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Recently Watched Shows • Monster Zero x SciFi Japan - Archive Only

Recently Watched Shows

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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Sat Jun 03, 2023 6:54 pm

^ I get up early and watch two tokusatsu episodes before work. At least, that's been the schedule these last few years as this stuff has become available at such a clip.

Let's see, (and this'll be spoilers for a bunch of things) I first encountered the timeline reset ending... well, I guess in the movie Jumanji, which was big when I was a kid. Two big adult swim anime that aired when I was a teen, The Big O and Wolf's Rain, go out that way. Since then we've had everything from King's The Dark Tower to Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated (which ends with the timeline reset resulting in the original Scooby-Doo Where Are You? continuity), that X-Men film you mentioned, presumably the new Flash movie does something like it, and the biggie is Rider fan Hideaki Anno ending his Evangelion reboot along those lines!

- but you're right in essence; we ultimately do see the brutal but seemingly inevitable end to our versions of these people, and you're left with a sad wistfulness with the reset timeline at the end, with versions of these characters who will never have the relationships with one another or go through the character growth seen in the series. The final shot being the lonely aunt who (from her perspective) lost both her niece and nephew and mans her café alone is nice and sad.

Speaking of the aunt: that actress is the mother of the actor who plays Ichimonji/Rider #2 in Shin Kamen Rider! He really favors his mom!

After a few months of Rider I'm itching to get back to Ultraman. I think I'll go for Mebius. Maybe make room for watching a non-toku series, too. That sketch show I Think You Should Leave looks good.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Tue Jun 13, 2023 10:23 pm

^ Of course, Jumanji! It's been a long time since I last saw that. Did Kirsten Dunst's character and her little brother actually recognize Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt's characters when they met at that party at the end? I know the adults recognized the kids from the previous timeline but I remember thinking that the kids recognized the adults too and I wondered how that would work.

Mebius will be the next Ultraman series that I watch after I finish Cosmos. Right now I'm watching that, Kamen Rider X, Super Star God GranSazers, and Battle Fever J — two shows from the 1970s and two from the 2000s!


Spider-Man (1978-1979) - I've watched all 41 episodes of Toei's Spider-Man along with the mid-series theater special. This show is terrific!

This is a very different take on Spider-Man, and yet it's also a very faithful take on Spider-Man in a lot of ways. His origin story in this series is wildly different from that of Peter Parker, although the notion of a Spider-Man who isn't Peter Parker doesn't seem outrageous these days since characters like Miles Morales, Miguel O'Hara and so many others have appeared in the comics and the latest movies. Toei's Spider-Man is Takuya Yamashiro, a young motorcycle racer who lives with his astro-archaeologist father, his younger sister and his kid brother. One day, Takuya and his photographer girlfriend Hitomi see a huge flying warship descend from space and soar over the city before crashing into a nearby mountain. The incident draws the attention of the Iron Cross Army's sinister leader Professor Monster and his assistant Amazoness, who recognize the fallen craft as Marveller, which fled to space 400 years ago. Professor Monster orders Amazoness to kill Professor Yamashiro to prevent him from reaching Marveller and discovering how to defeat the Iron Cross Army's Machine Bem creatures, which Professor Monster has been perfecting for the past 400 years. Hitomi works for a magazine and her editor-in-chief boss is secretly Amazoness, who orders Hitomi to meet with Professor Yamashiro to investigate the "meteorite" with him. Takuya refuses to miss his race to help them with their search, though he ultimately decides to rush to the scene upon hearing a strange voice call out to him and seeing a bizarre spider-web pattern in the sky, but he arrives too late to save his father from the Machine Bem. The Iron Cross Army's soldiers attack Takuya, stabbing him in the throat before he falls down into a deep cave, where he encounters a strange old man named Garia, the last survivor from Planet Spider which was destroyed by the Iron Cross Army. Takuya wrongly blames Garia for his father's death before he passes out. To save Takuya's life, Garia attaches the Spider Bracelet to his wrist, which injects Takuya with spider extract, rapidly healing him and imbuing him with the powers of Spider-Man.

The one part of that origin story that's true to Peter Parker's classic origin is the death of a beloved relative being key to what motivates him, although even that is played differently on this show. Garia makes it clear that he wants Takuya to fight the Iron Cross Army for revenge, not that he wants Takuya to fight any evildoers because with great power comes great responsibility. Garia wants revenge for the destruction of Planet Spider, while Takuya himself seeks revenge for the death of his father. With Takuya not being there when his father gets attacked because he was initially more interested in motorcycle racing, it seems to parallel the classic Uncle Ben moral lesson, although it doesn't seem like Takuya could have saved his father from the Machine Bem before becoming Spider-Man considering how he gets mortally wounded in his encounter with the henchmen.

Takuya's Spider Bracelet contains his costume, called the Spider Protector, which looks very true to the classic suit: red and blue coloring, black web pattern, white eyes with black trim, and spider logos on the chest and back. Unlike most other tokusatsu hero shows of the era, this series puts very little emphasis on the "henshin" scenes of Takuya suiting up as Spider-Man. He pushes a button on the Spider Bracelet, there are a couple of quick shots of the suit popping out and him zipping it up, and then he's just fully suited up within about four seconds. Most episodes don't even show him suiting up at all, as he's usually already in his costume when we see him go into action.

Spider-Man has all of his signature powers here. He can shoot webs to swing around and to restrain enemies, although he calls his two kinds of webs Spider Strings and Spider-Net and he shoots them from his Spider Bracelet. He has a Spider Sense which alerts him to nefarious activity by the Iron Cross Army, depicted onscreen by the spider web pattern that he sees in the sky. That seems to be the one power that Garia imbues in him telepathically before they actually meet, not a power he gains from the spider extract. Spider-Man can leap great heights and stick to walls. There are plenty of scenes in which he climbs up the sides of buildings and other structures and it really does look impressive. The scenes of Spider-Man web-slinging are less impressive, and the high-pitched cartoon sound effect every time he swings across the screen doesn't help, but there aren't nearly as many web-slinging scenes as you would expect from a Spider-Man series. That's because he also receives from Garia a crazy-looking car, called Spider Machine GP-7, which he summons with his Spider Bracelet and drives around frequently. His car can fly too. He also often charges into action on foot and he always runs in a hunched posture with his arms outstretched.

Although this isn't nominally an entry in Toei's Super Sentai franchise, I watched Spider-Man after JAKQ Dengekitai and before Battle Fever J to get a feel for how it influenced the Super Sentai franchise's trajectory. The original Himitsu Sentai Goranger aired from April 1975 through March 1977 and it was built on the Kamen Rider template: an evil organization bent on conquering the world, led by a tyrannical figurehead who appoints a succession of commandants to lead the forces in the field, with a lot of action involving the heroes kicking and punching hordes of screeching masked henchmen, and a new monstrous person serving as each week's villain who gloriously explodes when defeated. JAKQ didn't deviate from that template at all and it started airing two weeks after Goranger ended, from April through December of 1977, followed by the theater special JAKQ vs. Goranger in March 1978. Spider-Man then began airing in May 1978 and concluded in March 1979. Battle Fever J didn't start airing until February 1979, when Spider-Man had only five episodes remaining, so for the majority of Spider-Man's run it was filling in the gap between what are now recognized as the second and third entries in Toei's Super Sentai franchise. Plus, like the first five Sentai series, Shozo Uehara was the head writer on Spider-Man, writing 15 episodes including the premiere and the finale.

This series set the course for future Sentai shows by introducing Leopardon, Spider-Man's giant transforming robot! This show has its evil organization and its monstrous villains of the week but these villains have the power to rapidly change size, and they always grow into giants toward the end of the episode when the tide of battle turns against them, prompting Spider-Man to shout "MARVELLER!!!" into his Spider Bracelet to summon the flying warship, into which he flies his Spider Machine GP-7 car. Once inside, he shouts "Marveller, change Leopardon!" with enthusiastic hand motions, causing the flying warship to transform into the bipedal robot Leopardon, which Spider-Man manually pilots to battle his giant opponent. That innovative concept isn't something that Goranger or JAKQ did previously. That concept started here with Spider-Man and then it carried over into Battle Fever J, and I haven't watched any '80s Sentai shows yet but I guess Toei must have kept it up because of course by the '90s it was a core pillar of the Sentai shows and their many Power Rangers counterparts. Even though the origins of what became Power Rangers can be traced back to Goranger, all of those battles between enlarged monsters and giant transforming robots that graced American television screens in the '90s can be traced back to this Japanese take on Spider-Man!

Even with the multitude of stylistic, cultural and narrative differences between Toei's Spider-Man and the classic Marvel Comics character, it's clear just by watching this series that it comes from a place of love and appreciation for the character. He isn't Peter Parker but Takuya Yamashiro's version of Spider-Man crawls up walls, webs up the bad guys and wears the traditional costume. He makes sure to hide his secret identity from everyone, even pretending to be weaker than he really is when faced with danger as a civilian. He takes on the Iron Cross Army with unwavering courage, investigating and infiltrating their schemes using his wits and determination. He is Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is one of the better '70s tokusatsu series that I've seen. It's a cut above Mirrorman and Iron King, and way above Zone Fighter, and I think it's even better than Super Robot Red Baron. It's worth checking out.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Tue Jun 13, 2023 11:25 pm

^ I never got a sense that the kids had any glimmering awareness of the original timeline in Jumanji. Indeed, the main gist is how off Williams and Hunt (and only them) are acting in that little coda as they attempt to avert the kids' parents from going on their fatal skiing holiday.

Really wished we'd get Toei's Spider-Man officially released, but with the streaming contraction that's happening now it seems Disney+ has removed the wonderful documentary on the show along with the rest of the Marvel doc series it was a part of... soooo, the mere fact of that has me less optimistic.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Fri Jul 21, 2023 12:24 am

Kamen Rider X (1974) - I've watched all 35 episodes of the third Kamen Rider series along with the mid-series theater special.

When this show premiered in February 1974, it had been nearly three years since the original Kamen Rider debuted on the same weekend as Return of Ultraman, kicking off Japanese TV's "Henshin Boom" of the early '70s. Kamen Rider ran for 98 episodes over nearly two years, then Kamen Rider V3 began airing the very next week and lasted a full year. By the time V3 concluded after 52 episodes, the "Henshin Boom" had already peaked. Lots of other transforming hero shows had already appeared in Kamen Rider's wake. Ultraman Taro was almost finished and Ultraman Leo would soon begin. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla would be released that spring. That was the tokusatsu landscape when Kamen Rider X arrived.

