By Mishio Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior SpecialistI recently visited Brazil, using the long paid vacation given to employees who have worked at The Yomiuri Shimbun for 30 years. It was the second time I had visited the country.
The purpose of my first visit in 2008 was to cover a Japanese anime song concert there that featured various Japanese singers, including JAM Project, a group of five solo anime singers. It was such a hectic trip. I stayed three nights in Brazil during my seven-day holiday, using consecutive national holidays and my paid vacation days to do it. All I remember is the concert venue, the place I had dinner and the hotel room where I had drinks with singer Hironobu Kageyama and others until the wee hours.
This time, therefore, I wanted to explore the country in a more leisurely manner. So I took a two-week vacation and toured around.
Of course, even during vacations I can’t detach myself from tokusatsu, or sci-fi action superhero shows with lots of special effects, which are the passion of my life. When I saw the vast landscape of Iguazu Falls in front of my eyes, I automatically mimicked Kamen Rider’s transformation move. And I couldn’t help but strike the signature crouching pose of Kamen Rider Amazon when I saw a sign saying, “A plant from the Amazon,” inside a vast botanic garden in Rio de Janeiro.
Tokusatsu TV shows from Japan are very popular in Brazil. Even my tour guide, a man in his 60s who was by no means the geek type, spoke naturally of tokusatsu shows such as “Changeman” and “Jasupion” (known as Jaspion in Brazil). If you go to Liberdade, the well-known Japanese district in Sao Paulo, there is a shop displaying a mask of Tiger Ranger from “Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger,” and there was someone cosplaying as Ultraseven, standing on the street in a matter-of-fact way. This stunned even me.
In Sao Paulo, I was reunited with Ricardo Cruz, whom I’ve interviewed before. He’s an avid fan of tokusatsu shows and a semi-regular member of JAM Project. You may remember his interview in this column in April. We had an enthusiastic discussion about tokusatsu works over a plate of churrasco barbecue meat, a specialty of Brazil.
“I’m so much in love with the design of Super Giruku [or Super Giluke, as known in Brazil. He is a villainous leader in “Dengeki Sentai Changeman”]. Villains in Japanese tokusatsu works have fabulous designs,” said Cruz, a genuine Brazilian. He also said: “You know the Japanese word ‘Tsuzuku’ [to be continued] that appears at the end of each episode of a Super Sentai Series tokusatsu show. I’ve really loved it since I was a child. It really made me excited.” His comments repeatedly convinced me that he’s truly and deeply in love with Japanese tokusatsu programs.
Cruz is also a singer. So our conversations covered theme songs and other songs in tokusatsu shows.
“I have great respect for [composer] Mr. Chumei Watanabe. Every song he’s written is fantastic, so fantastic!” he said excitedly. A friend of mine who traveled with me looked amazed and said, “The fact that he can talk about tokusatsu in such fluent Japanese must reflect his strong love for tokusatsu.”
I never expected I’d be visiting Brazil, which is on the opposite side of the Earth from Japan, twice in my life. I never dreamed of having a friend in that country whom I could have serious talks with about tokusatsu, and that I’d be pretty certain I’d visit the country again. Life is full of wonders. And this is a connection brought about by tokusatsu superheroes. I’m sure they create such connections in various places across the globe. Thinking about this warms my heart.