JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT
A Complete Guide to Toei’s 1960s Sci/Fi Series
THE CHARACTERS OF GIANT ROBO
(Originally published in KAIJU-FAN Issue #3 August 1996)
Revised edition published in G-FAN # 52 August/September 2001
THE GOOD GUYS
GIANT ROB – A giant sized automaton constructed in part under coercion by the genius scientist, Dr. Guardia. Originally, Giant Robo was created to annihilate humanity for the glory of space dictator Emperor Guillotine and the secret terrorist organization Big Fire. Unearthly metal makes Giant Robo impervious to all Earth weapons, including the atom bomb. Thanks to the intervention of young Daisaku (Johnny Sokko) and Unicorn agent Juro Minami (Jerry Mano ), the gigantic robot was liberated from Big Fire’s clutches and became Earth’s savior and guardian hero, Giant Robo’s electronic brain only obeys the commands of young Daisaku and no one else. When ordered into action, Robo’s glowing “belt buckle” and gleaming eyes indicate the brain’s activation. Although devoid of voice, GR often replies with its “Maashi” cry (not “Rrunchh”!) Besides its great strength, Robo possesses several weapons for both offense and defense. When not in service, he is usually based in the hangar compound of the Unicorn Japan branch. In appearance, Robo resembles a giant metallic pharaoh.
UNICORN – An international secret police organization created by the United Nations, whose mission is to secure peace throughout the world against Big Fire. With its main base in New York, Unicorn has branches around the globe in major cities and countries. Each branch remains on alert for Big Fire activity. The Giant Robo series centers on Japan branch. At Unicorn Japan headquarters, Members can only gain entrance by means of a telephone box. They dial ‘000’ and give the password code. Most Unicorn agents selected usually specialize in defensive action, code deciphering or radar surveillance duties. They are never to reveal their Unicorn affiliation, not even to their families. When meeting other Unicorn members, a password is often exchanged: “Napoleon no kiri fuda wa (Napoleon Trump Card).” If the reply is “Daiya no jujo (Fifteen of Diamonds),” this would confirm the person’s identity as a member of Unicorn. In the American version, the password is “Napoleon Code 4” and the reply is “806.” However, in Episode #6, the password was “Napoleon Code 3” with the same response. This password is not always accurate or effective, since in that same episode, Big Fire’s commander, Spider (disguised as a Canadian Unicorn commander), knew the code. As well as the password, Unicorn members exchange the famous “finger sign.” Each Unicorn member is also given a recognition “U” mark number badge that’s worn on the left side of the chest and can be used as a shrunken dart. In the case of the Unicorn China ranch, it also conceals a sleep dart. The chief of any Unicorn branch is automatically “U1,” although rarely addressed as such in the series. Commander Azuma is easily identified as the group’s leader by the additional prominent stripe beneath his much broader chest stripe, plus the dark royal blue scarf he wears around his neck. The others wear light blue scarves. Unicorn agents are able to communicate by means of a golden fountain pen. Their firearms consist of a standard handgun and automatic rifles. They supposedly wear bulletproof vests beneath their uniforms, but in the series, the vest is never evident. When dealing with actual situations, they are equipped with small jet propulsion units worn on the back. Amazingly, in a couple of stories, both U7’s and U3’s small jets are able to keep up with Robo’s gigantic boosters. That’s like racing with a Titan rocket launched from Cape Canaveral!
THE UNICORN CAST
DAISAKU KUSAMA (Johnny Sokko) – The sole operator of Giant Robo and Unicorn’s only child member (at least until Mari appears later). His prodigal uniqueness makes him the most active member, along with Juro Minami. On occasion, his father is mentioned, but no mention of his mother is ever made. Daisaku (Johnny) is portrayed by Mitsunobu Kaneko.
