‘Red’ superheroes celebrate 45 years of TV series

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants of “Akamatsuri” casually gather after the show.

As you may know, one member of the superhero teams depicted in the Super Sentai TV series, often the leader, is clad in red and mostly bears a name that includes that color. The Akamatsuri (Red festival) is an annual talk event I organize wherein I invite the actors who have portrayed these “Red” heroes.

At This year’s event held in late last month, there was no audience in-person, but it was livestreamed as it was last year due to the pandemic.

Eight Red actors gathered for the occasion, led by Masaru Shishido, who played O-Red in “Choriki Sentai O-Ranger.” The other seven were: Tota Tarumi (Red Flash in “Choshinsei Flashman”); Kazuo Niibori, a suit actor who has portrayed 14 different red superheroes after their transformation; Keiichi Wada (Ryuranger in “Gosei Sentai Dairanger”); Toshiya Fuji (Five Red in “Chikyu Sentai Fiveman”); Ryosuke Kaizu (Red Mask in “Hikari Sentai Maskman”); Kenta Sato (Red Turbo in “Kosoku Sentai Turboranger”); and Sanshiro Wada (the suit actor for Akiba Red in “Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger.”)

Like last year, the highlight for this year’s event was a stage reading by the participants. The idea here was to try doing a performance that would otherwise be difficult with a packed audience because their cheers and roars would drown out the voices of the actors onstage.

I penned a short play titled “Man VS Ger” for the occasion. The title stems from the fact that most of the series’ titles end with either the suffix “-man” or “-ger.” (The latter is the abbreviated form of the word ranger.) Some hardcore fans jokingly argue over which superhero teams are stronger — ones whose names end with “-man” or the ones ending with “-ger.” I wrote my comedy based around this funny and silly query. The cast was split into two groups: those who preferred “-man” and those who preferred “-ger.”

Usually, the Red actors are humble, keep their calm and wouldn’t dare say anything like, “My show is the best.” But when the cast members began improvising on why one suffix was better than the other, they started competing with each other to make themselves heard. It was really funny.

“Our series had the lovable, goofy [actress] Tamao [Sato],” Shishido said.

“Our series featured two female leads, and they were sisters. Anyone would fall for them, you know?” Fuji argued.

“We might have had only one heroine, but her scream should go down in Sentai history,” Sato rebutted.

On top of bragging about their series’ female leads, some revealed behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

“The Prism Seiken sword [a weapon used by Red Flash in “Choshinsei Flashman”] cost [about] ¥300,000 or ¥400,000 to make,” Tarumi said. “Mr. Niibori broke it twice.”

At the end of the debate, Niibori gave the signal: “This is getting annoying. Let’s just settle this with a fight.” The red heroes began fighting on the spot, while making sure to maintain social distance. Then, the real villain, dubbed the coronavirus, appeared on the scene. Faced with a common enemy of humanity, the Reds stopped their infighting and united against this new threat, reciting lines like, “This is no time for us to be fighting [amongst ourselves]” and “Let’s combine our strength and vanquish this foe.”

By the way, our little production’s villain was played by Daisuke Tsuchiya, protagonist of the tokusatsu drama “Juko Beetle Fighter.”

This year is a special one for Super Sentai as the franchise has reached its 45th series. The Red-role actors spoke from their hearts about the occasion.

“Naoya Makoto [who played the Red in the 1970s “Himitsu Sentai Gorenger,” the first entry in the series’ pantheon] is still doing well, so I have to keep doing my best as the 17th [Red],” Wada said.

“[The reason] I can come to an event like this is because the series is still going strong. I am very grateful.” Kaizu said.

“In every series [I appeared in], I did my best thinking it might be the last one. Now is the culmination of those efforts,” Niibori said.

Ryosuke Sakamoto (Red One in “Chodenshi Bioman”) and Yuta Mochizuki (Tyranno Ranger in “Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger”) joined the festivities remotely. Katsuyuki Miyaba, who chooses the music for the series, also joined us in-person and talked about how the series have changed musically through the years, giving the event more depth.

In the finale, the actors struck their transformation poses and Shishido offered these parting words on behalf of all of the participants: “Let’s meet in person next year.”


Suzuki is a Yomiuri Shimbun senior specialist and an expert on tokusatsu superhero films and dramas.