The is a genre of tokusatsu superhero TV series produced by Toei for Japanese television.
The Metal Heroes are mainly space and police-based characters who don "metallic" suits, or are androids, or are cyborgs. Henceforth, most of the Metal Heroes are also referenced as "Henshin (transforming) Heroes." Usually, the genre revolves around a technological theme where technology, in the right hands, can be used for the greater good.
The shows were produced by Toei from 1982 through 1996 in conjunction with their other Tokusatsu superhero shows, such as Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. Not only are some of them popular in Japan but also in several other countries like France, Brazil, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Some of the Metal Hero series even spawned sequels which followed the continuity of the previous shows, resulting in the genre developing sub-categories based mainly on space and police-related characters.
List of Metal Heroes series
- also known as X-Or in France, Sky Ranger Gavin in the Philippines, and Space Cop Gaban in Malaysia and Indonesia aired in 1982. This series began the and featured a police hero sent to Earth to battle a rampaging force of aliens. Gavan proved popular enough to spawn two direct sequels and introduce a new genre in Japanese television. Gavan was played by Kenji Ohba, who recently had a minor role in Kill Bill Vol. 2 as the Japanese swordsmith.
- aired in 1983. This direct sequel to Gavan features Gavan's protege taking over the role of Earth's protector when Gavan gets promoted in rank (from sergeant to captain) in the Space Sheriff organization. Sharivan was played by Hiroshi Watari.
- aired in 1984. The third and last of the Space Sheriff trilogy, with an Earth-born, galactic police force-trained officer taking over Sharivan's job alongside a female deputy. Footage from Shaider was used in the second season of Saban Entertainment's VR Troopers. Shaider was played by the late Hiroshi Tsuburaya, son of Eiji Tsuburaya, the creator of Ultraman. It received a "sequel" in the Philippines in the show Zaido.
- aired in 1985. Similar in filming, tone, and style of the Space Sheriff shows, this series features a warrior sent to stop Satan Goss and his diabolical son Madgalant from destroying the Earth with giant monsters. Juspion had his own giant robot, Daileon, to combat the evil creatures.
- aired in 1986. Along with his sidekick, Diana, this program dealt with a hero who crosses through dimensions to combat an alien force that took his father's life and corrupted his sister into the evil Hellvira, who later joined her brother as Lady Helen. Footage of Spielban was used in VR Troopers.
- aired in 1987. Inspired by the classic tokusatsu hero Kikaider, this show dealt with an android given human memories, yet programmed to fight an insidious group that his creator once belonged to. Footage from Metalder was used in the first season of VR Troopers.
- aired in 1988. This program features an actual ninja master from a historically known ninja clan preparing his son, daughter, and youngest child, along with a family relative and a police officer with ninja roots to combat the re-emergence of a centuries-old demon samurai, his evil offspring, and a host of international ninja warriors from around the world hoping to tip the scales of justice. Jiraiya, the son of the ninja master, is destined to wield an enormous power that Dokusai, the demon samurai, hopes to seize.
- aired in 1989. Based similarly to RoboCop, but also had elements of the 70's series Robotto Keiji. This armored robot hero is a rookie cop gunned down and reborn as a fighting machine against the Criminal Syndicate Bioron, a group of bio-genetic freaks. Jiban is the first Metal Hero to actually bear the emblem of the Japanese National Police, although his "badge" shows a regular American-style sheriff star.
- aired in 1990. The first of the , this team of two robots and their human armored field commander dealt with real-life crime, mad scientists, rogue cyborgs, and dangerous rescue situations. The mix of fantasy and realistic action proved to be immensely popular with viewers, spawning two sequels.
- aired in 1991. A direct sequel to Tokkei Winspector, the former base captain of Winspector opens an additional police branch, this time with two humans (a male and a female) and a construction-vehicle styled transforming robot to continue the fight against everyday villains, gangsters with high-tech weapons of destruction, and the occasional robot gone mad. A Solbrain video game was released for the Nintendo Famicom game console, which was also released for the NES (international name of the Famicom) as Shatterhand.
