RIP Michiaki Watanabe, the Man Who Defined the Sound of Japanese Superhero TV

RIP Michiaki Watanabe, the Man Who Defined the Sound of Japanese Superhero TV
Screenshot: Toei/Marvel

Michiaki “Chumei” Watanabe, the Japanese composer who composed the first six Super Sentai TV series and several other Japanese pop culture classics, has passed away at the age of 96.

Anime News Network reports that Watanabe died of heart failure on June 23, with his death confirmed by Japanese magazine Televi-Kun yesterday morning. Watanabe’s work as a composer stretched across reams of classic Japanese anime and Tokusatsu series in his work at Toho, including hits like the legendary super robot show Mazinger Z, Getter Robo Go, and Transformers: Victory, the final series of the first generation of the franchise.

But Watanabe is probably best remembered for his work composing the first six entries in the iconic live-action superhero franchise Super Sentai. , better known in the West as Power Rangers. Watanabe was the primary composer for Himitsu Sentai Gorenger, J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai, Battle Fever J, Denshi Sentai Denjiman, Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan, and Dai Sentai Goggle-V, establishing a brass and synth-heavy sound that defined a new generation of superheroes for Japanese audiences. Watanabe’s legacy is still felt in the long-running series to this day; not only would he occasionally return to the franchise to compose songs for individual series, Watanabe returned full-time to compose the retro-infused soundtrack for the anniversary team Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger to celebrate the franchise’s 45th-anniversary last year.

In the West, Watanabe might not be a well-known name, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard what is likely his most iconic work outside of Japan: the theme song to Toei’s 1978 Spider-Man series. Watanabe composed both “Kakero! Spider-Man” and “Chikai no Ballade,” the show’s opening and ending themes (which were performed by artist Yuki Hide) as well as the original soundtrack for the series, the former gaining something of a cult status outside of Japan as the Spider-Man show slowly but surely made its way to the webslinger’s home in the U.S.

Watanabe is survived by his son, Toshiyuki Watanabe, who has composed the music for several anime TV series and films of his own.

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