JURO MINAMI (U3) (Jerry Mano) – Unicorn’s top agent, an excellent marksmen, and partner to young Daisaku, U3 receives just as much a share of danger as the boy. Quite often, Juro also conducts himself as Daisaku’s older brother and friend. His tall stature and hot-blooded enthusiasm make him a great asset to the organization. U3 can be a bit buffoonish at time, but he always gets the job done. Portrayed by Akio Ito.
COMMANDER AZUMA (U1) – A Man of cool, calm self-possession , Azuma heads the Unicorn Japan branch. He is a little obstinate, yet his perseverance makes him very gentle. Azuma often booms out his favorite phrase, “bakamon”, especially towards U3 (in the American version the expression was changed and replaced with simple phrases such as “Cut it out!”, “That’s enough!”, “Be quiet!”, “Repeat that!”, “Moron!”, and “you better stop it!”). He’s often seen in a business suit, but when going into action he will on occasion, wear the Unicorn uniform. Portrayed by Shozaburo Date.
MITSUKO NISHIO (U5) – The sole female member of the Unicorn Japan branch is in charge of communications and correspondence (a la Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura and the Science Patrol’s Akiko Fuji of the Ultraman series). U5 often accompanies Azuma during emergency situations, but seldom faces real danger from Big Fire. Mitsuko’s most active moments take place in Episodes # 4 and 21 (# 4 and 19 in the west). Her older brother, Eizo, is a petroleum drilling engineer. Seen in only eleven episodes, she is portrayed by Yumiko Katayama.
MARI HANSON (U6) (Mari Hatamura) – Introduced in Episode #7 (#9 in the U.S.), this girl genius of acute perception is assigned to the New York branch. Mari’s specialty is explaining and deciphering codes. Being a linguist, she speaks 39 languages. In one story, her endeavors enable her to activate Giant Robo without Daisaku’s wristwatch control. U^ can be an irritant to Daisaku at times . Like Juro, she is an excellent marksman with a gun, and handles herself well in hand to hand combat against Big Fire. Mari appears in eighteen episodes. Portrayed by Tomomi Kuwabara.
NATIONAL DEFENSE GOVERNMENT DIRECTOR – In the western version, he’s referred to as Minister, Defense Director or State Secretary. By any title, this annoying government official has the authority to countermand any orders, decisions or opinions from Commander Azuma, as demonstrated in all three if his appearances. The actor also played the role of King Ara (King Ogan) in Episode #13 (#15 in the States) involving Big Fire’s eye monster, Gammons (Opticorn).
THE POWERS AND WEAPONS OF GIANT ROBO
Being the brainchild of Dr. Guardia, Giant Robo is well equipped to defend Earth from Emperor Guillotine and his army of monsters, making him one of the most powerful machines ever created. Here is a description of Giant Robo’s super arsenal:
ROCKET PROPULSION BOOSTERS – Twin atomic powered rockets attached to Robo’s back enable his fight ability. They have also been utilized as defensive mechanisms, freeing Robo from Ganger’s metallic grasp on two occasions. The rockets were used to turn Robo’s body into a gigantic drill to liberate him from Dakoler’s sand prison, and they also helped him become a whirling fan as a deterrent against Iceler’s freezing snow.
MEGATON PUNCH / MEGATON KICK – Robo’s most devastating power. The peerless Megaton Punch has knocked out most of Robo’s monster adversaries faster than you can say Mohammed Ali. When attacking his foe from above, Robo’s legs provide the tremendously powerful Megaton Kick, similar in effect to Tetsujin 28’s (Gigantor’s) flying kick.
ROCKET CANNONS / ROCKET MISSILES – Giant Robo’s most frequently used secret weapon, a series of small missiles shot from the fingertips of both hands. Several of Big Fire’s monsters have met defeat when facing this attack.
EYE LASER BEAMS – A 3,000 degree heat ray fired from both eyes. Robo usually employs this weapon as his finishing blow against his foes, and never uses more than one shot.
FLAME JET – Super heated flame discharge from the mouth, used to incinerate any trace of defeated enemy monsters.
BACK MISSILE – A giant size missile fired from between Giant Robo’s twin rocket boosters. Once employed against the monster Sparky.
