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Anime / 8th Man

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Based on the manga series 8 Man by Jiro Kuwata and Kazumasa Hirai, this 1963 anime tells the story of a private investigator named Hachiro Azuma (Brady in the US), ambushed by criminals and run over by a car. As he lies dying, a mysterious scientist rescues him and gives him a new cyborg body.

Now empowered beyond ordinary men, Azuma becomes (all by himself) the secret 8th division of the Tokyo Police. His only superior is bureau chief Tanaka (called Chief Fumblethumbs, of all things, in English). Now called 8-Man ("Eighth Man", in English, because according to the dub he was the eighth cyborg attempt — and the first one to work!), he has the usual array of powers: Super-Strength, Super-Speed, plus Voluntary Shapeshifting and the unusual ability to detach and remotely control his limbs. In a detail that would never get past kid-vid censors today, 8-Man recharged his power supply using "special cigarettes". He spent much of his time fighting an array of goofy enemies ranging from communist spies and robot bats to gangsters with bizarre names right out of Dick Tracy.

Although the animation was average for a TV series of its time (it ran from November 7, 1963 to December 12, 1964 in Japan), by modern standards it is laughable and crude (like most shows of its era). In addition to being in black and white, its production crew had almost no experience with cel animation and took several episodes to gain any skill with the form. Even then it was of low quality, with a minimal frame rate, low detail, and wooden movement.

Despite this, it is still viewed with a certain amount of nostalgia in both Japan and the United States, so much so that there was actually a (reputedly awful) Live-Action Adaptation produced in 1992. There was also a 1991 action game that was one of the first releases for the Neo Geo.

It also prompted a Darker and Edgier Revival OVA series in 1993, 8th Man After. This has joined its originator as a Cult Classic due to its unique blend of dark Cyberpunk and over-the-top Super Hero themes. It is also remembered for its mock-worthy Drugs Are Bad themes - Cybernetics Eat Your Soul because they are unusable without Psycho Serum. Eight Man is resurrected to fight them, fueled by Super Serum. Just Say NO to Psycho Serum - Use Super Serum! This could have all been avoided by simply distributing the "safe" serum. Then lots of people could have cybernetics. But Reed Richards Is Useless. It's just an anime, I should really just relax and enjoy the ultraviolence. 8th Man After was released in English by Streamline Pictures in the Nineties; Discotek Media re-released it on DVD in 2016 with both the original Japanese language track and Streamline's dub.

Along with Astro Boy, Gigantor and Speed Racer, 8th Man is historically significant as one of the first anime series to be distributed in the United States. The American version's newly animated opening sequence was the first professional animation work done by Ralph Bakshi.

Any similarities to another story about a dying cop revived by Science are purely coincidental.

The original series contains examples of:

  • Art Shift: the American theme song, mentioned below, is considerably more western-looking than the series itself.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The theme to the English dub combines this trope and Never Trust a Trailer, as the theme and (American animated) opening sequence described Eight Man fighting aliens (which he never does) and flying (which he can't do). A very young Ralph Bakshi was responsible for the new (and Off-Model) opening.
  • Inconsistent Dub: To name just one example, one episode features an assassin named Ice Finger. Later he appears again as the brain donor for a killer robot, but for some reason his name was changed to Cold Knuckle.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: How the whole thing started. The leader of the gang that Azuma was going after pretended to surrender so that his other henchmen can run him over with their car while he was distracted, killing him. This lead to the scientist retrieving his body and rebuilding him as 8th Man.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: 8 Man recharges his super-batteries or whatever by smoking radium-laced cigarettes.
  • Ruritania: The professor who created 8th Man is said to have defected from a fictional country called Armico, to explain why all his blueprints and written communications are in a weird foreign language (Japanese, of course).
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: His secret identity is named Tobor.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Eight Man was also built with the ability to use his artifical skin to change his appearance — usually to his secret identity of Tobor, but frequently for undercover missions. He has the Required Secondary Power of changing his voice to help impersonate other people, too.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Eight Man has to smoke (or eat) what appear to be cigarettes to keep his powers running. Great when he's facing a firing squad, but what if kids see him smoking and he sets a bad example?
    • Note that the latter issue is only thanks to Values Dissonance with the time period the character was originally created in. 60s Japan was a time when people still believed cigarettes were good for you.

