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Series / Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad

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Tim Curry adds "hammy virus villain" to Transformers: Generation One.

"The evil Kilokahn lives inside computer circuits! With the help of Malcolm Frink, he creates Megavirus Monsters to attack electronic systems! Meanwhile, a freak accident turns Sam Collins into Servo! His friends join forces in their samurized attack vehicles! Together, they transform into... the SUPERHUMAN SAMURAI SYBER-SQUAD!"
Opening Narration (as provided by Gary Owens)

Yet another in the wave of post-Power Rangers American superhero shows adapted from Japanese tokusatsu series. Adapted from Tsuburaya Productions' Denkō Chōjin Gridman ("Electric Superhuman Gridman"), Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (yes, that is "Syber" with an "S") tells the story of Sam Collins, a high school student, guitarist and video game programmer who, after being hit by a power surge through his guitar, briefly vanishes, only to reappear with a wrist-mounted doohickey!

At the same time, the same power surge, presumably, strikes a military base. Using it as a distraction, the AI Kilokahn (voiced by Tim Curry) escapes into the internet and pops onto the monitor of Sam's classmate Malcolm Frink. Malcolm enjoys designing monsters, and Kilokahn offers to bring his monsters to life as Megavirus Monsters to attack computers. Malcolm agrees, because he's just that kind of malcontent.

Later, Sam, still having an unknown phlebotinum attached to him at the wrist, tries to call a girl he recently met, only to be interrupted when a Megavirus Monster attacks the phone company, disrupting every telephone on the planet. Dejected, he notices strange activity on his computer in the form of a model called the Servo Program. While he checks it out, yet another power surge hits, this time drawing him into Cyberspace. He takes the form of Servo, and is forced to fight the Megavirus, which he has been transported to. The rest of the band, Syd, Tanker, and Amp (later replaced by Lucky) assist using "helper programs" that take the form of "samurized attack vehicles" which can fight the Megavirus independently. They can join together into a single robot, called Zenon, or combine with Servo to form Synchro. Later, they gain another set of vehicles which can transform into Drago and combine with Servo to form Phormo.

The show was notable in that, unlike most other toku adaptations of the time but like international coproductions in their flagship Ultra Series before and after this series, Tsuburaya themselves had direct involvement with the production, resulting in some retained plot elements, similar characterisations and reused sound effects.

Years later, Studio TRIGGER produced a remake of Gridman titled SSSS.GRIDMAN. The title pays homage to the American series, and Gridman's Assist Weapons are named in homage to Zenon's individual samurized attack vehicle components.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad provides examples of:

  • Action Figure File Card: The toys had them.
  • Actor Allusion: Suberted with Matthew Lawrence. In the episode "Starkey in Syberspace", Sam disguises himself as a girl so that he can get into the girl’s club. The subversion is that this was the main motive of his onscreen-father Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Kilometric Knowledge-base Animate Human Nullity (Kilokahn). Really, what were they thinking giving him a name like that? The second episode provides his backstory: an upper-echelon secret government project researching into AI that was presumed destroyed, along with the research team, in a freak plasma accident. It's never explained whether Kilokhan was corrupted by the accident or if he caused it.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Sam's girlfriend Jennifer is head cheerleader. Malcolm also pines for her too.
  • All Just a Dream: In one episode, a Megavirus Monster in Sam Collins's alarm clock gives him a sequence of Dream Within a Dream nightmares. Eventually he wakes up for real and defeats it. And then he wakes up for real for real. Probably.
  • As You Know: Quite often.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sam's teammates did this repeatedly whenever he was being overwhelmed by a virus and needed help. Sometimes they came in with their "helper programs", other times they simply sent him his sword and shield.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Hock had large knife-like blades on his hands, large knife-like blades in his tail and a large knife-like blade in the center of his face. Notice a pattern here?
