Superhero actors meet audience after 3 years in Tokyo

Kazuo Niibori, left, and Daisuke Shima stand in transformation poses during “Akamatsuri” in August.

In late August, I hosted the 20th edition of the “Akamatsuri” talk show. The show was held with an audience for the first time in three years. “Akamatsuri” features actors who have starred in the Super Sentai series of sci-fi action dramas, playing red-costumed leaders of superhero teams in the shows. I started this event in the summer of 2003 together with two such actors: Ryosuke Sakamoto from “Chodenshi Bioman” and Masaru Shishido from “Choriki Sentai O-Ranger.”

In addition to Sakamoto and Shishido, other regular “Akamatsuri” participants took part in the event. They were Tota Tarumi from “Choshinsei Flashman,” Kazuo Niibori (known as Mr. Red because he played many red-costumed superheroes after transformation as a suit actor), Keiichi Wada from “Gosei Sentai Dairanger,” Toshiya Fuji from “Chikyu Sentai Fiveman” and Sanshiro Wada from “Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger.” Together on stage, they had a lively discussion of their happy and sometimes surprising memories on the show.

Although we should have celebrated reaching 20 editions of the show, the novel coronavirus pandemic is still with us and there are still restrictions on event hours and the number of people we could have on stage. So we could not fill the stage with as many participants as we could in the past.

Still, the event welcomed three fantastic guests.

Let’s start with Akira Koizumi, who fully participated in the event probably for the first time. She played Denzi Pink in “Denshi Sentai Denziman.” In fact, when I was a teenager, I really liked Denzi Pink. I even visited the filming site and got autographs from Koizumi, who kindly let me take her photo as well. The woman I admired was as beautiful and cool as she was then, so it was impossible to believe more than 40 years have passed. “Denziman” was her first job as an actor, so she knew nothing about how a show was filmed.

“On the first day of a shoot, I didn’t know whether there was going to be a shoot or not, so I didn’t go. It would’ve been terrible today,” she confessed with a smile.

The guests also included Yoshitaka Tamba from “J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai.” Tamba revealed that a man with frizzy hair who sat next to him at the first test screening of the show was none other than legendary mangaka Shotaro Ishinomori, the drama’s author. When Tamba said hello to him, Ishinomori told him, “‘J.A.K.Q.’ is close to the image of my ‘Cyborg 009.’”

“That’s why it’s got a bit of a mature atmosphere. Scenes like us pressing our hands together in prayer for a dead victim were deliberately inserted in the story,” Tamba said.

Also, superhero team members from J.A.K.Q. did not have their own transformation sequences, a key feature in other Super Sentai series shows.

“It was my request,” Tamba said promptly, adding that he asked the creative team to do away with the sequences because he found them embarrassing. Moreover, he was reluctant to wear a helmet prepared by the staff, saying it was odd to wear it when the character was supposed to have been physically reinforced as a cyborg. The staff admitted he was right, and there were fewer and fewer scenes in which they wore the helmets. As a result, toy helmets for the show sold poorly, and he was given hell for that.

The last guest to appear was Daisuke Shima from “Choju Sentai Liveman.” Before being cast in the show, Shima had already released many hit songs in the mold of a delinquent youngster. When he received the offer, therefore, he thought, “What? Are they happy with me, even though I’ve got this bad boy tag?”

He also revealed an episode related to Niibori.

“Mr. Niibori was wearing a scary expression. I really found it difficult to go near him,” Shima said.

“I wore that kind of expression on purpose because I didn’t want to be treated lightly,” Niibori revealed.

At the event’s finale, all the participants stood in transformation poses to end to this year’s “Akamatsuri.” I am looking forward to holding the event in its original format, with the stage crowded with the participants next year.