Thursday, November 6, 2014

Machineman and Byclossers : when Ishinomori and Takaku try to do Metal Hero outside the official franchise

The first half of the 80' saw the beginning of an incredibly popular franchise : the Metal Hero franchise, with the Space Sheriff shows. Because of their popularity, Shoutaro Ishinomori, creator of Kamen Rider, Kikaider and Gorenger, who didn't have any rights over the Metal hero franchise (the official producer was Yatsude Saburo (Toei's staff) tried to create shows trying to get a similar vibe. As such, two shows were produced: in 1984, Seiun Kamen Machineman which had some elements similar to the Metal Hero franchise while still having its own personality, and in 1985, Kyyodai Ken Byclossers, which was pretty much an unofficial Metal Hero show. Both shows shared a same main writer: Susumu Takaku. Both shows have many similar elements despite a different premise. Moreover, those shows are gonna have an influence in later shows written by the writing staff involved.

1) Machineman and Byclossers : an overview

1-1) Machineman

Seiun Kamen Machineman, a 36 episodes long series produced in 1984, tells the story of a young alien student coming from the Ivy planet in the  Pleiades constellation who comes to Earth to study it and its inhabitants for his university thesis. He went on Earth in a spaceship which is then hidden on a lake, and then, starts to live on Earth as Ken Takase, a young clumsy man with glasses. While visiting Earth, he meets a young journalist and photographer, Maki Hayama (played by Kiyomi Tsukada, who would play Anri, Juspion's android companion a year later), who is investigating the misdeeds of a criminal organization named Tentacle. Very soon, Maki ends up being threatened by the evil group, and Ken ends up rescuing her by fighting Tentacle, by changing into a masked, caped and armored suit, using a special device and his personal vehicle, Dolphin. After learning of Tentacle, he decides to stay on Earth to fight the evil organization, helped by his faithful companion, Ballboy, a little robot which looks like a baseball ball.
Tentacle, which especially focus on crimes against children has as a leader Professor K (played by Hideyo Amamoto, who played Dr Shinigami in the original Kamen Rider series), a man who hates children because he's allergic to them. Professor K is  helped by his right hand robot Ironman Mons, as well as other robots and men he has corrupted.
Halfway through the series, Tentacle is dismantled after Machineman defeats Ironman Mons and Professor K goes into hiding, but then, a new criminal organization replaces it : Octopus, led by Lady M (played by Chiaki Kojo, who played Keller in Denziman), professor K's niece , who is helped by her bumbling sidekick TonChinkan, as well as other robots and corrupted humans, and who hates as much children as her uncle. In the final arc, both K and M join forces for a final showdown against Machineman. After his victory, Machineman comes back in his planet, having done a good study of Earth, and confident that peace is back.
An interesting element of Machineman is the fact that the hero has to fight both robots and corrupted humans, and while he destroys the robot in a typical  explosive way, he deals with the corrupted humans by leaving a M mark with his sword and then, uses a wave to purge them from their evil, defeating them without killing them.

1-2) Kyodai Ken Byclossers

Kyodai Ken Byclossers, a 34 episode long series produced in 1985, tells the story of two young brothers who lives with their parents, Ken and Ginjiro Mizuno, , who, one day , see a mysterious light on the sky, and while investigation it, end up encountering the members of a criminal organization, Dester. Chased by the villains, they almost die, but are saved by a mysterious spaceship. While on the spaceship, a mysterious voice coming from outer space tells them that they are the heroes chosen to become the Bycrossers. Ken becomes the red-and-white-armored Bycrosser Ken and Ginjiro becomes the blue-and-red armored Bycrosser Gin.
Together, they fight the evil organization Dester, led by Doctor Q (played by Kenji Ushio, the original actor playing Hedder in Battle Fever, before being replaced by Masashi Ishibashi) and her female assistant, Sylvia. Their plan involve using evil robots and mooks to make suffer children, because their screams and crying make a mysterious idol, the Majin Gora, create jewels.
Whenever Dester has an evil plan, the Bycrossers investigate it and then, thwarts it and destroy the robots, with a final move involving both brothers, Ken who is using a cannon formed from the motorcycle piloted by Gin.
Midway through the show, Gora ends up becoming more than a mere idol, and shows his real appearance of an evil God, Gorazonger. Gorazonger soon becomes the leader of Dester, and starts his plans of world conquest, helped by Dr Q, Sylvia and a new female sidekick, Rita, who soons becomes the rival of Sylvia.
At the end, the Bycrosser confronts Dester once and for all: they destroy Gorazonger, and Dr Q and his two female companions end up as fugitives in the desert.

2) Machineman and Byclosser : two shows of the 80's with the Metal Hero influence.

Machineman and Byclosser are both very episodic shows, and most episodes tell a full story. The overall story only goes forward in few instances, notably when theere are big changes on the villain side, and of course, in the final showdown. As 80' shows, they are of course influenced by the successful tokusatsu shows of their era, especially the Metal Hero shows.

Machineman indeed shows some Metal Hero elements : the transforming sequences involving the hero's ship and the sequence with the hero being illuminated by light particles while doing his henshin moves. Moreover, the final move involves a light saver similar to the Laser Blade of the Space Sheriff. Besides, he's also an alien disguised as a normal human. Interestingly, the suit, with a mask only covering the upper part of the face is similar to ... Riderman.
However, Machineman's main influence seems more to be ... Superman. Indeed, the hero is an alien whose superpowers comes from his extraterrestrial origin,  who has an alter ego who is a bumbling man with glasses. The female lead is a young journalist who loves investigating and ends up being in danger because of that ... pretty much like Lois Lane.

