‘Japanese Spider-Man’ Episode 9: ‘The Animate Accessory is the Beetle Spy of Love!’ [Review]
Chris: Welcome back to Spider-Man Japan, our series of in-depth reviews on the 1978 live-action Spider-Man show where he fought monsters with a giant robot. If you've been following along for the past few months, you'll know that we skipped over Valentine's Day because we didn't think we'd have an appropriate episode. I hate to admit it, but that was a mistake.
Caleb: Romance was waiting for us all along.
Chris: That's right, everybody: Today's episode is a love story. Of course, it's the unrequited love of a six-foot beetle robot monster from space for Spider-Man's sister, but you take what you can get in this crazy world of ours.
Caleb: If she could learn to love a Spider-Man, why not a monster beetle, man?
Chris: Well, she doesn't really love Spider-Man. Not in that way. I hope.
Caleb: I just meant she champions his cause (whether she knows how specifically she does or not).
Chris: I see what you're getting at, but to be fair, Spider-Man is just a dude in a costume with inexplicable super-powers. Kabuton is a beetle that turns into a giant beetle and also wants to kill her brother. It's hard to build a relationship around that, you know? We've all been there.
Caleb: But you're forgetting something, Chris. Dude has a diamond -- the rarest diamond in the world -- embedded in his chest. What girl could resist?
Chris: Are diamonds a girl's best friend even when they're embedded into the chest of a giant homicidal insect? Let's find out!
Chris: Our story today opens in Iron Cross HQ, with the evil Professor Monster and Amazoness working on tricking out their latest Machine BEM, Kabuton, the lovesick beetle we were talking about above.
Caleb: If his name sounds familiar, you can thank Pokémon for its inclusion of the beetle-like Kabuto.
Chris: The tricking-out in question involves Professor Monster and an extremely rare Blue Diamond that he got sometime between episodes, which is a nice reminder that he actually does do stuff other than get his ass kicked by Spider-Man all the time. It's the only diamond of its kind on Earth, and when it's installed into Kabuton, it'll be able to focus a laser beam that's "100 times more powerful." 100 times more powerful than what, I'm not sure, but the point is that it'll be able to blow a hole through Spider-Man's robot and end that little problem once and for all.
Caleb: I love how the show gives an infomercial-style comparison between Amazoness' lackluster ray gun and Kabuton's dope chest beam. "A regular ray gun doesn't even begin to pierce this thick sheet of unidentified metal, but with Blue Diamond™, that sucker is toast!"
Chris: If only Amazoness would've let out a frustrated "There's got to be a better way!", this would be the best episode ever. Instead, this plan goes right off the rails in record time when they take their all-powerful laser-wielding monster and send it to... spy on Spider-Man's sister?
Caleb: Well, you know, she's cautious. Cautious people are no doubt linked to superheroes. Next time you come across an old lady with a plastic cover on her sofa, you better tap her phone. She may know Captain America or something.
Chris: Amazoness believes that Shinko is connected to Spider-Man, and she's right, but I don't really understand how she got to that point. I mean, we've seen him save his girlfriend Hitomi a couple of times, but Shinko's usually just hanging out at their weird little Hobbit house.
Caleb: I guess like Prof. Monster, she too has her own side adventures. Maybe they shop at the same Forever21?
Chris: In order to get Kabuton close enough to the Yamashiro family to spy on them, Amazoness basically stalks Spider-Man's kid brother while he's on a nature hike, relying on him to capture this strange new beetle and then let it live in his house.
Caleb: It's nice to see Takuji out having fun like a normal kid. Usually he's at home making us uncomfortable by dancing in hot pants or being smothered by his older sister.
Chris: So just for the record, you think running around capturing space beetles with a butterfly net is "having fun like a normal kid."
Caleb: Uh... perhaps I've overstated things.
Chris: It's worth noting that out of the three remaining Yamashiros, Amazoness somehow picks the two that aren't Spider-Man to be a part of her plan. She really beat the odds on screwing this one up, but Kabuton does what he's told and flies away to stalk Shinko while she goes to college.
Caleb: Takuya's reaction to his brother losing his prized beetle is pretty spot-on, though. "Sucks to be you, bro!"
Chris: At the college, Shinko reveals that she's trying to carry on her dead father's work by studying meteorites, which in this case involves helping a professor build some kind of "space weapon." On hearing this, Kabuton flips back into his man-sized form and starts terrorizing the college. Fortunately, the Japanese version of Spider-Sense gives Takuya the ability to sense danger anywhere in a ten mile radius.
