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"Tokusatsu", often shortened to just "Toku", is the Japanese live-action effects genre. Though the overlap is not total, it can, at least casually, be considered the live-action analogue to Anime (at least, to the subset of anime best known to casual viewers in the west).
Originally, Toku differentiated itself from western visual effects genres by its preference for "live" effects (ie. People in Rubber Suits) over the equally phony special effects created during editing (at the time of the genre's birth, specifically the stop-motion techniques pioneered by Ray Harryhausen, now CGI). Modern Toku uses both forms of effect, but "live" effects are still preferred. Toku is closely identified with Wire Fu.
Far and away, the most popular early example of Toku is the Godzilla film franchise, which exemplifies many of the genre's tropes: people in rubber suits smashing scale model cities, and an abundance of squibs.
- Aikoku Sentai Dai-Nippon A parody of Super Sentai.
- Ambassador Magma (first color toku)
- Armor Hero
- Bio Planet Woo
- Bishoujo Kamen Poitrine
- Choujin Barom 1 (One of Toei's most famous manga-to-live-action adaptations!)
- Choukou Senshi Changerion
- Chou Sei Shin Series - Done by Toho, who made the original Godzilla movies.
- Daitetsujin-17 - Shotaro Ishinomori and Toei's own take on a Giant Robo-type series.
- Demon Hunter Mitsurugi - an early-70s Jidai Geki series, about a trio of Ninjas who fight of alien invaders by fusing into a giant warrior. Notable for using Stop Motion puppetry to create its Kaiju, rather than the standard People in Rubber Suits.
- Denjin Zaboga
- Denkou Choujin Gridman
- Dennou Keisatsu Cybercop - Toho's late-80s entry in the genre. Essentially a mix between Metal Heroes and Super Sentai.
- Dinosaur Prince
- Fireman - Possibly the first "Giant Hero" made for adults in 1973.
- France Five - A French homage to Super Sentai.
- Garo - A comparatively darker take on the genre.
- Giant Robo (aka Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot)
- Henshin Heroes - Not technically a tokusatsu, more of a tokusatsu themed Play By Post Game.
- Inframan - while Chinese rather than Japanese, it's an obvious effort by the Shaw Bros. to cash in on Ultraman's success.
- Japanese Spider-Man - Notable for being the spiritual predecessor to Super Sentai's Humongous Mecha elements.
- Jumborg Ace
- The Kagestar
- Kaiju Big Battel - An American Affectionate Parody of this combined with Professional Wrestling.
- Kaiketsu Zubat - Take a Superhero toku show, stir in a helping of New Old West, and then cast Hiroshi Miyauchi, a veteran actor who already had multiple leading roles in toku as the title character.
- Kaiketsu Lion Maru - 70's Superhero toku show about a man in feudal Japan who can turn into a swordsman with lion head. No links with Zubat despite the title. Spawned the immediate sequel Fuun Lion Maru.
- Kamen no Ninja Akakage
- Kamen Rider
- Kankyou Choujin Ecogainder - A series by Japan's Ministry of the Environment to teach kids Green Aesops.
- Kodai Shoujo Dogu-chan, a.k.a. The Ancient Dogoo Girl
- K-tai Investigator 7 - Officially counted as a toku show by its creators, but is more half-toku/half-drama.
- Lightspeed Esper
- Madan Senki Ryukendo
- Metal Heroes
- Mighty Jack
- Moonlight Mask (The very first Toku show from 1958!)
- The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog - This show was notable for being an attempt by Saban to introduce American-original tokusatsu to television. Of course, it was also produced to feed off the success of the Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs.
- Ninja Captor (a Sentai-esqe series that was apparently once classed as part of the Super Sentai franchise)
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, notable for being a Live Action Adaptation of an already immensely popular manga/anime.
- Robo Geisha
- Robot Detective- Take a police drama, throw in Isaac Asimov-style robotics and you've got this series
- Seiun Kamen Machineman- Created by Shotaro Ishinomori, aired in 1984. Mostly Zorro meets Superman.
- Seven Star Fighting God Guyferd- A fighting series made by Toho and Capcom taking inspirations from many different sources, including Guyver, Kamen Rider, and Street Fighter.
- Silver Kamen
- Space Ironmen Kyodain
- Sport Ranger - A Thai production created in the same vein as Super Sentai.
- Star Kid - Taking a lot of inspiration from Guyver and Kikaider, this 1997 film is a rare, non-Saban original American take on the genre. Fortunately, it has since been Vindicated by Cable after it flopped at the box office.
- Super Robot Red Baron - An early-70s example of Mecha in toku, intentionally done in the style of Mazinger Z. Its popularity later resulted in a few successor series and a 90s anime revival.
- Super Sentai
- Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire have more of a Rescue slant to them than a "fight the bad guys, save the world" one, but they're both toku series nonetheless.
- Ultra Series
- Warrior of Love Rainbowman- Toho's first henshin hero and an Enhanced Remake of 7-Color Mask from 1959. It was remade into a giant robot anime in 1982.
- Voicelugger - A Sentai series. The last production by Shotaro Ishinomori, godfather of Super Sentai, released posthumously,
Super Sentai, Metal Heroes and Kamen Rider franchises on this list were adapted, with varying degrees of success, by Haim Saban to produce the U.S. series Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Big Bad Beetleborgs and Masked Rider. Kamen Rider Ryuki was later adapted into Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, which considered better than Masked Rider. Toku series use many of the same tropes often associated with Anime, though have become synonymous with others.
Interestingly, a number of Western television programs are considered Toku by the Japanese due to their use of special effects and certain themes; this list includes such names as Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Doctor Who, Knight Rider, and Red Dwarf. This list also includes shows that use puppetry, like Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation series Thunderbirds and Terrahawks, and even Thomas the Tank Engine.
Tropes common to this genre include:
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever
- By the Power of Grayskull
- Conservation of Ninjutsu
- Hour of Power
- In the Name of the Moon
- Japanese Beetle Brothers
- Monster of the Week
- People in Rubber Suits
- Super Mode
- Stock Footage
- Technology Porn
- Theme Music Power-Up
- Transformation Sequence
- Wire Fu
Names To Know In Tokusatsu:
Major Companies producing Tokusatsu: