Tokusatsu (1): the one with a lot of horses

It's been a rough week... But yay, here's #1 of the tokusatsu musing series!
Let's start with Gingaman.

Seijuu Sentai Gingman (1998-9) is the first Super Sentai title that I consciously remember watching.
This is probably because:
  • Shoei, who played Gouki (Ginga Blue), became popular a few years after that so he remained intact in my memory.
  • Hikaru (Ginga Yellow) was my super favorite.
  • Super tacky 90s 'fantasy' costumes.
  • Horses.
  • Horses.
The premise was that a magical tribe in the woods get attacked by evil forces and is rendered immobile. Five teens from the tribe escaped the attack and seeks refuge at a normal farm, where they get by in the modern world and try to figure out a way to restore their tribe.
That's a really terrible and rough summary, so please wiki it for details.

So they were staying at a farm. And they had horses. I remember with vivid clarity of having a Ginga Yellow figurine that came with a toy horse. A. TOY. HORSE. It looked pretty fab, to be honest. That was super cool for me. Despite being the perfect age for it (8 years old), I'm a girl, and Super Sentai isn't for girls. And I was totally into Gingaman more than my brother (who was about 6 but still the right age for Super Sentai). Maybe it was the whole animal theme of this title, but it was really easy for me to get into.

What also stood out was the craziness of their outfits. Not the power suits - their 'regular clothes'. They were all vivid colors and clunky tribal patterns and so obviously weirdly artificial in the cheesy 90s way (despite the premise that they're a magical nature-based tribe). It stood out so much from the rest of the 'modern' setting. I can't explain why or how, but goodness I loved Hikaru's outfit.
(I might even say that Hikaru might've been my first TV crush, but that's here nor there.)

So yup, visuals are really crucial. And if you're in the 90s, tacky costumes can really work to your advantage in grabbing eyeballs (in a non-sarcastic way). Really, I still dig Hikaru's outfit. So much. And I love Gingaman because of the absolutely cute and lighthearted concept (in the first-half, at least), and the brightness brought on by them tacky costumes. Also horses.
In my opinion, Gingaman is an example of being happy and lighthearted isn't a bad way to go even in aspirational shows like the Super Sentai titles.

I'll rant more about the "aspirational" element some time soon...


Let's start this again.

I made a blog late last month. That was good.
And then I changed my email address and things got confusing.

Thank goodness it's only been a month. Let's start this again.
I'm just going to repost the posts from that blog so there's going to be continuity.

Ah, internet. It's so hard to get myself organized with so many email addresses and profiles and all that. Trying to be an adult and getting myself together online... it's tough.


'Obligatory' Chocolates

Happy Valentine's Day, I guess.

To get straight to the point today, Japan's views on Valentine's Day has evolved into a monster that is totally independent from what it actually is, was, or at least what it's understood to be in the English speaking world.
Valentine's Day in Japan isn't about sending or making Valentine's cards along with chocolate - it's all about those darn chocolates.

Oh it's the season of war, for girls. Valentine's is used as an opportunity for girls to give chocolate to their crush and effectively profess her love (to hopefully snag that man for herself). The popular guys get chocolates from many, many girls - the 'guy with a truckload of chocolates on V-Day' is a fiction trope.
And that the custom of handing out chocolates escalated. Escalated, I tell you. You don't necessarily only give to your romantic partner/that guy you're after, and male family members.
There's the 'friend chocolates' that you hand out to your girl friends to solidify and reaffirm your relationships a concrete way.

And then there's the whole thing of 'obligatory' or 'duty' chocolates to coworkers/classmates/guy friends. These chocolates are a few ranks lower in quality or care taken to make/buy and are distributed at quite a quantity. There was a recent article on the internets about how male coworkers are disappointed if a female worker does not hand out 'obligatory' chocolates on Valentine's. They actually expect these chocolates from women.

So the distribution of chocolates on Valentine's day to everyone around her is quite literally, a duty a woman has to perform in order to be legitimated and considered good/thoughtful in the male world. It's a day where women have to reaffirm stereotypical feminine qualities of giving, caring, and mindful of others. Emphasis on the 'giving (to males)' part. These chocolates are no longer about love or compassion, but about social relationship-building/managing in a very gender-specific pattern.

And so, Valentine's Day is a major event for girls. Many stress (or be high up in the clouds) over the perfect chocolate they're gonna give to their (potential) man, as much as over what to mass-distribute to all them other people in their lives. What I'm getting at is, Valentine's is such a complicated and problematic event in Japan. *sigh*

This year I've got amazing friends who have shown me much kindness, and for once in my life I'm enjoying my birthday. And I've got a birthday twin, which is super awesome.
Aw yeah, happy birthday Jess!!!


