Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot | Entertainment Blog
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I, like most American fans of Japanese sci fi, remember the series, “Johnny Sokko
and His Flying Robot” fondly from it’s limited run in the late 1970s and early
1980s.The show was somewhat of a rarity, only airing in select markets, normally
resigned to major cities. In all honesty, the show didn’t even air where I was living
at the time, Albuquerque, New Mexico. I discovered it while on vacation visiting
my family in Los Angeles. A local independent network, which featured mostly
Asian programing, aired the program in the early afternoon. Being a huge Godzilla
movie fan, I became hooked very quickly. – Ken

The series, called “Giant Robo” in Japan was produced by Toei Company
Ltd., and aired on NET (now TV Asahi) from October 11, 1967 to April 1,
1968, with a total of 26 episodes. The English dubbed version of the series
was produced by American International Television as “Johnny Sokko and his
Flying Robot”.

The entire series was first broadcast in the United States in 1969 by American
International Television, and became quite popular in syndication over the next
several years, particularly from 1971-74 when it reached its peak in
distribution. The series was still in active syndication through the early 1980s.
In 1970, several episodes were edited together to create the movie Voyage
Into Space, which has now reached cult film status.

The series was astonishingly violent by American standards of children’s
programming in the 1960s (in its home country of Japan, though, it was no
more violent than any other tokusatsu airing at the time). Gunplay are staples of
every episode of the series, and the series’ two child leads – Johnny Sokko and
Mari Hanson (Mari Hanamura in the Japanese version; a 9-year-old girl
introduced in the seventh episode who speaks 39 languages and is a crack
shot with a firearm) were frequently seen shooting along with the rest of the
Unicorn agents. In one episode, Johnny and Mari are captured and tied to
trees by Gargoyle, and are within seconds of being executed by firing squad,
when Unicorn agents rescue them. Oddly enough, though practically every
Japanese anime exported to the United States during that period was edited
due to violent content, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot seemed to have
escaped close scrutiny in that regard, and what editing was done on the show
seemed to have been more for the purposes of squeezing in another
commercial or two rather than in the interest of curbing the show’s violence.

Plot:

The Earth is under invasion by a terrorist group called Big Fire (Gargoyle in the
US version), an illuminati style organization led by the alien Emperor Guillotine,
who spends almost the entire series in a multicolored space ship hidden at the
bottom of one of the Earth’s oceans (presumably the Pacific) whence he issues
his orders to the members of Gargoyle (frequently referred to in the series as
“The Gargoyle Gang”).

The members of Gargoyle, as it turns out, are an ambitious but somewhat
incompetent bunch who appear to have a fairly high mortality rate due either to
Unicorn actions or Guillotine’s own fits of anger. Their wardrobe is an
interesting collection of what appears to be an assortment of castoffs from
Soviet officers, wartime Wehrmacht personnel, Central American guerillas, and
the designers of Italian sunglasses. In addition, at least one Gargoyle member is
always seen with a beatnik beard. Most of Gargoyle’s members wear berets
adorned with a skull on the front. All members of Gargoyle have an explosive
device implanted within their bodies that can be detonated in the event they are
captured, though this seems to be used only rarely.

Guillotine himself has a large blue head with tentacles extending from the
bottom of the head; not unlike Cthulhu. He wears a long robe, and carries a
staff with a white orb at its furthest end. Like his head, the rest of his body is
blue. He is capable of growing to an enormous height, though this is only seen
once in the series; specifically, it is only seen in the last installment, where he
himself actually fights, and loses to, the Flying Robot.

Guillotine leaves day-to-day matters in the hands of various commanders;
principally Spider (a human who is eventually killed by a spray of acid), Doctor
Botanus (Doctor Over in the Japanese series; a silver-skinned alien capable of
teleportation), Fangar (Red Cobra in the Japanese series, and also alternatively
referred to as Dangor the Executioner in the US series – a bizarre alien with a
pegleg and crutch, a greatly enlarged forehead, protruding upper teeth, and a
costume that looks like a traditional striped prison outfit in front and a red
velvet jumpsuit in back), Harlequin (Black Dia in the Japanese version, who
has a fascination with the suits of playing cards), and The Golden Knight (Mr
Gold in the Japanese series; a gold colored armoured knight).

The group captures scientists to create an army of giant monsters to rampage
the Earth. But fate stumbles on a little boy named Daisaku Kusama (Johnny
Sokko in the US) and a young man named Jūrō Minami (Jerry Mano in the
US), the latter is secretly Member U3 of the top-secret peacekeeping
organization, Unicorn. Daisaku and Jūrō are shipwrecked on an island after the
ocean liner they were on was attacked by a giant sea monster called Dracolon,
and are captured by members of Big Fire. When trying to escape, they end up
in an elevator that leads down to a huge construction complex where a giant
robot is being built. Pharaoh-like in appearance in that the design of his head
resembles the headdresses worn by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, this nearly
indestructible humanoid robot is being built by captive scientist Dr. Lucius
Guardian, who decides to give the two escapees its control device, a miniature
transmitter built into a wristwatch. The robot can only be controlled by the first
voice recorded in his electronic brain; however, he first needs to be charged up
by atomic energy. Dr. Guardian helps Daisaku and Jūrō escape, only to be
shot to death, but not before he set an atomic bomb that destroyed the base,
the resulting explosion activates the giant robot, which moves to Daisaku’s
every command. As the controller of the robot (heretofore known as “Giant
Robo,” or just “Giant Robot” in the US), Daisaku is invited by Jūrō and his
chief Azuma to join Unicorn as its 7th member, U7. As U7, Daisaku fights the
evil forces of Big Fire with the help of U3/Jūrō and Giant Robo.