So, how does this series define itself? With mystery and intrigue!

Keisuke Jin, the son of Professor Jin, returns from Okinawa to Tokyo for the first time in six months and is immediately attacked by GOD (Government Of Darkness), a secret society formed by opposing countries to destroy Japan. Keisuke fights back and manages to get away. His lady friend Ryoko meets up with him and takes him to his father's secluded laboratory in a seaside cave, not realizing that GOD's kaijin Neptune is following them. Keisuke and his father can't be in the same room without fighting each other. Professor Jin wants his son to become a scientist but Keisuke would rather travel the world as a sailor. While Professor Jin is attacked in the night by Neptune, Keisuke is simultaneously attacked by one of GOD's agents, whom he manages to unmask and reveal as Ryoko! She escapes and Keisuke hurries over to his father's seaside cave, arriving in the morning to find the professor badly wounded on the rocky shore. GOD's henchmen arrive and shoot Keisuke repeatedly, leaving the two men for dead. Using the last of his strength, Professor Jin takes his unconscious son into the cave and performs a drastic operation on him. Keisuke awakens on a drifting sailboat, amazed to still be alive, when his father's voice emanates from a radio next to him and explains that Keisuke's body is no longer human, that this was the only way to save his life, and that he is now a restructured human called Kamen Rider X (or X Rider as he is frequently called throughout the series). The professor's voice then directs Keisuke's attention to an island up ahead, explaining that the island itself is a great computer called the Jin Station which the professor created to house his own full character and knowledge. On the island, Keisuke finds his father's body preserved in a capsule as well as a specialized motorcycle called Cruiser, which his father bequeaths to him along with the belt and equipment he needs to transform. Professor Jin's voice tells Keisuke that he can visit the Jin Station at any time to speak with him, then he requests that Keisuke flip a switch. Keisuke obliges and the capsule containing his father's body is launched out into the ocean where it explodes. After transforming and battling Neptune, Keisuke emerges from the sea with a wounded leg and comes face to face with a woman handing him a bandage, a woman who appears to be Ryoko! Keisuke recognizes her but she shakes her head and tells him she is not Ryoko, she is Kiriko, then she departs as he wraps his wounded leg. Why did Ryoko betray Keisuke for GOD? And who is Kiriko? This is where things are after just the first episode!

Without references to any events or characters from the original series or V3, this show initially seems like a complete narrative reboot. When Professor Jin explains to Keisuke that he is now a restructured human called Kamen Rider X, he doesn't mention basing Keisuke's cyborg form on the previous Kamen Riders. Likewise, while the Destron Leader in V3 made it clear from the outset that he was the same commander who previously led Shocker/Gel-Shocker, GOD makes no reference to those previous evil organizations. It seems like this series is meant to start from scratch rather than continue from the previous two shows. The first episode establishes Professor JIn's consciousness in the Jin Station supercomputer island to serve as both a mentor character and a secret base for Keisuke. However, it isn't long before that angle is decidedly dropped and Keisuke soon meets Tobei Tachibana, with Akiji Kobayashi reprising his role from the first two shows. Tachibana now runs a coffee shop and he tells Keisuke about the previous Kamen Riders, making it clear that this series is a continuation.

GOD's General Commander remains unseen but gives orders to his agents in the field by hiding audio cassette tapes inside random objects, which then explode Mission: Impossible-style after his message is heard. For the first 17 episodes, all of GOD's kaijin are based on characters from Greek and Roman mythology: Neptune, Panic, Hercules, Medusa, Cyclops, Minotaur, Icarus, Atlas, Achilles, Prometheus, Hydra, Chimera, Ulysses, Kronos, Kerberos, and Alseides.

Whereas the previous shows had a succession of commandants who led Shocker/Gel-Shocker/Destron's forces over a span of episodes, this show takes a slightly different route with the character Apollo Geist, the chief of GOD's secret police. GOD's kaijin resent Apollo Geist's presence as he is frequently a thorn in their sides, pointing out flaws in their plans and later giving them help that they don't want but usually need. Himself a restructured human who transforms into a cyborg form, he develops a personal rivalry with the X Rider.

In episode 22, the series shifts gears a bit by introducing King Dark, the giant mechanical leader of GOD's forces. Although not explicitly stated to be GOD's General Commander himself, the scenes of tape-recorded messages stop occurring after we start seeing King Dark speak directly to his kaijin agents inside GOD's headquarters. To depict King Dark's tremendous size next to other characters, he's always portrayed in GOD's headquarters by a full-sized prop of his upper body which is always lying down, resting his head on his right hand with his left hand resting on the ground in front of him. The prop's eyelids can open and close, and the left hand is capable of limited motion, but usually the only part of King Dark that moves is his mouth, furiously giving orders or laughing maniacally while he lies there like he's lounging about, never lifting his head. The huge prop sells King Dark's size but it makes him look less like a giant mechanical being and more like a big statue. In fact, when a helpless couple first stumbles upon King Dark in a cave, the guy outright mistakes King Dark for a statue at first. Later appearances in which King Dark gets up and moves around portray him through suitmation, with a suit that's able to move freely except for, ironically, his mouth.

Also beginning with episode 22, all of GOD's kaijin are hybrids of animals and notorious figures from history or literature: Genghis Khan Condor, Toad Goemon, Scorpion Geronimo, Beetle Lupin, Starfish Hitler, Spider Napoleon, Chameleon Phantom, Leech Dracula, Lizard Viking, Ant Capone, Centipede Yang Guifei, and Tiger Nero.

Episode 23 marks the beginning of a cool saga that spans the final 13 episodes of the series. Hisaya Ito guest-stars as Dr. Nanbara, a world-famous scientist blackmailed into working as the director of GOD's R&D division to develop the RS Device, a devastating weapon that can convert any matter into energy, which King Dark intends to install inside himself when it's complete. To protect the world from his invention, Dr. Nanbara cuts the RS Device blueprints into nine pieces, giving one piece to Kamen Rider X and mailing the other pieces to eight of his old colleagues before GOD assassinates him. Thus kicks off a race between Keisuke and GOD to find the rest of the RS Device blueprint pieces. This makes for compelling episodes with palpable stakes, as you never know whether the X Rider or King Dark will end up with the latest blueprint piece by the end of the episode.

There are some fun surprises in this series. I guess it must not have caught on with Japanese kids in 1974 to the extent that the first two shows did, since it only lasted 35 episodes, but the ending is satisfying. Kamen Rider X is a really good series overall, not as good as V3 but better than the original Kamen Rider.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sun Oct 22, 2023 10:17 pm

Super Star God GranSazers (2003-2004) - I've watched all 51 episodes of this show, the first of a three-series tokusatsu franchise produced by Toho in the mid-2000s.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, Earth was inhabited by an ancient human civilization that developed highly advanced technology. They created a fleet of Super Star Gods (Chouseishin), giant robots with incredible power. A Cosmic Alliance of aliens, fearing that humanity's progress would disrupt peace in the universe, unleashed an all-out attack on Earth. Humanity launched the Super Star Gods to join their fleets of battleships in a tremendous space war against the Cosmic Alliance, but it wasn't enough, and the ancient civilization was completely wiped out. Now, in contemporary Japan, 12 young adults who descend from that civilization find ancient powers awakening within them as the threat from space once again approaches Earth. Each of these superpowered individuals, known as GranSazers, descends from one of the four ancient tribes (Flame, Wind, Earth, Water), three to each tribe. The glowing symbols on their left wrists manifest transformation devices which, when they yell "Sochaku!" ("Equip!"), encase them in ancient high-tech battle suits, each with their own special techniques. The suit colors are variations of red for the Flame Tribe, purple for the Wind Tribe, yellow and orange for the Earth Tribe, and blue for the Water Tribe. When each tribe's members come together, they can summon and operate their tribe's own Super Star God, which laid dormant underground for all these years. Professor Horiguchi is a famous archaeologist investigating the ancient civilization, and his assistant Mika becomes a GranSazer of the Flame Tribe, which is joined by a delivery boy named Tenma and Mika's younger brother, Ken.

This show utilizes a lot of different tropes from the Super Sentai franchise, with its big team of heroes in an array of colorful costumes who summon giant transforming mechs to battle giant alien monsters. It also takes a lot of influence from the then-recent rebooted takes on Kamen Rider (Kuuga, Agito, Ryuki, 555) in the way it's shot and structured, with soap opera drama, frequent cliffhanger endings and a strong sense of continuity, although it's not quite as fully serialized as the Heisei-era Kamen Rider shows. This series really paces itself in bringing different kinds of action to the screen. It takes a while for the first giant enemy monster to show up, even longer than Super Sentai shows typically take.

The episodes of Super Star God GranSazers make up distinct sagas. The first 12 episodes introduce the nine GranSazers who comprise the Flame, Wind and Earth Tribes along with their respective Super Star Gods (Garuda, Dolcruz and GunCaesar), as an alien spy disguised as a woman named Karin seeks out the GranSazers and works to turn the tribes against each other before they can figure out their purpose and join forces. Episodes 13 through 24 introduce the remaining three GranSazers of the Water Tribe and their Super Star God (Leviathan) as the planet is invaded by a trio of aliens called the Impactors, led by the nefarious Logia, who forms a rivalry with Tenma. Episodes 25 through 41 are more loosely defined as a saga, with several standalone episodes focusing primarily on one GranSazer as is common in Super Sentai shows. The show's final saga, episodes 42 through 51, introduces a hideous ancient life form called Bosquito, which self-replicates as it consumes people and can also mimic the GranSazers’ abilities. Throughout it all, the GranSazers form new friendships as they uncover the mysteries of their powers and the Cosmic Alliance that attacked Earth long ago.