  • Blatant Lies: One episode featured an on-the-street reporter supposedly interviewing pedestrians about their thoughts on the current crisis. Every segment was labelled "Live" even though it was clearly pre-recorded as a) The segments were edited together and b) Each interviewee was actually the same person in a Paper-Thin Disguise. That was the joke, though, because they couldn't find anyone on the street to interview.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Tanker. The only things he likes more than beating up viruses are his friends and football, in that order.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Syd reprograms Kilokhan into a harmless children's show game character in one episode in an attempt to end his threat once and for all. It works, but Malcolm fixes him.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: Each member of of the team had (at least) one.
    • Sam: "Let's Samuraize, guys!"
    • Sydney: "Pump up the power!"
    • Tanker: "Let's kick some Giga-Butt!"
    • Lucky: "Surf's up!"
    • A one-shot guest character: “Go team?”
    • Amp usually has a random battle cry every episode he "samurized". Here's a few: "Two for a Dollar!", "I'll bring the marshmellows!", "With a Cherry on Top!"
    • What's funny is, it turns out the phrases are completely unnecessary. Miss Starkey finds herself in the digital world after pushing a button when she sees Drago (and the improvements Syd was making to it) onscreen and thinks it's part of a video game.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': One episode has Sam and Team Samurai deciding to blow off a class for band practice, sure that the teacher won’t miss them. Unfortunately, the Principal has taken over the class and gives them detention for it.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The device that allows Sam to become Servo is stuck to his wrist and can't be removed, which probably explains why he's the only one who ever becomes Servo, with one exception.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Amp was frequently called a "space cadet", and in fact it was revealed that he regularly attends space camp. In fact, in his farewell episode, he leaves behind a postcard that reads "Greetings from the Crab Nebula."
  • Coconut Superpowers: While obviously the virus monsters' offensive powers used against the Syber Squad could be shown, thanks to the show only having four sets they couldn't actually do more than tell the viewer secondhand about the real world effects of their meddling like creating a force field dividing the city in half or somehow turning drinking water into acid.
  • Combat Medic: Servo was an unusual variant in that he had healing powers, but he didn't restore the other members of the Squad. Rather, he could repair the damage done by the viruses after he'd destroyed them and restore the machines they'd infected to their normal functions.
  • Composite Character: While Naoto Sho and Gridman were separate characters who merged together, Sam Collins and Servo are one and the same, with the exception of one episode where Tank transforms into Servo because Sam's unavailable.
  • Costume Copycat
    • Tanker was forced to take Sam's place as Servo on one occasion when Sam wasn't available.
    • On a larger scale, in the toyline, the main Servo figure was repainted numerous times to represent armored versions of Tanker, Syd and Amp (along with the requisite Servo repaints and chromed figures). These armored forms did not appear in the show.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Malcolm Frink, who goes out of his way to insult everyone around him on a regular basis.
  • Decomposite Character: Syd's and Jennifer's roles in the story are held by a same character in the Japanese series. Yuka Inoue dates Sam's Japanese counterpart like Jennifer dates Sam and is one of the heroes like Syd.
  • Disguised in Drag:
    • "Born With a Jealous Mind": when Syd wins a date with a celebrity, Tanker tries to pose as her in order to scare the guy into cancelling the date. It almost works until Syd enters.
    • "Starkey in Syberspace": Sam does this to try to learn what goes on in an all-girls club, but he has even worse luck, as Starkey immediately sees through the disguise. Incidentally, this example also involves dressing up like Syd.
  • Distaff Counterpart / Spear Counterpart: Sam travels to an alternate universe in one episode, where he meets a version of Malcolm who's a nice guy and essentially that universe's version of Sam. Main-universe Malcolm's role is filled by Yolanda Pratchett, the principal's daughter and friend to Sydney and Jennifer, serving as a black female version of Malcolm in that she colludes with Kilokhan and creates the Mega-Virus Monsters.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: In the original Japanese show, we get at least some sort of explanation of where Gridman came from. The American version doesn't really give any explanation as to where Servo or his helper programs came from.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: In one episode, Amp scored the highest on a national aptitude test. He's very hurt when everyone assumes that there was either a mistake in the scores or that he cheated. The Respect came at the end of the episode where a repeat of the test (due to loss of data earlier) showed his score was on par with Sydney.
