What is Tokusatsu?

Michael Avery, Staff Reporter

What is Tokusatsu? Tokusatsu is a Japanese term for live-action film or television drama that makes heavy use of special effects featuring giant monsters/robots, people in spandex, etc.

Kamen Rider, for example, is a show with people transforming into bug-eyed superheroes in spandex.

Super Sentai is similar to Kamen Rider. Instead of one or two bugmen fighting a monster of the week sent by an evil organization, it’s usually five six people in spandex fighting monsters from an evil organization once a week. With giant robots from the team fighting the now gigantified monster.

Ultraman is a series of a long line of giant heroes fighting giant monsters. However, they do not appear all together. More like once a year.

Those are the main three series; however, there is a series called Metal Heroes which is aimed for teens and adults.

Let’s take an in-depth look at what each series has to offer.

Kamen Rider is more like a show for teens than for kids plot wise anyways. Other than that it’s anything a kid could ask for in a live-action TV show. It has great action, great characters and actors, and an awesome legacy of almost 50 years of fighting monsters, and fantastic memories for kids in Japan and a lot of people in the West. (It’s currently 47 years.) This year’s entry for the series, Kamen Rider Zi-O, is the last entry of the Heisei era since 2001 with the main rider traveling to the past to take care of enemies to keep the past intact with a little twist in it, too. At the time I’m writing this, it’s still airing weekly. Some Americans know the shows Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider Black RX as Kamen Rider Dragon Knight and, unfortunately, Masked Rider. (Adaptations of those two shows, Dragon Knight did a successful airing on 4Kids until they cancelled it before the finale and Masked Rider is not doing so well)

Super Sentai is more teamwork-based than fighting on your own most of the time. With five or three members at first fighting an evil organization for about 10-15 episodes until the 16th episode where a new sixth member debuts (fourth and fifth member if it’s just three members) and it becomes better in more ways than one. It has some filler episodes including a great cast of colorful characters and a fantastic story to go along with it. The additional sixth member is usually someone new, or someone we already know. The show Americans are familiar with, Power Rangers, is adaption of the series with morals and a toned down version, sometimes with an original plot. This year’s entry, (which is still airing at the time I’m writing this) Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs. Keisatsu Sentai Patranger, has two main teams instead of just one. One is on the side of the law, and the other is against it. It deals with the Lupinrangers fighting evil to gather collection pieces called the Lupin Collection and breaking the law like Sly Cooper would do. The Patrangers try to stop the threat and the thieves as well. With it close to its 45th anniversary up in 2020, it has a great legacy and is still going strong, although it is not as popular as Kamen Rider.

Ultraman, while not as popular as Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, is very interesting, having the fight scenes take place fully grown, and the humans having more screen time and more character development put into it. Unfortunately, I haven’t watched any Ultraman series entry yet, but I’ve heard Ultraman Geed is pretty good with its being kind of an anniversary show with previous Ultramen showing up as the transformation gimmick of the show. At the time I’m writing this, this year’s entry, Ultraman R/B, is still airing weekly, with it getting a movie with the protagonist of Ultraman Geed returning as well. It’s been airing long before Kamen Rider and Super Sentai premiered, having 52 years worth of a legacy. It’s interesting, and I’d say check it out of you’re interested.

Metal Heroes is more for teens and adults and hasn’t gotten a show since B-Robo Kabutack (the show that cancelled the whole series), which was actually excluded from the official list of Metal Heroes from Toei themselves, making them non-canon because they’re too kiddish, and it says it ends with B-Fighter Kabuto. It started out with Uchū Keiji Gavan from 37 years ago and ended in the end 1998. I haven’t seen any of the shows from that series yet, but even though the series was cancelled, the first show, Uchuu Keiji Gavan, still has crossovers with Super Sentai called Space Squad, featuring two previous Sentai teams that are police and space themed. Most Americans, or at least some adults who grew up with these upcoming shows, know the entries Juuko B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto and the Chojinki Metalder as Big Bad Beetleborgs, Beetleborgs Metalix and VR Troopers. In the US, the two shows were cancelled due to lack of stock footage. Most of the adaptations used stock footage from the shows from Japan and replaced the Japanese characters with American characters.

These shows are just the beginning of an awesome line of series in this genre of Tokusatsu. What sets them apart is the feeling you get from watching them, like with Ex-Aid for example. While watching it, I felt like the characters were actually there and felt emotional when something happened to them. With Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, I felt like the characters were there getting their jobs done; I know I’ll get the same feeling when watching Ultraman and Metal Heroes. I hope readers will watch them as well and love their shows.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see ya!