Most excellent and outrageous ninja TV series from Japan
I would like to add additional details to the excellent review done by Mr. Brian Camp. As one of the viewer of this show who've watched this show in real time, I have fond memories of Kamen no Ninja Akakage.
The series consists of 52 episodes, and was originally shown between April 5 1967 to March 27 1968 on Wednesday's 7:00 p.m. time slot. The broadcast stories were comprised of four different segments in the following order:
Part one (Episodes 1-13) Battle with Kinme kyo
The story starts with Tokichiro Kinoshita (Later to become Hideyoshi Toyotomi the first ruler to unite Japan) who was worried about the mysterious religious cult called Kinme Kyo. He goes to the village of Hida ninjas to seek help. Three ninjas Akakage, Aokage, and Shirokage are dispatched to help him.
Koga ninja Genyousai had plans to invade Kyoto using religious cult called Kinme Kyo. He had seven ninjas called Kasumidani Shichininshu who worked for him. Their appearances were based on Kabuki characters and were very colorful. There's also a large statue of golden eyed robot that shoots laser beam from its eyes, that had piloting cockpit within it.
Part two (Episodes 14 - 26) Battle with Manji Tou
Genyusai who was thought to have died in part one was still alive. He forms a new squadron of seven ninjas called Manji Tou. His goal is to take possessions of three bells that conceals the secret of powerful energy developed by a foreigner named Pedro. Genyousai also pilots a large sphere called Daimanji that can fly and go underwater. Seven ninjas are just as colorful as the ones in part one. Each of them wears a cape with different colors, and has a swastika (Manji in Japanese) on their forehead.
Part three (Episodes 27 - 39) Battle with Negoro Ninjas
Negoro ninja Kurayami Kidou works with samurai lord Yuzato DannoJo who plans to take over Japan. Their objective is to assassinate Nobunaga Oda (Tokichiro Kinoshita's lord). The thirteen ninja working for him uses kaijyu style monsters when they attack their opponents. This results in Akakage having to battle monsters in almost every episode.
Part four (Episodes 40 - 52) Battle with Mafuu Ninjas
Mafuu Ikazuchimaru is the head of twelve ninjas. His goal is to steal the golden mask that is kept in Akakage's home village. In an attempt to take the mask, he murders Akakage's father Reppusai. Each of his twelve ninjas have outrageous weapons, and few have monsters as their weapon.
This series was created due to cancellation of planned Watari series that ran into trouble with Watari's author Sanpei Shirato (see my review for Watari for details). Toei then went to Mitsuteru Yokoyama who was also penning successful ninja manga called Iga no Kagemaru to create characters for this new series. Yokoyama's rendition of Akakage is a strait ninja story, but this made for TV series had more colorful and outrageous take on it. This was chiefly due to insistence of directors Junji Kurata and Tetsuya Yamauchi. Both directors asked his staff to come up with ideas that would make this series as entertaining as possible. The staff in tern asked their children what they wanted to see, and came up with the moves the ninjas perform in the story. As a result, much of the enemy ninjas had looks that didn't look like feudal era ninjas, and wielded weapons like UFO, robot, usage of revolver pistol, aqualung etc. that without a doubt, are machination from the modern society. Producer of this series Tooru Hirayama was said to have gotten stomach aches each time he saw the previews of the show due to their borderline passable depiction of the weapons. In the latter episodes the usage of modern weapons became scarce and in their place kaijyu or Godzilla style monsters was put to the forefront to antagonize the heroes.
As was mentioned earlier, this was a series that was supposed to become Watari, and the actors who played Watari and Shikanme in the movie Watari played the roles of Aokage and Shirokage in this series.
Ski wears were used as the basis for Akakage's ninja uniform, and was said to been so hot to wear during the summer season.
Akakage were translated for TV series twice, first this series and as an anime in 1987. There're also Akakage movies, first the movie version of this series that is an edited version of Part one, and second starring Masanobu Ando as Akakage in 2001. The Akakage of 2001 lacks the fire that was in this series, and I'd have to agree that I prefer this series over the remake.
Complete four parts of this series is available on DVD from Amazon.co.jp.
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