Kaiju Profile: Jet Jaguar
Hey kaiju fans, it's Monster Island Buddies! I'm back to talk about the size-changing robot whose crime-fighting covers up a basic insecurity, Jet Jaguar!
Introduced in "Godzilla vs. Megalon," Jet Jaguar is a benevolent robot built by the inventor Goro Ibuki for what his "Godzilla: Unleashed" bio succinctly calls "unknown reasons." An ally to the King of the Monsters in his sole film appearance, he fights the menacing Megalon and Gigan to defend his human family. Despite him ranking high among "least favorite kaiju" in fan polls for decades, Jet Jaguar has surged in popularity recently. Maybe it's because of how much tail he kicked in "Godzilla: Rulers of Earth," or maybe it's because he understands what so many kaiju fail to grasp: you're never fully dressed without a smile.
In the 1960's, Viras, Guilala, Minilla, and Guiron all received their names from public contests. Toho went a step further in 1971, sponsoring a Seiyu campaign called "Children's Monster University" with Tsuburaya Productions. In March of next year, a number of the kids who had submitted designs were invited to appear on the television program "Katsura Kokinji's Afternoon Show," where a suit inspired by the winning design would be revealed. Best of all, the winner's monster would appear in Toho's next Godzilla film! That honor went to Red Alone, created by a boy from Kanagawa Prefecture whose name I don't actually know how to pronounce, thanks to kanji. His original drawing has never surfaced, probably because the suit didn't do it justice - even changing the monster's white body to a mixture of red, yellow, and blue. Kokinji consoled the poor kid as this strange new Red Alone took the stage, though Toho wasn't yet finished destroying his dreams...
Red Alone returned for other television shows and Seiyu public events, but he never met Godzilla. In Shinichi Sekizawa's 1972 draft "Insect Monster Megalon vs. Godzilla: The Undersea Kingdom's Annihilation Strategy," Red Alone became a robot with a "sharp figure." Then special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano supervised a redesign of the character. He was hesitant to follow Toho's wishes at first, feeling that he would just be adding to the legions of Ultraman-like heroes dominating Japanese television. As a result, he decided to make the robot intentionally unappealing. This concept art is often attributed to illustrator Akihiko Iguchi… but Iguchi has denied having any involvement in "Godzilla vs. Megalon" whatsoever.
Nobuyuki Yasumaru and Tomoki Kobayashi teamed up to sculpt Red Alone's suit, with Takashi Naganuma painting it. The suit, made from wetsuit material, was quite combustible, so the crew had to be cautious when filming scenes such as the Ring of Fire. Yasumaru created the head primarily out of FRP, plus material from car tail lights for the mask's eyes. A motor was installed in the suit's head to control the extending antennae. For shots of the robot taking flight, the suit actors would stand on wooden boards while a number of staff members raised them into the air. At least two flying props were created: a 1/2 scale version made of FRP, and a much smaller model used to represent the human-sized robot guiding Megalon.
As this "Godzilla vs. Megalon" poster shows, Red Alone was not renamed Jet Jaguar until after his suit was built. The part was shared by actors Tsugutoshi Komada and Masachika Mori. The interview with Komada included in the Criterion Collection's Showa Godzilla box set gives a bit more insight. Here he revealed that the suit had platforms to compensate for his short legs, and it took about 10 minutes to climb into it. Although most of his scenes were directed by Nakano, Komada worked with director Jun Fukuda for the parts where Jet Jaguar was human-sized. They instructed him to move in a robotic way until the end of the movie, when he was to act "as if something human had entered [him]." Lastly, he admitted that as a result of the suit's small eyeholes, he was prevented from quote, "[doing] the action scenes the way I wanted to. I just did the best I could so the director would be happy with the take."
… For his effort, let's give the man a thumbs up.
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973): After an underground nuclear test wreaked havoc on their city, the kingdom of Seatopia prepared to attack the surface world with their monster-god Megalon. Looking for a way to guide Megalon during his rampage, two Seatopian agents ransacked the home of Goro Ibuki, an inventor working on a humanoid robot. When Goro, his brother Rokuro, and his friend Hiroshi interrupted them, the agents quickly subdued them and made their escape. Soon after, Goro put the finishing touches on his robot, which he named Jet Jaguar.
