Sentai Locations 2018: Sumida River

10 Jun

On March 27, 2018, as the bus headed from Haneda Airport to the Tokyo City Air Terminal near my hotel not long after my arrival, we crossed the Sumida River and I looked to the left and even though night had fallen, I clearly saw a waterfront location that had been used in KAMEN RIDER ICHIGO, the 2016 Kamen Rider movie that I’d seen in a theater in Osaka during my 2016 trip to Japan, and which I now owned on DVD. As it turned out, it was only minutes from my hotel, so I resolved to make that my first stop the next day.

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Sentai Locations 2018: Chiba City

20 May

In Chiba City, about an hour’s subway ride straight east from downtown Tokyo, there are a number of locations often used for Japanese superhero shows in the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises, usually for elaborate fight scenes. There’s an office complex that has two large plazas that I’ve seen used in many shows over the years. Just a short distance southwest of that is the Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex, which has a large convention center and a separate exhibition hall, slightly smaller, across the street from it. Adjacent to the convention center is a ground-level plaza that reminded me of Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. Next to the Exhibition Hall is a small park with a couple of unusual sculptures and fountains.

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Japan Journal 2018, Pt. 2: Adventures on Odaiba

12 May

A month ago, I was flying back from Tokyo to New York. Here I continue my search for Tokyo locations used in live-action Japanese superhero shows, specifically the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises, all of which stage elaborate action scenes at accessible locations in and around Tokyo. This entry is devoted to Odaiba Island in Tokyo Bay on the other side of the Sumida River from mainland Tokyo. Here’s a travel brochure shot:

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Japan Journal 2018, Part 1: Adventure on Harumi Island

30 Apr

I was in Tokyo from March 27 to April 11, 2018, on a mission to see five J-pop concerts and visit a couple dozen locations used in Super Sentai and Kamen Rider shows and movies. I covered similar locations on my previous trip (March-April 2016) and wrote about them here. My goal was to see for myself the urban spaces that are used in such a unique way on these shows and how they’re used in everyday life when not hosting costumed superheroes and rubber-suited monsters. A collateral benefit of these explorations is the discovery of parts of Tokyo not seen by many tourists. One of my most interesting excursions this time was to the Harumi Island Passenger Ship Terminal, which led to my witnessing quite an unusual cultural phenomenon that I would not have seen had I gone on any other day and which made use of this particular urban seaport space in a most creative way. The Harumi Terminal faces Tokyo Bay and was built on an island that was created in the 20th century and seems to be devoted to residential districts and high-rise apartment and office towers. (New Yorkers: Think Roosevelt Island if it was about half the size of Central Park.) The terminal has a number of large plazas and staircases that lend themselves to the kind of sprawling fight scenes found in the shows I follow, as seen in these pictures:

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Kamen Rider Movies: A 47-Year Old Superhero Franchise Continues to Thrive

25 Mar

Kamen Rider (or Masked Rider) premiered on Japanese television on April 3, 1971. It was the brainchild of Shotaro Ishinomori, author of the wildly successful manga series, Cyborg 009, which had already been adapted into two animated features and one animated series for television. Kamen Rider preceded by four years the premiere of Goranger, the first sentai series and another long-running franchise, also created by Ishinomori. All of these series were produced by Toei Pictures. When I visited the Toei Kyoto Studio Park in 2016, I saw a gallery devoted to Kamen Rider:

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The Blaxploitation Era: A Scrapbook from the ’70s

20 Feb

In going through old file boxes from the 1970s, I found a number of clippings that effectively illustrate the Blaxploitation era of Hollywood filmmaking, a period from roughly 1971-75, when action and other genre films showcased black heroes and heroines, usually in reworkings of standard genre formulas. They were made quickly and cheaply to capitalize on a trend that could fade out at any time as it eventually did after its peak in 1972-73. These films played grindhouses and neighborhood theaters but also, for a time, premiered at the biggest Broadway movie palaces and commanded ads and constant press coverage. I usually saw them at Bronx neighborhood theaters where they were often paired with Italian westerns and, later, kung fu films, a trend which gradually displaced Blaxploitation. I’d like to share some of what I clipped 45 or so years ago, supplemented by movie stills from my collection and posters copied from IMDB and other sites.

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SHINOBI NO MONO: A Ninja’s View of Japanese History

19 Jan

I watch lots of Japanese movies set in the pre-Meiji era, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and some TV shows. There are certain historical figures and incidents that get dramatized often in both live-action and anime. Only a small fraction of these productions have been released in the U.S. and most of those that are famous here tend to focus on the same trio of major events: the legendary sword duel between Musashi Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki in the early 17th century; the vengeful raid by the “loyal 47 Ronin” in 1703; and the formation of the Shinsengumi, a sort of paramilitary corps of farmer-samurai who sought to defend the interests of the Shogun near the end of his rule in the 1860s.

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