Flicks / Geek / Hyperculture / Science Fiction / Tube

Tokusatsu Explained, Bullet Style

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Some of you may have heard about Tokusatsu and thought, “I dunno what that is really, but I know that sounds Japanese, must be some anime thing.” Well, you are not right, but you aren’t totally wrong. It is Japanese and many “Otaku”, or extreme fans of anime and manga, also love it, but it isn’t animation. It is actually live action.

Literally meaning “special photography”, and referring both to special effects and the live action television shows that contain such elements, “Tokusatsu” is one of the most popular types of entertainment in Japan. The plots typically involve Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror with some shows and films featuring a combination of all three. Kaiju (giant) monster films, superhero TV shows, and mecha (mechanical) dramas are the most popular types. 

Tokusatsu is believed to have been influenced by many traditional Japanese theater styles and can be traced back to the action sequences of traditional Kabuki theater, which is a highly stylized (and heavily made up), Classical form of Japanese theater with dance and drama.  Tokusatsu can even be traced to the special effects of Bunraku puppet theater shows where the puppets are manipulated in front of a light and the show seen in shadow.

In Japan, modern Tokusatsu came into being in the 1950’s with the creation of Godzilla and Ultra Man in the 1960’s. In the 1990’s, the US got its first big taste of tokusatsu-style TV shows with imports like The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight has been one of the most recent Tokusatsu TV show import successes. In 2002, it won the first Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Stunt Coordination”.

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