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Metal Heroes

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The Metal Hero Series (メタルヒーローシリーズ, Metaru Hīrō Shirīzu) is a genre of tokusatsu superhero TV series produced by Toei for Japanese television.

The protagonists of the Metal Hero Series are mainly space and police-based characters who are typically androids, cyborgs, or humans that don "metallic" suits. Henceforth, most of the Metal Heroes are also referenced as "Henshin (transforming) Heroes." Usually, the genre revolves around a technological theme where technology, in the right hands, can be used for the greater good.

The shows were produced by Toei from 1982 through 1999 in conjunction with their other Tokusatsu superhero shows, such as Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. Not only are some of them popular in Japan but also in several other countries like France, Brazil, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Additionally, in the 1990s, Saban Entertainment used some of the shows to produce programs similar to their Power Rangers series.

Some of the Metal Hero Series even spawned sequels which followed the continuity of the previous shows, resulting in the genre developing sub-categories based mainly on space and police-related characters.

List of Metal Hero Series

Showa

  • Uchuu Keiji Gavan (宇宙刑事ギャバン, Uchū Keiji Gyaban, Space Sheriff Gavan}}
    This series aired in 1982. This series is also known as X-Or in France, Sky Ranger Gavin in the Philippines, and Space Cop Gaban in Brazil, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. This series began the Space Sheriff Series (宇宙刑事シリーズ, Uchū Keiji Shirīzu) and featured a police hero sent to Earth to battle a rampaging force of aliens. This series is visually influenced by Star Wars. Gavan proved popular enough to spawn two direct sequels and introduce a new genre in Japanese television. Gavan was played by Kenji Ohba.
  • Uchuu Keiji Sharivan (宇宙刑事シャリバン, Uchū Keiji Shariban, Space Sheriff Sharivan)
    This series aired in 1983. This direct sequel to Gavan features Gavan's protege taking over the role of Earth's protector when Gavan gets promoted in rank (from sergeant to captain) in the Space Sheriff organization. Sharivan was played by Hiroshi Watari.
  • Uchuu Keiji Shaider (宇宙刑事シャイダー, Uchū Keiji Shaidā, Space Sheriff Shaider)
    This series aired in 1984. The third and last of the Space Sheriff trilogy. This series featured a Earth-born, galactic police force-trained officer taking over Sharivan's job alongside a female deputy. Footage from Shaider was used for Ryan Steele's action scenes in the second season of Saban Entertainment's VR Troopers. Shaider was played by the late Hiroshi Tsuburaya. The series received a "sequel" in the Philippines in the show Zaido.
  • Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion (巨獣特捜ジャスピオン, Kyojū Tokusō Jasupion, Special Megabeast Investigator Juspion)
    This series aired in 1985. Similar in filming, tone, and style of the Space Sheriff shows, this series features a warrior sent to stop Satan Gorth and his diabolical son Mad Gallant from destroying the Earth with giant monsters. Juspion had his own giant robot, Daileon, to combat the evil creatures.
  • Jikuu Senshi Spielban (時空戦士スピルバン, Jikū Senshi Supiruban, Dimensional Warrior Spielban)
    This series aired in 1986. Along with his sidekick, Diana, this program dealt with a hero who crosses through dimensions to combat an alien force that took his father's life and corrupted his sister into the evil Hellvira, who later joined her brother as Lady Helen. Footage from Spielban was used for JB and Kaitlin's action scenes in VR Troopers.
  • Choujinki Metalder (超人機メタルダー, Chōjinki Metarudā, Superhuman Machine Metalder)
    This series aired in 1987. Inspired by the classic tokusatsu hero Kikaider, this show dealt with an android given human memories, yet programmed to fight an insidious group that his creator once belonged to. Footage from Metalder was used for Ryan Steele's action scenes in the first season of VR Troopers.
  • Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya (世界忍者戦ジライヤ, Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya, World Ninja War Jiraiya)
    This series aired in 1988. This program features an actual ninja master from a historically known ninja clan preparing his son, daughter, and youngest child, along with a family relative and a police officer with ninja roots to combat the re-emergence of a centuries-old demon samurai, his evil offspring, and a host of international ninja warriors from around the world hoping to tip the scales of justice. Jiraiya, the son of the ninja master, is destined to wield an enormous power that Dokusai, the demon samurai, hopes to seize. Jiraiya is unusual amongst the Metal Heroes in that the main characters are not cyborgs, androids, or use advanced armor.

