Staff Recommendation? – Supaidaman? by Tyler Crissman
Captain America recently got upstaged in the latest trailer for his own movie, Captain America: Civil War, by Spider-Man. Of course, with Spider-Man finally entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is hubbub over his role, his look, and so on. Some people are excited to see how it’ll turn out, but others are more skeptical — and understandably so. The rapid re-reboot process feels weird in a redundant way, and who knows if this new Spider-Man will actually have any depth or quality as a character.
Wherever you stand, there is another Spider-Man on film who’s more coveted than controversial. He can keep excited fans busy with Spider-footage as they wait for Civil War. He can give skeptical Spider-fans a change of web-slinging pace. He’s the wall-crawler of the live-action, late-70s, Japanese Spider-Man television series produced by Toei Company.
(The series is commonly known as Supaidaman, the English-alphabet approximation of the Japanese approximation of Spider-Man. The name helps to distinguish it from other Japanese Spider-Man series that have run in comics form.) Although the letters R and E in tandem may feel worn out thanks to the RE-REboot, this series makes RE fresh. It’s REtro, foREign, obscuRE, bizarRE, and REally fun. Yes, it’s Spider-Man, but this Spider-Man is Takuya Yamashiro (Yamashiro Takuya, in the Japanese order of surname first) instead of Peter Parker. Name and geography aside, like Peter, Takuya struggles to balance his civilian life and his superhero life. But unlike Peter, he’s a motocross racer — and as Supaidaman, he has a high-tech wristband, a flying racecar with machine guns and missiles called the Spider Machine GP-7 (whatever GP-7 means), and a giant flying ship called Marveller (due homage well paid) that transforms into a giant robot named Leopardon. If this sounds like a Spider-Man trying to be a Power Ranger, you’d be right, except it’s actually the other way around. Supaidaman had surprising influence on later shows, including Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Judging by Supaidaman’s clear divergence from the original source material, it’s easy to guess that his origin story is a little more far-out than a radioactive spider. To summarize, Takuya’s father is a scientist who comes across a crashed spaceship, only to be killed by hostile aliens, who have actually already infiltrated Earth. Takuya, enraged by his father’s murder, tries in vain to fight those aliens, who are members of the Iron Cross Army. He is saved from near death by the alien who the spaceship belongs to: one Garia of Planet Spider.
Garia gives to Takuya the Spider Bracelet that had been keeping him alive for hundreds of years. Its powers diffuse into Takuya, saving him, and granting him spider powers, as well as control of the aforementioned vehicular arsenal that no other Spider-Man gets to enjoy. That is, an arsenal to enjoy on his quest of vengeance. Not only does Supaidaman fight to avenge his father, but also the people of Planet Spider, which Professor Monster (leader of the aforementioned Iron Cross Army) destroyed long ago. It comes across a little more naturally in the show.
And yes, that is correct. This superhero is motivated by revenge from the very start. It’s not just a fight against crime to protect the innocent, but also a quest to get even. The revenge aspect of the show presents a surprisingly interesting dynamic. Supaidaman fights for the forces of good, sure, but (after striking some delightfully cheesy poses) he declares himself “an emissary from hell.” This all seems a little out of place in a kids’ show. It’s an odd juxtaposition that borders on accidentally brilliant — or perhaps, brilliant on purpose. Supaidaman’s drive for revenge reveals him to be a flawed and very human character. In spite of his nearly obsessive revenge he is still clearly doing good, but Supaidaman’s flawed motivation can make the viewer think about the morality of Supaidaman and of revenge in general. Because Supaidaman is so fun to root for, questioning him leads to questioning oneself. “What would I do in that situation?” “How vengeful am I?” “Wait, am I really analyzing Supaidaman?” Perhaps this is a bout of over-analysis, but it’s more fun than overanalyzing the few seconds Spider-Man spends in the Civil War trailer.
Speaking of fun, that’s what this show is. Spidey fights giant monsters and alien henchmen led by Professor Monster, all of them dressed most excellently. The show is campy over all, but has surprisingly grim moments, as well as surprisingly legitimately cool ones. The fight choreography can be downright joyful to watch, and Supaidaman moves rather like a spider. Some of the actors even give genuinely good performances, or at least genuinely funny ones.
And don’t forget, this show is absolutely off the wall. It’s no surprise that it has a cult following. So much so that Supaidaman became Marvel Comics canon in the Spider-Verse story arc.
Unfortunately for Supaida-fans, however, that debut appearance hasn’t led to anything. The character of Spider-Gwen now has her own series in the comics, but Supaidaman has vanished. He clearly had enough clout to make it into several issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, but it seems like his resurgence has become a lost opportunity. For a brief moment, it seemed like he’d be coming back; soon after Supaidaman’s comics appearance, two episodes of his show were re-uploaded to watch for free on Marvel’s official website. Yes, re-uploaded. The whole series went up several years ago, but was later taken down. And now that two episodes have been re-uploaded, they too have been taken down. It seems that legal battles hold this hero hostage. Many Supaidaman videos on YouTube have been taken down by Toei Co., Ltd. It seems that Marvel has lost the rights to Supaidaman, but it’s hard to know. Whatever the case may be, news about the legal status of Supaidaman is probably harder to find than the show itself. As great of a show to recommend as it is, Supaidaman is now extremely hard to find. Of course, one can always dream that the real reveal for Civil War is Supaidaman.