Watch/Read/Buy: a recent media-merchandise roundup (US-focused)

Since I’ve been negligent for the past couple of months, I thought it might be good to do a quick rundown of some of developments regarding the recent and upcoming kaiju/henshin hero/J-horror releases that folks on this side of the Pacific can spend their time and money on. Some of this might be repeating things from previous posts, but hey, a reminder can’t hurt. So, let’s get to it!

Home video

Mill Creek

  • As a special for Ultraman day, Mill Creek made a little set titled “The Birth of Ultraman” exclusively available via Deep Discount. The set has seven episodes with their English dubs, based on what TsuPro had complete access to at the time, and the black-and-white Birth of Ultraman stage show that aired in Japan a week before the first episode. It’s hard to justify spending $20 for that unless you’re a hardcore fan, but many of us are; I just hope this doesn’t encourage future releases with a single 20 minute episode each like the Japanese sometimes have.

  • The Kaiju Con-line panel and subsequent Q&A with Keith Aiken helped to put a lot Ultraman-related speculation to rest. Of particular note:
    • Ultraman Taro will be coming around January, followed shortly by Ultraman Leo, which is the end of the mural sets. They might start a new mural for the 90s/2000s ones.
    • There’s no problem with Johnnys or 4Kids holding up Ultraman Tiga. They’re considering issuing the 4Kids dub separately.
    • The movies and direct-to-video specials would be included with the sets for Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Dyna, and Ultraman Gaia.
    • They don’t have the rights to Ultra Q the Movie, Ultra Q Dark Fantasy, Ultraman Great, Ultraman Powered, Ultraman USA, ULTRAMAN, or Ultraman vs Kamen Rider due to co-production status. Or, obviously, anything Chaiyo.
    • The Ultraman Zero releases will (predictably) be messy. It sounds like Ultraman Zero the Movie and Ultraman Saga are each getting their own separate releases, but Killer the Beatstar will only be included with the Ultraman Zero the Chronicle clip show series. All the Ultra Galaxy stuff, movie included, will be in one set.
    • They don’t have the rights to the Heisei Ultraseven productions for some reason. Ultraseven X they have, though.
    • They don’t have Ultraman Story or any other Showa movies.
    • They do have Ultraman Zearth, The☆Ultraman, and amazingly, Ultraman Kids 3000.
    • They don’t have Andro Melos because the masters looked bad. Which is odd, since that DVD is available in Japan.
    • They don’t have Ultraman Nice, Super Fighter Legend, Ultraman Graffiti, M78 Love & Peace, Ultra Nyan, or Kaiju Girls. So, keep watching the Kaiju Girls series on Crunchyroll and the movie on HIDIVE.
    • They don’t have The Men Who Made Ultraman, Revive Ultraman, Ultraseven that I Loved, or similar specials.
    • They don’t have Ultraman Taiga or Ultraman Z yet, but want to get them as soon as they’re available for licensing.
    • They have Gridman, but no other TsuPro hero shows. So, keep watching Mirrorman on Toku. Gridman is probably a long way out for a Blu-ray release, so maybe it’ll coincide with SSSS.Dynazenon.
  • Mill Creek also recently put of a Blu-ray of The H-man and Battle in Outer Space, joining their Mothra steelbook to complete an upgrade the old Icons of Science Fiction DVD set content, audio commentary and all. Unfortunately, like that set, it has partial dubtitles on Battle in Outer Space.

Arrow

  • The already exciting Gamera: Complete Collection set continues to look better and better. There was a panel at Kaiju Con-Line that went over some of the features in great detail with a few surprises (Garasharp artwork, David Milner’s Noriaki Yuasa interview) that should whet the appetite, and based on a couple of other audio commentary clips I’ve been lucky enough to preview, it should be an impressive and informative assortment. Get it August 18th!