This show is a whole lot of fun, I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I must say that it's clunkier overall than the Heisei-era Kamen Rider shows that it takes after. Ryuki is the most direct comparison, a show which promised 12 different Kamen Riders from the outset and spent the entire series revealing them at a steady pace, both protagonists and antagonists and several in between, giving each of them their own compelling narratives. Super Star God GranSazers introduces all of its heroes comparatively quickly, nine of them during the first saga and the remaining three almost immediately in the second saga. The conflicts between the GranSazers in the earlier episodes are fun but it doesn't take very long before all of them become allies and the series finds its status quo. Tenma is established as the show's lead character early on, and Mika is also quickly established as the main female character. The others are all supporting characters to varying degrees. Ken (Mika's younger brother and the third member of the Flame Tribe), Akira (the leader of the Wind Tribe), Ran (the female member of the Earth Tribe) and Makoto (the leader of the Water Tribe) tend to play bigger roles throughout the series than the others. Don't ask me to remember the alternate Sazer names of every character because I can't. Professor Horiguchi is played by Shoichiro Akaboshi, who had guest roles on Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Cosmos, but otherwise the cast is made up of faces I hadn't seen before.

Koichi Kawakita came out of retirement to direct the special effects for this series! The effects are exactly like you would expect if Kawakita had helmed the effects for Godzilla's Millennium Series: lots of sparks, lots of animated beams, with the same terrible digital compositing that was typical of Japanese films and shows in the 2000s. The Super Star Gods are bright, colorful and clunky, and the battles are a lot more physical than the battles in the Heisei Godzilla movies. Maser tanks appear briefly in flashbacks to the ancient war. Hiroshi Koizumi appears in a guest role!

Super Star God GranSazers is a unique blend of different tokusatsu franchise tropes. It doesn't measure up to the best of the Super Sentai or Heisei-era Kamen Rider shows that it emulates but it successfully distinguishes itself from them enough to stand on its own. It's a good show, worth checking out for sure.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Sat Oct 28, 2023 8:25 am

I'm struggling to get some Halloween viewing in, but at least I got the nostalgiafication of (re)watching Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments on YouTube. This five part series from 2004 was part of the basic cable trend of having a ton of talking heads comment on lists of stuff that consumed our lives back then. Among the commentators are filmmakers, critics, comedians, actors, and random pop culture figures.

I was expecting it to be a bit cringe looking back, but it holds up pretty well. The list of films selected is pretty strong, and I realize now this is the first time I saw many of these directors and writers on camera.

Still a few films I haven't seen, but in the intervening 19 years I've seen most of them!
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sun Nov 12, 2023 11:56 pm

^ Awesome. I remember watching I Love The '80s and I Love The '90s on VH1 in my early teen years. Those were similar talking-head commentary shows, each episode focused on a particular year from each decade. Those shows caught me up on a lot of '80s pop culture that I wasn't alive to experience, and a lot of '90s pop culture that I was too young to experience, and it was always fun seeing them talk about movies or shows that I had seen. As I recall, a segment on Godzilla '98 had some people griping about it and speaking fondly of the classics!


Battle Fever J (1979-1980) - I've watched all 52 episodes of this fantastic series, one of the final tokusatsu shows of the 1970s (only its last four episodes aired in January 1980). Aside from the show's title and the opening theme song, the team itself is almost always just called Battle Fever by all of the characters.

Apparently Toei considered this show to be the first entry of the Super Sentai franchise until the mid '90s, when they began regarding Himitsu Sentai Goranger and JAKQ Dengekitai as the first two entries and bumped Battle Fever J to third, although the term sentai is never used in this series at all. That's an interesting distinction, to think that Goranger, JAKQ and Battle Fever J each were once regarded as original shows unto themselves with only Battle Fever J spawning an ongoing franchise. Goranger and JAKQ did air almost consecutively from 1975 through 1977 with just a two-week gap between them, and then there was more than a year between the final episode of JAKQ and the debut of Battle Fever J, so that might have been part of the reason why this show was initially considered the beginning of Super Sentai as an ongoing franchise.

The Goranger outfits were distinguished by their colors and each of their names reflected that (Akaranger, Aoranger, Kiranger, Momoranger and Midoranger). Conversely, the members of JAKQ wore multicolored costumes distinguished by playing card suits (Diamond Jack, Spade Ace, Clover King and Heart Queen). Battle Fever also goes its own way with each member's name reflecting a different nationality and each of their costumes bearing the colors of their respective flag: Battle France, Battle Cossack, Battle Kenya, Miss America and Battle Japan. (Battle Cossack's suit is based on the Soviet Union flag.) It seems that it wasn't until the next series following Battle Fever J that the Super Sentai team members became distinguished primarily by their suit colors in the tradition of Goranger. Maybe that had something to do with Toei's eventual decision to look back at Goranger as the start of the Super Sentai franchise.

Battle Fever J begins with a mysterious female assassin in a white suit walking around with a red umbrella. She murders three members of Japan's National Defense Department in broad daylight by sneaking up behind them and injecting them with potassium cyanide from the tip of her umbrella. Masao Den, a man behind on his rental car payment, receives an emergency message to report to Battle Fever immediately. He travels around to gather his teammates: Kensaku Shiraishi, whom Masao finds horseback riding; Kyosuke Shida, a Paris-trained hairstylist whom Masao finds at work in a salon; and Shiro Akebono, a man who grew up in Kenya whom Masao finds conversing with animals in a pet shop. They trek through underground tunnels to Battle Fever's base where they report to their commander, General Kurama, who sends them out to find the assassin. The team manages to trap her on the field of an empty baseball stadium at night and she nearly evades their capture, but when they bring her back to their base, they find that her umbrella contains no weapon and she doesn't match a photo of the assassin. General Kurama explains that the woman they captured is FBI Agent Diane Martin, who covertly traveled from America to defeat Egos, a secret society responsible for violent uprisings in human history. Led by the shadowy figurehead Satan Egos, who desires to twist people's hearts to evil and create a new world order, Egos has caused havoc around the world and has now arrived in Japan, prompting Diane to remain in Japan and join Battle Fever. General Kurama trains the five members of the team, equipping them with specialized battle suits and also revealing that they have a giant robot under construction, although it isn't completed yet...

Whereas Goranger and JAKQ were both created by Shotaro Ishinomori, Battle Fever J is Toei's second co-production with Marvel Comics after Spider-Man, which aired during most of the gap year between JAKQ and this show. This is Toei's first ensemble series in which the team pilots a giant robot in battle, as Spider-Man did. Although Spider-Man piloted Leopardon from his very first episode, this series sets the template for later Super Sentai shows by saving Battle Fever Robo's debut for the fifth episode and building up to it in the earlier stories. Unlike Leopardon, Battle Fever Robo does not transform, nor is it formed by different robots combining together as would be the norm for later giant robots in the '90s shows. Battle Fever summon a flying battleship called Battle Shark from an underwater hangar, which bursts out of the sea and splits in half in midair to release Battle Fever Robo. The robot has an iconic appearance mixing black-and-white with primary colors. It's armed with a number of weapons including a samurai sword, a pair of throwing daggers, a battle axe and built-in chains.

The premise of Spider-Man's giant robot battles was that the villain monsters could simply change size and grow giant. Battle Fever J takes an original approach to the concept. Egos monsters are created by Satan Egos using a grotesque technorganic machine which can turn anything or anyone into a monster. Satan Egos always refers to the monsters as his sons and daughters. When the tide of battle turns against the monsters, Egos usually has a giant robot duplicate of that monster ready to emerge, which the monster always calls their "little brother/sister." The giant robot monster is always portrayed by the same suit as the smaller version and it usually emerges before Battle Fever has defeated the smaller monster, so there's usually a brief time before Battle Fever Robo arrives when both the small monster and the giant robot version are rampaging at the same time, with Battle Fever defeating the small monster before leaping inside Battle Fever Robo to battle the giant robot monster. This is a wildly over-the-top approach to depicting the same monster in both human-sized and giant-sized action sequences so they can be shown getting destroyed at both sizes.

Battle Fever J is still rooted in the spy thriller genre but not as heavily as Goranger or JAKQ. The team still works as secret government agents but Battle Fever J is a comparatively more fantastical series, both with its giant robots and with how the Egos monsters are portrayed. While the masked monsters of Goranger and the CRIME monsters of JAKQ were depicted as mechanical beings, the Egos monsters on this show are creatures who are usually born onscreen. Battle Fever J also has a lighter and more adventurous tone than its predecessors, with less of a focus on brutal violence from the outset and even more of a fun-loving approach. The tone is consistent throughout the series and the humor is more varied and not as repetitive compared to much of the comedy added to JAKQ's final stretch of episodes. Each member of Battle Fever does their own particular dance moves during their team roll call scenes. Battle France always introduces himself with some very flamboyant flamenco-style clapping, while Miss America snaps her fingers disco-style and Battle Kenya does a tribal dance. This series certainly doesn't concern itself with any politically correct considerations when it comes to how the heroes reflect their stated nationalities, least of all in the costume party of episode 38.

Miss America's alter ego Diane Martin is a Japanese-American woman played by a Japanese-American actress of the same name. Strangely, despite the show's first episode revolving around her character, Diane is often absent from the episodes after that. She appears again sometimes, usually in Battle Fever's headquarters, and her character usually shows up for the fight scenes in-costume as Miss America, but there are a lot of times when the other four members of the team are gathered together out of their costumes and Diane is noticeably missing. Then, midway through the series, Diane departs the show and appoints her friend as the new Miss America, FBI Agent Maria Nagisa. Unlike Diane, Maria is featured much more prominently in the show, with actress Naomi Hagi getting a lot of screen time. According to RangerWiki, Diane Martin didn't speak Japanese very well when they made this series, so much that her Japanese dialogue was dubbed by Lisa Komaki, who played Momoranger's alter ego Peggy Matsuyama in Goranger. I guess the makers of this show just found it easier to exclude Diane as much as possible and eventually write her out than to deal with the language barrier.

Battle Kenya is played by Kenji Ohba, who would go on to play the lead role of Retsu Ichijouji in Space Sheriff Gavan. Not only is Ohba part of this show's main cast as Battle Kenya's alter ego Shiro Akebono, he also doubles as the primary stunt performer in the Battle Kenya suit for the action sequences. Ohba was previously the Akaranger suit actor in episodes 67 through 84 of Goranger, and he had a guest role in an episode of JAKQ, but in Battle Fever J he's one of the rare lead actors to play his character both in and out of the suit. The substitute suit actor for Battle Kenya was a young Tsutomu Kitagawa, 20 years before he went on to play Godzilla.

