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Tokusatsu (Japanese: 特撮) is the Japanese term for special effects. Live action productions that primarily feature the use of special effects are also called tokusatsu.

Contents

Tokushu Satsuei (or Tokushu Gijutsu)

The term "tokusatsu" is a shortened term for tokushu satsuei (特殊撮影), Japanese for "special photography" which implies camera tricks (which is the original principle for special effects). Usually, in movies or shows, the special effects director is given the title of tokushu gijutsu (特殊技術), Japanese for "special techniques" (this was a term they had for "special effects" in the old days), or even tokusatsu kantoku (特撮監督), which is Japanese for, appropriately enough, "special effects director".

The Legacy of Eiji Tsuburaya

Eiji Tsuburaya (1901-1970) is perhaps the most famous tokusatsu kantoku in Japan, and is responsible for bringing the famous characters Godzilla and Ultraman to life. While he wasn't the first FX artist, he fought to make special effects in Japanese cinema truly special. When doing movies and TV shows involving giants (be it monsters, superheroes, aliens, etc.), Eiji's techniques usually involve expert miniature work, and the monster is usually either a stuntman in a full monster costume (a process later dubbed "Suitmation") or a marionette-like prop (Mothra, Dogora, etc.). Even with the support of digital effects since the 1990s, Eiji's tokusatsu method has been lovingly carried over to this very day, and has become a tradition like kabuki theater.

Some of Eiji's proteges include Teruyoshi Nakano, Sadamasa Arikawa, Nobuo Yajima (who also directed the FX for the majority of superhero shows by Toei), Koichi Takano, Koichi Kawakita and others. They have worked at Toho, Eiji's company Tsuburaya Productions, P Productions and other companies. Yonesaburō Tsukiji, Kazufumi Fujii (who directed the FX for the classic Gamera movies) and Yoshiyuki Kuroda (who directed the FX for the Daimajin trilogy) used the same techniques over at the Daiei Motion Picture Company (now owned by Kadokawa Shoten).

A new generation of FX masters include Shinji Higuchi, Eiichi Asada (who have both worked on newer Godzilla and Gamera movies), and Hiroshi Butsuda (who still works on the bulk of Toei's newer superhero shows).

Suitmation technology

Poster for the first Godzilla film, which utilized suitmation technology Poster for the first Godzilla film, which utilized suitmation technology

Suitmation (スーツメーション) is the term used in Japan to describe the process in tokusatsu movies & TV used to portray a monster using suit acting. It is not known exactly where the term originated from; Some people in Japan (possibly staff members at Toho) coined the term to differentiate the suit work from Ray Harryhausen's celebrated Dynamation (stop-motion) technique. The term was at least used to promote the Godzilla suit from The Return of Godzilla.

Sadly, the jargon suitmation is mostly extinct today, replaced by the more intuitive kigurumi.

The suit material

Usually, the monster suits from the classic Godzilla films were made of liquid latex, coated with all sorts of appliances (especially flame-retardant). The suit has to be thick so that the actor doesn't get burned much. The teeth were originally made from wood, but later, from resin. The actor usually sees through small holes in the suit's neck. The head is fitted with mechanisms that move the eyes & mouth (with the battery located somewhere in the costume), and is radio-controlled. Wires operated by overhead crewmen move the tail.

In any case, the suits were very, very gruelling, especially in the old days when studios were very hot. Three minutes was all the average stuntman could stand. There were some advantages, though, when the studios became air-conditioned, and when, starting with Godzilla 2000: Millennium, an oxygen hose was attached to Godzilla's tail, leading up to the neck so that the actor could breathe. But Tsutomu Kitagawa, who played Godzilla in that film, warned that "playing Godzilla is not for people who are claustrophobic."

In the case of superheroes, Ultraman usually wore a form-fitting latex costume similar to a wet suit. The helmet was made originally from latex, and later, fiberglass. A set of batteries in the suit made the eyes and Colortimer light up. Toei superheroes had various sorts of costume materials, from leather to vinyl to cloth. Starting with Science Task Force Dynaman, the heroes in Sentai wear spandex. The helmets were made of fiberglass, and had clips on the side to lock the helmets into place.

