Evil Warriors

Jitsu: Evil master of martial arts (1984)

Jitsu Graphic2

My  introduction to Jitsu came in first grade, when a classmate pulled out several of his newest He-Man figures to show the rest of us. The three figures I remember him showing us were Tri-Klops, Jitsu and Fisto.

I already owned Tri-Klops from back in kindergarten, but I hadn’t seen these two new figures with their spring-loaded right arms that terminated in either a giant metallic fist or chopping hand. The entire group was suitably impressed, and we each took turns testing out their action features.

Jitsu’s development starts quite early in the series, in the December 1982 MOTU Bible written by Michael Halperin, under the working name, Chopper:

CHOPPER – has a right hand that’s enormous. With one mighty blow this villain can chop through bricks, trees, anything that gets in his way. He’s formidable in hand-to-hand combat.

There is actually some overlap between Chopper and a Filmation character called Strongarm – James Eatock goes into detail in this video for the He-Man Official Youtube Channel:

According to Martin Arriola, Jitsu was created by Mattel designer Colin Bailey. Although no concept art for Jitsu as a toy has been either found or made public, there is an image of his prototype.

jitsu org
Image source: He-Man.org
Proto 2
Image source: Grayskull Museum

The prototype is quite different in some respects from the final figure. As you can see, the prototype was originally to reuse Skeletor’s legs. Like Fisto, he was also going to reuse Tri-Klops’ sword (the example in the image above isn’t even repainted). He also uses He-Man’s arms, rather than Fisto’s arms. Everything else in the rough prototype seems to match the general thrust of the figure’s final design.

The Filmation design may represent an intermediate stage in the character’s design, or it may be a “Filmationized” version of the final toy. This incarnation of Jitsu features human feet with unique red samurai boots and an enlarged but ungloved right hand. He also has a purple belt and bracers:

Jitsu appears in a single episode – “The Dragon Invasion”.  In this scene, he squares off against Ram Man, and they both come out a bit worse for wear in the end:

Jitsu gif
Images used in the animation courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

On August 22, 1983, Mattel filed a trademark for the name Jitsu, instead of the original Chopper. The toy was released the following year.

The final design utilizes He-Man’s legs, with two toned gold and black boots. He is also given a unique katana weapon, although the finger guard is molded on the wrong side of the handle. He reuses the left arm, right upper arm, and slightly shallower chest from Fisto. He has a unique head sculpt and unique two-piece armor – the latter would later be used for Mattel’s King Randor figure:

The action scene on the back of Jitsu’s packaging was illustrated by the inimitable Errol McCarthy:

Jitsu Graphic
Image source: Starcrusader
Image source: He-Man.org

McCarthy also illustrated the character, along with Fisto, for this T-Shirt design:

Jitsu’s cross-sell artwork is quite faithful to the toy, down to the backwards hand guard on the sword:

Jitsu cross sell from Axel
Image source: Axel Giménez

Jitsu was also sold in a JCPenny two-pack with Clawful, and in a gift set with Night Stalker. The artwork for the Night Stalker gift set was done by William George.

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Jitsu Night Stalker

Jitsu and Nightstalker are the “evil opposites” of Fisto and Stridor, who were also sold as a set. Evil opposites is a theme that pops up over and over again in the vintage Masters of the Universe line.

Battle Cat and Panthor

Aside from the Night Stalker gift set, Jitsu appears on one other piece of box art for the Masters of the Universe line – Battle Bones, by William George:


Jitsu is never really center stage in any story he appears in. His biggest moment in the minicomics is definitely in The Clash of Arms, where he faces off against Fisto and is quickly defeated:

Jitsu also makes some very minor appearances in Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde and in Hordak: The Ruthless Leader’s Revenge.

Jitsu is a little less camera shy in the Golden Book stories, The Rock Warriors and Demons of the Deep, both illustrated by Fred Carillo. He is far from front and center here, but at least he’s operating at the level of henchman of the week, together with Webstor in the first story and Mer-Man in the second:

Jitsu also makes an appearance the Golden Giant Picture Book, also illustrated by Fred Carillo. Here Jitsu commits the worst sin imaginable – he smashes the Battle Ram with his giant golden chopping hand. The images below come from the Bustatoons blog.