  • Everyone Owns A Compaq: Probably because they were all the same computer rather than Product Placement.
  • Everything Is Online: Everything. Telephones, wristwatches, pompoms with lights in them, an alarm clock (not even a digital one!), and a windup cooking timer with no electronic components whatsoever have all been used to host Megavirus Monsters.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: Probably the only reason to have "Samurai" in the title, as the show has nothing to do with them otherwise.
    • It's possible the name was inspired by the vaguely samurai armor-ish designs of Synchro and Phormo.
  • Exact Words: In one episode, Syd tries to design a "good" megavirus monster, and Kilokhan agrees to animate it, promising that he won't make any changes. So he gets Malcolm to reprogram it for him.
  • Expy: Servo and Zenon bear a striking resemblance to Ultraman and Optimus Prime respectively. This is not a coincidence, since the original Japanese series (Gridman) was a co-production between Tsuburaya and Takara.
    • Also regarding Transformers, Sam Collins himself is an expy to Spike Witwicky, from The Transformers animated series.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Kilokhan refers to humans as "meat-things".
  • Five-Man Band Concert: The main characters belong to a teen rock band called "Team Samurai" but are never seen performing. The one time they skip classes to practice, they get interrupted. And then they do a magic act for the school's talent show. Purportedly, The Leader Sam is the lead guitarist, The Big Guy Tanker is the drummer, The Ditz Amp is the bassist, and The Smart Girl Syd is the keyboardist and vocalist.
  • Frankenslation: Gridman + original footage.
  • Gender Scoff: After obtaining a small victory against Sam Collins in "Samurize", Malcolm subverts the usual phrase by saying "can't throw them at a nuclear reactor" instead of "can't live without 'em".
  • Gratuitous Ninja: The virus Skorn had various ninja-related powers, including the ability to create illusory duplicates of himself, energy bolts shaped like shurikens, and ninja weapons like nunchuks and katanas.
  • Hand Blasts: Servo can shoot energy bolts from his left wrist gauntlet.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Both Malcolm and Kilokhan, on separate occasions. It doesn't take either time.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: The handle of Servo's shield contained a sword that he could use as a melee weapon. It could also be fused with the shield to create a strange sword/axe combination.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Combined with The Hero Dies and Senseless Sacrifice and subverts all three of them at once. When Servo is battling Kilokhan, it's clear that he's outmatched and tells Malcolm, who by now has gotten a Heel–Face Turn, to reboot the computer to destroy them both. Malcolm does so, with Sam being ready to sacrifice himself to destroy Kilokhan. All three tropes are turned on their heads as Sam's consciousness escapes the computer and returns to his body, and it turns out that Malcolm had already backed up Kilokhan on a floppy disk, so Servo's sacrifice would have been in vain. Go figure. And everyone loses their memories of the event, which is why Malcolm notices that Kilokhan is missing and re-installs it onto his computer. *gonk* It's like we're watching a Cosmic Retcon in action. "Those past twenty minutes? Ignore them, they never happened!"

