VR Man: Singapore's own Tokusatsu

There were great superhero shows. There were horrible superhero shows. And then, there is VR Man.
VR Man was a superhero drama produced by Mediacorp and aired in 1998. It was an extremely unusual genre for Singaporean dramas. VR Man was said to be "Singapore's first superhero". Now the show is remembered and recognised even by those who have not watched it, but mostly due to it's notoriety.

The basic story is as follows. A computer engineer, Alex Foo, gets pushed off the railings in a shopping mall and falls several stories. He is taken to be experimented on with a procedure that had killed all previous subjects. He survives, and gains the power to project virtual reality objects using a thing called the Solidifier. This is called "virping" (virtual reality projection) for short, and also because his power had to have a "cool" name for the sake of it. And he gains new powers like telekinesis and incisibility for no apparent reason in certain episodes.

VR Man faces a variety of villains, such as terrorists threatening to poison the water supply, robbers, stalkers, gangsters at his parents' coffeeshop, more terrorists who attack the airport and the man who gave him his powers in the first place, the amazingly named Click Click Man. And how can we forget to mention Click Click Man's boss, Bossman?

That's far from a great show. At least that what many local bloggers seem to think of it. However, as a tokusatsu fan, I can't help but be excited when I first found out about the existence of a Singaporean-produced superhero tokusatsu show. Of course, there are other Singaporean shows that can be considered tokusatsu or sci-fi-ish, such as the recent My Friends From Afar, but there is nothing quite like VR Man.

I may never get a chance to watch the epispdes, but with information gathered from other blogs, the episodes are rather unique, putting the superhero genre into a Singaporean context. That is something rarely explored.

The show was meant to have a serious tone, and seemingly targeted at adults, but unfortunately, it could hardly be taken seriously by the audience. And that was the last we saw of VR Man. It is close to impossible that Mediacorp (Singapore's main media company) will dig up this character again for a sequel. After this failed experiment, Mediacorp did not touch upon this genre anymore, except when they produced a child oriented superhero show, Zero Hero, which despite cringe, was more well received.

To some extent I wished I had watched this show, or at least they would rebroadcast it. It's a pity that Mediacorp forgotten about it, maybe on purpose. As someone who appreciates cheesy 1970s tokusatsu, I believe I won't hate VR Man all that much if I watched it. It was Singapore's first try at something like this after all, so don't expect that much from it. Maybe if they had continued experimenting with such shows, they might have made a very successful one by now. Hopefully, there'll be another made-in-Singapore superhero tokusatsu some day.


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