"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Complete 25-Episode Series DVD Box Set


Dynamic cover packaging by Erwin Baracao & Billy Ching of JNP.

The colorful and action-packed INAZUMAN (1973) was one of many live-action superhero series produced in the early 1970s, during an unprecedented boom of such programs on Japanese television, lead out of the gate by P-Productions' SPECTREMAN (1971-72), Tsuburaya Productions' RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971-72), and Toei's KAMEN RIDER (1971-73). Developed for television by the KAMEN RIDER team of creative producer Tohru Hirayama (JOHNNY SOKKO) and manga author Shotaro Ishimori (CYBORG 009), INAZUMAN featured the key elements of Toei's popular progenitor, but unlike KAMEN RIDER and KIKAIDA, the hero was nether a cyborg nor an android, but rather an metamorphosing mutant with psionic powers. From it's funk-based score by Michiaki "Chumei" Watanabe to its bizarre creatures and non-stop action, INAZUMAN is pure '70s superhero gold!

Bold back cover design for JNP's release of INAZUMAN.

Goro Watari (Daisuke Ban), a seemingly normal university student, saves two youngsters from the clutches of the Neo-Human Empire, a secret society of mutants who plot to subjugate the world with their Fantom Army. The children bring him to the headquarters of the Youth League, a group of pure-hearted young mutants with psionic powers, led by Captain Sarra (Hideo Murota). Goro is awakened to his own extrasensory abilities, allowing him to transform — first into a pupal form, Sanagiman, and then — into the mighty, Inazuman. Drawing from symbolic powers of moth, like the Greek god Pysche, Inazuman wields lightning bolts against his enemies, and with the aid of the amazing flying car with a mind of its own, Raijingo, he challenges the evil minions of Emperor Bamba to liberate mankind.

The fantastic jacket and disc art for INAZUMAN.

Starring Daisuke Ban of KIKAIDA fame, INAZUMAN follows a string of fantastic classic tokusatsu releases on R1 DVD, KIKAIDA (1972-73), KIKAIDA 01 (1973-74) and KAMEN RIDER V3 (1973-74), beautifully produced and released by Honolulu-based JN Productions. Packaged in a glossy four-disc box set, INAZUMAN is digitally remastered (and superior to Toei Video's R2 release), completely unedited and uncut, and fully subtitled in English for the first time. This electrifying set also includes interviews with actor Daisuke Ban and Japanese and Hawaiian fans, Inazuman Karaoke, and more — I provided Character Profiles and Series Factoids, which feature exhaustive details on the guest stars and other behind-the-scenes minutia. With cool animated menus, superior image quality, and wonderfully produced extras, INAZUMAN comes highly recommended.

During its original run, INAZUMAN was an extremely popular series, and remains one of the pillars of the Henshin Hero genre to this day. If that's so, one might ask, why are there only 25 episodes? When INAZUMAN was originally broadcast, the saga was told in two parts, totaling 48 episodes. This DVD release features the first 25-episode "chapter", which then dovetailed into an immediate — and much darker — sequel, INAZUMAN FLASH (1974), for an additional 23 episodes. I'm hoping that — fingers crossed — INAZUMAN FLASH will be scheduled as the next release on the roster from JN Productions & Generation Kikaida for 2009. Meanwhile, the INAZUMAN Complete Series Box Set is available through the Generation Kikaida website for $99.95 (plus $7.00 Shipping & Handling).

Region Code 1 • NTSC • 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio • Japanese with  English Subtitles • Dolby Digital • 10 hours 27 minutes • Unrated


Prof. Grewbeard said...

JN Productions do a great job with their dvds, but i own none of them because they are just too expensive! fortunately i was able to rent the Kikaida series from Netflix. would you have some insight into why they are so extra-pricey? hope this isn't rude on my part...thanx.

August Ragone said...

Unfortunately, licensing the rights to these shows isn't cheap—after Toei's big deals with Saban and Village Roadshow in licensing POWER RANGERS over the last 14 years, they aren't going to lowball their other titles; even for a small label like JN Productions (with whom they've worked closely with over the last six years).

Plus, the amount of blood, sweat and tears that JN Productions put into these releases (digitally cleaning up the masters Toei sends them, the kick-ass menu design and abundance of extras), blow away similar domestic releases—once you buy one, you'll see the difference. These are slick and premium presentations.

Also, don't forget that when all is said and done, that JN Productions' box sets are still half the price of the R2 DVD releases from Toei Video—which contain little or nothing in the way extras, and they lack a more important thing: English subtitles.

Check the Generation Kikaida store for discounts and sales (there was a killer two-for-one sale last Xmas), and there's always eBay, which currently has five volumes of KIKAIDA up for under $10 each!


navin75 said...

Dear August is silver kamen in limbo?

Navarre Shutters BCI Eclipse Unit
Low End of DVD Market Hurting
Published: 12/18/2008 11:49am

In another sign that the economic downturn is nibbling away at the edges of the supposedly recession-proof entertainment business, the Navarre Corporation has announced that it is shutting down the BCI Eclipse Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary that specialized in the production and distribution of DVDs based on older cartoons and fringe live action TV and movie properties. Navarre will shut down BCI’s licensing operations, reduce the BCI workforce, and incorporate the BCI DVD business into Navarre’s distribution operations. Navarre, which also owns the anime market share leading Funimation Entertainment, has indicated that its financial results for the quarter ending December 31st will include a significant charge relating to the shutting down of BCI.

Navarre CEO Cary Deacon commented: “To deal with the effect of the recession, we are moving quickly to decrease expenses in all areas of our business. BCI's operations have been unprofitable for the past two years. Although strides have been made this year to improve operating results, it has been mainly due to the strength of BCI's exclusive distribution business. Rapidly changing conditions in the licensed and budget DVD markets during this holiday sales season have prompted us to make more fundamental changes.” In June Deacon described BCI’s performance as a “major disappointment” (see “Funimation Drives Navarre Sales”).

BCI developed a wide range of “budget DVD” offerings including Ultimate Fighting and TNA Wrestling videos, Spanish language telenovas, Asian martial arts movies, repackaged “B” movie/grindhouse fare (Drive-In Cult Classics), and a bevy of vintage cartoons such as He-Man, Bravestarr, Ghosbusters, Cool McCool, and She-Ra. With sales of DVDs down sharply in Q4, the sales slowdown is not just apparent in the less-than-anticipated sales of major properties such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull—evidently the effects of the reduction in sales of DVDs are being felt even more strongly by downmarket

August Ragone said...

I was waiting to hear from Cliff McMillan directly on this before posting a blog entry about this sad development — a sign of the bad economic times.

Yes. Unfortunately, SILVER MASK is now in limbo, as well as everything on BCI's sub labels, including Deimos, Code Red, etc. More as this develops.