We recently had the special privilege of talking with American cartoonist, and Eisner award winning comic author and artist, Zander Cannon about his wonderful series Kaijumax. A uniquely original prison drama about life on the inside, where the inmates just so happen to be giant monsters a.k.a. Kaiju, Kaijumax is an insanely hilarious comic mashup that’s absurd, gross, hilarious, heartfelt, and filled with enough parodies, homages, and references to please and amuse everyone from battle hardened fans of Kaiju and Tokusatsu to relative newbies alike.
Our conversation together covers Kaijumax, drawing and writing comics, favorite Kaiju films, and a whole heapin’ lot of Toku talk:
00:00 – KaijuMax
32:03 – On creating your own comic
37:52 – What’s next for KaijuMax
41:37 – Tokusatsu discussion
1:17:45 – Twitter questions
For today’s jukebox installment we feature the theme from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger.
This is the opening theme song to the show which formed the basis for the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. The show features five warriors from the ancient past engaging in battle with Bandora the Witch using the mighty Guardian Beasts who combine to form Daizyuzin – the physical embodiment of the God of their ancient tribes.
The theme itself is a real delight. The early rhythm is low and and steady, building in intensity before strings come to aid the crescendo. Then blaring trumpets reset the pace just before the real theme starts in with lyrics, which takes on a joyous feel with a hint of melancholy as the lyrics weave over a subtle layering of strings and keyboard. Much like the show itself, it is clearly for a childrens’s show(it repeats the show’s name dozens of times) but shows the kind of texture and complexity you would not normally have in this sort of programming (the bridge section has haunting polyphonic chants followed by violins). Like the show itself, this theme really stands out as one of the greats. After two listens you will be humming it to yourself for the rest of the day – you have been warned.
In preparation for the impending Power Rangers film, I will be writing this series on the long running series. Monday I laid out a basic primer in tokusatsu terminology, and for part one of our series I will be discussing the basic background of Power Rangers as a franchise.
No discussion of tokusatsu and worldwide fandom would be complete without Power Rangers. Based on and using footage from Toei’s long-running Super Sentai series – specifically the Zyuranger team – it effectively brought the Japanese style of superheroes into mainstream US consciousness, and later the world. Because the Super Sentai suits use full face-covering helmets, the American producers dubbed English dialogue over those scenes. Any plot points or situations involving Japanese actors was cut, and new footage was put in its place with the American cast.
To say Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was a success would be an understatement. It was the property of 1993, and continued to grow until it even landed a Hollywood movie in 1995… though by that point its star had already begun to wane. After stretching Zyuranger to its absolute limits, having Toei shoot brand new footage, cannibalizing elements from Kakuranger, and various other methods, by the end of the third season MMPR finally began to follow its source material and introduce new suits and themes with seasonal regularity. Power Rangers may not be the all-encompassing cultural force that it was twenty three years ago, but it has continued to run almost without stopping in the intervening years.
Having watched a fair amount of Super Sentai and Power Rangers, it is not hard to see that the former is generally of a much higher quality. If you were to pick a random episode of either and compare them, there is a good chance Super Sentai is just a better put together show than Power Rangers. On the basic tenants of how we usually judge the media that we consume, Power Rangers comes out looking the worse for wear. Whether it’s plot, set design, character development, you name it, Super Sentai is usually a more solid program.
However, Power Rangers is not without its merits. To completely disregard Power Rangers because it is typically inferior to its older sibling is not entirely fair. Power Rangers has immense personal and cultural significance. Next time in part two I’ll go into why this show made me into the fan I am today.
Tokusatsu is an enormous component of worldwide media fandom, and its visibility has increased drastically in recent years. Before I get into some more US-centric news in upcoming posts, I want to lay down a few key terms that run through tokusatsu so that everyone is on the same page.
Tokusatsu – A term that essentially means “special filming,” and roughly refers to anything that involves special effects and would be categorized in the west as science fiction/fantasy. For most people, tokusatsu is “live action things which are exciting and cool.” If you watch an eastern program that has live actors and some things that you want to own a toy or figure of, then it is probably tokusatsu.
Daikaiju – This basically translates to “great monster” or a rough equivalent. This is explicitly referring to film series like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and other giant monster movies. In the west we often simply say kaiju, though in Japanese that term is broad enough to encompass any monster from a werewolf to King Ghidorah.
Sentai – This term means “task force,” and the is part of the title of Toei’s long-running series. This basically refers to the familiar teams of primary colored spandex superheroes.
Henshin – This can mean “transformation” or “metamorphosis” and refers to any hero switching from their normal form into a their hero mode. The ultimate example of this trope is Kamen Rider, who shouts henshin before changing into his heroic self.
With our vocabulary lesson finished, here is a ridiculous video to whet your appetite for more spandex, explosions, and monsters – the glorious train-themed Ressha Sentai ToQger.