Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Garo Is Back!!!

It’s been more than 5 years now, but Garo is finally back on Japanese television!

For those who are unaware, (and I know there are lots of you) Garo was a tokusatsu series that came out back in 2005.

At the time, I had just entered college, discovered bit torrent, and was just beginning to rediscover my love for the genre via shows like Ultraman Nexus and Kamen Rider Kabuto.

I’d always loved tokusatsu, growing up with Godzilla movies and Power Rangers on TV, but it wasn’t until I got into college that I really began to understand how deep my love for the genre ran.

In many ways, you could call 2005 my own personal perfect storm of dorky self-discovery.

That being said, I think a lot of what got me to start following tokusatsu shows again, was the superb level of quality that many of the shows around the mid-2000’s represented.

In my eyes, other than the older shows like Ultraseven, Ultraman has never been as good as it was with Nexus.

Similarly, Kamen Rider V3 and Black will always be my favorite iterations of the character, however Kabuto and Den-Ou easily represent the best it’s been in the past decade or so.

You really expect me to watch a show about a motorcycle riding rocket shuttle-man? Try again Toei.

That being said, as much as I loved these shows at the time, in my eyes it was a brand new series, Garo; that represented the cream of the crop.

Boasting superior production values, a more serious tone, a strong cast, and a surprisingly deep universe; Garo was the show that kept me coming back to tokusatsu despite several consecutive years of less than stellar programming.

I guess you could say I kept wading through shit like Ultraseven X and Kamen Rider Kiba in the hopes that they could somehow live up to the benchmark set by Garo.

*Sigh* Few shows excelled in the realm of suck-age and melodrama than did Ultraseven X…

I think a large part of what made Garo so special, was the fact that it was the product of director/writer/artist Keita Amemiya’s truly wondrous imagination.

Over the years I’ve seen nearly all of Amemiya’s movies, and while many of them are poorly scripted and acted, the man’s art design remains some of my favorite in all of film.

Case in point, Zeiram, one of the most iconic characters in Amemiya's portfolio.

I’ve always said, if there was one director I’d like to see be given a chance to work with a Hollywood budget, it’d have to be Keita Amemiya.

That being said, Garo represented a rare occasion wherein the script, costuming, and effects all came together exceptionally well.

The characters were memorable and arched very nicely, and unlike many tokusatsu shows that run out of steam later in the series, the 25 episode length proved to be just about perfect, even if the last episode turned out to be 30 minutes of pure action.

Not that I have a problem with that sort of thing.

In the intervening years since Garo wrapped, a pair of movies have been released, but no series was announced until a few months ago.

The first of these movies, the 2007 Beast of the White Night, stands as perhaps the crowning achievement of the franchise.

It’s action-packed, accessible, concise, exceptionally imaginative in terms of effects and stunt work.

The second movie, the 2010 3D film Red Requiem, is currently on my hard drive, though I have yet to watch it.

I’ve heard it’s kind of a misstep when compared to the level of quality yielded by everything that’s come before it,

When everything else in the franchise is nothing short of “excellent” though, I’d be curious to see what a “misstep” looks like.

That being said, as of a few weeks ago, Garo has returned to Japanese television in the form of Garo Makai Senki AKA Garo Supernatural Chronicles.

I’ve only watched the first episode so far, but it appears the series is on track for greatness once again.

The original Garo hit it’s stride for me around episode 7, and then only continued to get better from there, especially in episode 9 when they finally gave the character a bad-ass theme song… And a horse:

So far Makai Senki is a little on the slow side, definitely making more use of the horror elements in it’s storytelling than the action, but time will tell if it ascends in quality from here or not.

Regardless, I’m just glad Garo’s back, as now I finally have something to fill the tokusatsu gap in my life.

I gave up on Kamen Rider after Den-Ou on account of every show sucking balls after that.

I gave up on Ultraman ’cause frankly, they don’t make Ultraman shows anymore, just silly, over-budgeted movies.

