A few weeks ago, just as casual as can be, the Toei studio announced that they were launching a YouTube channel called Toei Tokusatsu, so that all their fans worldwide can enjoy official subtitled copies of forty-some years of science fiction programs. Now, because your old pal Grant has become a stick in the mud in middle age, I’ve resisted the siren call of Robot Detective for a really long time. The series was designed by comic artist Shotaro Ishinomori and ran for 26 weeks back in 1973, and there have been fansubs available on this site and that for a while. I’ve only seen pictures, but the pictures sold me. I hoped I’d get the chance to see this show through a legitimate source one day.
I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but this absolutely delightful show just pleased the daylights out of us. I watched the half-hour with a stupid grin on my face. It’s a little nutty, as you’d expect a show about a robot dude with a flying car and bazookas in his chest would be, but it’s a played-straight cop show! Feeling that the days of “legwork and hunches” are over, the metro police chief pairs a grouchy veteran, “Pops” Shiba, with a rookie who can immediately identify fingerprints and was programmed to solve locked room mysteries, which is handy because a murder-for-hire organization is sending inhuman assassins through the air vents. So sure, there are men in oddball costumes punching each other, but there’s also a really entertaining human element. “Pops” doesn’t like Detective K and he certainly doesn’t want the flashy-dressed robot coming around to pick him up for work. He has unmarried daughters and what will the neighbors think?
American television has made programs with similar premises a couple of times. There was Future Cop with Ernest Borgnine a few years after this, and Mann and Machine with Yancy Butler in the early 1990s, and possibly some others, and the first episode of Robot Detective is a billion times more entertaining than any of them. Even without the costumed wrestling, this show would be a charmer. It ends on a very strange cliffhanger – Detective K has a mother, of sorts! – and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Quality-wise, it’s a program that shows its age and is screaming for a nice remastering. Shooting at night with 16mm color film isn’t going to look good no matter what country the series is made in, so a Blu-ray release of this would need a lot of cleaning, but it’s acceptable for YouTube. Although, I have to tell you, Toei, clean this up and you can take my money. I’d love to give this a home on my shelf.
Although, as much as our son enjoyed this, I learned afterward that we might have picked the wrong show. Dave from Let’s Anime has had a Daitetsujin 17 toy since we were in high school, so I pulled the first episode of that up next to show him the title sequence and it completely blew his mind. One monster is like a huge eye and the giant robot has vehicles in its feet and the kid’s supercar turns into a helicopter and he just loved that. If you have an eight year-old in your house, you need to subscribe to this channel.