Tokusatsu—the Japanese live-action filming genre that gives us Power Rangers, Godzilla, and series like Ultraman—has long been difficult to legally access outside of Japan. In recent years, there have been moves to bring more material out on DVD and Blu-Ray, with Godzilla collections and series of Ultraman and Super Sentai making their way to U.S. shores. But now the effort to bring the genre to a wider American audience is getting a major shot in the arm. Or perhaps more realistically...a kick?
As revealed by IGN this morning, Shout Factory—the distributor that’s already behind bringing classic seasons of Super Sentai, the superhero series that Power Rangers’ action footage is based on, to DVD—has launched a brand new 24/7 linear streaming channel with Pluto TV called TokuSHOUTsu, bringing a catalog of Tokusatsu icons to the US, some for the first time.
TokuSHOUTsu’s catalog will include many of the Sentai series Shout Factory has already brought to DVD, featuring both shows adapted into seasons of Power Rangers—starting from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (the original Mighty Morphin’) all the way through to Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger (Power Rangers: Ninja Storm)—and at least one classic series from before the time Saban acquired Toei’s Sentai material to transform into a Western alternative, Chojin Sentai Jetman, which very nearly could’ve been the source material for Saban’s early attempts at Power Rangers.
Beyond Sentai, TokuSHOUTsu will also debut Ultraman Leo, the classic 1974 series in Tsuburaya Production’s franchise of size-changing alien superheroes, as well as broadcast original content, including a weekly Tokusatsu talk show, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and livestreams of fan conventions like Power Morphicon. But perhaps the most interesting get of all is that the channel will finally see the official debut of a Tokusatsu icon for the first time in the U.S.: the complete first season of the original Kamen Rider.
Created by Japanese manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori and first airing in 1971, Kamen Rider—literally “Masked Rider”—is a sci-fi and superhero series aimed at a slightly older audience in Japan than its counterpart in Super Sentai, with a focus on some more mature themes, inter-character conflict (especially among the protagonists), and drama as much as it does spandex-suited action, and, well, as the name suggests, riding motorbikes. Although it’s not aired as consistently as Sentai has—Kamen Rider is a yearly franchise now, but was off-air altogether for periods in the ‘90s before returning full-throttle in the 21st century, all the way up to the currently-airing Kamen Rider Zero-One—the series is one of the most influential examples of its genre.
This isn’t the first time an attempt has been made to bring the series stateside. Infamously, after the success of Power Rangers Saban attempted to adapt Kamen Rider Black RX as Masked Rider, but the series was a total flop. In 2009, Adness Entertainment tried again with Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, an adaptation of the 2002 series Kamen Rider Ryuki, but that likewise failed to attract interest in the franchise, with the CW not even airing the complete season before pulling the plug.
Plans to bring the franchise wholesale have been attempted in fits and starts. The gory as hell, adult-oriented Kamen Rider Amazons, produced in collaboration with Amazon Japan, made its way to Prime Video in the states as Amazon Riders, and earlier this year, Toei accidentally made the first episode of Kamen Rider Zero-One available on Youtube worldwide (albeit without subtitles), leading to hopes that there might be attempts, as there have been with Ultraman and Sentai, to bring the illustrous franchise stateside. Now, there’s finally a start—it’ll remain to be seen if Shout Factory will bring more than just the very first Kamen Rider to the west, but at least there’s an actual chance now.
TokuSHOUTsu airs on Channel 681 on Pluto TV starting from midnight PT, March 17, beginning with the very first episode of Kamen Rider. The streaming service will also be accessible via Pluto TV’s app on Apple TV, Roku, and the Amazon Fire.
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