The Seatopian agents struck again, this time seizing control of Jet Jaguar. One attempted to dispose of Goro and Rokuro in a shipping container, while the other stayed at the house to direct the robot. Unwisely monologuing, he revealed that the Seatopians planned to build an army of Jet Jaguars. Hiroshi escaped and set off to rescue Goro and Rokuro. In the meantime, Jet Jaguar began to steer Megalon towards Tokyo. Along the way, he attacked the Ogochi Dam, inadvertently swatting Goro and Rokuro to safety. While Goro had a handheld control device for Jet Jaguar that could override the Seatopians' commands, he discovered that the range was too limited. After he explained the situation to the JSDF, they let him board a helicopter to intercept the robot. Just before they could collide, Goro regained control of Jet Jaguar and sent him to Monster Island to convince Godzilla to join the fight.
Though disoriented at first, Megalon quickly got back on task. To ensure they had the advantage against Godzilla, the Seatopians enlisted Gigan. As Megalon approached Goro's house, Jet Jaguar reunited with his family, then flew off to face the monster, ignoring Goro's commands. Somehow, the inventor mused, Jet Jaguar had achieved free will. Megalon learned that he had achieved something else: the ability to turn himself into a 50-meter fighting machine!
Jet Jaguar and Megalon found themselves evenly matched... until Gigan arrived on the scene. The robot took a beating from the devious duo, but their gloating came to an end when Godzilla stormed in! A tornado tag team match ensued. Jet Jaguar broke Gigan's arm, and held Megalon in place so the King of the Monsters could deliver his famous sliding kick. After the two villains retreated, the Big G returned to Monster Island, while Jet Jaguar returned to his family, shrinking back to human size.
Godzilla Island (TV 1997-1998): Toho's toyetic TV show features three different Jet Jaguars, all serving G-Guard on Godzilla Island. A completely silver Jet Jaguar, apparently a combat model, was shot down by a Xilien ship in the second episode and never heard from again.
Medical Jet Jaguar first appeared in the ninth story arc, transporting an unconscious Godzilla to the G-Guard base after he was possessed by SpaceGodzilla. After Dr. Misato Jinguji arrived on Godzilla Island, she often piloted Medical Jet Jaguar in her efforts to care for the monsters... whether they liked it or not. She even drove off King Ghidorah by spraying him with a gas that compelled him to dance when he heard music. I'd love to explain how that works, but the show still hasn't been translated into English yet.
Firefighter Jet Jaguar debuted in the tenth story arc, where he lived up to his name despite a rude interruption by Megalon and Destoroyah. He defeated the shapeshifting monster Dororin almost single handedly, reducing his dirt body to mud with a giant fire hose. Misato also piloted him on one occasion, his extinguisher breath helping generate a hologram to distract the amazingly named Super Special SpaceGodzilla High Grade Type 2. Godzilla toys having wacky adventures: you can't get this type of content anywhere else, folks.
Jet Jaguar (2020): Back in early 2019, Toho uploaded a short video to its Godzilla YouTube channel which promised the unbelievable: an upcoming Jet Jaguar film! Then everyone realized what day it was.
Godziban (TV 2019-): Jet Jaguar has his own segment in the children's web series "Godziban," called "Go! Jet Jaguar."In these vignettes, he is a public relations robot created by Dr. Roborobo to conduct the world's first AI press conference. When Megalon appears, Jet Jaguar joins Godzilla as a guardian mecha, though with some less than speedy processing power and some less than spectacular combat prowess.
Size Changing: Jet Jaguar can grow from human-sized to kaiju-sized and back again, seemingly through sheer force of will. "Godziban" treats him like an inflatable balloon, making it the only official media to offer any real explanation. Though he simply used this ability to match Megalon's size in "Godzilla vs. Megalon," he was more strategic in "Godzilla: Rulers of Earth," blowing up Orga by flying into his mouth and growing his way out. In the Atari/Pipeworks games, he starts a fight at about the same height as the other combatants, then can expend energy to become either a bit larger or a bit smaller.
Physical Abilities: Jet Jaguar fights with a mixture of punches, chops, stomps, kicks, knee smashes, aerial rams, and throws. With some effort, he lifted and threw the 25,000-ton Gigan into the air.
Flight: Jet Jaguar can fly at speeds up to Mach 3.5, despite no visible means of propulsion, though the movie flyer for "vs. Megalon" does describe Jaguar as having jets. He can also hover - demonstrated when he carried the 20,000-ton Godzilla out of Megalon's ring of fire.
High Beams: Jet Jaguar can emit a powerful light from his eyes, which he used to scan for Megalon after he burrowed underground.
