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Japanese Spider-Man (Supaidaman)

Spider-Man: 60 Amazing Years
by yo go re

Look out! Here comes the Emissary of Hell!

After gaining spider powers from the spaceship Marveller, Takuya Yamashiro takes on the identity of Spider-Man to fight Professor Monster and the Iron Cross Army!

Well sure, who wouldn't? In the late '70s, Marvel signed a deal with Japan's Toei that would allow each of them to adapt some of the other's characters. Marvel got to publish its Shogun Warriors comic, for instance, while Toei had plans for several different cartoons (though only one actually made it to production). Toei also had the rights to do live-action, however, and that worked out much better for them: from May of 1978 to March of 1979, Toei produced 41 episodes (and a movie) of its Supaidaman show.

Toei's contract allowed them to change the story of their borrowed characters as much as they liked, but for copyright purposes the basic design had to remain the same. Thus, Takuya Yamashiro's スパイダープロテクター (Supaidā Purotekutā, "Spider Protector") suit needed to look like the standard Spidey: a blue and red costume with webs and spider emblems on the chest and back. The eyes are small enough to make this feel like an adaptation of Ditko's design, and he has white soles on his boots, but otherwise this is a pretty direct adaptation. The toy's red has a little too much yellow in it, which might have been an effort to make it look like something that's been aging since the '70s?

The one major change is Supaidaman's スパイダーブレスレット (Supaidā Buresuretto, Spider Bracelet). See, despite what the marketing copy on Hasbro's website says, Takuya didn't get powers from the ship, he got powers and the ship from Garai, the last surviving alien from Planet Spider, who injected Takuya with his blood. And also gave him the bracelet, which stored the costume when he wasn't wearing it. It's the prime identifier that separates スパイダーマン from Spider-Man, so its inclusion is important.

As is the way, this toy is a mix of old and new molds. The head is easy to tell, because it's been sculpted with the small wrinkles of thin cloth worn over an actual human's head, rather than perfect comicbook smoothness. And if you look closely, you'll see similar imperfections around his armpits and waist. How entirely unexpected! Honestly, Hasbro could have just used the "Amazing Fantasy" head, painted some normal feet white on the bottom, and given us a new Spider Bracelet, and most fans would have been thrilled; to go this far on such an obscure reference shows dedication! His hands even relax like a real person's, with the pinkies curled slightly more than the index fingers.

Since this is meant to be a human actor on a TV show, he doesn't get any crazy levels of articulation. All the normal stuff is here, though: balljointed head, hinged neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged torso, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/ hinged ankles. So, not spectacular, but sufficient. Nothing that would send suit performer Hirofumi Koga to the hospital with ruptured tendons.

Marvel requested that スパイダーマン have all Spider-Man's normal powers, like sticking to walls and shooting webs, though Toei's version was slightly different: the Spider Bracelet had its own "Spider Fluid" that could create either Spider Strings (スパイダーストリングス, Supaidā Sutoringusu) or Spider-Nets (スパイダーネット, Supaidā Netto), which acted more like normal ropes than sticky webs. This figure comes with two web-splats and a webline, plus an alternate pair of fists, but you know what we don't get? A wrench for him to smack against the ground! Or a machine gun!

The reason Marvel was fine with Toei completely changing the story was that it was never meant to be seen outside Japan. The show originally aired in 1978/9, and was basically an urban legend in the US until the 2000s. Marvel uploaded the series to its website in 2009, but Yamashiro Takuya didn't get referenced in the comics at all until the Spider-Verse crossover in 2015, and even then just because that one had every Spider-Man ever. This toy isn't a must-have on its own merits, but as the first western release of the character? That might be worth adding to your collection. Or you might want to wait, since the character is going to appear in Spider-Verse 2 later this year, and might get a toy for that. Maybe even his car. And his giant robot. And his machine gun.

-- 05/22/23

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