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Japanese Spider-Man

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese live-action tv series (1978-1979) also known as just Spider-Man. Toei Company. Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for Marvel Comics. Directed by Koichi Takemoto. Writers include Susumu Takaku and Shozo Uehara. Voice cast includes Mitsuo Andō, Yukie Kagawa, Toshiaki Nishizawa, Shinji Tōdō. 41 24-minute episodes, plus a film. Colour.

In the late 1970s Marvel and the Toei Company signed a three-year licensing agreement to allow each to use the other's properties: one result was Toei producing this Television series. Though Spider-Man's costume and abilities are much the same as in the Marvel version, the show otherwise bears little resemblance to the source material.

Motorcyclist Takuya Yamashiro (Tōdō) finds a crashed Spaceship and the injured Garia (Nishizawa): he is an Alien from the planet Spider, which was destroyed by the Iron Cross Army. Led by Professor Monster (Andō) and his assistant, Amazoness (Kagawa), the Army plan to rule the Universe. Before he dies Garia injects Takuya with some of his blood and hands him a bracelet, which together give him the traditional Spider-Man powers. The bracelet also allows him to control his spaceship, which converts into a giant Mecha called Leopardon (it also contains a flying car). When Garia asks Takuya to avenge him he agrees, as the Iron Cross Army have already killed his father.

This is a traditional Tokusatsu series, with Spider-Man combating a monster of the week sent by Professor Monster; the episodes finish with the monster growing to giant size and being destroyed by Leopardon. The budget for the show was clearly small – during the making of the series the Leopardon suit disappeared and the production could not afford a replacement, so old footage was reused: nevertheless the special effects of Spider-Man climbing walls etc. look good, his body language is made distinctive and the fight scenes are lively.

The show was the first live-action series to use a giant transforming mecha: it was a big success, as were the accompanying Toys; so when it ended Toei looked to create a new series that included giant mecha fighting giant monsters, creating Battle Fever J (1979-1980) (see Super Sentai). This Spider-Man series is now considered part of the Spider-Verse (Earth-51778, to be precise) and the Takuya Spider-Man (and Leopardon) has made occasional appearances in the comics since 2014. Though some Marvel executives were less than happy with the series, Stan Lee himself was a fan.

A related film is the 24-minute Spider-Man (1978). The earlier Spider-Man Manga (1970-1971) by Ryoichi Ikegami and Kousei Ono is not connected to the series, though it is also considered part of the Spider-Verse, taking place on Earth-70091. [SP]


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