  • Further tokusatsu releases from Arrow have been teased, but plans for their future releases haven’t been elaborated on (it’s a bummer that they ran out of time during the Kaiju Con-line panel, since that would have been the perfect opportunity to clarify). What is known is that they recently picked up rights to Warning from Space, and about a year ago Kim Newman mentioned in a post (since deleted) that he’d been interviewed by them regarding The Invisible Man Appears and Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly. The Gamera set did balloon a lot in scope from the original conception, which likely would have moved any other tokusatsu plans back, but hopefully those are all still on the way, and hopefully won’t be exclusive to the UK if so. At any rate, it’s interesting how heavily they’ve been working with Kadokawa.
    (edit: Per the aforementioned Kaiju Con-line panel, they have also looked into the Yokai Monsters trilogy, but only one of the movies had HD elements available. If true, that’s quite unfortunate, since those movies are a lot of fun.)

  • On the audio commentary for Arrow’s release of  “Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto“, Tom Mes repeatedly teases the possibility of a second set including movies like Hiruko the Goblin, Gemini, and Tetsuo the Bullet Man, contingent on the first set selling well. It’s hard to tell how seriously to take these claims, as Mondo Macabro recently released Gemini on Blu-ray, so such a released might be prohibited in the US. Also, Phantom of Regular Size was excluded from the set due to music licensing rights, so we’ll have to continue to seek that one out via alternative means.

Media Blasters

  • Zeiram 2 is getting a Blu-ray release on September 22nd! There’s been a fair amount of confusion as to why they’re starting with the second film, and I have to assume that it’s a licensing restriction, the same as why they released it first back in the day. It is a shame that they aren’t able to get both films at the same time, to replicate the awesome Japanese Blu-ray double feature release, or that they never got to bundle Zeiram, Zeiram 2, and Iria back when they had the rights to all three. At any rate, this ought to be an upgrade from the 2001 DVD. (Edit: Carl Morano at Media Blasters confirmed that they are trying to get the rights to the first movie, but that it would need to be part of a package.)

  • The Blu-ray re-release of Death Kappa did not, in fact, have the Japanese ending included, contrary to what Media Blasters’ Facebook page had previously stated.

Shout Factory

  • Weathering with You is coming out on Blu-ray September 15, or, if you want to hold off for a fancy deluxe special edition with soundtrack and booklet, November 17.

  • Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna‘s US theatrical run got buried by coronavirus, but it’s getting a home video release October 6. Here’s hoping it’s more coherent than Tri ended up becoming.

  • The double-feature of The House Where Evil Dwells and Ghost Warrior is now officially out of print, so if you want a copy of a 1980s version of The Grudge or Hiroshi Fujioka as a slasher villain, get it soon…Amazon has two left as of this writing!

Other labels

  • The spoof Notzilla has found a distributor, Allied Vaughn. Per Avery Guerra, it should be available on demand and on disc on August 18th, but I haven’t seen it actually up for preorder at any retailers yet.

  • The Mighty Kong actually got a DVD release from Tricoast Entertainment way back in October, but I didn’t notice until Astounding Beyond Belief pointed it out more recently. It’s also streaming on Amazon Prime, and, apparently, cropped.

 

Streaming services

Shout Factory

  • Both the original Kamen Rider and Kamen Rider Kuuga are streaming on TokuSHOUTsu, as well as Tubi (original, Kuuga). As a collector and fan of physical media, it’s a little disheartening that three of the four Kamen Rider shows available legally in the states are exclusive to streaming services, but perhaps if they do decent numbers on the streaming front they’ll consider Blu-ray sets down the road.

  • Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever will be arriving on the service August 1. It may seem an odd move when you consider that only one Heisei series has actually been released here, but it’s wise to acknowledge that most of the potential audience is caught up via fansubs and wants to see the newer stuff rather than trying to release everything in order.

