It’s space time! We’re here to take a look at Space Sheriff  Gavan, the very first Metal Hero show ever. The series stars the fan favorite Kenji Ohba and boasts some pretty great production value for a tokusatsu of its’ era.
[東京地底の怪要塞] Tokyo Chitei no Kai Yosai
The Strange Fortress Under Tokyo
Writer: Shouzou Uehara

Sometime in the not too distant…er…well…at some point in time, a space colony goes up! Humanity is reaching for the stars and the future has never looked brighter. And then the Makuu Space Mafia step in. These guys have been hiding out inside of a black hole, waiting for their moment to strike. Lead by the statuesque Don Horror, they’re out to take over earth and convert all humans in creatures of pleasure and violence. The Makuu attack and soon enough the space colony is destroyed, alerting the Space Police to the situation.

The half human Space Sheriff Gavan is sent to earth, the planet of his and his mother’s birth, to defend it from the clutches of the Makuu. Gavan is joined by Mimi, daughter of the Space Police’s supreme commander. Our hero also learns that within the ranks of the Makuu is someone by the name of Hunter Killer. He’s a deadly criminal with a penchant for violence and no remorse. Worst of all, he was once a Space Sheriff himself. The guy gave up the badge to join up with Don Horror and the rest of the Makuu and now leads the physical attacks on earth against Gavan.

A group of kids find the secret underground base of the Makuu and it isn’t too long before they get themselves into some serious trouble. Gavan jumps in for the rescue and is soon fighting a shrimp themed monster created by Don Horror. After dealing with the tricky Makuu Space, Gavan is able to defeat the monster and finds work as a ranch hand.

Alright, so that was the first episode! It was action packed and impresses on a visual level…for the time at least. The show wastes no time in getting things going and introduces us to our main characters within a span of minutes. If you’ve been following the Zyuranger reviews or have seen that series at all, you’ll see that Barza’s actor is part of this show as well. Yay for older roles!

Within a span of minutes you already know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and what the bad guys are after. I’m not a fan of this process, mostly because it plays out like a ton of info dumping and I’m never really a fan of that in first episodes. It might help the viewer, but it sounds weird in universe. Maybe it’s just me coming of having just watched Kamen Rider Wizard with Medusa randomly explaining their goal, I dunno, I can’t help but feel that it doesn’t make sense in universe to say it. I just imagine these conversations in my head.

“Our goal is to take over this earth and free ourselves once again,”
“Who are you talking to?”
“It’s all thanks to that accursed Super Hero Guy X that we were trapped here!”
“…yeah, I was there. Look can we just-”
“And now we have to deal with his ancestor who aims to stop our goals”
“But we will stop him and take over this earth AND free ourselves!”
“!@#$ it, I’m going to Sentai. I hear they’re doing dinosaurs now,”

It’s so blatant and feels more so when you’re watching older tokusatsu. I think it was just how things worked back then, but the narrator often does the exposition for you. A lot of these older tokusatsu shows can be very “all tell and no show” when it comes to story beats. I mean, we even have the narrator telling us how Gavan feels! I get that Gavan is an action show, but this is something I always have to settle back into when watching older shows. It’s been a while since I’ve watched anything older than Bioman, so this should be a fun experience on that front.

The rest of the episode was pretty cool though, mostly because it’s nearly all action. The Makuu destroy a space colony and then head to earth with Gavan on their tails. What I enjoyed quite a lot about the action in this episode is that it’s so well done, and not just suit fighting. The space ships that attack the colony have great production values in terms of miniatures. As you see them flying around, they kind of do feel like actual ships zooming and destroying stuff. It was in these scenes that I couldn’t help but be reminded of the sort of quality found in the 1953 version of the H.G. Wells’ classic, War of the Worlds. In fact, miniatures in general are a ton of fun in this series. They always appear to have been crafted with precise detail and definition and this does so mush to help give the illusion of them being these gigantic objects, just look at Gavan’s ship!

Moving on to the cast, Kenji Ohba is amazing, as always. There’s a reason he’s one of my favorite tokusatsu actors and Gavan is one of those roles that you can’t help but love him in. The guy is playing a bit of a tough character, but at the same time he definitely has this inquisitive side to himself. I think early Metal Heroes is when the franchise truly stands out from Super Sentai. These were the days when a lot of the Sentai heroes generally felt like the same people over and over and over again. Kenji Ohba is able to breath some great fresh air into the execution of a bamf hero.

There isn’t much to speak of as far as the rest of the cast go, no one else gets a ton of focus. Mimi, the daughter of Gavan’s boss, is playful and flirtatious. It’s pretty rare that you find a tokusatsu heroine so open about her feelings towards the main character. I do wonder if Gavan is supposed to come off a little oblivious to her advances though and just be this…really job focused guy. That’s the impression that I get at least.

The Makuu Space scenes were also very bizarre and if you’ve only ever heard how weird the Metal Heroes can be at times, this is a great example. The sky is black and red and people are walk around in mid air. It seems like a place that was destroyed by the Makuu long ago and is now simply used as a battlefield where their monsters have stronger than average strength. But it’s a ton of fun to watch.

So that’s the first episode of Gavan! Very action oriented, at the cost of what I think could have been some genuinely unique story telling for its time, but still a lot of fun. We have a lot of things set up in the first episode so let’s hope that the rest of the series can expand upon them.