I never gave up on Garo though, so here’s hoping they didn’t give up on me.

Filed under: Movies, Tokusatsu, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Looking Forward To Ultraman Zero: Super Decisive Battle! Belial’s Galactic Empire!

Remember my scene-by-scene dissection of Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy The Movie?

Remember how I poked fun at it’s paper-thin plot and absurd action-to-dialogue ratio?

Well, as fate would have it, Mega Monster Battle just got a theatrical sequel, and near as I can tell; it’s a helluva’ lot better than it’s predecessor.

Check out this review by the always reliable (and thorough) folks over at Sci-Fi Japan.

Despite tokusatsu film’s tendency to seem phoned-in when it comes to film adaptations of TV series, (especially in regards to sequels) I can honestly say that, even at a glance; the production art and character designs for Ultraman Zero had a level of investment and detail to them that suggest a lot of care was put into the project.

While Mega Monster Battle made use of Tsuburaya’s extensive collection of monster suits previously used in their Ultra Galaxy TV series, I was surprised to note a staggering number unique characters and costumes featured in the promotional material for Ultraman Zero.

In a clever homage to some of the older and more obscure characters in their extensive production history, several of the new hero characters are intentionally designed to resemble said characters.

Combine this, with the director of Ultraman Nexus, (my favorite series) even better effects work, and composer Kenji Kawai, and you have the makings of an Ultra film that I’m proud to be looking forward to seeing.

So what if the acting is shit?

So what if the live-action sets look hokie and cheap?

So what if the trailer shamelessly rips-off scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Star Wars Episode I?

As long as the movie is competently put together and has an ounce of the spirit that makes Ultraman so special, (as well as a awesome fight here and there) I’ll gladly pony up to see this one.

Filed under: Kung Fu, Movies, Tokusatsu, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Long time no see Ultraman

I miss Ultraman.

Ultraman has been absent from the airwaves since 2007, replaced by the Pokémon-esque, Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle… and the follow-up series, Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey.

While Galaxy is a decent enough show, with a fun concept and plenty of kaiju battles, the acting and production values feel decidedly below average for an Ultra series. This, coupled with a distinct lack of Ultraman blowing the shit out of monsters has led me to give up on Galaxy for the most part.

Let me put things into perspective for you:

I grew up watching Ultraman.

Not only that, the first show I ever watched was the outsourced, Australian iteration, Ultraman Towards the Future, which is universally regarded as one of the worst Ultra series of all time, second only to the American Ultraman Powered.

Despite this, as a child I loved it! I remember waking up at obscene hours of the morning to to catch one of the 13 episodes every weekend, (kind of like how we all used to watch the same 2 or 3 Ren & Stimpy episodes every weekend) and loving every minute of it. To this day, I still have some of the action figures, the playset, and even the terrible Super NES game.

Whatever, this stuff was the shit when I was 5.

As a child Ultraman died to me the day he started airing at 5 AM on TNT.

I remember getting psyched after seeing a commercial for Ultraseven, where a giant ape man shot blue lasers out of his eyes, and Ultraseven struck a pose and yelled: “YAH! YAH! YAH! YAHHH!!!!”

With Ultraman Towards the Future still fresh in my mind, I tried to wake up to see Ultraseven at 5 in the fucking morning.

No simple task for a 6 year old with no alarm clock.

Naturally, I never got to see Ultraseven.

For about a month straight, I remember getting out of bed, running out into the living room and flipping on the TV, only to find that Ultraseven was not on.

A few times I remember seeing some scary shit on in that time slot, I remember some movie about creepy old Native American ladies with bleeding eyes scared me back to sleep one time.

Knowing me, I probably just mixed up the time slot for the show, but unfortunately I never got to see that awesome commercial again, so I never found out.

Haha! Yeah, that's the one!

Following this, I abandoned my love for Ultraman for a very long time.

