The Ways Samurai Pizza Cats Shaped Mega Man X

Like anything by Capcom, Mega Man X and Mega Man in general have been influenced by a multitude of works. From Asimov to Astroboy and mythologies and traditions. Really, they're an amalgam of whatever seemed fun at the time–which is how you end up with an ancient Japanese Gelgoog cop wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

That time Bit birthed a tradition and a meme.

So when we start insisting Samurai Pizza Cats (aka Kyatto Ninden Teyandee) is a contender for MMX's single biggest source of inspiration, it shouldn't sound as implausibly wacky as it does.

For some context, Teyandee was a moderately successful 1990 Tatsunoko Production show. The original show was already absurdist and full of pop culture references, starring ninja cats operating out of a pizza parlor in a robot animal-populated Tokugawa Shogunate. It got an English parody dub by Saban and all the mixed baggage that entails.

The premise might sound like word salad, but zany, sci-fi parodies of old-timey Japan featuring super deformed characters wearing Saint Seiya style armor gimmicks was just a logical conclusion of trends back then.

No, seriously.

Still, where do we get off arguing this show outweighs the impact of the Laws of Robotics or Gundam's many contributions, like when Command Mission had a dominatrix Epyon?

The First Law: A robot may not injure a human being, unless they're totally into that.

The gameplay mechanics, for one. The first episode of SPC showed human-sized robots called Animaloids dashing with thruster feet were a pretty standard feature in its setting.

It came with some physics-defying wall-climbing. Later eps weren't great at remembering the characters could do this, but if I had to guess, it gave a few game designers ideas.

Including starting things off in a sci-fi city covered in ominous storm clouds under siege.

The next episode would show this megapolis was inhabited by robots driving go-kart proportioned cars.

Kyatto Ninden Teyandee's protagonists swapped from their service worker uniforms to combat gear by hopping into glass tubes. One of Mega Man X's series-defining innovations was the armor upgrade system, which were acquired by entering capsules enclosed by force fields that happened to look like glass tubes.

Glowing ovals would zoom by…

…shinier armor parts would attach…

...and similar color schemes would be strutted.

Partway through Teyandee, the trio also gained upgrades to their standard fighting getups. It's worth noting the unused, early draft of X's First Armor looked a lot like a combination of Speedy (Yattaro) and Guido (Sukashi)'s additional gear.

In fact, so did his Ultimate Armor in X4 through 6, with its wings and gold accents. It wasn't just for the first installment.

Especially because both were created by some ghost from a previous generation who shows up in the hero's time of need.

Left: The Great Warrior (Kuroi Bushou). Right: Dr. Light.

Not to mention they could be assembled into birds, or at least a very similarly arranged aircraft, when not equipped to be merchandised accordingly.

Samurai Pizza Cats didn't originate or popularize characters wearing metal animals and Mega Man X didn't open with that trope. But the game did come out in late 1993 alongside Mega Man 6, when OG Mega Man started wearing his dog. Even before the eventual crossover, it was a safe bet Capcom was taking notes from various Tatsunoko shows, namely their adaptation of Shurato.

The more obvious example would have been Friender from Casshern, but Rush is a mixed breed.

I don't know if SPC characters would have been a good fit for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, but it does feel like a missed opportunity that Bad Max (Zankaa) didn't show up for Zero's ending to confuse him further about his origin.

Polly (Pururun) sans helmet is one of the earliest characters I can think of sporting the cat ear headphones look, which became a template for operator Reploids. At least until an expert on weeb headwear corrects me.

Palette is basically a de-furried Francine (Otama), filling the same niche as an immature operator whose signature widget looks like a toy pistol.

Between Lucille (Omitsu) and Iris, both series also had a pure maiden cliche in a metal skirt who turns out to be an emotionally unstable missile monster causing more pain than most villains.

A more literal elephant in the room is Mega Man X's emphasis on humanoid, animal robots for its boss line-up with some looking familiar. For instance, look at this one-off elephant character. If you mixed him with General Catton (Rikinoshin), you'd end up with most of Flame Mammoth, including his ground-shaking stomps.

Take this rhino extra and put him in Meowzma O' Tool (Gotton)'s getup to get Tunnel Rhino.

Storm Eagle looked like he was pieced together from the two main crow antagonists, Bad Bird (Karamaru) and Jerry Atric (Gennarisai).

There was a Jubei Yagyu parody with rocket-powered bull charges trying to catch opponents with extending horns, like Blizzard Buffalo.

This character only has a passing resemblance to Spark Mandril. But he does get electrocuted, so let's call that thematically close enough. There are probably other Reploids who inherited parts from Animaloids, but I think I'm running out of examples for now.

Whether Samurai Pizza Cats aged into a classic is debatable, and I'm sure it's been at the center of many philosophical arguments. But I like to think it's an example of ephemeral entertainment containing enough genuine creativity and effort to help bring about some celebrated works that followed. For all its flaws, it's also less exploitative than, say, a franchise drawing on a giant library of fondly remembered titles only to DiVE into a cynical cash-grab. But until those get better, we can always look back and learn from their legacy and what inspired them. Most importantly, their concepts will always be there to be applied in something more ambitious, including by others.

This article was written by Kent
Additional research and editing by Richmond & Kerblombo

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