‘Japanese Spider-Man’ Episode 8: ‘Strange Tales of the Past! The Cursed Cat Grave!’ [Review]
Chris: Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's installment of Spider-Man Japan, our unnecessarily in-depth series on Toei's 1978 live-action Supaidaman show! This week... I think the only word that even comes close is "doozy."
Caleb: Or, if you're us, "purrrrrfect!"
Chris: That's an apt description, Caleb, because this is the episode where Professor Monster resurrects the ghost of a cat that was killed by a samurai and Spider-Man stops it with magic.
Caleb: This is about as close as this series gets to a "Halloween" episode, but fans of The Ring and The Grudge will get the vibe right away. It turns out, this is kind of just a standard Japanese curse story with Spider-Man/tokusatsu flavor. So... I guess there's nothing standard about it.
Chris: It's not just the weirdest episode we've gotten so far, it somehow manages to be weird in a completely different way than the others. Like, right up to the moment it happened, I was convinced that we weren't going to see Spider-Man fight the monster with his giant robot, and even then it just sort of happens for no reason. Well, even less reason than it usually does, I mean.
Caleb: One of the unfortunate side effects of blending science and sorcery, I suppose.
Chris: It feels like the people writing this show have really gotten tired of the whole giant robot thing already, and we're only eight episodes into it.
Caleb: Having seen all 40+ eps, I assure you, there's plenty more robotting ahead.
Chris: Yeah, but at this point, it's like they're just doing it out of contractual obligation. Like, you know they really wanted this to end with Spider-Man's prayers and a crashed schoolbus. But I think we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Caleb: Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Wow!)
Chris: Just in case you were worried that we were going to be off to a slow start, you can rest easy: This week's episode opens with Professor Monster's henchmen, the Ninders, digging up a grave. But it's not a human grave, oh no - it's a CURSED CAT GRAVE.
Caleb: Bum, bum, bummmmmm. Ninders? More like grave diggers!
Chris: I'm not sure that really works since it's, you know, what they're actually doing and "Ninding" is not really an activity, but... Maybe it's best if we just move on.
Caleb: I agree. I'll just nind my own business.
Chris: Just in case Prof. Monster raiding the Pet Semetary wasn't strange enough, the whole thing goes down under the watchful eye of a cat, who runs off to tell a creepy old woman who lives in a graveyard, but we'll get back to her in a minute. What really matters is the why of it all.
Caleb: If you thought Professor Monster was digging up a cursed dead cat out of the goodness of his heart, think again!
Chris: It turns out that the bones he was digging up belong to a "cat demon" that "mauled several people to death" and was killed by a samurai 200 years ago, prompting a flashback where, through the magic of special effects, we see a samurai cut a photograph of a cat in half.
Caleb: Edo period PETA was probably pissed.
Chris: For some reason, even though it was neatly bisected by a katana, the cat's actual skull is in one neat, solid piece - and not only that, but the ghost of the cat demon still resides within its bones!
Caleb: And can meow! We've seen Amazoness emote a number of variations of anger on this show, but this is the first and probably last time we'll see her show anything resembling fear. Cat demons be scary.
Chris: Seriously, when Professor Monster picks up the cat skull and starts working its jaw like a puppet, it is the most amazing exchange on the show:
Caleb: I'm bummed Prof. Monster isn't going to show us how he fuses a cat demon ghost to cyborg parts, but I hope it involves Ninders with lab coats on.
Chris: It does raise some questions about just what the hell Prof. Monster is actually capable of, doesn't it? I mean, we've seen him build monsters and LMD robots and brainwash people, and now he's literally raising animals from the dead to do his evil bidding.
Caleb: I guess when you hide underground for hundreds of years waiting to take over the world until you have a worthy opponent, you've got plenty of time to think these things over.
Chris: I'm just not sure why the dude needs to steal missiles from the Government when he can resurrect cat demons. But anyway, we switch now to Takuya, who is of course complaining about having to spend time with his cute girlfriend. This friggin' guy.
Caleb: To be fair, going to a creepy temple to interview a woman who claims she can speak cat language sounds like a less than awesome way to spend an afternoon when you've got a sweet dirtbike.
Chris: Personally, I like the fact that Takuya immediately claims that the old woman must be a fraud, because there's no way she can really speak to cats. Again, that's Takuya Yamashiro, who was gifted with super-powers by an alien from the Planet Spider, calling something out for being a little hard to swallow.
Caleb: In a world where stacks of Ninders can camouflage themselves as trees, I suppose it's good to be a little skeptical.
