Godzilla Singular Point: The Weird History of Jet Jaguar

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The latest take on Toho’s iconic, building-crushing lizard comes in the form of Godzilla Singular Point, an anime series now available in dubbed form on Netflix. Taking place in the not-too-distant future, this reimagining of the King of Monsters involves a group of human characters becoming aware – through rather bizarre ways – of a coming apocalyptic event. Now the only thing that can save them is a behemoth out to punch monsters and look out for the little guy.

No, not Godzilla. He’s actually the apocalyptic event. No, our hero is none other than Jet Jaguar.

Yes, it’s finally time for Jet Jaguar to get his due.

A concept nearly 50 years old at this point, Jet Jaguar is one of those characters who was initially doomed to fail, but lives on due to nostalgia and the golden notion of, “I realize most people hated that thing from my childhood, but I bet I could make it good!” At best, he was a rad addition to the Godzilla mythos. At worst, he was a dumb idea from a dumb movie. For the most part, he’s remembered as something goofy that gets laughed at, despite having some genuine earnestness.

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Jet Jaguar was created from both a fan contest and a corporate game of telephone. Back in 1972, to jump on the bandwagon of tokusatsu giant superhero/robot shows, Toho asked fans to design their own superhero design. The winner was a half-man/half-bird robot with a lengthy neck resembling a stack of rings named Red Alone. The concept was turned into a full-on rubber costume, but they changed the color scheme, which upset the young winner. They later decided to just scrap the whole thing, keep the color scheme, and make their own new design. And so, Jet Jaguar was born.

The superhero made an entire one movie appearance in 1973’s Godzilla vs. Megalon. As the urban legend goes, this was initially intended to be a standalone Jet Jaguar movie that the studio just didn’t have faith in towards the end and they hastily threw in Godzilla and recurring Godzilla villain Gigan. While the claim is dubious and unproven, it certainly is easy to understand where the allegations come from.

Everything about the movie feels rushed. As the last-minute replacement for another Godzilla film that didn’t pan out, filming took several weeks and production was a mere six months. Even the Godzilla costume was whipped up in record time. As for the story, outside of the intro, the preexisting elements (Godzilla and Gigan) aren’t thrown in until about 2/3 into the movie. Up until that point, it feels like a Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon movie with the production team hitting the panic button.

The plot of Godzilla vs. Megalon is that a scientist Goro Ibuki is working on a robot called Jet Jaguar, along with his little brother Rokuro and his best friend Hiroshi. They get wrapped up in a plot involving a group of beings from Atlantis-But-Not-Really, who are annoyed at all the nuclear bomb tests going on in their neck of the woods. They steal Jet Jaguar and use him to guide their insect god Megalon to different cities for the sake of smashing them up and punishing humanity.

Goro and friends get their hands on Jet Jaguar’s controls and use him to lead Godzilla to where Megalon is. Then the Seatopians call some alien friends for a solid and have them send in Gigan. Jet Jaguar is able to break away from all control and becomes fully sentient, as well as revealing the ability to turn into a giant. It becomes a big tag team battle, mostly remembered for Godzilla doing the silliest dropkick you’ve ever seen, followed by a second one for good measure.

The villains escape, Jet Jaguar and Godzilla shake hands, they go their separate ways, and Jet Jaguar reunites with the humans heroes after shrinking back down. He gets his own snazzy theme song to close things out.

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In Japan, the movie wasn’t all that successful. As the thirteenth title in the Godzilla series, it brought in the worst returns yet. Between public burnout and the movie’s lack of quality, it just wasn’t grabbing people. That said, it came out at just the right time in the United States. Released in 1976, it came out months before the anticipated King Kong remake. The American movie poster for the movie even bit on the King Kong poster by featuring Godzilla and Megalon duking it out while each standing on a different Twin Tower, even though the movie at no point took place in the States.

A year later, the movie would be cut down into 48 minutes so they could broadcast it on NBC in prime time, across an hour with commercials. The only reason I mention this at all is because it was hosted by John Belushi wearing a Godzilla costume, which is sadly somewhere in the abyss of golden lost media.

Getting back to Jet Jaguar – the topic of this article – I feel the need to bring up Germany’s handling of the movie’s translation. Rather than call him “Jet Jaguar,” they referred to him as “King Kong.” I mean…sure, why not. Even weirder, when the next two movies introduced fellow giant robot MechaGodzilla, Germany once again referred to the robot as “King Kong.” Guys, I know what you’re going for here, but it doesn’t work that way.

Anyway, Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla and Terror of MechaGodzilla followed Godzilla vs. Megalon and closed off the classic Showa Era of Godzilla movies. Not only did Japan need to rest Godzilla as a concept for nearly a decade, but this also meant that whenever Godzilla would come back, it was going to be some kind of reboot or new “only the first movie counts” installment. Jet Jaguar was never high on the list to be brought back, especially since MechaGodzilla completely overshadowed him.

He would at least get a little more exposure in 1991 when Godzilla vs. Megalon was featured in the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. While much of the episode is spent making fun of one of the Seatopians for looking like Oscar Wilde, they toss plenty of jokes at Jet Jaguar. Most memorably, they “translate” Jet Jaguar’s ending theme, which notes that his mother never loved him and he looks a lot like Jack Nicholson.

Due to rights issues, Godzilla vs. Megalon is one of the few MST3K episodes that is no longer legally available for viewing. This does make the original MST3K Collection Volume 10 box set (which included Godzilla vs. Megalon as one of the four movies) a collector’s item, as it was later discontinued and rereleased with The Giant Gila Monster taking its spot.

