Toku Tuesday #18 – The Hunt for American Toku

Tuesday’s Toku Delight Vol. II, Iss. 2…

Tokusatsu, by it’s very literal meaning, encompasses more than just super heroes that ride motorcycles and pilot giant combining mechs. The first “official” (and I use the term somewhat loosely as I’ll explain monetarily) tokusatsu was 1954’s Godzilla, spawning the kaiju craze. Ultraman, while not the first of his kind, would go on to popularize the fledgling henshin hero genre. In truth, Japan’s first tokusatsu works were actually propaganda films during WWII. See, the Japanese were staging naval battles in pools with miniatures and such in order to fool the people into trusting in the cause. This too was not new nor revolutionary, The Battleship Potemkin (1925) uses simple camera techniques and editing to push its agenda and in a sense, made it okay to play with an audience’s emotions for the sake of politics.

What does that have to do with American tokusatsu? Or tokusatsu in general for that matter? Well, this proves that toku can be extended into other genres besides sci-fi and action adventure. Also, just like anime, manga, and cosplay (all distinctly Japanese, but originally not from Japan) the origin of tokusatu can actually be found outside of Japan – in America of all places. Not exclusively, of course; but there may not have been a Godzilla had there not been a King Kong in 1933.

That said, I think it would be cool if we take a few weeks to rediscover our local toku roots. This won’t be in any particular order, so King Kong is not first – though I plan to get to him XD. Many of our best known tokusatsu works fall under the label kaiju, in the same league as Godzilla himself; so, to start this little miniseries off, let’s take quick look at one of America’s most beloved “movie monsters”:

The Predator

Of the many creatures Hollywood has cranked out over the years, few have stood the test of time as well as the Predator (the Yautja or Hish depending on what comic canon you prefer). This intergalactic race of tribal hunters has starred in a franchise of four films (yes, AvP and AvP:R are considered Predator canon), numerous comics (mostly from Dark Horse, including collabs with DC), video games, and books. These guys have danced with the Terminator (figuratively and literally), farmed Xenomorphs (the Aliens), and are credited with teaching the Egyptians and several other human civilizations how to build pyramids and such. They are smart, tech savvy, and are all about the thrill of the kill, honor, and discipline.

Basically, there are very few creatures on the big screen more badass than they are. Just look at them… You know you want a mask like that.

Predator has enjoyed a modest amount of cult and pop culture fame, but had been out of the mainstream limelight for a while after Predator 2 in 1990. The franchise was kept alive in comics until Alien v Predator in 2004, itself a loose adaption of a the comic series of the same name. While the two AvP films aren’t quite as strong as the first two Alien films or both of the previous Predator affairs, neither of them really suck – they just fall a little flat because, well, lets face it, no matter what any director might say, no one gives a crap about humans. We watch these films to see aliens kill stuff. Period.

Despite the shaky cross-overs, the Predator has gained a little bit more of his former credibility. A new solo outing in the works, currently titled Predators, written and produced by Robert Rodriguez and slated for a July 9, 2010 release.

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I'm an otaku, avid gamer, and electronic "musician." I'm forever indulging in the amazingness that is Japanese tokusatsu.

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