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Grand Finale for a Feast of ‘Red’ Superhero Actors

Participants of the 21st and final edition of Akamatsuri pose for a group photo.

The summer is over.

This is what I feel every August after holding the Akamatsuri (Red festival), one of the tokusatsu sci-fi superhero-related events I organize regularly. I felt even more strongly about the annual event this year because I have brought it to a close after 21 years.

Akamatsuri is a talk event with actors who have played the often red-costumed leaders of superhero teams in the Super Sentai series, tokusatsu TV dramas broadcast almost every year since the 1970s. These superhero team leaders are often called “Red” by fans. The event also invites relevant singers, creative team members and suit actors — actors who play superheroes in masks and full-body suits after their transformation from their human personae. The first Akamatsuri took place in 2003.

The participants who joined in this last summer of Akamatsuri were led by Masaru Shishido, who played the Red superhero in “Choriki Sentai Ohranger.” Other regulars included Red actors, Ryosuke Sakamoto from “Chodenshi Bioman” (Shishido’s predecessor as the event’s leader), Tota Tarumi from “Choshinsei Flashman” and Keiichi Wada from “Gosei Sentai Dairanger” as well as suit actors Sanshiro Wada from “Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger” and Kazuo Niibori, who played Red superheroes in 14 shows.

They were joined by three more Red actors: Yoshitaka Tamba from “JAKQ Dengekitai,” Daisuke Shima from “Choju Sentai Liveman,” and the young Ryuji Sainei from “Tokuso Sentai Dekaranger.” In addition, rock unit PSYCHIC LOVER, which has performed the theme songs of “Dekaranger” and other Super Sentai series shows, took part in the event for the first time, and action director Hirofumi Fukuzawa, a student of Niibori, also dropped by. Halfway through the event, director Noboru Takemoto, who had been enjoying the event as a member of the audience, came onstage and talked a little bit about some backstage stories. Of course, the event’s sound was supervised by Katsuyuki Miyaba, who still serves as a sound director for the Super Sentai series dramas.

Tamba, who now gives acting guidance to young people, told us of his surprise when he learned that some young people today don’t know “Chushingura,” a famous play based on a historical incident. Tamba, whose celebrated father was the late actor Tetsuro Tamba, also said his students had no reaction when he told them about “G-men ’75,” a popular TV drama that started in the mid-1970s starring his father.

“But when I referred to ‘JAKQ Dengekitai,’ they all knew it,” he said. “I thought, I beat my father! I made a promise to my students that next time I’d teach them [the show’s] nanori pause [superheroes’ action sequences when they introduce themselves to the foe].”

Shima lamented that this was the last Akamatsuri to be held.

“If it’s tough to coordinate the schedules of all the participants, I’d volunteer to do it,” he said kindly.

Sainei said he keeps in touch with Fukuzawa, who played his character after transformation, through social media.

“But there were times when Mr. Fukuzawa’s replies were very late. It was when ‘[Samurai Sentai] Shinkenger’ was broadcast that he finally sent me a reply, in which he said, ‘Mr. [Tori] Matsuzaka [who played Shinken Red] is so adorable,’” Sainei said, making Fukuzawa flustered. Fans were also immensely moved to see Sainei, Fukuzawa and PSYCHIC LOVER members standing side by side on stage.

After all the participants demonstrated their respective transformation poses, Shishido and Sakamoto were presented with bouquets of flowers from the event’s exclusive superhero unit Iindayo Greendayozu, who came to the event for that purpose. Thus the curtain went down on the Akamatsuri, which was held 21 times.

When Akamatsuri started in 2003, there were no other similar events, and those who had appeared in Super Sentai series tokusatsu TV shows had no connection with their counterparts in other shows in the series’ history. Neither were they in touch with their fellow cast members in the same dramas. It makes me happy if I have made a small contribution to fixing the issue through this event. Akamatsuri has ended, but I would like to continue similar events in different formats and go on with activities to let the world know the wonder of tokusatsu shows.