An American television programme called Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad aired from 1994 to 1995. It adopts a format that was popularized by comparable Japanese live-action shows, which served as the inspiration for the American adaptations.
The Japanese production company Tsubaraya Productions worked with Ultracom Inc. and DiC Productions to create Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, which was inspired by the success of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (which follows the Japanese series Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger).
The protagonists are the members of the young rock band Team Samurai, whose guitarist Sam is sucked into his computer after a power outage and emerges as the hero Servo. He battles alongside his allies against the Mega-Virus monsters that the two show as adversaries.
We will discuss how Sam ends up in this scenario, the roles that his friends and foes play, and the events that led to the creation of this program in this video.
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What Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad Series Is All About!
This American series is born from its Japanese counterpart known as ‘ ‘Gridman the Hyper Agent’ in English. The show blurs the lines between reality and the virtual world as the main character finds himself within a computer-generated world. It’s kind of like fantasy role-playing games and follows the concept of isekai, which is very popular in Japan and in the West. In isekai, the characters find themselves being transported to other worlds, with notable examples being Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Matrix, and anime like Sword Art Online.
The story follows Sam Collins, who is a high school student. He has a band known as Team Samurai where he plays guitar, his jock friend Tanker plays the drums, Sydney plays the keyboard, and Amp plays the bass.
In the first episode known as ‘To Protect and Servo’, we are introduced to the fact that technology plays a huge role in the lives of the members of Team Samurai. And that is inevitable since they are constantly using electrical instruments and are also discussing their need for music-producing software.
Sam is not the sharpest tool in the shed but he is still adamant about going out with Jennifer, his crush and the most popular girl in North Valley High School. However, Sam finds a contender in the loner known as Malcolm, who sports black clothes at all times and is competing with Sam for Jennifer’s affection.
Sam wants to take Jennifer out on a date but he does not have her number. So in school, he tries to use one of the ‘pick a number’ tricks on her where he asks her to add her number to the equation. Of course, her answer does not match with what Sam had in mind because it was never about getting the correct answer from the trick. However, he does end up getting her number with this method and Malcolm takes notice of it. And with Sam planning to call Jennifer to take her out on a date, Malcolm has to rain on his parade.
He goes home, salty about Sam wanting to ask Jennifer out, and creates monsters on his home computer when he meets Kilokahn on his computer screen. This is an escaped military Artificial Intelligence who was presumed to be dead but of course, he wasn’t. With Malcolm gaining knowledge of the power held by Kilokahn in the electronic world, a deal was struck.
According to this deal, Kilokahn would zap Sam’s telecommunication lines so that he fails at calling Jennifer. However, Kilokahn goes the extra mile as he turns the monster Malcolm was creating into a Mega-Virus and makes it destroy the telecommunication lines around the world.
Meanwhile, Sam is spending time with Team Samurai and connects his electric guitar to his computer. However, he immediately gets zapped after a power surge and disappears. It seems like he goes into another world but instead of entering that world, he finds himself on his couch. His friends are shocked to see this phenomenon plus Sam finds a weird, unremovable device strapped to his wrist.
Soon after, his friends leave and he calls Jennifer. But before he can actually ask her out, his phone line gets cut off (thanks to the Mega-Virus causing havoc in the digital world). He tunes in to the news and learns about the telecommunication issue reaching a global status when his attention shifts to the Servo program on his computer. Sam looks at Servo the character who seems to be gaining a battle armor by itself. Suddenly, another power surge results in another zap and Sam finds himself in Servo’s body, fighting the Mega-Virus.
On the other hand, Malcolm tells Kilokahn how he had only asked him to ruin Sam’s telephone lines, not the entire world’s. Kilokahn is not the type to take any orders from a human and chides him. But soon, he notices someone fighting and causing damage to his Mega Virus. Servo uses his laser beams to destroy the Virus and restores the telecommunication lines. Then, he zaps back to the real world as Sam.
This becomes a casual affair in Sam’s life as he spends his time fighting Mega-Viruses in this alternate reality as Servo. If he is unable to take down a virus by himself, he calls his friends for help via the Arsenal Programs. Not only can these programs fight solo against the viruses, but they can also transform, and attach themselves to Servo’s armor. Quite similar to the Megazords in Power Rangers.
On a brighter note, Jennifer does end up saying yes to the date with Sam and soon becomes his on-again-off-again girlfriend.
The original series, Gridman the Hyper Agent, is quite similar to this barring a few differences. The main trio, Naoto, Yuka, and Ippei meet Gridman (that is the original Servo) who belongs to this digital reality, also known as the Hyper World. Naoto’s antagonistic classmate Takeshi creates a virus that attacks the digital world (as the character who inspired Malcolm).
