Japanese Spider-Man (1978) — With great mechs come great versatility

“An emissary from hell, Spider-Man!”

Justin’s rating: The only thing more ridiculous than Spider-Ham

Justin’s review: In all of the Spider-Verse — which is definitely a thing — there is no iteration of our friendly neighborhood wallcrawler that’s more odd yet more endearing as Supaidāman (or, as he is better known to western audiences, Japanese Spider-Man).

Created in 1978 as a Japanese variant of the Marvel hero, Supaidāman took a much different tack to the character than Peter Parker/with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility. For one thing, this Spider-Man got his powers from alien blood. For another thing, he has a personal giant combat robot at his beck and call. Sometimes he even used machine guns.

Despite only running for a single season (which included a packaged theatrical film), Supaidāman has grown a genuine cult following over the past 40-some years for his weirdly translated quotes, Japanese oddity, and awesome action sequences. The love for the character was such that he’s even going to be included in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One), which means that it’s high past time I got acquainted with this version.

So I went to the pilot episode of the series, coherently called “The Time of Revenge Has Come! Beat Down Iron Cross Group!!”

The surprisingly catchy opening theme song is truly a work of art (“Eyes sparkle with the flash of anger! Spider-Man!”) as the titular character jumps and bikes and postures for our benefit. Also, we get an early look at his transforming robot, Leopardon, who flies in from Cybertron. The theme sequence falls so much in love with Leopardon that it almost forgets to bring back Spider-Man for the ending.

One thing that Japanese Spider-Man establishes right away is that it’s a huge fan of rapid smash cuts and camera zooms. It’s zoomin’ and cuttin’ so fast that I have no idea what’s going on. Sometimes you get the same shot three times in a row just in case you blinked the first two times. I think a spider is talking to a guy while an alien ship is approaching earth and an evil cyborg scowls and a dirt biker is jumping left and right. It’s already more exciting than the entirety of the 1977 Spider-Man TV movie, let me tell you.

Evil Borg Dude (“Professor Monster”) is worried that the local good professor will find the ship and turn its powers against him, so he orders his henchwoman to take her little pocket monster and kill the professor. They’re aliens who are “secretly” invading the earth, which sounds like an excuse to me.

Meanwhile, dirt biker Takuya, helps the professor (his dad) to excavate the ship. He’s been getting weird messages from a ghost spider calling him to the ship, so it kind of works out. He’s a bit bummed when his dad dies of pocket monster aggression, but he doesn’t have a lot of time to mourn because duck-faced ninja aliens attack, as they tend to do.

Takuya falls into a cave and bumps into the captain of the S.S. Voltron who is, and I am not making this up, from the Planet Spider. Forcibly injected with alien blood, Takuya gains the power of the spider and is tasked with getting revenge on Professor Monster. That seems like a big ask from a rando space dude he just met, but what else are you going to do? Throw a funeral for your father?

The spaceship captain transforms into a spider that hangs out in Takuya’s room giving him unwanted advice. He’s told to activate his bracelet — the Spider Protector — which suits him up as Spider-Man. He can crawl on ceilings, spin webs, and use his spidey-sense to track enemies.

Sensing the enemy “50 kilometers away,” Spider-Man farts around crawling up and down buildings before showing up at Professor Monster’s base. He then introduces himself as “An emissary from hell!” which is a pretty boss description.

This is when the episode explodes into a combination of martial arts fights and random wall-crawling. He seems to have the upper-hand in this conflict until the henchwoman summons her pocket monster again. This thing grows to the size of Godzilla’s younger brother Ted and thrashes Spidey until he summons the spaceship to come in for an assist. The ship spits out a pretty sweet Spidey Car with missiles.

Then Spidey boards the ship and activates the transformation sequence. Now we’ve got a giant robot battling a giant laser-spitting monster, and we could not be further from the comics if we tried. It’s still pretty great, though. Spider-Man wins the fight and vows to continue the war against Professor Monster in future episodes. The end.

If all you’re looking for is pure entertainment value, Supaidāman is an A+ experience. It’s so fast-paced, enthusiastic, and endearingly silly that it’s hard to hate on anything here.

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