If you have been following our social media pages of late, you would have seen that we were due to appear on a Mandarin-speaking news programme last week (Good Friday morning 2019), speaking about the tokuAsia community, our film production company tokuAsia Pictures and our goal to make Sacred Guardian Singa, Singapore’s first Tokusatsu hero, a reality.
For the benefit of those who don’t speak Mandarin, we have translated the programme. Unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to download and subtitle the video due to copyright. I’m not able to make the video block float or the text block scroll either so it’s highly recommended that you do a dual-screen or place the tabs side by side. Sorry mobile users!
[Morning Express] Tokusatsu (Special Effects) films portraying the battles between Japanese superhero and monster characters were extremely popular in the 20th century. Although their popularity may seem to have faded today, a group of diehard local fans of Tokusatsu films set up their own hobby group, which became a production company, in order to produce a Singapore superhero. Today’s hobby segment brings you more:
<Team Watching Programme>
Aydeel: As I was watching (Tokusatsu), I went back to my inner child, the kid I was. The kid who was so hopeful.
Meng Yeow (MY): Back when we were kids, still growing up and in school, we ran into all kinds of challenges. So we looked to these heroes and regarded them as role models.
<About the Programme on the Screen>
Host: The unique superhero bravely fighting a battle with the monster, this is a science-fiction TV show from Japan that originates from 1999 (Heisei Ultra Seven), that uses all kinds of special effects and is therefore known as Tokusatsu. As the show was produced some years back, the special effects might look slightly dated. However, to this group of people, there is a deeper meaning to Tokusatsu.
<Team Discussing Tokusatsu>
Basil: (discussing Shin Gojira) They are criticising the government’s response time.
MY:(discussing Shin Gojira) They are mocking the bureaucracy.
MY: When I was younger, I was really just looking forward to the last ten minutes of the show where the hero fights the monster. But as I grew up, I realised the stories told were actually not simple. The stories reflect the real political issues of society, as well as everyday life of people.
Host: This hobby group, known as tokuAsia was formed in 2005 when Meng Yeow (then 21) and Basil (then 16) met online on a Tokusatsu discussion forum. Later, the two of them decided to form the first Tokusatsu fan community in Singapore.
<Basil showing his collection>
Basil: This is all Tokusatsu stuff…
Host: Nearly all Tokusatsu fans will have a cabinet at home featuring their collection, of which some items can easily cost more than a few hundred dollars. Some items may have also been kept for more than ten years, slowly becoming memories of their childhood.
Basil: My favourite Tokusatsu superhero is Ultra Seven. I found him very different from most other Ultramen. You know, when you were a teenager you (might) have a lot of angst and image issues. So I felt that I related to that sort of difference.
<Meng Yeow playing with his Agulator>
MY: This is a brand new reissue of Ultraman Agul’s henshin item. So it goes on like this, and then transform.
Interviewer: Why did you not transform? (Laugh)
MY: If I could transform successfully then I won’t be here. (Laugh)
<Photos of the group/Meng Yeow reading manga>
Host: Ever since the group was formed, over 150 members have joined. But Meng Yeow has a deep belief that the number of Tokusatsu fans is way more than that, except that many people do not dare to openly admit their passion.
MY: Many people about our age group will always look at us with a weird look, like “Why do you like this kind of things?”. When that happened, I did feel a bit uncomfortable, but I am very happy that I persisted. Because if you care too much about what other people think about you, as you grow up, you won’t be yourself. And you will also forget who you are.
Host: From the 1970s to 1990s, you will still sometimes see Tokusatsu shows on local television, but the shows gradually faded away as we entered the 21st century. tokuAsia members have also came and went in recent years, but the few die-hard fans never gave up. They even set a huge ambition, that is to create Singapore’s very own superhero.
<Shots of Singa discussion at Edentech>
MY: Our hero is a young man who just finished National Service and is at a point of his life where he hasn’t decided what to do next. In the beginning (when tA first formed), we actually did not think of producing our own Tokusatsu. It was only shortly after, when a friend (Kee Liang) said, “Japan has Ultraman, the USA has Captain America, why can’t Singapore have its own hero too?”
Host: And so, the mission of producing Singapore’s own Tokusatsu show became the lifelong target of Meng Yeow, Basil and Aydeel since 2006, but the challenges of producing Tokusatsu are daunting.
<Shots of Basil and Aydeel editing>
Host: The story structure, character design and battle scenes are very complex. Over the years, all three of them have invested over SGD10,000 into the project. Financial challenges aside, one thing that also affects them are cynical looks from potential investors and other members of the community.
Basil: We face issues with people looking at us (disbelievingly) and saying, “Hey, what’s this?”. I think people just didn’t understand how serious the few of us were (at that time).
MY: In the 14 years since we formed…. There were times that we did feel very defeated, because people do change as time passes. Old members left and new members joined.
Host: But despite these setbacks, they did not give up. Instead, they stepped up and fought even harder then before.
<Shots of Basil and Aydeel doing gear prep>
Host: In 2012, they formed a film production company, tokuAsia Pictures, to learn the ins and outs of production to achieve their mission of producing Tokusatsu films. At the same time, they made a living from producing corporate videos. This became full-time jobs for Basil and Aydeel.
Aydeel: Before I decided to come in (full-time), I thought long and hard. My life was pretty much on track, with no debts and all. But the dream had to go on.
Basil: We said, “Okay, if we want this to stand alongside all the heroes that we used to admire, then we need to be industry professionals.”
<Character Design Discussion>
Host: Although the preparation journey is always filled with challenges, although the screenplay and designs are always filled with changes, although the distance to realising the dream still seems very far, they continued to keep the faith and never gave up. They hope to be able to start shooting and premiere the Pilot within this year.
Aydeel: My biggest takeaway from being part of a community like that is, first and foremost, I know I’m not alone. We can talk to so many people about this, and we are all friends.
MY: There is a common message in all kinds of superhero shows that is, to never to give up on your dreams. At the beginning, there were people told me that I am wasting my time, that I will forget all of these once I grow up. Well, it has been 14 years and we are still here.
<Extremely Embarrassing Henshin Clips>
With that, the tokuAsia team only has one thing to say to all you hidden Tokusatsu fans out there: You are not alone.
Big thanks to Channel 8, Lee Min and the production crew for putting this together. Translation by Meng Yeow. Edited for context by Basil.