Sunday, November 30, 2014

Changeman's 30th Anniversary

On November 30th, 1984, the Changeman cast assembled for the first round of publicity still shoots (see above), with filming starting at around the same time. CHANGEMAN BEGINS. So begins the legendary show's 30th anniversary, in which I might unleash a complete spamathon in commemoration. Why? Changeman's my favorite. Changeman's the best. And? I just don't think Toei's going to bother doing anything for it.

It's pretty sad the way Toei just kind of gave up on all of their old shows once they got released to DVD. They stopped bothering to do cool reunions for Toei Hero Max or Toei Channel. Those kinds of publications seem to have completely given up on honoring anything that isn't their new shit or a '70s Ishinomori show.

Changeman was big in its time. It's a fan favorite. It's a favorite of Toei higher-up Takeyuki Suzuki, who was the show's main producer. (He used to say Changeman was his top favorite, but supposedly now claims it's Bioman. Traitor!) Changeman was popular all around, and it was one of the first Sentai shows to have crossover appeal, gaining attention from non-toku fans. Toei needs to mark the anniversary! I'm not at all confident they'll do anything -- fans worship Bioman, but 2014 went without anything done to honor its anniversary. Not even any live fan event in its honor!

I want a cast reunion in something like Toei Hero Max or Toei Channel. I want that goddamn Change Dragon Figuarts. I want a new Changeman novel by main writer Hirohisa Soda (who is actually a novelist now, unlike most of the people they get to write the Rider and Sentai sequel novels). I want a Changeman Memorial DVD like the Space Sheriff trilogy got, with all of the same extras. C'mon, Toei, put SOME effort into something for a change...

Let's change! Join the celebration all year long at Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mermaid & Phoenix

A damned easy custom project. Like I've mentioned before, I was disappointed that the Girls in Uniform line petered out before hitting more characters. I once saw a Japanese fan do a simple head-swap to make his own Mai/Change Phoenix, since her Earth Defense Uniform is the same as Sayaka's. I thought it was a really cool idea, but they used Megumi/Blue Dolphin's head, which I didn't think it quite matched Mai. So, I used a different head that I think better resembles Mai for mine. I held off on posting this because I thought people would think it's lame to talk about a custom that's just a head-swap, but this is my blog and I want to do what I want to do. Anyway, it's nice to have both Lady Soldiers represented.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kooky theory: Was Shoko-tan muscled out of Goseiger?

When news of Goseiger started hitting the net, the early press materials described Eri/Gosei Pink as the "elder sister of the team" -- that she was smart, reliable, who the rest of the team looked to. You know, everything that the Eri in the show wasn't.

Also: Shoko Nakagawa had been making posts on her blog, cryptic messages that her "dream was finally coming true." As has been well-documented, Nakagawa is a huge Sentai fan, a big Pink nerd, and her dream is to play Pink, and she's auditioned several times. She came close in Dekaranger, and many assumed that she was too old for Toei's liking after that show, but Nakagawa and her fans didn't give up... Well, until around Goseiger, that is. Goseiger was six years after Dekaranger, and Toei DOES like to cast their shows ridiculously young now. But...hey, what do these posts on her blog mean? And Eri IS said to be the eldest one of the team. Could it be...does this Nakagawa finally a Sentai Pink!?!

Cut to the cast reveal. Rika Satou, a fairly known idol who was also well known for being a dunce on quiz shows, is announced as Eri/Pink. Not only that, but she kind of looks Nakagawa-y a bit. A little. Maybe. Very ear-y. People were also making a big deal that the actresses cast as the Gosei heroines were actually older than the guys, with Satou being just such a geezery 23. (Seriously, 23, people? I know she was cast after a long run of 16 year old idiot heroines, but c'mon. And, besides: Nakagawa is only two years older than Satou, so it's not like she was just sooooooo much older than you expect these cast members to be. Also: if someone who's pushing 30 like Tokkachi can be cast, despite being one of the worst actors in the history of the world, then they could have made a special exception for casting an "older" heroine.) I mean, isn't it possible that Toei would have cast a then-25 year old Nakagawa as this supposedly "elder sister" that held the team together?

