Otaku USA Magazine
Miss You

(If you’re slick you’ll have
figured out by now that the title for this bit is a reference to the famed song
from m-flo by the same name. Either case, it shows that I’m such a sucker for

It was sometime after I finished my recent OUSA column that I got to
thinking about two things, one of which was wishing I had been able to get out
a Gekiranger
review (but then, that’s what the podcast is for). The other kicked in when I
found myself looking back to my massive collection of Tokusatsu tapes and DVDs
that take up a good chunk of my shelf space.

Best summed up: I miss the old days.

I stepped back for a sec and got to wondering about what olden days
did I miss exactly? The colorful and hyper-kinetic 70’s that I didn’t see
firsthand due to my lack of existence? The dark and gritty 80’s that gave us
some of the best shows of all time? Or do I still long for the sometimes
whacked out but still action packed 90’s and the period that I like to call
“The Homestretch of Awesomeness”?

In the 70’s, Kamen
had its first legendary seven shows and Super Sentai was in
its infancy, starting with GoRanger and JAKQ Dengeki Tai which, believe it or not,
wouldn’t be accepted into franchise canon until decades later. It was also the
heyday of the Japan Action Club, meaning that any and all things action related
would explode on screen. BIG emphasis on the exploding there as it would always
have the force of a neutron bomb whenever you saw the likes of Jiro Chiba and
Etsuko Shinomi on screen alongside the likes of Akumaizer 3 and Kikaider. It was thanks
to them that you could have the most ridiculous show concept yet still manage
to have crazed action scenes to justify it. How can you not love an era that
produced shows like Kaiketsu
which featured Hiroshi Miyauchi of Kamen Rider V3 fame as a
guitar wielding, knife throwing, private detective with a flying car? I mean
for crying out loud, Spider-Man had a live-action adaptation with giant robots
and it turned out to be one of the greatest shows of the time!

…Well, in my book anyway.

The 80’s…hoo boy. If you ask anybody who was lucky enough to be kid
in France, Brazil, or the Philippines, where many tokusatsu shows were being
dubbed for those regions, they’ll tell you that the greatest shows of all time
came out of this decade. Frankly though, who can blame them? This remains to be
one of my favorite decades in the genre’s history, and a period that some fans
call “The Golden Age of Tokusatsu.” Writers like Toshiki Inoue and
Hirohisa Soda brought Super Sentai out of the era of Dynaman-like antics into
dark and gritty yet action packed territory in shows like Flashman and Liveman. The Metal Heroes
filled the void left by the absence of Ultraman with the Space Sheriff Series,
powered by amazing action sequences by the JAC, and even more badass shows like
Jikuu Senshi
. And let’s not forget Kamen Rider Black, the first Rider Series revival
attempt back in 1987 that had all the action packed fury of a Metal Hero show
and the Shotaro Ishinomori-staple dramatic plot that had kids on the edge of
their seats. There’s only one gripe I have with this year: Black’s sequel
series, Black RX which was butchered into 1994’s Masked Rider (a.k.a The
First Great Sin of Saban). I still refuse to acknowledge its existence, up
there with the 2006 Sukeban
movie and the last two Matrix movies.

And yes, even the •90s were
memorable…when they were almost out the door that is. Aside from the ending
of Chojin Sentai Jetman
in 1991, which got me misty-eyed, 1994, better known as the year I wish I could
forget (Still trying to burn Kakuranger out of my mind), and the great shows
of 93′ like Gosei Sentai
, not much else happened until 1996. No I’m not about to
sing the praises of Carranger here, I’m talking about the landmark
event of that decade: the resurrection of the Ultra franchise with Ultraman Tiga. From that
point on, everything got cooler. We got some of the best Sentai shows of all
time with Megaranger, Gingaman, and GoGoFive. The Ultra Series continued to deliver
with Ultraman
and Ultraman Gaia and the movies that came with them.
I still remember as a kid wishing I could have gone to the now late and great
Asian Fantasy Film Expo to see the first ever subtitled premiere of the last
Ultraman Tiga
movie, Ultraman Tiga: The
Final Odyssey.
I’d luck out years late with a VHS copy but oh how
I wanted to have been one of the lucky ones to see the true finale of one of
the definitive shows of the decade on the big screen. And who could forget the
release of Kamen Rider
, Keita Amemiya’s 1993 gateway drug of a movie that got nearly
every kid who watched it hooked and dying to see more Kamen Rider stuff, yours
truly included.
I still treasure my now outdated VHS copy of that movie to this
day, keeping it as a memento above my desk at home.

