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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“I noticed that Jiro’s clothes were frayed at the ends, so I looked it up,” says Campos. “It turns out that, in Kabuki, a character that had frayed clothes has no soul. That kind of detail went into making the show and it blew me away.”
Shortly thereafter, Campos came up with an idea for a television show, and about a year and a half ago, started shooting Dragonfly. The show, which features a costumed main character who protects Hawaii from an evil alien monster, has been described as X-Files meets Kikaida. The project is self-financed and is produced around the cast’s schedule and Campos’ supply of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fried saimin.
Interestingly, both Yamasato and Campos have been able to convince Kikaida’s Jiro, Ban Daisuke, to star in their productions. The 65-year-old actor was cast in essentially the same role for each short, as a sensei and mentor to the hero.
“I was very nervous. Not only is he an experienced actor, he was my hero growing up,” says Yamasato. “I was afraid that I’d lose all that working with him.” But Yamasato had nothing to worry about. The actor nailed all his lines without any problems. He even contributed some ideas to the production. Jiro saved the day again.
Campos had a similar experience. “He was such a nice guy—professional, cooperative and very, very cool,” says Campos.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF TOEI CO. LTD.
Devin Oishi, 42, teaches drawing, painting and ceramics at Kaimuki High School. Slight and soft-spoken, he also possesses a dry, cutting wit and the jaundiced eye of a cynic, qualities that must come in handy for someone who has to deal with teenagers all day long. Like many Kikaida fans, he discovered the show early and it became a guiding influence for a career in art.
According to Oishi, behind a campy exterior, the show explored serious issues. It was about people’s inability to change no matter how hard they tried. “It is just the way it is and sometimes you can’t fix everything,” says Oishi.
As a high school teacher and the father of a 10-year-old son, Oishi has a good vantage point from which to assess the future of Kikaida fandom. At school, if any of his students draw tokusatsu characters, they draw Kamen Rider, a hero who was, and is, far more popular in Japan. He does report that his son is a big Kikaida fan. Father and son sat down and watched all 43 episodes together five years ago. He knows the song, and has practiced the karate kicks, but there is only so much a father can do.
“He likes the show, but not in the same way. He’s more influenced by Nintendo,” says Oishi. “And no matter how much my son likes Kikaida, his friends aren’t doing it and his cousins aren’t talking about it. How much fun can that be if you’re doing it all by yourself?”
Dave Choo is a former editor-at-large at PacificBasin Communications and a longtime Kikaida fan. His favorite Kikaida villain is Blue Buffalo.