Last night while browsing Youtube I came across a video called “The Saddest Day in Nostalgic History.” It was well named; the video showcases one of the most tragic moments of my youth. I’m speaking, of course, of the death of Johnny Sokko’s Flying Robot.
Every spring, Christians reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. But who mourns for Giant Robot? Who salutes the skies and thinks, thank you for protecting the Earth from the great rubbery space menace? I ask you, could your Jesus shoot rockets from his fingers? Well, could he? No. Not even in the Nag Hammadi.
For those of you who are more familiar with Christianity than with Toei Productions, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot was one of many Japanese shows about gigantic monster-fighting machines (along with Gigantor, Daitetsujin 17 and a whole bunch of others, both animated and live-action).
In the American version, the poorly transliterated Johnny Sokko is a young boy whose voice gets accidentally imprinted on a watch-like device that controls a massive, vaguely Egyptian-looking robot designed to destroy the world. Johnny joins the ultra-secret good-guy organization UNICORN, under the tutelage of the charming Agent U3 (AKA Jerry) in the fight against creepy interstellar Nazi beatnik terrorists, the Gargoyle Gang, led by Emperor Guillotine (a sort of nuclear Cthulhu in drag).
I loved every minute of the show, which I watched in my pajamas while eating cereal (the best way to watch television, obviously). What little boy would not want an enormous robot of his very own? A flying, 500-ton karate-action laser-eyed fire-breathing mechanized monster-beater-upper with rocket fingers! Man, I wished I could be Johnny Sokko. Not only did he have his own robot,but UNICORN agents also carried guns and had this cool salute when they rubbed their gloved thumb and forefinger together, like a sharp corduroy cricket. Vvshzt! And they had jetpacks! And really, there isn’t much in life that out-cools a jetpack.
Giant Robot fought two-headed monsters, eyeball beasts, electric thingies, flying jawbones—you name it. Anything big, evil and ugly had met its match in Johnny Sokko and his flying robot.
The robot himself had a quiet nobility to him, as befits a stoic planetary defender. After watching him kick amazing ass, I always wanted to give him a hug. I loved him as much, or more, than Johnny loved him.
The series ended when Emperor Guillotine demonstrated to the agents of UNICORN that he himself was a massive atomic bomb. “Surrender Earth or get blowded up bigtime,” I remember him muhuwahahahaha-ing. But the stalwart, brave and true Giant Robot saved the day by scooping up the evil emperor in a flying megaton bear hug, on a collision course with a meteor.
I remember the explosion. The tears of shock. My spoon drooped and I spilled milky Rice Crispies down my thigh. Giant Robot! No! Come back! Don’t sacrifice yourself just to kill some galactic drama queen! Nooooo!
The robot originally meant to destroy the world, in the end, saved it.
“And so, the saga comes to an end,” the narrator then says. “Giant Robot sacrificed himself to save the Earth from the terrible Guillotine. But who knows? When Johnny desperately needs him again, perhaps, like a miracle, he will come back, out of the skies.”
Lacking in faith, I never believed the narrator. But now, thanks to the power of Youtube, I can once again strap an imaginary jetpack to my pajamas and say, “Giant Robot! Up and away!”