    Apparently, they thought they were getting cancelled, so they used the Gridman finale for this blockbuster ending where Kilokhan finds where Sam lives, fails to kill Malcolm in a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness moment, does kill Sam dead with an electric jolt before he can enter the net as Servo, there's a touching Take Up My Sword scene with Malcolm, and when Malcolm tries to become Servo, it turns out the Servo program has saved Sam via Brain Uploading. Sam battles Kilokhan personally in the bowels of Servo's own program (with the villain destroying all of the helper programs except the already-summoned sword and shield) then takes the battle to Kilokhan's own turf, and has to use the power surge from the rebooting to wipe it and Kilokhan out for good. He appears to be destroyed too as Kilokhan - along with the area of the net that is him as much as his body - breaks up, but Servo manages to survive, and hopes that he can return to his human life, somehow, someday, with the answer unknown. "Maybe I can return to my body someday. Maybe not. But for now... let's samuraize, guys!" And with that, he flies off, going through all the Servo-en-route footage we've seen so far, and the blip representing him travels along the telephone wires, and then leaves them, flying into the sky for parts unknown. Damn. Did we mention this was the Christmas episode? When they had to do more episodes, there was no way to do it but to tack on a "It all got undone somehow and nobody remembers" ending. And when they had to end the show, it feels like a Cut Short as they'd already used up the Grand Finale. The last episode could've been any old episode.
  • Humans Are Special: Servo keeps telling Kilokhan that this is the reason he always wins. For his part, Kilokhan doesn't believe that Servo is a human, because inferior "meat-things" could never defeat his superior programs.
  • Humongous Mecha: Zenon and Drago, which were formed by combining different vehicles and could also transform into armor worn by Servo.
    • Combining Mecha
      • Vitor + Tractor + Borr = Zenon
      • Jamb + Torb = Drago
    • Mecha Expansion Pack
      • Servo + Zenon = Synchro
      • Servo + Drago = Phormonote 
  • An Ice Person: Plexton's sister Gramm is an ice virus, although she isn't nearly as strong as her brother.
  • Importation Expansion: Like Power Rangers, the show shot an entirely new plot around the Gridman fight sequences.
  • Insufferable Genius: Malcolm Frink certainly has the "insufferable" part down. As for the "genius" part, well, he certainly thinks he is one...
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Most of which come from Amp, and tend to be rather well-written.
    Amp: Holy Mel Gibson! That's enough to turn Servo into a Lethal Weapon!
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: In the episode "What Rad Universe", Sam travels to an alternate dimension where Malcolm is a nice guy who's essentially his counterpart in that universe, Jennifer is a nerdy computer genius who's essentially Sydney's counterpart and Yolanda is an angry loner who's that universe's version of Malcolm. In this universe, not only does Sam destroy Yolanda's first virus, but Jennifer also manages to destroy Kilokahn himself. Without Kilokahn, Yolanda decides to give up on being an evil genius, calm down, go into therapy and find a date for the prom.
  • Lazy Backup: In most fights Sam will go in by himself to fight the monster, get pounded, and at this point his friends, who were watching the whole time, will decide that now they should go into the computer as well to help out.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Or at least power surges.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Jennifer is really pretty and popular (and is the head cheerleader), but still a Nice Girl for the most part. A Downplayed example, as she's far more lovable than Alpha Bitch.
  • Lovable Jock: Tanker, who's a football player who generally is a nice guy (and crushes on the resident geek, girl Sydney), as long as Malcolm isn't around.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: One of Servo's "helper programs" is a shield that he can use to protect himself from enemy projectiles. The shield's handle also contains a sword that Servo can use to fight back.
  • Magical Computer: This is the only explanation for some of the things Malcolm's able to do by infecting a computer with one of his viruses, like turning water into acid by infecting a computer at the water treatment plant, or how some of the viruses are able to get into systems with nothing computerized to infect, like a wind-up alarm clock or cooking timer.
  • Man Versus Machine
  • Merchandise-Driven: Well, duh, but this the toyline was absolutely terrible with Palette Swapped Servos. Just a cursory eBay search came up with a half-dozen; not only Environment-Specific Action Figure variants but some labeled as "Syd" and "Tanker" figures.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Malcolm isn't all that interested in helping Kilokahn Take Over the World; he just wants to make Sam Collins miserable and steal his girlfriend. Malcolm often has to practically trick Kilokhan into going along with his small-scale plans. Of course, this doesn't necessarily prevent Kilokhan from enjoying the mayhem that results.
  • Monster of the Week: The show manages to avert this trope on a number of occasions.