  • Shout Factory announced a deal with Mill Creek to stream their entire Ultraman catalog on TokuSHOUTsu. This is a good move for Shout, since the selection of titles on TokuSHOUTsu was pretty much limited to a dozen Super Sentai titles with two Kamen Riders and one Ultraman, but this shifts the balance with a lot more shows, including ones from this century (which they were definitely anemic on before).

YouTube

  • Ultraman Z is streaming weekly on Tsuburaya’s YouTube account, with each episode hitting Friday nights at 8:30 EST (basically a live Saturday morning broadcast in Japan) and remaining up for two weeks. The show is already fantastic, but I get a special kick out of the semi-broadcast experience, complete with commercials for Ultraman stuff during the breaks.

  • Speaking of director Kiyotaka Taguchi, his independent web series UNFIX continues to update with new episodes as well on a relatively monthly basis, with subtitles! Check it out to see the mature tokusatsu stories he can tackle without the constraints of Bandai product placement.

  • Not only has The Godzilla Channel been keeping a steady stream of new Godziban episodes coming (some of which have been *wild*), but they’ve also recently started a weekly Chibi Godzilla short, under the name Tadaima! Chibi Godzilla, to run for 12 segments until September 30.

  • Ever testing the bounds of what can reasonably be done in a movie, the One Cut of the Dead franchise has a new short filmed entirely during lockdown: One Cut of the Dead Mission:Remote. As the original film is picking up more and more recognition stateside, I’m really hoping that the second one (Operation Hollywood) gets translated to complete the trifecta.

Netflix

There’s always a stream of interesting new content coming to Netflix, including recent titles like BNA, Dorohedoro, Beastars, and the third seasons of Castlevania and Baki. Among other things, Studio Trigger has a tie-in to Cyberpunk 2077 (titled Cyberpunk: Edgerunners) coming in 2022 that should be great, as well as an eventual second season of Love, Death, & Robots. But of particular interest for tokusatsu fans:

  • Masaaki Yuasa’s Japan Sinks 2020, a remake/side story/reimagining of the classic Sakyo Komatsu novel, dropped earlier this month and has garnered a decent amount of attention from anime fans, tokusatsu fans, and the general entertainment-going public. I’ll be going onto Kaiju Transmissions for a review at some point in the near future to share broader thoughts about it.

  • Ju-On: Origins has been better-received than the most recent American reboot by a mile. I admit that I still need to finish it, more due to too much content fighting for time than anything else.

  • Season 2 of ULTRAMAN is “coming”, without a release date yet. It is interesting that this trailer seems to pass right over a couple of forms that Ultraman Taro had in the manga…hopefully not just because they were harder to animate.

  • Still no word on when Polygon Pictures’ Pacific Rim series will materialize.

Funimation

  • Deca-Dence has post-apocalyptic robot-vs-monster elements reminiscent of Attack on Titan, Macross, Pacific Rim, and The Dragon Dentist…at first, before some table-flipping revelations in the second episode. Strong Trigger-era Gainax vibes as well, so if that’s your thing, you can check it out streaming each week; it’s something else.

  • The fan-service-laden sentai spoof Super HxEros is streaming new episodes weekly. It seems to be ramping up the cheesecake factor from the already racy manga, which might be a selling point or a caveat depending on your viewer.

Others

  • The independent superhero flick Rise! Dharuriser is available now on Amazon Prime.

  • Toonami has updated their drop date for Uzumaki from “this year” to “2021”. This is surprising considering that the amount of press for it had picked up in the past couple of weeks; I was expecting it to be hitting within a month or two. Also coming in 2021 is Blade Runner: Black Lotus from the ULTRAMAN team of Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki.

  • Quibi’s adaptation of Tomie from Alexandre Aja has also been getting some more press, including casting Adeline Rudolph (Agatha from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) as the title character, but given Aja’s tragic history of adaptations (Cobra) and Quibi’s struggles to gain a foothold in the market, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s really happening.

