PHANTOM AGENTS (NINJA BUTAI GEKKO)

Please note that I do not know where you can obtain videos/DVDs of this series dubbed into English. A "Best of" compilation of 33 episodes running 900 minutes has been released, undubbed, in Japan on DVD as boxed set for US$216.42. However, you will need a multi-region DVD-player as it is Region 2, only (though some DVD players do seem to be able to play all regions even if nominally coded for Region 4 (Australia). Yesasia.com sells it. Itís listed here (Thanks to Graham R. for alerting me to this).
From time to time episodes dubbed into English are offered on e-Bay from someone in the Blue Mountains (NSW). Or you could try searching the web under the Japanese title of Ninja Butai Gekko in case any of the various sites (mainly in the USA) which sell various Japanese films and TV series on video/DVD have dubbed copies for sale.


This series originally began life as a comic strip serialised in the children's magazine, Shōnen Kingu, in1963. This version was a little different from the TV series as it was set in World War II and was about young soldiers receiving Iga and Kōga ninja training at the famous Nakano spy school. They used ninjutsu on the battlefield (so how come Japan lost the Big One?). However, their costume was exactly the same as in the TV series.

The TV series ran on Fuji TV in Tokyo from Friday 3rd January 1964 until Thursday 31st March 1966. Its timeslot varied throughout its run, but each story was told in two 30 minute episodes, and it was shown once a week. Altogether 59 stories in 117 episodes were made as well as a movie spin-off. The movie was made by Tōei in 1964 with the regulars plus two extra Phantom Agents.

In Australia, ATN-7 (Sydney) showed it weekdays, 6-6.30pm from 31st January 1966 to 22nd April 1966. It then resumed 4-4.30pm 12th September 1966 until 2nd December 1966. Many of the stories were shown out of sequence or turned into three-parters (which is why there are 58 stories in the Australian version), making it hard to match the Japanese titles with the Australian ones, hence I shall simply list the Australian titles and airdates. The chances of this series being repeated are remote. The copies of the episodes ATN-7 had were supposed to have been destroyed some years ago when they had a massive clearout.

The Phantom Agents were a ninja group using modern weapons, both chemical and mechanical, as well as traditional ninja ones. They were attached to the Espionage Department of Japan's International Police. The publicity (in Japan) at the time said they were to combat large secret organisations using Iga and Kōga ninjutsu plus modern technology and to fight for peace and justice. Their most common enemies were an international guerrilla organisation bent on world domination called, in the English version, The Black Flag (Black Devil Group, in the Japanese version) and a secret conglomerate called the Macula. There were originally six Phantom Agents in the group, all named after phases of the moon, which device appeared on their helmets. The literal translation of their Japanese name "Ninja Butai Gekkō" is "Ninja Group Moonlight". Their Japanese names were: Gekkō (called 'Fanta' in the English version), Tsukikage ('Moon Shadow'), Tsukiwa ('Moon Ring'), Meigetsu ('Shining Moon') and Getsumei ('Moon Light'). The names of the characters in the English version were: Fanta, Cordo, Zemo, Antar, Mara and Gina. There was the usual boy, Tonba, and later a new, fat agent, Mundo.

Their uniform - which could pass for something out of CHiPS with the light behind it consisted of a plain mesh-covered helmet with a moon badge in front; a short-sleeved mesh aertex shirt (black, I think), a utility belt, shoulder holster and pistol, grey breeches and black boots. They also wore black leather jackets and swords strapped across their backs.

The villains, on the whole, were a bit colourless, consisting of types in dark glasses and business suits in limousines cruising around Tokyo's concrete jungle. There were exceptions, of course. One of my favourites involved this wonderful mirror (how I wished I had one) which you could hold up and point at someone and say, "Disappear!" And they would! Another favourite involved an encounter with an old-style ninja, complete with traditional garb and long flowing tresses like a refugee from The Samurai.

Japanese critics weren't that impressed either. One labelled it 'teizoku' i.e. lowbrow or vulgar. He complained about the use of such ancient weapons as shuriken and swords on a supposedly modern group up against modern weapons and that it was difficult to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys as far as behaviour went since both went in for shootings and stranglings. He thought advertisers and TV stations should exercise more responsibility on what was screened on TV (perhaps he should have had a chat to Mr R.H. Morgan of Pittwater House??)

There were two theme songs and the cast consisted of: Mizuki Jō, Nagisa Kenji, Ishikawa Ryūji, Yamaguchi Gyo, Hirokawa Taichirō and Mori Makiko. Mizuki Jō played "Gekkō/Fanta", the leader.

