Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Toku Movie Flashback: Chou Kamen Rider Den-O & Decade NEO Generations The Movie: The Oni Island Battleship (2009)

There are great Kamen Rider movies. Kamen Rider ZO, Kamen Rider 555 The Movie: Paradise Lost, and Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider: Fourze & OOO - Movie War MEGA MAX to name a few. There are terrible Kamen Rider movies. Kamen Rider The First, Kamen Rider The Next, and Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero War among some others. And then there are Kamen Rider movies that are strictly middle of the road. Nothing about them are offensively bad, but nothing about them sticks out as excellent either. Chou Kamen Rider Den-O & Decade NEO Generations The Movie: The Oni Island Battleship is one of those films.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Slogging Through Engine Sentai Go-Onger Part 1: The Worst Sentai Ever?

In 2008, I had just finished watching Juuken Sentai Gekiranger with my brother. We had already started watching Kamen Rider Kiva (which was already pretty underwhelming) when we decided to pick up the next Super Sentai: Engine Sentai Go-Onger.

We could already tell it was going to be a far more colorful Sentai than its predecessors. With its suit designs incorporating animals and its animal/vehicle mascots, it was clear this was going to make more of an effort to skew younger than either Boukenger or Gekiranger did. When we started watching it a few days after episode 1 aired in Japan (pretty much right as the subtitles became available), we couldn't believe our eyes.

This show was baaaaaaad. The acting was horrendous, the writing and post-production work seemed amatuerish, it was trying way too hard to appeal to young tykes and the characters just didn't seem that likable. We got through 8 episodes before my brother and I just couldn't sit through anymore and we unceremoniously dropped it, the first time we had ever done that for a currently-airing tokusatsu series. We also dropped Kamen Rider Kiva around the same time, but we eventually finished that sometime after Kamen Rider Decade began. It's been over five years and I still haven't watched Go-Onger again. That is, until now.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chojin Sentai Jetman Series Review Part 3

Production: Toei Co. Ltd.
Ratings Average: 7.1%
Episode Length: 20 minutes
Video/TV Specials: Lucky Ikeda's Jetman Exercise, Toei Hero Encyclopedia Vol. 2: Chojin Sentai Jetman
Opening Theme: "Chojin Sentai Jetman" (Winged Task Force Jetman) Performed by: Hironobu Kageyama
Ending Theme: "Kokoro wa Tamago" (The Heart is Like an Egg) Performed by: Hironobu Kageyama
AKA: Jetman (International title)
Succeeded by: Kyoryuu Sentai Zyuranger

Friday, July 5, 2013

It's update time!

So, I haven't been very active lately. And when I have been active, it's been all reviews (I just noticed that every post I've made since late May has "review" in its title. I shall work on the variety of titles). So, I've been mulling over either writing a new multi-part retrospective of sorts like my Den-O posts or something like my Amemiya post where it's more of a snapshot of a career.

If I do the latter, I'd really like to write about Naruhisa Arakawa (head writer of Kamen Rider Kuuga, Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger seasons 1 and 2) since I'm a huge fan of his work and would like to gush about it. However, I feel I'm not a huge expert on him just yet since I haven't seen Abaranger or finished Akibaranger Season 2. If I were to do another multi-part retrospective, I'm not exactly sure what to write about in that regard.

Or I could just rant about Kamen Rider Decade since I am currently rewatching it. And boy, by episode 9 it is already starting to spiral downward. So yeah, I mostly wrote this to break the "review" streak that was completely unintentional. However, I'm also letting my readers out there know I am working on ideas for more posts so please bear with me.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kidou Keiji Jiban The Movie (1989) Review

Original Toei Manga Matsuri 1989 Poster

On July 15th 1989, Toei opened their second film festival of the year, called the "Toei Manga Matsuri", in theaters nationwide. This quadruple-feature event included over two hours of content and had a summer theme. This Manga Matsuri was most notable for including the first theatrical adaptation of the hit anime series Dragon Ball Z, which we know in the States as Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone but was called Dragon Ball Z: Give Me Back My Gohan! in Japan (although the original theatrical version did not have a subtitle). The other attractions included the first film based on the horror comedy series Akuma-kun and the second film based on the magical girl series Himitsu no Akko-chan: The Ocean! The Monsters! The Summer Festival! The only live-action production that ran during this film festival was the theatrical adventure of that year's Metal Hero series: Kidou Keiji Jiban. I saw all four movies just recently because I wanted to "recreate" that festival for my own personal pleasure after I recently bought the first 5 Dragon Ball Z movies recently on DVD. However, since this is a toku blog, I will only be reviewing the Jiban movie on here. So hit the jump to find out what I thought about it, and feel free to look at the pretty pictures!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chojin Sentai Jetman Series Review Part 2

Number of episodes: 51
Movies: N/A
Action Director: Michihiro Takeda
Special Effects Supervisor: Hiroshi Butsuda
Episode Directors: Shouhei Toujou (16 episodes), Keita Amemiya (14 episodes), Masao Minowa (13 episodes), Kiyoshi Arai (4 episodes), Taro Sakamoto (4 episodes)
Episode Writers: Toshiki Inoue (29 episodes), Kenichi Araki (11 episodes), Naruhisa Arakawa (6 episodes), Mami Watanabe (2 episodes), Hiroyuki Kawasaki (1 episode), Kunio Fujii (1 episode), Takahiko Masuda (1 episode)
Suit Actors:

Kazuo Niibori, Hiroshi Maeda - Red Hawk
Hirofumi Ishigaki, Tomihisa Naruse - Yellow Owl
Naoki Ofuji - Black Condor
Yuichi Hachisuka, Masato Akada - White Swan
Shoji Hachisuka - Blue Swallow
Hideaki Kusaka - Jet Icarus, Jet Garuda, Great Jet Icarus, Grey
Yasuhiro Takeuchi - Tetra Boy
Takeshi Miyazaki - Dimension Beasts

