Tokusatsu Fandom Presence Grows at Anime Expo

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The tokusatsu fandom may be small by comparison to the anime fandom, but it is as immensely passionate about their love for adults in skin tight suits and rubber monster costumes as any anime fan toward attractive animated teenagers.

Over the years, our spirited fandom has made itself known at Anime Expo, North America’s largest convention for Japanese animation and entertainment.  Hit the jump to see just how much it’s grown.

Power Morphicon is still in its infancy and focused on tokusatsu’s American counterpart; and G-Fest, the largest Godzilla / Japanese monster convention, is far away in the Midwest. Therefore, as the largest North American convention geared specifically toward Japanese animation and entertainment, Anime Expo becomes the big summer convention for most West Coast-based toku fans to meet and geek.

In Anime Expo past, one was lucky to find an occasional Power Ranger or Sentai suit cosplayer. Because of Power Rangers’ popularity, these cosplayers were easily recognized. One memorable AX attendee cosplays as Battlized SPD Red Ranger since Power Rangers: SPD aired.  In terms of merchandise, it was mainly limited to the passionate Los Angeles-based store, Anime Jungle, who offered most tokusatsu related swag (from Rider belts to henshin hero festival masks) in the Exhibit Hall.

 

Battlized Red Ranger at AX 2006

Battlized Red Ranger at AX 2006

In recent years, however, according to toku fan and avid cosplayer, Char 350:

 I have noticed […] that the tokusatsu presence has become more and more visible in the convention scene. The amount of fans in any given year can be debatable, but today, fans are definitely becoming more forthcoming with displaying their fandom (through cosplay, merchandise, etc.) We are seeing more cosplayers beyond the Ranger and Rider suits; in turn more people are recognizing these cosplayers outside their knowledge of what is aired on TV. As such, it has become much easier to meet other fellow tokusatsu fans.

Much like Naruto fans wearing their ninja forehead protectors, more and more tokusatsu fans come to Anime Expo wearing their Rider belts, Power Ranger communicators, and Sentai henshin devices in and out of cosplay as a loving nod to their fandom and as a way to announce their presence to each other. “I had several people recognize the Blay Buckle I was wearing as being a Kamen Rider belt, though a couple had to ask which Rider it was from,” says HJU Girl in Trouble, Blade Dancer. Once in awhile, you will find a handful of fans stop each other, exclaiming, “Nice IXA belt!” or randomly initialize a henshin pose sequence off to the side in the L.A. Convention Center Concourse Hallway.

HJU Girls in Trouble host, Blade Dancer rocking her Blay Belt

HJU Girls in Trouble host, Blade Dancer, rocking her Blay Belt at AX 2013

With the popularity of Kamen Rider W, and the admittedly simpler out-of-suit outfits, 2010 saw an increase of tokusatsu cosplay that continued to grow. In 2011, avid toku fan and Henshin Justice family member, John G. cosplayed as Kamen Rider Kabuki from the Kamen Rider Hibiki movie.

I did it because he had such a striking [asymmetric] look. The awesome part is people who were not toku fans loved it. They did not know who or what he was, but they loved it and got the vibe [and] most people called it some “demon samurai thingy.” […] There was also one guy who even tried to give me a candy Hibiki Gaia Memory toy because he admired my cosplay. […] I got a lot of good vibes from [a few] toku fans, but they were also cosplayers, so they know that, as a community, we should support each other.

 

HJU family John G. rocks Kamen Rider Kabuki with "on vacation" Decade at AX 2011

HJU family John G. rocks Kamen Rider Kabuki with “on vacation” Decade at AX 2011

However, like all fandoms, tokusatsu cosplayers aren’t exempt from harsh, unnecessary criticisms. John noted other toku fans who approached him and questioned his cosplay and criticized him for even liking anything related to the Kamen Rider Hibiki series. Furthermore, John received very jarring feedback during Crunchyroll’s live 2011 Anime Expo streaming broadcast.

 I watched the video feed later, and all the English-speaking fans were just vilifying me for being fat and choosing Kabuki! But the Japanese fans (the comments were in Japanese, so I had to input them in Babelfish) were all praise and toku fan support. What’s up the [English-speaking] toku fandom?

With a small, but growing fandom such as ours, the importance of being supportive for each other and our tastes should be a priority. For the avidly negative outlying members of the fandom, a wise toku Tumblr member posts:

Redamancer speaking some truth as reblogged by Igadevil and myself (angelicnoir) on Tumblr

Redamancer speaking some truth as reblogged by Igadevil and myself (angelicnoir) on Tumblr

 

In addition, the toku presence especially grew in the Exhibit Hall, as Anime Jungle no longer became the most visible provider for most toku merchandise. Plenty of vendors were ever present with their toku wares, both new and used. A very pleasant surprise also came from AnimeBooks.com, who dedicated an entire bay for tokusatsu-related art and production books (some even rare and out-of-print!).

My AX2013 haul with two out -of-print toku production books from AnimeBooks.com

My AX2013 haul with two out -of-print toku production books from AnimeBooks.com

As Char350 continues:

 Whether they make up half the booth or just a small section with select Figuarts, there was definitely a drastic increase in toku merchandise available [at the Anime Expo 2013]. What really impressed me this year was a booth that sold tons of used belts/changers, wizard rings, ranger keys, cosmic switches, etc. it pretty much became the default location for tokusatsu fans to congregate and meet other fellow fans.

 

In 2010, Kamen Rider Eternal even made an official appearance on stage with the visual kei J-rock band, SOPHIA as its lead singer, Mitsuru Matsuoka, starred as Eternal in the Kamen Rider W Forever: A to Z movie. Even Anime Expo’s official news and review site, Inside AX, also covers tokusatsu-related news on occasion.

Photo from Eiga.com

Photo from Eiga.com from Anime Expo 2010

As Anime Expo approaches its 22nd year, there is sincere hope among toku fans that the convention continues its support for our visibly growing fan base, perhaps with official fan panels and even more official guests related to tokusatsu.

To check out a collection of photos of the awesome tokusatsu presence by tokusatsu fans, check out the galleries below.

If you or someone you know is featured here, please leave a comment below and we will credit accordingly. A very, very, very special thanks to  John G., Char350, Dr. Kain, KRAmazon, and Blade Dancer for their wonderful contributions.

EDIT (7/23/2013 4:44pm US-PST): 

Cosplay credited to @MarzGurlProd as Luka, Gokai Yellow (featured here on the right), @JoshKnight1st as Captain Marvelous (featured here front row center), and @Psykoneko as Ahim, Gokai Pink (featured here on the far left). Thank you so much!

EDIT (7/23/2013 6:31pm US-PST):

Cosplay credited to ZIX Art artist, Mark M., for his Kamen Rider Skull / Soukichi Narumi cosplay (featured here on the left). Thank you!

EDIT (7/26/2013 11:48 US-PST):

Cosplay credited to Gregory C. as Daigo (featured here), Jordan F. as Gavan / Uchuu Keiji (featured front row left) and Shaggy Rogers as Greed Eiji / Kamen Rider OOO (featured here on the right). Thanks, guys!

If you see a photo here of you or someone you know taken without permission and would like to have it removed, please send us a message and we will remove the photo accordingly.

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