Tokusatsu for Beginners: What is Tokusatsu?

If you’ve found this blog, that most likely means one of two things: Either you already know what tokusatsu is, and you’re looking for info about one in particular, or you’re just entering random crap into Google search to see what comes up. I say its most likely one of those two, because I highly doubt that you came here because you care about my opinion, otherwise I would have regular visitors (if you do visit regularly, please let me know). But on the off chance that your not in any of the groups mentioned, then there is a chance that you’re here because you just learned about the existence of tokusatsu and are curious about what it actually is, and Wikipedia isn’t quite giving as much information as you’d like. For those of you who seem to fit this categorey, this post is just for you! Because those other people already know or don’t care!

So then, where do I start? Well let’s start with the word itself. First off, its a Japanese term, which makes it cool by default. Second off, its actually a slang word for the Japanese for “special effects”, which works out well for those of us on the web, because we go crazy for slang. Tokusatsu as a genre really goes back to the original Godzilla film, which was one of the first Japanese sci-fi flicks, so it had to use a variety of special effects that were spectacular back then, but passé and cheesy by todays standards. In many ways, the way they setup the Godzilla movies is still used in tokusatsu today. Essentially, you have a person wearing a giant monster suit, parading through a scale model version of a major city, with the whole thing brought to life with a mix of on set and editted in special effects. This can be seen in any example of tokusatsu made since then. Essentially, the roots of tokusatsu lie in science fiction movies and television shows from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.

Of course, when we think about tokusatsu series nowadays, we tend to think about superheroes, and not so much about about giant fake monsters, even though they’re still there. Though there were occasional superhero stories made in the 50’s in Japan, the first tokusatsu superhero is unanimously considered to be Ultraman. Debutting in 1966, Ultraman was an overnight success, proving the popularity of science fiction superheroes with younger audiences. Ultraman‘s popularity eventually led to the shows serialization, where it was followed by numerous versions to the series, each with their own Ultraman and their own storylines. But of course, Ultraman isn’t the only superhero in the world of tokusatsu. 

Because of Ultraman’s success, there was now a rush to produce another series that could equally compete with the popularity of the show. For a time, no one could compete with Tsuburaya Productions (the company that created Ultraman). There were many one shot series that were similar, and plenty of series that outright tried to copy the concept, but no one could match the success that Ultraman had gained. That is until 1971, when the original Kamen Rider debutted. Created by Ishinomori Shotaro, and produced by Toei, the series was part of a move to create more American-style superhero series. With the success of Kamen Rider and it’s many following series still being produced today, this formally introduced the transforming superhero to tokusatsu. With this also came the use of better, more elaborate special effects, a move towards more realistic, martial-arts movie style fighting, and the emphasis on a main villian who acts through minions. The main down side to this change was the shift away from the giant monster fights tokusatsu is known for, though this was temporary.

With the success of Kamen Rider came numerous other shows that tried to mimic the style, not only in tokusatsu but in other media, including anime and manga, leading to the creation of the five-man superhero team, which was brought to the genre through the Super Sentai series. Introduced in 1975 with Himitsu Sentai Goranger, it expanded the tokusatsu genre by bring a mix between the Ultraman-style giant monster fighting with the Kamen Rider-style realistic main-monster-and-minions fight. It also introduced the idea of the team dynamic to the genre, since before then most tokusatsu superheroes before then usually worked alone. And of course, like Ultraman and Kamen Rider before it, Super Sentai has felt success and had multiple versions since it was introduced.

Since its inception, tokusatsu has drastically changed, and yet stays very much the same, much like the people and culture that spawned it. From its origins in science fiction, its come to expand to incorporate action, adventure, fantasy, drama, and many other genres, though it tends to go back to science fiction and action. Even as special effects improve with time and technological advances, it will always come down to a person in a full-body costume.

-M.C., the Quantum Twin

Kamen Rider OOO; or, How Toei is being a total d**k and not playing nice.

Let me tell you about something funny that happened not to long ago. It involves a series called Kamen Rider, which started in 1971, lasted until 1989, had a period of intermittent attempts to revive the series, and was eventually brought back successfully in 1999, and has managed to last since then.

Recently, they transitioned into a new season, from W to OOO, and just about that time, something horrible happened in the land of the rising sun. The Japanese Entertainment industry won their lawsuit with Google and YouTube, thereby giving them the power to remove videos and other content from websites like YouTube and basically anyone else that pops up on a Google search. That might be fine and dandy with them, but its been a living nightmare for anyone that wants to view their videos online. And this has been especially true for anyone trying to see new episodes of OOO.

And here we have my main problem. You see, for almost anyone that tries to upload anything new from Toei (or anyone else for that matter), the moment YouTube realizes that they’ve done it, they immediately start sending out threats to cancel that person’s account.  Even if they don’t, the longest those videos can be held for is about a week before it can be voluntarily deleted. And even then, in some cases you have to edit out portions of the video, like the intro. And forget about subbing videos, they just sit and wait like vultures for subbed videos.

The reason this just outright ticks me off, is because just earlier this year, you could freely move about major websites like YouTube and look up episodes of tokusatsu going back almost forty years, and now you just can’t add anything new without dealing with serious scrutiny. Look, I know there are other sites, other places I can look to find this stuff. I’m even aware of thee numerous websites that provide DDLs and torrents. But this is a matter of convenience. And I don’t understand why that convenience has to be taken away. So Toei and other big production companies haven’t figured out how to make a profit online, that doesn’t mean that they should punish everyone else. Besides, most people aren’t making any profit on these videos when they upload them, nor are they interested in making one. They’re fans who just want to share their obsessions with the world. And you know what, by doing this, by going so far, they undoubtedly hurt themselves in the long run, because there is a larger online foreign fan-base than they think, and without easy access to those videos, that fan-base is just going to shrink, which means a profit loss for them.

Oh well, too bad for them. Maybe they’ll wise up one day. In the mean time, how awesome is OOO?

-M.C., the quantum twin