8th-Man After contains examples of:

  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Cyborgs routinely run rampant because the cybernetic link to the nervous system along with the massive boost in strength unhinges most people's minds. Eight Man, being a (Bishōnen) Phlebotinum Rebel with "good cybernetics" is able to escape these effects (mostly) and battle the evil Mega-Corp producing them.
  • Dragon Ascendant: After sabotaging the football team, Tony Gleck is able to stage a hostile takeover of the Biotechno Mega-Corp, and force his former boss Mr. Halloween (Daigo) to be turned into a cyborg suicide bomber.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Used by the OVA in place of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: it's not the cybernetics per se that drives the users crazy, but the massive quantities of Psycho Serum they have to take to use the implants effectively. Eight Man makes do with good-old Super Serum. Which turns out to be closer to "I Just Get These Headaches" Serum, because of the overreaction Hazama has to the memory of his (fiancee/sister)'s murder. The metaphor becomes a little on-the-nose when Eight Man has to fight a football team that was augmented, and later help his sidekick's Disappeared Dad, a team member, fight through withdrawal symptoms.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: In the first episode (or act of the Compilation Movie), Tanaka mentions that Hazama's fiancee was killed. Much later, when Hazama actually flashes back to the incident, several characters mention that his sister was the one killed.
  • Flash Step: Eight Man's superspeed is portrayed as this trope, with the sparks of his footsteps often the only sign that something struck an opponent.
  • Killed Off for Real: In 8th Man After it's revealed that Azuma was deleted from his cyborg body with no explanation as to how or why he was deleted, the only remaining trace being his name, and his successor Hazama inheriting the body. However, combining statements from Sachiko and Professor Tani suggests that Azuma eventually wasn't able to cope with his situation and died. Since Tani had the body to begin with, it's possible that he ended up euthanizing Azuma.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Tanaka ("Fumblethumbs") from the original series (and his rookie cop nephew Ichiro) have noticeably more cartoony designs than the other characters.
  • Put on a Bus: Azuma disappears not a minute into the OVA, never to be seen again.
    • Bus Crash: We later discover that Hazama isn't a totally new Eight Man, but inhabits the original body. Azuma's mind had been deleted by persons and methods unknown.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In After, Hazama remembers the night his fiancee (or sister?) was murdered by Tony Gleck, and how he promptly hunted down and killed those responsible. The memory of the murder unfortunately can trigger Unstoppable Rage.
  • Super Serum: Used in the OVA; Professor Tani has a higher-quality serum that allows Hazama to function without going crazy. At least, without going as crazy.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Hazama still has this ability as the new Eight Man; however, besides changing to and from his secret identity, he only uses it to distract Sachiko from discovering his secret. When she realizes that Hazama had been stabbed before his Emergency Transformation, Hazama uses his powers to produce the scar that Sachiko expected.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sachiko chews out Eight Man for using excessive force in killing a rampaging cyborg football team, going so far as to call him scarier than the cyborgs he killed. The cyborgs that were in the midst of slaughtering dozens of innocent fans in the stands and were just about to do the same to Sachiko before Eight Man arrived. Of course, it could be a Dub-Induced Plot Hole because Eight Man not only killed cyborgs that he'd already disabled, but grabbed Sachiko by the collar and was about to do the same to her. Eight Man and Professor Tani comment that the incident was a rampage; Hazama and Eight Man aren't really that compatible due to his Unstoppable Rage, and there's an ever-present threat of Hazama tearing people to pieces just because he's in the grip of a violent flashback.