‘Japanese Spider-Man’ Episode 5: ‘The Experimental Labs of Horror! Evil Professor Monster!’ [Review]
Chris: Welcome back to ComicsAlliance’s weekly breakdown of the 1978 Japanese live-action Spider-Man series! This week, we’re up to Episode 6, and folks, before we get started, I have to warn you: This one has a Parental Advisory.
Caleb: This sh** is not “E” for everyone, y’all!Watch Along with Chris and Caleb:
Chris: So what do you think it was that put this one over the line into Advisory territory? The gun violence? The story of Professor Monster torturing people to death? The quasi-incestuous overtones?
Caleb: Considering other episodes got by with some mild swearing without the warning, I’ll have to go with “All of the above.”
Chris: No kidding. I mean, in the series thus far, we’ve seen Spider-Man announcing himself as an Emissary From Hell and then hanging machete-wielding duckie soldiers by the neck with his webs with no problem. And yet, I have to agree that this one goes to some pretty weird places.
Caleb: Indeed. It ventures into bold new territory in indirect murder.
Chris: And actual direct murder! So without further ado, let’s get to it with “The Experimental Labs of Horror! Evil Professor Monster!”
Chris: Our story opens on three men in gray uniforms running through the woods, clearly being chased by something. It appears to be a prison break — and it is, of a sort — but as we learn when whoever’s chasing them starts throwing spears and sharpened sticks at them, there’s a little more to it than that.
Caleb: It’s, dare I say, MORE DANGEROUS than the Most Dangerous Game?!
Chris: Indeed! It’s some prison guard or policemen chasing them, it’s Amazoness leading a jeep full of Ninders, armed with rifles! As she gleefullly commands her prisoners to run, one of the Ninders takes a shot, and we have our first actual instance of murder by gunshot in the show.
Chris: I imagine that was enough to get the parental advisory, but it only gets worse when one of the prisoners jumps off a cliff, briefly turns into a dummy while falling, and somehow manages to land safely in the water below to make his escape.
Caleb: Escape on foot is a pretty easy sell on this show. It’s the swimming I’m having trouble with.
Chris: As it turns out, the escaped prisoner is named Yosuke Matsuki, and when Amazoness reports her failure to kill him to Professor Monster, it’s revealed that he was part of an evil experiment to create “modified soldiers.” And, this show being what it is, Yosuke also turns out to be a close personal friend of one Takuya Yamashiro, AKA Spider-Man!
Caleb: An undead friend! With Frankenstein (‘s monster) parts!
Chris: That might seem like a hell of a coincidence, but keep in mind that this is Spider-Man we’re talking about. In our American version of the character, his college roommate was the Green Goblin, his boss’s son is a werewolf, his chemistry professor is the Lizard, and his high school bully is currently Venom. Coincidence is as much a part of that dude’s story as swinging on webs.
Caleb: I prefer to think of it as destiny and/or fate. Horrible, horrible, destiny and/or fate.
Chris: So while Professor Monster’s latest BEM is out searching for Yosuke, we cut to the Yamashiro household and I am once again mystified by its tiny little Hobbit hole door. Why is it so small?! The only person who can walk through it without stooping over is Takuji, and he’s like nine years old!
Caleb: Maybe it’s a subconscious design choice meant to evoke a spider’s preference for enclosed spaces? Or maybe it’s just a crappy house?
Chris: Is this an actual thing in Japan that I’ve just never heard of? Do they just have weird small doors over there? Or is the Yamashiro family just weird as hell in ways that have nothing to do with being chosen to defend Earth by the 500 year-old Garia of Planet Spider?
Caleb: I’m going to pretend that their dad was just a huge Led Zeppelin fan and built his home unto specifications inspired by “Ramble On.”
Chris: Thankfully, a distraction from the weird architecture of Casa Yamashiro shows up in the form of the super-cute Junko, who has arrived to inform Takuya that Yosuke is returned from the dead, eight months after his apparent death in a rock-climbing accident!
Caleb: He was a grad student, too. Talk about wasted potential. I’ll bet his thesis was shaping up to be a real page-turner.
Chris: Junko is, I guess, Yosuke’s girlfriend, although for some reason I had it in my head the first time I watched this that she was his sister. I guess I probably just assumed she and Yosuke were set up to be like Shinko and Takuya, but this assumption makes things pretty weird later on, let me tell you.
Caleb: Somebody’s been watching too much Game of Thrones.
Chris: I also thought it was interesting that Junko just starts talking about the Iron Cross Army. I mean, I guess people would know about them; people stealing missiles and attacking Tokyo with giant monsters would have to be news, right? And yet, I cannot recall anyone on Power Rangers ever just idly chatting about how there was this crazy lady who lived on the Moon with a blue monkey-man and a dog in gold armor sending monsters to stomp on a suburb of Los Angeles.
Caleb: Yeah, like in PR, the world seems to be running along as usual instead of say, mobilizing for war against a space menace capable of annihilating humankind. I’d like to think I’d react the same way. “Let those costumed folks with the robots handle it.”
