After I received a positive reaction to the review I pieced together for episode 1, I decided to continue reviewing the Guyferd series, as a means manhandling a bit more attention onto this largely overlooked henshin hero of yesteryear. Today I have a pair of episode reviews that continue Go’s march forward as he learns more of his powers and faces off against an evolving enemy force with more Mutians and upgraded Guyborgs surfacing to challenge our hero. These two episodes, as well, were both penned by Kazuhiro Inaba early in his career. Inaba would go on to write episodes for three more Toho tokusatsu television programs (The Gransazers, The Justirisers, and Super Fleet Sazer X), as well as numerous other projects. On Guyferd alone, Inaba would write more than half of the episodes, and so would become the most prominent voice of the series. We should get a good taste of what his storytelling flair is like from this double-helping of monster-punching madness below.

Guyferd Episode 2 review

Airdate: April 15, 1996

Title: “In Peril! Go!”

The Japanese title is あやうし!剛 , or “Ayaushi! Go”—“Go” being the main character’s name. The term “ayaushi” seems to be an archaic form of the word “ayaui” (it wasn’t in two separate dictionaries I checked), and it means something like “In danger” or “perilous.” To capture that old-school feel, you might translate the term as “Yeven to Perile! Go”—just using some older spelling from Middle English to mean the same thing as “In Peril” for added spice.

Abbreviated synopsis: The second episode takes place directly after the events of the first, with Go awakening after a three-day slumber only to find he is under the care of Dr. Shiroishi, a scientist who appeared in the previous episode and who was collaborating with the evil Crown organization in hopes of using the alien Fallah for medical purposes. Shiroishi tells Go that he has achieved symbiosis with the Fallah, and so his “Guyferd” transformation is an ideal form of man-alien crossbreed. In the course of the episode, we discover that Crown intends to subdue all life on earth via the combined might of the Guyborgs and the Mutian forces, with the Guyborgs taking the more servile support role behind the Mutians (and we get some Crown internal strife at the announcement). One significant objection from the pro-Guyborg faction is that Mutians are still uncontrollable and so shouldn’t be trusted so much—a fact soon illustrated when a Mutian called M17 goes on a rampage, only to be defeated by a slightly more controlled snake monster called Dogros. Back with Go, our hero reunites with his buddies from the super-karate school, and we get some internal bickering as the good guys fight over who is going to find Go’s lost brother and by what means, etc. It turns out that Crown is monitoring Go’s movements using spherical flying camera drones, and Go’s friends Yu and Rei are lured away by an unscrupulous detective. When Go and Shiroishi track down Yu and Rei, Dogros attacks, and Go has to fight the super monster while desperately trying to keep his secret identity as the mighty Guyferd—as well as dealing with the realization that he doesn’t know how to transform!

Comments: Many of the strengths and weaknesses from the first episode carry over into the second (which makes sense, given that both were directed by the prolific and long-active tokusatsu director Hirochika Muraishi, who had his hands in everything from Ultraman (1967) to Gamera Super Monster to Gridman to The Gransazers and more). The chaotic bickering inside Crown allows for added action and monster mayhem, and the spikey M17 monster, though only briefly featured, appears like a cross between the Incredible Hulk and Doomsday. Dogros is a cobra-themed kaijin with a chi-chi-chi-chi hiss that harkens back to Jason from Friday the 13th fame of all things. His design felt like a cross between King Hiss from the Masters of the Universe line and especially Serpentor from GI Joe—though it’s hard to imagine a direct link between those western characters and this one. At any rate, Dogros doesn’t look directly inspired by any Guyver Zoinoids I am aware of at least. The most intriguing aspect of Dogros is his inability to control himself for long, as when his meds run out, he clutches at his head and collapses to the ground, creating a pathetic, almost pitiable villain that Guyferd nevertheless blows to bits in a brief scuffle.

Speaking of the action, the battle sequences lean on the brief side and can sometimes present as a bit languid on screen. We do get a variety of monster encounters, though, and it’s enjoyable to see humans going toe-to-toe with Mutians and at least briefly holding their own. An added layer of drama comes from Go’s determination not to reveal his secret transformation abilities to his old friends, for fear that they would despise him. This concern, of course, is standard stuff for the superhero genre (Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse is still milking that super-powered cow to this day), and Guyferd doesn’t handle the plot element with any peculiar level of craft or cleverness. Instead, by the end of the episode, I was wondering how the dumb kids hadn’t figured out Go’s secret identity. Go’s momentary inability to henshin into his powered form is also solved in the most lazy way possible—just put him “yeven to perile” and he figures out the trick instantly.

