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About long-overlooked ‘Suit Actors’ and Tokusatsu superheroes

Noboru Takemoto, left, and Mishio Suzuki talk about “suit actors.”

Last year I published my second book, “Suit Actor no Kyoji” (The Pride of Costume Actors) from Shueisha International Inc.

In my first book, I explored the relationship between tokusatsu superhero TV shows in the late Showa era (1926-89) and society and culture. In my last one I wrote in detail about “suit actors” – leads in tokusatsu TV dramas who play superheroes in long bodysuits and masks.

The book contains interviews with ‘suit actors’ who starred in tokusatsu series such as ‘Kamen Rider’, ‘Ultraman’ and ‘Super Sentai’. We discuss how these actors came to be, their evolution, and how studio environments in Japan differ from those abroad. The book is filled with my love for all things tokusatsu.

After publication, I was invited by the B&B bookstore in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, to talk about my book at their location. The other guest at the Jan. 22 event was Noboru Takemoto, director of several “Super Sentai” shows and others, who has basically been a tokusatsu buddy of mine since we were teenagers. While enjoying a beer, I talked about what drove me to write the book, the problems I had to overcome and what I especially wanted to talk about in the text. Takemoto allowed me to discuss these topics as I pleased.

It was more than seven years between the publication of my first book and the moment my publisher agreed to the proposal for my next one. Even though Japanese pop culture is promoted under the government-led slogan ‘Cool Japan’, it is always manga and anime that take center stage. Tokusatsu doesn’t get as much attention, and costume actors—protagonists who obscure their faces—have had to settle for relegation to the shadows. With this background, it took a long time before I finally got the green light from my publisher at the end of 2022.

However, once the project got going, I started to worry about not having much knowledge about costume actors currently active or those working in genres outside my expertise, such as those involving giant superheroes and kaiju samples. To fill this gap, I asked more than 50 people for interviews, which took me more than a year in total. I finally completed the manuscript in the spring of last year. The book lasted long enough to produce a Hollywood epic.

What I most wanted to convey in “Suit Actor no Kyoji” is how scandalously overlooked costume actors are, and how it has been going on for far too long. It’s been a long time since superhero shows were seen as a gateway to success for young actors – but no matter how many good-looking stars there are, superhero dramas can’t exist without the costume actors who, despite wearing masks that hide their faces, can engage in passionate acting and exciting action performances. Plus, it shows sheer talent if you can do all this while wearing long bodysuits that hinder movement.

During the event, when I spoke with Takemoto, we came to the conclusion for that day that the root of the problem is that not enough budget is spent on tokusatsu shows and that the future of the genre is far from bright unless there is changes are made to the status. quo. If the Japanese business community wants to continue selling Japanese pop culture abroad, I hope they will turn their attention to the tokusatsu scene as well.

During my conversations, I renewed my resolve for this year: to continue doing what I can, no matter how little, for tokusatsu superheroes and the people who create them.



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