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aka: Tokusatsu

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To kaiju, this is what judgement day looks like.note 

"Tokusatsu" (特撮), often shortened to just "Toku" in the west, is the Japanese catchall term for any live-action sci-fi/fantasy media that makes use of special effectsnote . Though the overlap is not total, it can, at least casually, be considered the live-action analogue to anime (at least, to the subset of anime best known to casual viewers in the west). It can also be considered a Spiritual Successor of sorts to Kabuki Theatre, inheriting many former kabuki directors and a number of its tropes.

Originally, Toku differentiated itself from its western counterparts by its preference for Practical Effects over visual effects created during editing (at the time of the genre's birth this specifically referred to the stop-motion techniques pioneered by Ray Harryhausen, but it now applies to CGI as well). Modern Toku uses both forms of effect, but Practical Effects are still preferred.

Tokusatsu had two major periods, dubbed the "Monster Boom" and the "Henshin Boom". The Monster Boom was started by Godzilla and famously saw the rise of many daikaiju pictures in the film industry. The Henshin Boom - which continued on from around the height of the initial Monster Boom - was started by the Ultra Series and Kamen Rider, and it greatly influenced how action heroes worked and its effects can still be seen today in the superhero and action-adventure genres, with that influence even percolating westward.

Toku has also been seen from the 2000s with local heroes, a type of hero/team of heroes who represent a country's region or territory. They're usually sponsored/created by local or regional groups or government (and government agencies) to promote its industries or mythologies.

Like Jidaigeki or Anime, Toku is one of those terms that means slightly different things in Japan and the West. While Westerners use it to refer almost exclusively to the Japanese superhero shows, in Japan it simply refers to any live-action production which makes extensive use of special effects. This means that, to the Japanese, things like Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Doctor Who, Knight Rider, Red Dwarf, or even James Bond count as Toku. This list also includes shows that use puppetry, like Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation series Thunderbirds and Terrahawks, and even Thomas & Friends. Far and away, the most popular early example of Toku is the Godzilla film franchise, which exemplifies many of the genre's tropes: People in Rubber Suits smashing scale model cities, and an abundance of squibs.

Most of the examples of Toku are actually franchises of the Kaiju, Sentai and Henshin Hero variety, producing many separate but related series.

Toku series and franchises include:



Super Sentai, Metal Heroes and Kamen Rider were adapted, with varying degrees of success, by Saban Entertainment to produce the U.S. series Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Big Bad Beetleborgs and Masked Rider. Kamen Rider Ryuki was later adapted into Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. DIC Entertainment adapted Tsubaraya's Gridman as Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (and produced Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills by themselves) to Follow the Leader. (Tsubaraya had previously collaborated with Rankin/Bass Productions — yes, the people who did all those holiday specials — on several projects in the 1970s that aired in America as tele-films; R/B had previously worked with Toho in the late 1960s for King Kong Escapes.) As for the original Japanese shows, good luck finding official releases outside of Asia.... At least, for the more recent shows from the 90s onward. The older ones, on the other hand, are shown on the Pluto TV channel TokuShoutTsu (for the things licensed by Shout! Factory) and the Toei Tokuworld Official YouTube channel as of early 2020.

Tokusatsu Tropes have their own page.

See the Useful Notes page for more information on the history of Toku and its special effects methods.

Names To Know In Tokusatsu:

Other Notable Actors who've appeared in Toku

Major Companies producing Tokusatsu:

Alternative Title(s): Tokusatsu