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Since its beginning, Tokusatsu has mostly been made for kids entertainment. A typical Tokusatsu series will usually be campy, cheesy, with laser beams fired around and giant robots kicking the asses of giant monsters.
Sometimes, you get shows that makes you suspect the producers were smoking pot when they made the series. *coughShaidercough*
And then Ultraman Nexus happened.
Since its introduction 2004, several quality adult-oriented Tokusatsu series have been produced. By saying that a series is adult-oriented, it is actually mainly due to the nature of the story that the show tells. Violence and mild nudity are not so much the reason why a series is being labeled adult-oriented.
It was between 2004 to 2007 where the boom started for this new sub-genre of Tokusatsu, all thanks to Ultraman Nexus. Here, we list down three of the most recommended series (If you haven’t watched any).
1. GARO franchise
Debuting on Oct 7, 2005 and helmed by Amemiya Keita, GARO tells the story of Makai Knights and Priests who fight demons known as Horrors to protect humanity.
Konishi Hiroki (now known as Konishi Ryousei) portrayed Saejima Kouga/GARO, the main hero of the story while Fujita Rei (Dragon Orphenoch of Kamen Rider 555) plays the rival role of Suzumura Rei/ZERO. Fujita wasn’t the only tokusatsu alumni in the series though, as Satou Yasue, whom fans will recognize as Saijyo Nagi from Ultraman Nexus joins the cast as Kouga’s childhood friend later in the series. The cast was further boosted by Kyoumoto Masaki who was the main villian of the series, Ryuuzaki Karune, also later revealed as fallen knight Barago.
The series started off receiving mixed reviews for its first few episodes. While the actual suit was present, the directors opted to go for CGI for the action scenes for the start much to the dismay of many Tokusatsu fans. Its very short fighting sequences were also a turn-off for some. In episode one, it took GARO only a few seconds to finish off the Horror.
The show did pick up pace as it progresses with very well written stories as well as more intense fights. Its sequel, GARO: Makai Senki, is what I think is the best season so far. Lesser CGI, more Makai Knights with actual suits and fighting in them, fantastic stories, amazing characters and that twist towards the end.
Just in case you were wondering, till date, there are already five live action seasons (Gold Storm started only recently), two feature films, three specials, one anime series and one spin-off short-series under the GARO franchise. With a list like that, nothing much really need to be said anymore about its success. So what are you waiting for?
Wait…wait…before you go, two more series I would recommend.
2. Cutie Honey: The Live
Written as a manga in 1973, Cutie Honey was adapted into a movie in 2004 which wasn’t very well received amongst audiences. In 2007, the manga was given a live action series treatment starring Hara Mikie as the titular android heroine Kisaragi Honey/Cutie Honey.
On first look, most people will assume the series is only interested in attracting male audiences with scantily clad female characters and many scenes you would want to turn the kid’s head away. While the show isn’t entirely like that, there are scenes which kids shouldn’t be watching also.
The series started off with campy and cheesy moments and stories and it will be wrong to think it went all the way to the last episode in this tone. The series took a darker and more violent turn in direction upon the introduction of the second ‘honey’, Saotome Miki/Sister Miki (portrayed by Ayame Misaki). A third ‘honey’ was introduced after that with Takeda Makoto portraying Kenmochi Yuki/Sister Yuki and the violence level went up another notch.
How violent you may ask? Heads and limbs chopped off…Sister Miki and Sister Yuki having to pull objects out of their body after each transformation…yeah. More violent if compared to GARO to be honest.
Yamamoto Shouma (Yamagatana Tsubasa/Dan of GARO series) plays the young and excitable detective, Hayami Seiji who helps support Cutie Honey who constantly tries to go after different women. The original manga’s author Nagai Gou also participated in the series as Doctor Kisaragi Koshiro. Another character whom most fans would recgonize will be Mark Musashi who plays a weird but sometimes comical villian Duke Watari.
I have to admit here that I did not read the manga, so I won’t be able to give a comparison between the manga and the series. It is definitely way better then the movie though. Maybe you can imagine it as Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon but done in GARO‘s style to have a better idea of what the series was like.
3. Ultraman Nexus
The 20th Ultra series, Ultraman Nexus was part of Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultra N Project to reinvent Ultraman for a new generation of fans. Midway through the series, Tsuburaya also premiered ULTRAMAN (the Next) in theatres. The story served as a prequel to that of Ultraman Nexus‘s, also as part of the N Project.
Despite all the low ratings and cancellation of supposed projects, Ultraman Nexus was actually a very good series. Similar to the concept of Ultraman Gaia, the story approach towards Ultraman Nexus was more realistic in terms of story setting and the background of the monsters, known as Space Beasts. There were many complains for the first episode though, when all Nexus did when he showed up was to slam his giant fist into human-sized monsters.
It was also the first Ultra series for the Ultraman to have different human hosts, called Deunamists. According to the N Project timeline, Shunichi Maki (ULTRAMAN) was the first. Himeya Jun (portrayed by Kirishima Yusuke) was the second followed by Senjuu Ren (portrayed by Uchiyama Masato). Fans would recognize Uchiyama as Rabbit Orphenoch from Kamen Rider 555 as well as Punch Hopper from Kamen Rider Kabuto.
And then there were the evil Ultramen, Dark Faust, Dark Mephisto and Dark Zagi. Before, it was a norm for each series to have an episode where a fake or evil Ultraman will appear to mess things up. But the trio above did more then just turn up for an episode and die.
Some political themes were also included in the story as the series develops, telling us the back story of the show’s assault team, Night Raider which was part of a secretive global and non-government organization Terrestrial Liberation Trust. Also included in the organization was a unit called the Memory Police (MP), who erases memories of civilians who witnessed the Ultraman/Space Beasts/Night Raiders in action. A unit called the White Sweeper are responsible for cleaning-ups after the battles. Get that bit of political reference already?
I’m not going to list down the reasons why there were so many hosts and what was it that the dark Ultramen contributed to the story because that will defeat the whole purpose of this article telling you to watch the series anyway.
There are a couple of other series which I would love to recommend but after comparing the stories, I decided the three listed above would still be the best to start off with. For the others which did not make the list this time round, maybe I’ll try to do up a review for them at a later date.