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Toei Spider-Man (often referred to as Japanese Spider-Man and sometimes called Supaidā-Man or Spy-Darma) is the Japanese tokusatsu television series loosely based on the Marvel Comics character, Spider-Man. In this version, Spider-Man is portrayed as a live-action hero equipped with a giant mecha and cheesy, over-the-top entrances. Due to the drastic changes made to the storyline and character settings, the series was eventually rediscovered by the Japanese internet users, opening up the door for memetic mutation.
Spider-Man (スパイダーマン, Supaidāman) is a Japanese superhero television series produced by Toei Company in 1978, based on Marvel’s popular Spider-Man character. While Toei’s version of Spider-Man’s costume was based on the original, the overall plot and storyline had little to do with the Marvel character in the original canon. Producers Tōru Hirayama and Susumu Yoshikawa initially sought to make the series faithful to the famous web-slinger’s origins, but Japanese toy manufacturer Bandai, one of the sponsors, told the studio to include a giant robot for the hero (as giant robots where becoming extremely popular at the time). Hirayama and Yoshikawa met their demand with complete incredulity, reluctantly rewriting Spider-Man’s origins for the show.
Many things about the show were considered by several people quite strange, such as the gigantic monster enemies, Spiderman’s aircraft “Marveller” that can transform into a giant mecha robot “Leopardon” and his car called the “Spider-Machine GP7”, as well as his need to yell out his name (“Spy Darma!”) and freeze in awkward poses (often using strangely placed jumpcuts) during his entrance scenes. In addition, there are many misheard lines found in serious scenes of the series.
The series had a major impact on other Japanese live-action superhero shows by popularizing the use of piloted giant robots to destroy giant monsters. This series also introduced the formula of featuring monster battles on two scales in the same episode. This formula would latter become a staple of the Super Sentai series (which would latter be adapted in North America as the Power Rangers series with major success), starting with its third entry, Battle Fever J, which was originally planned as a tokusatsu version for another Marvel Comics character, Captain America.
“Spy Darma,” the well known nickname of Toei Spider-Man, comes from Spiderman’s bad pronunciation. Viewers in Japan have a hard time understaning the way Toei Spider-Man shouts his name. With a lack of pronouncing the “n” sound, it sounds like he is shouting, “Spy Darma!”(スパイダーマッ!)
Toei Spider-Man rose to resurgence on the Japanese video-sharing site Nico Nico Douga in April 2007, weeks prior to the theater release of the Hollywood live-action blockbuster Spiderman 3. To distinguish the Toei incarnation with the modern version portrayed by Tobey McGuire, the Japanese referred to the former by its old nickname “Spy Darma.”
The majority of Toei’s Spiderman-related MAD videos can be found on Nico Nico Douga (NND); however, numerous media uploads that fall under the category have been deleted due to copyright claims by Toei. As a result of takedowns, there is no definitive tag associated with Toei Spiderman MADs.
Toei Spider-Man was also introduced as a playable character in the freeware fighting game engine M.U.G.E.N on October 9, 2008 by M.U.G.E.N artist fu-lin. An A.I. patch for fu-lin’s creation was released by Kokekoko. In this video, Spider-man goes up against Donald McDonald (Ran Ran Ru) in a stage based on the popular Japanese version of the American board game Battle Dome (バトルドーム), which also became a meme:
Another M.U.G.E.N contributor ju created a character name “Nico,” a teenage girl who performs moves previously portrayed through numerous MAD videos on NND, including the gestures of Toei Spiderman:
Another M.U.G.E.N contributor name YU-TOHARU created the vocaloid Miku Hatsune on April 13, 2008, that features some singing moves. Some of them are based on Japanese memes, including Toei Spider-Man (who appears at 9:25). His ability allows him to swap the health of the fighters.
Appeal Outside of Japan
Many viewers outside of Japan have criticized this version of the Marvel Comics character for being so different compared to the original canon, most noticeably for having his own vehicles, especially his giant mecha “Leopardon.” Even a short clip of the show was featured in one episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien for comedic purposes.
In an episode of the online show Movie Buzz uploaded on May 15, 2009, the host Peter Ballis expressed his appreciation for the show because he considered it to be “so funny because it’s so bad”. This opinion is similar to the fandom of Kuso games.
Despite its criticism by fans, the staff at Marvel Comics, including original Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, praised the show for its special effects and stunt work, especially the spider-like movement of the character himself. In a video interview with Stan Lee featured in the Japanese DVD release of the series, Stan Lee comments that the show did a excellent job of adapting Spider-Man’s abilities into live-action at a time when there was no CG effects.
The series is currently available to watch for free on the Marvel website.
- An interview with Stan Lee about Toei Spider-Man for the DVD box set
There are a variety of YouTube Poop videos that have used Toei’s Spider-man series as the source material.
- YouTube – Search Results for Spider-Man
- YouTube – Search Results for Spy Darma
- YouTube – Search Results for Japanese Spiderman
- Wikipedia – Super Sentai
- Nico Nico Douga – Spy-Darma(スパイダーマ)
- Nico Nico Douga – Spy-Darma(スパイダーマ) (sorted by recent date)
- Nico Nico Douga – Spy-Darma(スパイダーマ) (sorted by views)
- Nico Nico Pedia : Spy-Darma(スパイダーマ)
- AZ Flash – Toei Spider-Man / Spy-Darma sound board
- Goo Blog – fu-lin
- MUGEN Infantry Forum – Kokekoko