Today in 1938, the most prolific comics creator on Earth was born. Shotaro Ishinomori was a protege of manga legend Osamu Tezuka and would go on to create some of the most iconic Japanese heroes including Kamen Rider, Kikaider, Cyborg 009 and the first two Sentai Series (Himitsu Sentai Goranger and J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai). He holds the Guiness Book of World Records record for most single comics pages drawn and published with over 128,000! Sadly, he passed away at the age of 60 in 1998.
Among his lesser known but amazing works are Akumaizer 3 and Brother Fist Bycrosser (pictured above). He also created the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series of programs. Without him, we wouldn’t have much of the tokusatsu we enjoy today.
One more Toei Heroine Card and this one is kind of special to me because it depicts the three heroines from the final entry in the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, 1993′s Yugenjikko Sisters Chouchoutrian. One of them is played by Satomi Hirose who would go on to play Tsuruhime/Ninja White in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger!
Her other two co-stars would appear with her in an episode of Kakuranger riffing on their former roles where they appeared as the Three Punishment Sailor Sisters!
I just watched a few of James Rofle/AVGN's reccent videos on Power Rangers, and although it felt like there's still a lot he doesn't know/got wrong irt Tokusatsu, he WAS right in that there is a LOT of overlap between Tokusatsu and Anime (& Japanese media in general), in terms of specific genres and traits (giant robos, etc.). Do you think that we have Shotaro Ishimori, Eiji Tsubaraya and Go Nagai, among others that I'm probably forgetting/I don't know, to thank for that; the former especially?
Oh yes we do! All of the gentlemen you mentioned above also dabbled in anime (not so much Eiji Tsuburaya himself but his production company certainly did). In fact, Go Nagai was an apprentice to Shotaro Ishinomori as a manga writer before branching out on his own and Ishinomori was apprenticed to the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka.
In fact, the very first five man team in history was in an anime from 1966 called Rainbow Sentai which was created by Shotaro Ishinomori.
Of course, we also have to acknowledge the debt Super Sentai owes to Tatsunoko Productions and Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman, which brought a lot of the tropes that would later become accepted in the live action medium to the forefront.
Heck, one of the most popular pre-Power Ranger Super Sentai series was a direct homage to Gatchaman, 1991′s Choujin Sentai Jetman.
Ishinomori was such a force in manga, anime and tokusatsu. I could go on and on about his contributions including; Kamen Rider, The Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, Brother Fist Bycrosser, Cyborg 009, Android Kikaider but that would take the entire rest of this ask and we have other people to talk about!
Go Nagai was no slouch either. He pretty much popularized the concept of the piloted giant robot with his seminal work, Mazinger Z.
Before that, of course, we had Tetsujin 28 and Giant Robo but those were robots remote controlled or self-controlled. Go Nagai pretty much invented the over the top giant, piloted robot. The success of which lead to a deal with Marvel Comics to license these giant robots for an American comic and allowed the Japanese to use Marvel properties, which lead to the tokusatsu Spider-Man. Spider-Man was given a giant robot to sell the concept in Japan and that, in turn, lead to the giant robots being added to the Sentai franchise to create Super Sentai.
Go Nagai was no stranger to tokusatsu either. Among his toku works were;
Star of Pro-Wrestling Azteckaiser
and Battle Hawk
As for Tsuburaya Productions, they had a hand in some anime as well including animated versions of Ultraman.
And one of my personal favorites, the weird anime/tokusatsu hybrid Dinosaur War Aizenborg!
That’s not even to mention all the writers, directors and producers who have worked on both tokusatsu and anime. An example today is Gen Urobuchi who is responsible for both Puella Magi Madoka Magika
and Kamen Rider Gaim
He’s even currently working on the anime adaptation of one of the grand-daddies of tokusatsu, Godzilla!
So yeah, tokusatsu and anime are so intertwined it would be hard to separate one from the other. They draw inspiration from each other, share talent and help influence Japanese culture in general. If it hadn’t been for being in the anime fandom in the early 1990s, -I- never would have gotten into tokusatsu!
This is really only scratching the surface of a very interesting topic and I wish I had more time to get really in depth with it but I don’t. I hope this at least helps to answer your question.
Edit: I totally loved James Rolfe’s Power Rangers episodes. He always makes me laugh!
The setting of KR Build gave me this question: Are there more science-fiction Toku shows than the mystical-based one, or vice versa?