Then we get to the 2000’s…And I sink a little bit.

There have been some great shows thus far, don’t get me wrong; stuff
like GARO and
Sh15ya broke new
ground and helped to re-define the genre, so that’s a plus. But then, what of
the big three?

Super Sentai’s become an over-commercialized heap of chaos that just
barely manages to have a shred of entertainment value sometimes. It’s all
become so cookie-cutter and bland that I haven’t ever really found myself head
over heels for a series when it’s announced or broadcast. The last great one in
my opinion was 2003’s Abaranger (known stateside as Power Rangers Dino
), as
much as that was about the toys, it at least managed to have an entertaining
story (which is something I know is a lot to ask for out of something for

The Rider Series which had a triumphant return in
2000 has since gone down the same route, only now pandering to the young
mothers and teenage fangirls who watch for the frail, angst-ridden
“Ikemen” or pretty boy protagonists. To make matters worse, as a
friend of mine best put it, the line between Super Sentai and Kamen Rider is starting
to become blurred with the recent incorporation of giant monster fights. This
year’s Kamen Rider
is somewhat trying to balance this out, but one can’t help
but wonder if we’re going to be seeing next year’s Riders man giant grasshopper
tanks against colossal Monsters of the Week. And finally, the Ultra Series has
been through some rocky patches (The Chaiyo legal battle and the Ultra N
Project to name a few) but to date, they’ve still managed to stay the same. I
know exactly what I’m getting when I tune in and come to expect nothing else.
However, with the recent changes in the power structure of Tsuburaya, now
involving the merger with one of the largest advertising companies in Japan,
the fear still lingers. I dread to think of the possibility of Tsuburaya going
the Toei route of passion only for the all-mighty yen. Heck, I think we got a
glimpse of this possible future in the rather disappointing Ultraseven X

I sat down and leaned back in my
chair, looking at my soft-vinyl Ultraman figure, one of my most prized
possessions, and I sighed while thinking that…well… I miss the fun of it. I
miss watching a tokusatsu
series and getting a bunch of guys in rubber suits beating the
snot out of each other while things explode every week, without having to
suffer the pains of self-indulgent and pretentious writing. I miss being able
to watch Kamen
shows and not have the urge to whack the protagonist over
the head with a blunt object every time he tries to act. I miss the days of
Sentai where I would actually look forward to the robot fight of the week
instead of cringing at the latest monstrosity that the year’s lackluster mech
designers have dreamed up. It drives me up a freaking wall that something I
loved as a kid has turned into this sub-par business venture that just
maintains the status quo instead of taking any risks at all. It’s like the
magic of it is nearly gone.

I put my Ultraman figure back, right next to my die-cast Kamen Rider
Stronger alongside the other “ancient” heroes on the shelf and I
lingered a bit. Maybe my whole dislike of the way things are now is the result
of a changing perspective from me growing up? That this is all just me on one
of my many nostalgia kicks. Maybe, god forbid, I’m just getting old and bitter
and I just need to move on with the times?

I resigned myself, thinking that this was just one of those times
where I’m thinking too much, and popped in the DVD my friend in Japan sent me.
The first thing that comes on is an episode of Go-Onger from a few weeks back. After the first
five minutes I realized, I’m not getting bitter, this just plain

Yep, I miss the old days.