Other special effects

Japanese special effects techniques are not restricted to placing people inside suits—even the first Godzilla film from 1954 used a wide ranging number of advanced techniques in this area. Besides the Suitmation Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya's crew also used various puppet-like props, one was like a hand-puppet, another was basically an early example of an animatronic puppet (from the scene where Godzilla first appeared over a mountain in Oto Island), which shot a smoky spray from its mouth to create the illusion of Godzilla's white-hot radioactive breath. One shot of Godzilla's tail even used a stop-motion process similar to Ray Harryhausen's Dynamation technique (It's said that Tsuburaya wanted to use stop-motion for Godzilla, but Toho couldn't allow it, because it was too expensive and too time-consuming; most Japanese studios had only allowed notoriously tight budgets/production schedules).

Later films use various techniques to bring Godzilla and the other monsters to life. In the 60s, aside from said close-shot puppets, they used mechanical miniatures in distance shots of Godzilla. Since the 80s, they used robotic animatronic Godzilla props to give him a more realistic, lifelike appearance (as is the case with the 20-foot "Cybot Godzilla" in The Return of Godzilla and the "Close-Up Godzilla" in Godzilla Vs. Biollante). They even actually lit up Godzilla's dorsal fins made of fibre reinforced plastic, and in more recent films, they used CG to create that effect.

The same principle applied to superhero shows: some robotic-looking superheroes (like Kikaider and Gavan) used electronic props for close shots.

CGI in Tokusatsu

Of course, to compromise with Hollywood standards, CGI definitely played a major role as well. The Heisei Gamera Series has used it masterfully. And recent Godzilla films upped the ante with effects techniques. In some scenes, Godzilla swam underwater like a whale or a shark. CG no doubt played a major role in superhero shows also. From Ultraman flying smoothly in the sky, to Kamen Rider henshin-ing into animated armor, to the Sentai robots dramatically combining in one shot without the use of props like in older shows. Much like the old days, computer effects are also used for optical effects such as ray beams, missiles, falling debris and explosions. The adult-aimed tokusatsu series GARO , however , extensively used CG for many battle scenes (such as an intense battle between GARO and ZERO while darting about between skyscrapers) and for "Horror" demons, as well as to give Kouga/GARO's talking ring , Zaruba, as well as Ginga/ZERO's talking pendant, Silva, various mouth and facial animations.

Other tokusatsu films to use CGI include Crossfire and Casshern (based on Tatsuo Yoshida's 1973 superhero anime series).

City sets

There was a generalized misconception by audiences in the United States that the minituarised city sets are made of cardboard, but this is not true.

Even in the classic Godzilla movies, the miniature sets were actually made from a thinly cut plaster and wood. The newer films do this as well (only some of the buildings are actually collapsible). Buildings that were not made to be destroyed are made from wood and plastic. Some miniature models were even made out of paraffin (this goes for the many tanks and electrical towers that Godzilla melted with his radioactive breath). In movies such as Battle in Outer Space (1959) and The Last War (1960), the miniature sets were made of edible material, the same ingredients as those used to make wafers.

The buildings in the classic Godzilla film series were constructed on a 1/25 scale.

Famous Tokusatsu Monsters and Superheroes

Whereas Godzilla has become a worldwide household name, Ultraman and Kamen Rider are considered the two greatest influential model Japanese superheroes to this very day. All three characters have created countless sequels and imitations, few of which rival their popularity (the Sentai Series, for example, is an offshoot of the Henshin Hero genre started by Kamen Rider).

Metal Heroes (specifically Space Sheriffs) became a basis for the RoboCop movies. Toho and Daiei are well known companies in the Daikaiju category of tokusatsu. Tsuburaya is the company associated with Ultraman, while Toei is responsible for Sentai series, Metal Heroes and the Kamen Rider series.

Not all of Toei's group of hero shows are classified as "sentai" (Sentai shows are exclusively produced by Toei). Toei's non-sentai group heroes include Akumaizer 3, Ninja Captor and Chojin Bibyun. The most notable non-Toei group series is perhaps Toho's Chouseishin (Super Star God) Series, which began in 2003 with Choseishin GranSazer (Ultra Star God GranSazer), continues in 2004 with Genseishin JustiRiser (Phantom Star God JustiRiser), and in 2005 with Chosei Kantai Sazer-X (Super Star Fleet Sazer X). The Chouseishin series is Toho's attempt at competing with Toei's Sentai series.