I would say the general trend would lean towards science-fiction. Especially given that tokusatsu has serious roots in the science fiction films of Toho Studios from the 1950s and 1960s and that the earliest tokusatsu series on TV (Moonlight Mask and the Testuswan Atomu live action show) were heavily based on science fiction concepts including robots and giant monsters.
In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a 1960s or 1970s tokusatsu TV series entirely based on a mystical premise aside from 1971′s We Love You! We Love You! Witch Teacher.
Almost everything else featured alien superheroes from the stars, transforming cyborgs or costumed do-gooders with various special gadgets. It’s not until the later days and the dawn of the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series that we really get a lot of mystical tokusatsu. In fact, the first truly fantasy-based entry in any of the big three franchises didn’t happen until 1992′s Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger!
Since then, there have been lots and lots of magical tokusatsu series though with Mahou Sentai Magiranger, Kamen Rider Wizard and the entire Garo franchise as the most prominent examples.
This is a pretty generalized statement of course, there have always been a few scattered magical shows (especially involving magical girls who seem much more prone to magic and mysticism in fiction than male heroes) but the general trend since the inception of tokusatsu has leaned towards science fiction or at least science fantasy.
The original Japanese title card from 1966 reading, Ultraman: A Special Effects Fantasy Series.
looking at the two page spread you recently posted and I noticed that a lot of these toku heroes are from the 70's and seem to be relatively unknown but were there more unknown toku heroes during 80's and 90's and which would you recommend?
Ok, for the realtively obscure tokusatsu heroes of the 1970s I can’t say much about the ones on the list as I have yet to see any of their series. I will say I have seen the recent Denjin Zaborgar movie (Karate Robot Zaborgar is the American Title) and it’s pretty fun.
I know it takes some liberties but fans I have talked to say it’s not too far off from the tone of the original if a little more risque and over the top.
There is a relatively obscure 1970′s Tokusatsu I will recommend and that’s Dengeki Strada 5.
This is a 1974 series about an elite group made up of members of the International Police who fight against the evil Big Nova organization headed by the freakish Asmodeus. Big Nova seeks to conquer Japan and they will stop at nothing to accomplish their goal. This series came out the year before Himitsu Sentai Goranger and they bear a few similarities. There is a five man team made up of elite members of a government organization. There are four men and one woman. They take their orders from a non-suited commander and they are fighting a shadowy, evil organization responsible for killing some of their friends and colleagues. The difference is that Strada 5 doesn’t seem to have any actual powers, just weapons and their uniforms are, well, uniform as opposed to differently colored. Their helmets also have no masks, leaving their faces exposed in combat. I have only seen two episodes but what I have seen is VERY good.
As for little known series of the 1980s, there were a few that come to mind. One is Nebula Mask Machine Man.
I have not personally seen this one yet but I have heard good things about it from someone who has.
The other is a show from 1985 called Brother Fist Bycrosser.
This one I have seen and tells the tale of two brothers given powers by aliens in order to battle the evil forces of Destar who seek to torment children in order for their cries and scream to make and evil statue produce diamonds. The show has some very goofy moments:
But in my opinion that just makes it all the more fun to watch. I highly recommend it! Heck, it has one of the best finishing moves of all time!
Yes, he is carrying his brother on a motorcycle and firing it like a bazooka.
There is also the entirety of the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series, which began in 1981 and ended in 1993. I have only seen a few scattered episodes but I do recommend La Belle Fille Masquée Poitrine. It’s a live-action magical girl series that has a great deal of comedy and a fun main character.
When you get to the 1990s, there are a few obscure shows like Shichisei Tōshin Guyferd:
Kamen Tenshi Rosetta and Millenium Saber Vanny Knights
I can’t really recommend any of those though because I have not seen them. That’s the problem with a lot of the more obscure tokusatsu works that aren’t part of a franchise, they don’t get as much attention from the fansubbing community as the big name series. That’s not to say they never do because one relatively obscure 1990s show is being fansubbed and that’s 1996′s
The series is about a not so great private detective who, through an accident, is imbued with the powers of a crystalline hero to do battle against evil, extradimensional forces. It has a lot of comedy but the action scenes are also pretty good. It was also Toei’s very first series entirely shot on video as opposed to film. I’ve only seen about a dozen episodes but I can say it’s a blast to watch.