Japanese television is a wonderful thing. It’s a bizarre concoction of western influences, Japanese archetypes, and shameless intellectual property theft. Japanese television in the 1980’s was all that on steroids.
The 1982 japanese television show Space Sheriff Gavan is a bizarre acid trip of other dimensional beings, 40-something equestrian stable boys who secretly moonlight as alien crime fighters, and a crap load of shape changing alien bad guys named Doublemen.
Space Sheriff Gavan centers on the titular space sheriff, Gavan. In a charmingly Superman-esque origin, Gavan’s parents are killed and he’s adopted by a space police force. Eventually, he takes up residence on Earth, where he defends it from an evil other dimensional criminal syndicate named the Maku. Gavan takes a job as a stable hand at a local equestrian club. When he’s not cleaning up horse dodo, he’s fighting the Maku in his super awesome, totally 80’s battle suit. Which, strangely enough, looks a hell of a lot like Robocop.
The show is pretty simple, and often times follows its own crazy internal logic. Gavan has some cute scenes with kids or baby animals, the Maku send a monster to Earth, the monster does something unsavory, Gavan dons his silver armor, they fight, Gavan wins, the the Maku send them both into the ‘Maku space’ (a strange pocket dimensions) where they fight again and Gavan wins again and then Gavan smiles and winks at the camera. Boom. Done. That’s the basic structure of the show. It’s not rocket science.
The element that sets Gavan apart from all the other Japanese Super Hero shows, is its fever-dream style narrative construction. The show oscillates wildly from cute, cuddly animals to avant guard Maku space. Sure, there are the requite gadgets, Mechas, and super powers, but its the disparity between the various, obviously delineated, segments of Gavan that give it its energy. Well, that and its lead actor.
Gavan is played by legendary japanese television actor Kenji Ohba. Everything he does is mesmerizing. In most episodes there’s a Kenji-Ohba-Runs-Around-Looking/Hiding-From-Something montage. Strangely, those are usually my favorite parts of the episodes. Not the monster battles, or the awesome costumes, or the special effects. It’s Kenji Ohba running summersaulting around behind oil drums and stuff.
The kinetic energy behind Gavan has propelled it into a franchise. Spawning a whole series of other sheriffs, an american adaptation, and multiple feature films. Gavan is one of the most iconic and beloved of all the Japanese super heroes. You should give the show a watch. It’s kinda hard to track down. But there are fan subs online, and bootlegs at conventions. If you see it, snag it. It’s worth a watch.
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Tagged: gavan, metal hero, space sheriff gavan, space sheriff shaider, space sheriff sharavan, super taisen z, tokusatsu
Posted in: Cult Movies, Featured (Film), Film, Film Reviews, Sci-Fi Movies, Super Hero Movies