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Series / Tsuburaya Dinosaur Trilogy

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From left to right: Faitus (Koseidon), Izen (Izenborg), Born Free (Born Free). Not pictured: dozens of other dinosaurs.
Fanart by Kensuke

The Tsuburaya Dinosaur Trilogy is a Thematic Series created by Tsuburaya Productions and sponsored by the toymaker Tomy aired between 1976 and 1979, whose main selling points are a heavy focus on dinosaurs, special effects focused on combining land vehicles, and unusual Medium Blending through puppetry, 2D animation, stop motion and/or live-action.

The series itself is composed of three works:

  • Dinosaur Expedition Born Freenote  (1976-77, 25 ep.): In 1996, after a passing comet causes a massive seismic shift, Living Dinosaurs from the Mesozoic era emerge from the depths of the earth. To face up the issue, conservationists create the Born Free Corps, an organization dedicated to transportation and creation of safe environments for the humans and dinosaurs, done through a fleet of advanced vehicles, and fight against other menaces against their coexistence.

  • Dinosaur Great War Izenborgnote  (1977-78, 39 ep.): In 1986, a group of supposedly extinct gigantic dinosaurs reappear to reclaim the earth for themselves. To protect earth from the new menace, the anti-dinosaur organization D Squadron is created to fight against them, which is led by Ai and Zen, a pair of cyborg siblings that can metamorphose with their combat vehicle. A mid-season Retool reveals that alien monster tamers are behind the dinosaurs' plans, while now the cyborg siblings and their ship transform into a giant superhero.

  • Dinosaur Corps Koseidonnote  (1978-79, 52 ep.): In the future, the human race not only has discovered Time Travel, but also has created a Time Police to keep it safe. However, in 2001, Japan has been viciously attacked from the Cretaceous era, and the culprits are revealed to be a race of alien invaders. The Koseidon Corps, led by the swashbuckling hero Gō Toki/Koseider, along with a fugitive alien princess and her robot, must keep both the present and the past safe.

The series is commonly thought to have originated with the medium-blending Tsuburaya shorts Kyojū Wakusei (1974) and Tsuburaya Rittai Anime (1975). An unrelated but similar project is the 1976 film The Last Dinosaur which Tsuburaya co-produced with Rankin/Bass Productions, whose suits were reused for Izenborg. Decades later, Takara Tomy would develop the unrelated Tomica Hero series, also starring vehicles sold by the toymaker company.

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    Tropes featured in all shows 
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: A vehicle-carrying aircraft is present in every series:
    • Born Free: The Carry Bird, a massive unarmed VTOL used to carry the Born Free.
    • Izenborg: The Carry Boeing, a lightly armed VTOL used to carry the Izen.
    • Koseidon: The titular Koseidon, a time-traveling mobile base which stores both the Faitus and Haquas.
  • Artistic License Paleontology: Partially averted in Born Free, which was supervised by the famous paleontologist Ikuo Obata... Which was seemingly ignored within the same series, since many of them follow classical errors as the typical tail-dragging posture.
  • Base on Wheels: Every series features at least one as its main vehicle, which is also a two-part Combining Mecha:
    • Born Free: The titular Born Free, an amphibious all-purpose vehicle which can split into the 1-gō equipped with a tranquilizer gun, Net Gun and winch; and the all-terrain 2-gō which can carry specialized helicopters, tracked vehicles, submarines and balloons.
    • Izenborg: The Izen, a gigantic tank which can split into the massively armed Izen I and the Izen II, a weaponized bulldozer which can turn into a firefighting VTOL. Interestingly enough, the Izen I can transform into two completely different super modes: the titular flying battleship Izenborg, and the giant hero Izenbo.
    • Koseidon: The Koseider-launching Faitus, which can split into the tank-like Faitus I and the armed VTOL Faitus II. Koseidon also features the Haquas, a weaponized dinosaur-catching animal carrier which can also split into the Haquas I and the VTOL Haquas II
  • Compilation Movie: Born Free and Izenborg managed to get released in the United States as the compilation movies Return of the Dinosaurs and Attack of the Super Monsters, which later got exported to Spain and Germany.
  • Genre Shift: Born Free is mostly a dinosaur-themed Rescue show reminiscent of Thunderbirds, while Izenborg follows the formula of an Ultra Series entry (complete with Ultraman Copy in the latter half), and Koseidon is a Cretaceous-themed Space Opera clearly modelled after the success of Star Wars.
  • Hollow World: Both in Born Free and Izenborg, Mesozoic-era dinosaurs have managed to survive for centuries underground — in Born Free, the fact that their former habitat is destroyed at the start of the series kickstarts the show's plot.
    • Averted in Koseidon, since the dinosaurs live in their usual earth habitats — it's the humans who are displaced to their timeline.
  • Hour of Power: In Izenborg, the titular vehicle's transformation only lasts for three minutes and half, while its transformation into the giant Izenbo can only last for the even shorter two minutes and twenty seconds. Both of them have the typical Ultra-style red blinking lights.
    • In Koseidon, the upgraded Koseider can only last for two minutes (complete with blinking belt buckle). If he last more than that, all his special powers vanish and can only fight as a normal human.
  • Medium Blending: A common feature to Born Free and Izenborg: both of them have Anime characters (animated by Sunrise in Born Freenote ) and puppet vehicles, but different approaches to the dinosaurs, i. e. Stop Motion in Born Free and People in Rubber Suits in Izenborg. Mostly averted in Koseidon, which is realized by the usual Toku combo of live-action and puppetry.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: The titular vehicle Izenborg and the melee-fighting hero Gō Toki / Koseider in Koseidon get turned into typical tokusatsu superheroes mid-season.
  • Retool:
    • Izenborg: The evil dinosaurs are revealed to be led by an evil whip-toting Galactic Conqueror who starts to send manufactured monsters and aliens against the earth, while the Izenborg vehicle now turns into a giant Ultraman Copy called the Izenbo.
    • Koseidon: The evil aliens start sending Monster of the Week menaces instead of having a drawn-out battle, while the otherwise human Koseider gets superpowers. Later, the main villains are defeated and replaced by unrelated episodic threats, which also feature other time stops than the Cretaceous era.
  • Spiritual Successor: A loose one to Fireman, the first Tsuburaya show where the hero fought against monsters explicitly recognized as dinosaurs, and not the usual sort of Ultraman-style "ancient underground monster". Loads of footage from the Fireman series gets reused in the first Izenborg episode.
    • The 1979 anime Tansor 5 can be considered as the fourth entry of the series, save for the lack of dinosaurs and Tsuburaya Productions' involvement. The show and its vehicles were produced by Tomy, while it was animated by Sunrise like in Born Free. In fact, Tansor 5's vehicle Time Tanser is a retooled Koseidon prop, and fills a very similar function as a time-traveling base.