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Toku Week In Review (6/23/2013)

Another week, another batch of tokusatsu news! This week, more information on the Kikaider revival project is revealed, a new trailer for the live action adaptations of Gatchaman and Tiger Mask are released online, toys galore, a familiar face joins the Kamen Rider Wizard movie and more! Hit the jump for all the toku news you can handle.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chojin Sentai Jetman (1991-1992) Series Review Part 1

Air Dates: February 15, 1991 - February 14, 1992
Head Director: Keita Amemiya
Head Writer: Toshiki Inoue
Music: Kazuhiko Toyama
Producers: Atsushi Kaji, Takeyuki Suzuki, Kyozo Utsunomiya
Created by: Saburo Hatte

Kotaro Tanaka - Ryu Tendoh/Red Hawk
Rika Kishida - Kaori Rokumeikan/White Swan
Ikko Tadano (credited as Tomohisa Naruse) - Raita Oishi/Yellow Owl
Sayuri Uchida - Ako Hayasaka/Blue Swallow
Toshihide Wakamatsu - Gai Yuki/Black Condor
Mikiko Maki - Commander Aya Odagiri
Daisuke Tachi - Count Radiguet
Maho Maruyama - Maria/Rie Aoi
Miku Kuga - Tran
Yutaka Hirose - Emperor Tranza
Yuzo Hayakawa - Jiiya

Voice Only Roles:

Hideaki Kusaka - Grey
Tsutomu Taeki - Narrator

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Toku Week In Review (6/16/2013)

Man of Steel has launched into theaters across America this weekend with huge box office numbers. While that's great for American superheroes, how are their Japanese counterparts faring? Turns out it was a huge week for new toku information: we have a name for our next Kamen Rider series, Koichi Sakamoto's newest film is announced, New Ultraman Retsuden's first promo arrives, the original Ultraman finally gets its long-awaited Japanese Blu-ray release, the Go-Busters return with the launch of its V-cinema special and more! Hit the jump for all the non-video gaming and all-tokusatsu news you need to know this week!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

No Toku Week In Review this week

Hey everyone, sorry about not posting a news recap over the weekend like I usually do. I had gotten started on writing the post, but I kept putting it off until it was clear that it was too late to try posting it. I will try to bang out one this week, so there's that to look forward to. In the meantime, the most interesting thing that happened this past week was the loads of information we got on Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger The Movie: Gaburincho of Music and Kamen Rider Wizard In Magic Land: The Movie (Deathryuger is the name of the villain of the Kyoryuger film, not KyoryuNavy). So, here's the theatrical trailer for the double-feature, coming out on August 3rd.

Here ya go

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Spider-Man Series Review Part 2

Number of episodes: 41
Movies: Spider-Man (Released on: July 22, 1978 Length: 24 minutes)
Stunt Coordinators: Osamu Kaneda, Junji Yamaoka
Episode Directors: Koichi Takemoto, Katsuhiko Taguchi, Takaharu Saeki, Kimio Hirayama, Hideo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Kobayashi
Episode Writers: Shozo Uehara, Susumu Takaku, Kuniaki Oshikawa, Hirohisa Soda, Mikio Matsushita
Ratings Average: 8.0%
Opening Theme: "Kakero! Spider-Man" (Run, Spider-Man!) Performed by: Yuki Hide
Ending Theme: "Chiaki no Ballade" (The Oath's Ballade) Performed by: Yuki Hide
Episode Length: 24 minutes
AKA: Japanese Spider-Man (Marvel.com title)

Toku Week In Review (6/2/2013)

All right, we've now in the sixth month of the year! Summer's around the corner, which means it's time to finally dig our teeth into info and promos for the next Super Hero Time movie double feature! Plus, new images surface for Ultraman Ginga, a new original tokusatsu series is announced, and Akibaranger gets a little closer to its dream of becoming official. Hit the jump for all the toku news you can handle!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spider-Man (1978-1979) Series Review Part 1

Air Dates: May 17, 1978 - March 14, 1979
Head Director: Koichi Takemoto
Head Writer: Shozo Uehara
Special Effects Director: Nobuo Yajima (uncredited)
Music: Michiaki Watanabe
Producers: Susumu Yoshikawa, Hiroshi Ishikawa
Created by: Saburo Hatte (based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
Production Company: Toei Co. Ltd.

Shinji Todo - Takuya Yamashiro/Spider-Man
Rika Miura - Hitomi Sakuma
Izumi Oyama - Shinko Yamashiro
Yoshiharu Yabuki - Takuji Yamashiro
Mitsuo Ando - Professor Monster
Yukie Kagawa - Amazoness/Saeko Yoshida
Hirofumi Koga - Spider-Man's Suit Actor

Voice-Only Roles:
Shozo Iizuka - Numerous Machine BEMs
Toru Ohira - Narrator

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Toku Week In Review (5/26/2013)

It's Memorial Day weekend over here in the United States. While you guys are taking a break from checking out all the new films out there (I will catch Fast & Furious 6 ASAP) or grilling your healthy doses of meats and veggies, come check out what's been up with the tokusatsu industry over the last week. A new Kamen Rider novel is released, Toei opens auditions for those who want to join Shocker, Battride War finally comes out, and filming for the cameos in Power Rangers: Super Megaforce begins! Hit the jump for a barbecue-sized feast of toku news!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Toku I Need To Watch