Heisei

  • Kidou Keiji Jiban (機動刑事ジバン, Kidō Keiji Jiban, Robot Police Jiban)
    This series aired in 1989. Having a similar premise to the 1980s American film RoboCop and the 1970s tokusatsu Robot DetectiveIcon-crosswiki, Jiban is a rookie cop gunned down and reborn as a fighting machine against the Criminal Syndicate Bioron, a group of bio-genetic freaks. Jiban is the first Metal Hero to actually bear the emblem of the Japanese National Police, although his "badge" shows a regular American-style sheriff star.
  • Tokkei Winspector (特警ウインスペクター, Tokkei Uinsupekutā, Special Rescue Police Winspector)
    This series aired in 1990. The first of the Rescue Police Series (レスキューポリスシリーズ, Resukyū Porisu Shirīzu), this team of two robots and their human armored field commander dealt with real-life crime, mad scientists, rogue cyborgs, and dangerous rescue situations. The mix of fantasy and realistic action proved to be immensely popular with viewers, spawning two sequels.
  • Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain (特救指令ソルブレイン, Tokkyū Shirei Soruburein, Special Rescue Command Solbrain)
    This series aired in 1991. A direct sequel to Tokkei Winspector, the former base captain of Winspector opens an additional police branch, this time with two humans (a male and a female) and a construction-vehicle styled transforming robot to continue the fight against everyday villains, gangsters with high-tech weapons of destruction, and the occasional robot gone mad. A video game version of Solbrain was released for the Family Computer video game platform in Japan. An altered version of the same game was released overseas for the Nintendo Entertainment System titled Shatterhand
  • Tokusou Exceedraft (特捜エクシードラフト, Tokusō Ekushīdorafuto, Special Rescue Exceedraft)
    This series aired in 1992. The last of the Rescue Police Series, this program featured a trio of male human armored police officers doing what the previous two teams were doing without the help of any super-powered robots. By this time, the series had stepped away from realistic villains and swerved back towards more sci-fi oriented opponents.
  • Tokusou Robo Janperson (特捜ロボ ジャンパーソン, Tokusou Robo Janpāson, Special Investigations Robo Janperson)
    This series aired in 1993. Another series similar to Robotto Keiji. An abandoned police experiment robot is revived by its creator to combat three different organizations of crime in Japan. With a gruff, rougish, gun-totting robot partner named Gungibson, Janperson patrols the streets of Tokyo alongside his creator in shutting down the hidden crime lords that use super science to subjugate the masses. Janperson and Gungibson made a cameo in Big Bad Beetleborgs.
  • Blue SWAT (ブルースワット, Burū Suwatto)
    This series aired in 1994. Hidden to the general public, a police organization has been combating alien menaces for years until a sneak attack destroys all but three officers, who alongside some civilian helpers who are aware of the alien infestation, must continue the fight. The show was one of the more "realistic" Metal Hero shows despite the alien theme.
  • Juukou B-Fighter (重甲ビーファイター, Jūkō Bī Faitā, Heavyshell Beetle Fighter)
    This series aired in 1995. An alien attack is repelled by a combination of true heroism, super technology, and insect magic housed within three suits of armor. Action footage from B-Fighter was used in Saban Entertainment's Big Bad Beetleborgs.
  • B-Fighter Kabuto (ビーファイターカブト, Bī Faitā Kabuto, Beetle Fighter Kabuto)
    This series aired in 1996. A direct sequel to Juukou B-Fighter, this program features seven new heroes who utilize technology of the previous Beetle Fighters and insect magic to fend off a horde of monsters from under the Earth. Action footage from B-Fighter Kabuto was used in the second season of Big Bad Beetleborgs: Beetleborgs Metallix.
  • B-Robo Kabutack (ビーロボカブタック, Bī Robo Kabutakku, Beetle Robo Kabutack)
    This series aired in 1997. It is the first of the Metal Heroes shows to be geared towards younger children. The characters in Kabutack met several characters from Juukou B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto.
  • Tetsuwan Tantei Robotack (テツワン探偵ロボタック, Tetsuwan Tantei Robotakku, Iron Bark Detective Robotack)
    This series aired in 1998. It was similar to Kabutack, but featured a dog robot who was also a detective. It is the last Metal Heroes series.

Theatrical releases

V-Cinema releases

Televi Magazine Super Video/Special DVD

Current status

Other similar heroes, such as Seiun Kamen Machineman, Kyodai Ken Byclosser, Choukou Senshi Changéríon, and Seven Star Fighting God Guyferd also appeared during the time that the Metal Hero Series were on the air, but are not included as part of the Metal Hero Series for various reasons. Machineman and Byclosser were created by the late Shotaro Ishinomori, Changéríon aired on TV Tokyo, and Guyferd was produced by Toho.

