Tokusatsu (Special Effects) in the US
Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight isn’t particularly my favorite adaptation of a Japanese intellectual property, but I’ll admit, the US producers were trying their hardest to make this adaptation entertaining.
However it would appear that CW4Kids doesn’t exactly agree. On December 26th, just two episodes short of the series finale, Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight is being booted off the air. I suppose we only have ratings to blame, but then why would there be a Dragon Knight game released on both the Wii and DS if it wasn’t doing so hot?
Of course, I guess it helps that the game is basically a re-release (if slightly altered) version of the Kamen Rider Climax Heroes and Kamen Rider Climax Heroes W released in Japan. That makes it easy to produce and release. But still, if they thought the series wasn’t doing well, why put the money into it at all?
In personal opinion, Dragon Knight was probably dropped because Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is about to get re-aired. Could it be that there’s only room for one Tokusatsu on American Saturday Morning television? I think it’s possible. They know that Power Rangers was a huge hit, despite the obviously horrendous mash-up thrown together by Saban. It’s obvious they’re using Power Rangers (Mighty Morphin’, specifically) as their crutch, what with the re-release of the original toy series.
Actually, no, this ISN’T a re-release of the original toy series. It’s completely brand new. the toys don’t function or look the way they used to (let’s take for example that the pink and yellow rangers have butts and boobs… ESPECIALLY yellow, whose original toy was completely devoid of these features because the original came from the Japanese molds, where the original character was a man and not a woman). Toys like the Zords are obviously different, fitting together differently, the Dragon Dagger has two models (both of which are inaccurate, and supposedly only the smaller of the two plays music, and it isn’t even the right song), and suddenly for some reason they all have also been given motorcycles (when did THIS happen in Mighty Morphin’?).
It’s hard to say what caused this strange series of events, kicking Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight off the air, bringing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers back on the air after nearly 15 years from the point where it ended, and completely remaking the original Rangers toy line… what was it that did this?
Personally, I think it’s all because of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. Why? Well, after Engine Sentai Go-onger (which we produced as Power Rangers: RPG here in the US), Disney decided to cancel Power Rangers, even though Shinkenger was already in development. But just take one good look and you’ll see that there’s absolutely no getting around the fact that Disney would be taking a Japanese TV series and pretending it’s theirs. Look at that – the Japanese Kanji for wood, fire, water, heaven, and earth can all be seen on the masks of our heroes. How does an American company who tries their hardest to squeeze everything Japanese out of their imported material work around something so blatently Japanese? The answer is, they don’t. They just choose not to work with it at all, and instead re-release the show that gave them the most boom. Many people online think that Toei did this on purpose. Sure, selling their intellectual properties to Disney made them money, but wouldn’t you be sick of having your material shifted around and marketed as something completely different? Shotaro Ishinomori sure was, after Saban had ripped up, mangled, and shredded everything decent about Kamen Rider RX and turned it into Masked Rider.
Actually, there’s one question I’d like to ask, if I could. You spend all this money not only on obtaining Japanese IPs, but also on re-filming your own footage and acquiring recreation suits from the original series you’ve purchased… why do you bother to obtain the IP at all? Are you just that low in confidence, not certain whether or not you can create a winning idea of your own, that you need to borrow and rearrange somebody else’s idea? I can think of two or three other things you could do.
1) Just sub/dub the series you just licensed. That’d be millions of miles cheaper, and if you put it on the Internet to make ad revenue with, you negate people having to download it illegally, getting cease and desist orders from Toei, etc. You could even do this ON TOP of the rehashes you already do, and thereby hit up two different audiences – your children crowd, and your 20-somethings crowd who just wants to see the original source material (of which there is already quite the crowd, who loves purchasing the toys even when they don’t get your TV show legally).
2) Make your own damn TV show! Honestly, stop sinking your money into something that’s already FINISHED and is just going to get canceled ANYWAY (looking at you , Dragon Knight). Of course, I think many of us will fear that we’ll just end up with another Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. But I think that Dragon Knight has proven that we can indeed get a little more serious these days and not make the show a complete joke. Can’t we? Is the expense really all that great when you’re trying so hard to completely recreate a show from the ground up in a different location? I’d love to see some decent American Tokusatsu. REAL American Tokusatsu, not something we had to borrow and alter. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Either way, maybe we’ll get the next sentai series after Shinkenger. Supposedly the next guys are card-and-dice based. That’s something Americans can get behind, right? Hopefully Tokusatsu doesn’t completely die out. I’d still like to see the original source material from Japan, and I’d like to see America make intellectual properties all their own. But when will that ever happen?