Wednesday 23 September 2009

The Guyver: The Forgotten Superhero

Shō Fukamachi was an ordinary pupil at an ordinary school. He wasn’t fit enough to be on the basketball team or brainy enough to be in the high classes; but he wasn’t remedial in any way, either. He was your average Teen Everyman. He hung out with his best friend Tetsurō, and had a crush on Tetsurō’s sister, Mizuki. Until one strange evening in the local park.

There, Shō discovers a strange artefact, known only as “Unit 1”. Accidentally activating it, the symbiotic creature inside merges with him, creating The Guyver – a biological weapon. A suit of living armour that grants its wearer incredible protection, weaponry, and speed.

However, with great power, there must also come great peril. The Chronos Corporation, supposed “owners” of the Guyver Unit, want it back, and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Masters of DNA manipulation, all of the corporation's foot-soldiers can morph into horrendous monsters, known as Zoanoids. What’s more, the corporation has a Guyver unit of its own, merged with a fully trained soldier.

And the third unit cannot be found...

I collected the original anime of The Guyver back in 1994, when it was issued on twelve VHS tapes – one half hour episode to a tape (you used to accept that kind of thing with anime, back in the day). To an eleven year old kid, it was awesome – fulfilling all of the criteria you sought in your entertainment. Child/teenager protagonist? Check. Monsters? Check. Superheroes? Check, and check. Oodles of blood spurting hyper-violent combat? Check, check, and “Holy shit, you don’t get this with Dan Dare”!

One of the superpowers/weapons was referred to simply as “The Mega Smasher”? Yeah, you see why this would appeal to an eleven year old kid, right? That and the emotionally fourteen twenty-six year old he has become. Okay, nearly twenty-seven.

That, and the bad guys are good-old fashioned evil for the sake of evil. You don’t get that anymore. An evil corporation with an army of monsters working for it? Colour me intrigued!

The whole thing was like a Saturday Morning Cartoon for adults – it had all the clean cut morality, teen protagonist, etc. But the violence, storylines and gore work was definitely for adults – and that’s why we liked it as kids. Kids don’t like to be condescended to: they’re just short adults, and like to be treated as such.

I remember my Dad bringing home the first instalment on VHS (my Dad was into anime back before it was cool. If there is an icon for the emotionally fourteen, it’s probably my Dad); and my brother (E14 writer Blake Harmer) and I being totally blown away by it. It was the ultimate superhero cartoon – and the buckets of blood being spurted at the camera didn’t hurt any either.

I negotiated with my parents to ditch The Eagle as my comic, and get The Guyver videos as they came out instead; which amazingly worked...although looking back on it, I wonder how much of it was because my Dad wanted to see them anyway.

Yeah, there were a couple of dodgy live-action movies made (Mutronics & Guyver: Dark Hero), but they were too Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for my liking. They never managed to really nail what The Guyver was about. It wasn’t about rolling around in the dust whilst doing some vaguely Mortal Kombat-esque poses. It was about KILLING FUCKING MONSTERS WITH SUPERWEAPONS.

It’s easy to forget in this schoolgirl-tentacle-emo-Love-Hina-Sailor-Moon-Sgt-Frog loopy world, that once upon a time, being into Japanese animation didn’t mean you were a weirdo. It meant you liked guns, explosions, violence, blood, monsters and THE GUYVER.

The thing about The Guyver was that it didn’t do all that much that was new – it just did it all incredibly awesomely. To me and the group of friends who bombed round my house to watch the latest video when it came in, The Guyver was where it was at. It was destined never to be a major success, obviously – no parent would actually want their child to watch it (except mine, but, as mentioned earlier...), but for kids, we just thought it was the most awesome thing we’d seen in a long time. Hey, it was this, or Bucky O’Hare.

A re-make of the original series, The Guyver: Bio-Boosted Armour, is available now as a DVD box-set from Manga Video (RRP £59.99).

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