Chris: That’s because you lack self-reliance. As does Yosuke, apparently, because he sent his girlfriend to go get his dirtbike riding buddy — who he does not know is Spider-Man — to help him out of this jam. And when Takuya shows up to talk to him, we learn the terrifying truth:
Chris: Professor Monster has been trying to create an army of invincible soldiers by killing people, bringing them back to life, and killing them again!
Caleb: It’s not really implied, but is he using this technology to fortify the Ninders? This episode marks one of the first times that a Ninder speaks just like a dude instead of just shouting their usual “Wooolywooolywoo” stuff (although they do that, too). All we know for certain is that survivors get a big old piece of metal bolted over their chests. Which is badass.
Chris: I guess — the part with the Ninder talking into the walkie-talkie stuck out to me too — but as usual, it seems like this technology has a lot of applications beyond just shooting college students over and over again. The Prof is not really a man of vision.
Caleb: Things must have been so much easier for him on the Planet Spider.
You could just shoot psychic godlings.
Chris: Since the Iron Cross Army is trying to track down Yosuke, Takuya switches jackets with him and acts as a distraction in order to throw them off the trail while Junko and Yosuke head to a hideout in “the old fort.” This is where we get the Ninder talking into his radio, but the best part is that a Machine BEM and Amazoness — in her full on leotard and cape ensemble — are sitting in a nearby truck.
Caleb: It’s also interesting that this Machine BEM tracked him by sense of smell. It’s said that his olfactory abilities are “1,000 Times!” stronger than a human’s. According to cursory (lazy) Google searches, that’s basically the same or worse than that of a dog. I know a lot of dogs are trained to sniff for bombs/drugs, but tracking a guy who has died three times through the streets of Japan seems a little unseemly.
Chris: I’m pretty sure a dog would’ve actually been more useful in the fight with Spider-Man, too. Robocular, despite his awesome name, sucks pretty hard.
Caleb: The poor guy’s most prominent feature is his eye. So, of course, he’s known for his sense of smell. I guess he just smells through his eye? I’m going to assume I’m the one with the lack of imagination here.
Chris: He has a giant eye and massive ears, but no visible nose.
Caleb: Maybe he taps into the combined powers of the big-nosed Ninders? Yeahhhhhh… Chris, am I becoming a… SUPAIDAMAN APOLOGIST?!
Chris: You already were before we even started this thing. As Spider-Man, Takuya has a quick fight witih some Ninders — including a moment that looks for all the world like he snaps one’s neck — and covers Yosuke and Junko’s escape to the old fort. But then, at the newspaper, complications arise!
Caleb: Amazoness, in her awesome EiC guise, points out Takuya’s link to the recently “revived” person of interest and assigns Hitomi to investigate. It’s not every day a friend of yours comes back from the dead, you know. Compared to last week, when Hitomi was practically begging to give up her career to be a housewife, she’s downright shrewd in this episode. Takuya can’t even blow off steam on his recently-purchased dirtbike without her tailing him hoping that his undead buddy will show up for her to take more photos of.
Chris: Two things about this: One, this is the start of this weird little subplot where Amazoness is trying to figure out if Takuya has any connection to Spider-Man or something, which leads to her following him around and watching him do stuff until she finally reports to Professor Monster that he’s a normal man with no desire to avenge his father. Which is completely insane, because in the first episode of the show, Spider-Man announces “hey, you killed my father, I am going to destroy you!”
Caleb: To be fair, I guess they’ve probably killed a lot of people’s fathers by now and the collective memory of this group of bad guys seems pretty terrible. What bothers me most is that their conclusion about Takuya stems from him being an inept baseball player. Just because you suck at baseball doesn’t mean you don’t want to avenge your father’s murder.
Chris: Two, Takuya cannot seem to figure out why his girlfriend keeps showing up and taking pictures of him and smiling. Everyone on this show is an idiot.
Caleb: Takuya definitely has a one-track mind. “Revenge! Dirtbikes! Repeat!” The rest is just what happens between naps.
Chris: Well when you put it that way, I can totally understand. Back at the fort, Yosuke and Junko do some flirting with their lockets that have pictures of each other and it’s all very sweet (or very weird if you think they’re brother and sister). Shinko offers to take them some food, which would be handy since Yosuke suddenly gets really sick, but Takuya decides it would be a better idea if he just acted like a jerk and told her to let them starve.
Caleb: The lengths this guy goes to just to protect his secret identity would be unholy if he weren’t mildly insane.
Chris: It turns out that he’s spotted some Ninders lurking around with his Spider-X-Ray Vision. Remember how he got that a few weeks ago for no reason? Unfortunately, Junko has no such ability, and when she runs out of the fort to get Yosuke a doctor for his fever, she’s assaulted by Ninders who were somehow disguised as trees and threatened with a raygun by Amazoness.
Caleb: This is, in Pizza Hut terms, gatherin’ ’round the good stuff.