Hey guys. I thought I'd create this list, chronicling each tokusatsu show and movie I really want to see, just to mix things up. I've been talking about the shows and movies I have seen on this blog (I am currently writing my series review of Spider-Man, which is the 40th tokusatsu series I have finished), so I figured I'd let my readers know what shows I actually haven't seen but have right up there on my priority list. This list will be broken down into franchises: the list will start with Ultraman shows I want to see, followed by Kamen Rider, then Super Sentai, followed by Metal Heroes, and then finally shows that aren't part of any of the main franchises. I'll also include some brief reasons why these shows are top priority, and I am also not including shows I am currently watching on a regular basis (meaning no Jetman or Ultraseven for instance) So, let's get started:

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Den-O Phenomenon Part 5: Den-O, All Riders, and All Sentai


Ever since 2010, there have been far fewer appearances from the crew of the DenLiner and its rowdy passengers, the Imagin. Still, every chance Toei got to bring the beloved cast back was not turned away. 2011 was the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Kamen Rider franchise, and Toei knew that one of the best ways to celebrate would be to make a film featuring all of the Riders. Especially following the huge success of Kamen Rider Decade The Movie: All Riders Vs. Great Shocker, it was deemed wise to make a new film with the original Riders. For the sake of synergy, this film was to star their newest Kamen Rider: Kamen Rider OOO, but OOO would crossover with another Rider many had become extremely familiar with.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Toku Week In Review (5/19/2013)

This week in toku news: Hurricanger fans get their first look at the upcoming V-Cinema sequel, more actors drop out of Super Megaforce while only a handful are announced to appear, Kamen Rider: Battride War announces several more voice actors, and more sneak peeks at the production of the new American Godzilla movie hit the Internet! Hit the jump for all the news you need to know from this past week!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Note about discrepancies in box office breakdowns

Recently, I've been posting numerous reports and numbers that Kamen Rider films have pulled in from the box office. Unfortunately, it looks like many of these results might be innacurate thanks to the yen to dollar conversions. As a result, I've decided that I only will report how much a film has made in yen, not US dollars to prevent any accuracy. By using the actual numbers, hopefully how well the film is performing (or not) will still come across. For example, Kamen Rider Decade The Movie: All Riders Vs. Great Shocker made 1.9 billion yen during its entire run, and it is to date the highest grossing Kamen Rider film. For comparison, recent box office results have shown that Kamen Rider x Super Sentai x Uchu Keiji: Super Hero War Z has yet to break 750 million yen despite running in theaters for two weeks.

This change will be reflected immediately in the next part of my Den-O retrospective. I haven't decided if I will change my previous articles yet to reflect this, but you will know if I do. Thanks for reading and I hope you'll look forward to my next update!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Den-O Phenomenon Part 4: Chou Den-O


After The Final Countdown proved to be yet another success for Toei, it had become inevitable that Toei would once again dive into the Den-O well for another adventure. Instead of just bringing the Den-O gang back together; however, Toei and Bandai decided that the series needed to evolve now that Takeru Satoh was gone. It was decided that the next stage of Den-O was to be a multimedia event, and Den-O needed a new form to reflect this. With some clever wordplay, Sieg's wings were added to Climax Form and the new form was called Chou Kamen Rider Den-O (chou is Japanese for super, but can also mean wings).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Den-O Phenomenon Part 3: Den-O Invades Kiva


When Kamen Rider Den-O ended on January 20, 2008, it was reasonable enough to believe that it would be a long time before we'd see Ryotarou and the Imagin again, if ever. However, the truth was virtually the complete opposite of that belief. It was not long after Den-O finished that the characters returned due to popular demand. In doing so, Den-O made history for the Kamen Rider franchise and helped move the Heisei Series forward towards the celebration of crossovers we have today.

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider: Fourze & OOO Movie War MEGA MAX Director's Cut (2011) Review

Blu-Ray Cover for the Director's Cut Version

The newest annual Kamen Rider crossover film, Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider: Wizard & Fourze Movie War Ultimatum, is just about to hit DVD shelves. So what better way to celebrate than to look back once again on the previous installment: the Movie War that proved that the formula could be done right? After two sub-par Movie Wars, expectations were reasonably low for the third film. However, new blood was brought in to make this the freshest Movie War yet. A longtime tokusatsu veteran and series director on the currently-running Kamen Rider Fourze, Koichi Sakamoto was given the reins as director; making this his second theatrical Kamen Rider film following Kamen Rider W Forever. With scripts handled by the head writers of both Kamen Rider OOO and Kamen Rider Fourze that for once nailed the popular aspects of their respective shows as well as a welcome return from Kamen Rider W, Movie War MEGA MAX was claimed by many fans to not just be the first good Movie War but one of the best Rider movies in some time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Toku Week In Review (5/11/2013)

All the weekly toku news of the week you need to know in one simple article! It was a surprisingly buys week: a classic tokusatsu series heads to the US for the first time ever, Saban drops the ball on Super Megaforce, more Wizard and Kyoryuuger movie news, two more join Battride War, and second weekend box results for Super Hero War Z indicate how the movie is set to perform. Hit the jump to learn more!