Chris: Hitomi's been sent to interview her for Weekly Woman by her editor -who is secretly Amazoness - and I have to say it: Amazoness should really stop sending this one girl to cover the stories that are directly related to the Iron Cross Army's evil plots. It's super self-destructive,
Caleb: It's pretty much a cry for help. You know, like when Ace Ventura would shout "Somebody stop me!!!!" in a green mask. It looks like a joke, it sounds like a joke, but it's a chilling reminder of human frailty. Or in this case, alien frailty.
Chris: Right. Just like Ace Ventura. Anyway, as though the old lady who lives in the cemetery with her missing teeth and her assertion that she could talk to cats wasn't creepy enough, the cat she's talking to now has a Hitler moustache.
Caleb: Just like Michael Jordan.
Chris: According to the Old Lady, Hitler Kitty (Kitler?) was a witness to the desecration of the cat demon's grave. When Hitomi and Takuya go to check it out, Takuya smells evil. Literally.
Caleb: Apparently evil smells a lot like crow poop, which I can only assume littered the graves near the Cat Lady's temple. We will be seeing this super fat crow a number of times throughout the episode because, you know, death. Hey Chris, what did the Doctor say to the crow?
Chris: I don't know, Caleb. What did the doctor say to the crow?
Caleb: Take two and KAWl me in the morning! snort!
Chris: Is it too late to get Uzumeri back?
Caleb: He's stuck in The Source Wall, isn't he? ...until SOMEBODY SAAAAVESSSS HIM!
Chris: At this point, I would rather be mauled to death by a robot cat with giant metal boobs than talk to you, which is quite a coincidence since that's exactly what's happening in the show!
Caleb: Cat Demon is probably the closest thing we'll see in this series to a proper Heavy Metal character. Like a lot of Machine BEMs, CDM is similar to a Battle Beast, only without the heat-activated power sticker.
Chris: Cat Demon is just about to feast herself on some human blood when she's interrupted by the real hero of this show, Hitler Kitty! For some reason, this gentle meowing stops CDM in her tracks, leading her to pull off her own tail and throw it at Kitler like an electrified lasso.
Caleb: If you love cats, close your eyes.
Chris: Actually, if you love cats, you should definitely see this, because it's amazing. They add in the glowy electric effects later, but Kitler is just sitting there, completely unimpressed.
Chris: I hate cats and that made me like them.
Caleb: Personally, I'm just stoked we get to see Spidey make his dramatic introduction again. Cat Demon, meet a true emissary from Hell!
Chris: The fight more or less ends in a draw when Cat Demon makes a girl faint and Spider-Man goes to her rescue, giving CDM the chance to escape. But when she returns to the Iron Cross hideout, Prof. Monster and Amazoness aren't happy. They lay down an ultimatum:
Caleb: It's cruel and basically, "Bad kitty! No dinner for you!" I mean, they're the ones who wanted a pet. It didn't poop in their shoes or anything.
Chris: True, but these are probably the only people in the world who actually want their cat to leave a dead chewed-up spider in their bed as a gift.
Caleb: I still think a little compassion would go a long way, as we'll soon discover from Cat Demon Monster's tragic origin tale that's probably a lie.
Chris: Amazoness and the Prof also give CDM a secondary target: the crazy cat lady who lives in the cemetery. Unsurprisingly, she turns out to be way easier to kill than Spider-Man. Who would've thought?
Caleb: I'm glad they didn't show her death on camera. She probably tried to comfort Cat Demon Monster to no avail. "Here kitty, let ol' gramz give ya a sloppy toothless smooch on the nose!" On second thought, that's probably how she died.
Chris: Now we'll never know if she could've hugged every cat. Takuya discovers her body and decides that this whole Cat Demon Monster thing has gone way too far, and decides to put a stop to it. So he heads out to the woods in his civilian identity, and that's when we get the origin story!
Caleb: "People were mean to me, so I stole stuff, but then they were really mean, so I killed them. Then your grandpa sliced me up!"
Caleb: I'm going to go ahead and suggest that Cat Demon Monster is what English teachers refer to as an "unreliable narrator."
Chris: Yeah, there's nothing in "I was a poor little kitty who just wanted some food from mean humans" that really explains "mauled several people to death."
Caleb: CDM also gets the drop on him with its horrible claws. Say, is CDM the first outright female Machine BEM he's faced? And it's a cat. Let's just call it what it is, an analogue Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat.
Chris: It even stole food!
Caleb: After all, she showed up in '79 according to Wikipedia. Just wait until we tell Kevin Smith!
Chris: CDM and Takuya get into a fight, but without his Spider-powers, Takuya's not much of a match. He ends up getting scratched and then spending an extended sequence in bed sweating and groaning while he waits for his Spider-Healing-Factor to kick in, which seems to be this show's go-to method of filling up five minutes.
Caleb: At this point, it's surprising that there isn't a stock healing scene they use the same way they do with Leopardon transforming.