- aired in 1992. The last of the Rescue Police Series, this program featured a trio of male human armored police officers doing what the previous two teams were doing, without the help of any super-powered robots. By this time, the series had stepped away from realistic villains and swerved back towards more sci-fi oriented opponents.
- aired in 1993. Another series similar to Robotto Keiji. An abandoned police experiment robot is revived by its creator to combat three different organizations of crime in Japan. With a gruff, rougish, gun-totting robot partner named Gungibson, Janperson patrols the streets of Tokyo alongside his creator in shutting down the hidden crimelords that use super science to subjugate the masses. Made a cameo in Big Bad Beetleborgs.
- aired in 1994. Hidden to the general public, a police organization has been combating alien menaces for years until a sneak attack destroys all but three officers, who alongside some civilian helpers who are aware of the alien infestation, must continue the fight. The show was one of the more "realistic" Metal Hero shows despite the alien theme.
- aired in 1995. An alien attack is repelled by the combination of true heroism, super technology and insect magic housed within three suits of armor. Footage from B-Fighter was used in Saban Entertainment's Big Bad Beetleborgs.
- aired in 1996. A direct sequel to Juukou B-Fighter, this program features seven new heroes who utilize technology of the previous Beetle Fighters and insect magic to fend off a horde of monsters from under the Earth. Footage from B-Fighter Kabuto was used in Beetleborgs Metallix.
- aired in 1997. It is the first of the Metal Heroes shows to be geared towards younger children. The characters in Kabutack met several characters from B-Fighter Kabuto.
- aired in 1998. It was similar to Kabutack, but featured a dog robot who was also a detective. It is the last Metal Heroes series.
Other similar heroes, such as Seiun Kamen Machineman
, Kyoudai Ken Bicrosser
, Choukou Senshi Changéríon
, and Seven Star Fighting God Guyferd
also appeared during the Metal Heroes
era, but are not included as part of the Metal Heroes
franchise for various reasons. Machineman and Bicrosser were created by the late Shotaro Ishinomori
, while Changéríon's armor is not metallic, and Guyferd was produced by Toho
Currently, the Metal Heroes are a defunct genre in place of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider Series of shows. Kamen Rider itself has adopted many of the Metal Hero franchise's traits. Today, the present versions of these type of heroes are merged in with the Henshin Heroes description.
Some Metal Hero characters have made cameo appearances. For example, in 2004, a special Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger stage show had a special appearance by Gavan, who assisted Hurricane Red from Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and AbaRed from Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger in battling various Alienizer monsters from Dekaranger.
In 2005, Toei released some Uchuu Keiji trilogy merchandise. Later that year, Bandai released a "Souchaku Henshin" figure of Gavan, followed by "Souchaku Henshin" figures of Sharivan and Shaider in early 2006. In May 2006, a PlayStation 2 video game titled The Space Sheriff Spirits was released. The game featured Gavan, Sharivan and Shaider all teaming up to battle past enemies from their series. The game was panned by critics, however, for bland graphics and dull gameplay. In early 2008, the trading card company Cardass announced a new, Metal Heroes based expansion to their Rangers Strike card game, entitled Special Metal Edition, featuring characters and vehicles from the various Metal Hero series for use within the game.
In the 1990s, Saban
adapted some of the Metal Hero shows for American audiences in the United States. Stock footage from Metalder
was used in VR Troopers
(1994-1996). Footage from both B-Fighter
series was used in Big Bad Beetleborgs
. Both shows ran for two seasons and ended when all the stock footage from those series were used up.
In the Philippines
, where several series have aired and dubbed into local languages, Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan
has been given the go ahead from Toei to be allowed to be a "sequel" to Shaider
, featuring characters intended to be the descendents of those of the original series. Later on, Toei had refused the production to be aired. Instead, a spin-off series set 20 years after the end of Shaider was given the go ahead.