Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Official concept art by Y. Torigawa
The monsters and villains of the Tokusatsu genre - those Japanese heroes in the color-coded spandex - are something I've meant to touch upon since probably the beginnings of bogleech, but with just so much material to sift through and few quality images available for a lot of my favorites, it's another topic that's sat on the backburner for half my life and oh god, I've had this online presence for actually half of my life now. What happened. How many total years have I probably spent writing about plastic worms or something.
...Four? Let's go with four. Not bad, I'm pretty some people spend more than that just playing Xbox.
So like, as soon as I was pointed towards these particularly Tokusatsu villains, I knew they were going to have to be a Halloween feature. Tensou Sentai Goseiger, known in the states as Power Rangers Megaforce, actually has three slightly different factions of antagonists, though only one is truly perfect for the Halloween season, Earth Condemnation Group Yuumajuu, and you're going to see why fairly quickly.
The Bibi Bugs
Before we get to the Yuumajuu proper, these little space parasites are actually an integral weapon in all three evil armies, created from the "darkness" left over by the alien races our big bads had previously exterminated. The simple, devil-tailed eyeball-bat design works nicely, with petal-like protective scales that can, in production art at least, close completely over the eye. It's these creatures which allow the monsters in this series to grow larger, actually sort of "cocooning" them in their leathery little bodies.
The Bibi Bugs even pull double duty as the obligatory faceless mook hordes of the series, the Demon Bug Soldiers Bibi. Usually dummies brought to life by a single bug each, though some monsters are able to create them out of humans! The best part of the bibi bugs? Their name was chosen by the series creators to invoke "B-movies." I told you this is going to get really Halloween, really fast. You don't even have any idea.
Towards the end of the series, only a single bibi bug remains (nooo!!!) and is so overcome with anger and a thirst for vengeance that it transforms into King Bibi, a truly gorgeous fiend who otherwise has nothing to do with our main villains but this might be my only good opening to show him to you. Soak him in, we're moving on to the Yuumajuu themselves!
Tomarezu of the Tsuchinoko
Our first actual Yuumajuu, you may already notice that there's an awful lot going on here. Maybe you're already familiar with the Tsuchinoko, a mythical animal resembling a fat, blunt snake, but wait - we're not looking at a mere reptile-man here, are we? This guy is quite clearly a bug, right? To be specific, he's a pillbug, a terrestrial isopod we're all fairly familiar with, and that's not all! The name "Tomarezu" is a deliberate corruption of "Tremors," as in the American monster movie of the same name.
Like the "graboids" of the film, Tomarezu is capable of burrowing at incredible speeds and attacking people almost like a land-shark. Yes, he is a pillbug-tsuchinoko-graboid-man, and yes, this is the universal Yuumajuu formula. Invertebrate + mythological beast + monster movie. I couldn't have come up with a better equation myself.
Our crustacean friend also bears the distinction of being the one Yuumajuu with an alternate form for us to look at, as he can shift from pillbug-tsuchinoko-graboid-man to pillbug-tsuchinoko-graboid-car, complete with stylish gold grille. How positively ridiculous and wonderful is this combination of things?
If all this wasn't bizarre enough, Tomarezu's primary ability is to turn people into green slime, which leaks into the ground as pollution. They somehow manage to reconstitute once he's defeated, but in the meantime, it's a pretty damn grotesque thing for a giant roly-poly to do. Do they remain conscious?
Zeibu of the Mummy
I don't care what kind of life you live, I'm confident an undead mummy with giant centipedes for bandages is the coolest thing you've seen all week. This guy's animal and monster are readily apparent, and his movie tie-in should be as well, right? One of those many, many mummy-themed movies?
Try They Live. In Japan, they wrote it Zei Ribu. In this cult classic, ghoulish aliens manipulate the human race through subliminal advertising, and Zeibu of the Mummy does...well, not exactly the same thing, but close enough. Humans wrapped in his bandages not only become obedient, but can spread the bandages to other victims even through a television screen!
