Uchuu Keiji Gavan (宇宙刑事ギャバン,Uchū Keiji Gyaban?), or Uchyu Keiji Gaban, translated in English as Space Sheriff Gavan, is the first of the Metal Hero Series. It aired on TV Asahi from Friday March 5th, 1982 through February 25th,1983 at 7:30 pm.
For distribution purposes, Toei refers to this television series as Space Cop Gabin.
By September of 1981, the end of Tsuburaya Production's latest installment to the Ultra Series (Ultraman 80) and Kamen Rider Super-1 were finished. Toei Company were in the works of the next Super Sentai project (Dai Sentai Goggle-V), but they also wanted to have a solo superhero show for 1982, but not another Kamen Rider season. They wanted to have a brand new show that children could instantly jump into without having to know anything about the concept.
Producer Susumu Yoshikawa was in charge of the new series, and Katsushi Murakami was the head designer, which he came up with a drawing of a warrior who was wielding a sword with the universe behind him.
The 1st initial title for the project was "Space Detective Z", which would be scrapped. Other titles pitched around were Gingjiro and Ginbird. But the decision was finally settled on "Space Sheriff Gavan" based on the famous french actor Jean Gabin who was immensely popular in Japan. It was also easy to trademark the name since of its non-Japanese background.
As for actors, it was decided to cast Keiji Oba from already acclaimed shows Battle Fever J (1979) & Denzi Sentai Denziman (1980) to play the main role of Retsu Ichijouji/Space Sheriff Gavan. Producer Susumu Yoshikawa informed Keiji Oba that "If the show drops to single digits in ratings, its getting the cut." So Oba made sure his portrayal was likeable for audience members so they could come back to watch more. The average ratings for Space Sheriff Gavan was 18.6%, making it a very successful show.
Earth is invaded by the Makuu Empire (literally "demon space"), led by Don Horror, who had first destroyed a space colony near Earth. Don Horror wants to dominate the whole universe, and the Earth represents an obstacle that he has to overcome, but not necessarily destroying it. To do this, Don Horror sends spaceships to create panic on Earth. While the Makuu is trying to impose its domination, Space Sheriff Gavan from the Galactic Union Patrol, arrives in his spaceship, the Dolgiran. He comes from the Bird Planet, the planet where Space Sheriffs are trained and where they are stationed while on call. Gavan is asked to defend the Earth, which is his mother's planet of origin.
Gavan is helped by Mimi, the daughter of Commander Qom, and is given information by Qom, assisted by Marin on his home planet. Gavan goes to Earth to defend it against Don Horror and his devilish schemes. He settles on Earth incognito, using his actual human name, Retsu Ichijouji; he takes a job at the Avalon Youth Club in Japan.
Uchuu Keiji Gavan was released in the Philippines as Sky Ranger (although the eyecatch and the theme song still says Uchuu Keiji Gavan) in the early 1990s - years after its sequel Uchuu Keiji Shaider aired in that country. Oddly enough, the series was not as popular as Shaider.
Malaysia's screening of Gavan (translated as Space Cop Gaban) on local TV has gained itself a cult following, and the word 'Gaban' itself has become a meme. It's used after adjectives to give an image of bravery e.g "besar gaban" (epically big) or "gaban betul" (really brave).
The eyecatch for Uchuu Keiji Gavan features an illustration of Gavan with a Shotari Ishinimori-inspired look.
Although the show was called Space Sheriff Gavan, Gavan's design still had some leftover initial plans for the original title Space Detective Z. You can clearly see the reminiscence of a Z shape design on his chest.