Superman vs. Japanese Monsters!
Here’s something you don’t see every day… it’s a record theater from Japan from a company named Biken. I’d date this as early 1970s, because the only other Biken set I could find on the internet was this terrific set based on Gerry Anderson’s UFO, which didn’t premiere until 1970. The UFO set is number 25 in the series, and Superman is 28.
I do not read Japanese, so there’s going to be a lot of guesswork with this post, but it seems straightforward enough… the set contains a box with a 33-1/3 flexi disc with the story, and 16 7-1/2″ by 10″ color pictures printed on card stock that reminds me of a baseball card… glossy white front and unfinished back. The backs of the pictures are printed in one color and feature the text for the next slide. The box is an important part of the package… you cut or punch out the TV shape, and put the cards inside and play the record. As you pull each picture out, you can turn it over and it describes what is happening on the next card.
Here’s the record, still in the original baggie stapled to the instruction card.
Here are the instructions. Notice that the cute little girl in the illustration has no idea what carnage she’s about to witness.
Now we get to the cool part… the illustrated cards. Their style reminds me a lot of traditional animation. These are fully painted backgrounds with the characters drawn in pen and ink and then colored. It’s pretty easy to follow the story even without being able to read the captions, so here we go.
A stray bolt of lightning strikes a lake setting into motion a terrible course of events…
Somehow, these animals are mutated by the lightning and grow to many times their normal size. The background painter for this slide appears to have been heavily influenced by the work of Bob Ross.
And now the mutated monsters begin their horrifying attack, breathing fire on lions, elephants, and Wally Gator. The carnage is shockingly explicit for a child’s toy.
And the mayhem moves to the countryside, closing in on civilization. And the military shows up to add to the fun. Note the secular humanist ant on the far left toppling that steeple. Or is it a fundamentalist ant destroying a public school?
Annnd here we go to Metropolis (or some other city somewhere). Anyone who has ever seen a disaster movie has seen this before. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
The fighting intensifies and the army brings in the tanks. Nothing could possibly go wrong with this plan.
FINALLY, we see our hero Clark Kent at the office of the Daily Planet. Or is it Lois Lane’s bedroom? Hard to tell by the curtains and the dresser in the background.
Superman springs into action, punching an ant right in the throat.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, there’s an important space rocket counting down to launch, but there seems to be some trouble on the launchpad.
Fortunately, Superman shows up just in time to save the launch and billions in taxpayer dollars.
Slight hitch as the mutants realize that they can fly, too, so they start to chase the rocket into space.
Superman flies into space and rips two of the arms off one of the mutants in a pretty gory display for a kids toy. Then he kicks a giant bat in the gut. The rocket is saved! (Just as a side note, this is almost exactly what the bat that got into my house last night looked like to me.)
Superman has a plan to deal with the remaining mutants, but he has to get approval from America’s leaders. Seated left to right, Ray Bradbury, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Albert Einstein, and Abraham Lincoln.
Superman lures the mutants back to the peaceful, idyllic lake from which they sprang.
Then he sets everything on fire, killing the mutants and every other living thing within a five mile radius. I just love this picture… it looks like he’s howling.
And Superman saves the day again! YEAH, SUPERMAN!