2021 marks the 50th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite tokusatsu series. When I was growing up in the 1970s, afternoons on the UHF airwaves of the Chicago area were full of cool Japanese superhero shows and cartoons, particularly on WSNS TV-44. Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot (Giant Robo live-action), Ultraman, Space Giants (Ambassador Magma), as well as anime like Speed Racer (Mach GoGoGo!) and Prince Planet (Yusei Shonen Papi) all got me hooked on the Japanese style of storytelling that seemed so excitingly different from what I was used to from US television.
Spectreman was probably my favorite of these shows at the time, and this is one of my favorite episodes. The plot owes a debt to “Flowers for Algernon,” the Hugo-award winning story by Daniel Keyes about a developmentally disabled adult who volunteers as a test subject for an experimental intelligence-enhancing surgery.
In Spectreman’s version of the story, Charlie Gordon becomes soba shop delivery boy Sankichi, Algernon the mouse is replaced by a dog named Bobby, and the process only goes awry when evil space ape Dr. Gori gets involved. Tragedy ensues, and as per usual for this show said tragedy involves groovy giant monster suits. I love those P Productions monster suits.
Like most Spectreman stories this one is a two-parter, so look forward to the exciting conclusion in the near future. The incredibly catchy US theme song (which always reminded me of “Pinball Wizard” by The Who) is not included here, but you can find it (along with many full episodes of the English dub) on YouTube.
By the way, this Spectreman two-parter was written by Haruya Yamazaki, the same person who wrote the Kiriland episodes of Lensman: Galactic Patrol. He was a prolific scriptwriter for anime & tokusatsu series for many years, and wrote about half the episodes of 1978’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock, one of my all-time favorite anime series.
Special thanks to August Ragone for letting me use his translated lyrics to the opening and ending theme songs, and for much needed assistance with the end credits. August also provided that cool scan from a 1979 issue of TV Week, the Sunday Chicago Tribune’s listings magazine.
If you enjoy this episode, you might also enjoy the rare P Productions Leopardman and Jaguarman pilots that I subtitled as a joint project with Hi No Tori Fansubs in 2013. You get those from Nyaa or Mega.
More good news from the comments for fans of P Productions. Check out Kiyan Shahab’s YouTube channel here for some subtitled episodes of the classic 1972 series Kaiketsu Lion Maru, as well as remastered episodes of the Spectreman & Space Giants English dubs.