Instead of ruining the telecommunications, Takeshi’s virus poses a threat to the hospital where Naoto’s brother Daichi is admitted. To neutralize the matter, Naoto fuses with Gridman for his battle and emerges victorious.
Kahn Digifier is the original Kilokahn and the primary villain of the show. Naoto and his friends fight several new monsters on various occasions while pursuing Kahn. Ultimately, they are able to defeat Kahn Digifier and Gridman returns home. Unlike Gridman the Hyper Agent, Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad does not have a definitive ending due to its cancellation. However, it succeeded in creating its impact on Western pop culture.
With that, let’s get into the most important characters who keep pushing the story forward.
First, we have the protagonist himself. Sam Collins is the guitarist of his band, Team Samurai. He has a younger sister called Elizabeth who remains unseen in the show but it is established that she never shies away from playing pranks on her brother.
He also has an on-again off-again relationship with Jennifer Doyle, which makes him the object of envy for Malcolm Frink. He is not the stereotypical macho main character of an action series and is more on the dorky side. In fact, the showrunners had originally intended to present him as some computer genius but ultimately, that plan was chucked out.
His character is played by Matthew Lawrence, an actor and singer who has appeared in Mrs. Doubtfire and the sitcom Boy Meets World.
Then there’s Sam’s friend Tanker, a stereotypical jock who excels at football, plays the drums for Team Samurai, has infinite space in his stomach for food, and has a huge crush on his fellow bandmate Sydney. But she is oblivious to it. His appetite is so large that not getting food for a while makes him go crazy. He also despises Malcolm Frink. During one instance, he transforms into Servo just like Sam.
Kevin Castro plays Tanker in the show. He has previously worked in Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills and General Hospital.
After Tanker, there is Sydney Forrester, the brains of Team Samurai. She plays the keyboard for the band and is also quite good at singing. What sets her apart from everyone is how intelligent she is, which is also the primary reason why Tanker is super into her. She excels at school and seems to have a soft corner for Tanker as well. Just like Sydney, Tanker is shown to have no clue about the fact that Sydney probably has a crush on him. She is also the only character to appear in every episode, alongside Tanker.
Robin Mary Florence plays the role of Sydney. She has also appeared in the television series known as Frasier.
Amp Ere is the bass player of Team Samurai. He is actually the replacement for his brother who was supposed to play bass for the band but could not do so since he had to leave for college. Due to Amp’s nature of often being out of touch with reality, he is considered to be the space cadet of the band. He is a very strange and unusual guy who finds unusual things very normal and normal things quite unusual.
He also happens to be quite intelligent from time to time, as his peculiar nature allows him to easily make sense of very complicated situations. However, he has other strange quirks such as writing with his toes. In a turn of events, it is revealed that Amp is actually not a person but an alien who later goes back to his home planet.
His character was portrayed by Troy Slaten, an attorney and a former actor who played Michael Lacey in Cagney and Lacey. Aaron Pruner (who played Percy in VR Troopers) had also tried out for this role.
There’s also the surfer known as Lucky London, who replaced Amp as the bass player. He is a laid-back guy, which brings him under the radar of Principal Pratchert.
His character was played by Rembrandt Sabelis, who has also appeared in Boy Meets World and 90210.
Aside from the good guys, we also have the bad guys. And the one who heads this front is none other than Kilokahn himself. Kilokahn stands for Kilometric Knowledge-base Animate Human Nullity. It is an artificial intelligence program created by the military to attack major computer systems by unleashing viruses on them. He rules the digital world, or so he believes and wishes to use the digital framework to take over the real world. He also refers to humans as ‘meat things’ and he obviously does not have any respect for them.
He is portrayed by Tim Curry, who is known for appearing in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Finally, there’s Malcolm Frink, a loner from North Valley High School who seems to only dress in black. He allies himself with Kilokahn (with a union that primarily began because Malcolm wanted to destroy Sam’s telecommunication lines) and creates the Mega Virus monsters for Kilokahn to bring to life. He despises Sam since Sam has the one thing he wants – Jennifer.
Later, Sam tries to befriend Malcolm but Malcolm isn’t the type to go with such an idea and rejects his advances. He also dislikes Tanker, who returns the favor by disliking Malcolm.
His dynamic with Kilokahn is not the best however since Kilokahn constantly betrays Malcolm. But since he has no one, he puts up with Kilokahn’s antics and even restores him when he is rendered harmless.
His character is played by Glen Beaudin who has worked in Pocahontas and The 70s Show.
What Went Wrong With Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad?
Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad ran for fifty-three episodes whereas Gridman only had thirty-nine. But Superhuman Samurai did not have a story that branched out a lot from its source material, which often resulted in the show doing things that were overkill.