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A stranger use of Jet Jaguar comes in the form of Certain Distant Suns’ music video for “Bitter” in 1995. While there’s not much of a narrative outside of the band playing, footage of Godzilla vs. Megalon being shown, and a few shots of guys walking around in Megalon and Jet Jaguar costumes, I really insist you give the video a look due to the ending. It certainly goes in a direction I wasn’t expecting.

In 1997, Jet Jaguar made his next official appearance in another frankly bizarre spectacle. In Japan, a series called Godzilla Island appeared on TV in three-minute increments. While it only lasted a year, there were a whopping 256 episodes, meaning almost 13 hours of footage. If you’ve never heard of Godzilla Island, you might be thinking, “Wow, almost 13 hours of Godzilla stuff? Why isn’t this more well known?”

Well, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that instead of using guys in rubber suits, the kaiju action was done with action figures. Yikes.

Not only did Jet Jaguar show up during these adventures, but they gave him the 90s superhero action figure treatment. Much like how they released as many figures of Batman as possible for different crime-fighting scenarios, Godzilla Island gave us Silver Jet Jaguar, Medical Jet Jaguar, and even Fireman Jet Jaguar. Collect them all!

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In the early 2000s, Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee was released for the GameCube and Xbox under the Atari brand. It was a fighting game featuring various characters from Godzilla lore and though Atari wanted to include Jet Jaguar, Toho refused. Still, at least Megalon was included in the game. There would be two sequels in the form of Godzilla: Save the Earth and Godzilla: Unleashed. FINALLY, Jet Jaguar was playable, because if there’s anything you can count on, it’s scraping the bottom of the barrel when you’re working on multiple installments of a nostalgic who’s who project.

He’d also return in 2014’s Godzilla game for PlayStation 3 and 4. The producer of the game didn’t even plan on putting him in there, but he saw that the programmers already were working on him and just shrugged it off. There was a special trick to summoning Jet Jaguar as a boss character. By ending up in three different Godzilla vs. Jet Jaguar scenarios and winning all three times, you would then unlock a special cutscene of the two shaking hands while a confused military woman would wonder about their history.

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Around the mid-2010s, IDW Publishing was all about releasing a bunch of comics with the Godzilla license. Their mainline series was Godzilla: Rulers of the Earth, which went on for 25 issues. Early on, Jet Jaguar appeared out of nowhere during a fight between Godzilla and the team of Gigan and Orga. In human size, Jet Jaguar flew into Orga’s mouth, then expanded into giant size, causing the beast to explode. Especially awesome was that it came with the cliffhanger text, “Next: PUNCH! PUNCH! PUNCH!” a reference to Jet Jaguar’s theme song from the movie.

Jet Jaguar showed up regularly in the series, coming off as Godzilla’s designated driver friend and handler. What I mean is that he seemed to be out to protect Godzilla, but that meant having to keep his violent ally on task (ie. pointing out that Gigan was nearby to stop Godzilla from attacking Jet Jaguar) and throwing punches when the situation absolutely called for it.

This continuity played up Jet Jaguar as more enigmatic than anything, as although he was mechanical, the only human character who knew his origins was killed off before it could be explained. Even one of the invading alien villains saw him on a screen and basically went, “Oh crap. It’s THIS guy!” Regardless, he still came off as a total badass, winning fights against Godzilla, Gigan (the chainsaw-hand version), and Destroyah.

Then again, at one point he needed to be saved by the 1998 American Godzilla, which at least proved as a reminder to the robot hero that there are Toho characters far more hated than him.

Toho started using Jet Jaguar again, albeit in sillier ways. In 2019, as an April Fool’s Day prank, they put up a teaser on YouTube for a Jet Jaguar movie. They also had him appear a few times on Godziban, a Godzilla web series for kids that, once again, used dolls and action figures to tell its stories.

Now Jet Jaguar is a major part of Godzilla Singular Point. To get into specifics on the plot would be like explaining advanced calculus, but to keep on-topic, Jet Jaguar is the creation of Goro Otaki as both a way to ward off monstrous threats and as a company mascot. Considering King Kong’s role in King Kong vs. Godzilla was “kidnapped to be a company mascot,” maybe the Germans were onto something with the rename.

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Anyway, this version of Jet Jaguar is more mechanical in appearance instead of having to rely on making him look like a human in a costume. Jet Jaguar is there to protect the heroes from the endless supply of monsters, usually taking some extensive damage. Still, the robot gets rebuilt stronger and stronger and becomes advanced enough to become self-aware and speak in…well, the voice of a teenage girl.

I don’t know, I guess I just figured he’d sound like Astro Guy from King of the Monsters.

There’s a big hard-to-explain twist, but the main thing to know is that Jet Jaguar becomes a full-on badass by the end of the series, turns out to be a huge key to the plot, and has a completely kickass showdown with Godzilla. In a way, Jet Jaguar’s journey in Singular Point is a lot like in real life, going from a lame idea that appealed to kids and gradually being understood as a respected part of the Godzilla mythos. Something initially representative of the worst of the franchise, proven to be something genuinely cool in the right hands.

Now it’s time for America to return the favor. Once again, timing is on Jet Jaguar’s side. The Monsterverse was on its way to the graveyard after the box office intake of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but Godzilla vs. Kong came out at just the right time in the tail end of the pandemic to be a big success and keep the series going a little bit longer. There aren’t too many names in the toybox left to pull out, but at this point, Gigan and Jet Jaguar have to be high on the list.

Make it happen, Hollywood!

Godzilla Singular Point is available to stream on Netflix now.

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