ULTRA SHORT-WAVE – Emanated from Robo’s left ear, these radio waves were used to dissolve Doctor Over’s cloak of invisibility and reveal his location.
SPECIAL WIRE – Extended from Robo’s buckle, this slender wire was once employed in closing the monster Gammons’ eyelid.
BULLET LIGHT SHOWER – Shot from the back, a stream of intense light bullets are fired into the air and rain downward, setting fire to the enemy. Used on two occasions against monster Gammons and the bacteria bug Hydrazone. In the U.S. version, it was referred to as the Bazooka Launcher.
CHEST MISSILE – When separated from Robo’s chest, the “V” marked portion becomes a destructive bomb, which was adhered to GR-2’s (Torozon’s) chest to destroy the mysterious robot.
ELECTRIC SHOCK – Concentrated high volt- age electricity released around the neck, once used in melting the reconstructed GR-2’s con- stricting antlers.
CATCH CHAIN – Fired from the thumb and used for grabbing the evil ball Glober out of the air.
SUPER-JET LINE – A cord fired from the center of Robo’s chest and used for coiling monster Dorogon’s body and releasing high voltage electricity.
SUPER HIGH FEVER – Not a medical ailment, but another of Giant Robo’s deterrents against the freezing monster Iceler. Diffused amounts of high temperature radiation are released throughout the entire body, causing Iceler’s adhering snow to evaporate.
THE BAD GUYS
EMPEROR GUILLOTINE – A megalomaniac alien from the Andromeda Nebula (Planet Gargoyle), the evil emperor possesses advanced scientific powers far superior to Earth technology- . He travels by means of two different style space saucers, and is usually based in the ocean. In appearance, Guillotine has a misshapen head with dangling tentacles at the base, and a humanoid frame. Aside from his head, his blue, scaly three fingered hands are fully exposed with long, white, claw-like fingernails on two extended fingers and an opposable thumb. Both hands can discharge disintegrating death rays. Guillotine has a gleaming red gem embedded in his forehead; no function beyond decoration has ever been revealed. He carries an impressive staff reminiscent of the Keeper’s from Lost in Space, but Guillotine’s shows no special abilities, and simply expresses royalty and strength. He can resurrect monsters destroyed by Giant Robo, and is able to teleport from place to place in a billow of smoke. The evil emperor’s activities are minimal throughout the series, and he spends most of his time on his throne, holding his staff and barking instructions to Big Fire via a video monitor screen. On certain occasions, he will appear in full view before his followers, commanding officers and chief scientists. Guillotine, along with his scepter, can grow to giant size. In the final story, he reveals his body’s composition to be of atomic energy particles, making him off limits to attack for fear of a cataclysmic explosion that would result. This probably explains why he kept himself secluded most of the time, and the revelation eventually causes his destruction by Giant Robo.
BIG FIRE [GARGOYLE GANG] – A secret terrorist group comprised of Earth men who pledge their loyalty and services to Emperor Guillotine. Like nomads under the supervision of Guillotine’s chief officers or scientist commanders, Big Fire often fluctuates from one base to another. Their strongholds have been in caverns, ocean liners, empty oil tankers, baseball stadiums, monasteries, on isolated islands and in some cases, within mechanical monsters. Seeking world domination, Big Fire’s missions include anything from stealing new inventions to acquiring weapons that will help their cause – kidnappings, invasions, or attempts to retrieve Giant Robo from Unicorn. In appearance, they often are seen in Nazi-like SWAT fatigue outfits topped with berets bearing their evil emblem and wearing dark glasses. Their fire arms are the same as Unicorn’s, with some additions. They possess motorized machine guns, firing auto bikes, fire arms in the form of musical instruments, and grenades for gas, smoke or more destructive purposes. Although the organization is male dominated, on one occasion, a female Big Fire agent was used for infiltration. Later, in another story, a child assassin was a counterpart to Unicorn’s U7. No matter how they appear, the agents are merciless to the end. Big Fire appears in all but one episode.