Mizuki Jō: Born 11th March 1938 in Tokyo. His real name is Ishikawa Yoshiaki. In 1958, while in third year at the Meiji Academy, he entered Tōei through their Fourth New faces. He made his debut the same year under his real name in Futeki naru hankō, starring Nakamura Masaru and directed by Makino Masahiro. After that, he played juvenile delinquents in other Nakamura Masaru starrers. He also played sons of other characters and received a prize for his role as a motor-bike riding high school student in a film in 1959. In his next few films he played young hoodlums and urchins. He teamed up with Sakuma Yoshiko in a series of films about young love in 1961-1962. In 1964 he appeared in Phantom Agents on Fuji TV. The same year he appeared in the movie spin-off. This marked his last screen appearance. After that he was a regular on NET's Tokubetsu Kidō Kensatai [Special Mobile Investigators] but he has sunk from the front ranks of film and TV actors.

 

EPISODE GUIDE

1

Operation Gold

31st Jan-1st Feb. 1966

"A thrilling new adventure series made in Japan of modern-day samurai who act as secret agents against an international organisation of evil. They use judo, karate, swordplay and star daggers and electronic weapons."

2

Operation Squall

2nd Feb-3rd Feb. 1966

"A subversive organisation kidnaps doctors and nurses, intending to force them to do research on bacterial bombs. An enemy tank must be put out of action and a bridge blown up before the Phantom Agents can succeed."

3

Operation Tornado

4th Feb. and 7th Feb. 1966

"Bandits raid and loot villages and the Phantom Agents are sent to root them out of their mountain fortress. The leader of the group, Phantom Agents, Fanta makes a dangerous reconnaissance of the bandits' mountain hideout."

4

Operation Illusion

8th Feb.-9th Feb. 1966

"A foreign ambassador is robbed of secret documents and the Phantom Agents are sent to recover them. The Phantom Agents escape from the Black Flags' trap and penetrate the criminals' headquarters."

5

Operation Lightning

10th Feb.-11th Feb. 1966

6

Operation Condor

14th Feb.-15th Feb. 1966

7

Operation Shadow

16th Feb.-17th Feb. 1966

8

Operation Balloon Dynamite

18th Feb. and 21st Feb. 1966

"When strange fires occur in the shape of a fan, the Phantom Agents suspect they are the work of the Special Servicemen. The Phantom Agents hear talk of the mysterious XI base and set out to reveal its grim secrets."

9

Operation Seagull

22nd Feb.-23rd Feb. 1966

"A mysterious group is headed for an island after robbing a cargo ship. The Black Group are constructing a secret empire on this small island and plan to conquer the world."

10

Operation Bat

24th Feb.-25th Feb. 1966

"Following the defeat of a rebellious force, a large number of people die mysterious deaths. The Phantom Agents discover the murders are the work of the Black Group whose goal is world domination."

11

Operation Beetles

28th Feb.-1st Mar. 1966

"The Black Group attempt the takeover of the Margen Kingdom but the king refuses to step down so the Group has him murdered. With the Phantom Agents held captive by the Black Group, Fanta makes a desperate bid to rescue them and halt the movements of his evil adversaries."

12

Operation Coffee Cup

2nd Mar.-3rd Mar. 1966

"The Princess of Habiana kingdom is murdered while on an official visit to a foreign country. The two states declare war and the Phantom Agents are called in to try and catch the men who murdered Princess Latina."

13

Operation Clouds

4th Mar. and 7th Mar. 1966

"The Phantom Agents set out to stop incidents which have occurred in various parts of the world and become involved with the Black Flag Group."

From episode 14 to episode 30, no title was given in the TV guides. Episode 30 was broadcast 22nd April 1966, then there was a break.

3112th Sept. -13th Sept. 1966

 

 

"A scientist who believes that he has learnt the secret of making gold deserts his colleagues. Another scientist leaves the research team also believing he can make gold."

32

Operation Cipher-scope

14th Sept.-15th Sept. 1966

"The chairman of the World Committee on Crime visits Tokyo. The Phantom Agents battle to save his life and the conflict ends in a yacht harbour."

33

Operation Magic Mirror

16th Sept. and 19th Sept. 1966

"One of the magicians in the Ghost Group gives a small boy a magic mirror that can make people vanish. Fanta learns the secret of the magic mirror."

34

Operation Cameo

20th Sept.-22nd Sept. 1966

"A famous scientist, Dr. Taka, is abducted by the Ghost Group but he wears cuff-links of radioactive material and the Phantom Agents are able to trace him. The Ghost Group break up Dr. Taka's lecture at the Atomic Centre. A new leader takes over the Ghost Group and he plans to combine ancient magic with modern scientific methods."

35

Operation Magic Drum

23rd Sept. and 26th Sept. 1966

"The Phantom Agents provide an escort for a young World Nations official. The Ghost Group demand the return of the captured drummer's drum."

