By Mishio Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior SpecialistSummer, the season for sci-fi action superheroes, is coming.
The other day I went to a press conference for the production of two forthcoming films for theatrical release — “Gekijoban: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid True Ending” and “Uchu Sentai Kyuranger The Movie: Gesu Indabe no Gyakushu.” The new films from the Kamen Rider franchise and Super Sentai Series — both widely popular in this field — will open in cinemas as a double bill on Aug. 5.
Press conferences at this time of the year for films from the two franchises have become almost an annual affair. However, there were long periods in the past when neither series was made into films. When I debuted in 2000 in reporting on sci-fi action works with my article on “Kamen Rider Kuuga,” fans started a petition to bring Kamen Rider to the big screen. Although they gathered thousands of signatures, their wish was not fulfilled. Back then, there was a very wide divide between the children’s TV shows and the movies.
As someone who remembers those days, such a lively press conference like the one the other day with the directors and all cast members was especially pleasing. At the same time, I am well aware that I should not take these developments for granted.
The films from both series have become more extravagant year after year. This year, the characters visualize dreamlike stories on screen, for example, by jumping into virtual reality or flying into space. In the “Ex-Aid” film, in collaboration with the PlayStation VR game console, the title character changes into a new form using a VR device and fights against a group of evil ninja plotting to destroy the real world and rule the virtual reality world.
Meanwhile, the Kyuranger film will feature a giant humanoid robot, which will support the superheroes in their battle against an enemy force trying to conquer space.
This year’s press conference featured an unusual twist in that it was held at the Tamarokuto Science Center in Nishitokyo, Tokyo, quite far from the heart of the capital. The venue has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as having the most advanced planetarium in the world. Making the most of this amazing facility, special 360-degree panoramic images were projected during the press conference.
Of all the fabulous proceedings of the day, I was most impressed by the words of Takayuki Shibasaki, director of the Kyuranger movie. He revealed that the Tamarokuto Science Center was a favorite filming location of the late Takao Nagaishi, the director of many Kamen Rider programs who died four years ago at 68.
“Coming here for the first time in a long while, I recall with great respect the words of Mr. Nagaishi — that he made the [Kamen Rider and Super Sentai Series] films for kids,” Shibasaki said.
His remarks made me sit up and take notice, and realize that I must never take it for granted that we are being treated to these superhero films and that I get the chance to report on them.
This summer will also see the Japanese release of a “Power Rangers” film on July 15. As you know, the Power Rangers series is the U.S. version of the Super Sentai Series, which in turn was originally inspired by kabuki. In a way, it will be re-imported back to Japan.
The summer is pretty much going to be a feast of superheroes. I hope the new Kamen Rider and Super Sentai films, which reportedly are in the final stages of production, will stay true to the appeal of the original series.