Jitsu also appears in several posters painted by William George from 1984 to 1986:

21 thoughts on “Jitsu: Evil master of martial arts (1984)

  1. i think i commented before but I would like to hear any reports.. while bits of the figures can get damaged and degrade, my Jitsu is the worse. the main problem is the feet. at least one, if not both have just dropped off at the boots. There is no stress marks, no force used. a pretty clean (so glueable) brake. the Plastic colour in the boots shows black with a swirl of gold which lead me to think possibly GPS, the misnamed ‘Gold Plastic Syndrome’. This is where the plastic with metallic shades didn’t have the paint mixed with the plastic right and means it doesn’t hold up at all. While not too bad at first, within a few years, they can be very brittle, no stress marks but just clean snaps, the worse leads to them braking into tons of pieces with only very minor touch (even MOC figures can be broken due to a shake of the box.

    I’ve not known this on toys this early, and outside of Hasbro (where the problem seams to related to 1992 till 2002 mostly). Anyone have any reports on Jitsu?

    1. I haven’t experienced that with Jitsu. But mine seems to have legs molded in flesh tone. Where was yours manufactured? I have seen “gold plastic syndrome” on Blast Attak – the gold plastic of his torso is very brittle.

        1. http://www.tesp.co.uk/JitsuFoot.jpg
          a bit big but a combo of two photos.
          His legs seam to be a careful mix of 3 plastics, the foot is poured black, they then poured some gold for the trim more then paint (you can see it wasn’t as carefully layered as it should be and you can see some of the gold plastic in the foot, but only inside, not the outside), and then the leg flesh. Can’t see it amazingly well but the black-gold mix seams to go all the way though the leg as it becomes the joint onto the body. both legs are off because that part as also gone. no stress marks or any kind. The second part of the photo, you can see the clean cut on the inside hip where the leg came off, also a mix of black and gold, and you can see the base of the leg where the foot came off has some of the flesh plastic..

          As for where it was made.. ha.. only stamps are Mattel Inc 1983 so I’ll have to leave it to you to know which factory that lines up to or any place I need to check for it (the stamp is on the lower back of the body, and the armour back). Probably gonna try to glue to repair it but I doubt even good strong stuff (I got a few types of glue for various repairs) will do too much..

          atleast this gives and interesting look at how the plastics were poured. Laying colours can be a bit tricky at times, and mostly take more time, but as used sometimes for various effects.

          1. Wow, that’s VERY interesting. I actually didn’t know that they could do multi-colored plastic in layers like that. I know not all examples are like that because I’ve seen figures with paint wear on the boots, exposing flesh tone plastic under the black paint. I’ll do some investigating on this.

          2. haven’t been able to get too much luck finding out stuff on my end. unless it has the name of where it’s made stamped on it, I’ve not even seen many decent guides to working out factory locations..

            While it’s an interesting toy right now cause it’s clearly completely different to the American released versions, doesn’t help me too much with a damaged toy. Had the chest open earlier to do some repair work but I can’t remember the correct spring positioning to get the arm chop working again.. shame but i’ll remember at some point.

            I can give some more info that is probably not too useful.
            the arms and legs have a bit of a rubbery feel but aren’t rubber. the Head is the hollow version which I think all used at this time. the body is very much hard plastic with a gloss feel to it. the Brown skin tone not quite matching with the arms, legs or head. that seams very much on the ball for this toy so nothing new.
            While there is pain rub on the armour, it’s not painted the same as he one in your phots. the studs on the upper part are painted over gold on front and back with the only red being tiny bits of paint rub. the larger chest studs an back ones are red through.

            so really, nothing of any use there.

            the plug on the head seams to have black paint on it at the base, where it attachs to the pin holding pin