Caleb: Spidey is usually overwhelmed by surprise attacks or innocents being threatened in the first fight of the show, but he kind of just shows up and kicks ass this episode. Within a few seconds of dodging the blue laser, he figures out that he should just redirect Kabuton's beam back at the dude using a mirror in his Spider Bracelet.
Caleb: Unlike mirror shield in Pokémon, this move was super effective.
Chris: Two things about this: One, for something that's meant to punch a hole in a super-robot from space, the Blue Diamond laser kind of sucks. Two, why exactly does Spider-Man's space bracelet have a mirror? So he can check that his mask's on straight?
Caleb: Yeah, the laser's power is wildly inconsistent. Maybe it has to charge like Samus' gun in Metroid? As far as the mirror goes, well, maybe Garia saw episodes of Batgirl circa '66 and figured all the superheroes wanted a compact to help them fight crime?
Chris: You can never go wrong with emulating Yvonne Craig, even if you're a male dirtbike stunt rider. Anyway, thanks to the mirror, Spider-Man basically kicks Kabuton's ass and leaves him to mope about being defeated when Amazoness walks in with a riding crop and berates him for shooting himself in the shoulder.
Caleb: The first sympathetic Machine BEM!
Chris: She orders Kabuton to get back to work and spy on Shinko, so he heads back over to the Yamashiro house. After being attacked, Shinko is holed up inside, but in what is probably the best thing that has ever happened on this show, she has left her 10 year-old brother outside to watch for monsters.
Caleb: Little bro is chillin' outside narrating the episode. "I'm not letting the Iron Cross Army in here! (Yes I totally am)."
Chris: Which is exactly what he immediately does when Kabuton (BEETLE FORM) shows up. Takuji recognizes him as the beetle from before and takes him inside, giving Shinko a momentary freakout as she almost, alllllllmost puts together the fact that this crazy weird beetle showed up right before she was attacked by a giant beetle. Alas, it doesn't quite click, because sentai shows sort of rely on people having no pattern recognition skills at all.
Caleb: But their hearts are pure! So they notice the beetle is injured and do their best to help it.
Chris: Which is why Shinko decides to treat an insect's injured wing with rubbing alcohol and a Band-Aid, something that even Takuji realizes is weird as all hell.
Caleb: That's the difference between her and Amazoness. She administers wildly offbeat first aid, while Amazoness beats him unrepentantly. This is a petri dish for romance.
Chris: Especially with the truly insane sweeping love music that accompanies the scene. They should be running through a field to each other and then spinning in slow motion.
Caleb: I think we can both agree that this budding romance isn't half as insane as the beetle fashion trend that's about to explode in Japan.
Chris: Right; Just when you thought we were done adding bizarre premises to this story, we cut to Hitomi, promising to swing by and cheer Shinko up on her birthday. On her way out, she runs into the editor of the Weekly Woman - Amazoness in disguise - and notices that she seems to be wearing a beetle on a chain as an "animate accessory."
Caleb: At first I wanted to believe it was some kind of battery-powered toy beetle. But, no. These ladies are wearing living things who are only "animated" because they are struggling to escape death's cold embrace. But it's okay, because it's all the rage in Europe. I'm glad Amazoness didn't blame America.
Chris: This plan Amazoness has come up with to validate Kabuton's presence is just insanely complex. She is wearing a beetle to her civilian job (presumably a normal beetle) so that she can convince Hitomi to convince Shinko that it's okay to have this beetle hanging out with her at all times.
Caleb: And on her birthday, no less. "Happy birthday. Chain this bug to your body."
Chris: Which she does! Leaving Kabuton to crawl all over her bosom in the throes of cross-species lust.
Caleb: Dude is all, "Hey yeah, yeah, WOW!"
Chris: While Kabuton is copping a full-body feel on Shinko, Takuya's trying to buy her a birthday present. Unfortunately, he's been too busy fighting the Iron Cross Army to win any competitions, so he has to settle for a cheap necklace instead of the dress that she really wants.
Caleb: If only there were a way to monetize his abilities, like, say, professional wrestling...
Chris: At the end of her birthday shopping trip, Shinko gives Takuji a lecture about letting wild creatures live in the wild, and ends up freeing Kabuton from her necklace in what would probably come off as an act of kindness if she hadn't just worn him on a chain around her neck all day. But whatever, it works on him, and after watching her sleep - which as we all know from Twilight is the most romantic thing an inhuman monster can do - he goes and steals that dress for her.
