Japan Anime Information

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Introduction To Tokusatsu: Japanese Hero Dramas

Tokusatsu / Japanese SFX Dramas

Tokusatsu is the type of dramas which depicts heroes fighting against enemies, by using special effects. Tokusatsu is usually called Sentai-mono (Sentai-things). Sentai refers to the popular hero drama series: Super Sentai. Super Sentai series is the original work of Power Rangers. In this series, five heroes in battlesuits with different colors team up and fight against enemies. This type of hero is unique, but it is regarded as a model of heroes. In fact, there are many different types of hero in Tokusatsu.

 

Ultraman

In Ultraman, a single hero fights against giant monsters and evil aliens, with the help of defense forces. Usually, one giant alien Ultraman comes to the Earth and gets an earthling form*1. Ultraman usually joins a defense force and secretly fights as Ultraman. As it is a long series, the first Ultraman is called Man, and other Ultramans have individual names. In this series, battles usually happen in cities or nature. A giant hero fights against a giant enemy, and some aircrafts help the hero.

 

Kamen Rider

In Kamen Rider, one or more than one heroes fight against human-size(but not always human-size) villains. In old series(Showa era), a human is converted into a villain by an evil syndicate, but fights against the syndicate as a hero Kamen Rider. On the other hand, in new series (Heisei era), the model in old series is not used and there are no models. In one series, Kamen Rider is an occupation in which warriors fight against villains. In other series, one young man without job fights against villains. What is more, number of heroes is indefinite. Some series have one heroes, but other series have more than ten heroes.

 

The unique thing in this series is, heroes sometimes fight against each other. Some heroes are evil and always fight against other heroes. Other heroes fight against each other, which results from misunderstandings. Conversely, there are some good villains. Some heroes may say “You are villain! I must defeat you!” like thing. However, good heroes must protect these villains. The key in this series is mutual understanding.

 

Super Sentai

In this series, a team of 3-5 heroes fights against evil syndicate. Heroes usually have same motifs: cars, animals, dinosaurs, ninjas…etc. Although they have different colors, they are in the same battlesuit with same equipment. Usually, they fight against a single villain that have bad effects to people.

 

The villain has a number of combatants, which are defeated by heroes. After defeating combatants, heroes defeat the villain with combination attack or combined arms*2. After that, the villain may revive in giant size. Heroes defeat it with a combined robot (which is called megazord in Power Rangers). In many series, a new hero comes in the middle of story. This hero is usually a single hero who has a peculiar color including gold and silver. Different from other heroes, the hero usually have a peculiar equipments and a single robot. The point of this series is that there is a definite model and we can trust it.

 

Should I watch Tokusatsu? Should I show Tokusatsu to my children?

Pros

Tokusatsu dramas tells what is good and what is bad. For example, Kamen Rider Ghost tells that we should follow our heart’s voice, and we should not obey with authorities which deny our personalities and do standardization. In Super Sentai series, there are some models of lessons. For example, heroes should not give up, even if they lost their morpher or power to morph. It is the spirit of hero that makes the hero fight. Lack of battlesuits should not be a reason why a hero gives up fighting. There is an episode in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, in which a former hero who lost his power tells it to an active hero who is robbed of his morpher.


Also, some tokusatsu dramas mention controversial issues. Typical ones are Ultraman series. In Ultraman series, characters have some troubles that may happen in real world. For example, some characters are discriminated because they are alien. Such case may be true in reality. This kind of programs show some points (and sometimes solutions) of problems. Even adults may be made to think about such issues. Like this, Tokusatsu sometimes deal with social problems.

 

Cons

Some Tokusatsu dramas are NOT instructive. Some of them are dramas where people in battlesuits just fight, but not for promoting peace, punishing the bad, or giving a lesson. For example, some of them fight for treasure. Others may fight just because it sounds fun. Again, there are some dark heroes in Tokusatsu dramas. Some of them fight for destruction of the world. It is true that existence of these bad heroes may lead to some lessons. On the other hand, if you are thinking about showing such hero programs to your children, you should pay attention to them because they may be attracted by dark heroes which may look cool. Small children cannot tell good from bad.


Some of Tokusatsu programs are sexist and obscene. Especially, in solo-heroes programs, there are few females fighting as heroes. However, heroes in teams have at least one female member. In addition, some hero programs are not appropriate to show to children. For example, Garo series is completely for adults. Also, there are some programs, unfortunately targeted on children, that are obscene. Old programs made before 2000 could be like that. Some of characters might do sexual harassment. And some programs show female underwear. If you rent a DVD, you should check the year when the program was made.

*1:Sometimes, they change into earthling form by themselves. Otherwise, they use some bodies of earthlings.

*2:Some heroes have different types of weapon. These weapons are combined into arms. They are usually bazookas.