Tokusatsu (特撮) is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that features considerable use of special effects (tokusatsu literally translates as "special filming" in Japanese).
Tokusatsu entertainment often deals with science fiction, fantasy or horror, but movies and television shows in other genres can sometimes count as tokusatsu as well. The most popular types of tokusatsu include kaiju monster movies like the Godzilla and Gamera film series; superhero TV serials such as the Kamen Rider and Metal Hero series; and mecha dramas like Giant Robo. Some tokusatsu television programs combine several of these subgenres, for example the Ultraman and Super Sentai series. Tokusatsu is one of the most popular forms of Japanese entertainment, but most tokusatsu movies and television programs are not widely known outside Asia.
So this is tokuastsu.
And this is tokuastsu.
Even this is tokuastsu.
However, this is what most fans know today as tokuastsu or just 'toku' for short; Kamen Rider, Super Sentai and Metal Heroes.Kamen Rider
started out first in 1971 and the group of shows lasting from that time till 1989 (the heroes from then referred to as the Showa Riders) mostly involved regular guys getting turned into cyborgs due to evil COBRA-esque organizations hellbent on taking over the world. Only the Riders with their super-charged motorcycles could stop them and the various monsters of the week from getting their way. In 2000, Kamen Rider began anew. Unlike the Showa Riders, these 'Heisei Riders' had pretty much no connection to each other and only met in non-canon material. They still kept the trait however of their powers (non-cybernetic this time) having connections to the very evil they were trying to face. This lasted until about 2009 in which the movies of the series Kamen Rider Decade began to connect both eras together canonically and the following shows afterwards (dubbed by some as the 'neo-Heisei' era) can be said to share the same universe, something promoted by the Movie Wars crossover films.
The current series at the moment is Kamen Rider Ghost
. The titular Kamen Rider this time around is Takeru Tenkuji, a young man whose father was a famous ghost hunter who was killed mysteriously ten years back. On the same day that people in the same district of his family's temple are attacked by unseen assailants, Takeru receives a mysterious object sent to him by his father prior to his death, an eye-shaped item called an Eyecon.
As it turns out, the attacks are connected to the Eyecon, caused by ghost-like creatures called the Ganma who were sent to find it and take out anyone in the way. The Ganma can only be seen if someone has an Eyecon, so Takeru leads the Ganma away from his friends at the temple, determined to fight them off.
And promptly gets killed.
Of course this would be a pretty short series if things ended there. Takeru thus meets a mysterious man in a space beyond the mortal coil who grants him the ability to become a spiritual Kamen Rider once Takeru shows he has a knack to connect with the Eyecons. This power gives Takeru a second chance at life, one he can use to not only fight off the Ganma but also find Eyecons holding the spiritual essence of great historical figures. Not only will using them grant Takeru new abilities, but fifteen of them gathered together can grant him the power to have anything he wants.
Which is good since Takeru's second life is on a time limit. If he can't find fifteen great Eyecons in 99 days to wish himself back to proper life, he'll die permanently. And with the Ganma looking for them as well for unknown but probably dire reasons, Ghost has his work cut out for him.
The other major half of modern toku is Super Sentai
, AKA the shows Power Rangers gets most of their fighting footage from. Starting in 1975 with Himitsu Sentai Goranger, the various shows within the franchise have grown to offer a more teamwork-based counterpart to the loner Kamen Rider with teams of three to five (with an extra teammate or two joining in later during the series) fighting in helmets and spandex against monsters sent from various evil powers seeking to conquer or destroy the planet, often having to fight the monsters twice as after it's initial defeat, it grows so the group can permanently defeat it with a giant mecha.
The current group in play at the moment is Shuriken Sentai Ninninger
. The series follows a team made up of the grandchildren of Yoshitaka Igasaki AKA the Last Ninja. Decades ago, Yoshi fought off and sealed away Sengoku warlord-turned-demon Gengetsu Kibaoni when he and his demonic forces tried to prematurely return to conquer Japan. However, not all of Kibaoni's Youkai army was locked away with him. A remaining vassal, Kyuemon, steals the tool needed from the Igasaki household to free the army. Now Yoshi's grandchildren must put their lives on hold in order to strengthen their ninja skills and battle the Kibaoni Army Corps as the Shuriken Sentai who don't fight from the shadows, resealing Kibaoni himself before he grows too powerful.
And if that's not enough reason to give the series a try, be aware that their Sixth Ranger is a Japanese man from America who transforms with a hamburger rather then a sword since his sword already doubles as his guitar. Oh, and his Zord rides around on a bison-themed ATV.
If you remember VR Troopers or Big Bad Beetleborgs, then you've seen footage from the Metal Heroes
franchise, the shows within tending to involve humans or aliens using metal armor to fight villains. While not as big as either Kamen Rider or Super Sentai, it's been making a comeback recently in the last few years based around the first Metal Heroes, the Space Sheriffs. The first, Space Sheriff Gavan, returned for a teamup with the Super Sentai group Gokaiger and then later in his own movie where he passed on the title to a younger heir. Now a pair of movies will be made to install new faces in the other two Space Sheriffs' boots, Sharivan and Shaider.
Is there any toku I may have missed? Feel free to talk about it here alongside what I've already mentioned as well as any American counterparts they have.