Battle Cossack's alter ego Kensaku Shiraishi is played by Yukio Itou, who previously played Midoranger's alter ego Kenji Asuka in Goranger. He's the second team member to depart midway through this series, as the Battle Cossack mantle is then taken up by Shiraishi's friend Makoto Jin, played by Daisuke Ban, who previously played the lead role of Jiro in Toei & Shotaro Ishinomori's early-'70s tokusatsu series Android Kikaida.

I still haven't seen any '80s Super Sentai shows yet but I've watched half of the '90s shows and I can totally see how Battle Fever J established the series template for what came later. Goranger was an ensemble show built on Kamen Rider tropes and JAKQ followed suit, while Spider-Man adapted Ultraman tropes for giant monster action, and then Battle Fever J brought all of that together into what became the Super Sentai series format.

Battle Fever J is great fun from beginning to end. It's '70s tokusatsu at its most delightful, a spirited series with a memorable cast, catchy music and tons of colorful action.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Mon Dec 11, 2023 1:29 am

Moon Knight (2022) - I've finally watched this six-episode Marvel Studios series on DIsney+ and it is excellent! It's a supernatural Egyptian adventure in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy '99, with action and horror tropes closer in style to the latter, but each episode stands out with a distinct premise and a lot of unique content. The first episode almost feels like an episode of Black Mirror, and the series takes some seriously crazy turns by the end.

If you're not familiar with the title character then I won't go into details because the show does a great job of introducing viewers to everything at a steady pace. It's not like anything Marvel has done before. Oscar Isaac is just brilliant as the series lead and the supporting cast includes Ethan Hawke as the villain and F. Murray Abraham as the voice of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu.

This was the first of Marvel's Disney+ series to be centered on a character who didn't previously appear in the Avengers films. In fact, there are zero appearances by any pre-established MCU characters and almost no references to anything else from other titles aside from a brief mention of the Ancestral Plane. I think that's terrific, as the whole point of the MCU was supposed to be to build a universe of Marvel characters and a universe should be expansive enough for this kind of self-contained story that doesn't overlap with other franchises or build into any broader saga. Moon Knight still contributes to the overall lore of the MCU by exploring concepts like the Egyptian gods and afterlife in the course of its six-part story, and that's the best kind of universe-building there is.


Android Kikaida (1972-1973) - I've also watched all 43 episodes of this Toei series based on a manga by Shotaro Ishinomori, one of the many tokusatsu shows that debuted on Japanese TV during the Henshin Boom of the early '70s. This show began airing on the same day as episode 67 of the original Kamen Rider and concluded during the early part of Kamen Rider V3's run, also running concurrently with most of Ultraman Ace and some of Ultraman Taro, right in the thick of the Henshin Boom.

The evil organization DARK sends their robot Gray Rhino King and a team of drone henchmen to take over a newly completed hydroelectric dam but they are stopped by a denim-clad young man playing a red guitar, who transforms into a blue and red android. Calling himself Kikaida, champion of justice, he declares that he has come to thwart DARK's dreadful plans. Equipped with jet boosters in his feet, Kikaida kicks their asses and then escapes on his flying motorcycle. Gray Rhino King gives chase but loses him on the mountain road over DARK's secret underground base, prompting DARK's forces to search their base for this intruder. The henchmen inspect the lab of robotics scientist Dr. Komyoji while he and his daughter Mitsuko are working, for which DARK's leader, Professor Gill, apologizes to Dr. Komyoji over the intercom. Dr. Komyoji responds that he would like to see such an android intruder and Professor Gill says that he will have the doctor take a look when the android is found. Afterward, Dr. Komyoji opens a hidden door in the floor and takes Mitsuko down to a basement, which he says is a safe refuge from DARK's 24-hour surveillance. He confesses to her that the android DARK seeks is Jiro, Dr. Komyoji's secret creation, and she is relieved to learn that Jiro wasn't meant for DARK after all. Dr. Komyoji explains that Jiro needs just one final circuit to be complete, but when he goes upstairs to get the parts, Professor Gill is there in the lab waiting for him! Jiro is able to fight through the henchmen to get Mitsuko upstairs, where they find the lab burning with Dr. Komyoji trapped behind the flames. Jiro moves to save him but Dr. Komyoji orders Jiro to leave and foil DARK's plot. Jiro escapes on his motorcycle with Mitsuko in the sidecar but the sound of Professor Gill playing the flute built into his staff cuts through the air, causing Jiro intense pain. "Those born of DARK belong to DARK forever," Professor Gill insists. Jiro struggles to maintain control of himself against the sound of the flute but he ultimately escapes with Mitsuko, and they join up with her kid brother, Masaru, when they rescue him from DARK's forces.

That's the setup for the series. In broad terms it hews closely to the Kamen Rider template, with the transforming cybernetic hero and the evil organization bent on world domination and all of the ensuing combat scenes with the droves of henchmen and the featured robot monster of the week. The details are where Android Kikaida distinguishes itself and it isn't lacking in that regard. The show's content is slightly lighter than Kamen Rider overall and it has a much more cartoony style. It still has the occasional scenes of helpless people being killed by the villains but those scenes are less frequent than in Kamen Rider and they don't receive the same horror-minded focus. The DARK robots who serve as the show's monsters of the week are based on animals and have particular colors. Their designs are very basic and often rather lame, particularly in the earlier episodes. Whenever Kikaida defeats them, they collapse into piles of household appliance parts.

Jiro's weakness to Professor Gill's flute is because his body's conscience circuit is incomplete. The sound of the flute reaches Jiro anywhere, and should he succumb to the flute's influence before he transforms into Kikaida, he will act as one of DARK's robots, but he's immune to the flute after transforming. This becomes a regular point of drama in most episodes, as Jiro is just about to transform when Professor Gill starts playing the flute, forcing Jiro to control himself and find a way to drown out the sound of the flute long enough to carry out his henshin scene.

The second episode is when Jiro, Mitsuko and Masaru first cross paths with Hattori Hanpei, a self-professed ace private investigator who is too incompetent and goofy to be any good at it. His lime-green car frequently breaks down and he struggles to make it start again. He also claims to be a 16th-generation descendant of the ninja Hattori Hanzo. He quickly becomes a regular comic-relief character, although he doesn't just immediately become an ally to the show's heroes, as it's quite a bumpy road before he reaches that role. In the fourth episode, Hanpei actually agrees to help DARK in exchange for money by sending Jiro and a little girl into a trap. Mitsuko and Masaru confront him about that and he comes clean, then this mofo does it again in the very next episode, unwittingly allowing an undercover DARK agent to hire his P.I. services by paying him to give a little boy a suspicious-looking (explosive) belt. Yeah, Hanpei really deserves it when Masaru starts calling him Hanpen (fish cake), a nickname that sticks even after he becomes a more reliable ally.

In the sixth episode, Dr. Komyoji is revealed to be alive but suffering from near-total amnesia. He remembers his home phone number, which he calls from a pay phone, but he doesn't even remember his own name, nor does he recognize his daughter's voice when she answers. Jiro, Mitsuko and Masaru realize it's him and they ask where he is but Dr. Komyoji sees DARK's agents coming for him and he takes off running.

This becomes the show's status quo. From one episode to the next, the amnesiac Dr. Komyoji keeps fleeing aimlessly across Japan trying to remember who he is while Mitsuko and Masaru try to find him, frequently encountering the DARK robots who are also hunting for him, with Jiro always showing up to interrupt dangerous situations with his trusty red guitar. That is Jiro's signature style of making an entrance from the very beginning: DARK's forces have some people cornered in an outdoor setting when the sound of slow guitar strumming emanates from somewhere, prompting the drone henchmen to look around as the DARK robot wonders aloud where that sound is coming from, until they spot Jiro standing up in some precariously high location. The camera zooms in as Jiro continues to play the guitar and then it cuts to a close-up, with Jiro usually pointing at the DARK robot and making a heroic declaration before he leaps down to battle them.

I really can't overstate how absurdly close Mitsuko and Masaru get to finding their father only for them to just barely miss him time and again. When I was in college I watched a movie with a girl I was dating, a romantic comedy called Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale as two strangers in New York who meet each other by chance and share a mutual attraction but have to go their separate ways before they can exchange any information, then they both spend the whole movie wishing they could meet again and trying to find each other as they separately go about their lives in the city while frequently, unknowingly, repeatedly coming so very close to crossing paths again except they always just barely miss each other, never realizing it, and it just gets preposterous with how many times that happens. I'm now convinced that whoever wrote that movie must have watched Android Kikaida, because that is exactly what happens here. Mitsuko and Masaru don't realize how physically close they are to finding Dr. Komyoji and then he runs away again, usually because he's been seen by DARK's forces or he sees them first, so this robotics scientist who can't even remember who he is just keeps fleeing across Japan on foot not realizing that he has a family and they're so close to finding him, over and over again.

Once the show settled into that status quo, my initial impression was that it would end up being one of the lesser '70s tokusatsu series despite how fun it is. How wrong I was about that! Android Kikaida leans on a formula for much of its run but it changes things up in the final stretch of episodes. Dr. Komyoji does eventually regain his memory but this happens well before the final episode as the story kicks into high gear with new developments, including the introduction of Kikaida's evil brother, the sinister android Hakaida! Things get heavy, circumstances get crazy and the show gets very good. The later episodes really tie the series together and elevate it to something more than just a fun tokusatsu show that's a slightly lighter and more cartoony take on the Kamen Rider template. Android Kikaida is one of the better ones, definitely a highlight of the '70s.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Tue Dec 26, 2023 12:41 am

Ultraman Cosmos (2001-2002) - I've watched all 65 episodes of this series along with the three movies. It's both the longest Ultraman series to date and the one with the most tie-in films.