SPIDER – Big Fire’s first chief commander, whose personality is modeled after the proto-typical Nazi general. Whether he was a criminal human or space being was never revealed. This always sneering individual possesses no super powers. Though he operates on his own most of the time, he is sometimes paired with Doctor Over. A second rate master of disguise, he once was able to control the robot monsters Glober and Ganger, as well as the ninja beast Dorogon. In Episode # 7 (# 9 in the U.S.) Spider meets a grisly end at the hands of the monster Ikageras.
DOCTOR OVER (DOCTOR BOTANUS) – A famous, evil and heartless space scientist working for Big Fire, Doctor Over’s influence even extends to Spider, Black Dia and Red Cobra’s commander. He has a silver colored skull-like head, blazing cruel eyes, and protruding eyebrows. His hands bear similar qualities to Guillotine’s (minus death rays) and are of a different color.
A being of scientific power, Over is able to disappear at will, and can detach his arms and regenerate new ones. The source of his powers is said to lie within the blue star amulet he wears, although it is actually only seen once. Has controlled the Satan Rose, Sparky, Unbalan and Lygon monsters. Doctor Over can be relied on to never keep his promises, but through all his evil schemes, he still couldn’t conquer Giant Robo.
BLACK DlA/”BLACK DIAMOND” (HARLEQUIN) – Big Fire’s second commander-in-chief, and successor to Spider, Black Dia is one of the very few who actually succeeded in deceiving Unicorn about his true character. This arrogant, one-eyed villain was once in control of both the Dublion and Dakoler monsters. On two occasions, he worked side by side with Doctor Over. Has no scruples about killing one of his own men, and will even kill children. Besides his eye patch, Black Dia’s attire has black diamond shapes on the front and along both hands. In one episode, he is seen with long hair. In the western version, Black Dia (Harlequin) speaks with a snarling, raspy voice, except for one episode in which he’s dubbed with a different, somewhat soprano-like voice. After four appearances, Black Dia mysteriously vanishes from the series without explanation. According to the original script, Black Dia (and not Red Cobra) was the commander behind the “Miraculion affair” (Episode # 13 ); he was to be killed in the exploding shed. Guillotine’s forces would later collect his remains and reconstruct him in the form of Red Cobra. Why Toei didn’t use the script is unknown.
RED COBRA (FANGAR) – Big Fire’s third commander-in-chief, and successor to Black Dia, has a strange form exhibiting an enormous forehead with stringy hair. He also has protruding molars, which probably suggested his westernized name to A.I.T. Red Cobra wears a striped outfit with a red back, which fits his original Toei name. He walks stiffly with the aid of a crutch fitted with a communicator, telescopic lens and a “snake head” that unleashes blinding smoke. He’s also supported by an artificial leg that can serve as a machine gun. In one story, Red Cobra is seen with a tattooed forehead and minus his molars and crutch. He demonstrates great marksmanship, and sometimes uses smoke screen cigars for evasive action. Red Cobra mastered control over the robot monsters Gammons, Ironpower and Glober, and witnessed Doctor Over’s demise at the hands (literally) of Emperor Guillotine. The two actors portraying Back Dia and Red Cobra can also be seen as henchmen in Toei’s 1966 sci-fi thriller Kaitei Daisenso (known in America as Terror Beneath the Sea). Hideo Murata (Black Dia) and Tsuneji Mienachi (Red Cobra) are easy to identify, even without their OR outfits. In addition, the actor who portrayed Dr. Ouardia is seen briefly in the movie.
MISTER GOLD (GOLDENOK) – The supreme leader from space, whose entire body is composed of golden, radiating steel armor, impenetrable to pistol bullets. He controlled the monsters Iceler and Sparky, and was the only one of Guillotine’s allies that avoided death from Unicorn and Robo. Mister Gold was skilled with a sword, slicing up two soldiers in Episode #22.
