Japanese electronics giant Toshiba, is the result of two major companies merging in 1939. The first was Tanaka Seizosho who manufactured telegraph equipment, and then later became Shibaura Seisakusho, who was a leader in heavy electrical machinery. The second Hakunetsusha, later renamed Tokyo Denki, produced incandescent electric lamps. The original merger was known as Tokyo Shibaura Denki, before officially becoming Toshiba. Aside from inventing the laptop, DVD, and the not so popular HD DVD, Toshiba also was associated with a popular Japanese iconic character. Sci-Fi Hero KOUSOUKU ESPER (LIGHT SPEED ESPER) became the advertising mascot for Toshiba in 1964. Even the company’s pencil sharpeners were called Esper.
Kousoku Esper’s design was created by Asano Riji, who also illustrated a manga version in “Shonen“ magazine. The manga was later taken over by Akira Matsumoto. Akira later in his career changed his name to Leiji Matsumoto, who is the well known, legendary manga artist that was behind such hits as SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, GALAXY EXPRESS 999, DANGAURD ACE, and CAPTAIN HARLOCK. Matsumoto’s character designs and mecha are some of the most memorable images in manga/anime history.
In 1967 Senkosha Productions, with backing from Toshiba, released a 26 episode color TV series of the sci-fi action hero. The story begins with a young boy Hikaru Azuma (Kiyotaka Mitsugi)(SHIRO-SHISHI KAMEN, ULTRAMAN TARO) and his parents who are enjoying a balloon ride. Suddenly their balloon explodes and they crash into the forest leaving Hikaru’s parents dead. We find out the balloon collided with an alien spacecraft from Andromeda. The friendly aliens known as Esper Seijin (Alien Esper), feel bad for what they have done and possess the bodies of Hikaru’s parents so the boy is not left alone. The Espers/Hikaru’s parents, are very aware of an impending invasion by the Giron Seijin (Alien Giron) who want to conquer our planet. Meanwhile Professor Asakawa of the Atomic Research Institute is designing a super jet suit, but can’t quite figure out how to complete it. The Espers use telepathy to give the Professor the knowledge he needs to finish the super suit, and thus creating the Light Speed Esper.
Now Hikaru will use the Esper suit against the Giron invasion. The suit has many weapons and gadgets, it’s main one is a rocket pack which allows the operator to fly anywhere, even into space. The suit can withstand volcanic heat, extreme cold, and even heavy underwater pressure. Most of the suit’s operations like the jet pack and a shrinking mechanism are controlled by a lighted dial on the wearer’s chest. Hikaru is also armed with a multi function ray gun that can not only shoot lasers, but heat blasts and freezing beams. The helmet has an array of functions as well, including radar, transmitting and receiving radio waves, and protecting the operator in deep space and underwater travel. Hikaru becomes a master of the suit which enables him to repel the Giron Seijin’s attacks. Everything from alien funguses, giant monoliths, and massive meteors, Hikaru is able to stop them all.
The Espers give Hikaru advice and aid during missions by telepathy through a mechanical bird Chika. Hikaru is able to contact Professor Asakawa with a Dick Tracy-like watch that lets both parties talk and receive a video image of each other. Later Hikaru is joined by the Professor’s son Hikari (Kousoku Esper 2), who also has a super space car. Kousoku Esper has a lot of cool stories and original concepts. Even though the effects are not high end by today‘s standards, the intentions of the visuals hit big. If you dig Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, or even Captain Video, you’ll have a lot of fun watching this one.