Tokusatsu (0): Prelude

I love tokusatsu. I just love it so much.
So much that I'm gonna make it an irregular series thing where I spew out reviews and opinions and stuff like that. Because holy crap, I have a lot to say.

Tokusatsu means 'special effects filming/shooting'. As a genre, to put it really roughly, it refers to stuff like Godzilla or King Kong or Power Rangers - live-action using costume suits and such. I think wiki is much better at explaining this.
The tokusatsu stuff, especially the Kamen Rider series, Ultraman series, and the Super Sentai series (origin series of the US Power Rangers), are now a staple in the Japanese boys' action market. The tokusatsu stuff have a long and interesting history, and gives insight into the ups and downs of children's TV in Japan.
Oh, it's brilliant.

So let me start off with a short spiel about my experience with the Super Sentai series.
I clearly remember watching Seijuu Sentai Gingaman (1998-9) up to Hyakuju Sentai Gaoranger (2001-2). Then I got 'too cool' for that until Enjin Sentai Go-Onger (2008-9) snagged my heart again in my senior year at high school. The next two titles, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (2009-10) and Tensou Sentai Goseiger (2010-1), I've only seen on and off since I've been in Canada. I'm rather lost with the last two titles, Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (2011-2) and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters (2012-3).
Now I'm super excited for the most recent one, Juuden Sentai Kyouryuger (starting this weekend on the 17th!!).
And I've gotten myself back into the Super Sentai, and I'm getting super into the titles I didn't watch in real time (2003-6). It's tearing my heart apart because it's so GOOD. I feel like an 8 year old again.

Not sure where to start my next rant from. Maybe from the very beginning, Gingaman...



Let me ramble a bit about Kaoru Takamura's Liou (李歐) today.
I bought it on a whim in 2009, and something in me definitely exploded with this book. It's one of those books that's so cathartic, eye-opening and soul-shattering that you know it's going to have a lasting place in your heart.

The story is about a Japanese man (the emotionally compromised Kazuaki) and a Chinese man (the magnetic, charismatic, beautifully enigmatic Liou), whose lives are inexplicably twined somewhere deep at the soul. The prose is cold, even merciless, in cutting deep into the dregs of the modern man. It's ruthless. There's no shame or hesitation in her words. The intensity of emotions, the human condition, and a love that has no name - they're all scrutinized and diced apart to the bare bones. And if that's not cathartic, I don't know what is.

And Kazuaki, despite his lack of open emotions, is still so human in his flaws and passions. The way his veins expand when he can feel Liou's soul feels so genuine and close and alive. Like I'm in synch with Kazuaki's beating heart and vicariously feeling Liou's blood through him. The emotions are almost tactile. Vivid, fantastical, and even magical, despite the gritty language. That feeling is so intimate and breathtaking, made all the more special because at the core it's not even real - they're fictional characters that I'm recreating in my mind through printed words on a page. I feel as if I have to treasure this experience.

Every language is unique, and every language is beautiful in their own way.
What I love about Kaoru Takamura's use of language is that under the detached, almost clinical dissection of her characters, there is always a rawness, something base and emotional that easily gives way into the magical. It runs through the book like the blood running through Kazuaki and Liou and everyone.
I don't think this book has been translated into English. It's a shame. And yet, a different language cannot truly encompass the sensibilities and subtleties of the original. Rather than it be a poor job, maybe, just maybe, it's best left alone.

(On the other hand, I know I come from the advantage of knowing two languages.)


Chocolates and blog anxieties

I keep on writing things, save them to draft, edit repeatedly, and never publish them. I have a bad habit of going on and on so my writing is never concise or succinct. That's the problem with writing about your interests - you think about it so much, you want to tell it all. I don't talk so well in person (I think I left my social skills in kindergarten) so I think too much, and I tend to write in a stream of consciousness style - neither of these really help at all. I also have very extreme writing skills - either incoherent stream-of-thought, or uptight academic writing. I can never a good in-between, something casual.
I think it's also clear that I can't do humor.

So I'll be short. Let me start with... chocolate?
Yeah, chocolate's a good topic. There can never be enough chocolate in my life.
Ok that's not true, my cravings ebb and flow, but I think you get the point. This is not because my birthday is on Valentine's Day. I just have a hereditary sweet tooth from my father's side. Valentine's Day in Japan is a whole other issue, so that'll have to wait for another day.

All I'm thinking right now is how I want strawberry chocolate and it's only 9 in the morning. I don't know why or how, but chocolates here (in North America) and chocolates in Japan taste so different. Both are very good, but they're so... different. There's no other way to put it. Someone must have done a study on chocolates around the world. I think I should look it up.

I will appreciate hot chocolate too... I just really want something sweet today.