Kaijin Profile: Space Beastman
Hey kaiju fans, I'm Goldn, and in recognition of today's corporate holiday, I'll be shedding light on one of the most original monsters in the Toho canon — the Space Beastman!
SPACE BEASTMAN, Space Bodyguard
Aliases: Space Beast
Height: 3 meters
Weight: 500 kilograms
After attending a screening of the original "Star Wars" in mid-1977, producer and Toho Pictures chairman Tomoyuki Tanaka rushed a film into development to beat it to Japanese theaters. The conspicuously-named "The War in Space", released at the end of the year, was actually closer to a fusion of "Battle in Outer Space" and "Atragon" than the Hollywood blockbuster. But Tanaka had the inside scoop, so a few elements made it in, including a big walking carpet. Unlike Chewbacca, however, the Space Beastman was pure evil - an agent of the Messiah 13 Third Planet of Yomi aliens who menaced Gohten crew members Koji Miyoshi and Jun Takigawa with a laser ax. Although not very intelligent, the kaijin was a strong and obedient bodyguard to the Commander of the Galactic Empire, Hell (named as such so you know he's evil). The character's name is never spoken in the film, but he came to be known as "Uchū Jūjin" in print sources. Toho Kingdom learned in 2005 that "Space Beastman" is Toho's preferred English translation, though "Space Beast" has also come up.
In Ryuzo Nakanishi's first draft of "The War in Space," Commander Hell (here called Kira) was to have a right-hand man named Hell. A second draft co-authored by Nakanishi and Hideichi Nagahara significantly rewrote the story, bringing it nearly in line with the final product. In that version, the character who would become the Space Beastman was described only as a "large man."
The Beastman was played by Japanese professional wrestler Yukio "Mammoth" Suzuki, whose eyes were left exposed so that he could incorporate them into his performance. We don't know much about the suit itself; it was made by the staff at Toho Bijutsu's special effects art department, who sculpted the horns out of FRP, along with his laser ax.
The War in Space (1977): Seeking to flee their dying homeworld - the third planet of Yomi in the Messiah 13 globular cluster - a race of aliens set their sights on a planet 22,000 lightyears away: Earth. After humanity's greatest weapon, the Gohten, destroyed the Hell Fighters raining down destruction on the world's cities, it raced towards the aliens' mobile base of operations on Venus, the Daimakan. Before it could reach the planet, however, a Messiah 13 alien disguised as a dead astronaut abducted Jun Takigawa, the captain's daughter. The aliens' leader, Commander Hell, then contacted them from the surface, showing Jun restrained by the hulking Space Beastman. Undeterred, the Gohten landed on Venus, and Jun's old flame Koji Miyoshi led the Daimakan raiding party while Space Fighters tried to bring down its energy shield from the outside. Though tasked with destroying the ship's power source, he made rescuing her a priority as well.
The Messiah 13 aliens quickly detected the raiders and killed all but Koji, who they threw into the same cell as Jun. Thanks to the aliens' questionable decision to place controls to the cell inside it, however, Jun quickly broke them out. No sooner had Koji picked up an alien rifle and a fallen comrade's electromagnetic knife than the Space Beastman made his presence known. His ax absorbed every blast from the rifle and sliced it in half, but Koji felled him with a perfect throw of the knife.
Physical abilities: Despite his impressive size, the Space Beastman displayed no feats of strength besides restraining Jun with one hand.
Laser ax: The Space Beastman's futuristic ax sliced through a pillar, some pipes, and a laser rifle with ease, glowing blue as it did so. The blade could also absorb lasers, which Koji helped showcase at length by directing every single bolt he fired at it. Now, you might say, "Lightsabers deflect blaster bolts, so Toho put their own spin on it." But in the first "Star Wars", Luke's lightsaber actually does absorb fire from the training remote, and lightsabers are otherwise only used against each other and for instant bar-fight resolution.
Weaknesses: Perhaps unused to a weapon being aimed at him rather than his ax blade, the Space Beastman failed to deflect Koji's electromagnetic knife, which killed him instantly. "You've found my weakness… it's small knives!"
Wookiees with Lightsabers: Chewbacca, of course, doesn't wield a lightsaber in the "Star Wars" movies; his weapon of choice is a bowcaster. However, he does dual-wield lightsabers in issue #12 of Marvel's 2015 "Star Wars" comic, after R2-D2 filched them from a Jedi-obsessed Hutt. And, original Chewbacca suit actor Peter Mayhew used a lightsaber-inspired cane later in life… which the TSA stopped him for one time. Several Wookiees in both Legends and the current canon have been Force-sensitive as well. "The War in Space" probably didn't influence anything or anyone I've just mentioned, but you never know…
A "large man": Not even something as obscure as Space Beastman is safe from having inconsistent stats. In his case, most everything says the kaijin weighs 500 kilograms - over 1,100 pounds - but there's one book from back in 1991 which only has him at 60% of that (300 kg). That's all fine and unimportant, but what's inexcusable is him being billed as 3 meters - almost 10 feet - tall! As we all know, scaling has never been a strong suit of Toho's special effects films, [playfully] but come on.
Monster Warrior: The Space Beastman is pretty much a walking lawsuit, so it's unsurprising that Toho has seldom trotted him out since "The War in Space." We couldn't even find any proof he was in the "Monthly Shonen Magazine" manga adaptation! However, the kaijin does have a cameo in the first panel of Ryu Hariken's zany 1990 manga "Monster Warrior Godzilla," where he looks right at home amongst more anthropomorphized daikaiju.
That's all we have for the Space Beastman, the Wookie wannabe who really should have been allowed to do more. Thanks for watching, and—do I really have to say this?—"May the Fourth Be With You."