tokusatsu-l Mailing List Frequently Asked Questions

Release: December, 1997 (Version: 3.6.8)

Frequently Asked Questions

3.1 Where does tokusatsu air?

Primarily on TV-Asahi in Japan in the following cities: Akita, Aomori, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Oita, Osaka, Shizuoka, Tokyo (JOEX Channel 10) and Yamaguchi. However, some tokusatsu has aired on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System, not Turner Broadcasting System) and TV Tokyo. In Tokyo, sentai traditionally airs every Friday evening at 5:30pm. Metal Heroes have aired at 7pm or 7:30pm every Friday night (though sometimes they've changed time slots mid-series, most often being on Sunday and once Monday nights). Currently, they air Sunday mornings at 8 AM in Tokyo.

3.2 How may I obtain videos

Videos are almost exclusively rented and never purchased and are not available through nation-wide mail order. Most often, you will find that chain rentals such as Blockbuster will not often carry international, domestic television videos. Video stores that most often carry anime videos will probably also carry tokusatsu as well. These video stores are available in Asian communities such as Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, for example. They are readily available for rental in Hawaii.

Other Video Rental outlets include:

Video Daikaiju
PO BOX 185
Succasunna, NJ 07876

Nippon Video Network
Tel: +1 (800) 206-7412

Video Japan
Tel: +1 (310) 324-3133
Fax: +1 (310) 324-3225

Henshin Video
P.O. Box 260102
Bellerose, NY 11426

There are traders on the Internet as well. One well known and highly reliable source is John Wells. Visit his web page at Earthlink at: -- it IS $17/tape, however he has been in business for a few years and has many satifised customers. For domestic Japanese television programming for children, it is a great deal. Unfortunately for Ultraman fans, he does not carry any Ultraman.

Finally, buy or trade copies of your own videos of tokusatsu with users here on tokusatsu-l (all transactions must occur in e-mail). Users who send money for tapes or send in tapes for trade without receiving videos are strongly encouraged to give out all the information about this person that you have so that others may not be ripped off by such con artists. Such persons with malicious intentions as thus described will be denied further posting/reading access to the mailing list.

3.3 Is it possible to get English dubbed/subbed versions?

Not yet. Currently no commercial (meaning, dubbed or subbed videos currently licensed by any of their creators) are available. Kikaider, for example was subtitled by a local Hawaii TV Station when aired and Ultra Seven was dubbed for TNT's broadcast, however, do not expect to find recent tokusatsu such as MEGARANGER to be dubbed or subbed.

Perhaps when tokusatsu's fandom grows, persons with enough money to process videos, get the rights from the original producers and a way to mass distribute tapes will take interest and begin doing so.

3.4 How may I obtain CDs of tokusatsu music?

Nippon Columbia (the Japanese equivilant of Columbia House, one of the major distributors of home video, CDs and Cassettes) distributes music for a wide variety of tokusatsu television series'. Unfortunately, I do not contact information regarding Nippon Columbia. The URL to their web page listed at but you require a web browser capable of displaying Japanese characters (such as Netscape or Internet Explorer) and it would help (a lot) if you Read Japanese as well. I don't, so I'm afraid I can't help you their either.

A rather extensive collection of Kamen Rider Music can be ordered from The Place on the Web at and clicking on their Japanese Anime CDs link and then selecting K from their alphabetized list of CD titles. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate music for sentai or old/new Metal Hero series' there. Also, according to the source of this information, it took about a month to receive his CDs as well. Ordering over the phone is probably your best bet.

If you have any useful information to contribute to this section, it would be appreciated if you e-mailed me at and it will appear in the next release of this FAQ.

3.5 Who produces tokusatsu?

Toei Company L.T.D., however some others have produced tokusatsu such as Toho. The creator listed for tokusatsu produced by Toei Company, Saburu Hatte, is a pseudonym used by Toei which basically is their team of staff writers. Generally, however, a single writer will act as the main writer who writes all "key" episodes and important segments throughout the series while other writers fill in the rest.

Two to four (usually three) directors work on any one single series. The first director is usually considered the main director; additionally, directors may be seen in two episodes of a series, back to back, because two episodes are shot inside of the same two-week schedule. There may be a guest director in some series' as well.