OK, Satou's cast, whatever. And from the very start, all of the early info of Eri doesn't match -- they obviously wrote for Satou, because Eri quickly became such an airhead. But, hey, maybe they can still cast Nakagawa for 2011's show, the big anniversary one, right? (Wrong.)

Shortly after the Gokaiger-Goseiger crossover movie, Satou basically went off the grid -- nobody heard from her, her page was removed from her agency's site, she never updated any of her blogs or whatever. There was a bit of a scandal, blind items from news reports about a well known idol who was arrested for drug possession, and this idol was connected to a talent who, it was eventually revealed, had yakuza ties. People more knowledgable about Satou pretty much connected this blind item to her, especially with the dates of her "vanishing" matching up, the talent in question likely being the guy heavily involved with the quiz show she regularly appeared -- who also happened to retire early around the same time as Satou. (I know this sounds crazy, but Google it.) There's only rumors and gossip about where Satou is now, mainly that she's no longer in the entertainment industry and is working in a restaurant in Osaka. Just...getting started in the entertainment industry, had regular gigs, and just GONE.

So here's my kooky theory. What if Nakagawa HAD been cast as Eri? Her "dream came true." Only, tough shit, here's some idol who's maybe favored by the yakuza who wants the role, so take a hike, nerd! And that's why we didn't get Nakagawa as Gosei Pink.

It's sad, man. It just doesn't make sense to me why Toei wouldn't jump at the chance to get someone like Nakagawa -- who has quite a following, obviously -- to be in their show. I know they're tightwads and want to cast people THEY can launch, but...that hasn't always been the way and it shouldn't always be the way. I think Nakagawa would have been even better in Gokaiger, though. Holy crap, imagine a fan of her level getting to transform into EVERY Pink. And it could have been special casting the way Liveman cast Daisuke Shima and Megumi Mori as a way to celebrate Super Sentai's tenth series anniversary. Why did Toei pass that up? And NOW it's probably too late for her to ever be a Pink. And even when Akibaranger basically devoted an episode to Shoko Nakagawa, Toei was STILL too cheap to get her, just instead using a poor stand-in.

"Oi, kono yarou! Fire that nerd and put this dame in your show! YAROU, ARGH!"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Maskman: The Face of Zeba

(From left to right) Actor Takeo Shinkai, Zeba, and suit actor Hideaki Kusaka.
Early promotional material for Maskman often had a still of Zeba unmasked; as I wrote previously, one of the keshigomu figures even represented this image. It's not a goof or the suit-actor; in the first few episodes of Maskman, Zeba was played by actor Takeo Shinkai, while voiced by seiyuu Seizo Kato. Shortly into Maskman's run, Japan Action Club's Hideaki Kusaka took over the role of Zeba (who was still being voiced by Kato).

Shinkai unmasked as Zeba in a publicity photo.

I always wondered what the original plans for Zeba would have held. Shinkai wasn't a suit actor or action guy, but a character actor who mostly plays villains, so it's odd to have cast him in a role that ordinarily would have just been a JAC suit actor, and even odder to just have regular villain voice-actor Kato providing the character's voice. That's obviously common practice with suit actors, but a regular actor like Shinkai? It's easy to understand why he was just replaced with Kusaka four episodes in. (There must not have been bad blood or anything, because Shinkai ends up guest-starring in a later Maskman episode -- episode number 16 -- as Kenta's kung-fu master.)

Actor Takeo Shinkai as Kenta's old kung-fu mentor in Maskman episode 16.