I had some preconceived notions about this show before I watched it. My first exposure to the Ultraman franchise was in the mid 2000s, my high school years, when I first got involved with the online kaiju fan community and I noticed a lot of coverage of then-recent Ultraman shows like Cosmos on websites like Monster Zero News and Henshin!Online. Sometimes I would read the articles but everything about Ultraman was so inaccessible to me at that time. Even after I learned how to download things via torrents, fan-made subtitles were still a rarity back then. From the conversations in the old chat room on Tokyo Monsters, I understood that my fellow kaiju fans who were downloading and watching Ultraman content at that time were watching it all raw, unsubtitled, and I've never been into that so I just didn't seek it out. I did, however, take the advice of many other fans and import the region-2 Japanese DVD of the 2004 film Ultraman: The Next, both because it included English subtitles and because I liked the idea of a standalone Ultraman movie that served as a clean-slate entry point for uninitiated viewers. The promise of a dramatic story with a serious tone geared toward older demographics appealed to my teenage sensibility of wanting myself and everything I liked to be recognized as mature, adult and totally not kiddie. That was why I sought out The Next at that age, and that was also why I was willing to download Ultraman Nexus and give it a shot when English-subtitled episodes became available through Tokyo Monsters. One thing I gathered about Nexus at that time was that it was consciously made to be more serious and appealing to adults than the prior series, Cosmos, which I came to understand was as kid-targeted as any of the Power Rangers shows that I had stopped watching years earlier. Jim Ballard was always the biggest Nexus fan out of anybody and I distinctly remember how much he hated Cosmos, as did many other fans back then, so I had all of that in the back of my mind before I finally watched Cosmos myself this year. When I started going through all of the different Ultra shows a few years ago, I was so eager to check out Max and Tiga early on that I didn't wait for Mill Creek to release them but I certainly was never tempted to skip ahead and watch Cosmos. I watched every live-action show preceding it, and I actually considered skipping straight to Mebius and saving Cosmos for sometime in the future but I decided to just give it a chance and/or get it over with.

What can I say? If I had watched Ultraman Cosmos as a teenager in the mid 2000s, I probably would have rolled my eyes at it too. Watching it now, though, I was struck from start to finish by just how good it is! This is a totally solid Ultraman series that fits right alongside Tiga, Dyna and Gaia in style and content. It isn't quite as good as those three but it's really not bad at all.

Is Cosmos really a more kid-targeted Ultraman series than its predecessors? Maybe, but it's not like Tiga, Dyna and Gaia weren't made for kids. Cosmos does have more of a whimsical, fairytale tone to it. It's sort of like a contemporary update on Ultraman Taro, which is the Showa-era series that gets derided by fans for being the kid-friendliest of its era even though it's likewise a great series in its own way.

The element of this show's premise that sets it apart the most from other Ultraman shows is how the defense squad, Team EYES (Elite Young Expert Squad) of the Scientific Research Council, is tasked not with eliminating monsters but protecting them. The first episode establishes that the SRC has a monster preserve on a remote chain of islands, very similar to Monsterland in Destroy All Monsters. Lead character Musashi Haruno works at the preserve before joining Team EYES and he has a close bond with Lidorias, a birdlike monster who lives at the preserve. Musashi becomes the host to Ultraman Cosmos and together they fight to help monsters when they appear, whether that means subduing them and taking them to the preserve or getting them to return to hibernation. That's not to say that helping monsters is always so easy, however, and the series finds a lot of drama in the efforts of Cosmos and Team EYES to protect the populace from monsters while protecting the monsters as well. This premise is another thing the show has in common with Taro, which had some episodes in which ZAT tried to protect monsters rather than destroy them, but Cosmos makes it the central premise of the series. It's good that an Ultraman show finally took this approach after 35 years, because even as far back as the original series there have been many times when Ultraman and the defense team treated monsters with a lot more brutality and lethality than was necessary. It's good that we finally got a series where they chilled out and made a damn effort to do better by these extraordinary animals.

The defense team is central to any Ultraman series and Team EYES is a lot of fun to watch. They're a small team of six led by the wise Captain Hiura and the steadfast Deputy Captain Mizuki. Along with Musashi, the members include the scientist Doigaki, spirited Ayano and hotheaded Fubuki, whose no-nonsense approach often clashes with Musashi's idealism. Captain Hiura facetiously nicknames Musashi and Fubuki "the Spring Breeze Duo" when he assigns them to work together.

This show's primary antagonist is Chaos Header, a sinister entity from space accurately described as a light virus. Chaos Header has no single physical form, existing as a swarm of light particles that travel through space and descend from the sky on Earth. When Chaos Header infects a monster, it transforms the monster into a more evil-looking form with red-tinted features and causes it to rampage wildly. Ultraman: Towards the Future was the first to introduce the concept of "disembodied evil entity from space as a running antagonist that possesses monsters" with Gudis, and then Ultraman Gaia did a really epic take on the concept with the Radical Destruction Bringer, but then the direct-to-video series Ultraman Neos did a really rudimentary take on the concept with the Dark Matter. For Cosmos to do yet another take on that concept with Chaos Header seems uninspired, yes, but the show makes the most of that concept and it works well. Another thing that Chaos Header can do besides possessing monsters is manifesting evil duplicates of monsters, which it sometimes opts to do after Cosmos has freed a monster from Chaos Header's control. That conveniently allows for many a story to have a happy ending where the monster survives while still having a climactic battle scene in which Cosmos blows up the nonliving duplicate monster. There are also plenty of episodes in which evil space aliens battle Cosmos and he has no compunction about destroying them. Make no mistake, even with the unique premise of a defense team striving to protect monsters, there's no shortage of monster violence on this show.

In typical Heisei Ultraman fashion, Cosmos can transform. His regular blue and silver form is called Luna Mode. When he needs to let loose during combat, he transforms into his Corona Mode, with a swirling red and blue color scheme and a forward-pointed crest on his head. Midway through the series, Cosmos also gains his Eclipse Mode, specially equipped for taking on Chaos Header, with a symmetrical red, blue and silver color scheme. Whereas Tiga and Dyna can shift between their alternate forms, Cosmos' different modes are sequential upgrades. He transforms into Corona Mode before transforming into Eclipse Mode. Cosmos' transformations into his different modes are done in CGI, with the same animation footage reused throughout the series. Along with the interior shots of Team EYES' base, this series features more CGI than prior Ultraman shows.

In a departure from the Tiga, Dyna and Gaia movies, which took place either during or after their respective series, the first Cosmos movie actually serves as a prequel to the series. Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact depicts Musashi as a young boy meeting Cosmos for the very first time. Strangely, this movie was released to Japanese theaters after the first four episodes of the show had already aired on television. I decided to watch them in the same order that Japanese viewers first saw them, which only made me wonder why the show began airing before the movie was out, because the first episode depicts Musashi reuniting with Cosmos as an adult and even includes brief flashbacks to the movie. For first-time Cosmos viewers, I recommend starting with the first movie and then watching the show. The First Contact is a good movie, full of action and wonder. It features Alien Baltan and it was written and directed by Ultra series veteran Toshihiro Iijima (pen name Kitao Senzoku), who wrote and directed both Baltan episodes of the original Ultraman and went on to do the same for the Baltan two-parter on Ultraman Max.

Most of the 65 episodes of Cosmos were written by people who had written for Ultraman before, adding to this show's consistency with its predecessors. The head writer was Shinsuke Onishi, who previously wrote one episode each of Tiga, Dyna and Gaia. Onishi wrote 15 episodes of Cosmos himself and co-wrote another with Takahiko Masuda (Dyna, Gaia), who wrote four other episodes himself. Eight episodes were written by Jyunki Takegami (Tiga, Dyna, Gaia, head writer of Neos). Four were written by Masakazu Migita (Tiga, Dyna, Gaia, Neos, Heisei UltraSeven specials). Three of the best episodes of Cosmos were written by Ai Ota, who previously wrote for Tiga, Dyna and Gaia and went on to write for Ultra Q Dark Fantasy, Nexus, Max, Mebius and UltraSeven X. For Cosmos, she wrote the "Daughter of Time" two-parter (episodes 13 & 14) and "Door of Snow" (episode 57), the latter of which guest-stars Hideyo Amamoto in one of his final acting roles.

Cosmos also introduced some new writers to the Ultra franchise. Three episodes were written by Kenichi Araki, who previously wrote for many of Toei's tokusatsu shows. He went on to be the head writer for Ultra Galaxy: Mega Monster Battle and also wrote for Nexus and Ginga. Kengo Kaji, a future co-writer on Max, wrote three episodes of Cosmos himself and co-wrote four more with Sotaro Hayashi, who wrote four more himself and has continued writing for Ultraman as recently as Trigger, including as the head writer of Taiga and co-writer of the Taiga movie.

The second and third Cosmos movies were each co-written by Keiichi Hasegawa and Hideyuki Kawakami. Hasegawa had written for Tiga and Gaia and he was the head writer on Dyna. He also wrote each of the Tiga, Dyna and Gaia movies and co-wrote GMK. He wrote two episodes of Cosmos and he continued writing Ultraman shows and films for years after this, including as the head writer of Nexus. Kawakami also had written for Tiga, Dyna and Gaia, including the direct-to-video Dyna side story. He wrote nine episodes of Cosmos and went on to write for Mebius.

Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet is the second movie. Even though it was released to theaters on the same day that episode 57 aired, it takes place after the series so it's best to save it for after you've finished the show. It's a more generic movie than The First Contact but it's still a lot of fun. The third movie is Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice: The Final Battle, which I think is an improvement over its predecessor and a solid epilogue to the whole Cosmos saga.

Ultraman Cosmos is a really good Ultraman series, with a good trilogy of movies to go with it. The main cast is memorable, the core premise is unique and there's a wide variety of monster action. The show concludes with a seven-episode arc that escalates the conflict with Chaos Header and brings the series to a very satisfying conclusion. I'm so glad that I watched it.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Wed Jan 03, 2024 3:36 pm

Cosmos' length is intimidating, but I should be getting to it soonish, as it's one of the few I've bought but have yet to watch. I also remember that era of being a teen dimly following shows from Japan second-hand. I'm still not quite over the newness of actually having these things easily available!

As for me: got the original run of Columbo on Blu-ray and I've watched the three predecessors and pilots before the series proper. You see, writers Richard Levinson and William Link created the character and concept for an episode of mystery anthology program The Chevy Mystery Show in 1960. This is not on my set. You can only see it via a low quality YouTube rip. The plot concerns a psychiatrist who murders his wife and conspires with his mistress to construct an alibi where he and his wife (the mistress in disguise) are seen at the airport together before he flies abroad, thus being far away when the murder presumably happened later. This episode already has the essential format of an inverted mystery following an upper-class murderer staging the meticulously planned deed only for Lt. Columbo to appear 15 - 20 minutes in and gradually, after essentially pestering his suspect, unravel how they did it. The battle of wits between the moneyed murder, convinced of their own brilliance, and the earthy, blue-collar (and sneakily brilliant) Columbo make up the majority of the runtime just like in the eventual series.