Firstly, there were four dominant sets that were prevalent throughout the show – Sam’s basement, the school cafeteria, the hallway, and Malcolm’s room. And two out of these four sets are just places within closed walls. Naturally, this toned down the story’s ability to branch out into other, more interesting plot points. This combined with budgetary issues only made it worse as that way, the showrunners couldn’t even help but stick to what they’ve got. Only the final episode of the show takes place outside the regular sets, making the series quite repetitive.
On top of that, with fifty-three episodes, some of the Mega-Virus monsters are reused time and again. Without much to explore, the show often dived into territories like relationship problems and Malcolm being salty over Sam’s group.
Amp, who was one of the most exciting characters in the show because of his unusual nature, was also replaced towards the end. Due to the actor leaving the series, the showrunners had no choice but to introduce Lucky as the new bass player, who is just a diet version of Amp. His character was not built up well and there was little room for development.
However, another major reason for the cancellation of Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad seemed to be the internal politics. Glen Beaudin (who plays Malcolm), spoke about how the show excelled when it came to ratings. But the companies involved were not interested in much beyond making the necessary money. So once the money was made, they pulled out of the project.
The show does not do much either. It follows a great concept where Kilokahn wants to take over the real world and such concepts have often taken center stage in 90s media with brilliant execution. For example, the cyberpunk anime known as Serial Experiments Lain created a world where the real world is just a hologram of the original digital world known as The Wired. It expanded over those in The Wired affecting the real world but this concept, unfortunately, did not fly well with Superhuman Samurai, possibly due to a lack of emotional depth. It was also very much like Power Rangers and did not offer much beyond it. In fact, the series was supposed to be called Power Boy at first with Sam Collins being called Zack Jason (just like in Power Rangers). The idea was chucked because that way it would be too much like Power Rangers.
One of its standout characteristics was the relationship that was being developed between Malcolm and Kilokahn. Kilokahn is obviously not a good guy but even though Malcolm is antagonistic, he is still a school student who does not want to be lonely. He could have befriended Sam and finally left Kilokahn’s side. But that never happened.
Interestingly enough, even though Malcolm and Kilokahn worked together in the show, their actors never met face to face.
Other Interesting Facts About Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad
The company that produced Gridman The Hyper Agent and co-produced Super Human Samurai Squad (that is Tsubaraya Productions) is also the one behind creating the popular Japanese superhero Ultraman. Not only was the show brought into the United States with a dubbed version, America also tried to bring Ultraman into the American world with the help of co-productions. That did not work out for Ultraman but then Superhuman Samurai went on to become a work of collaboration between Japan and America.
Interestingly, the American counterpart has referenced Gridman in some instances. In an episode known as ‘What A Rad Universe’, Sydney speaks about the existence of a parallel universe. Tanker finds it funny and says that “Next thing you’ll be saying we’re Japanese in another universe,” which is a direct reference to Naoto, Ippei, and Yoko from Gridman.
In another episode called ‘Born With A Jealous Mind’, Malcolm finds Servo in Japan and asks Kilokahn about it when Kilokahn tells him, “For all, you know he could reside there” which refers to Gridman being Japanese.
Even the first episode subtly alludes to this when Sam tunes into the news after he is unable to talk to Jennifer due to power problems. The news reporter then mentions how America is not the only place that has been affected and that the effects of the telecommunication problem have plagued Japan as well.
Other Related Media
Apart from the live-action shows, there has also been an anime that has references to both Gridman and Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. SSSS.GRIDMAN is a 2018 anime series that has been produced by both Tsubaraya Productions and Studio Trigger.
Almost two decades after Superhuman Samurai went into a hiatus, Studio Trigger released ‘Denkoy Choujin Gridman Boys Invent Great Hero’ which focuses on an adult Takeshi who fights whatever remains of Kahn Digifier. Three more years later, SSSS.GRIDMAN was released and the teens worked alongside Gridman once again.
This time, the story focused more on the characters and the mystery surrounding the digital world where they fought their monsters, also known as kaiju in Japanese. Alexis Kerib replaced Kahn as the ultimate bad guy while Takeshi and Malcolm were replaced by Akane.
It also sent out several nods to the American series with Alexis Kerib’s English dub voice actor emulating Tim Curry’s Kilokahn. Characters were also named after Servo’s arsenal and that was how you got Borr, Samurai Calibur, Vit, and Max.
It is not uncommon for several fans to prefer Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad over Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. And the 90s, which reveled in cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and several superhero animated series, was home to a large number of fans who loved to watch action on screen. So getting to see robots and monsters duking it out in a digital reality was really worthwhile.
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