last holiday season was these:

While I’m not the biggest tokusatsu fan out there, I do like the brazen absurdist nature of Akakage, and its importance in the ninja TV pantheon goes without saying. This set of 4-5″ retro-styled vinyl figures was produced in 2000 by Marmit.

'Red Shadow' himself is the tamest of the three. That pompador should be a lot more pronounced in front.
Shirokage is a nice sculpt, one of the only MAKI FUYUKICHI licensed toys ever produced.
Nice as it is, this sculpt of Aokage doesn't nearly capture what an annoying little shit he is on the show...
A nice touch was this stand/background prop in the form of Shirokage's spy kite.

I only wish there was a gigantic toad head for them to pose on, or some of the kaiju produced in larger scale.

This will be my last post before Christmas, so happy holidays everyone!

JIRAIYA photo book (part 2 of 2)

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 1

World-Wide Ninja War Jiraiya may have been centered on a single hero, but it was the wide range of supporting characters, global guest stars and villains-of-the-week that were the show’s strength.

Masaaki Hatsumi and his fictional kin operate out of the real Togakure Bujinkan. Note the silhouette from the firey credit sequence, where some distinctive ninjutsu kicks are thrown.
Inspired by the notion of the Olympics, ninja from every corner of the globe got involved in the war, including Yanks and Brits.
Awesome as the main villain's costume was, his troops... maybe not so much. Chuunin Benikiba, the villainess at center, is stuck in one of the most unflattering female costumes in TV history. I've had a vinyl figure of her for decades and never knew it was supposed to be female until recently.
The 'karasutengu' crow ninja are a great idea, but the goofy eyes KILL the whole design. They look like spokes characters from some fast food chain. Recurring baddie Hoshinin Retsuga looks like he bought his ninja gear at Chess King!

OK, so after three days of Jiraiya, what do y’all think? I know folks who LOVE this show’s dizzying array of characters and Japan Action Club-esque action. Others just can’t stand how 80’s it is, and yeah, it is definitely a product of its time.

To me, it seems like the thing just came a few years too late. By 88-89 the craze was waning world-wide. The same show in 84-85 might have been a bigger sensation, including here.

If for nothing else, comb the greyer markets for eps of this oddity just to see the integration of genuine ninjutsu with over the top superhero antics. I mean Hatsumi in a kids’ show, who knew?