Video Game Exclusives: Aside from utilizing laser and missile attacks granted by generic cards in the game, JJ can exhale a blue breath weapon of sorts from his face in "Godzilla: Trading Battle." In "Save the Earth" he can Rhino Pound, where he punches the ground, triggering a tremor which catapults nearby kaiju into the air. His rage attack is Tornado, which brings to mind Luigi's down special move in Super Smash Bros. Moreover in both "Save the Earth" and "Unleashed," the robot can fire an Ultraman-esque ray from his hands called the Plasma Clap.
Durability: Jet Jaguar was helpless against Gigan and Megalon's tag team, never landing a hit against them until Godzilla gave him time to recover. Still, considering that Goro didn't build him to fight monsters, it's impressive that he survived the battle without any apparent damage.
Punch, Punch, Punch!: When "Mystery Science Theater 3000" riffed "Godzilla vs. Megalon," they couldn't resist "translating" the Jet Jaguar theme song that plays at the end of the film. The song's actual title is "Godzilla and Jet Jaguar: Punch! Punch! Punch!"; composed by Riichiro Manabe, with vocals by Masato Shimon and lyrics by Shinichi Sekizawa. Shimon was the tokusatsu singer of the 1970's, his credits including the first five "Kamen Rider" shows, "Redman," "Zone Fighter," and "Android Kikaider."
I Go By Many Names: In "GODZILLA: Monster Apocalypse," the United Earth builds a type of battle armor called Type-38 Mobile Combat Uniform Jaguar Japan Specification, or "Jaguar J" for short. As long as that name is, it's downright ordinary compared to his monikers in the German and Castilian Spanish dubs of "Godzilla vs. Megalon": King Kong and Superman, respectively. If you're looking for an explanation beyond Europeans' general love of misnaming kaiju… I've got nothing. But even the U.S. wasn't immune: when Cinema Shares sent a short comic book to theaters to promote the film, it called Jet Jaguar "Robotman."
Comics: The other comics the bot appeared in got his name right. Hurricane Ryu's wild 1990 comic "Monster Warrior Godzilla" depicts Jet Jaguar as a mech piloted by the Japanese Prime Minister. Backed up by other famous Toho robots, he's equipped with extra armor, a sword, a motorcycle, and some edgy dialogue. For "Godzilla: Rulers of Earth," Chris Mowry and Matt Frank devised an all-new backstory for Jet Jaguar: an alien refugee from a planet the Cryogs destroyed brought to Earth to prevent us from suffering the same fate. However, Toho forced them to keep it vague. Aside from tearing apart Orga, Jet Jaguar's most memorable moment comes in issue 12, where he defeats Destoroyah by flying inside Kiryu and firing the Absolute Zero Cannon.
Games: Jet Jaguar has made full-fledged appearances in 13 video games from 1992 to 2019. Apparently cloning himself is as easy as changing size, because in "Battle Soccer," Godzilla's teammates include five Jet Jaguars. He also made the roster of Bandai Namco's PS3 & PS4 "Godzilla" game through sheer charm, as producer Shunsuke Fujita recalled. "I didn't even ask for Jet Jaguar. I went into the office and saw him on the screen and I couldn't say no."
On a somewhat related note, Jet Jaguar appeared in the "Godzilla Wars" line of TOY CARD 100 trading cards, along with two new variants called Super Jet Jaguar and Full Armor Jet Jaguar.
Project M11: These Kaiju Profiles usually don't cover fan works, but this one was too cool to leave out. In 2015, a group of independent tokusatsu filmmakers called Over Load Film released a short called "Jet Jaguar: Project M11." Set in the Heisei Godzilla universe, it shows Jet Jaguar crash-landing in front of a young engineer who builds him a body. G-Force captures the robot and upgrades him to fight a familiar threat from the future: Android M11 from "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah," played once again by Robert Scott Field. Though presented in the form of a trailer, I should clarify that there are no plans to make a full-length version.
Jet Alone: Hideaki Anno's famed anime series "Neon Genesis Evangelion" includes a huge homage to Jet Jaguar in the form of Jet Alone. In episode 7, Japan Heavy Chemical Industries presented this robot as a superior alternative to NERV's Evangelion units, as it required no onboard pilot and could operate for 5 months straight. NERV, ruthless as always, secretly sabotaged its first test run; like Jet Jaguar, it seemed to acquire a mind of its own. Fortunately, Shinji Ikari and Misato Katsuragi shut it down before its nuclear reactor could explode. Universal Studios Japan brought things full circle with its "Godzilla vs. Evangelion: The Real 4-D" attraction, which gave Jet Jaguar a cameo in the neon streets of Osaka-III.
That's all for Wikizilla's profile on Jet Jaguar. I'm Monster Island Buddies and always remember: ya don't f*** with the Jaguar! Thank you all for watching!