  • Mundane Utility: Lucky once has Sam turn into Servo for a magic act.
  • Mythology Gag
    • In the Alternate Universe episode, Tank incredulously remarks there's probably one where they're all Japanese.
    • The moment in the supposed Grand Finale when Sam urges Malcolm to become Servo in his place is probably a reference to the discussed but never-produced sequel to the original Japanese show, where Malcolm's equivalent character would himself have become Gridman Sigma.
    • And then there's the fact that Servo's abilities are continually referred to as "Grid Power".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Kilokhan's counterpart in the original Gridman is called Khandigifer. Also, see the acronym under A.I. Is a Crapshoot; his name practically screams "five minutes after you switch me on, I'm going to pull a Skynet."
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Malcolm variate between telling Kilokhan the practical applications of his viruses (which he only ever uses for his petty grudges), other times he doesn’t.
  • Not Quite Dead
    • Malcolm always has another copy of the Megavirus to bring back later, although he doesn't reuse them very often. Also averting No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup.
    • This also applied to Kilokhan himself in the Christmas episode. Malcolm had already backed Kilokhan's data up on a floppy disk before the battle with Servo that ultimately destroyed him. When Malcolm booted up his computer and tried to reload his files, Kilokhan was revived.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Subverted in that the damage the viruses do remains after they've been destroyed, but Servo can instantly repair it with the golden beams he can radiate from his chest.
  • Oh, Crap!: Malcolm reacts this way when Kilokahn usese a virus to try and activate the U.S.'s nuclear arsenal.
  • Once per Episode
    • Elizabeth, Sam's little sister, calls him to the laundry chute and dumps something mesy on his head. The list includes ice cream, marshmallows, and on one rare occasion, her piggy bank.
    • Other characters have fallen victim to this too. Elizabeth once dropped a bunch of cookies on Tanker, and she dropped a mousetrap on Malcolm. Ouch.
    • Then there was that time Sam broke his teammates out of the virus's mind-warping powers by tricking them into letting Elizabeth drop a bowling ball on their heads.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The episode "The Taunt Heard Round the World" featured a news anchor interviewing people on the street about their opinion on what was going on. Each "interviewee" though, was actually the news van driver in an absurdly thin disguise, including Groucho Glasses for one. When called out he explained it was because they couldn't find anyone to interview.
  • Personality Swap: There was a monster that did this. When it used its powers on Servo, he turned evil.
  • People Puppets: One episode had the Skorn virus go into Sydney's wristwatch and begin manipulating her hand. Her hand did everything from commit petty thefts to throw a teacher's lesson plan out the window to grope Jennifer's behind. Skorn also cackled about how "the girl would be his", implying that eventually he'd have control over her whole body.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Team Samurai, despite being a band, is never shown performing any songs. And in one episode where they try to practice, they keep being interrupted. Especially egregious when their entry into a talent contest is a magic act.
  • Playing with Fire: Recurring fire virus Plexton was one of these, spitting both fireballs and fire waves at his enemies. Kord was another example, being able to generate heat of up to 10,000 degrees Celsius on his body and concentrate that heat into fireballs.
  • Powered Armor: Drago and the attack vehicles could help Servo fight viruses as separate entities, or reshape themselves into body armor for him to wear.
  • Product Placement:
    • Did COMPAQ hope this show would help drum up business? Possibly not, as in one of the early episodes Sydney remarks Sam's computer was a piece of crap until becoming Servo somehow turned it into a supercomputer. And that's not even going to the point that at one point in the show, even the laptops are made by Compaq.
    • Younger tropers might not remember, but around the time this show was being made, Compaq was as ubiquitous as Dell was/is in the 21st century, and offered similar bulk discounts for corporate and public-sector clients. Chances are the producers simply phoned up someone in the IT office and asked them if they could borrow a few PCs for props, and Compaq-branded kit was all they had on hand.
  • Punny Name: Amp Ere = Ampere, the SI unit of current.
