First, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduced popular audiences to the many unique forms of Peter Parker. Whether re-imagined as the 1930s undercover investigator ‘Spiderman Noir’, a literal spider robot ‘Sp/dr,’ or a pig-turned-spider in the shape of Spider-Ham, Marvel Studios has brought our friendly neighbourhood superhero to us in a variety of wildly entertaining ways.
And although not part of the events of the massively famous Marvel Cinematic Universe, these offshoots have been present for decades in the form of specially-released comic books. The bizarro Japanese Supaid Sutoringusu slinging Supaidman is one Spiderman who has YET to take the globe by storm.
What exactly was Japanese Spider-Man?
A live-action television series produced by Toei Company, Japanese Spider-man (known referred to as Supaidāman in Japan) ran for 41 episodes for around 1 year in Japan from May 1978 to March 1979.
The most unusual feature (or maybe even appeal) of this Japanese take on Spiderman was that it was based solely on the titular character himself. That’s right, literally everything else you know and love about the original canonical Spiderman is non-present in this completely unique take on the hero.
Japanese Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man?
From fighting giant robots and dinosaur monsters, shooting down live-action bands with a Tommy gun, to driving around a daredevil-themed sportscar across town fighting evil, this version did not lack any of the wacky charms that came with most Japanese-style spinoffs.
Complete with a unique opening theme that will transport you back to the early 80s and music throughout the series that accompanied the entertaining special effects and fight choreography, Japanese Spider-Man’s uniqueness was unparalleled.
What a great to introduce a Spiderman fan to the wackier ways of Japanese pop culture!
How did Spiderman have a Japanese spin-off?
Prior to its release, Marvel Studios, represented by Gene Pelc, agreed on a three-year partnership with Toei Company in order for them to use the rights to Spiderman to garner larger support from fans in the east.
Seeing how popular manga was in Japan, Pelc saw a path for Spiderman and Marvel Comics to flourish and gain even greater popularity, as the drawing style and action-packed narrative was similar to that of the many popular Shonen series being published at the time.
Early on, Toei planned only to use Spiderman as a secondary character in a show they were producing, but ended up flipping the script and making him the protagonist instead.
The Origins of Japanese Spider-Man
The character of an alien named Garia who hails from Planet Spider is who gives Spiderman his powers. The resulting show was exactly how you think it goes from there: Aside from the costume, and some abilities like his web-slinging, Spiderman goes on a multi-planet adventure facing all kinds of enemies such as aliens, robots, and monsters.
The show deviated so much from its source material, that different characters from shows produced by Toei themselves would have crossovers, appearing to aid Spiderman in his quest to fight evil.
Having shown this to Marvel Executives, Pelc was let down when they shot down this project, mainly criticizing how much it deviated from the mainline Spiderman series.
Stan Lee to the Rescue
But, its uniqueness and charm were praised even by the late Stan Lee, who was lead creative director at Marvel Studios. In an interview about the Japanese edition of Spiderman, Stan Lee stood up for this version, saying that its style appealed widely to the Japanese audience. After having defended it, Marvel agreed to air this cult classic which is beloved by ONLY the most hardcore Spidey fans.
The Man Behind the Mask
Takuya Tamashiro, the self-proclaimed emissary of hell, is by no means your average Peter Parker. Neither a scientist nor photographer, he is actually a 22-year old motocross racer who stumbles upon a UFO wreckage on the earth’s surface together with his father.
Coincidentally, he is joined by Professor Monster and the evil Iron Cross Army, who were also at the crash site. Unfortunately, his father was killed by Professor Monster during this encounter, as they shot down the UFO to forward their plans to rule the universe and plan to silence anyone in their way.
Luckily for Takuya, he discovers the aforementioned Garia, the originally-planned main character, who grants him spider-powers (and weaknesses) with his very own blood. Aside from the blood, which was injected, he was given a bracelet that gives him the ability to crawl on walls and activate the different powers (such as spider slings and nets) and the trademark Spiderman suit.
Supaida Sutoringusu slinging Supaidman
The secret ingredient that made this franchise appeal to Eastern audiences was how the usual genre meshed with popular shows that were airing at the time in Japan. For kids and young adults, not only did this give a sense of familiarity to swallow, as it was similar to Shonen action shows but also other live-action shows airing at the time.
It was released at a perfect time during the peak of the popularities of similar live-action superhero shows Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, both of which were a boon and massive success in the nation.
Key influences in both of these shows were ever-present in Japanese Spiderman, with the unique blend of humour, special effects, sound design, and choreography.
The monster-of-the-day stereotype was also in full effect during the run of this show, as most episodes would resolve in Takuya conquering a different villain each time in his quest to avenge his father’s death. On top of this, Takuya’s character was quite different from that of the Peter Parker we know from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Utilising more elements of Japanese pop culture, he fights with both honour and pride, fighting only enemies that he needs to with the utmost respect.
Get ready to see Japanese Spider-Man
Luckily enough, mainstream audiences will be able to get a glimpse of this cult classic and reimagination of Spiderman. With Takuya rumoured to be part of Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse 2, audiences will be treated to the quirky, yet disciplined version that is Supaidāman. For now though, thankfully we have Youtube to show off Takuya and all his glory.