In 1987, a one-shot OVA called Campus Special Investigator Hikaruon, was released as an homage of the Space Sheriff Series.

Currently, the Metal Hero Series are a defunct genre in place of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider Series of shows. The Kamen Rider Series itself has adopted many of the Metal Hero Series' traits. Today, the present versions of these types of heroes are merged in with the Henshin Heroes description.

Some Metal Hero Series characters have made cameo appearances. For example, in 2004, a special Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger stage show had a special appearance by Gavan, who assisted HurricaneRed from Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and AbaRed from Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger in battling various Alienizer monsters from Dekaranger.

In 2005, Toei released some Uchuu Keiji trilogy merchandise. Later that year, Bandai released a "Souchaku Henshin" figure of Gavan, followed by "Souchaku Henshin" figures of Sharivan and Shaider in early 2006. In May 2006, a PlayStation 2 video game titled The Space Sheriff Spirits was released. The game featured Gavan, Sharivan and Shaider all teaming up to battle past enemies from their series. The game was panned by critics, however, for bland graphics and dull gameplay. In early 2008, the trading card company Cardass announced a new, Metal Heroes based expansion to their Rangers Strike card game, entitled Special Metal Edition, featuring characters and vehicles from the various Metal Hero Series for use within the game.

Revival

In January 2012, Toei released the film Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger vs. Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie, this annual Vs. movieIcon-crosswiki was allowed to be a special case as the crossover with the previous Sentai was already fulfilled in the anniversary movie which was released in mid-2011. It marked the first crossover between the Super Sentai and Metal Hero series and commemorated the 30th anniversary of Gavan.

On October 20, 2012, a new Metal Hero film entitled Uchuu Keiji Gavan: The Movie was released. Kenji Ohba returned as Gavan for the last time, with a younger actor Yuma Ishigaki taking over the role as the new Gavan, Geki Jumonji. Geki previously appeared with his assistant Shelly (portrayed by Suzuka Morita) a month prior in a special crossover two-parter with Tokumei Sentai Go-BustersIcon-crosswiki.

The cast of Gavan: The Movie soon joined with the Kamen Rider Series and Super Sentai in Kamen Rider × Super Sentai × Space Sheriff: Super Hero Taisen Z, released on April 27th 2013 following the first Super Hero Taisen a year prior. Also featuring Kenji Ohba reprising his role as the retired Retsu Ichijouji now in a command poistion as well as the return of the Madou from Uchuu Keiji Sharivan, the protagonists of other Metal Hero Series Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya, Kidou Keiji Jiban, Tokusou Robo Janperson, Tokusou Exceedraft, Juukou B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto appeared via the Gokai ChangesIcon-crosswiki of Gokaiger.

However, with Gavan: The Movie's performance in the box office not meeting expectations, doubt has been cast on the Space Sheriff/Metal Heroes revival and it is unclear whether further productions will follow in the near-future. [1]

International adaptations

United States

In the 1990s, Saban adapted some of the Metal Hero Series shows for American audiences in the United States. Stock footage from Metalder, Spielvan and Shaider was used in VR Troopers (1994–1996). Later, footage from both B-Fighter series was used in Big Bad Beetleborgs. Both shows ran for two seasons and ended when all the stock footage from those series were used up.

Philippines

In the Philippines, where several series have aired and dubbed into local languages, Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan has been given the go ahead from Toei to be allowed to be a "sequel" to Shaider, featuring characters intended to be the descendents of those of the original series.[2] Later on, Toei had refused the production to be aired. Instead, a spin-off series set 20 years after the end of Shaider was given the go ahead.[3]

Brazil

The Metal Hero series were arguably the most successful tokusatsu in Brazil. In 1988, Juspion, under the title Jaspion, was broadcast by TV Manchete and became an instant hit. Manchete followed by broadcasting Jiraiya in 1989, Jiban in 1990, Spielvan (renamed Jaspion 2) in 1991, Winspector in 1994 and Solbrain in 1995. Other networks also brought shows, with TV Bandeirantes broadcastingMetalder and Sharivan in 1990, and two networks, Rede Globo and TV Gazeta, showing Sheider and Gavan (renamed Gyaban) simultaneously in 1991. Jaspion,Jiraiya and Jiban were later released on DVD in Brazil.

References

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