I remember Ultraman Tiga aired on Fox Kids when I was in middle school. Unfortunately, I was 12, and was thusly too “cool” for Ultraman. Guess I was too busy failing at swearing (“Shit balls! Damn, fuck-sauce!”) and being fat to care about Ultraman.

Then a funny thing happened.

Flash forward to 2005: I’m in college. I’m bored. I’m finally getting old enough to the point where looking back on life holds meaning. I’m finally old enough to admit that I miss Ultraman.

So what do I do?

I learn about this new fangled invention called “torrenting” and type in “Ultraman” as my first query.

Much like my experiences in the 90’s with the Heisei Godzilla series, I was very much surprised to find that Ultraman had carried on just fine without me.

Ultraman Max served as my ambassador back into the world of Ultraman. Max was good fun. Every episode was colorfully executed with obvious enthusiasm. The cast was smaller than most Ultra shows, but in many ways I feel that was its strength. Every character was well defined and seemed to serve some purpose, even that haole guy, Sean.

One of these things is different...

I loved how schizophrenic the show could be at times.

Directors and storylines rarely lasted more than 1 or 2 episodes, resulting in a show that changed identities and mood from week to week, and quite successfully at that.

I remember being genuinely impressed by both of Takashi Miike’s episodes: “Miracle of the Third Planet” and “Who am I?”, the former being one of the most dramatic episodes in the series, and the latter being the funniest.

Most impressive to me is the fact that I don’t even like Takashi Miike, I’ve always thought of him as being seriously overrated.

I never finished Max, but it remains one of the my favorite series.

Unlike this 'merch hawking whore...

After I was done with Max, I took a step back and decided to watch the much heralded Ultraman Nexus from the previous year.

Nexus was a revelation. It did all the things Ultra series don’t do.

It worked from a single continuous storyline.

It was consistently serious in tone.

It had monsters that took entire story arcs to defeat.

It had a budget and was spectacular from beginning to end.

Nexus represented a great experiment in trying to tweak the format of the Ultraman series. From what I’ve heard, it’s deviation from the status quo caused it to lose a lot of fans, but for an older, wiser Azn Badger, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Good God, someone get that child away from there!

Around this time I started following the Ultra movie series with the release of Ultraman: The Next.

It was pretty good, with exceptional effects work, great suit designs, and a killer soundtrack by the lead guitarist of B’Z, Tak Matsumoto.

There was some hokiness to it in the form of lame homages to the Top Gun anthem on the soundtrack, and an oddly placed freeze frame moment, (“MAKI!!!!!!) but for the most part it was a good time.

Oh yeah, and it tied into Nexus, so yeah, brownie points there.

Skip to 5:08 for “MAKI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Ultraman Moebius (yes I know the Japanese phonetics have it as “Mebius“, but fuck that noise) represented another falling out between Ultraman and I.

I don’t know if it’s because I got too old, or was fatigued from all of the Sentai and Kamen Rider I was watching at the time, (Den-Ou! WOOT!) but something just didn’t click for me.

I remember liking the feel of the show, and how it paid homage to the Ultra shows of old through its use of sound effects and intentional use of outdated special effects (even more low tech than usual), but as a whole, the show just kind of felt, well, lame.

The characters were varied and well-defined, but for the most part it just felt like a bunch of airhead pop-stars with an absurd amount of inane high school drama and baggage that somehow tied into finding the methodology necessary to defeat the monster of the week.

Yes, I am aware that I just summarized pretty much every Sentai or Ultraman show ever, but what I mean to say, is that this felt particularly pronounced in the 14 or 15 episodes of Moebius I managed to watch.

You see what you missed out on? Moebius punching Birdon in his chin balls, that's what!

I think part of why I didn’t really care much for Moebius, is that the action felt kind of tame in comparison to Max, Nexus, or even Gaia.

The camera work was typical of an Ultra series, with lots of on-rails camera movement, and lots of zooms to highlight the action, but for the most part the choreography felt less complex and somewhat slow.

