Two scares for the price of one. The Miran episode of Flashman always spooked me when I was a kid, and I still think it's a creepy, off-putting episode. The sole episode of Flashman -- or any tokusatsu -- written by well-known anime scribe Michiru Shimada is a tragic, quiet (not a lot of dialogue, only those spooky and non-heroic BGM tracks), eerie episode that lets you know from the top that it's not your ordinary episode. The whole thing has such a different tone to it, almost kind of like it's off-rhythm... (The episode is directed by Takao Nagaishi, who certainly liked experimenting with atmospheric episodes like this throughout the series -- from the strangely-lensed ghost episode, number 24, and episode 40, which is really reminiscent of this episode in terms of style. Credit also goes to designer Yutaka Izubuchi for coming up with this strange, unique monster design.)
It begins with Mess's two-headed monster The Zobaruda attacking the city at night; Sara, alone on patrol, investigates and is attacked, leaving only a puddle of blood behind. The way this scene is filmed, with a wounded and sweaty Sara pinned by a building's debris, is really uncomfortable and tense. She awakens to find herself bandaged and being brought back to health by...Change Griffin! (Or at least the dude who played him, Hiroshi Kawai aka Kazuoki.) He's a mysterious guy, but friendly, bringing Sara supplies. Suddenly, he doubles over and flees the room, locking himself out, while an understandably freaked out Sara bangs on the other side, wanting to know what his deal is. Well, if you've seen any werewolf movie, Sara, you'd recognized his symptoms as "about to turn into a werewolf/monster thing," because that what it is. (Kawai/Kazuoki makes some awful sounding screams here.) He tells Sara that he knows she was kidnapped as a kid and he thinks she's his kid sister. He disappears, leaving behind a childhood photograph of him and his kid sister.
Let's cut to the spoiler -- Miran ends up being The Zobaruda, who gets captured and tortured by Kaura and the Mess regulars for insubordination. This scene's filmed a little disturbingly, there's a real mean-spiritedness coming through it and the performances of Jouji Nakata (Kaura), Yutaka Hirose (Wanda) and Sayoko Hagiwara (Neferu). The villains just love to taunt the chained and bloodied Miran -- first by Kaura just casually tossing off that his sister's dead and by Wanda liking to point out how Miran is no longer human, despite his desperate declaration otherwise. Miran and his real sister were also kidnapped by Kaura twenty years ago, with Miran successfully being spliced with a Beast Warrior creating the two-headed freak The Zobaruda.
The villains also take glee in letting Sara witness Miran's freaky transformation -- Miran can only take human shape for an hour a day, so they just passed the time torturing him until Sara could find him, see what he's become. It might not look like much now, but I thought this transformation sequence was real freaky when I was a kid. Beware and dread the times that Toei hauls out that purple backdrop. I think Kawai does a good job selling the pain of the transformation, there's that creepy gothic background music going and Miran's grunts are electronically altered, sounding like a golddurn Deadite from an Evil Dead movie.
And to spook you out even more, behind the photograph Miran dropped was a sketch he made, telling anyone to target the right head of The Zobaruda. So, Flash King basically decapitates it, Miran is at death's door, and they freeze him and ship him off to be healed at the Flash planet. It's supposed to be a sort of hopeful ending, but the way it's all filmed...yeah, it's weird. (Also: does Miran survive and develop the Anti-Flash on his time at the Flash planets? So does Sara still get him killed in the end?) When I was a kid and didn't know the language, I totally thought Miran was dead and they were burying him in space, Spock-style.
Another thing that's atypical about this episode is that, once Miran becomes The Zobaburda and tries to attack Sara, the Flashman show up in suit ready to fight, but Sara doesn't transform or fight. The hero who's hesitant to fight a friend turned enemy has become a common trope, but this was a pretty different episode at the time. There's no big henshin scene, no big pose down or introducing the team -- Sara doesn't transform, and the four others defeat the monster without her or Rolling Vulcan. She initially doesn't even take part in the mecha battle, leaving the other four to pilot Flash King themselves, until she thinks of the best choice of attack.
|Yutaka Izubuchi's design for this unique, terrifying monster.|
This is just a damn weird, off-kilter, unsettling episode, and I imagine the reason that this was the writer's only episode was that she turned in the script and the producers were like "Great, thanks, we'll get back to you. Please leave now...OK, guys, what is this freaky shit!?!" (With how messed up and weird this episode is, I have to wonder if the original plan called for Zobaruda's second head to be Miran's dead sister.) This is the kind of episode I expected Toshiki Inoue to turn in, but he instead did random stuff like Bun falling in love with a sukeban. This episode is probably too intense for even Inoue!
If you saw this episode when it aired, chances are it still gives you the willies. Along with Spielban's Youki, it's an episode that scarred me.