Giemurou of the Kappa
Most of the Yuumajuu are strange, unexpected hybrids, but I especially wouldn't have ever predicted someone would combine a kappa with ticks, animals very close to my heart. For such ubiquitous troublemakers, ticks are very rarely referenced in our popular culture, so every tick-based monster is a treat, and you have to love Giemurou's use of them as armor padding, as well as replacing the kappa's usual "head dish." His ability is to generate monstrous ticks, of course, though they don't merely suck the blood of their victims, but suck entire people into their bodies.
Giemurou's movie reference is a little more on the obtuse side; as a water monster who abducts humans, his name references the 2006 Korean film The Host, which featured a giant, amphibious mutant beast.
Pesaranza of the Kesaran-Pesaran
If you thought a tick-kappa was odd, though, Pesaranza - obviously one of my favorites - combines leeches with kesaran-pesaran, a kind of youkai described as adorable, harmless little balls of white fur. Weirder still, Pesaranza feeds on the emotions of heartbroken humans, and has the power to make people feel increasingly intense, obsessive love until they completely sabotage their own relationships. Huh. Designwise, he's quite unique, I can't say I've ever thought of a leech monster having white fur before, and it's interesting how the leech elements themselves have tufts of longer, sparser white bristles, which I had to trace over in Sai to make this image work at all on a dark background. For Pesaranza, I am willing to go that extra mile.
...But would you believe his movie is the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera? All they have in common is that they ruin people's love lives. Fair enough I guess.
Waraikozou of the Gremlin
You can tell the animal here, right? For me, the uniquely stylish, bristle-lined exoskeleton of a flea is unmistakable, being another of my all-time favorite creatures. Unlike some of our other Yuumajuu, a flea and a gremlin really work great together, both being infamous for their small size and obnoxiousness. As far as flea monsters go, I prefer them with more flea-like facial features, but there are certainly other Tokusatsu monsters filling that niche. Waraikozou's chitinous gremlin face is unique and quite cool, even if it's not my personal preference.
The name here references The Twilight Zone, though not just because of its famous gremlin-themed episode; while Waraikozou's only real talent lies in screwing up electronics, he's also personified as a sort of "evil child," and his episode pays some homage to "It's a Good Life," otherwise known as "that twilight zone where the creepy little psychic kid makes everybody think happy thoughts."
Uobouzu of the Nessie
The "bug" might be tougher to figure out, here; this Scottish Plesiosaur is also supposed to be a snail, having both multiple shells and a gooey, slimy body. I'd have liked him better with eye stalks, sort of the first thing I associate with snailiness, but you can't win 'em all I guess. Uobouzu's special talent lies in stealing people's shadows, which leaves them paralyzed. What that has to do with the Loch Ness Monster, I'm not sure.
Uobouzu's movie is, oddly, the 2007 British family film "The Water Horse," which wasn't especially famous in the U.S, but I guess it went over pretty well in Japan.
Zaigo of the Skyfish
This one's a doozy. The skyfish, somewhat more famous in Japan than anywhere else, was a cryptozoological phenomenon resembling a mysterious, rippling bar streaking through the sky, appearing unexpectedly in photographs and theorized to be some sort of ultra-fast atmospheric animal until we realized they were ordinary, every day insects captured funny by the camera. Whoops. Appropriately, Zaigo's animal is a flying insect itself, a mosquito, but as Zaigo is male, he is not a blood-drinking mosquito, and none of his attacks involve biting.
So what does Zaigo do instead, you ask? Why, make humans feel uncomfortably warm, of course! Why does he do that? So they'll use more air conditioning, of course!...And why does he do that? To speed global warming, of course! It's a doomsday plan that will only take a few decades and a bit of a boost from the 10,000 other ways humans are already warming the planet without a space mosquito's help. Foolproof!
Zaigo's name is a distortion of Psycho, so yes, his little tutu-like frill is probably supposed to reference Norman Bates dressing in women's clothing to impersonate his dead mother, which I guess plays further into how only female mosquitoes are normally dangerous. So much is going on with Zaigo. So much that doesn't seem like it makes any sense together, but skyfish > flying insects > mosquito > norman bates really is a logical progression when you get right down to it. I'm just not entirely sure where global warming fits in. I guess mosquitoes like warm weather?