The Den-O Phenomenon Part 2: Looking Back


To kick off this retrospective of every single entry of the Kamen Rider Den-O sub-franchise, it only makes sense to start with the series that started it all. Kamen Rider Den-O ran for 49 episodes and pulled a series ratings average of 6.9%, which used to be a low for the Kamen Rider franchise. Still, toy sales were strong and the summer tie-in film was one of the highest grossing of the Heisei series. The insane popularity of the Den-O characters would lead to Toei producing numerous adventures spanning over 5 years.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Den-O Phenomenon Part 1: How Four Colorful Characters Added Some New Life to Kamen Rider

In late 2006, Kamen Rider's 35th anniversary series Kamen Rider Kabuto was coming close to an end. The series was not the resounding success Toei had hoped for; toy sales were only marginally up from Kamen Rider Hibiki and ratings were down as a whole from its predecessor. When work began on the next installment of the long-running franchise, Toei had decided to turn the franchise into territory it had never traveled down before; a radical departure from the action-driven shows filled with heavy drama that inhabited the early part of the Heisei Rider series. That's right: the next Kamen Rider would be a comedy. It is perhaps this radical thinking alone that allowed Kamen Rider Den-O to become the huge hit Toei could have only dreamed of.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Toku Week In Review (5/4/2013)

Your weekly dose of toku news right here! Toei's newest film proves to be a box office disappointment, the Gaia Memories line returns, and more familiar faces return for Battride War! For more details, hit the jump!

Early Years: A Retrospective of the Brief Relationship Between Director Keita Amemiya & Toei

Last month, on the 17th to be exact, one of the most celebrated Kamen Rider movies and my personal favorite celebrated its 20th anniversary. Kamen Rider ZO was released as part of a triple-feature called Toei Super Hero Fair: featuring ZO as the star attraction as well as the movie adventures of Toei's then-running superhero shows: Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Tokusou Robo Janperson. In order to have the entire triple feature last under 2 hours, ZO was only 48 minutes long. However, this film manages to accomplish more in less than an hour than several toku films can pull off in 90 to 100 minutes.

This can be attributed to the brisk pacing and dynamic action scenes supervised by legendary tokusatsu director and character designer Keita Amemiya. One of the most visually-driven tokusatsu directors ever, his anime-like cinematography and choreography give him a unique and distinct look and feel that most directors can't possibly match. His work is also notably darker than your typical superhero fare; his films tend to feature plenty of blood and mutilation that wouldn't fly in a weekly kid's show. So then: why did he work at Toei so long if this were the case? This blog will go look back on the last years Amemiya worked at Toei: when after years of hard work, he finally became one of the studio's go-to directors. That is, until he took things a bit too far with his last film for the studio.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Choujuu Sentai Liveman Series Review Part 3

Production: Toei Co. Ltd.
Ratings Average: 10.5%
Episode Length: 20 minutes
Opening Theme: "Choujuu Sentai Liveman" (Super Beast Task Force Liveman) Performed by Daisuke Shima
Ending Theme: "Ashita ni Ikiru ze!" (Live for Tomorrow!) Performed by Daisuke Shima
AKA: Bioman III (French title), Liveman (International Sales title)
Succeeded By: Kousoku Sentai Turboranger

I suppose it's a bit late now for those who have read my first two parts without the warning, but heavy spoilers after the jump:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters Vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger The Movie (2013) Review

The Go-Busters and the Gokaigers reunite once again on the big screen! Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters Vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger The Movie marks what is technically their second cross-over if you count Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero War and the third time the two have been in the same movie following Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger Vs. Uchu Keiji Gavan The Movie. The newest Sentai crossover is the latest annual installment of a Sentai tradition that's been going on since 1996 when Toei released Chouriki Sentai Ohranger Vs. Ninja Sentai Kakuranger on home video. So how does this newest film hold up in the long line of crossover specials?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Choujuu Sentai Liveman Series Review Part 2

Number of episodes: 49
Movies: N/A
Action Director: Michihiro Takeda
Special Effects Supervisor: Nobuo Yajima
Episode Directors: Takao Nagaishi (24 episodes), Shouhei Toujou (21 episodes), Minoru Yamada (4 episodes)
Episode Writers: Hirohisa Soda (37 episodes), Kunio Fujii (8 episodes), Toshiki Inoue (4 episodes)
Suit Actors:

Kazuo Niibori - Red Falcon
Masato Akada - Yellow Lion
Yuichi Hachisuka - Blue Dolphin
Hirofumi Ishigaki - Black Bison, Live Boxer
Shoji Hachisuka - Green Sai
Motoko Watanabe - Colon
Naoki Ofuji - Gash
Hideaki Kusaka - Live Robo, Super Live Robo

"Friends, why did you sell your souls to the Devil?!"

This single line of narration, possibly the most famous spoken line ever written for a Super Sentai, begins every episode of Liveman after we witness Kemp mercilessly kill two glowing butterflies and a brilliant face-off shot of the two sets of rivals, as the space between them is literally torn into two. We are then treated to Daisuke Shima doing what he did best in the '80s: sing. That's right, this is a rare instance of a Sentai actor actually singing the opening theme (he sings the ending, too) and while it's far from my favorite theme, it's certainly catchy and optimistic; fitting the team's ideology that life is precious and must be defended.

Toku Week In Review (4/21/2013)


This August, Toei's annual tokusatsu movie double feature will once again hit theatres nationwide in Japan. Even though Kamen Rider x Super Sentai x Uchu Keiji: Super Hero War Z doesn't come out for another week, early reports of Toei's next theatrical projects have already begun to come out.

A look at the movie-exclusive Kyoryuger and mecha

The summer film based on Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger will be a musical directed by Koichi Sakamoto and written by Riku Sanjo. Early toy catalogs have also revealed the movie-exclusive Zyudenryu, Toraspino, and a new Kyoryuger. This means that this will be the first Sentai to have a movie-exclusive Sentai member since Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger The Movie: Full Blast Action back in 2004. With this announcement, it is also looking likely that there will be a total of 11 Kyoryugers that appear throughout the series and thus making that a Sentai record, beating 10 previously held by Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger.

