In this week”s Flashback Friday, we look at National Kid, the first Japanese superhero to be motivated by merchandising!
Commissioned in 1960 by Matsushita Electric (now Panasonic) to promote the National brand of consumer electric products, the National Kid TV series was produced by Toei, based on a manga by Kazumine Daiji (published under the Kodansha label).
Heavily inspired by The Adventures of Superman, National Kid is an immortal messenger from the Andromeda Galaxy who chooses to protect the Earth from invaders. Like the Man of Steel, National Kid has online casino a secret identity, as well as superhuman abilities and flight. However, National Kid also possesses a stereotypical extra-terrestrial ray gun, which was in the form of a flashlight sold by National. Not bad for an early example of product placement.
National Kid ran for 39 episodes from Aug 4, 1960 till Apr 27, 1961 when it was cancelled. Despite its failure in Japan, it became a cult classic in Brazil, as all obscure Tokusatsu heroes eventually do.