An awkward category of tokusatsu is the Child Hero or Kiddy Hero genre. The most notable of this genre of is Booska and Robocon.

One last category is the Heroine Tokusatsu, which consists of a fighting team composed by females, or an individual female. Examples include Vanny Knights, Dimensional Detective Wecker, and the new live-action version of Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon.

Beyond The Norm

There are tokusatsu movies and TV shows that either don't use conventional special effects, or don't star human actors. These include:

Shows like Majin Hunter Mitsurugi (1973), in which the monsters and the titular giant knight-like warrior are done with stop-motion effects, instead of suitmation.
Puppet shows like Uchuusen Silica (1960), Ginga Shonen Tai (1963) and Kuchuu Toshi 008 (1969). These shows (the three mentioned were produced by NHK) use the same tokusatsu techniques, but the cast of the show is made up of puppets/marionettes, as opposed to human actors. Similar to the famous Supermarionation shows by Sylvia and Gerry Anderson. A better known show in this category is Go Nagai's X Bomber (1980), shown in England as Star Fleet.
Similar to the above listed puppet shows, there are also tokusatsu shows that use the same special effects techniques, but the show's cast are anime characters in animated sequences. These shows include Tsuburaya Productions' Dinosaur Expedition Team Bornfree (1976) and Dinosaur War Aizenborg (1977), which were combined into compilation movies like Return of the Dinosaurs and Attack of the Super Monsters, respectively. A more bizarre effort was done for Tsuburaya by Go Nagai; Pro-Wrestling Star Aztekaiser (1976), which looks like a conventional tokusatsu superhero show, except when the title wrestler-superhero Aztekaiser is able to transform the show's live-action dimension into an anime sequence, where he is able to perform wrestling moves against the weekly villain, wrestling moves that are impossible to do in live-action!
In 1998, Buildup Entertainment, an independent company in Japan, did a direct-to-DVD OVT SF/horror miniseries titled Dark Soldier D, which completely used CGI for the title mobile suit and the monsters, instead of traditional effects.
In 2005, Jun Awazu and his independent company Studio Magara produced an all-CG animated 25-minute short film called Negadon: The Monster from Mars. While not technically a real tokusatsu, it is nonetheless a tribute to the "Golden Age" of tokusatsu cinema, especially kaiju eiga.

Japanese Fan Films

As pop-culture fandom in Japan grew and grew in the 1980s, a fan-based group called Daicon Film, now called Gainax, was formed by Hideaki Anno, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Takami Akai, and Shinji Higuchi. Besides their celebrated anime sequences, they also produced a series of tokusatsu shorts, usually parodies of monster movies and superhero shows, which have gotten lots of favorable media coverage. These productions included Patriotic Task Force Dai-Nippon (1983), Swift Hero Noutenki (1982), Return of Ultraman (1983) and The Eight-Headed Giant Serpent Strikes Back (1985).

In the turn of the new millennium, another tokusatsu fan, a comedian named Shinpei Hayashiya, produced a number of tokusatsu fan films. They include Godzilla Vs. Seadora and Gamera 4: Truth (2004). As of 2005, he has just completed his upcoming first original effort, Deep Sea Beast Reigo.

Tokusatsu Around the World

The tokusatsu technique has been copied around the world, thanks to the popularity of Godzilla films. One could say that this is the highest form of flattery.

Famous Examples

In 1961, England made its own Godzilla-style film, Gorgo, which used the same "suitmation" technique as the Godzilla films.
That same year, Saga Studios in Denmark made another Godzilla-style giant monster film, Reptilicus. This film's monster was brought to life using a marionette on a miniature set.
In 1967, South Korea, produced its own kaiju movie, Taekoesu Yonggary.
In 1975, the famed Hong Kong film studio, Shaw Brothers produced a superhero film called The Super Inframan, based on the huge success of Ultraman and Kamen Rider there. The film starred Danny Lee in the title role. Although there were several other similar superhero productions in Hong Kong, The Super Inframan is the first, and considered the best by superhero fans. With help from Japanese SPFX artists under Sadamasa Arikawa, they also produced a Japanese-styled monster movie, The Mighty Peking Man, in 1977.
The cult popularity of Japanese kaiju and superheroes in America have resulted in a wacky, action-packed program/event called Kaiju Big Battel in 1994. It continues to thrill audiences and fans to this day.