Not much news has come out yet about the Kamen Rider Wizard movie yet, but Toei is apparently looking for extras for scenes in the movie. The extras are required to wear a hoodie and a belt, and filming will take place once in Kanagawa and twice in Chiba. Early reports are also indicating that a golden Kamen Rider will be in the film. Whether or not this is a whole new Kamen Rider or a new form for Wizard has not yet been confirmed. The film will be directed by Shojiro Nakazawa and written by Junko Komura.

[Movie news courtesy of Rising Sun Tokusatsu and JEFusion, respectively]


Earlier this week, Bandai Namco games launched a 5-minute gameplay and cinematic trailer for the upcoming PS3 action game Kamen Rider Battride Wars. The trailer also features a first listen of the new single from the Kamen Rider Girls named "Go Got 'Em" and confirms that Wizard Infinity and Beast Hyper will be DLC characters available at the game's launch.

Also, three more Kamen Rider veterans were announced to return. Shouma Yamamoto will return to voice new dialogue for Kamen Rider Dark Kiva, and Dori Sakurada will be once again playing Kamen Rider New Den-O. However, in what is arguably the most surprising announcement for the video game so far, it was revealed that Takamasa Suga will be reprising his role of Kamen Rider Ryuki. To emphasize why this is a surprise, this will be the first time Suga will be playing Ryuki/Shinji Kido since Kamen Rider Ryuki ended in January 2003.

Keep tuning in to the official Kamen Rider Battride Wars blog (here: http://www.bandaigames.channel.or.jp/list/ganbaride/blog/) for more exciting announcements as the game comes closer to its release.

[Courtesy of JEFusion]

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Back from a Brief Hiatus

Hello my two or three followers, just wanted to let you know I haven't given up on this blog just yet. The modem for my computer died on Monday, so I haven't been able to update the blog at all for that whole time. I intend to have more posts up soon, including:

-Toku Week In Review (4/20/2013) <---definitely later today
-Choujuu Sentai Liveman Series Review Part 2 <----hopefully by or on Tuesday

Now it is time to sleep, but I will see you very soon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Toku News of the Week (4/13/13)


The big news coming out of the toku world this week is, naturally, the brand new Ultraman series set to air starting on July 10th. New Ultraman Retsuden will be taking over the timeslot previously held by Tsuburaya's anthology series Ultraman Retsuden, but this new show will feature 100% new content featuring a brand new Ultraman: Ultraman Ginga.

Ultraman poses with the new hero Ginga at a press conference held April 12th
(Images courtesy of Henshin Justice)

The new series, however, has a peculiar airing schedule. The first six episodes will air from July to August, then the series will take a brief hiatus (a special will air sometime in September), and the final five episodes will air from November to December. A finale to the program will then air the following spring, possibly in March.

The synopsis of the series as well as the principal cast and staff have also been announced. The show will presumably take place in the original timeline, since the story involves ALL of the Ultramen (and several monsters) having been turned into dolls and scattered across the galaxy, with Ginga having to use his powers to free them. The series' protagonist is Hikaru Raidou (played by Takuya Negishi), a 17-year old high school student, which makes him the youngest hero in an Ultraman ever. He will be joined by his classmates and friends, as well as a mysterious transfer student and Hikaru's rival.

The show celebrates Tsuburaya Productions' 50th anniversary, and the airdate of the first episode is non-coincidentally the very same date episode 1 of the original Ultraman aired back in 1966.

[Courtesy of Henshin Justice and JEFusion]


This week also saw several beloved actors from the Heisei Kamen Rider series announced to reprise their respective roles for the upcoming and highly anticipated PS3 action game Kamen Rider: Battride War. This week mostly focused on fan-favorite actors from Kamen Rider OOO returning, including Hiroaki Iwanaga voicing Date Akira/Kamen Rider Birth, Yuu Kamio as Doctor Maki/Dinosaur Greeed, and Ryousuke Miura as Ankh.

The game, which goes on sale May 23rd, is expected to announce more returning talent in the next few weeks. These three actors (re)join the presence of:

Takayuki Tsubaki - Kamen Rider Blade/Kazuma Kenzaki
Kousei Amano - Kamen Rider Garren/Sakuya Tachibana
Ryoji Morimoto - Joker Undead (it has not been officially announced if he'll voice Kamen Rider Chalice)
Masahiro Inoue - Kamen Rider Decade/Tsukasa Kadoya
Kimito Totani - Kamen Rider Diend/Daiki Kaito
Kazuhisa Kawahara - Super Apollo Geist

[Courtesy of JEFusion]


Following in the footsteps of last year's Gavan revival with the two movies Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger Vs. Uchu Keiji Gavan: The Movie and Uchu Keiji Gavan: The Movie, it seems that Toei is moving forward with plans to bring one of their most popular characters of the '70s back. According to viewers who caught an early screening of Kamen Rider x Super Sentai x Uchu Keiji: Super Hero War Z, a post-credits surprise announced that Toei was preparing a "Kikaida revival project" with more details to be announced soon. Considering the nature of the announcement, it's not very likely that this will be a simple "re-design" like what has been seen recently with Kyodain and Daitetsujin 17 in Kamen Rider Fourze The Movie: Everyone, It's Space Time!, or Akumaizer 3, Poitrine and Inazuman in Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider: Wizard & Fourze - Movie War Ultimatum. Still, stay tuned for details as they come in!

