Background Actors who became Tokusatsu Heroes Part 2
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We just had to do this. Bring on the nostalgia!
If you’re a Tokusatsu fan living in Singapore today, you would probably have had no problem finding content or likeminded people to discuss them with, thanks to the Internet. The lack of newer Tokusatsu shows on TV these days doesn’t really matter either, because nearly everything is easily available online.
However, did you know that a generation of Singaporean children growing up in the 80s and 90s also had access to a wide variety of Tokusatsu programmes dubbed in English, Mandarin and Malay?
Some of these programmes were shown on our very own Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), later the Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) channels (the precursors to today’s MediaCorp), and some others we watched due to our close ties with our northern neighbours Malaysia, which allowed us to receive some RTM (Radio Television Malaysia) channels.
Just as watching Tokusatsu in its native Japanese audio today without any subtitles is all good, we managed to enjoy whatever we could get on TV, regardless of the language it was dubbed it, and it certainly helped us learn a little bit of each others’ languages along the way, because we wanted to emulate phrases and poses from the show.
With our nation’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in full swing, let us take a brief look at some of the Tokusatsu programmes that:
5. Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman aka 地球战队
Believe it or not, Fiveman might not have been the most popular Super Sentai series out there, but it somehow found its way onto Channel 8 in the mid-1990s. Dubbed in Mandarin, the Hoshikawa siblings were on air every weekday at 1pm, but its effects were not as lasting as Power Rangers (more on that in a bit). The end of Fiveman would mark the last ever time a Sentai programme appeared Other Sentai shows like Flashman and Maskman were broadcasted on RTM2. I remember owning a couple of Mandarin-dubbed Flashman VCDs under the title 闪电武士 (Lightning Warriors).
4. Uchuu Keiji Gavan aka Space Cop Gaban
With flashy costume and effects and a funky theme song to boot, Gavan was an instant hit with schoolboys in the early 90’s, running back to back with Kamen Rider Black on RTM2. Owing to its popularity, ‘Gaban’ became a often-used slang term for strong/cool/awesome/amazing amongst Malay youths of the generation in both Singapore and Malaysia. Like old habits which die hard, you may still hear it being used somehow.
3. Kamen Rider Black aka Ksatria Baja Hitam
Long before English dubs of neo-Heisei Rider series like Kabuto, Decade, OOO and Fourze appeared on local TV, Kamen Rider Black (and later RX) saw airtime dubbed in Malay on RTM2 as Ksatria Baja Hitam. Older Kamen Rider material had been available on VHS by this time, imported from Hong Kong and dubbed in Cantonese, but Black, or Baja Hitam as he was more widely known in this part of the world, was a more iconic hero to kids here than the Double Riders or V3. Picture Black riding on Battle Hopper. Surely a cooler sight than Gavan on Cyberian, don’t you think?
One of the most popular Black fansites on the Internet even came from our shores. Dedicated to Black was run by a friend of ours, Basri Ispandi. Though the site has since ceased to exist, Basri is still connecting with fans of Black and Black RX through a Facebook page. Tendagan maut!
UPDATE: Alert! We have just received an update from Basri himself that Dedicated to Black is still online. You can visit it here.
2. Various Ultra Series
The Ultra series is arguably the most popular and well-remembered Tokusatsu genre in Singapore pre-Power Rangers. The original five series saw airtime in both Singapore and Malaysia under the banner of RTM2, while the TNT English dub of Ultra Seven came to Channel 5 in the late 80’s/early 90’s (Thanks Nasir). We were also the amongst the first countries in the world to broadcast Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero in its original English language.
Later, Ultraman saw a second popularity boom when a Taiwanese-produced dub of Ultraman Tiga debuted on Channel 8. Ultraman Dyna and Ultraman Max were also dubbed in Malay, and who can forget the numerous reruns of the Ultraman Zearth movies on Central during festive periods?
Singaporeans were even the pioneers of an Ultraman-inclined web discussion forum, back in 2004, when UltramanLAH! opened its doors. The forum no longer exists, but discussions continue to this day on a Facebook group which was recently started by one of the original moderators.
1. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
The undisputed leader of the pack. Mention Power Rangers to any Singaporean in his or her 20s and they will likely be able to name the original team in its entirety. Just like nearly every other country in the world with access to a television, MMPR was an unprecedented craze in Singapore—Kids loved it, and parents absolutely hated it. TV12 (later renamed to Kids’ Central, then okto) was the Rangers’ home on local airwaves, but Season 1 was eventually dubbed in Mandarin and broadcasted on Channel 8 as 金刚战士.
At the height of the series’ popularity, United Overseas Bank and Takashimaya department store ran its own Power Ranger stage shows at Takashimaya Square, along with toy sales and photo-taking opportunities. Singapore was also one of the stops in the short-lived Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers World Tour Live on Stage, which took place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in 1995.
Today, the impact of the early-mid 90’s success of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers still lives on, and there is little doubt that the latest incarnation, Dino Charge, will make its way to our shores soon, as Super Mega Force only recently completed its run.
Which of these shows do you fondly remember? Tell us in the comments below!
And lastly, before we end off this article, Happy 50th Birthday Singapore!
This article is dedicated to my late uncle, Hon Boon Teck, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 43. Without his influence, I would never have been such a big Ultraman or Tokusatsu fan as I consider myself to be today.