If you’re a big enough toy geek, the 1988 Japanese tokusatsu series Worldwide Ninja War Jiraiya (Sekai ninja sen Jiraiya) will look somewhat familiar. The action-packed “Metal Hero” show was never exported to the States, but some of the toys were — the absolutely awful line of floppy rubber figures in hard plastic armor known as “Tacky Stretchoid Warriors.”
While these gummy figures positively sucked, the source series is a pretty damned good example of 80’s superhero television, packed with tons of colorful characters, high-flying stuntwork, explosive action, and some historically significant cast members.
Jiraiya’s plot unfolded over 50 episodes; a ninja family entrusted for centuries to guard the secret of an alien treasure races against an ancient demon to unlock its considerable powers. Complicating matters is a colorful cast of international ninja with mixed allegiances — a superb plot device said to be inspired by the Seoul Olympics.
In-dojo training sequences with Togakure-Ryu grandmaster Hatsumi and appearances by several of his ninjutsu students give this show a unique quality. Mixed in with the genre-requisite explosions and decorated vehicles are some genuine martial arts. This kids’ show may have been the most Hatsumi and the Togakure were involved in a media property since their genre-defining technical advisory role in the Shinobi-no-Mono films.
Starting tomorrow, we’ll have a pile of pages from a nice photo book of the series, showing both some timeless tokusatsu designs and some hopelessly 80’s fashions.