Anime Central, one of the biggest anime conventions in the U.S., took place this past weekend in Rosemont, IL. The Tokusatsu Network’s Mike Dent attended the event and took note of the growing tokusatsu presence among the festivities.
A few years back at Anime Central, a friend and I came across the booth of a Japanese toy store based out of Arlington Heights. He was the usual go-to guy for anything relating to Tokusatsu goods before the advent of middlemen services and en masse online shopping venues. Unfortunately, for that particular con, the owner didn’t bring anything with him. “Too niche”, he called it at the time.
Fast-forward to 2014 and there are no less than three booths selling accessories for Kamen Rider Wizard, several vendors with Kamen Rider and Super Sentai Figuarts, and a guy trying to get me to buy a Gaburicaliber to go with my Doctor Ulshade outfit. I ended up buying for a cheaper price at another spot, but the point is that the presence of the Tokusatsu fandom at Anime Central (or ACen) has seen a massive jump in recent years. In addition to a greater accessibility of merchandise, there are now more panels and even photoshoots with gradually increasing turnouts. It made this year all the more exciting to be a fan.
Now, I have to admit that due to a lot of running around, I wasn’t able to attend this year’s panels. Compared to last year’s multiple Rider panels and two intro panels to the genre, the offerings this year were minimal in comparison. However, I did manage to get into “Ultraman: Space Paladins” which, while it had a low-turnout, was pretty well put together in terms of content. They even managed to get in one of the best moments of Ultraman Leo in which our hero enters the fight by doing a dropping headbutt onto a monster’s backside. (This is why Leo is my favorite series of all time, but that’s a whole other story.) I lamented missing “More Raiding The Toybox! Girls who like Tokusatsu” once again due to the fact that it was fantastic talking to the group presenting.
As I said earlier, multiple vendors in the Dealer’s Room were selling Figuarts this year as well as those who were selling Henshin Belts and the like. However, the vendor that has risen to the occasion lately continues to be OTP. In addition to selling doujinshi (fan-made/independently produced comics), OTP’s main forte is Sentai and Rider merch and trinkets. I had to resist the urge to throw my wallet in their general direction to get the the various Wizard Rings, Astro Switches, and Ranger Keys they had for sale. If you see them at your next con, make them a priority on your list.
But to see the real growth of ACen’s Tokusatsu presence, you need only look to the cosplay photoshoots. While not as incredibly massive as 2013’s showing, it was still a great time for both cosplayers and onlookers alike. (Well, aside for the fact that once again, we had to do a bit of location-hopping.) For starters, we nearly had the entire Kyoryuger cast represented: I came as Doctor Ulshade/KyoryuViolet while a friend of mine had fashioned a fantastic Utchy/Kyoryu Gold costume, his wife sporting a full-blown Candelira outfit. Even crazier is that there were cosplayers for human Candelira, Luckyiero, and a jawdropping trio of King/KyoryuRed, Souji/KyoryuGreen, and Ian/KyoryuBlack as their hypnotized Candelira fanboy personas. There exists video of nearly all of us doing the transformation dance; I’m sure most of it is being held onto for blackmail purposes.
My personal favorites of the suited cosplayers remain to be the well-done female Kuwagaraiger from Hurricanger and “Princess” ShinkenRed. In spite of this, the real showstoppers of the shoot were the two AkibaRed cosplayers: Both cosplaying Nobuo Akagi in his work outfit and in his cardboard Akibaranger suit from Season 1. Instead of doing a series of poses for their time in the shoot, they ended up doing something of a mini sketch that had onlookers nearly dying of laughter. I only hope they come back next year so that more people can see them in action.
Anime Central, for better or for worse, is my home convention. I started going in 2004 when you were lucky to even find a group of Power Ranger cosplayers. In 10 years, I would have never imagined the presence of American Tokusatsu fans growing to this level. It’s no longer an obscure niche, growing large enough to share some of the real estate of the other fandoms populating the con. It can only get bigger from here on out, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.
All photos taken by Mike Dent. If used elsewhere, please link back to the original article.