I've always thought that maybe the original plan was to have Zeba be revealed to be a former friend of Sugata's, one who followed a dark path, and THAT is how Sugata knew about Tube; the show obviously planned to have Sugata do more, but actor Hayato Tani was an in-demand performer and there were scheduling conflicts. Early on, Zeba clouds the world in darkness with a manuever called the "Dark Holon," which sounds like it could have been the opposite of Sugata's Aura Power. Zeba only used that move once, in episode 2, when Shinkai was still playing the character. Was writer Hirohisa Soda's plans to have had Zeba be secretly human, and a former colleague of Sugata's, and when all that fell through, he came up with the Lethal Dogler storyline?

I think the Lethal Dogler storyline ends up working out better. A scientist VS scientist showdown would have been a little too repetitive for Soda to have as much impact; Lethal Dogler's revenge for his monster mother's murder by the underground empire out of their fear gave everything an interesting twist, especially when it came down to Igam's prejudice at having been working for a monster all along helping sway her.

Here's something funny: Shinkai ends up guest-starring in a Winspector episode (episode 43) alongside Keijirou Shiga, who played Baraba. Shinkai's character is a criminal ringleader who murders Shiga's character -- Zeba's revenge!

Far left: Keijirou "Baraba" Shiga. Far right: Takeo "Zeba" Shinkai, from Winspector episode 43.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Kamen Rider 1986

I remember how I used to say that Kamen Rider Kiva should have filmed the 1986 scenes in the style of an '80s toku instead of just relying on colorful clothes and a random pop song here and there to lazily convey the decade. And then I had a thought for a blog post -- "Aha! Why don't I do a post where I cast the 1986 side of Kiva as if it actually WAS made in the '80s? That sounds fun!" So, I made my list.

Then I realized: someone did this at HJU in 2010. The scary part? I POSTED IN THAT THREAD! I don't really remember posting in that thread, but I did. And a couple of my picks are the same, but some have changed. I've approached this list with a certain amount of crazy logic. I tried to look at this as if it was a show being made in 1986; despite the original poster in that thread saying to do that, if you look at my old response, I'm pretty much just slapping up a lot of my favorite people without really thinking about the consequences. Say this Kamen Rider show was made in 1986 -- well, I have a lot of frickin' people from Flashman and Spielban on my original list. So, putting that ridiculous logic to use, I was like, "OK, I can't use those people. Pretend they're tied up with those productions. If this was 1986, Flashman and Spielban would be a lot less cooler if those people were wasted on this Kamen Rider '86 project."

I really tried to think about suitable people who wouldn't have been taken away from an '86 toku. I stuck mainly to toku people, but I tried not to use too many cast members from the same show, but that can be a pain in the ass. I remember the Kiva rumors in '08 describing the second Rider and his name was supposed to be Kamen Rider Hunter. "Kamen Rider IXA" sucks, the Hunter name is cooler, so that's what I'd name the character and show.

So, here's my picks and the thinking behind them:

Otoya Kurenai/Kamen Rider Hunter: Hiroshi Kawai (Changeman's Hayate/Change Griffin; Metalder's Kita; Janperson's Makabe)

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I think this is spot on casting. Otoya's supposed to be a woman-crazy, seemingly-frivolous guy, but he's supposed to be more deep down -- he's supposed to be competent and know his shit. Kawai could pull off those comedic moments without being obnoxious as heck to characters and viewers alike (unlike Kouhei Takeda). AND he knows how to kick-ass. And he should have played a Rider at some point, anyway.

Yuri Asou: Kiyomi Tsukada (Machineman's Maki; Juspion's Anri; Shin's Sarah)

I always thought there seemed to be something really likable about Tsukada, but she was always kind of given ditzy roles. And yet, she seemed like there was a side of her who could kick ass. (Shin touched upon this, but her part is so small -- and the Engrish makes her so embarrassing -- that it's not the same as if she had been given a full series part like this.) My original pick was Makoto Sumikawa (Spielban's Diana), who I think would make a perfect Yuri, but she was on Spielban in '86, and so cool there, I wouldn't want that show to lose her.

