Dynaman: From Serious to Slapstick
By Alex “DynaSmythe” Smith
First off, before going into the article itself, I’d like to give my condolences & prayers to John Rocco Roberto’s family. I don’t know John personally, but from what I heard of him he was a wonderful man. Both him & I share a great love of history, and of course an interest in all things kaiju.
You will be missed John, hope I see ya in heaven one day.
The 1980s were in their peak, and so was the Super Sentai series. In 1984 the show Dynaman debuted, tearing up the airwaves with it’s dynamic explosive effects, and serious storyline. Unfortunately this would all fall apart when it was imported to the US on the late night variety show Night Flight.
Dawn of Evilution
Five young inventors assemble in a gathering at Dr. Yumeno’s laboratory. He gives them the Dynaman suits, each possessing special powers and weapons. He tells them of the Evilution Empire (Darwin skeptics must be having a field day, sorry,couldn’t resist) and their plans to conquer Earth. The Evilution Empire each have a different amount of tails; the leader Emperor Aton has 9, General Kar 7, Megiddo 5. They are from the very extreme depths of Earth. The Scientific Squadron Dynaman must stop them. Fighting their Shinkaiju, Dan Hokuto(DynaRed), Ryuu Hoshikawa(DynaBlack), Yosuke Shima(DynaBlue), Kousaku Nango (DynaYellow), and Rei Tachibana(DynaPink) must fight to save Earth, utilizing the aid of their Super Dynamite ability, and their distinctively Japanese mecha DynaRobo.
From Serious to Slapstick
The USA Network needed material for the 1987 show Night Flight, so they stole this from Toei and redubbed it in terrible fashion, parodying everything from the names of the characters to the special effects(which were actually good for the time). Dan Hokuto was renamed Wooshi(probably a bash at the late-night Kung Fu Theater dubbed names), Ryuu Hoshikawa renamed Huba, Yosuke was renamed Franky the Human Outboard Motor(poking fun at his love of water), Kousaku Nango was renamed Cowboy, the slow thinking weapons expert(Ironic given in the original he was FAR from slow-witted), and Rei Slojin(I can’t see the origin of this one…). The villains and Shinkaiju had it worse off though, with Emperor Aton being renamed Bernie Tanaka, General Kar Mel Fujitsu, and Prince Megiddo the rock star Nigel. The tail soldiers are “Reptiles that go Whee!” The background music was replaced with generic superhero music, the dialogue was redone to be totally random. The dub once used the henshin devices as walkie talkies. Some footage was reused over and over. For example, it became a running gag for Megiddo to have his tail cut off by Dynared, which only happened once in the original. The dubbing was done by comedians some of whom were members of the comedy group Kids In the Hall. 6 episodes in, Toei stepped in and threatened legal action if the dubbing was not ceased. So it was, however, it would be rebroadcast on Nickelodeon in 1989.
All in all, as horrid and disrespectful the dub was, it paved the way for the famous(some would say infamous) Power Rangers adaptation series by Saban/Disney. This is what shaped sentai in most Americans’ minds. Some have a positive outlook on it, others see it as mindless violence(which the original sentai was far from) and a bad influence.