The Chevy Mystery Show was filmed live, so it's a real window to a different era. Richard Carlson (Creature From the Black Lagoon) plays the murder, but the guy playing Columbo isn't very distinctive. This episode was turned into a stage play and in 1968 made into a TV movie with Peter Falk now in his classic role of Columbo, but he's a bit less quirky, more serious. He plays dumb more than he plays folksy. Gene Barry (The War of the Worlds) now plays the murder. This TV movie is a more fleshed out production, definitely on the upper end of something made for TV, which would continue to the series itself which would concentrate on quality over quantity, with only 6 to 8 episodes per year.

Falk wasn't interested in making the movie into a series at first, but he reconsidered a few years later and in 1971 a second TV movie, intended as a proper pilot, was made. An original story now, but adhering very closely structurally to the previous movie. Falk now has the rumpled raincoat, messy hair, and folksy amiability - he's totally Columbo now.

The thing about all three of these episodes/movies is that none are totally there. The Chevy Mystery Show episode is the most different, but in its mechanics it more closely resembles the eventual series. The classic structure is that the murder builds this elaborate tapestry and Columbo eventually pulls at the right thread and, in an elegantly simple way, unravels the entire alibi. The two TV movies just get a smidgen too convoluted. Too many moving parts. That makes the 'gotcha' reveals a bit less satisfying.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Wed Feb 07, 2024 12:51 am

^ I've never seen Columbo before but it's on Prime Video so I'll have to check it out soon. What TV channels would air reruns of Columbo back in the '90s and 2000s? It's a show I'd never even heard of until I was already an adult.


Robot Detective (1973) - Speaking of detective shows, I've watched all 26 episodes of this Toei tokusatsu series created by Shotaro Ishinomori, another of the many shows from the early-'70s Henshin Boom. There are a number of things that make this show unique and the biggest is that it is very much a crime drama, with the protagonists being detectives of Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department.

Hey, you know that robot character named K in the movie Shin Kamen Rider? Did you know that he was not an original character created for that 2023 film but actually the lead character from this 1973 Toei series and its accompanying manga? I didn't know that! I saw Shin Kamen Rider first and then I was very surprised when I started watching Robot Detective and realized that K is the star. He's unique among the lead heroes of tokusatsu shows because he doesn't transform into a human form at all. His robot face is his face all the time. That's the main character of this show. His regular outfit is a double-breasted red suit with beige pants, a yellow hat and yellow gloves but everyone can see that he's a robot.

Along with K, the show's main protagonists are Detectives Shiba and Shinjo. Shiba has 25 years of experience at the department while Shinjo is his young protege. Shinjo is played by Jiro Chiba, the same actor who played FBI Agent Taki on the original Kamen Rider. This show started airing just two months after Kamen Rider ended so it's cool to see that this was his next role after Taki.

Shiba and Shinjo are investigating the seemingly impossible murder of a lone man in a locked room when K arrives and introduces himself. They're suspicious of him at first but he shows them a letter from the police chief explaining that he's their new colleague. K quickly proves his worth as a detective by scanning the floor and concluding that the culprit was a robot. Shiba protests when the chief reassigns him to the department's newly formed Special Forensics Division as K's support. Shiba insists that his methods are infallible but the chief tells him, "The era of intuitive footcop investigation is over. Now, forensics has become the important thing." This juxtaposition of old-fashioned investigative methods and modern forensic techniques forms the core of the character drama among the show's protagonists and it keeps the show firmly in the crime/mystery genre, while the sci-fi elements of both K and the robot villains bring the tokusatsu flair. It's a winning genre blend.

From early in the series, K travels to remote shorelines when he's injured, where he seeks medical care from a giant robot he calls Mother. She has an ancient, stone-like appearance, solid tan in color and never speaking, always appearing in the sky from over the horizon when K seeks her out. Mother is more mysterious than anything else.

The whole cast is great but K really carries the show, which is no small feat for a character whose robotic face never moves. K wants to fit in with the people around him and he's acutely aware of how he sticks out. There's a surprisingly heartbreaking scene early in the series in which Shiba's daughters stumble upon an unfinished poem that K was writing privately, which they mockingly read aloud while laughing as K pleads with them to give it back, a poem in which K bemoans the fact that his skin is the same color as the sea and expresses his wish to be reborn as a human. At various points in the series, Shinjo remarks on K's ostensibly emotionless nature as a robot but he eventually grows to see K as a genuine friend. Shiba constantly puts up a tough front around K, ranting about how he hates robots and calling K a scrap heap.

The central antagonists of Robot Detective are a well-financed group called BAD. Unlike the villainous organizations of various other shows who are usually fixated on global conquest, BAD is a robot rental agency and their aim is to make money. BAD's robots will commit crimes on behalf of their clients, and they're willing to do the dirty work to help their clients make a big score, normally with the stipulation that half of whatever they steal or gain from the crime belongs to BAD. Of course, being the villains, BAD isn't above double-crossing their clients.

The robots of BAD serve as the show's rotating villains of the week, typically doing battle with K at the close of each episode. Sometimes this action occurs after the episode's case has been resolved, other times it happens while Shiba and Shinjo are still working to wrap things up. K removes his suit when he goes into battle, and in his typical "henshin" scene, his eye color changes from yellow to red, he tosses his hat to the ground, and then a close-up shot pulls back as a shirtless K shouts "GO!" while swinging his suit jacket around in the air like a Chippendale's stripper before hurling it away, every damn time. The shirtless K is not the same robot costume used for scenes when K is dressed, as his figure is noticeably more buff during battle scenes. K's signature finishing move is to open a metal hatch on the right side of his torso which houses a miniature cannon for blasting his opponents.

This is a good show. It has a lot of fresh qualities and it's entertaining. The crime drama elements make it distinct from other tokusatsu shows, while the sci-fi elements make it distinct from other crime dramas, and they complement each other well. I personally think this series had enough to make it worthwhile from the outset. However, the show only lasted for 26 episodes, and episodes 21 and 22 are a two-parter with several notable revelations and developments that give me the impression that the show was being retooled in a last-ditch effort to appeal to more viewers and continue on. I won't describe the details but I will say that the revelations about BAD and about Mother make both of them less interesting and serve only to make this show's premise less unique and more typical of '70s tokusatsu. A big aesthetic development in this two-parter is that K gains a new battle form, so when he removes his suit for battle, his aquamarine body is suddenly red and he now has a multitude of guns and missile launchers that emerge from all over his body as his new finishing move. It's such a transparent attempt to make K appeal more to kids by decking him out with firepower, and it didn't save the show from cancellation because there are only four more episodes after that two-parter. It's a shame that the show gets more generic during those last few episodes but it's still a good series overall. The cast, the music and the fun mixing of genres all make it memorable.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Wed Feb 07, 2024 7:29 pm

^ I never watched reruns of Columbo as a '90s kid (apparently they came on A&E). I may have had some vague awareness of it, but it was in the mid 2010s when people were really beginning to get into the series again that I decided to check it out on Netflix. I wasn't alone, and during covid apparently people began binging the series like crazy! So I was an early on onboarder to the current wave of popularity the series is enjoying.

Also, apparently my autocorrect turned every "murderer" into "murder"?

Like hearing about these vintage toku shows from Toei. I can easily see Discotek licensing many of these, so I'm tentatively looking forward to getting them on Blu-ray in a few years... probably!
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Fri Feb 16, 2024 7:44 pm

I complained that Kamen Rider Black failed to live up the the tone and story setup it lays out in it's earliest episodes, and how it ends up reverting into a more typical Toei hero show over the course of the series (with obvious production problems, to boot!). There's no problem like that in Space Sheriff Gavan, a series about a cool guy who beats up evil aliens while his many funky themes play on the soundtrack. The series promises that in the beginning and delivers it consistently for its 44 episodes. What thin bit of story arc it has (Gavan's missing father, which turns out to be an excellent celebrity cameo) is competently executed, giving a nice patina of pathos and a little sense of structure to an otherwise episodic series.

Of course, Gavan's design is cool and all, but the real reason this show shines is as a vehicle for star Kenji Ohba, whose charisma and physical prowess propel the series. The biggest weakness of Space Sheriff Gavan is that as neat as the Gavan suit and his weapons and mechs are those scenes often pale in comparison to scenes of Ohba as Gavan as human. The effects scenes are often rigidly repetitive, too, with a reliance of stock footage, while the many scenes of Ohba fighting the baddies as his normal human self are almost always far more impressive, with great choreography and interesting, sometimes artfully stylized directing! Several episodes are just excuses to put Ohba in various action movie scenarios, sometimes by trapping him into a surreal dreamscape where any action sequence can be contrived. If you didn't know it was a tokusatsu show a channel surfing viewer might tune-in on an action scene and assume Ohba was a secret agent or bodyguard or something and this was just a straight action series.

BTW, the Makuu henchmen have gotta be my favorite henchmen design. Love those puffy jackets - like an evil alien breakdancing crew! In the middle of the series they revert to vests with red sleeves, which I dislike because they look like caterers, but they're back in jackets by the end. I can only assume they lost the jackets when filming entered those hot summer months!
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Wed Mar 06, 2024 12:56 am

^ I figured that you would appreciate that celebrity cameo since you've seen so many martial arts movies!

Did you recognize the actor who plays Commander Qom? I didn't realize this until I read it online but he's Toshiaki Nishizawa, the same actor who played Kubota in Godzilla vs. Gigan!

I hadn't made that connection between the change in the Makuu henchmen's outfits and the time of year when the show would have been shooting. Good catch.


Kamen Rider Blade (2004-2005) - I've watched all 49 episodes of the fifth Heisei-era Kamen Rider series and it is freaking awesome!

The first episode dives right into things, with Kamen Rider Blade (real name Kenzaki) riding to help his comrade, Kamen Rider Garren (real name Tachibana), who is in an underground cave battling an Undead (as the kaijin are called in this show), as a young man named Kentaro happens upon the scene while rock-climbing. Blade arrives and joins the battle thanks to directions provided remotely by their colleague Shiori but Garren deals the finishing blow to the Undead, then tosses a card at it to seal it inside. After reverting from their Rider forms, Tachibana quickly departs on his motorcycle, but before Kenzaki can follow him, Kentaro approaches him from the shadows. Kentaro enthusiastically explains that he's an aspiring writer of science nonfiction and he's been investigating the rumors of Kamen Riders, legendary armored warriors battling mysterious life forms, and he wants Kenzaki to be his new subject. Kenzaki quickly leaves, but after getting evicted by his landlady, he ends up rooming at Kentaro's house. Kenzaki and Tachibana are clandestine agents of a company called BOARD (Board Of Archaeological Research Department), using the Rider System technology developed by the company president, Professor Karasuma. The Undead that they just sealed was the third to appear in two months. Shiori works at BOARD too and she also ends up rooming at Kentaro's house along with Kenzaki. Kentaro's sister Haruka and her young daughter Amane operate a cafe out of their home, where they've given a room to a young man named Hajime. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Hajime is secretly Kamen Rider Chalice. Later in the series, a fourth Rider also joins the action, Kamen Rider Leangle.

