Saturday, October 10, 2015
The Sword of Time
I've mentioned previously that, while my family was in Japan in the late '80s, I didn't really get back into tokusatsu until the late '90s -- my high-school offered Japanese classes (which still shocks me), which led me to do an internet search for all of those awesome shows I had watched when I was a kid, as well as a rummaging through boxes packed away that still contained some VHS tapes of toku shows and different toku books I had.
The internet's crazy in the way I was able to find out not only about the shows I watched, but the shows that came before and the many shows after. The internet can be a sewer, but it can also be responsible for some good, cool things, some crazy things. I don't think a lot of youngsters today really think about it. This might be a lame example, but...when I was a kid and the latest Hollywood blockbuster had its toys lining a toy store, you had about a couple years, tops, if you wanted to buy them. They were available when the movie was in theaters, then they moved to the bargain bin, and then they were gone. With the internet, you can look up pretty much any toy, no matter how old, and find a site that's selling it. That's insane to me!
Anyway, when I was first getting back into tokusatsu, Megaranger was winding down. My first priority was to research the shows I had grown up with -- I liked looking up about the actors and what they did after the show. This is late '97, so all of my favorite toku shows -- Changeman, Flashman, Maskman, Liveman, Spielban -- were barely hitting the ten year mark. They were still NEW...ish. I have this weird kind of mentality that, from being out of the loop for so long, that the shows that came after Liveman are still "new" -- they feel new to me by not having been in Japan to see them. So, something like Jetman was only about six years old, but it still seemed a lot like the shows I had grown up with. I thought the "newer" shows -- the Sugimura Sentais -- were weird as hell, and while I later got into his Dairanger and Kakuranger, that initial weird feeling I had still kind of colors my view of them.
But, still, I marveled at getting to find out about the shows I missed -- old and new -- while always hoping to see people from my favorite shows pop up in a new one. I ALWAYS held out for someone from Changeman returning in a new show or Yutaka Hirose playing a villain in a new show. Year after year would go by, and it seemed like the new shows lost interest in having guest stars (which meant cameos) or human villains (which meant awesome guys like Yutaka Hirose).
Get to the point? OK. That was the late '90s, when there was still a good chance of my favorite actors appearing again. Most of them were all still working in showbiz. Now? All of my favorite shows are pushing the 30 mark and A LOT of the people I like have retired, so...realizing that was a bit depressing. I didn't mind my favorite actors not being in a new show in the early '00s, because you had Toei Channel or awesome magazines like Toei Hero Max or the DVD booklets which would round up old, retired cast members for interviews. You got to see what they look like now and find out what they're up to. But, NewType never really dug that far back and Toei Hero Max has been in the crapper for a while -- gone are the days where they try to assemble full-team reunions, now they're stuck just doing a bunch of Ishinomori retrospectives and plugging the new shit. And since every Sentai has made its way to DVD, there's obviously no more chances for DVD reunions/interviews. (The only chance, and it's slim, is if they start doing older Sentai shows on Blu-ray.) Every toku has been rerun multiple times on Toei Channel, so they don't really do special interviews there anymore, either. There are fan events, but they tend to focus on the same group of people. (Mostly '90s people -- the Dairanger guys are the George Takeis of tokusatsu, they'll attend any and every event.)
When you think about how long tokusatsu's been around, you'll realize that there's been a ton of actors involved. Between how many actors there are, how poorly Toei kept track of things in the old days, and how many actors used stage names, I feel like there's a lot of actors that people probably lost contact with, so you might not even know if they're all right. (I doubt anybody would know about Bioman's Yuko Asuka passing away if it wasn't for JAC actor Takanori Shibata happening to post about his visit to her husband, Seiki "Juspion" Kurosaki, since they both just lived a quiet life away from showbiz.)
Basically, it just depresses me to think that the shows I love, the shows that mean most to me, are now...getting up there in age. A lot of the hope I had for actors returning or characters returning or even the franchise returning to its roots are slipping further away. Gokaiger handled '70s and '80s poorly, but Sentai's 40th anniversary will be even worse. Auction sites used to have several pages of items for these shows, now they'll hover at around two pages. It's really strange for me to watch the first Kamen Rider series, which I always thought myself seemed "old looking," a world apart from the '80s shows I grew up with, but recognize a ton of locations those '80s shows used, making MY shows closer to the "old" '70s than the more modern works that I see them as.
Also, it's kind of frustrating to see Japan finally catching onto the Nostalgia Wave -- which the internet created -- and dipping their toe into doing full-on reunion specials like the Hurricaneger 10 Years After thing. Where was this for good shows that deserved those updates?!?! The only special Hurricaneger could have that would be worthy of them is Hurricaneger: Six Feet Under.
This doesn't even just apply to toku. Mostly all of my favorite movies are from the 1980s. I think it's obvious how influential that decade was for movies; most '80s movies were creative, original, pushed the boundaries of imagination, filming techniques, ratings. I'm part of the VHS generation, and VHS made those movies live longer lives than most movies do and Hollywood is still fracking the decade for its productions. I don't know what it is, but it just hit me one day that something like Karate Kid or The Goonies or Back to the Future is 30 and over. (Back to the Future is as old as 1955 was when the movie was out...!) It's just weird to me that those movies, MY movies, that are eternally young to me, look as strange to a youngster today as, you know, some weirdo Technicolor musical from the '60s looked to me when I was young. That movies with "big" messages like The Breakfast Club are irrelevant to today's audiences. (I still think it's kind of sad when the cast members for that movie are hauled out for awards shows and reunions like museum pieces. You can almost hear the "Who cares?" in the minds of youngsters.) Like, it's heartbreaking to see MY Batman movie, the 1989 movie -- you know, the one that people at the time whined was too dark, the one that made Batman cool again, the one that took Batman to his roots to erase the memories of Adam West's campy show -- be called "campy" itself.
A lot of this got hammered home to me throughout the year of running the Changeman 30th anniversary stuff. Like...just how old the show seems, how most of that cast is retired and/or not active on social media. I imagine, if one were to do something for, like, Dairanger or Ohranger, it would be easier to pester people and get stuff out of them since most of those cast members are shameless attention whores and/or have an online presence.
In a nutshell: time is weird and can be mean and Shougo feels old.