          3. Wolfstar pointed it out as possible French too.. Might be.. seams like the most logical option. Feeling more, the toes seam bend like rubber and give the right movement, but the leg seams like the same material, cause it appears to have the same feel as the thicker/harder part of the boot.. but hard to say for sure.. though it seams the leg has a huge peg cause where the foot has snapped, there is a bit of the tan/brown hard plastic…

            Either way, i’m happy to say this is the end of the case ^_^. It’s a French produced European MOTU Figure.. they claim rare but doubt that.. American information on European toys (even if they are produced versions of American stuff) is … not great.. most sites I have tried to give information to just don’t care.. others I just don’t bother with.. anyway.. Thanks.. Case closed.. can’t find a way to safely open the pelvis but i’m working on trying to repair ^_^

    2. … this happens with my FRANCE produced figures (e.g. He-Man). When the sun hits the figure, the “shoe” part of the figure comes of and the Paint/glue is all sticky. I resolved this issue by replacing the complete leg part using legs from another figure.

      1. My he-man does feel a bit sticky but nothing of real note, the Paint is fine on the figure (the legs don’t even any paint on them and there isn’t any glue.. and this figure isn’t sticky at all.

        but gives a hint it might be french produced, being that I’m from England, French produced ones are possible.. intresting if it is that they didn’t update the copyright from Mattel inc to Mattel France (of course, the original French releases were not produced in france anyway.. still.. it’s a hint which is better then nothing ^_^

  2. Fond memories of getting Jitsu on a family holiday….a very very freezing cold holiday in a cottage on the East coast of Norfolk. I think he was bought for me as a kind of ‘sorry we’re putting you through this kid, but we are sure you will defrost when we get home’ present.

  3. There was a TV commercial for Jistu, broadcast in the UK. I only ever saw this once, on a Saturday, around the time the figure appeared in the shops. I’ve no idea if it was a U.S. made commercial or German. It depicted Jitsu attacking He-man.

    It’s not on youtube and there doesn’t appear to be nay reference for it online. Anyone else recall this commercial?

  4. Great review. Never was too crazy about the martial arts/Ninja influence on MotU. The topic was big at some point in the 80s and I guess Mattel wanted to go with the trend. Jitsu is still better than Ninjor…

  5. Although I like the figure look (but I never had him), my problem with Jitsu is that I always disliked the concept of “Evil Opposites”: even as kid the chances that two people with the same capabilities and similar looks not only exist but fighting each other on opposite sides are so low, so 99,9% inexistent to be mindblowing XD Are the same chance than Rosario Dawson knock at my door dressed in a playboy bunny suit.
    The only exception imho is Battle Cat/Panthor, because the idea that at come point, after seeing a lot of times He-Man on his tiger, Skeletor said to Beastman “Ehi, find me something like that to use as my own steed” is far more acceptable 😛
    Another thing is that I always found very forced and out of place the inclusion of plain cultural elements from Earth, because Eternia is an alien world: Jitsu with his hairstyle, Ninjor being a ninja or all the elements involved in the Sy-Clone in the 200X…. they don’t belong to Eternia.

  6. My Jitsu’s figure legs broke off cleanly as well. I think it has been several years ago. Jitsu never appeared on the cross sell art. Why?

    1. I hadn’t actually noticed that he didn’t appear in any cross sell artwork. The one I show here came from Axel Gimenez/Dark Horse, but apparently never used. I think they tended to expand the cross sell art on the back of the packaging with each new release throughout the year. Jitsu might have come out late enough in 1984 not to make the cut. But who knows. Thanks!

      1. You know, I could’ve SWORN BLIND I saw him in cross-sell art on a cardback, once. O’ course, this was 35+ years ago, and my memory has been known to fail me on occasion . . . .

  7. Hi all! A long shot – I’ve been searching for information on a set of Jitsu armour I have that is unpainted … and green. I’ve always presumed it’s a South American bootleg, but I got it in Australia in a large bag of mixed MOTU accessories – the provenance doesn’t really match bootlegs. Happy to provide photos if you’d like – any clues greatly appreciated. James

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