[Courtesy of Henshin Justice]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Choujuu Sentai Liveman (1988-1989) Series Review Part 1

Air Dates: February 27, 1988 - February 18, 1989
Head Director: Takao Nagaishi
Head Writer: Hirohisa Soda
Music: Tatsumi Yano
Producers: Takeyuki Suzuki, Kyozo Utsunomiya
Created by: Saburo Hatte

Daisuke Shima - Yusuke Amamiya/Red Falcon
Kazuhiko Nishimura - Joh Ohara/Yellow Lion
Megumi Mori - Megumi Misaki/Blue Dolphin
Seiro Yamaguchi - Tetsuya Yano/Black Bison
Jin Kawamoto - Junichi Aikawa/Green Sai
Joji Nakata - Great Professor Bias
Yutaka Hirose - Kenji Tsukigata/Doctor Kemp
Akiko Amamatsuri - Rui Senda/Doctor Mazenda
Toru Sakai - Goh Omura/Doctor Oblar
Yoshinori Okamoto - Arashi Busujima/Doctor Ashura

Voice-Only Roles:
Makoto Kosaka - Colon
Atsuo Mori - Beast Man Oblar
Moichi Saito - Guildos
Takuzo Kamiyama - Butchy
Hideaki Kusaka - Gash
Takeshi Kuwabara - Narrator

There are very few Sentai that most tokusatsu fans consider to be one of the best toku period. Some fans say Jetman, others say Dekaranger, and others still say Changeman. However, the one Sentai that most tokusatsu fans agree to be one of, if not the, finest among all toku is the 1988 installment Choujuu Sentai Liveman. The show marked the 10th anniversary of Toei's long-running franchise (Goranger and JAKQ didn't count until the mid-1990s), and the staff made sure this was a series to remember. Two high-profile idols were cast (Daisuke Shima and Megumi Mori), it featured independently operational animal-based mecha (the first of many to come) and, above all else, the story showcased deep themes of betrayal and the value of life that no other Sentai had displayed quite as strongly up to this point.

On Academia Island, eight brilliant students under the guidance of Dr. Hoshi (played by toku legend Ban Daisuke) are working on numerous advancements in the fields of science. Yusuke, Joh, Megumi, and their friends Takuji and Mari, are developing special space suits that can withstand intense physical strain and boosts the wearer's strength. Kenji, Rui, and Goh on the other hand feel that they're wasting their time. The latter three are inducted into the organization Volt and make their escape. When the five loyal students try to stop them, Takuji and Mari are killed by Kenji, permanently scarring the survivors.

Fast forward two years later and the special spacecraft Space Academia is ready to be launched. It is a day of celebration and remembrance for Yusuke, Joh, and Megumi. Suddenly, Volt launches an all-out assault on Academia Island, destroying Space Academia and killing everyone on board. When Kenji's group reveals themselves once again, they tell the trio that they have abandoned their humanity, renaming themselves Dr. Kemp, Dr. Mazenda, and Dr. Oblar respectively. They have gained horrifying new forms and powers that make them far stronger and deadlier than ever before.

However, Hoshi's students have a trump card up their sleeves. They have spent the last two years perfecting the power suits and are ready to reveal their new powers as well. The trio transforms into the Super Beast Squadron Liveman and the battle begins. Meanwhile, Dr. Hoshi helps a pregnant woman escape from the island, but he is killed. With his death, he entrusts the Livemen with his own creations: the sentient robot Colon, the underwater base Gran Tortoise, and the three mecha (Land Lion, Jet Falcon, and Aqua Dolphin) that can combine to become the mighty Live Robo. With this arsenal, the Livemen are ready to take on Volt, led by the enigmatic Great Professor Bias, in a battle to protect all living things on this beautiful planet!

So yeah, that's a pretty awesome set-up for a Super Sentai. Right off the bat, the villains aren't like any seen before, having a far deeper and far more personal connection to our heroes than most any other toku (the closest other example I can think of is the relationship between Black and Shadowmoon in Kamen Rider Black). Naturally, with a story as focused on emotion as this, the characters have to work. Thankfully, both trios have very interesting chemistry. The Livemen don't exactly get along all the time (like any realistic team, they butt heads and poke fun at each other often) but they get the job done when they need to. On the other hand, Bias's students have an intense rivalry not just with the Livemen, but in their own ranks as well, each one wishes to be called Bias's best student and will do anything to put themselves above the competition.

Thankfully, all of the actors do really good jobs with their roles. The three Livemen each clearly have their own personalities, and each actor does a good job conveying that. Daisuke Shima is one of the better red rangers out there, he never mugs for the camera and he does give off a leader vibe throughout the series (even if the others can't always take him seriously). Kazuhiko Nishimura plays the "wild boy" of the rangers, but he never tries too hard to make his character seem tough or unruly. Instead, he plays Joh as more of a wannabe-gangster from the '50s, rocking a semi-pompadour and a mostly unbuttoned black jacket over a striped T-shirt, giving his tough guy act some translucency and showing he's really not that bad of a guy. Next, the beautiful Megumi Mori plays Megumi (coincidence? Probably not) Misaki, and she's the real star of the series. She gives her character a dignity many female Sentai members tend to lack, giving us a very nice balance of strength and caring to make a believable character. She overacts occasionally, but she nails raw emotion really well.

On the villains side, you first have to talk about Yutaka Hirose. A legend among toku fans for playing some of the most popular villains in Sentai history, this is the only time he really got to play a lead character and man is he evil. By far Bias's most loyal student, he's completely abandoned his humanity (and yet still has a peculiar soft spot for flowers, namely roses) and Hirose truly knows how to deliver a performance dripping with evil. Plus, it's always fun to see his reactions when Bias favors another one of his officers. Another veteran of toku villainry is Akiko Amamatsuri, who plays Dr. Mazenda, and she fits perfectly. Obsessed with machines, she gradually turns more and more of her body into that of a robot. With that, she still shows outbursts of emotion, which makes for an interesting character and a well-done performance as we see her slowly lose what humanity she has left. Finally, Toru Sakai plays Dr. Oblar, but he's not in the series much at all. In episode 3, Dr. Oblar completely turns his body into that of a monster, making him the first to throw away his human appearance entirely. With this, he doesn't show up again until episode 19, and only sparingly after that. Still, it's clear that of the three traitors, he displays the most doubt about what he's done and the Livemen use this to their advantage later on in the series.