Jou Shima: Koji Moritsugu (Ultraseven's Dan/Ultraseven)

I liked the idea of an older toku guy playing this part, and someone who had presence and star power. The thing about Shima is he's supposed to be quiet and menacing, but he also shows a light side when he goofs around with Master for no good reason. Moritsugu was playing a lot of villains for Toei in the '80s, and we know he has that lighter side, so I think he'd be a good fit. My original pick was Jouji Nakata, but he's too damn awesome as Kaura to steal him away from Flashman. But I really also like that HJU poster's suggestion of Hiroshi Miyauchi. I think Toei was still too afraid to reuse main Rider actors in regular roles in '86, though.

Moritsugu went on to play the villain Tennouji in Blade, and was one of the only few bright spots of that show, IMO.

Akira Kido: Masayuki Suzuki

It's a small part, pretty insignificant. The guy just pops up to bring some occasional levity. This was Suzuki's job in the '80s. My original pick was Spielban's Mickey Curtis, because I had no idea at the time of who to pick for this part.

Jiro/The Wolf Man: Toshimichi Takahashi (Goggle V's Deathgiller)

This one was hard to cast, because you want somebody really cool who's not unavailable. I thought hard for a while, but quickly had the idea of JACtor Toshimichi Takahashi in the part. This guy is insanely underrated, I've seen him give good performances in the smallest, most forgettable stuff. Jiro needs to be a bit older, a bit cooler, a bit dangerous. This guy can do all that. The problem is, he was the suit actor and voice actor for Doctor Bio in Spielban in '86, but...that's a complete waste of Takahashi, really. I think Spielban could have taken that hit.

Ramon/The Creature: Tokie Shibata (Changeman's Nana)

I originally had Kazuhiko Oohara from Machineman as my pick, but then I thought...Ramon's obviously supposed to be a female. Why'd they cast a 14 year old boy and have him act so girly and dress in a sailor uniform and spin like Sailor Moon to transform? Shibata's the first teen actress to pop in my head. Why not? I wanted to avoid being lazy by using two Changeman people, but I figured it was a small enough role to cheat a bit.

Riki/The Monster: Strong Kongou (Bioman's Monster)

C'mon. Look at the guy. Is he not the perfect Frankenstein's Monster?

King/Kamen Rider Dark Kiva: Shinji Toudou (Takuya/Spiderman; Denjiman's Hedora; Metalder's Kirihara)

I always thought this guy should play a Rider, but he was entering villain territory by the mid-80s. So...good fit, I think. He's a bit older than the rest of my picks, but I think King should be older and more intimidating. My original pick was Yutaka Hirose, who would have been an AWESOME King if this was a show that was made in, like, 1990. In 1986, Hirose was on Flashman and still too young.

With Kawai and Toudou, I just realized I used two people from Metalder and shit, I was trying to avoid using people from the same show... But, honestly, they used Toudou so infrequently in Metalder, and I don't think his character and Kawai's ever crossed paths, so I don't think it's a big deal.

Maya: Kazue Itou

Itou is pretty cool, and she's not like other '80s pop-stars in that she kind of projects a more cooler image, can show a darker side of herself. She's a LITTLE on the young side, but I think she could have worked. And every '80s show needs a pop-star in its cast. My original pick was Maskman's Kanako Maeda, but I think she would have been too young to pull off the part.

Itou went on to play Gekiranger's Miki, who I always thought was pretty cool.

Bishop: Jun Yoshida (Shaider's Poe; Kamen Rider Black's Birugenia)

I was originally considering him for King, but thought he was too young. I really wanted to include him, though, so I thought he'd also work as a good Bishop.

Rook: Ritsuko Fujiyama (Message From Space's Kunoi; Dynaman's Zenobia)

I thought the villain side could use more women, and Fujiyama looks like she could break you the way Rook's supposed to be a big, tough son of a bitch who likes to break people for his own entertainment.