Fan films

In 2001, Buki X-1 Productions, a French fan-based production company, produced its own Sentai Series, Jushi Sentai France Five, which takes Toei's famous "Super Sentai" formula with a French twist!
In 2004, Ithaca (New York)-based then-college student Peter Tatara, with his own company Experimental Amateur Hero Productions, produced a no-budget superhero video series called Johnny Robo, which is a tribute/deconstruction/parody of Kamen Rider and the Henshin Hero genre.

Confusion of the term outside Japan

There is currently a misconception in countries outside Japan (including the United States, to an extent) that the term tokusatsu refers mainly to Japanese superhero TV shows (including - but not limited to - the Ultra Series, Kamen Rider series and Super Sentai Series). Of course, this is not true, as the term has always been used in its native country to describe all live action productions, Japanese or otherwise, that feature special effects.

However, in the case of the US (and some other parts of the world), the confusion dates back to the early 1990s, when Ben Dunn, editor of the San Antonio-based comic-book publishing company Antarctic Press, did a short-lived fanzine called Sentai: The Journal of Asian S/F & Fantasy, which was one of the few American fanzines in the wake of the Power Rangers craze that covered live-action Japanese fantasies, which previously had a sizable cult following. However, this magazine got so much exposure that all Japanese live-action superhero shows were mistakenly labelled "sentai" by many fans and non-fans alike. Inadvertently reinforcing this was the formation of the usenet newsgroup alt.tv.sentai. On that newsgroup, and eventually other tokusatsu-related forums, more experienced fans had set people straight on the many tokusatsu-related terms. The same went for daikaiju-related forums like the newsgroup alt.movies.monster and others.

Perception of Tokusatsu in America

The United States has seen almost every Godzilla and Gamera film, as well as many Japanese kaiju films up to the early 1970s, but mainstream America does not look at these films very favorably.

Even only a handful of Japanese superhero shows such as Ultraman (the most recognized Japanese superhero in America, of course), The Space Giants and Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot made it there, as well as Spectreman, which was the last major superhero production to be seen in the States, whereas ironically, it was just the beginning (in that exact same period, Kamen Rider, a low-budget TV series, began the "Henshin Craze" in Japan).

Of the American populace, Hawaii (and, to a lesser degree, San Francisco) was more familiar with the superhero shows made since the "Henshin Craze", and these shows were very successful there. Shows like Emergency Command 10-4-10-10 (the first tokusatsu series to be subtitled in English), Rainbowman, Android Kikaider/Jinzo Ningen Kikaida (perhaps the most popular show in Hawaii), Kamen Rider V3 and Secret Task Force Goranger, as well as 1967's Ultra Seven (which, in 1975, became the first Japanese program to be dubbed in English there). The last tokusatsu series to be subtitled in English was 1979's Battle Fever J (the first "Super Sentai" series). But sadly, the rest of America has missed out on this milestone period of tokusatsu history (shows like 1983's Science Task Force Dynaman, which was comically dubbed, are a very rare exception).

This perception of tokusatsu in America can be chalked down to a few things:

Realism

One of the things that Japanese live-action fantasy is usually criticized for by non-fans in America is that these productions don't look "realistic". Back in the 1950s, some people criticized the special effects in Godzilla movies, comparing them to Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion techniques (Ray was hurt by this, and instead started making fantasy films). When Star Wars was released in 1977 and made science fiction mainstream, the American public began to forget the past and focus on the future. Even when some Japanese companies use their tried and true techniques for sentimental reasons (combined with Hollywood-style effects), Americans continued to label these films as "cheap", "cheesy" and/or "campy". In fact, many old Japanese special effects fantasies, no matter what regard they were held in Japan, were pretty much considered B-movie material by many Americans who raise themselves on big-budget Hollywood films, nowadays strictly using CGI effects. That perception is also based on watching faded, worn-out fullscreen prints of these classic films.

