What Is The Tokusatsu Genre? The History, Definition & More

Tokusatsu is a genre of Japanese movies and shows that have been slowly gaining traction in the western market. It’s also known as live-action superheroics and it features characters who wear costumes, use special powers or weapons, and fight against villains. But what is the tokusatsu genre? And how did it come about? Read on to find out more about this Japanese subculture.

What is Tokusatsu?

Tokusatsu literally means “special filming” and it’s a genre of Japanese cinema and TV shows that utilises live-action special effects whereas the majority of other media would go straight to using CGI. The shows are often about superheroes and villains who wear costumes, use special powers or weapons, and fight against other villains. Tokusatsu has a long history in Japan, and it was heavily used in the early days of cinema. But it didn’t catch on in the west until the ’80s when Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers took off and the genre grew in popularity. The shows themselves are more popular in Asia because those countries have a longer history with movies and shows that utilise Tokusatsu techniques in their filming. Tokusatsu is gaining popularity worldwide thanks to the internet, but it is still relatively unknown outside of Japan.

History of Tokusatsu

The term “tokusatsu” first appeared in Japanese newspapers in 1908. It was most commonly used to describe a silent movie style that combined live-action and animation, it was also used to describe but nobody knew what it meant. In the 1920s and ’30s, the term gained popularity as more and more of this new style of movie appeared in cinemas. They were also novelties and meant to ride on the popularity of baseball.

How Was the Tokusatsu Genre Developed?

The first major breakthrough in the tokusatsu genre was the development of special effects in the late ’40s and ’50s. Filmmakers began to use models and animators to create explosions, monsters, and other futuristic visuals. With the newfound budget, filmmakers found new and creative ways to use these effects. They used a monster to create a sense of danger, or a person in a model suit to create a sense of danger for the actors. The tokusatsu genre was also helped by the rise in popularity of science fiction, and giant robots in particular, in the ’60s. These effects allowed superheroes to fight on a larger stage and use new visual effects. These robots were designed to create a sense of realism and make battles more exciting.

Tokusatsu Shows and Movies

The tokusatsu genre has a long history in Japan. The first well-known tokusatsu show was Ultra Q, which first aired in 1966. It combined live-action with animation and was broadcast on Fuji TV. Ultra Q was a hit and it paved the way for the next big tokusatsu series. Kamen Rider is a long-running tokusatsu TV show that’s aired on Japanese TV since 1971. It’s a superhero series and it began as a tokusatsu show. There are also many other famous Japanese tokusatsu shows & movies, such as Godzilla, Ultraman, Gamera, and more.

The Superhero Craze in Japan and Tokusatsu

The superhero craze in the west took off in the ’30s and ’40s thanks to the popularity of comics and radio programs. However, it was in the ’60s that it really took off in Japan thanks to tokusatsu shows. The new tokusatsu shows featuring superheroes helped to build on the popularity of previous shows and the genre gained more fans. It also helped to create a new subculture that was independent from the western comics. The tokusatsu shows would often use translated American comics, but they were usually filtered through Japanese culture. 

Popular Japanese Tokusatsu Shows and Movies

Here are some popular Japanese Tokusatsu shows and movies that you can check out online if you want to learn more about this Japanese subculture. Power Rangers - This American superhero show first aired in the ’90s and it’s been hugely popular ever since. Ranging from villains like Lord Zedd to good guys like Tommy Oliver & Kimberley Hart, the Power Rangers have been a huge part of Japanese & Western culture ever since they were first created in the ’90s. Ultraman - This infamous tokusatsu show began in 1966 and it’s been wildly popular ever since. The show is about a superhero named Ultraman who fights monsters and other bad guys. It’s been aired on Japanese TV for more than 40 years and is still incredibly popular.

Final Words: Is the Tokusatsu Genre Worth Watching?

The tokusatsu genre is popular in Japan and in other parts of Asia, but it’s not as popular in Europe or the United States. There’s a lot of variety in the shows and movies, but there are some common themes that help to keep it interesting. The tokusatsu shows and movies are usually about superheroes and monsters and portray a real sense of danger and jeopardy for the heroes. They’re often about heroes fighting for the good of the people and protecting them from danger. If you’re interested in checking out the tokusatsu genre, you should be careful and make sure that you’re watching shows and movies that aren’t too violent. Tokusatsu isn’t meant to be overly violent, but there are some that are. Try to stay away from these, and you should be good to go.


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