Sunday, March 21

Notes on Shaider and Cultural Imperialism

Last week, we discovered that Babaylan Yda was descended from the Lost Empire of Mu. There were hints that perhaps Lay-Ar also had a hand in the disappearance of the legendary Pacific empire. Mu (Or Lemuria, in other texts) once had a civilization that was far more advanced than ours--utilizing solar energy, among other things. This lost civilization has captivated our minds for the longest time: What caused their sudden disappearance off the face of the earth? If we are to believe the Disneyfied version (on Atlantis, at least), there are alien colonizers involved.

When stumped for explanations with bizarre things, we often refer to the aliens. We attribute to them the Egyptian pyramids, crop circles, the number zero, the Stone Hedges on Easter Islands (or "Rapa Nui" to you. Digression: the opening theme to Kasangga is a recycled version of the film soundtrack. Specifically, the music playing when Jason Scott Lee and the other guy were racing each other for the pale princess' hand.) It's as if we can't do these things on our own, and must resort to help from alien civilizations, which we always believe to be better than our own. It's kind of like intergalactic imperialism, which is, after all, What Puma Lay-Ar is all about. He wants to achieve universal domination by controlling culture, influencing people through their weaknesses.

If we are to look at all these Japanese cops and aliens stories, from Shaider to Bioman to the Ultraman series, it's all about aliens trying to invade the earth, specifically Tokyo. Now why the Japanese? I could launch on an entire treatise on how the forced opening of Japan to western influence and the humiliation of World War II has something to do with all of these, but that requires research, and well, I just want to blog right now. Refinements later.

Shaider solidifies all these arguments about aliens and lost empires. The strange monuments ARE alien, signifiers meant to communicate with those in the blue yonder. The animal markings on the caves that Alexis discovered were compass points to guide the Pulis Pangkalawakan in their missions on earth. All the significant characters in the series, Alexis, Annie and Yda, were subjects of Lay-Ar's imperialist dreams. Annie's planet had been destroyed, as was Yda's Mu, and now Alexis' earth. While Yda became a priestess serving Lay-Ar, Alexis and Annie had been recruited by the Pulis Pangkalawakan to try to stop Lay-Ar. Yda had no previous knowledge of what had become of "her people," and it was only during the investigation of the Easter Island markings that she has come to understand how Lay-Ar was at the root of all these. Alexis himself had only vague memories of what transpired in Easter Island, where he had mysteriously disappeared two years before. It was only Annie who had a clear memory of Lay-Ar's destruction of her planet. Everyone is searching for their origins, and now they're slowly discovering how Lay-Ar had a hand in the disappearance of their roots.

It's interesting how cultural imperialism has been transmuted to a low-budget drama of tin foil, space invaders, recycled footages and flying kicks. What's even more interesting is to see how a primarily Japanese text, with its obsession with destruction and intergalactic colonization has been translated into Filipino. Babaylan Yda and Bathala Lay-Ar, and the ever changing gallery of monsters meant to put down Shaider, ang Pulis Pangkalawakan. It's the good old binary of good versus evil, the courageous local versus the usurpous stranger. It's entertainment on Saturday (or Sunday, as the case is now) mornings for ten year old kids. But just how much of this imperialist subtext is visible to those waiting for Shaider's Blue Hawk and Super Slash? In the late 80s, early 90s in which this series had been first aired, I doubt it that kids sat down to cheer the wiry and wily Alexis into destroying the evil empire. It was about flying kicks and glittering armor, and whether the knight would get the girl: "Shaider, Shaider love Annie." We couldn't care less, unless perhaps, when forced to sit down and realize the extent of that empire.


And now for this week's proper episode update: "Kapalaluang Mapagpahamak."

Alexis becomes too complacent in his abilities, loses the battle with the magnet-toting monster, and nearly gets Annie killed. Humbled, he retreats and is forced to take stock of his capabilities. He engages in a Karate Kid like regimen: he has to divert the course of a waterfall with a single samurai sweep. Meanwhile, Annie receives the challenge from Puma's lair: the usual ruse of hostaging a busload of
school kids and the threat to destroy those poor innocent children. Annie decides to take it on herself so Alexis could concentrate on his task. Not really a good idea, Annie gets endangered, in her mind she screams for help from Shaider. Alexis feels this, and gives the task one last burst of concentration and he succeeds to divert the water flow. He now takes on Lay-Ar's bunch with renewed flair and beats them all. Alexis has learned from his youth's folly: Don't be too mayabang or Lay-Ar will beat the hell out of you.

Quick discovery from Imdb: There's actually a Shaider movie. But not enough details in the database. Will further investigate soon.

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