However, American fans like August Ragone and reporter Steve Ryfle have enlightened a skeptical media on this subject countless times, and people were profounded. According to Ryfle, even classic Japanese special effects fantasies were not necessarily trying to look "realistic", they were trying to make something that's colourful and spectacular. These were fantasies. Godzilla is not a "realistic" monster, because he's not a real animal. He is a fantasy creature, basically a god (not unlike the beasts from Chinese and Japanese mythology, like the Chinese dragon). This goes for many of the Japanese kaiju of the type. Rodan, Varan, Mothra, Gamera, etc. These hand-crafted fantasy monsters looked "real" to some fans. Some even say that, unlike stop-motion, these monsters looked very real, because they were filmed real.

Eiji Tsuburaya himself thought that absolute realism was "boring," so he experimented with the many films he did, and his surreal visuals dazzled many audiences, including children and fans. And even if certain techniques didn't work, it still amused him. Some audiences may laugh at these effects shots, or even criticize certain aspects of them, but this was something Eiji never took too seriously. A notable example was one scene in the 1965 film Frankenstein Conquers the World, where the giant monster Baragon attacks an animal farm, and smashes a stable with an obvious puppet of a horse galloping wildly inside. When asked by a Japanese journalist about why he used a horse puppet instead of a real one against a bluescreen, Eiji replied, "Because it's more interesting!" Eiji's "unreal" effects techniques were copied to this day by other Japanese effects artists, who have even added their own touch of realism to suit today's audiences.

Meanwhile, even the equally criticized Japanese live-action superhero shows (aimed mainly at children) achieved what American productions usually could not when making adaptations of comic books: a colourful, fantastic sense of wonder. After the original "campy" 1966 Batman TV series, superhero fans, even the American public, started to take their fantasies for granted, because colour and fantasy became "silly", "stupid" and thus equated with "camp". Thus, superheroes became dark, grim and "realistic." These were no longer the comic-books kids grew up with, they were more "adult" and "cynical." Japanese superheroes, on the other hand, retain that colourful "comic-book" feel. Yes, some of these superheroes are altruistic, like Super Giant, Moonlight Mask, and Ultraman, yet others (of the Henshin variety, for example, like Kamen Rider) take their powers for granted, but the hero still must make do with their powers to help the innocent, even get along with children, who usually idolize these heroes. They have even long before experimented with "grim" and "ironic" concepts that would finally be utilized in American superhero comics by the late 1980s. The villains in these shows included the kind of threats depicted in American comics that American movie & TV adaptations usually exclude; an evil empire, an alien race, a mad scientist and a weekly monster. Some would argue that Japanese superhero movies & shows, despite their "limited" special effects, are much better at emulating the style of American comic-books than the TV shows and Hollywood movies that are based on them.

Furthermore, it also has to do with conservative budget reasons. Japanese studios, unlike those of Hollywood, are not union-based. Some Japanese studios still allow a notoriously tight budget and schedule, while others are liberally taking a chance on things. Actors/staff are paid a smaller salary, yet they work together like a family.

Violence

As is evident since the 70s, Japanese superhero movies & TV shows became increasingly violent. Even as kid shows in Japan, American audiences were overly concerned over violence in America, and by the 70s, censorship against violence on American children's television had grown more and more strict. This mainly includes Japanese superhero TV productions, many of which were very dark and violent, and had grim and ironic stories. This goes for anime shows as well. Superheroes like Kamen Rider were created surgically by the villains, and turn against them. Superheroes like the title team of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (an anime series) ruthlessly beat villains to a pulp. Superheroes like Mirrorman chop the monsters' heads off. Shows like Android Kikaider and Robotto Keiji had the monster of the week demonstrating their powers by slaying an innocent victim (an expendable character) at the beginning of each episode (not unlike the victims of the weekly monsters and alien threats featured in Star Trek). Needless to say, even Godzilla movies had followed suit in the same period.

In the 1990s, Power Rangers, which was Americanized from the Super Sentai series, made the shows more palatable to American TV standards by removing the excessive violence, and it differed dramatically from its original version. This is still a highly debated topic even among fans. One particular reason is that some evil kaijin in various tokusatsu are psychotic vicious and unforgiving. Those same monsters that are "adapted" are now depicted as stupid, unintelligent goof-offs to the point that the suit monsters are, to some, "Barney-esque." One victim of this was the warrior Grifforzer (renamed Goldar in Power Rangers). Originally a powerful, threatening figure in his original Japanese incarnation from Kyoryuu Sentai Zyuranger, Goldar became more and more pitiful as the series went on.