Caleb: Theft: The second most romantic thing an inhuman monster can do.
Chris: And he murders the shopkeeper while he's stealing it! We are way past flowers and candy here.
Caleb: Ignorance is bliss, though, because she totally loves the dress.
Chris: Well, until she finds out that it's basically Exhibit A in a murder investigation, which sort of dampens the mood. While investigating - and by that I mean "standing around looking at the crime scene" - Takuya realizes that it must've been something involving a laser beam, and immediately puts it all together.
Caleb: Poor Kabuton never really gets to see the fruits of his murderous labors, though.
Chris: But he does get the next best thing: After being domiatrix'ed at for a little while by Amazoness, Kabuton gets sent to do some more spying on Shinko... while she's down at the pool in her bikini!
Caleb: Watching Kabuton pop out of some bushes poolside is one of the highlights of this episode. Mostly because you get a good look at his own metal bikini.
Chris: It really is. You'd think this would be a good time for him to go with his smaller form, but no, he's just hanging out, full-sized. Maybe the sight of Shinko in her bikini is keeping him from, you know, reducing. Either way, her scantily clad form is overwhelming enough that Kabuton decides he can't kill her, and ends up switching out the blue diamond with that cheap-ass necklace that Takuya bought her as a secret token of his affection.
Caleb It's his own version of Romeo's suicide -- not that the blue diamond laser would've saved him from a well-aimed Arc Turn or the Sword of Vigor, but you know.
Chris: It turns out that Shinko's time in the pool is just a break from secretly helping those science dudes finish their meteorite detector, and when she goes up to their room to help out, she gets ambushed by Kabuton and Amazoness. Fortunately for her, Spider-Man shows up out of nowhere and starts fighting.
Caleb: He's pretty much on top of the battle too, until Kabuton uses his weird spin-dash power. It's the coolest beetle sled I've ever seen.
Chris: Amazoness ends up taking a shot at Shinko with her laser gun, but Shinko's pendant - with that super-rare Blue Diamond - reflects the lasers back at the Iron Cross Army and saves her, leaving everyone pretty confused. Then, because we're about 20 minutes into the show, Spider-Man decides to just go ahead and call his giant robot. And that means it's time once again for this week's Monster Breakdown!
Appearance: Giant beetle with a truly inexplicable metal bra.
Primary Attack: Blue Diamond Laser.
Secondary Attack: Sharpened Beetle Sled Horns.
Tertiary Attack: The Power of Love
Rating: 3 out of 5
Chris: Professor Monster orders him to use his laser to blast through the Leopardon, but naturally, without the Blue Diamond, he just doesn't have the juice.
Caleb: And so, another Machine BEM meets its end at the robotic hand of Leopardon.
Chris: Caleb, I think we can agree that this might be the weirdest episode we've seen yet. But since we have to pick, what's The Craziest Thing About This Show (This Week)?
Caleb: Definitely the beetle necklaces. Given Kabuton's inherent flying/hiding/stealth capabilities, there's a number of ways he could've effectively ridden along with the plot and been close to Shinko, but the writers chose to introduce a wonderfully weird plot point instead. It's genius.
Chris: I'm kind of curious as to whether there was an actual "animate accessory" trend they were trying to capitalize on back in 1979, or whether that was whole-cloth insanity on the part of Toei.
Caleb: I'm willing to bet it was whole-cloth insanity. But you never know. I mean, remember scrunchies? They were arguably uglier than living beetle necklaces.
Chris: For my pick: Shinko using a First Aid kit to treat an injured insect.
Chris: Even if you take out the fact that he's actually a monster that's falling in love with her, that is weird as all hell. Even other characters in the show call her out on how bizarre that is.
Caleb: I'd like to think some kid was inspired to follow her example and inadvertently ruined some poor bug's day with an adhesive strip.
Chris: Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out how tragic it was that Kabuton was killed by the brother of the woman he loves. And also how he was a giant beetle.
Caleb: His forlorn monologue was inspiring. "I may be a Machine BEM, but I'm also a bug. And bugs understand love." Makes me feel half guilty for all the beetles I've probably crushed in my life.
Chris: Yeah, the idea that his "insect soul" was what made him capable of feeling love is a little bizarre too. Basically, what we're getting at is that this whole episode was crazy as all damn hell.
Caleb: And that's why we love it.