Kikaida: Hawaii's Favorite Superhero
After all these years, Hawaii’s favorite superhero is still kicking monster tail and inspiring local fans.
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Ninomiya is continually amazed by Kikaida’s staying power. While the live shows and appearances now attract hundreds, not thousands, she says the audiences are a diverse mixture of old fans, their children and even some nostalgic grandparents. There’s something universally appealing about the show, but after all these years she still can’t put her finger on it.
“Kikaida wasn’t as dark as some of the other shows. The monsters did evil things but they were basically non-threatening, so maybe it attracted more kids than some of the other shows. It was very colorful and exciting,” says Ninomiya. “And that [theme] song, it was so catchy. Everyone could sing it.”
For Russ Ogi, a 39-year-old artist, Kikaida’s appeal is simple: The show had a main character who was decades ahead of his time.
“What makes Batman, Superman and Spiderman so popular now?” asks Ogi. “It’s inner turmoil. Today, superheroes don’t just beat up on the bad guys. Sometimes their biggest struggle is with themselves. Compare Kikaida to the Batman television show, which was on TV around the same time. Now, that was a campy show.”
“When you’re a kid, Kikaida was just a fun show to watch. But when you get older and you look at it again, there is so much more going on,” says Ogi. “I’d like to think that I was sophisticated enough to pick some of these things up, but it’s hard to say. Makes you wonder, though, if these things are reaching kids on some level.”
Ogi was clearly one of those that took something extra away from the show. Kikaida was the first television show he can remember watching. With its palette of primary colors and elaborately detailed costumes, the show was the reason he developed an interest in art, and continues to influence his work today.
Ogi is a 3-D sculptor. Instead of using clay or stone, he sculpts his works in a computer and then renders them using a 3-D printer. Currently, much of his work involves re-imagining and sculpting Japanese armor, fashioning otherworldly creations that are equal parts samurai and sci-fi. “When I was young, I found myself always wanting to draw Kikaida. As my skills developed, I moved on to other things,” says Ogi. “But I’d always return to Kikaida.”
Back in 2000, filmmaker Aaron Yamasato drew inspiration from an unexpected place. He was filming a scene for his martial arts action film Blood of the Samurai. After circling his actor, who was astride a motorcycle, Yamasato decided on a low-angle perspective, to make his character look larger than life. “I remember at the time thinking that the shot just looked and felt right,” says Yamasato.
Later, Yamasato screened a rough cut of the film for his crew. When the motorcycle shot flashed on the screen, someone called out, “Jiro!” and the rest of the small audience laughed and started to sing the Kikaida theme song. It turns out that Yamasato, a devoted Kikaida fan, had unconsciously mimicked the angle and composition of a staple shot from his favorite show.
“Kikaida helped me become who I am,” says Yamasato, who, like Ogi, says that Kikaida was one of the first television shows he remembers watching. “It was the music, the color, the sound. When you heard the guitar music, you knew Jiro had shown up to save the day. That was an awesome moment.”
Blood of the Samurai went on to win the Best Hawaii-Made Film award at the 2001 Hawaii International Film Festival. Yamasato spun off Blood into a television series, which aired on the cable station OC-16, and he’s currently working on a yet-to-be named ninja-inspired television show.
While Sam Campos remembers watching Kikaida as a child, it wasn’t until adulthood that the television director and producer developed a deep appreciation for the show. About five years ago, he produced a segment for the OC-16 show Dis-N-Dat, which paid tribute to Kikaida. While editing footage from the old show, Campos noticed an attention to detail that was impressive.