Lack of Cultural Identification

Because American audiences did not readily identify with the appearance and culture of east Asian characters, elements were introduced to increase a sense of familiarity. For example, to make the original 1954 Godzilla more palatable to American audiences, actor Raymond Burr was added to help the audience accept the Japanese characters from the original version. In the mid-1960s, Hollywood actors like Nick Adams and Russ Tamblyn actually appeared in some of these films alongside the Japanese actors (thanks to the collaboration between Toho and UPA, best known for their animated movies & TV shows like Mr. Magoo). The Gamera films, aimed at children, started to include Caucasian children alongside the Japanese children to appeal to the American market, upon the success of the first Gamera film there. In order to reach the Australian market and particularly the North American market, Tsuburaya Productions co-produced two Ultraman shows starring a multiracial cast. Tsuburaya has been trying to penetrate the North American market for a long time. Later shows such as Power Rangers were completely Westernized to fit mainstream tastes.

A Growing/Divided Fandom

Thanks to the Internet, tokusatsu fandom and acceptance in the United States is growing, slowly but surely. Originally, the only forms of tokusatsu presented the past few decades were either Daikaiju Eiga (specifically Godzilla and Gamera) or Ultraman, it wasn't until the debut of Power Rangers in the 90s where audiences were introduced to other categories of the genre. Despite the intervention of US "adapting" such as the replacement of Japanese actors with American actors or the use of dubbing, many recognized Power Rangers was Japanese due to the obvious use of a different camera. At the time, the camera types and techniques used by America and Japan contrasted a great deal. Japanese footage still had that grainy texture to the footage that was used in the past. Furthermore, the quality of the heroe's suits was much higher in Sentai footage , with the spandex costumes being much more vibrant, shining and reflective, unlike the dull and solid color of the american-made costumes. For years, tokusatsu has had fanclubs all across the world, as well as countless dealers and collectors selling merchandise directly from Japan. Imports and illegal bootlegs of Japanese movies & TV shows have become commonplace for fans of the genre. Because of this steadfast phenomenon, the American mainstream has finally started to take notice, especially companies like Sony, Media Blasters and ADV. Although it may not yet have the same level as anime or manga, tokusatsu is just as important and influential to Japanese culture, as well as all of pop culture. Fansubs have also played a signifcant role in the genres popularity; and like anime, fans began to compare and contrast "adapted" tokusatsu shows, like Power Rangers, to its orignal Japanese counterpart.

The backlash to this is that many tokusatsu superhero shows are seen as all Power Rangers; even Ultraman is mistaken as a Power Ranger. This is because in Japanese shows the main motif are mufflers/scarves, helmets, and spandex; however, the same can be said in the US considering heroes over here had capes, masks, and tights. Both sides didn't drop their respective trademarks until later on. Another situation is those who grew up with Power Ranger assume that any superhero tokusatsu can be a Power Ranger spin-off or adapt without the knowledge of content the genre has. This usually results in a mockery of the original product rather than a homage.

