If you’ve been keeping up with the recent announcements out of Otakon, you’ve probably heard that Discotek has licensed Chargeman Ken on Blu-ray. Now, they license all kinds of things, so no surprise there. But this one’s gotten some special attention. Why? What the heck is it?
Well, it’s hard to explain. But we’re going to try. Strap in.
Chargeman Ken premiered in 1974, and ran for a total of 65 episodes over the course of two months. During its self-contained, ten-minute blocks, we meet the Izumi family—specifically Ken, a 10-year-old boy who is also a superhero. There’s also his sister Caron (seen above with knife), dad Hiroshi (seen above restraining Caron), and a robot named Barican. There are also aliens named Juralians.
If that all sounds very vague and scattershot, it’s because the show is, too. The series was produced on a shoestring budget, and as a result most of the staff preferred to go to the beach instead of working. After its brief run, the show should honestly have disappeared into the mists of time.
But Chargeman Ken refuses to die. This strange show clawed its way back to the surface in 2007 thanks to a DVD box set. 2chan and other online platforms immediately fell in ironic love with it. Then the ironic love went global, with Americans eventually discovering this strange artifact as well.
We can’t help it. As much as we’re always looking for the next show with gorgeous animation or solid writing, these oddballs always call to us. There’s something about a grade schooler just dropping a guy to his death out of his (the grade schooler’s) spaceship, and that being the big clever solution of the episode. Of course, this series comes to us from Knack Studios: the makers of Psycho Armor Govarian, where you can see an animator’s gloved hand switching out the cels at one point. You know what kind of quality you’re in for.
The Chargeman Ken love has led to some absolutely wild choices in recent years. The recent Blu-ray licensing, for one. For another, a 2019 stage musical. The production featured four separate Kens, and encouraged attendees to film the spectacle and share the videos so everyone could see the madness.
It’s strange to think that a show this poorly funded and produced could one day find its way back to anime fans. And stranger still to think just how beloved it’s become. If you’ve been won over, keep an eye out for the upcoming Blu-ray release!