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A Superhero’s China Trip

The Japanese time traveler turned golf-coach who found his own wrinkle in time in China

10·20·2016

Sixty-year-old golf coach Yoshihiro Onishi visited China early October this year for the first time, and found his reputation had already preceded him—by about 28 years.

Back in the late 1970s, with the stage name Tetsuya Onishi, Mr Onishi appeared in the tokusatsu television show Dinosaur Corps Koseidon by Tsuburaya Production. He played leading man Toki Gow in the show, which made its way to China in the 1980s. The program remained one of the most cherished screen memories of many Chinese.

Ask anyone born in the 70s and 80s who grew up with a television set, chances are, they knew Gow, or his alter ego, Koseida, a superhero who shot out a battleship via cannon to fight against an alien invasion. He has the ability to freeze time for 30 seconds, and best of all, it happened in the dinosaur era.

Onishi was invited by one of his biggest fans, martial art artist Zhao Jilong, for an online talk show. Zhao spoke of Onishi’s role as his childhood inspiration of pursuing martial arts since the tender age of five. “When never I feel tired or defeated, I would think of Koseida, my hero, and think what he would do in my situation,” Zhao said, “I knew he would never give up fighting, that’s what kept me going through the rigorous training as a child.”

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Yoshihiro Onishi (middle) and Zhang Jilong (right) talk with fans in a small gathering

Now a martial arts coach, and TV personal of various kung fu programs and documentaries, most notably, as the judge of CCTV-5’s martial arts competition Wuling Assembly, Zhao met Onishi during a trip to Japan and revealed to him that he was sensational in China, which Onishi had no idea before, since the show didn’t received the same attention back in its home country. Onishi himself changed career and became a professional golfer in the 1980s. The two bounded over their mutual love for action and even found a common ground for kung fu and golf.

“When Zhao tried golf as a beginner, I was surprised to find out he was very good,” recalled Onishi, “then over talks, we realized that both golf and martial arts rely on one’s internal force or inner power.”

Tokusatsu, literally “special filming” in Japanese, refers to sci-fi, horror or fantasy film or TV drama with heavy use of special effects. Originally established in the 1950s before the fancy CGI we are used to today, the classic tokusatsu films are photographed with models, props, sandboxes and consumes. Featuring terrifying kaiju or monsters and superheroes saving the day, usually accompanied by their signature pose and catchy phrases, this is one of the most popular forms of Japanese entertainment that brought us Godzilla, the Power Rangers, Ultraman and many more masked superheroes in tights.

In 1988, a producer named Feng Tao in Shanxi TV Station made the decision of buying and re-producing Koseidon for Chinese audiences. The science factor may have come into play as to why this particular show was picked over other bigger productions at the time. Distinctive from those with more fantasy elements, Koseidon sets in the then near future 21st century when superluminal particles’ existence is confirmed and can be harnessed for time travel. After detecting an alien attack in the Cretaceous Period 70 million years before their time, a patrol is sent back to prevent the disaster that might alter the course of Earth’s history.

The 52-episode show drew its audience in with some very popular sci-fi components: a fair-haired alien princess with a secret and a death mark, a R2-D2 look alike robot with an ego, a super computer named “Mother of Time” providing real time intelligence analysis, aggressive dinosaurs telepathically controlled by the aliens…and of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some romance between the princess and our male protagonist.

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Koseidon features vivid characters including a alien princess and a robot [Baidu Baike]

As the first of its kind on Chinese screens, the show left behind a profound influence and numerous devoted fans. Tencent Pictures just announced this September a plan to produce a film adaption of Koseidon with horror specialist, The Ring director, Takashige Ichise, which has already met with great enthusiasm from the market.

Over the years, China produced many of its own tokusatsu TV dramas, such as Blala the Fairies (2008), Amor Hero (2009) and Giant Saver (2011), all with Japanese influences, from costume design to plot. Still, they may face trouble from time to time just getting aired. One particular drama, Turned Soldier A Long (2006), depicted a village boy named A Long, who after finding out his real identity is a half-blood alien with super powers, he goes on to fight evil overlords from space. The broadcast license was cancelled half way through the show with the official explanation that it applied for the wrong category as a cartoon, and turned out to be a TV drama. In many cases of tokusatsu dramas, given that fantasy theme is discouraged by SAPPRFT, producers have limited room for creation, but opt for producing purely children’s program. Every culture has their own monsters and superheroes. It would be a great shame if China never finds its own.

 

Cover image from Baidu Baike

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