In addition, a new rivalry brewed over the years among fans of "adapt" shows (like Power Rangers) and the tokusatsu purists. Purists claim that shows (like Power Rangers) give tokusatsu a bad reputation and further degrade the Original series they were adapted from. While "adapt" fans argue that the shows are new and innovative and breathes new life into live action TV shows. It came to the breaking point that terms like "Sentai Snob" (now evolved to "Toku Snob"), a term use to describe a hardcore tokusatsu purist believing that "adapts" are nothing but poor imitations; and "PR Snob" (now evolved to "Anti-Sentites"), a term use to describe hardcore "adapt" fans who believe the American products are more creative and innovative than their Japanese counterparts, and many hold the idea that the Japanese material is inferior to its American counterparts. This brand of fandom argument parallels the conflict between "Subbies" and "Dubbies," where two factions argue in anime fandoms about which is better, "English Subtitles" or "English Dubbing." This takes that idea even further. And with the US adapting even more Japanese franchises (such as Godzilla and The Ring), the argument between the two groups becomes more significant, and emotional. Recently, the announcement of the Magiranger vs. Dekaranger movie using an Power Rangers prop (in this case, Jack Landors' SPD Battlizer from Power Rangers SPD) caused a new, heated debate between the two groups. Furthermore, since Magiranger, there is indication that Toei and Disney are now working side by side and co-producing both Super Sentai and Power Rangers. This gives some alarm to both sides whether or not other tokusatsu genres will be either "adapted" or subbed in the future. Toho is kind of borderlined since the Zilla situation in 1998; however, the company still remains in good terms with Sony, as they released the entire Millennium Godzilla series. Whether or not Toho will allow their Choseishin series (which currently rivals Super Sentai) to come to the states is still unknown. 4Kids's reintroduction to Ultraman angered many older audiences as many strongly felt they bastardized Ultraman Tiga to the greatest degree (ironically, Tiga was the deemed the most popular of the Heisei Ultra Series during the 90s) and, in addition, many younger audiences continuously mistook the Ultraman in question for a Power Ranger. Meanwhile, with the growing popularity of the New Generation Kamen Rider which now has a growing female demographic along with the young boys demographic; many wonder if Disney will give Maskèd Rider another chance. There was a rumor about Kamen Rider Ryuki being adapted by Disney in 2003, but turned out to be untrue. Ever since Disney's acquisition of Power Rangers from Fox; Ryuki, as well as Hurricanger, served as an introduction to original source material of tokusatsu shows; which intrigued many "adapt" fans. Some of the story writing in toksuatsu could best be described by some viewers as dark-toned which are seen in many animated series like Justice League Unlimited, or as outlandish and cartoony like Looney Toons, or even in-between, as was the case in The Incredibles. It's a trademark in tokusatsu to range from too grim to too outlandish; pretty much how anime is looked upon. This further excites some viewers while it disgusts others.

Some new terms that came up over the years:

  • Original Toku(satsu) - This term refers to the original movies & shows that came from Japan.
    • Examples: Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Metal Heroes, Chouseishin Series
  • Toku(satsu) Adapts - This term refers to movies & shows that "Americanize" the original Japanese concept.
    • Examples: Power Rangers, Saban's Masked Rider, VR Troopers, Big Bad Beetleborgs, Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, etc.
    • American-made remakes of Japanese FX movies may fall into this category. Examples: Godzilla (1998), The Ring (2002), The Grudge (2004)

Note: Movies and series like Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Varan the Unbelievable, King Kong vs Godzilla, and the 4Kids rendition of Ultraman Tiga fit into a sub category of Toku Adapts call "Toku Dubs" by some toku enthusiasts. Godzilla, King of the Monsters, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Varan the Unvelievable, it in this sub category because, despite adding American Footage, a majority (if not all) of the Japanese actors were still kept, as well as some of the original concepts used in the Japanese versions.

  • American Toku(satsu) - Original American movies & shows made in the US (or by US companies) that follow the tokusatsu formula instead of "adapting" Japanese footage. This is confusing to some, because many claim that the Power Rangers series has slowly stopped using the original Japanese footage and began filming new scenes; however, if the Sentai suits, Monster suits, etc. are still being used in the show despite different footage, it is still a "toku adapt" rather than "American Toku."
    • Examples: Steve Wang's Kung Fu Rascals, Kaiju Big Battel, Johnny Robo, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, Los Luchadores, The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, Van-Pires, Big Wolf on Campus, Animorphs

References

  • Grays, Kevin. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Japanese Fantasy (Markalite Vol. 1, Summer 1990, Kaiju Productions/Pacific Rim Publishing)
  • Yoshida, Makoto & Ikeda, Noriyoshi and Ragone, August. The Making of "Godzilla Vs. Biollante" - They Call it "Tokusatsu" (Markalite Vol. 1, Summer 1990, Kaiju Productions/Pacific Rim Publishing)
  • Godziszewski, Ed. The Making of Godzilla (G-FAN #12, November/December 1994, Daikaiju Enterprises)
  • Ryfle, Steve. Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of Godzilla. ECW Press, 1999. ISBN 1550223488.
  • Cassidy, John Paul. The Perception of Tokusatsu in America, 2005 (Blog Essay).
  • Suriadikusuma, Aria Wicaksana. Fans Club Tokusatsu Indonesia, 2005.

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