In episode 11, we are introduced to a new character named Arashi Busujima. The fierce but stupid leader of a dangerous gang, he gets into a feud with Volt when they start turning his gang into monkeys. Instead of getting help from Red Falcon, he shrugs him off and goes it alone. However, Bias suddenly decides to kidnap him and turn Arashi into a super-genius. Now named Doctor Ashura, he uses his artificially-enhanced intelligence for evil and instantly becomes loyal to Volt. Ashura is another really interesting villain, played with an appropriately cocky attitude by Yoshinori Okamoto. He doesn't get as much focus as Bias's first three students, but he holds his own quite well.

Finally, we must talk about the dastardly big baddie Bias himself. Played with charisma by famous voice actor Jouji Nakata (who recently played Hordy in One Piece and appeared in the Liveman tribute episode of Gokaiger), Bias doesn't get much to do in this portion of the series. He mostly stands around and orders his officers to attack, but you can tell early on he has more up his sleeve and shows far more competence than your usual Super Sentai villain. He reeks of evil, and when his true motivations are revealed, he truly becomes a villain to remember.

The action in the show is entertaining and certainly well done. Lots of emphasis is placed on optical effects and pyrotechnics, but there's still plenty of stunt work being done. The Liveman suits look good in action and are some of the most memorable of the franchise. The monster designs look effective as well, with Beast Man Oblar looking especially menacing and...beastly.

Really, the only major downside to these early episodes are the mecha fights. Mecha fights are usually the weakest part of every Sentai and that is no exception here, as each fight follows a very predictable formula; usually the fights wrap up in well under 2 minutes (sometimes, the combining sequence is actually longer than the fights themselves). Live Robo looks nice, but overall the mecha is just put to waste as it has a very typical finisher (A sword slash? How original) and rarely is put in any serious peril. The only mecha fight that lasts longer than normal in these episodes is during the Gon two-parter (Volt transports a dinosaur back from the past, planning to use it to attack civilization), and that's only because the Livemen are trying not to kill it since it's befriended a boy.

So, that's it for part 1 of this review. I will have the 2nd part up eventually, where I will discuss the story arcs, Colon, some of my favorite episodes, and the major additions made to the series; including a few new mecha, new foes, and for the first time ever: two new heroes. I'll see you then.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Memoriam: 4/4/13

This has been a sad day for the tokusatsu fandom and pop culture in general. It's a shame that this has to be my second post after just starting this blog, but I feel it's appropriate to talk about a few legends who have passed away within the last week.

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Yeah, it seems weird to discuss Ebert on a blog revolved entirely around tokusatsu, but hear me out. This man was THE critic. I think all internet reviewers across the globe have read or at least of Roger Ebert. I have been following Ebert's reviews since I was roughly 6 or 7 years old, not too long after I had become a movie fanatic. I disagreed with him plenty (his review of Godzilla (1954) is still questionable with its number of mistakes about the movie's plot), but he usually had strong reasoning that was hard to argue with him against since he was just so good at making a point.

He was never a huge fan of the daikaiju genre (he gave scathing reviews of both Godzilla (1954) and Godzilla 1985), but he did enjoy Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and gave it a surprising thumbs-up on his show (something ADV Films proudly advertised during its limited theatrical run). However, he was always an advocate for other "nerdy" niches such as sci-fi, fantasy and anime as a whole. For that reason alone, I believe fandom owes a great deal to him. He was a powerful voice that millions listened to, and even after he lost that voice, his words never stopped.

His sudden death comes just two days after writing a "Leave of Presence" blog entry, which indicated that he was only going to take it easy for some time while he underwent cancer treatment. He even outlined future plans in his final post, including a Kickstarter for a revival of "At the Movies", a new book, and a revamping of his website. Naturally, his death has blindsided the entire entertainment industry and his fans across the globe.

Well, I'm sure Ebert's spirit will still live on in movie watchers everywhere. While he won't physically be in a movie theater ever again, his words and wit will leave a permanent impact on everyone who wants to write about a movie and whether or not it is bad or good. Like me.

[Sources: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/04/a_leave_of_presense.html

Takao Nagaishi (1945 - 2013)

In far more directly toku-related news, prolific director Takao Nagaishi recently passed away on March 31st at the age of 68. For those who don't know his name (it's okay, I didn't either until I read about his death), he was head director for 10 tokusatsu shows and 4 films from Toei. His first gig as head director of a program was the 1987 Super Sentai Hikari Sentai Maskman (although he did direct a whopping 16 episodes each of 1985's Dengeki Sentai Changeman and 1986's Choushinsei Flashman). After that, he worked as head director for the next three Sentai, with his most famous work being 1988's widely-praised (and rightfully so) Choujuu Sentai Liveman, of which he personally directed 24 out of all 49 episodes.

In the 1990's, he only directed two tokusatsu for Toei, both in 1996: Chokou Senshi Changerion and Denji Sentai Megaranger. However, in the 5 years Fiveman and Changerion, he directed the first 7 live action films based on the black comedy manga The Rapeman for hentai studio Pink Pineapple. I kinda feel like I should see these now...

A few more years passed and Nagaishi returned to the helm of head director for 2001's Kamen Rider Agito. The show packs an experimental visual punch other toku of its time didn't have, and he would bring this unique style back for Kamen Rider 555, Kamen Rider Blade, and Kamen Rider Kabuto. In this period of time, he also directed the 2005 reboot Kamen Rider: The First and Den-O's first foray into movie theaters: Kamen Rider Den-O The Movie: I'm Born! 

