I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Yoshiko Kondo and King Kobato Kai -- Gekko Kamen wa Daredesho (月光仮面は誰でしょう)

Well, with "Batman v. Superman" just around the corner, I figured it was time to do a shoutout to everyone's favourite Kryptonian. As a very young toddler, weekday afternoons in the apartment were spent watching "The Adventures of Superman" starring George Reeves on the Buffalo ABC affiliate WKBW on the old "Commander Tom" show (any viewers from Buffalo out there?). This was in the years before motion picture blockbusters, epic John Williams soundtracks and special effects by ILM. I always enjoyed watching Kal-El smashing through walls and bouncing bullets off his chest with that winning smile of his. And I gotta say that perky Lois Lane was quite winsome as well.

Since I was born in the mid-1960s, "The Adventures of Superman" was already well into reruns. But when it originally came on in the late 1950s, there was also a superhero for justice by the name of Gekko Kamen (月光仮面...Moonlight Mask) racing about in Japan at around the same time on the old television sets. The only thing was that his mode of transportation was a motorcycle and he was covered from head to toe in white which made for a more convincing secret identity than mere glasses for Clark Kent. In fact, the television series never directly identified the actor playing him...just a "?", although good odds were bet on detective Juro Iwai who seemed to disappear just before Gekko Kamen flies into action....things that make you go Hmmmmm...

I only found out about Gekko Kamen during my visit to Japan in 1972 when I saw some manga featuring the hero and barely recalled some scenes from the anime version that had just come out. But as I said, the original live-action version had been released in 1958 with a heroic kayo theme song to boot. Titled with the question that everyone had wanted answered, "Gekko Kamen wa Daredesho" (Who Is Moonlight Mask?), the lyrics were written by producer and scriptwriter Kohan Kawauchi(川内康範)with music by Hirooki Ogawa(小川寛興). And the song was performed by Yoshiko Kondo(近藤よし子)and the children's chorus group King Kobato Kai(キング子鳩会).

"Gekko Kamen" was such a hit with the kids that the average ratings were around 40% (current dramas would just swoon in fantasy at that percentage), and the highest ratings in Tokyo topped off at 67.8%! (thanks, J-Wiki) In fact, when the episodes were being shown, children seemed to magically disappear from the public baths en masse. Of course, the kiddies also clamoured for the theme song which sold more than a whopping 100,000 records.

Not quite sure how a tokusatsu superhero would fare in his cloth costume nowadays in a world of mecha armour and in-built weaponry. But then again, we will all find out later this year with not just "Batman v. Superman" but also "Captain America: Civil War". Captain America vs. Ironman? Yeah, that's the ticket.

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