Otaku USA Magazine
Inazuman: The Complete Series

Tokusatsu is the green eggs and ham of entertainment; once you finally try it out you’ll want it any way and anywhere you can get it. At least, that’s how it played out in my experience, which was only half-formed back when I first found myself going ga-ga for Ultraman on American television in the 80’s. Those weekly doses of kaiju-battling action would never prepare me for what I was missing the whole time, though. An entire world of bizarre and entrancing superhero entertainment exists on our marvelous planet, and it’s about time we started tapping into more of it in a legitimate way.

No amount of rubbersuit longing in the continental US could match the kind of inextinguishable fandom that went along with 70’s shows like Jinzo Ningen Kikaida in Hawaii. Citizens of The Aloha State had the extreme fortune of catching these shows while they were hot, and in their original language no less. If it wasn’t for this enthusiasm, Honolulu-based JNProductions wouldn’t be able to share these joys with the rest of the country. That, my friends, would be a crime worthy of Japanese superhero intervention.

Having already released amazing DVD collections of Kikaida, Kikaida 01, and Kamen Rider V3, JNP’s latest candy-coated crystal is Toei’s Inazuman. Yet another hero created by the late, great Shotaro Ishinomori-a man whose creative flame never seemed to waver in the slightest-Inazuman has all the qualities that make Ishinomori’s characters more than simple spandex-clad do-gooders. It’s the perfect followup to both Kikaida series, not only in its casting but in the overall production, as well, right down to the funky music by Chumei Watanabe. It’s that very waka-waka that fuels each jump kick, howling monster explosion and strange extra-sensory turnabout of the show’s 25-episode run.

As Goro Watari, Kikaida star Ban Daisuke proves himself a simultaneously endearing and ass-kicking protagonist once again. Though Inazuman isn’t saddled with the dichotomous dilemma of Jiro’s conscience circuit in Kikaida, he has his own defining quirks and abilities that make him a memorable addition to Daisuke’s filmography. It’s not just the bright blue and yellow suit, the electric antennae or the rainbow eyes-all quintessentially Ishinomori in design. It’s the depth of his heroics that makes Inazuman a champion to a fault, and his double-transformation keeps him at arm’s length from the rest of the henshin pack.

About the former, Inazuman is essentially invincible when transformed. However, The one weakness that stands out the most and gets him into trouble so frequently has nothing to do with any superpowers, and falls on the type of man he is. He’s simply too heroic, and will help anyone in need, even if their cries are doused in trickery. Therefore, he is more susceptible to traps than most, and if there’s one thing the Neo-Humans excel at, it’s traps. Yes, the Neo-Humans are the evil force that fuels this shocking hero’s fight. Commanded by the intimidating Emperor Bamba, Neo-Human soldiers run rampant through the city and countryside, attempting to subvert the human race and give rise to their own.

Other than the expected legions of identically clad henchman, the Neo-Humans have a frightening bestiary at their disposal, and their episodic appearances consistently test our hero’s limitations. Unfortunately for them, with Goro’s ability to change from a man into the Ben Grimm-like Sanagiman, and THEN into Inazuman himself once fully charged, these beasts don’t stand a chance. Throw in his dogfighting flying car Raijingo and a tightly knit Youth League full of children with psionic abilities and you have limitless potential. The folks behind Inazuman knew this well, because even the most formulaic setup doesn’t keep each episode from being an individually exciting experience.

There’s just as much imagination required of the viewer as there is exhibited, which is part of the fun. With the type of special effects employed for television, many managing to be both crude and ingenious, suspension of disbelief doesn’t even begin to describe the experience. That should be a given, though, especially in situations where, for example, Goro outs a Neo-Human in disguise because he “has no shadow,” when he clearly does. That’s the beauty of it all, and everything is played out so matter-of-fact that you can’t help but buy into the timeless fun on screen.

If any of this sounds even remotely enjoyable, you owe it to yourself to seek out the Inazuman box set. It’s an incredible collection that doesn’t come around too often, and it’s honestly the kind of product that will, like those that preceded it courtesy of JNP, decide whether or not releases in a similar vein continue to be produced. Add in a healthy amount of extras that are interesting and informative to newcomers and veterans of tokusatsu alike, and you’ve got something worth transforming into a real wild fan over, even if it comes at the cost of wearing tights.

Studio/Company: JN Productions
Available: Now
Rating: Unrated