Special Shoutout to @PrimoPicollo for the Banner.
As I mentioned in my Halo reviews, I am a long fan of my heroes wearing full helmets. I always loved the air of mystery that a full faced helmet provided. Again, probably the psychology of it allowing me to put myself into the role and the joy of anonymity that a helmet can provide.
However, this is not going to be a broad topic covering every hero who chooses to wear a helmet. I do have a very specific subject matter in mind for these reviews.
This is the topic that I am generally very nervous about. I generally seek a safe space before I bring it up. I will slap my comic book nerd cred around like no one’s business. But even among nerds, I keep this card a secret. As open and exposed as I am about my other nerd interests, this is the one that I step out on a limb to talk about.
So understand, dear readers, this is me showing that I trust you and opening up. If anyone actually reads this. This is my deep secret.
Growing up, there were a series of shows that came out that I instantly became a fan of.
In 1993, Power Rangers hit the United States like a baseball bat the knee. EVERYONE loved Power Rangers. Well, everyone who was under 12 at least. It was a huge success and it had the merch to back it up. Of course all the parents of screaming and demanding children were not huge fans.
I had the first set of rangers(including green and white), the power weapons, the first three megazords, the Dragonzord, the White Tiger Zord, Saba, the Power Blaster, a couple of the quick morph figures, Finster, A set of gloves that made the sound effects when you moved, and the first morpher. I never got Titanus or the Turtle zord. I never really got any of the toys and merch after the first two or three seasons.
Around that time, many other series started popping up from the popularity of Power Rangers.
Yeah, although I was all over the toys for Power Rangers, I never really got more than the happy meal toys for the other series. Which I gotta admit, were kind of cool. One of the Happy meal toys for VR Troopers was the necklace morpher, which was pretty neat. There was also the Masked Rider car that also had the Motorcycle inside, so both vehicles in one.
I was really into all these shows and loved wasting all my time watching them, acting them out, and imagining myself as one of the rangers. Of course, over time, all children grow up and put away their childish things. Only I wasn’t done playing yet. Suddenly all my friends were getting into comics, transformers, and wrestling and thought Power Rangers were just for little kids. As popular as Power Rangers once was, it was now considered a mark of shame. Imagine being 11 and being mocked by other 11 year olds for still liking a show about color coded superheroes.
Kids are mean. I now had to like a show in secret. How messed up is that?!? I kept watching the show. I am actually proud to say that I kept watching the season premiere of each Power Rangers season from the original Mighty Morphing Power Rangers to Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. By that point I was able to recognize that they stole the costumes from Starship Troopers.
However, there is only so much time that can pass trying to follow a show no one else will even talk to you about without mocking you (the internet and Bronies weren’t really a thing yet). Eventually I stopped watching. I had Wrestling, Football, and comics to keep me interested.
I remember occasionally seeing a ranger show here or there. I remember seeing Dino Thunder and mockingly thinking, “didn’t we already do dinosaurs?” In the scornful way of an adult who remembers when things were GOOD.
Eventually I started seeing Power Rangers pop up on disney channel. I left it on. And I was reminded of a fundamental truth. They were super heroes. I love superheroes. I talk about them ALL the time. Why am I ashamed of liking a superhero show? Because of other people?
Yes. Because to other people, Power Rangers and anything that remotely looks like Power Rangers is STRICTLY for kids. And to a certain extent they are right. Comics and cartoons were at one time seen strictly for kids, but they slowly aged it up so that the original fans could still enjoy it. Power Rangers still kind of skews to a younger audience. Hell, times when they try to reach a more serious audience either gets laughed out of theaters (Power Rangers 2014) or buried at a 3 o clock show time because Disney wants to kill it (Power Rangers: RPM).
However, I slowly started looking into Power Rangers again. I found out there were now a dozen or so seasons. I found out a brand new season, Jungle Fury, was just starting, so I decided to give it a shot. I instantly was infatuated with it. It was all about Kung Fu, and as I was still watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, this was a huge selling point for me. As I awaited new episodes, I began watching Dino Thunder, the show I had previously scoffed. I briefly glanced at the Japanese version of the show, Gekiranger and saw this:
And the first 30 seconds of episode 1 involves our Red ranger wearing a loin cloth and falling out of a tree while fighting pandas.
I apologize for the spanish subtitles. It’s the first thing I found. For all my spanish readers, Hola.
So yeah, I noped out. Until a few months later when Kung Fu Panda came out and my obsession with Kung Fu became too much to . . . bear.
So after I got past the first bit and eventually got over having Kung Fu Tarzan as the red ranger, I ended up really enjoying the series. So much so that when I returned to the Power Rangers series, I was kind of really disappointed. What I originally saw as epic Kung Fu fight scenes by comparison were just the actors throwing their hands at each other while saying “HiYa!”
So yeah, I ended up going all in on Japanese shows. Watched Gekiranger, then I watched the current show at the time, Go-Onger. From there, one of the serious characters in Go-Onger also appeared in a show called Kamen Rider Kabuto. It looked weird, but eventually I decided to check it out.
Kamen Rider was a lone hero taking on a normal sized monster. There wasn’t a regular battle that then had to be refought in a giant Megazord just to sell the toys. And although as a kid the giant robot battles seemed cool, as an adult I just can’t separate the massive amount of damage and loss of life every time a building was destroyed.
Also it was slightly more grown up than its Sentai counterpart. In Super Sentai, most of the time the villains are trying to make people sad or ruin their day, or get them to cry to capture their sadness and grief. In Kamen Rider, they are killing people. Even in Den-O, where the goal was to grant a wish to go back in time, they went into the past and began rampaging and killing people.
So I found my calling, Kamen Rider and the genre Tokusatsu in general. Tokusatsu is a word that translates out to Special Effects. It mainly refers to movies and tv shows that use a lot of special effects. Godzilla is a prime example of this. However, in modern terms, it generally refers to shows like Power Rangers, Super Sentai, Kamen Rider and one other show.
You see, back before Kamen Rider, Masked Rider, BeetleBorgs, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, VR Troopers, and even Power Rangers, there was a show that came out in 1992. A full year before Power Rangers took the US by storm. This was the origin story for my love of Tokusatsu.
Ultraman is likely my first foray into the Tokusatsu genre. I would say this even over Godzilla due to when I started watching Godzilla, I thought Jet Jaguar was Ultraman and I wanted to see him in more Godzilla films.
Ultraman was never really popular and never had a home media release. So if you didn’t see the original release, you likely didn’t see it. Unless you went to your local video store and rented the only Ultraman video they had which was this cartoon.
I had a few of the toys, I had Ultraman, this weird Mantis monster, and a couple more that defy description.
This show always held a fond place of nostalgia in my heart. Just like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, there are many iterations. Over the years, I found many of the shows sitting in the DVD sections, mainly Ultraman Tiga and Dyna. But I never found MY original Ultraman. A few years ago, the Ultraman dvds came out. It was the original japanese series. I figured if I bided my time, they would eventually get around to re-releasing Ultraman: Towards the Future.
Sadly, they have not. However, they have started releasing more of the series on bluray. I decided to try and show my support by buying the first five series of Ultraman.
I dumped $120 on five bluray sets for a show I saw once when I was kid. I have only watched one other Ultraman show to completion.
I clearly should not be in charge of my own finances.
Fortunately, some benevolent individual has put out Ultraman Towards the Future on Youtube. So. . .
Next Week: We start with the series that started it all for me personally.