Tokusatsu is a Japanese term that refers to special effects and is often used to call sci-fi/fantasy/horror live-action movies. Tokusatsu stands for tokushu satsuei, meaning ‘special photography’ that points out to the use of special effects. In a movie or show, a person who takes care of special effect for it is usually called tokushu gijutsu, meaning ‘special techniques’ (a term that was used to call ‘special effects’) or tokusatsu kantoku.
In Japan, tokusatsu was very popular only among children. But as the time goes by, it was then ignored and left behind because most people thought that tokusatsu was more suitable for children although the stories were in fact quite complex for kids to understand. Besides, its reputation was less famous compared to anime or manga that was so popular worldwide even until now. However, the producers of tokusatsu movies never gave up on it. They changed the plot to be more interesting and the genre started to rise up again.
Eiji Tsuburaya (1901-1970) was one of the most famous tokusatsu kantoku in Japan. He was the one who promoted Godzilla and Ultraman for the first time. Tsuburaya was not the first special effect artist there, but he succeeded in making special effects into something eminent in Japan. When making movies with giant creatures (like monster, superhero, alien, and others), Tsuburaya made use of technique involving sophisticated miniature and occupied stuntmen wearing costumes, called suitmation, and ragdolls that were adjustable in motion like Mothra, Dogora, or else. Although digital imaging is now more common to make special effects, Tsuburaya’s method in making tokusatsu is still used until present and becomes a particular trademark.
In order to compete with Hollywood, tokusatsu movies have engaged in the use of CGI (computer graphic imagery). Heisei Gamera is one of many examples as well as the latest Godzilla movies. CGI enables Godzilla now to swim under water. Japanese superhero movies have also taken the advantage of CGI, starting from the scene of Ultraman flying in the sky, the transformation (henshin) section of Kamen Rider or Masked Rider, up to the giant robot in Sentai series like Google V or Power Ranger. Even since long time ago, simple CGI effects were already applied for several optical tricks like lasers, missiles, light saber, and explosions.
Tokusatsu nowadays has become one of Japanese shows that is not just popular in Japan but also overseas. It has various subgenres too such as kaiju monster (like Gojira or Gamera), Kamen Rider or Masked Rider (Ichigo, Nigo, Black, Rx, or the latest one Kamen Rider Fourze), Kyodai Hero (gigantic superhero as Megaloman and Ultraman), Metal Hero (Gaban-Sarivan), and many more. The other tokusatsu movies with CGI are for instance Crossfire and Casshern as the live-action remake version of Tatsuo Yoshida’s 1973 anime series entitled the same.
Alumnus of film academy in Yogyakarta, practitioner, writer at Montase, and movies enthusiast