Saturday, February 21, 2009

Up, up and away, forever

Okay, another one of my ‘those who came really late’ stories. To my generation (people who were born in the 70s), TV was the biggest luxury. You know, the time when TVs were black and white and they came in this huge wooden box with shutters. The era of Doordarshan, when you waited for almost an entire minute for that doordarshan logo to unfold before a programme would start. Programmes, we would so eagerly wait for. We would hang on to everything that was beamed on the idiot box and we would lap it all up. But one programme I used to watch as a boy and thought to be the greatest show of all time was, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.

For the uninitiated, it is a Japanese Tokusatsu (which literally means, Special Effect) series about a Japanese boy, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot who save the world from the evil plans of Emperor Guillotine from the planet Gargoyle. Johnny is joined in his adventures by a young man named Jerry Mano, who is secretly Member U3 of the top-secret peacekeeping organization, Unicorn, which even Johnny joins after their fateful first meeting. So each episode would consist of Guillotine trying to destroy the earth by sending a missile or a monster and Johnny and His Robot fighting it off.

It was such a pleasure to watch the show. Now when I look back at it, it was crude and very primitive in style compared to what we have today. But back then, when you’re was not even 10, who would care or even bother about it. That was the best shit we were getting to watch and it was great. For an elite crime-fighting group, Johnny and his team members wore scooter helmets and not so flattering clothes. Guillotine himself had a large blue head with tentacles extending from the bottom of the head, wore a long robe, and carried a staff with a white orb. His terrorist army called Gargoyle consisted of a pretty incompetent bunch that wore uniforms like Soviet soldiers and greeted Emperor Guillotine with a Hitleresque hail, a la Japanese Nazi. And Flying Robot, for some strange reason looked nothing like a Japanese character, what with a Pharaoh kind of hairdo and face. Still, with all it’s limitations of low budget production and not so advanced technology, it made for a great watch. They beamed the series dubbed in English, which we never noticed. To us, that’s the way the Japs spoke English, with the lips movements and uttered word having no relationship whatsoever. Even if you missed the dialogues, you’d never miss the context as the facial expressions of Japanese actors would successfully convey it. The only exception was the Giant Robot who was a wee bit less expressive than John Abraham.

The reason, I think, Johnny Sokko struck a chord with kids around the world was that somewhere, somehow they saw themselves in both the characters. I am sure, whoever watched the series then secretly or not so secretly so wished to have a Giant Robot friend at his or her command, to thrash the bullies around. I remember, I wanted to be Johnny Sokko and Giant Robot both. I would pretend to be Johnny Sokko and call my imaginary giant Robot on my two-size-too-big fake branded china-made digital watch. And then I would do the Robot part too, complete with the ‘robotic’ hand movements, before flying off. Now when I think of it, so many memories of the show and its impact on me, flood my mind. I still remember the last episode where the Giant Robot finally battles with Guillotine himself. The robot had used up all his nuclear energy and had no strength left. Guillotine increases his size to that of the robot, but his body is a mass of atomic energy. So if a bullet were to hit him, his body would explode and the entire Earth would explode with him. Johnny activates Giant Robot’s auxiliary power source and fights Guillotine. He disobeys Johnny’s commands to stop attacking and flies into Space with Guillotine and they collide with a meteor destroying them both. Johnny Sokko breaks into tears and as Johnny, Gerry and the rest of the Unicorn Agency salute the Giant Robot we are left with the words “And so the saga comes to an end. Giant Robot sacrificed himself to save the Earth from the terrible Guillotine but, who knows, when Johnny desperately needs him again, perhaps like a miracle he will come back out of the sky.” But that never happened. The Robot flew up, up and away, never to come back. I remember I cried my eyes out when Giant Robot ‘died’.
Thankfully I stumbled upon some forums and these videos on youtube. I can’t be thankful enough to the gentle souls who share the same love for Johnny Sokko as me. Guys, thanks to you, I got to revisit a part of my childhood. I’m sure you’d love them as much as I did. Adding a couple of links here, you can see more in youtube, sadly the sites like hulu and Johnny where you can see entire episodes for free are only available in America.

I do a lot of nonsense TV watching now, flipping channels after channels endlessly, what with so many channels nowadays, but hardly anything captivating enough to watch. In the good ol’ days of Doordarshan we didn’t have the luxury. Or rather we didn’t need it.


Genius said...

oh ya ! DD was a pleasure to watch coz it was the only means of entertainment at home during those days. I simply luvd watchin fire ball , i luv lucy , treasure island just to name a few. kahan gaye woh din ?

divya said...

Oh DD was a gem. I think with fewer channels I watched a lot more tv than I do now.

vimsical said...

@ GeniusML & Divya: Yeah, like i said in a previous post aswell...choice makes us substandard. Seriously...kahaan gaye woh din?!

gaurav jain said...

yes,i pretty much agree with divya. They had variety of channels,with not much hotch potch and smaller stories. SO,for me also definitely dd was better..

roshni said...

I don't remember Johny Soko and his flyinb robot :(
I remember watching he-man, glow friends (we're the glow friends lalalallala) oh oh byomkesh bakshi and malgudi days. Life was so simple and everything was so new and exciting then :)