By watching the Heisei-era Kamen Rider shows in sequence, it's interesting to see how certain concepts get introduced in one series and then built on or reinterpreted in later shows. Kuuga starred one single Kamen Rider who had many different forms. Agito had multiple Riders all serving as the show's protagonists, one of which is a suit of battle armor technology that can be worn by different people. Ryuki introduced card-based combat, while 555 introduced an inspired idea that I won't describe here. Blade takes all of those concepts and weaves them into an epic tale that's different from its predecessors.

I'm being vague about details here because a big part of this show's brilliance is the way it gradually reveals the details of its premise as the series unfolds, which I don't want to spoil. Kamen Rider Blade is really good. It's gripping, it goes in unexpected directions, and the ending packs a wallop. Of the first five Heisei-era Kamen Rider shows, Blade is one of the great ones along with Kuuga and Ryuki. Koji Moritsugu (Dan Moroboshi from UltraSeven) even has a guest role!
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Wed Mar 06, 2024 10:52 pm

^ I had no idea that was the sane actor! He'd aged quite a bit in ten years, but mostly his hair being radically different prevents the brain from making the connection.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sun Mar 10, 2024 11:40 pm

Ultraman Mebius (2006-2007) - I've watched all 50 episodes of this series, along with all three chapters of the Hikari Saga side story, plus the 2006 movie Ultraman Mebius & The Ultra Brothers.

I mentioned before how I was first exposed to the Ultraman franchise as a high schooler in the mid 2000s when I first got involved with the online kaiju fan community. Nexus was the current Ultraman series when Godzilla: Final Wars was released. I saw how Nexus was replaced by Max the following year, which was then replaced by Mebius the year after that, and I was perplexed by that constant rebooting of the franchise. I understood that Nexus and the tie-in film The Next were meant to be a clean-slate take on Ultraman, and thus more accessible to viewers like me who hadn't kept up with the decades of prior shows, so it didn't make sense to me at that age why they would just end Nexus the very next year and reboot Ultraman again so soon. Between that and the fact that Nexus was the only one with fan-made English subtitles back then, I never tried to obtain subsequent shows as they came out but I did often read news on sites like Henshin!Online and later SciFi Japan, and I would glean info from discussion boards like Monster Zero and Tokyo Monsters. Even without watching Max, I knew that it was a more lighthearted series than Nexus and that it featured several returning monsters from the classic Ultraman shows. I also knew that Mebius was made to celebrate Ultraman's 40th anniversary, that it featured even more returning monsters and that it was a direct narrative continuation of those classic shows, with the tie-in Mebius film even featuring the different Showa-era incarnations of Ultraman right there on the poster.

When I finally started watching all of the different Ultra shows back in 2019, I went through Ultra Q, Ultraman and UltraSeven in sequence but by the time I was watching Return of Ultraman, I was also itching to check out all of the 2000s shows that I had been curious about for so long. I went ahead and watched UltraSeven X and then rewatched Nexus while I was still watching Return. I watched Ace and Max at the same time along with Neo Ultra Q. When I finished Max, I started Tiga because I was really curious about that one too. Soon I was going through Tiga, Taro and the Heisei UltraSeven specials at the same time, and I came to realize that I don't like watching more than one Ultra hero series at a time. I still watch multiple tokusatsu shows concurrently but I prefer to have them each be from different franchises, so I've stuck to one Ultra series at a time since the summer of 2021. I didn't intend to put off watching Mebius for more than two years but that's how long it took me to catch up on nearly everything that preceded it. I went from Leo to the first season of the Netflix Ultraman anime (the only season at that time), then 80, Towards the Future, Dyna, the Tiga/Dyna movie, The Ultimate Hero, Gaia, the Tiga/Dyna/Gaia movie, the Tiga movie, each of the Tiga, Dyna and Gaia specials, Neos, both Zearth movies, Shin Ultraman, Cosmos and the three Cosmos movies. I still haven't seen the '79-'80 anime, Ultra Q Dark Fantasy or those old compilation films but I didn't want to wait any longer to watch Mebius.

This show is terrific! Even knowing that it was the 40th anniversary series, I was still surprised by the extent to which Mebius builds on, draws from and refers to the Showa-era shows, from the prologue of the first episode all the way to the finale. I'm glad that I had already seen every classic series beforehand because that really enhances this show's approach as a decades-later legacy sequel. As an Ultraman show I had been curious about since high school, I found Max to be a mixed bag but Mebius lived up to the hype and then some.

The series opens in the Land of Ultra, with the Father of Ultra designating Mebius as an Ultraman. "That is our name on Earth," he explains to Mebius as we see glimpses of every Showa-era Ultra hero. Mebius is eager to meet humans on Earth, and the Father of Ultra believes that what Mebius learns from humans will be invaluable to him just as it was to his brothers. Bequeathing him the Mebius Brace on his left wrist, the Father of Ultra sends the young hero Ultraman Mebius to Earth.

Mebius has a cool design. The basic red and silver pattern evokes the classic series designs. Of course, being a Heisei-era Ultraman, Mebius does eventually gain several alternate forms. Like UltraSeven, Leo and 80 before him, Mebius doesn't merge himself with a human host but instead transforms into a human disguise, taking on the name Mirai Hibino. As with UltraSeven, there's a poignant mid-series story that reveals why Mebius adopted his particular human form.

Crew GUYS is one of the most memorable defense teams of any Ultra series, with a lively cast that brings out the best in each other. The circumstances by which the team comes together play out in the first two episodes. Earth hasn't had any monster attacks or alien invaders in 25 years, since the conclusion of Ultraman 80, nor has there been an Ultraman on Earth during that time, so the current members of GUYS are wholly unprepared when a space monster approaches the planet. Except for pilot Ryu Aihara, every member of GUYS swiftly gets killed! As the monster rampages in Tokyo and crowds of people evacuate, preschool teacher Konomi Amagai risks her life trying to return to the preschool to rescue her students' rabbits. When she struggles to get past police, she receives unexpected assistance from a stranger, star soccer player George Ikaruga, who gets recognized by medical student Teppei Kuze. Motorcycle racer Marina Kazama witnesses this and gives Konomi a ride to the preschool with George and Teppei catching up on foot. As the four of them collect the rabbits, Mirai happens upon the scene and quickly helps them carry the rabbits away. After Mirai transforms into Mebius and defeats the monster in a massive battle, Ryu yells at him from a rooftop for allowing so much collateral damage to the city. Realizing the error of his ways, Mebius decides to join GUYS as Mirai, and he knows just the four people he wants to recruit to join Ryu and himself on the team. The heart of the show is the comradery among this newly formed Crew GUYS, including their new captain Shingo Sakomizu, acting director Yuki Misaki, adjutant Toriyama and his assistant Maru, with the latter two being bumbling comic relief characters.

Along with introducing cool new kaiju like the space monsters Dinozaur (who has Gigan's roar) and Kelbeam, this series brings back a lot of different Showa-era monsters and aliens right off the bat. Many of them are from Return of Ultraman, which is awesome, including Gudon, Twintail, Arstron, Sadola, Bemstar and a new take on Kodaigon. There are reappearances by Birdon, Mukadender and Alien Valky from Ultraman Taro, as well as Alien Magma from Ultraman Leo and Salamandra from Ultraman 80. One cool touch whenever GUYS encounters one of these classic foes is that Teppei or Konomi will refer to the records from the corresponding defense team for the series in which that foe first appeared: Document M-A-T for characters from Return of Ultraman, Document Z-A-T for characters from Ultraman Taro, etc.

Another cool element of this show's premise is how, during the preceding 25 years when no monsters appeared, GUYS spent that time using captured alien technology from prior decades to reverse-engineer what they call METEOR technology. It allows the pilots of GUYS to shift their specialized fighter planes into a hyperdrive mode that lets them maneuver extraordinarily quickly. GUYS operates on strict rules that METEOR can only be used with a 60-second time limit and the members must always ask for authorization to use it. GUYS also uses METEOR to recreate UltraSeven's capsule monsters, which they call maquette monsters. Miclas and Windom appear multiple times as maquette monsters, and they even get a few upgrades as the series goes on, although Agira doesn't appear at all. As with other forms of METEOR, the maquette monsters can only battle for 60 seconds before they vanish. This also leads to the inadvertent creation of a miniaturized version of Eleking as a maquette monster, called Lim-Eleking, who then frequently pops up in GUYS HQ before disappearing a minute later.

This series actually stars a second Ultraman in addition to Mebius: Ultraman Hikari, first introduced with the name Hunter Knight Tsurugi. It's similar to the series Ultraman Gaia, which featured Agul nearly as much as Gaia himself, although this is no retread of that show. Ultraman Hikari's story is quite different from that of Agul or any prior Ultra hero. For this series in 2006, Tsuburaya Productions did something new by producing special mini-episodes starring Ultraman Hikari which they made available to watch on their official Japanese website. This was before smartphones or tablets or streaming services made it easy for people to watch anything anywhere at any time; these Hikari Saga chapters were made to be watched on a laptop or desktop computer through an old-fashioned web browser! Each of the three chapters of the Hikari Saga is 12-14 minutes long. The first chapter was released between episodes 12 and 13, chronicling Hikari's backstory prior to the series. The second chapter was released between episodes 18 and 19, serving as a follow-up to the events of episode 17 and a fun after-the-fact prequel to the events of episode 18. The third chapter was released between episodes 33 and 34, and it serves as a direct prequel to the events of episode 35.