Chris: Sometimes, I barely understand you.
Caleb: I wish I had my own subtitles.
Chris: Yosuke tries to stop her, and apparently that fever he had is completely gone because it’s never mentioned again and doesn’t seem to affect him at all for the rest of the episode. But since he’s in danger, Takuya’s telepathic Spider-Sense alerts him. Spidey shows up to save them, but when he does, Yosuke literally tries to stab him in the back!
Caleb: Yosuke’s half-hearted assassination attempt stems from a deal with Amazoness to save Junko. Spidey easily thwarts the stabbing, but is confounded by the betrayal. All is made clear as Yosuke steps in front of a sniper’s bullet to save Spidey — simultaneously redeeming and dooming himself in the name of friendship. That’s four deaths for this guy!
Chris: And hoo boy, does Spider-Man not take kindly to this. He swears revenge, which, since he has already sworn revenge over a previous death of a loved one, kicks that sh** up to ULTRAVENGE.
Caleb: It’s especially dramatic since Yosuke reveals that he’s pieced together Spider-Man’s identity with his dying breath. Viewers will note that he’s the second person to put two and two together over the course of a single episode while those closest to Takuya continue to live in blissful ignorance.
Chris: Having vowed to destroy the Iron Cross Army’s secret lab, Supaidaman heads over to it, drops in on some Ninders and, after a half-hearted fight, grabs a f***ing submachine gun and starts shooting up the place.
Caleb: Hilariously, he warns the Ninders to hide if they don’t want to be shot before fleeing an exploding building with them almost certainly trapped inside. It’s kind of like every explosion in Batman ’89.
Chris: The thing I love most about this is that during the fight scene beforehand, Spider-Man’s crawling around on the ceiling and the Ninders are just clearly not even trying to hit him. They’re just kind of waving their machetes around, and then the dude grabs a gun and starts shooting. If I was a Ninder, I would be yelling “NO FAIR! NO FAAAAIIIIR!”
Caleb: Sadly, Supaidaman’s adventures take place decades before the release of Home Alone and he has no frame of reference for calling the Ninders “Filthy Animals.”
Chris: Having realized that Spider-Man is no longer f***ing around, Professor Monster super-sizes his latest Machine BEM offscreen, and that means that it’s time once again for this week’s Monster Breakdown!
Appearance: Looks like a giant one-eyed bat with a disco ball mounted on its forehead.
Primary Weapon: Shooting bullets out of a cannon on its arm.
Secondary Weapon: Uh… can… smell really well?
Tertiary Weapon: Has a name that kind of sounds like Robot Dracula?
Rating: 0 out of 5
Chris: Look, if the Monster Breakdown seems a little light this week, it’s because this thing pretty much shows up and immediately catches a giant sword in its chest about two seconds later. There’s not a lot to work with here.
Caleb: He’s a bloodhound that was probably cobbled together from pieces of a Kamen Rider villain or something, which is forgivable considering the awesome violence that otherwise took place in this episode.
Chris: So having dealt with that, Spider-Man talks some trash to Professor Monster, and then he and Junko head to the ocean for a very Big Lebowski-esque funeral for Yosuke. She takes her locket off and puts it in a bunch of flowers and then throws them in the ocean, which seems pretty harsh.
Caleb: What really bothers me here is that those flowers are wrapped in plastic. Grief is no reason to litter the sea!
Chris: You’d think she’d at least want to keep the picture though!
Caleb: Well, she only tossed one locket. I’m going to assume it was Yosuke’s. If you’re ever chillin’ by the sea in Japan, be on the lookout for a sweet locket.
Chris: Either way, Takuya is very sad.
Chris: So Caleb, I think it’s fair to say that this was a weird one. But now, we must each decide The Craziest Thing About This Show (This Week)!
Caleb: Considering the layers of crazy in this episode, I must confess that hearing the Ninders speak really sparked a conspiracy. I’m wondering if they aren’t innocent kidnapping victims transformed into (cybernetic?) footsoldiers or something.
Chris: It’s also pretty weird that we’re six episodes in, but Yosuke was kidnapped and experimented on eight months ago. I guess Prof. Monster has been around longer than we thought.
Caleb: Or at least, active. I guess he’s been in Japan since its Feudal period.
Chris: For me, it was seeing Spider-Man using a machine gun — but not because it was Spider-Man using a gun, though that is weird. It’s more because this Spider-Man has a flying rocket car with guns mounted on it and a giant robot Transformer. Why would he even need to bother using a machine gun to blow up a lab? Couldn’t he just step on it with the Leopardon?
Caleb: My thinking is that he’s employing some psychological warfare. The Ninders are bound to be terrified by a hero willing to use his enemies’ weapons against them!
Chris: Maybe next week he’ll start packing a machete.
Caleb: I back that!
Chris: Well, I guess we’ll find out next time when Spider-Man battles against the menace of rock music in “The Ferocious Hit Song! Sing and Dance to the Killer Rock!”
Caleb: I could not be more excited.