    Tropes exclusive to Dinosaur Expedition Born Free 
  • Affectionate Parody: FNS Chikyū Tokusō-tai Dybastar, a 2005 Japanese variety show which is presented as a low-budget seventies Anime where the heroes utilize live-action vehicles, was inspired by Born Free.
  • Animal Mecha: Some of Born Free's sub-vehicles, like the Free Seagull helicopter and the Free Mackerel submarine, are respectively shaped as a giant dragonfly and a shark.
  • Evil Counterpart: The poachers of Born Free have their own giant vehicles, the armored cars King Battler and Wildcat, to fight against the Born Free team.
  • Evil Poacher: The most notorious villains of Born Free, the villainous the villainous King Battler and his crew, and his vengeful daughter Lady Battler.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The team's mechanic Akira "Gon" Gonda is modelled after Masato Shimon, who sings the show's main theme.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Born Free was allegedly inspired by the discovery of a Taniwhasaurus (known as the "Ezo Mikasa Dragon") in 1976, which was the first carnivore dinosaur fossil found in Japan, and it is featured in one of the last episodes.

    Tropes exclusive to Dinosaur Great War Izenborg 
  • All There in the Manual: Eisenborgman (the Ai/Zen hybrid that pilots the Izenborg) is never named in the series.
  • Breath Weapon: Breathing fire is by far the most common of the dinosaurs' abilities.
  • Documentary: In 2017, Izenborg got a tribute documentary, Return of Izenborg, partially produced by personalities from Saudi Arabia, where the series was an enormous success. Although Tsuburaya and the Saudis were interested in producing a completely new series, the project wasn't realized, although the documentary has a short tribute pilot (filmed as close as possible as the original at the Saudis' insistence, even to the point of reusing the original Izen props).
  • Humans Are Not the Dominant Species: The dinosaurs' main intention is to rule the earth again.
  • Intellectual Animal: Ururu, the leader of the dinosaur army, is a Tyrannosaurus Rex with an Improbably High I.Q. and Psychic Powers, especially prone to use Mind Control. It's implied that most dinosaurs would be peaceful without Ururu's tyranny.
  • Mind Control: While Ururu is the main villain with mind-controlling powers, some of his underlings are able to control lesser animals like dogs, bats or rats who turn red to show their posession.
  • Sequel Hook: The show ends with the D Squadron travelling to space to fight against further alien threats.
  • Shout-Out: The last two episodes are a Ultraseven homage which feature an alien hero, which can send a monster that can fire a Specium Beam-like ray to fight against the villains, and does a last sacrifice for the human race.
  • Show Within a Show: Episode 37 features the shooting of a movie starring the adventures of the D Squadron.
  • Super Mode: The tank-like Izen I can transform into the Cool Plane Izenborg, equipped with a giant drill, buzzsaw in its wings, and a bunch of lasers. Later, the Izenborg turns into the giant hero Izenbo.
  • Sibling Fusion: The main characters, the cyborg siblings Ai (female) and Zen (male), can fuse with a particular twist: Zen turns into the fully human Izenborgman, while Ai turns into the robot circuit of the upgraded Izenborg vehicle. Later, the transformed twins and their vehicle combine into the gigantic superhero Izenbo.
  • Ultraman Copy: Izenbo is one of the few heroes similar to Ultraman made by Tsuburaya during the late seventies.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The alien invader Gottes is latter joined by the feminine Zovina, forming a Big Bad Duumvirate. While Gottes stays as the Big Bad of the series, Zovina is dangerous enough to be considered The Dragon.

    Tropes exclusive to Dinosaur Corps Koseidon 
  • Clothes Make the Superman: The Koseidon Corps member Gō Toki can be equipped with an anti-radar special suit which enhances his physical abilities, equips him with fancy weapons, and lets him be shot like a cannonball. Inverted later, when Gō transforms into the superhuman Koseider with a very slightly redesigned suit (i. e. silver lines and belt) that seems to give him no special abilities.
  • Human Cannonball: The human Koseider is launched into the battlefield through a cannon, being able to pull a Dynamic Entry and fight in the air against spaceships.
  • Monster of the Week: Averted in the earliest episodes, where in contrast to most Tokusatsu shows, the same army of alien invaders are presented as a constant menace (roughly from episode 1 to 13). Played completely straight later, and even enforced in the later episodes, where there's no overarching villain.
  • Plant Aliens: The Godmes aliens, the main villains of the first half, are life forms evolved from plants.
  • Time Travel: Mostly used as an excuse to travel to the Cretaceous era, although sometimes it's used to fight against samurai and other threats.