DOCTOR SNAKE – The self-proclaimed Number One scientist of Big Fire, he has a partially acid-scarred face with an elf-like right ear. Snake wears a circular metallic band that covers his useless right eye. This pompous individual’s scheme was to destroy all of Unicorn’s radar observation posts around the world with the use of Robo’s counterpart, GR-2, which he controls.
METRO THREE (METRON) – A space ally to Emperor Guillotine, who deceives Unicorn into believing that he’s from the Andromeda Space Police in pursuit of the evil ruler. With a fossilized face, this alien has a “third eye” that emits a gravity increasing beam. He kills intruders by feeding them lethal food capsuIes. In addition, he operates the reconstructed GR-2 (Torozon).
MEELER MAN/”MUMMY MAN” (SPACE MUMMY) – This mummified space being became the successor to Red Cobra, and set about contaminating reservoir water with a red poison solution. Once consumed by children and adults alike, the poison turns its victims into mummies. Meeler Man employs and controls the monster Dorogon, and in the U.S. version, the character was dubbed with the most laughable voice of all.
DOCTOR GELMA (DOCTOR ENGALI) – This goblin-like space ghost was summoned from the Fourth Dimension Nebula to serve Emperor Guillotine. He can teleport from place, and is responsible for manufacturing the U7 android delivered to young Daisaku.
PROFESSOR (PROFESSOR HYDRA) – Another acid scarred space being who looks like a refugee from The Phantom of the Opera. His left eye is actually a lens piece used to magnify images at a distance. Professor is the controller of the monster Iceler (Igganog) and creator of the dissolving bacteria organism, Hydrazone.
DRACULAN – A wandering space vampire who feeds on human blood, Draculan’s victims would later rise from the dead and also become vampires. He has the ability to change his physial appearance and grow to giant size at will. When going into battle, Draculan sports a saber and shield. Like a common earthly vampire, he is vulnerable to direct sunlight ( though the entire story appears to take place during the day). His daughter (also a vampire) often lures people to their doom and later uses them to serve her father .
PIRANHA – Deputy commander of Big Fire under whomever the current leader might be. His name is never heard spoken in either version, but his distinctive beard makes Piranha easy to identify. He always takes pleasure in assaulting others. The indestructible member of Big Fire; regardless of how many times he’s been shot to death, captured, or blown to smithereens, he’s always back in the next story (if not sooner).
THE MONSTER ADVERSARIES
DAKOLER (DRACOLON) – Emperor Guillotine’s first monster. Resides in the Pacific Ocean some miles from Big Fire’s secret island. This sea beast attacks and sinks cruise ships venturing into the vicinity .Possesses super strength in its feeler arms. In its second appearance, Dakoler lurks underground, causing sand-storms. When emerging at the South Pole, it has a different body color. Besides having the power of flight, Dakoler spews sand from its mouth.
DOROGON / DRAGON -THE NINJA MONSTER (STAAKER) – As in all movie and television kaiju series, the hero must at one time or another fight a flying beast of either the orthopteran order or reptile class. Godzilla has Rodan, Ultraman has Balton, Gamera has Gyaos and Captain Magma (Goldar) has Badora (Birdaurus). Giant Robo’s flying adversary comes in the form of the ninja monster, Dorogon. This reptilian creature can appear and disappear at will in a wisp of smoke. Its great strength makes it a worthy adversary for Robo. Though an organic creature rather than bionic, Dorogon fires rocket bullets from its mouth. For its second bout with Robo, Dorogon undergoes some physical changes, such as a different body color. Under the control of Meeler Man, Dorogon gains the ability to change its body size at will, and spews bomb blasts.
IKAGERAS (SCALION) – An echinodenn-like creature responsible for the destruction of one of Unicorn’s headquarters based in a lighthouse, Ikageras looks somewhat like an enormous star-fish that bellows with an unearthly shriek. When flapping its fins it produces gusting squalls, but its deadliest weapon is the dissolving fluid shot from its mouth, a weapon to which Giant Robo loses his right ann. Ikageras did one small favor though: he rid Unicorn of Spider. The creature was later resurrected by Guillotine and made a brief cameo appearance during the series finale, where once again Robo proves the victor.