Semattarei of the Brocken Spectre
While all of the Yuumajuu kick ass, I have to say, this guy is an exceptionally kick-ass combination. You might mistake him for a spider, what with the big web-looking thing on his back, but on closer inspection you should recognize the distinct features of a harvestman, or "daddy long-legs," a humble non-spider arachnid seldom given the spotlight. Rather than a "monster" per se, he's named for the Brocken Spectre phenomenon, which is when light causes an ordinary shadow to appear hugely magnified in the fog.
Semattarei's talent lies in generating illusions, and he prefers to summon illusory copies of previously defeated Yuumajuu. This ties in with his name, a reference to none other than Pet Semetary! While this won't be the last Yuumajuu alluding to a Steven King story, I think Steve would appreciate the shadow-harvestman the most.
Sarawareteiru of the Fairy
This is one of only two female Yuumajuu, but at least she's a pretty wicked-looking one. Female Kaijin often suffer from magazine-model looks, but Sarawareteiru looks like she's definitely eaten at least one, more likely multiple babies in her lifetime, which is similarly refreshing - and a little more historically faithful - for something fairy themed, and aren't you glad she's not a butterfly, either? Sara's insect is a phasmid, or walkingstick, specifically a "leaf insect." The way the leafy legs are filling in for fairy wings here is such a clever and original touch. This is some seriously out-of-the-box thinking.
Sarawareteiru's movie is "Fairytale: a True Story," which in turn is based on the Cottingley Fairies, one of the world's first famous photography hoaxes. Both her hoax inspiration and the mythological behavior of fairy-folk seem to have inspired her ability to trap a human victim in an elaborate fantasy. Of all the Yuumajuu, I feel like this one's various elements have the most cohesive synergy. She's unseelie all over.
Hit of the Tengu
Another really out-there Youkai hybrid, Hit combines Japan's mythical crow-goblins with a scorpion, even using a scorpion's tail for the Tengu's signature elongated nose. I'd say the weirdest detail is the gourd he carries around, since it seems to be made of scorpion chitin with a pincer for its opening. It's this gourd Hit uses to imprison anyone who laughs, attacking comedy clubs or just unleashing his "tickle wind" attack. Yeah, really.
Hit's name is derived from It, as in Steven King's It, in which a malevolent, predatory entity takes the form of both Pennywise the Clown and eventually a massive spider.
Jogon of the Ningyo
Ningyo are aquatic, monkey-like Youkai which were probably based on seals or sea lions, and following generations of Western influence, sort of evolved into nothing but a Japanese mermaid. Jogon's design sort of references all three interpretations, and what better animal than a silverfish? They even add webbing to turn the insect's three cerci into fish-like tails!
Jogon represents good old Gill Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, though his power seems largely unrelated. By attaching a special seashell to a human victim, Jogon can intensify their insecurities and heighten their paranoia, convincing them that their peers are mocking them behind their back.
Pikarime of the Shakokidogu
Pikarime, if you can't tell, is an ant Yuumajuu, and delightfully, also our other lady-type Yuumajuu, which ought to be the case for a vast majority of ant-based characters out there. If you're a big enough nerd, her dogu motif should be quite familiar, but if you're not nerdly enough, dogu are ancient, clay idols sometimes interpreted by anthropologists as fertility symbols or healing effigies, and sometimes interpreted by conspiracy quacks as carvings of prehistoric alien visitors. Adorably, this Yuumajuu is introduced as an old childhood friend of the Yuumajuu leader, Makuin.
Pikarime comes from Hikaru Me, part of the Japanese title for Village of the Damned! Pikarime's huge, hypnotic eyes can turn people into her obedient, emotionless slaves, vaguely similar to how the film's telepathic children acted in perfect unison, or in the original novel, actually shared a single mind - behavior we also tend to associate with ants, of course!
Elmgaim of the Baku
Our very last of the episodic Yuumajuu, Elmgaim's mythological monster is the baku, which we discussed during last week's YO-kai Watch post, but if you're reading this one first and didn't already know your basic youkai, the baku is a lion-like beast which feeds on the dreams of sleeping humans, though it's also what the Japanese decided to call ordinary tapirs when they first discovered them. Over time, the dream-eating monster and the trunk-faced jungle herbivore basically became the same thing in the eyes of Japan, hence the Pokemon Drowzee and innumerable other dream-eating tapir monsters.
