The Roboroach is a 1994 science-fiction tokusatsu film based on the manga series of the same name by Akira Hisashi. Directed by Frederick Lloyd and written by Akira Hisashi from a screenplay by Max Axis, the film stars Hideki Hamasaki as the title character, alongside Yasi Tanaka, Michi Ritsuko, Dean Norman, and Takiyo Kaori. The film centers on a timid science assistant named Masuyo Kentaro who wears an experimental suit that grants him the abilities of a cockroach. After learning that a rival company stole the information regarding the suit's creation, he is later driven to use the suit as the superhero Roboroach.
This film marks the debut of writers Max Axis and Akira Hisashi, who would later go on to write Blitzivan: Born to be Reloaded and Metal Frontier. The Roboroach was released on April 14, 1994, and received positive reviews from critics, praising its screenplay, special effects, and Silver Bullet's attempt to branch out to larger productions. The film was also a commercial success, grossing over $205 million against its modest budget of $50 million.
Science assistant Masuyo Kentaro is assigned by his boss, Rei Madoka, to help her test out a new experiment involving extracting insect cells and fitting them into a bionic suit. Unknown to Kentaro and Madoka, members of the Spectre Squad were watching them from the shadows. As Madoka was about to begin the testing, the squad triggered a series of hidden explosions, destroying the lab. Kentaro immediately puts on the suit and escapes the lab, with Madoka following him. Once they escaped the lab, they hid within the bushes and discover that not only the Spectre Squad were behind the incident, they also stole a memory disc that included the process of Madoka's experiment.
Determined to stop the squad before they could do anything to the disc, Kentaro and Madoka head to the home of Kentaro's friend Megumi Ochiai, and her brother Tsutomu Ezume. There, Kentaro discovers that by wearing the suit, he gains the ability to climb walls, run at inhuman speeds, and glide through the sky with the help of the suit's built-in wings like a cockroach.
Impressed by the suit's functions, Ezume offers to train Kentaro to master the suit's capabilities while Madoka and Ochiai also plan in tracing the van that Spectre was on. During the procedure, Madoka explains that the experiment was made when she was selected by the military to create high-performance protection suits. She further explained that she implanted insect cells into the suits to further enhance the suit's capabilities.
Meanwhile, the crew gave the disc containing the information to their leader Hiroshi Namiyo. He then commanded the crew to recreate the process in order for the organization to create their own suit. When a member asks why they would do it in the first place, Namiyo answered by saying that it was his plan to outsmart Madoka in his field and that if he succeeded, he could gain full sponsorship to the military.
Upon completing his training, Kentaro decides to use the suit's abilities to fight crime under the persona of the Roboroach. Upon learning of the Roboroach suit's existence, Namiyo decides to go one step further by using a beetle as the source for their suit's power. During a rescue attempt, Roboroach is then led to a trap by Namiyo, who unveils his new suit called the Beetle Buster. Roboroach and Beetle Buster then fight on a warehouse that gets destroyed. Kentaro retreats for now and quickly returns to his friends in order to inform them, only to discover that they have been kidnapped. While investigating, he is then communicated by Madoka through a psychic call who tells him the exact location of the Specter Squad's base. Kentaro quickly heads off.
Upon arrival at the base, Kentaro has been trapped by the base's forcefields, to where Namiyo forces Kentaro to give him the suit. Kentaro ultimately gives the suit to him after witnessing Tsutomu getting beaten by Beetle Buster. However, though, Namiyo gets immobilized after the Roboroach suit activated its security system. Namiyo ultimately ejects the Roboroach suit and uses the Beetle Buster suit to fight Kentaro. During their fight, Kentaro manages to tear off the battery of the Beetle Buster's suit and uses the base's laser ray to destroy the Beetle Buster suit, overloading the suit's power and destroying the base, but Kentaro, Madoka, Ochiai, and Ezume manages to escape in time.
Back at their home, the group congratulates their first victory. Kentaro proposes to give the suit back to Madoka, but Madoka lets him keep the suit, saying that his confidence and fidelity are what his suit was made for. Madoka, Ochiai, and Ezume watch as Kentaro wears the suit one more time and glides off into the sunset.
- Hideki Hamasaki as Masyuo Kentaro/Roboroach
- Yasi Tanaka as Rei Madoka
- Michi Ritsuko as Megumi Ochiai
- Dean Norman as Tsutomu Ezume
- Takiyo Karoi as Hiroshi Namiyo/Beetle Buster
In 1987, Akira Hisashi met with Max Axis at Axis' home to discuss ways of further promoting her manga characters. Axis suggests that she proposed them to movie studios in hopes that one of them will get a big-screen adaptation, which Hisashi agreed upon. They pitched Hisashi's works to MCA (which owned El TV Kadsre at the time) but rejected all of them. However, though, one of the executives suggested making a live-action movie based on one of her works called The Roboroach. Hisashi warned the executives that making a film based on The Roboroach could be tricky, as the manga was one of her least-selling manga in her library, but decided to go full-on knowing that with writer Max Axis on her side, they could produce a very decent movie.
Hisashi started working on the first draft of the film's plot while Max translated them as the screenplay for the film. Max recalled that one of the more annoying aspect on writing the screenplay was that Hisashi would sometimes revise the draft, meaning that he'll have to go through that part on the screenplay and write it again. Nonetheless, the screenplay was completed in only one month. Sung Gim also provided uncredited revisions to the film.
Director Frederick Lloyd and producers Alex Kruger and Ena Fudo stepped in to boost the film's budget from only $35 million to $50 million from their production company, which Hisashi calls it "an unexpected surprise".
Filming began on July 6, 1993, and took place entirely in El Kadsre City. Locations include the Theorysonic headquarters in Kangsu (the exterior of the lab where Madoka and Kentaro work at) and the El TV Kadsre Television Centre (for the interiors of the house where Ochiai and Ezume lives and the base of Hiroshi Namiyo).
Before production on the costumes began, El TV Kadsre Films hired American special effects company Amalgamated Dynamics to design the suits for the Roboroach and the Beetle Buster to be used in the film. Over 100 designs were made for the Roboroach's suit, one of them featuring ant-like mandibles on its mouthpiece, which Hisashi was against upon. They ultimately decided to create the suit that was faithful to the original manga as possible but made several alterations. The helmet's visor was more shrink down and adjusted to create a threating presence to the suit, and the entire was give more organic and synthetic pieces that perfectly balanced the two aspects. Hisashi commentated that the final design of the suit was "a hybrid between Robotman and the Guyver."
The film's theatrical trailer was attached to Hero Factory V: Brain Attack, Street Hawk, Jurassic Park, and Demolition Man. The film was distributed by El TV Kadsre Films in El Kadsre while the international distribution was handled by Universal Pictures. The US cut made several changes to the film, such as toning down the violence of the action scenes and adding more special effects.
The Roboroach was released on VHS, Laserdisc, and TVD on June 17, 1994. A DVD release was followed on April 20, 2004, to coincide with the film's 10th anniversary.
The Roboroach reached approximately $65 million on its opening weekend, making it the highest-grossing film in the El Kadsreian domestic box office. By its second weekend, the film suffered a slight 75% drop on its second weekend. Overall, the film grossed $205 million worldwide, including a $153.2 million gross in the United States and in Azara, beating its moderate $50 million budget.
El Kadsrean critic David Sududikino said the film as "a film that may not be a perfect film, but its perfectly-choreographed special effects and talented writing shows the wits and talents of writing duo Max Axis and Akira Hisashi that'll keep me waiting for what's to come in the future."