Starring Keanu Reeves
47 Ronin is the classic Japanese folk story of 47 samurai who are on a mission to seek revenge and restore the honour of their fallen lord… and some random white guy fighting CGI monsters. Somehow Keanu Reeves has got himself involved in this Westernised version of an Eastern story. Now, while I enjoyed this movie and thought it was a good way to spend a couple of hours in a cinema, it never quite manages to overcome to fact that there are two movies here trying to squish themselves into a space reserved for one.
While my initial introduction to Japanese superhero shows was Super Sentai, I soon discovered that the king of Tokusatsu is Kamen Rider. The karate bug-man on a motor cycle who fights for justice is on the same level as Superman when it comes to brand name recognition in Japan. First airing in 1973, Kamen Rider screened on TV in one shape or form until taking a break in 1989. Taking a break in the 90s, Kamen Rider returned with a bang in 2000 with Kamen Rider Kuuga. After the success of Kuuga, producers were left wondering how they were going to follow it up.
The answer was Kamen Rider Agito, a year long saga about an amnesiac hero fighting serial-killing monsters, the danger of emerging psychic powers, and the ultimate battle between good and evil. Only in Japan would you find a show this intense and dark and have it called a kids show.
Starring Hugh Jackman
In case you missed the memo that comic book movies were big at the moment, Hugh Jackman returns to the screen as the hairy, bare-chested mutant with the metal claws – Wolverine. This is Jackman’s 5th time on the movie screen playing Wolverine, 6th if you include his cameo in X-Men: First Class (7th if you imagine that Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is actually Wolverine slumming it in 19th century France like I do). And to be honest, I hated X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins. HATED. But I wanted to give this new Wolverine movie a shot. By setting the movie in Japan and downplaying Wolverine’s healing factor, it certainly got my interest raised.
My verdict? I enjoyed The Wolverine. It almost got me to forgive the makers of these films for those last two stinkers. Almost.
One of the things that took some adjusting for me when watching Gokaiger was getting a handle on a world view that I was unfamiliar to me. Now I love exploring world views. I love to get my head around how different people understand the world and their place in it. People look at me like I’m a freak (a title that I’m happy to hold) when I spend more time pulling apart the different world views in a movie than I do enjoying the explosions. Which by the way, if your movie doesn’t have explosions in it, you better bring your A Game because you’re going to have to work hard for my attention. So here I am watching Gokaiger. And it’s the first time I’ve seriously sat down to watch a long form Japanese kids show that hasn’t been reworked for Western audiences. And I’m in love with the costumes. And I’m in love with the characters. And yes, I’m in love with the explosions. But I’m also experiencing a new (to me) world view.
And it’s all about protecting smiles.
I’m not 100% sure what led me down this path. I think the first thing that started the niggling in the back of my brain was my favourite podcast – Major Spoilers. One of the hosts, Matthew, had mentioned a few times that he was watching Super Sentai, the Japanese show that provided the action scenes for Power Rangers. And if Major Spoilers talks about it, I usually file it in that part of my brain marked “worth checking out”. A bit later, a number of websites I check out were getting excited over something called the 199 Hero Great Battle, that had every Super Sentai team member simultaneously involved in a giant battle sequence. Hundreds of brightly coloured spandex suits involved in an epic martial arts fight sequence. I had to find out more. A quick Google search led me to English subtitled episodes of a show called Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. And it was glorious.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. I thought I’d just check it out once. Take a quick look, strike it off my “Things I’ve Never Done” list, and walk away. I never thought I’d become one of them. I never planned on this becoming part of who I was.
About six months ago I became a Tokusatsu fan.