  • Put on a Bus: Amp moves away, leaving behind a postcard that says "Greetings from the Crab Nebula."
  • Recycled Script: Several plot points, such as the heroes needing to use an exercise bike to power the computer and being inspired by a sandwich to create Servo's Battle Shield, also happened in Gridman.
  • Rocket Punch: Zenon can fire its hands as missiles.
  • Rule of Funny: The effect of the Megavirus Monsters on the real world is usually something comedic, such as turning the school principal into the hippie he had been in the 1960s. Of course, sometimes it's not so funny. Turning all the water into hydrochloric acid, which looks just like water, and is corrosive enough that what it does if it gets on your skin, let alone if you drink it, is definitely kid-unfriendly. Kilokhan also once decided "screw your petty revenge plans, I'm gonna use this virus to take over the world's nuclear arsenal and start World War III."
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen: Elizabeth, Sam Collins's sister. Sam talks with her through the laundry chute, and she drops objects on Sam's head. The one time she actually comes down into the basement, the power is out and we still can't see her because it's pitch black. We also never see or hear Sam's parents, though sometimes one of the team is heard talking to them on the way down.
  • Show Within a Show: Whenever a TV show or movie is shown playing and it's not a plot-advancing newscast, it's always Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. Not that it's ever identified within the show.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Malcolm wanted Jennifer to pose for him so he could draw her. How does he get her to do it? Uses a virus to trap her in the Digital World and freeze her in place on his computer screen. Ick.
  • Stock Footage: Naturally. Besides the fight sequences, Gridman also contributed footage showing some of the virus's effects on the human world, or showing Servo or a virus entering an electrical system.
  • Surfer Dude: Lucky London is established as this stereotype, as his catchphrase aptly demonstrates, "Surfs up!"
  • Take That!: In a scene where Sidney demonstrates her synthesizer's voice manipulation:
    Amp: This is so freaky! I sound like an alien, or a... green can-opener or something!
    Tanker: Amp, that's your real voice.
    Amp: Oh sure. And wrestling is all fake.
  • Teen Genius: Malcolm and Sydney both qualify given the former's creation of viruses and the latter's Mission Control support.
  • Unexplained Recovery: After having their brains fried by Kilokhan in the Christmas episode, Sid, Tanker and Amp wake up with no ill effects after the battle is over.
    • In the same episode, Sam’s dead body returns to life at the same time.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Sometimes the villain plots were funny, but sometimes they were not and either would have killed lots of people horribly if Servo hadn't stopped them, or must have killed lots of people horribly but a kids' show has to gloss over it (again, putting hydrochloric acid in all tap water was not a nice thing to do.) Kilokhan more than once attempted a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and would have let Malcolm die. Malcolm himself is not the Harmless Villain he sounds like by this point: he's as gleeful about watching the suffering caused by the "kill a whole lot of people" plans as he is about the "annoy Sam, because why not?" plans so long as he himself isn't in the line of fire, and then there's the Fridge Horror of him: a kid whose ego and paranoia makes him take anything not going his way, or even gestures of kindness, as proof everyone is out to get him, and he wants revenge on everyone around him for these either very minor or completely imagined slights? Many an actual mass-murderer, including some school shooters, are basically people like Malcolm who found guns instead of evil computer programs in need of a Monster of the Week designer.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Kilokahn will sometimes withdraw viruses if he thinks they're too valuable to lose, most notably Plexton and Hock. Sometimes they come back, with improvements.
  • Villainous Rescue: In one episode where Servo was Brainwashed and Crazy and actually began working with the virus, the rest of the Squad came in to stop him with Zenon. Zenon was winning against both Servo and the virus until Kilokahn intervened, using his powers to banish the rest of the Squad from Syberspace.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: The "sybersquad" has more mundane issues like classes and relationships in addition to whatever trouble Malcom and Kilokhan are up to.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Servo handed out the occasional German suplex and bodyslam.