After directing a few episodes of Kamen Rider Decade, he returned to Sentai in 2009 when he directed a few episodes of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and became head director of Tensou Sentai Goseiger (however, he only personally directed 4 episodes and the V-cinema Tensou Sentai Goseiger Returns: Last Epic - The Gosei Angels are National Idols?!).

Needless to say, he is one of the main reasons shows like Liveman, Maskman, Megaranger, and Agito are still remembered and praised to this very day. He often experimented with strange or frantic camera angles, as well as a knack for allowing his shows to be taken seriously with their dark atmosphere and heavy weights placed on the characters. A truly talented director who will hopefully find some international recognition now that we finally know his name.

[Sources: http://risingsuntokusatsu.com/?p=8374

The Start of a Trip

Before I begin this blog which I plan to use to unashamedly advertise my own thoughts and insight (which makes me sound like an expert on the field, something which I can safely say I'm not), I should preface this site with a brief introduction on who I am, where I came from, and why I would not be where I am today with tokusatsu.

My name is Chris. I am 22 years old, currently live in Virginia, and have had a passion for Japanese science fiction, superheroes and giant monsters that has spanned almost two whole decades. When I was only 4 years old, I popped down in front of the television after my mom had recently bought a brand new VHS of Godzilla 1985. For the next 90 minutes, my world and future shaped themselves right then and there. Stunned by the grandeur of Godzilla utterly destroying an oversized metropolis with ease and the effects that made it all seem so real (I found out not too long after that it was a man in a suit all along, but that didn't affect my enjoyment of the films), I only had one idea in mind after the credits rolled.

I have to make a movie like this.

And so, here I stand 18 years later working on a theatre degree in college. My goal out of this education is to get some experience with actors and basic set, lighting, and sound designs, and ultimately to work my way into the film program (offered as a minor at my university). While I no longer have a Godzilla film as the ultimate goal (don't get me wrong, I'd lunge at the chance if offered), I still have retained the passion after all these years to unleash my own stories onto the big screens for audiences to see.

Of course, this blog isn't about me per se. It's about my views on tokusatsu where it is right now, tokusatsu coming our way, and tokusatsu that has come before. So when did I become so enamored with the genre as a whole?

Naturally, Godzilla 1985 instantly made me a fan of the long-running franchise. I would watch Godzilla films whenever they came on TV or whenever my parents bought or rented videos for the next several years. In that time, I became introduced to the numerous characters out of Toho's roster and their own films: Mothra, Rodan, Baragon, King Ghidorah, the list goes on. Eventually, I stemmed out from Toho and started watching Gamera films (luckily, Gammera the Invincible and Gamera, Guardian of the Universe were my first exposure and not one of the lesser films like *shudders* Gamera Vs. Zigra, so my impression of him has never been negative). I ate it all up.

Then I found out there wasn't just Japanese tokusatsu on the big screen (I considered Saban products like Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and Masked Rider separate entities due to their Americanization). There were TV shows, too. Namely one that was airing on TNT waaaaaaaaay early in the morning in the late '90s. That's right, I would beg my mom and dad to tape episodes of Ultra Seven when they aired at 4:30. If that wasn't gonna happen, I made every effort to wake up as early as possible so I can at least watch the climactic fight every episode where our red and silver hero took on this week's evil alien. When Ultra Seven vanished from the airwaves as suddenly as it came, I felt bummed but I moved on. After all, I hadn't seen every daikaiju film and collected every Godzilla toy yet.

Time passed and I continued to learn more about Ultraman and his legacy. Hey, an entire TV franchise featuring daikaiju battles? Sounds like my cup of tea. Then Ultraman Tiga was announced to air on 4Kids' FoxBox Saturday morning block in 2000.


Finally, a chance to really dig into this franchise. Everything I saw from images and commercials only got me extremely amped for this show. The monster fights looked exciting, Tiga himself was an awesome design, and the heroes of GUTS looked like kick-ass heroes. And then that dub...

Fast forward 6 years later and I am fully aware of Japanese superhero shows. I was never big into the genre only because I never got the chance to be. I had always wanted to watch an Ultraman show but they were hard to find on YouTube and such without being taken down. Then, bored one day, I visit the Tokyo Monsters forums and find a peculiar find. A user had uploaded a direct download link for episode 1 of some new show called Kamen Rider Kabuto. Oh, this sounds cool. I'll give it a shot, never hurts to branch out.

Damn. My goal then immediately became not to just look for Ultraman. Kamen Rider and Super Sentai immediately re-entered my radar and, luckily for me, fansubs of these shows were far easier to find on YouTube. One discovery of torrenting later and I've found a new face of a genre that I have always held dear to that I can enjoy when I wait for new daikaiju films to be released.

And here I am. My goal of this blog is to share my own personal view of the hundreds upon hundreds of movies, TV shows, specials, V-cinemas, and Net Movies that have stemmed from this giant chunk of Japanese culture.

The reason I chose this blog's name is because it's probably one of the most important quotes from the first toku series I ever finished: Kamen Rider 555 (and yes, the title of this post is also that show's first episode title). While my goal isn't quite the same as Keitaro's family from that show, I think it being a quote that ties in so tightly with dreams is rather befitting of what this genre has done for me.

So let's explore this vast genre (although just calling toku a genre seems rather belittling. Sub-culture perhaps?) together, and I hope you'll understand and appreciate my thoughts and opinions as much as I will be sure to appreciate yours. We may disagree at times (and the odds of that are extremely good), but no ill will is meant from this blog.

Let's get stomping.