Episode One: The Phantom...er, Dracolon: The Great Sea Monster
Director: Manuel San Fernando
Though I admittedly have little knowledge in the genre of Japanese sci-fi, I do know
one thing: when a UFO crashes into the ocean near Tokyo, chances are pretty good that an
attack on the city by a giant monster is inherent. Call it intuition.
Meanwhile, on a boat not too far away, we meet Johnny Sokko, a young boy on his way to...well, we're not told where
he's off to. But that really doesn't matter, now does it? Johnny, while on deck peering
out over the sea, meets Jerry Mano. It takes approximately three minutes of small talk
between the two for Jerry to blow his cover and disclose that he is really a secret agent
for an outfit called UNICORN. How does Johnny cleverly uncover this valuable piece of
information about Jerry? In a brilliant battle of wits, Johnny asks, "So, what do you
do?" To which Jerry replies, "I'm a secret agent for UNICORN...oops, I mean I'm
a writer, "
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Then, to add credibility to his writer story, Jerry immediately gets on his futuristic
cell phone (at least in the film it's supposed to be futuristic, in reality it looked like
a car antennae) and reports in to his boss back at UNICORN headquarters. I guess subtlety
isn't a prerequisite for being a secret agent.
Luckily, before Jerry can breach any additional subjects of national security, the ship
is attacked by, you guessed it -- A GIANT MONSTER! And what does one do when attacked on a
ship by a giant monster? Of course! You jump into the ocean -- towards the
Alas, the brilliant plan works, and Johnny and Jerry are washed ashore on an island.
But before the two can breathe that heavy sigh of relief, they discover that the island is
run by the evil Gargoyle Gang, sworn enemies of mankind (mankind as in people, not Mick
Foley), and they especially dislike agents of UNICORN.
Now this brings up the question: what's an easy way to tell if a gang is evil? Well, if skulls are embroidered on their uniforms
(and/or their jaunty berets), that is a good indication of badness. Another tell-tale
trait is if they take the time to end each sentence with a maniacal laugh. So, in summary,
maniacal laugh + skulls = the bad guys. (Back to the review already in progress...)
Johnny and Jerry are immediately captured by the Gargoyles, and taken in for
questioning. We then discover that the Gargoyle Gang is in cahoots with Emperor
Guillotine (the guy in the flying saucer), an evil alien with a jewel in his forehead,
bent on taking over the world. (Original concept.) And what's the best method for success
when attempting to take over the world? Sure! You bring a big monster (Dracolon: the Great
Sea Monster, to be exact) to smash some buildings and raise some hell! It makes perfect
sense when you think about it! It then takes the Gargoyles roughly two minutes of
interrogation before Jerry and Johnny escape -- which must be some kind of
While escaping through the Gargoyle compound, our heroes discover -- the Giant Robot! I
guess it was inevitable, with the title and all. It's there that they also run into Dr.
Lucious Guardian, a scientist being held being held captive by the Gargoyles, and forced
to create the aforementioned robot as a weapon of mass destruction. Well, you didn't think
they wanted it for candy sales or a fund-raising carwash, did you?
Dr. Guardian explains to the duo that the only element missing for the Robot to become
fully operational is an atomic blast (sounds practical enough...), and the only person who
will be able to control the Robot is the first voice it hears on a specially-designed
wristwatch. As Johnny puts on the watch (why Dr Guardian would let some punk kid play around with the
watch is beyond me..), the Gargoyle Gang finally catch up to them. Dr Guardian then grabs
a gun and tells Johnny and Jerry to run, and that he'll hold them off. This is a nice
notion by the doctor, and it's a shame when he's killed about three and a half seconds
later. Not the most effective diversion. But come to find out, the Doctor has one last
trick up his sleeve: an atomic bomb set to explode in just a few minutes. An amazing
coincidence with him running into the heroes at just that last second, wasn't it?
Anyway, Johnny and Jerry, of course, escape just as the atomic bomb goes off and the
entire compound bursts into flames. Now, being that it was an atomic blast, wouldn't that
have had an effect on our heroes, being that they were merely 50 or 60 feet away from the
detonation? I guess I'm just being nit-picky. What the atomic blast does succeed in doing
is activating the Giant Robot. Remembering that he was still wearing the communicator
watch, Johnny immediately takes control of the Giant Robot, and orders him to fly
them back home. As they fly back to Tokyo (at least that's where I assumed they were
going), UNICORN contacts Jerry and tells him that the city is under attack by Dracolon.
And it's about damn time! Hell, the episode only had about five minutes left! So, it's
then time for a detour as Johnny orders the Giant Robot to save the day and destroy
Dracolon, but not necessarily in that order.
Though, as usual, I have once again accentuated the negative of this film (er..TV
episode) in my review, in all actuality, I thoroughly enjoyed Johnny Sokko and His Giant
Robot. It may be due to the fact that I grew up with him and Ultraman (which was my
favorite), and have always harbored fond memories of the two. The show was just as campy
and fun as I remembered it, and I highly recommend checking it out if given the chance.
Though it may be poor in execution, it's never short on fun.
In the future, jet pilots wear motorcycle helmets.
- While under hot pursuit by the Gargoyle Gang, Johnny and Jerry have plenty of time to
talk to Dr. Guardian and get the full-story on both himself and the Giant Robot. Would
that have really been an ideal time for chit-chat?
The very first time Giant Robot goes into battle, Johnny is ordering him
around like an old pro, telling him to use his "Atomic Punch" and "Rocket
Missiles." The problem is, Dr. Guardian never told Johnny any specifics or intricate
details on utilizing the features of the Robot. Does it have an owner's manual in the
glove compartment, or something?
Finally, I have to seriously question Giant Robot's battle efficiency.
Before he fires any weapon, before he can make any strike to his opponent, Giant Robot
first has to go through a variety of kata-like stances before any action takes place. It's
like he's doing the Macarena in the middle of battle. Cut the theatrics and whoop some
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-- Copyright © 2000 by J. Bannerman