Special Effects are produced by Special Visual Effect Laboratory LTD., founded by Nobuo Yajima in the mid-1960s.

3.6 Who do the stunts?

An organization founded in Japan by Shin'ichi Chiba ("Sonny" Chiba) in 1969 called the Japan Action Club (JAC) is the primary source for such stunts. The JAC consists of at least a hundred members to whom have been trained extensively in the martial-arts to provide stunt-actors and actresses for Japanese films. They partcipate in regular warm-up sessions to keep stuntmen (and women) constantly ready for work.

Though tokusatsu for the most part is marketed at the pre-teen viewers in Japan, the JAC's stunt team are recognized world-wide for their unmatched quality in martial arts action performances on screen.

3.7 Are the actors/actresses martial-artists?

Normally, no. Many hero roles are played by actors and actresses inexperienced in the martial arts and thus go in for several weeks of training before they begin shooting. This way, they are familiar with trademark poses and battle scenes. However, some JAC members have played in starring roles before.

3.8 Why does the film look so old for brand new episodes?

Other than using motion-picture film stock instead of television film stock, it is how Toei's laboratories develops the film. It is NOT technologically inferior to other formats; it's merely a different system. Also, other than "neo-Toei" productions (i.e., Changerion in 1996), the film is shot at 25fps (frames per second) which is a lower "sample rate" of footage than the 30 used for, say, Saban's film footage. The more tape or frames of film (or bits of data, in the case of digital photography or sound recording) used, the higher resolution (and, thus, quality) the sound/film will be. For example, home video cassttes such as the NTSC standard VHS, are of much higher quality when recorded as SP (the fastest speed home VCR's offer).

3.9 When did the Metal Heroes series' begin?

In 1982 with Space Sheriff Gavan (though the first "robot hero" TV series existed with 1972's Kikaider).

3.10 Aren't those exploding sparks dangerous?

Typically, sparks are ignited using gel-capsule-shaped chemical flash pots and feel like a rubber ball being bounced off your chest with some force. They are wired to a trigger inside of the stuntman's glove and are attached to a bodysuit worn under the costume. Tiny holes inside of the suit and a plastic guard forces the explosive force of the detonated flash outward. The soot left on any costumes can be wiped off with a damp sponge. The "smoking" effect is added with a chemical called titanium chloride.

Costumes typically take more abuse from the action rather than the explosions.

3.11 Is Tokusatsu intended for children in Japan?

Yes. Because of the sharp difference in culture between America and Japan, Japanese television is considerably more mature. Ironically, animated programs in the US have been intended (almost to a stereotype) for children while some anime features rather complex storylines.

3.12 How come tokusatsu/anime only lasts for a year?

The nature of tokusatsu and anime is that of a movie divided into usually fifty 30-minute episodes. There is a beginning, middle, change in plot then an ending resolve to both beginning and secondary storylines. And, that ending is not necessarily a good one such as in most traditional western action hero stories. For example, the Real ending of Sailor Moon is that all the sailor scouts died when they won the battle.

One of the greater advantages to tokusatsu being developed this way is that writers and producers have more control over the flow of the story unlike with American television. Usually, after a US network buys a program that was pitched, they will order 6-13 episodes, have them produced and let them run in either September, January, March, April, May or June (for summer shows). Should the A.C. Nielsen Media Research Company report to networks subscribing to their service moderate to good success for a program (or there be an enormous fan-base), a network may be apt to buy 13 more episodes to complete the season (or pick it up for a new season should the show started in Spring or Summer).

Because the writers of a program in hope don't know how long a show like this will run, they are forced to write episode by episode with one season feeling different from another. Since tokusatsu is usually fixed at a year-long run, writers can take their time about developing a plot, developing good characters while the production company can spend time auditioning actors and training them to perform in stunts. Nobody experiences burn out and the series never loses the original flare it had because it was all filmed at once.

If a show is so tremendously popular, they may produce a movie and several home videos. Music for the programs are always released on Compact Disc by Nippon Columbia and once a series is complete, it usually goes to home video in volumes anyway. Even more rare, they will make a follow-up tokusatsu (such as the Kamen Rider series'). However, fans are generally satisfied with a brand new sentai or Metal Hero to replace the concluded sentai or Metal Hero series.