Still, there were many individual moments I really enjoyed in the episode—from Go accidentally bending his bedframe, to Rei unexpectedly beating down the corrupt detective, to Go chucking a pen through a spy drone following him around. Nothing here is going to blow away tokusatsu fans, but the show remains competent and fun, and that should be enough for fans of the genre to kick back and relax to some classic hero hijinks.

3 Stars


TV Review: Guyferd (Episode 1)

Guyferd Episode 3 review

Airdate: Monday, April 22, 1996

Title: Did You See? The Ultimate Super Transformation!”

This episode sees several story advancements, including a new set of more-advanced and easy-to-manufacture Guyborgs produced by Crown (they test them against some random martial artists for some reason), Go learning more about his chosen mega-martial-art KenNoRyu, more lore about Guyferd learning further attack techniques, some new super bombs, and by the end of the episode Go can finally fully control his transformations due to his extreme karate training. A new bug-eyed monster with whips also appears—the Mutian Bolguiss.

Comments: Guyferd seems to be taking some cues from Kamen Rider Super-1, which also featured the hero unable to control his own transformations until training in a crazy martial art. I love that the episode also allows the normal human martial arts masters to beat up some of the Crown Guyborgs, and the masters can also manifest an invisible force-field/teleportation-field around their training grounds through the use of their meditation and ki. Maybe it’s my old Karate Kid fandom speaking, but I dig me some silly pseudo-fantasy kung foolery.

As for the monster, Bolguiss… is not overly memorable, though his distinct black-and-white design felt like it was drawing from Guyver designs again—particularly from the Libertus Zoanoids. The later Godzilla opponent Monster X from Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) also feels a bit similar in concept. Bolguiss is not an overly powerful Mutian, and his twin whips don’t do a great deal of damage. Guyferd makes short shrift of the guy and his wacky eyes.

This episode also incorporates more overtly humorous elements than the previous adventures, with some hijinks included backed by cheesetastic “funny” music. Not a big fan of that.

Still, the show maintains much of the charm from previous eps and throws in several mild twists to keep the action fresh without merely regurgitating the same exact monster attack, power-up, explosion cycle that can plague tokusatsu shows. Nothing wildly original or profound, but competent monster smashing action.

3 Stars


Guyferd Episode 4 review

Guyferd Episode 4 review

Airdate: Monday, April 29, 1996

Title: “Breakout! The Genetic Laboratory”

Warning: Spoilers

Abbreviated synopsis: At this point, we have a set of recurring heroes—elementary school genius boy Yu Kujo, karate tsundere Rei Kujo, Fallah-expert Dr. Shiroishi, and super-karate robo-mutant Go/Guyferd. This time, Yu is taking swimming lessons off by himself (and lusting over his klutzy swim teacher) when his bus is attacked and transported away by a mildly sexy spider-woman Mutian named Spiras. Go, Rei, and Dr. Shiroishi head out together to find Yu and track him down via Go’s sudden ability to follow traces of ki energy in the air. Yu is being held with the other kids (along with the maladroit teacher and a bus driver) in a small room, but being a super genius, Yu manages to hack the electronic lock. As Yu and co break out, Go and co break in, and we soon learn of an evil plan to inject the kiddos and turn them into remote-control beasties. Go is awesome, though, and he faces off against Spiras, quickly kicking her in the head and blowing her up. We end with a comic relief scene of our heroes playfully bickering.

Comments: While this episode has some slight forward momentum (the attack on Yu solidifies just how unsafe our heroes are, and we learn that Yu is supremely gifted with electronics), much of the episode feels derivative. Spiras is especially uninspired; she looks a bit like a spider-theme-swap of Lami/Scorpina from Power Rangers, but with far less character or distinctiveness. Spiras possesses spider-themed powers that don’t do anything remotely spidery—her web transports the bus, and she never ties up Guyferd or any other characters in webbing. Spiras feels like a generic version of the recurring evil Spider Man template from the Kamen Rider series, and her brief scuffle with Guyferd is over quickly with little tension. Still, while I should’ve been cringing, I liked the awful swimming teacher, and the constant sniping between characters adds some simple, bright humor. You also can’t go wrong with a bus smashing through a gate or two (I enjoyed a similar sequence in Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia). The antics ultimately feel perfunctory, however, so I hope the next chapter steps up the story with an unexpected twist.

2 and a Half Stars