This particular baku has little in common with either creature other than its snout, but that snout is also a velvet worm, which I've seen as the inspiration for a monster maybe one or two times in my life, not counting my own. I will say I wish this one had fewer human aspects and leaned more towards the "bug," like we got with Pesaranza or Tomarezu, but I have to least appreciate that there's any monster out there with peripatus for a nose.
The "elm" in the name is for Nightmare on Elm Street, as both the baku and Freddy Kreuger invade human dreams, though Elmgaim goes quite a bit farther than that after upgrading his powers. Somehow or other, the advanced form of his dream-eating allows him to make humans fall asleep and take root, sprouting tendrils that could allegedly rot away the whole planet if enough people succumbed. This may be by far the most imaginative of the Yuumajuu powers, and pretty damn disturbing.
Buredoran of the Chupacabra
We now come to the three "leaders" of the Yuumajuu, though Buredoran here is a little more than that. He's eventually revealed to be a sort of fallen-angel-like being with many different forms, including a form in each of the three evil armies. During his time with the Yuumajuu, he takes the form of a hybrid between the Mexican goat-sucker and a house centipede, which is definitely an excellent choice, if only his execution of it wasn't so dull. Don't tell me you're turning a house centipede into a chupacabra and just give it an angry handsome dude-face. BOO. More like BOOO-redoran.
Good thing it's gonna be made up for soon, big time.
Kinggon of the Bigfoot
The Yuumajuu's top-ranking tactical commander, Kinggon doesn't really look that much like Sasquatch if you ask me, but I can definitely see his tarantula aspects easily enough. It's especially cool how the huge feet of his namesake are formed by fused spider legs, and the color scheme in obvious homage to spider man is fairly cute.
Naturally, he's named after King Kong, one of Japan's favorite American movie monsters. They even pit him up against Godzilla that one time!
...So, we've got just one Yuumajuu left. Are you ready for me to explode with adoration?
Makuin of the Blob
...Where do I even start? I wouldn't have expected the supreme mastermind of the Yuumajuu to be my kind of monster, but lo and behold, the biggest baddie is actually the most bizarre of the bunch, and his every last element is exactly my cup of tea. First and foremost, he's just a roughly humanoid pile of glop, one of my most beloved of all anatomical templates, and of all the glop that can comprise a roughly humanoid pile, putrescent pink flesh is easily in my top five. He also hilariously wears a collar and chain around his neckless, headless upper orifice, which is totally his "mouth," his only truly recognizable facial features those gloomy, yellowed eyes in his chest. I really like that frilly curtain of skin hanging down where you expect his mouth to really be, and let's not overlook the fact that his clothes are nailed onto him.
Most importantly, Makuin's "bug" is the earthworm, and his putrid body squirms with hundreds, possibly thousands of them, inside and out! I LOVE the idea of The Blob also being a bunch of worms in a loose sack of skin, it's an idea so perfect it should have been mine, and he could make beautiful music together with Oogie Boogie.
The Blob was the first starring role of the once wildly famous Steve McQueen, and yes, that's where "Makuin" comes from. To be precise, The Blob is called Makkuin no Zettai no Kiki in Japan, "Mcqueen's Absolute Crisis," and I don't think I've heard anything more Japanese in my life.
Strengthened by Earth's pollution, Makuin and his good friend Kinggon - yes, they are totally portrayed as besties - pursues the fairly common villainous dream of destroying and then re-making the world as he sees fit, which somehow involves mailing pieces of himself to everybody in Japan until he regenerates an ever-larger body and absorbs the entire world. Really, though, how can you ever blame any of these guys? The world is a pretty terrible place. Terrible enough for me to spend an estimated four straight years on it just typing about Halloween toys and cartoon villains. Whatever a big, shuffling pile of worms envisions as a more ideal world could never possibly be anything but better than the one we're stuck in right now, and I know he wants to kill us all first, but would you honestly rather live for decades longer on a planet full of pedophiles and neo-nazis or just die tomorrow knowing a big, shuffling pile of worms is going to start things over with a clean slate?
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