Nexus contained some really visceral and intense fight sequences throughout, largely highlighted by the Ultra on Ultra fights with Dark Mephisto and to a lesser extent, Dark Faust.

Max on the other hand, featured choreography with a lot of character to it.  The fighting was conducted at essentially the same pace as in Nexus, but given the quirkiness of the storylines, and the overall light tone of the series, much of the choreography allowed the suit actors to do a lot of pantomime that really added to the fun.

Whoever the suit actor for Max was, I’d like to shake their hand.

Although I would be even more honored to shake this man's hand. No, the guy on the right, dumbass.

Despite my general dissatisfaction with the series, Moebius proved popular enough with the kiddies to have a few movie tie-ins, the first of which being Ultraman Moebius & The Ultra Brothers.

I felt it was actually very good, good enough for me to own without feeling shame.

The second one however, Superior Ultra 8 Brothers, was not so hot. Aside from some splashy effects work, I felt like the story was a little bit too fantastical and far fetched, even for little kids.

Oh yeah, and as good as the effects could be at times, the fight between Moebius and King Gesura was embarrassingly hideous to look at. *Shudder* Gives me the willies just thinking about it…

In short, Ultraman Moebius was alright, probably worth watching for most fans, but not really my favorite. Which leads us to a series that I did finish, but really wish I hadn’t…

Ultraseven X was the last “proper” Ultra series, and in my opinion, it’s spectacularly epic shittiness was most likely the reason we haven’t seen an Ultra series since 2007.

It was a miniseries, it tried to be “edgy” and “different”, and for the most part it sucked a big, fat, Blackanese cock.

When I first saw the production stills for the show, I was mightily impressed by the suit design for the title character… and little else. The characters were bland and needlessly quirky, (tough girl with chocolate addiction, huh?) and the theme song was truly terrible ENGLISH J-Rock song that was as forgettable as it was skippable.

From the first trailer it was clear that the show was attempting to create a mood of sorts, unfortunately the costumes, props, and sets were a far cry from the standard set by GARO (FUCK YEAH!) the year before, and thusly, it came across as a pale imitation.

In case you couldn’t tell, Ultraseven X was a fucking disaster.

For an example of pretty much everything shitty about Ultraseven X, click below:

The action was sparse and uninspired and story was convoluted and full of holes despite the condensed length of the series.

Oh yeah, and the soundtrack, often times a highlight of any tokusatsu or Ultraman experience, was composed of minimalist, electronic turd-fuckery.

To be fair, Ultraseven X could’ve been alright had it been shot as an Ultra Q series and omitted any traces of Ultraseven or kaiju battles in general, but as it so happened I was left with a seriously sour taste in my mouth after watching it and desperately needed something to cleanse my palette.

Unfortunately, it’s been 3 years and my palette has yet to be cleansed.

Until now.

Now THAT'S a poster!

Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend THE MOVIE or….. MMBUGLTHM… for short.

Galaxy Legend THE MOVIE came out on DVD today and I am ready to be wowed. Reviews are positive, tickets sales were exceptional, Ultraman Belial looks like Carnage from Spider-Man, and the trailer looks FUCKING SWEET.


Yeah, don’t forget to change your undies cowboy.

I’m sure it’s not the best movie ever.

I’m sure it’s going to drag at points and have a shitty script.

Despite all this, I am excited for to see this movie because deep down, I want to like it.

I don’t want to be a cynical adult that shamefully picks apart the things he loves, I want an excuse to get back into Ultraman and be that kid waking up at 5 AM all over again.

It’s a wonderful feeling, having something to look forward to.

Outside of a brand new Ultra show featuring one of the original Ultras, (an idea I think would be a lot of fun) I can’t think anything that would make me happier than a rip-roaring, epic Ultra movie.

Here’s to fandom. I’ll let you know how the movie was in a few weeks.

Filed under: Comics, Movies, Tokusatsu, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Donate