The tie-in film Ultraman Mebius & The Ultra Brothers opened in Japanese theaters on the same day that episode 24 aired on TV, so I watched the movie between episodes 23 and 24. That is the best sequence for them because the movie features the alternate-dimension invading entity Yapool from Ultraman Ace as the main antagonist and then episode 24 of Mebius is called "The Resurrection of Yapool" and includes references in the dialogue to the events of the film. It's a really fun movie, a standout among both Ultraman films and 2000s kaiju flicks, with an ambitious scope that expands on the history in between the Showa era and Mebius. Four of the classic series stars reprised their roles for this movie, including Susumu Kurobe as Hayata, Koji Moritsugu as Dan Moroboshi, Jiro Dan as Hideki Go and Keiji Takamine as Seiji Hokuto. The movie opens with an awesome action sequence in which the first Ultraman, UltraSeven, the new Ultraman and Ace battle a choju called U-Killersaurus outside Earth's stratosphere and then use the limits of their powers to seal Yapool away, events later mentioned to have taken place 20 years prior, which is to say in 1986. Those four Ultras are shown to have remained living on Earth in their human forms ever since. The modern story involves an alliance of alien invaders joining forces to unseal Yapool, including Alien Zarab (from Ultraman ep.18), Alien Guts (from UltraSeven eps.39-40), Alien Nackle (from Return of Ultraman eps.37-38), and Alien Temperor (from Ultraman Taro eps.33-34), so the movie features villains from most of the Showa-era shows. Saburo Shinoda has still never reprised his role as Kotaro Higashi since Ultraman Taro concluded, so Taro doesn't show up in the movie until the final battle and he never transforms into Kotaro, appearing only as a giant alongside the hostless Zoffy. Of course, Japanese films and shows in the 2000s mostly had very rudimentary CGI and this movie is no exception, most notably during the final battle between the Ultra heroes and the super-gigantic version of U-Killersaurus. Most of the shots in this final battle are entirely CGI, and while the action and shot compositions are ambitious, the quality of the CGI just makes the whole sequence look like a Sega Dreamcast game, a bit of a rug pull at the end of what's otherwise a very well-realized Ultraman movie.

Ultraman Mebius really kicks into high gear in the post-movie episodes, in terms of changing the status quo and building on classic Ultra lore. Starting with "The Resurrection of Yapool" we get consecutive return appearances by several choju from Ultraman Ace, namely Vakishim, Doragory and Verokron. There are episodes featuring Zetton, Gomora and Red King that reuse the same suits made for Ultraman Max but feature the monsters in entirely new contexts. Episode 32, "The Monster Tamer's Legacy" is a direct sequel to Return of Ultraman ep.33, "The Monster Tamer and the Boy" with Muruchi and Alien Meits. Episode 43 features the return of Ace-Killer as Mebius-Killer. There are reappearances by Nova (from Ultraman Leo ep.49), Femigon (from Return of Ultraman ep.47), Alien Babarue (from Ultraman Leo eps.38-39), Lunaticks (from Ultraman Ace ep.28), Alien Mefilas, Father of Ultra, Mother of Ultra and Zoffy. Best of all, each lead actor from the Showa-era Ultra hero shows (except Saburo Shinoda) gets his own episode of Mebius to reprise his role as a special guest star, including Ryu Manatsu as Gen Otori (Ultraman Leo) and Hatsunori Hasegawa as Takeshi Yamato (Ultraman 80), neither of whom were in the movie. The episode featuring 80 also has the monster Hoe (from Ultraman 80 ep.3) and it even provides some much-needed closure to Yamato's time as a schoolteacher, a key element of 80's earliest stories that was absent from that show's later episodes.

The final stretch of episodes raises this show's stakes in suitably dramatic fashion. Lots of supporting characters reappear in the epic three-part finale, which ties the whole series together while deftly building on lore established way back in Ultraman Taro. From start to finish, Ultraman Mebius is a fun, inventive, nostalgic and heartfelt adventure series that delivers on characters and monster action.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Sat Jun 22, 2024 9:54 pm

I'm also watching Ultraman Mebius. I had watched the first dozen plus episodes a while back so recently I'd been casually putting those early episodes on as background to jog my memory then started back in earnest where I left off. Now I'm at the point where, continuity-wise, I believe I'm supposed to watch the movie?

But this last week or so I've powered through Megabeast Investigator Juspion. Initially, it was hard to get into these Toei shows because of their repetitive nature, but I think I may be developing a Toei muscle of some kind, giving me the ability to pound through many episodes at once!

Benjamin, I've gone back and read your Juspion review (I'd avoided the spoilers last time) and, while I largely agree with your appraisal of the storyline, characters, and series composition I see you missed the biggest story of all: that the production had no idea what to do with the hero's hair! At first, star Hikaru Kurosaki has a not terrible but not terribly flattering perm as Juspion, then a certain number of episodes in Anri gives him a haircut and his hair is now (usually) his natural texture and shorter and from this point on they let it grow out a bit, style it a few subtly different ways, and eventually it looks like Kenji Ohba's hair as Gavan. Now, right in the final batch of episodes they decide to do a complete overhaul; take some off the sides and keep the top long, kind of a pompador? A bit rockabilly? They go into crisis mode and style it a few different ways in the following episodes, adding volume, maybe curling it? By the final episodes they seem to have gone with his natural texture again, which I think is for the best. Honestly, with Juspion's civilian outfit consisting of a tight leather vest over a loose cheetah print shirt and dangerously tight white satin pants no tokusatsu hero looks more headed to the club. Maybe his original perm befitted the disco vibe the best?

Speaking of makeovers, Mad Gallant gets it the worst. In his human form he initially wears stylish modern clothes, complete with greased hair and big sunglasses. He looks like a sleazy villain from a Hong Kong action movie, and it's just fun to see a guy who looks like this barking orders at the various monsters and freaks who make up the villain group of a toku hero show. Near the end he loses the shades and starts dressing like a Romulan. Where's the fun in that?

The earliest episodes of Juspion promise something that, honestly, was far more ambitious than they could actually deliver consistently, with Juspion and Anri traveling to another vaguely Star Wars-y planet each episode and Juspion, a human sized hero, fighting almost exclusively enormous kaiju opponents. There's only so many scenes you could've done with Juspion interacting with those full-sized giant monster hand and foot props before giving up and piloting his giant robot. That's a super robot show. Why have a superhero? When Mad Gallant and his gang of human-sized villains show up to become Juspion's primary opponents (along with the relocation to Earth) it takes away from the uniqueness promised in those early episodes, but, realistically, how long could they have kept it up?

As the series goes on it seems like Juspion and Anri become more serious cheacters; they tend to do a lot of goofy stuff earlier on. Juspion doesn't have the megawatt charisma of Gavan, but he's still consistently likable whether comical or more serious. As with any Toei series made in this era, the real highlight is the action scenes devised by the Japan Action Club, which are consistently excellent. You can get so used to the leaping and cartwheeling and swords clashing time after time that you can take for granted how skilled this whole outfit was.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Mon Jun 24, 2024 1:02 am

^ Watch Ultraman Mebius & The Ultra Brothers in between episodes 23 ("Ocean Waves of Time") and 24 ("The Resurrection of Yapool"). The movie was released to theaters on the same day that episode 24 aired, and episode 24 includes a brief reference in the dialogue to the events of the movie.

Megabeast Investigator Juspion is such a fun show! It's clearly a spin on the same core premise as Space Sheriff Gavan, just like how each Ultraman, Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series is a spin on its own core premise, but Juspion does manage to be more original with it than Space Sheriff Sharivan or Space Sheriff Shaider. The end credits sequence in the disco club really sums up the show's vibe.

You watched the whole series in a week? All 46 episodes in seven days? How did you manage to do that without hating it? Gavan, Sharivan, Shaider and Juspion each took me about three months to watch in their entirety. I don't mind the repetition of Toei's hero shows but that's because I usually don't watch more than one episode of the same show at a time. I feel like I wouldn't be able to handle the repetition if I tried to get through an entire series in a week.
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby lhb412 » Mon Jun 24, 2024 10:09 am

^ I watched the first few Juspions like two years ago, then a few months ago I started watching one or two more episodes every weekend. About 9 days ago I realized I had 26 episodes left and that didn't seem insurmountable so I just went into overdrive. But the biggest reason is that I've been watching a bunch of movies lately, so the mood struck me to just watch something light and silly with short episodes last week!

As for Mebius; yes! I saw the next episode preview with Yapool and that activated some deep down memory of something I read years ago!
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Re: Recently Watched Shows

Postby Benjamin Haines » Thu Jun 27, 2024 8:22 pm

^ Here's the release order for all things Mebius and Ultra Galaxy adjacent:

• Ultraman Mebius, Episodes 1 - 12 (aired 4/8/2006 - 6/24/2006)
• Hikari Saga 1 (posted online 6/30/2006)
• Ultraman Mebius, Episodes 13 - 18 (aired 7/1/2006 - 8/5/2006)
• Hikari Saga 2 (posted online 8/7/2006)
• Ultraman Mebius, Episodes 19 - 23 (aired 8/12/2006 - 9/9/2006)
• Ultraman Mebius & The Ultra Brothers (opened in theaters 9/16/2006)
• Ultraman Mebius, Episodes 24 - 33 (aired 9/16/2006 - 11/18/2006)
• Hikari Saga 3 (posted online 11/20/2006)
• Ultraman Mebius, Episodes 34 - 50 (aired 11/25/2006 - 3/31/2007)
• Ultra Galaxy: Mega Monster Battle (aired 12/1/2007 - 2/23/2008)
• Armored Darkness 1 (released on DVD 7/25/2008)
• Armored Darkness 2 (released on DVD 8/22/2008)
• Superior 8 Ultra Brothers (opened in theaters 9/13/2008)
• Ultra Galaxy: Mega Monster Battle - Never-Ending Odyssey (aired 12/20/2008 - 3/14/2009)
• Ghost Rebirth 1 (released on DVD 11/25/2009)
• Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends - The Movie (opened in theaters 12/12/2009)
• Ghost Rebirth 2 (released on DVD 12/22/2009)
• Ultraman Zero vs. Darklops Zero 1 (released on DVD 11/26/2010)
• Ultraman Zero vs. Darklops Zero 2 (released on DVD 12/22/2010)
• Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial (opened in theaters 12/23/2010)
• Killer the Beatstar 1 (released on DVD 11/25/2011)
• Killer the Beatstar 2 (released on DVD 12/22/2011)
• Ultraman Saga (opened in theaters 3/24/2012)
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