The Wayback Machine: Eightman (1965)
We have discussed early Japan-amation, as TV manga used to be called over in the States, with examples of Astro Boy, Marine Boy and Prince Planet. But one of my favorite, and a very weird show it was, was Eightman.
So let’s once again go to the Wayback Machine, set the dials for around 1965 when the cartoon was brought to the U.S. and young Byron Brewer. And here we goooooo …
Eightman was created by science fiction writer Kazumasa Hirai and manga artist Jiro Kuwata. He is considered Japan’s earliest cyborg superhero, predating even Kamen Rider (the same year, Shotaro Ishinomori created Cyborg 009), and was supposedly the inspiration for RoboCop.
The manga was published in Weekly Shōnen Magazine and ran from 1963 to 1966. The anime series, produced by Eiken with the TCJ Animation Center, was broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System, and ran from November 17, 1963 to December 31, 1964, with a total of 56 episodes (plus the "farewell" special episode, "Goodbye, Eightman").
The story: Murdered by criminals, Detective Yokoda's body is retrieved by Professor Tani and taken to his laboratory. There, Tani performs an experiment that has failed seven times; Yokoda is the latest subject to have his life force transferred into an android body. For the first time, the experiment succeeds. Yokoda is reborn as the armor-skinned android Eightman, able to dash at impossible speeds, as well as shape-shift into other people.
He shifts himself into Yokoda, this time christening himself as "Hachiro Azuma". He keeps this identity a secret, known only to Tani and his police boss Chief Tanaka. Even his girlfriend Sachiko and friend Ichiro do not know he is an android. As Eightman, Hachiro fights crime (even bringing his murderers to justice). He smoked "energy" cigarettes to rejuvenate his powers, and he carried them in a cigarette case … on his belt! (Not sure what the American Cancer Society would make of this today, lol.)
In Japan, the character's origin actually varies significantly between the original manga, the TV series, and a live-action movie. In the original Japanese manga and TV series, the character's name does not change when he is reborn as Eightman. The "Detective Yokoda" name was created for the live action version. In the manga, Detective Azuma is trapped in a warehouse and gunned down while the TV series has him killed when he is run over by a car. Also, in the Japanese story, the character is called "Eightman" because he is considered an extra member of the Japanese police force. There are seven regular police precincts and Eightman is treated as an unofficial eighth precinct all to himself.
The Japanese manga was presented as serial novella stories along with a set of one-shot stories. Many of the stories were edited down and adapted for the TV series but not all of them. The novella stories were originally printed one a weekly basis in Shukuu Shōnen Magazine in 16-page increments that actually consisted of 15 story pages and one title page. Ten additional one-shot stories were presented in seasonal and holiday specials of Shuukuu Shōnen Magazine. The one-shot stories were generally between 30-40 pages in length.
Eightman was one of my all-time favorites!