Chris: But while Takuya's doing his weekly sweaty writhing - ladies - Hitomi's going straight up Lois Lane on CDM, sneaking through the cemetery in order to get her story.
Caleb: There's that fat crow again. Pooping, I'm sure.
Chris: You really do not like that crow.
Caleb: Without James O'Barr, it's just another greedy bird.
Chris: Just as Hitomi's in danger of being catrocuted, Spider-Man shows up in the GP-7 and blasts CDM with his machine guns. And friends, this is where things start to get weird: After saving Hitomi, Spider-Man runs over to the crazy cat lady's temple, where he finds a scroll handily labeled "CAT SEAL" and decides that the only way to solve this problem is with magic.
Caleb: Depending on which Pokemon episodes you've seen, seals are a big deal when it comes to ghosts/spirits/demons.
Chris: That's why Mars was arguably the most powerful Sailor Scout! That said, the old lady's Cat Seal is pretty shoddy. I mean, I'm not even sure how to bring this up, but the cat's tail looks like a giant dong.
Caleb: I was going to say robotic elephant trunk, but dong works too.
Chris: While Spider-Man is busy teaching himself how to do magic, though, CDM decides for absolutely no reason that the best thing to do would be to hijack and schoolbus full of children, because this will somehow help her defeat Spider-Man.
Caleb: Considering that CDM has been dead for 200 years, she's almost as good as Toonces at driving. It's remarkable.
Chris: Seriously, Cat Demon Monster driving a bus and looking as happy as she can be about it is a highlight of this entire series.
Caleb Goellner: It's like, if only Spidey could've helped her get a job as a cabbie... Japan might've had its best driver ever. Can you imagine CDM in a silver scorpion jacket?
Chris: Well, except for the part where you pay her in human blood.
Caleb: Oh, yeah. THAT.
Chris: Unfortunately for both CDM and the kids on the bus, Spider-Man has suddenly mastered the ability to exorcise evil spirits. So while he's doing this...
Chris: ...CDM's bus is swerving all over the highway until it finally crashes into a wall.
Caleb: AND YOU DON'T SEE ANY SURVIVORS ESCAPE! We're left to assume the passengers are all dead. With great power, my ass.
Chris: I was almost hoping this would come up in the show as one of those classic Stan Lee moments where Spider-Man loses even when he wins, but taken to a truly ludicrous extreme that involved a dozen dead students. And again, I want to stress the "almost" in that sentence.
Caleb: Those kids were probably fine. That bus seemed to have seatbelts. Maybe even those nifty side airbags? Why well on it when we can watch CDM and Spidey throw each other into puddles of murky construction site mud?
Chris: Yes, Spider-Man and CDM begin their final battle, and that means it's time for this week's Monster Breakdown!
Name: Cat Demon Monster
Appearance: Cat Demon Monster.
Primary Attack: Cat.
Secondary Attack: Demon.
Tertiary Attack: Monster.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Caleb: The first 5 out of 5!
Chris: Seriously, Cat Demon Monster is amazing. I mean, they didn't even have room in the name for how she'ss also a robot.
Caleb: Being a "5" doesn't really mean you stand a chance against Leopardon, though. Despite having rocket fists in common with the invincible robot. Considering most giant monster battles are roughly two minutes, CDM gets in a few good moves before ka-sploding via Sword of Vigor.
Chris: And thus, we come to the end of our story, with a reminder that Spider-Man will always fight against curses and grudges, and maybe there will be happy times one day.
Caleb: So that's what he thinks about when he's driving the GP7!
Chris: I know it's going to be tough to narrow it down, but Caleb, what's your pick for the Craziest Thing About This Show (This Week)?
Caleb: I think it's the size of CDM's skeleton. I mean, in flashback footage, she's just a regular cat. But her skeleton looks like it belongs to a sabertooth tiger. I don't know much about Japanse black magic, though. What made your head explode this week?
Chris: It has to be Spider-Man doing magic. Not just because it's Spider-Man performing an exorcism ritual, which is crazy enough, but because it does absolutely nothing other than take away CDM's ability to drive a car!
Caleb: Next time I have demon problems, I'm just going to start burning stuff with beads on my hand while tuning in to the local traffic report. The second I hear of slowdowns on I-5 North, it's just a matter of space swording 'til that sucker is outta commission!
Chris: A solid plan. We can all learn a little something from this episode, I think.
Caleb: Be nice to cats, or they'll come for your ancestors with metal boobs.
Chris: A moral we should all take to heart. That's all for this week, everyone, but be here next time when a miniature monster stalks Shinko in "The Animate Accessory is the Beetle Spy of Love!"
Caleb: Until next time... try not to lose, wouldja?