36

Operation Milk

27th Sept.-28th Sept. 1966

"The Phantom Agents are ordered to protect an eccentric physicist who has discovered a vital scientific secret. The old professor is told the truth about his housemaid. The Ghost Group leader intends to raid a uranium warehouse."

37

Operation Cyborg

29th Sept.-30th Sept. 1966

"The Ghost Group aids the escape of two convicts, planning to make them invulnerable by intensifying their senses. The Ghost Group leader lets it be known that he intends using these convicts in a raid on a uranium warehouse."

38

Operation Secret Weapon

3rd Oct.- 4th Oct. 1966

"The Ghost Group, out to conquer the world, is perfecting a new and deadly gun. The Phantom Agents are guarding a jewel collection which is the target for the Ghost Group but one of the men they are protecting is an imposter."

39

Operation Black Stone

5th Oct.-6th Oct. 1966

"Engineers vanish in a mine. The refining of the black-stone, a revolutionary mineral, is finished and the Macula seek the professor."

40

Operation Robot

7th Oct. and 10th Oct. 1966

"Six young men are kidnapped by the Macula and taken to a scientist's laboratory for experiments in animating a robot. Fanta, concealed in the iron shell of the captured robot, penetrates the Macula headquarters and, with his companions, rescues the kidnapped men."

41

Operation Airgun

11th Oct.-12th Oct. 1966

"The Phantom Agents investigate a series of mysterious deaths caused by a new noiseless weapon. The Macula intend to mass produce the gun in an old factory. The Macula capture Gina and attempt to use her recorded voice to lure the Phantom Agents into danger."

42

Operation Revolution

13th Oct.-14th Oct. 1966

"Fanta does an underground investigation of the 'New Land Union' posing as one of the young recruits. The Macula capture Dr. Brunden, an associate of Gensai, leader of the 'New Land Union'. Fanta's observation of this and other events enables him to reveal the true nature of Gensai and his organisation."

43

Operation Treasure Map

17th Oct.-18th Oct. 1966

"Fanta is hot on the trail of Macula agents who go to Osaka seeking a map. Fanta rescues Tonba. The Macula try to throw the Phantom Agents off their trail by telling a youth they were responsible for his father's death."

44

Operation Dragon

19th Oct.-20th Oct. 1966

"After meeting vengeful death, signs are found which prove 'Joe Dragon' is very much alive. Fanta finally discovers the solution to the mysterious fate of 'Joe the Dragon' among the props of a visiting magic show."

45

Operation Sparkler

21st Oct. and 24th Oct. 1966

"The International Diamond Association asks the Phantom Agents to probe a report. Zemo falls into a trap set for him by the Macula."

46

Operation Black Gold

25th Oct.-26th Oct. 1966

"The Phantom Agents are detailed to protect the life of an oil magnate names West. The man believed to be West is on his way to a secret meeting."

47

Operation Uranium

27th Oct.-28th Oct and 31st Oct. 1966

"Macula agents discover uranium directly under a remote mountain village and they try to scare the villagers away. Fanta and a brave village girl are finally able to reveal the Macula's tricks to terrorise the villagers."

48

Operation Agitation

1st Nov.-2nd Nov. 1966

"The success of a peace conference is threatened by the Macula agitator. Macula agents spread false reports as they try to foment war between two countries."

49

Operation Fifth Column

3rd Nov.-4th Nov. 1966

"A bomb attack on the home of one of the Phantom Agents is part of a plan to eliminate the organisation. Pawn B is rescued, recovering from the effects of the gas and leads the agents to the Macula's hideout."

50

Operation Underground

7th Nov.-9th Nov. 1966

"Macula agents kidnap scientists and take them to Volcano Island. A scientist is ordered to give workmen injections so they can work in high temperatures. Volcano Island becomes a battleground and is the scene of the final defeat of the Macula."

51

Operation Remote Control

10th Nov.-11th Nov. 1966

"The Phantom Agents are ordered to investigate an attack on a night watchman at the Space Research Institute. Despite their magic, the Ghost Group are unable to defeat the Phantom Agents who save the Diamond meteorite."

52

Operation Paper Men

14th Nov.-15th Nov. 1966

"The Ghost Group tries to capture a formula for a substance. The formula has been sent by mail to a small boy."

53

Operation Magic Watch

16th Nov.-17th Nov. 1966

"The Phantom Agents, including a new recruit named Mundo, guard a new invention. They join forces with intelligence officers from two other countries to defeat the Ghost Group."

54

Operation Rocket

18th Nov. and 21st Nov. 1966

 

Stories 55 to 58 were not given titles in the TV guide listings. The last one was a three-parter broadcast 30th Nov., 1st Dec. to 2nd Dec.1966.

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