3.13 Where do the ideas for costumes, robots and weapons come from?

Bandai Inc. is the predominant toy manufacturer and designer for tokusatsu and anime after 1980 and is thus the source for designs on hero costumes, robots and weapons. Monsters-of-the-day and other villain costumes are designed by the named costume designer of the series.

Other companies licensed to manufacture toys for these programs include Takara, Capcom and Sega.

3.14 How did Saban Entertainment turn Kyouruu Sentai ZYURANGER into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers & Power Rangers Zeo?

In 1981, Toei Co., LTD's branch Toei International attempted to produce Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan in Los Angeles due to the popularity of Sun Vulcan being broadcasted on local UHF Stations at the time. However, they could not sell the program to American television stations or networks. Around the end of 1982, Haim Saban, president of the two year old Saban Entertainment company took interest during his stays in Japan.

Six years later, Saban approached Toei Co., LTD with a proposal to produce a US Version of Choujinki Metaldar (which later became 1994's VR Troopers source footage for Ryan Steele's battle scenes and costume). However, he was unable to convince the three established television networks of America to broadcast dubbed live-action Japanese programs. Ironically, Metaldar was so unpopular in Japan, they only produced 39 episodes. Even the syndication market did not take well to this unprecedented form of children's entertainment.

In 1992, Saban returned to Toei proposing to produce an American version of Kyouruu Sentai ZYURANGER. Toei Co., LTD was (in both instances) very enthusiastic to have their programs brought to other countries (though they only focus on Japan for their target audience) due to the fact that it was an opportunity to receive indirect revenue from sales world wide.

Because Fox became the first non-Cable television network to be bold with its television programming unlike the established NBC, CBS and ABC (CBS and ABC, soon only ABC being the last original network airing Saturday Morning Children's Programs), Saban saw a golden opportunity to pitch an unorthodox program at Fox, a network of more than 130 affiliates nation wide. However, one of Saban's primary problems still remained and that was the fact that Japanese actors with English voice actors dubbed over was not going to be accepted by Margaret Losech, president of Fox Kids Network.

So, in a blinding rush, sets were built, a cast was auditioned for and hired off contract and non-union, two non-union crews were assembled and then some. By February, 1993; Saban Entertainment produced over 20 episodes and were producing more while Haim still pitched to networks. Fortunately, Saban Entertainment already had a large part to do with the success of Fox Kids and thus they had to allow Saban to air Power Rangers.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers aired Saturday Morning, August 28th, 1993 and was a surprise hit. Everyone involved in the production of Power Rangers never expected it to become so popular and so thus it now airs in 30 countries, has made billions in toys and even released an album of songs from the shows (ironically in tradition with most all sentai and tokusatsu series, though Ron Wasserman, the chief producer of Power Rangers' music never knew this or intended it).

Toei licensed ZYURANGER, and several other tokusatsu to Saban Entertainment with the understanding that certain liberties with the original film are not taken and they work closely with them to ensure that the original work is not violated in anyway. Many fans, however, find this extremely difficult to believe considering how if you pay close enough attention, sequences are just repeated over and over in multiple episodes just to fill time. As just one example.

Additionally, when Saban Entertainment ran out of ZYURANGER footage, the later half of the first season and all of the second and third season (save the Mighty Morphin Alien Ranger footage) was directed entirely by Jeff Pruitt, 2nd Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator for the Power Rangers since Episode #36 (succeeding Isaac Florentine). Jeff Pruitt lived with several Japanese stuntmen who were brought to America (and even Australia to film Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie) to film as Rangers, Putties, Tengas and monsters. They also brought in costumes (hero and villain) from Japan and hired a film crew from Toei to produce some footage. However, that was becoming too expensive and so thus the second and third season footage were being shot by an all American crew.

Toei was hired by Saban to film giant monster vs. "zord" (giant robot) footage for all scenes where monsters didn't exist (because no episode of ZYURANGER had some monsters seen fighting the MegaZord during the first season).

This page was last updated on December 1, 1997

Copyright ©1997 Dairenn Lombard ()
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