1 9 6 4 (Japan)
130 x 30 minute episodes
Modern-day secret agent ninjas who worked for the Japanese government, the Phantom Agents were skilled in counter-terrorism and fought against criminal organisations including the evil Black Flags of Smig Z (“smigzee”), the Mocula (stylised Yakuza gangsters) and The Ghost Group – which contained magicians and others with mystical powers.
The agents were highly-skilled in the use of martial arts and the use of ninja star knives and Samurai swords, and considered guns something to be used only as a last resort (as they exclaimed at the beginning of every episode).
Other skills included the ability to leap backwards into trees and the ability to render themselves invisible by holding a brick-patterned sheet in front of themselves, thus blending into the background (as long as they were standing in front of brick walls, natch).
The series starred Joh Mizuki as Phantar their leader. Other agents included Tugor, Cordo, Zemo, Andar, Mundo and female agent, Margo (later replaced by Gina). There was also a small apprentice boy agent called Tomba.
Known as Ninja Butai Gekko (“Ninja Group Moonlight”) in its home country, Phantom Agents first screened in Australia on 31 January 1966 and became immensely popular with children, especially in Sydney.
The show also aired sporadically in the US but was not a hit there.
In the original Japanese version, the agents were all named after phases of the moon, which also appeared on their helmets: Gekkō (‘Moonlight’), Tsukikage (‘Moon Shadow’), Tsukinowa (‘Moon Ring’), Meietsu (‘Shining Moon’), Natsuki (‘harvest moon’), Mikazuki (‘Crescent Moon’) and Getsumei (‘Moon Light’)