Byclossers, however, has more similarities with the Metal Hero franchise. Indeed, the brothers's suit are very similar to Metal Hero armors, the design being a mix of a sentai suit, a Space Sheriff suit and the suit which would be used later in Metalder and Janperson. Their concepts are similar, with the evil organization being similar to Maku, Madou and Fuma, and, like a classic Metal Hero, change thanks to a ray coming from their main ship. Like most Metal Hero shows, there is a focus on the vehicles used by the heroes, with plenty of stock footage. Lastly the basic structur of an episode is pretty similar to a typical Space Sheriff show, endign with a climactic battle with the Monster of the Week.

3) Similarities between Machineman and Byclossers

Machineman and Byclossers have a lot of common elements :

- Both are very episodic shows: most episodes are a full standalon story, involving the villain starting a plan, the hero(es) discovering and investigating the plan, and stopping it.
- Both have the heroes having their powers from outer space: Machineman is himslef an alien while the Byclossers get their powers from aliens from a faraway planet.
- Both detect people in distress thanks to superpowered senses: Machineman's surhuman hearing and Byclossers's telepathic powers).
-Both have major villains named after letter: Professor K and Lady M from Machineman, and Doctor Q from Byclossers (all are sendbacks from Doctor G from Kamen Rider V3)
- Both shows have major changes midway, especially in the villain side : in Machineman, Tentacle is replaced by Octopus, and in Byclossers, the idol Gora ends up becoming the evil god Gorazonger, and becomes the leader of Dester, with Rita coming along at the same time. Moreover, in Byclossers, at the same time, the heroes start living by themselves.
- Both shows involve children a lot : chikd characters are regulars in both shows
- Both shows have the evil group focusing on making children suffer, either because of their hatred for children (Machineman), or for greed (Byclossers)
- Both shows have major villains showing immature behaviour, being pretty childish themselves, especially the female ones like Machineman's Lady M or Byclosser's Sylvia and Rita.
- Interestingly, in both shows the human looking villain survive at the end as fugitives.
- Because of all those elements, both shows are pretty light hearted and targeted to a kid audience.

4) Machineman and Byclosser : a similar writing team and influence on later shows

A lot of the similarities between both shows can be also explaned by the fact they're both shows of the 80', where tokusatsu started being less violent than in the 70', and more light hearted, and because they share a same staff, notably a same writing staff. Both shows have Susumu Takaku as main writer.

Here are the writers for both shows

Machineman (36 episodes)

Susumu Takaku (main writer) : 4-5, 7-10, 12, 14, 16-17, 19-20, 22-23, 27 (with Tatsuro Nagai), 30, 32-33 (18 episodes)
Shouzo Uehara : 1-2 (with his real name)  3, 6 (under the  pen name Keita Izumizaki) 11, 34-36 (under the pen name Hikaru Kihara) (8 episodes in total)
Noboru Sugimura : 13, 18, 21, 24, 26, 28-29, 31 (8 episodes)
Atsuko Osoya : 15 (1 episode)
Isao Matsumoto : 25 (1 episode)
Tatsuro Nagai : 27 (with Takaku) (1 episode)

Byclosser (34 episodes)

Susumu Takaku (main writer): 1-7, 9-10, 13-15, 19, 22 (with Tatsuro Nagai), 26, 29, 32 (with Nagai), 33-34 (19 episodes)
Rumiko Asao : 8, 12, 25, 30 (4 episodes)
Kyoko Sagiyama : 11, 18, 24 (3 episodes)
Noboru Sugimura : 16-17, 21, 27, 31 (5 episodes)
Shigeru Sato : 20, 23, 28 (3 episodes)
Tatsuro Nagai : 22, 32 (both with Takaku)

Susumu Takaku is the main writer of both shows. Interestingly, in Machineman, Shouzo Uehara is a major secondary writer, who wrote both the first three and last three episode (episode 36 is a recap). Takaku and Uehara have both been involved in early sentai shows, and both have been the two major writers of Battle Fever. Takaku has also been a seconday writer of Uehara in his sentai shows, as well as the two first Space Sheriff shows, notably Sharivan. As such, the episodic element of those shows is very similar to those previous tokusatsu show, with the focus on children having started in shows like Sun Vulcan and the Space Sheriff shows. It's obvious that Uehara and Takaku's involvement in Machineman has helped giving the Metal Hero vibe.
However the main element of both those shows are that the heroes aren't part of a professional team, but are independant heroes trying to live an ordinary daily life, an element seen a lot in more recent toku shows.
In Byclosser, Uehara is not involved, and Takaku is the one who handles all the major arc episodes, including the intro episodes and the final arc. Takaku still uses the episodic writing used in the previous shows. Moreover, Dester is pretty similar to the evil groups seen in previous shows involving Takaku, such as the Egos group from Battle Fever, or Madou from Sharivan.
A amjor secondary writer is involved in both shows: Noboru Sugimura. At the time, Sugimura was starting writing in tokusatsu, and he's been involved a lot with Takaku, as secondary writer of his shows, and then Takaku becoming a major secondary writer of the shows written by Sugimura.
It's interesting to notice how much Sugimura took from these two shows in those he would write later : indeed, the bumbling police team of Jiban isn't unlike the newpaper team seen in Machineman, with the female lead being the most reasonable character. Another Machineman element : the hero changes in his vehicle, like in Winspector and Solbrain later. Another Rescue Police element : villains are often ordinary people who are criminals.  But, more importantly, the show which has the most elements coming from Machineman and Byclosser is of course Zyuranger : indeed, Zyuranger has a special focus on children, has evildoers especially focused on making children suffer, but also show an immature and comical side. The tone seen in Zyuranger isn't unlike the one seen in Machineman and Bycrosser, and like in Zyuranger, most villain survive.
The over the top feeling seen in Machineman, and especially Byclosser would be also seen in Sugimura's other sentai shows, like Kakuranger.

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