DUBLION (DOUBLE HEAD) – The most ridiculous of Robo:s adversaries, the robot monster Dublion possessed two faces, front and back. One spews hot oil from the mouth while the other emits fire; an incineration tag-team. Dublion seems impervious to Robo’s weaponry. One comic relief moment occurs when Dublion tries trashing an immobilized Giant Robo, but to no avail. The lack ofintelligence almost suggests the creature is organic instead of mechanical. Guided by Black Dia, Dublion lies dormant inside a cave waiting for the moment to strike.
SPARKY (TENTACLON) – A monster resembling an electric jellyfish and guided by Doctor Over, Sparky makes sudden appearances and attacks from within dark clouds. For its first bout with Robo, it shows up at a soccer stadium and kidnaps 60,000 people. The manner of abduction was neither seen nor explained. Later, while under the control of Mister Gold, the jellyfish monster is seen above the Melka Republic’s test center, and snatches that nation’s champion robot, Calamity. Sparky’s tentacles are as numerous, yet more powerful, than those of Satan Rose. In addition, each releases electromagnetic waves.
UNBALAN (AMBERON) – A synthetic monster dispatched by Black Dia through Emperor Guillotine to infiltrate Unicorn headquarters and rescue the imprisoned Doctor Over. The whole scheme proceeded in a Trojan Horse style. When first revealed, Unbalan was just a fossil statue taken into custody by Unicorn. Once inside their compound, the revived creature emerges and strikes. Unbalan’s strength relies totally on energy it receives from its attackers. It looks like a life-size armadillo with crab-like arms. By the time Robo arrives to do battle, the monster has grown to giant size.
GAMMONS (OPTICORN) – Robo’s most unusual, yet most popular, adversary: a gigantic eyeball monster. At night, it spends most of its time either airborne against the night sky or lurking in the forest grove near the old castle in the peaceful Ara Republic. By day, Gammons undergoes a metamorphic change, as dual legs extend from its body. The eye center is its most dangerous weapon. Once its light is activated, anything caught within the strange beam is sucked into the eye’s center. Neither objects nor people have any defense against the force. Gammons also exhales message arrows. After its loss to Robo, Gammons is later rebuilt to face the hero in the final episode. Beyond the Giant Robo series, Gammons’ form has often been spoofed with parodies in certain anime series, i.e. Urnsei Yatsura (“Those Annoying Aliens”). A similar eye-like creature would appear years later in the Ultraman Gaia series. Surely, Gammons could have provided its inspiration.
IRONPOWER (FLYING JAWBONE) – A gigantic tooth monstrosity was one of Robo’s most boring adversaries. The American lnternational- name is more appropriate than the Toei one, since Ironpower is nothing more than a beastly flying machine with detachable jaws. Under Red Cobra’s control, the worst Ironpower can do is snare aircraft between its iron fangs. Even Robo’s bout with Ironpower proved uninteresting, as the construct tried to chew the hero to pieces.
ICELER (IGGANOG) – Big Fire’s rather rubbery looking white monster has the ability to generate avalanches and blizzards. Controlled by Mister Gold, it is the only quadruped creature in the series. Iceler’s refrigerant spray is shot through the monster’s twin head feelers, freezing anything in its path. However, when Iceler is under the control of the wily Professor (its second appearance ), the spray comes from its mouth. Iceler was resurrected a third time for a less than stellar bout with Robo during the series finale.
My acknowledgments and gratitude to Mike Temple for supplying me with the material necessary for this research, to Ms. Nola Kiely, for additional input, and, of course to Lenell “Ultra” Bridges, Gertrude Smith, Annand Vaquer and Mark Nagata for helping me get this project off the ground.
Article © 1996, 2003 Keith Sewell/Daikaiju Publishing. Reprinted with permission of the author.