 

Comics

  • Naoya Matsumoto’s Monster #8 recently began serialization in Japan, and despite not being available translated on the Shonen Jump app (as far as I can see), it is up free on Shueisha’s MangaPlus. Weirdly, the English release appears to be lagging behind, as it’s still on chapter 1, while the Spanish translation (under the title 8Kaijuu) is already up to chapter 4.

  • Marvel’s The Rise of Ultraman is hitting in September, but a preview  of the five-issue miniseries is already available. Still not sure what to make of this, but it’s kind of reminding me of Ultraman Powered so far.

  • Viz’s release of ULTRAMAN continues to plug along, with volume 14 coming October 20th.
  • In less fortunate news, there hasn’t been a new release for Seven Seas’ Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project since volume 4 hit in February, and no further volumes have been solicited. It’s a shame that we only got halfway through the story (which recently wrapped up in Japan), but it was always a hard sell, relying on a lot of gags that refer back to specific Ultraman episodes that hadn’t been released stateside yet. I’d like to think that if the timing had been a little different (after the Mill Creek releases), it would have been able to find an audience a bit better. As I’ve said before, it’s the most fun of any Ultra manga released here.

  • Redman: The Kaiju Hunter recently wrapped up its run with volume 3. It’s not up on Amazon (yet) but you can order directly from Night Shining. It was a heck of a revival!

  • Image has a new kaiju-versus-giant-hero series, Big Girls, starting in August. It’s from Jason Howard (The Astounding Wolf-man).

  • Sneeze: Naoki Urasawa Short Story Collection is hitting from Viz on October 20th. Particularly noteworthy here is that this anthology includes his kaiju story “Kingdom of Monsters”, which was a delight to read. On this very blog back in 2013, I said not to hold your breath on an English release; well, now you can breath easy.

  • Kaijumax has been getting slowed down by, well, everything, but issue 4 of season 5 is expected on August 26.

  • Unconventional (deconstructionist?) giant heroine series Gigant seems to be moving along at a good pace, with Seven Seas releasing volume 2 on August 4 and volume 3 on October 13. This is in contrast to Dark Horse’s re-releases of Gantz in omnibus editions, which appears to have stalled out after volume 5 in March.

  • There have been no solicitations from Yen Press yet for Kaiju Girl Caramelize after we got volume 3 in May, but it’s a little early to panic. The series only released volume 4 in Japan in March, so perhaps they’re spacing things out. At any rate, it wouldn’t hurt to go support the US release, since it’s an adorable little romcom.

  • Attack on Titan volume 31 is hitting August 25th. Very close to the end!

  • Sadako at the End of the World is getting its US release October 20th. Who wouldn’t want to read about Japan’s most iconic onryo taking care of orphans in a post-apocalypse?

  •  The 12th volume of the supernatural thriller (with superhero costumes) Platinum End is due January 5.
  • The villainess-protagonist comedy Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General is getting its fifth volume released on November 17th, over a year after the previous volume.
  • The raunchy cross-dressing supervillain comedy Raw Hero will see its third volume released October 20th.
  • The second volume of Dororo & Hyakkimaru will be released just in time for Halloween on October 27th.
  • Mermaid Saga has its first omnibus edition hitting November 17th.

 

Books

  • JL Carrozza is working on a book tentatively titled SF: The Japanese Science Fiction Encyclopedia. If his work on Otaku USA isn’t enough to persuade you, he also managed to coax Patrick Galvan, John LeMay, and myself into doing a couple of guest essays.
  • Speaking of John LeMay, he also helped out Benjamin Chaffins in putting together a book of interviews, titled Discovering Tokusatsu. It should be an interesting read!

  • Still speaking of John, he recently authored a book all about lost projects for everyone’s favorite cinematic shark and its imitators, Jaws Unmade.
    John has also recently started the Lost Films Fanzine about all sorts of rare and unmade genre media. Connor Anderson (of Easter’s Kaiju Kompendium and our own Gridman review) contributed to the second issue!

  • Finally, on the note of something that John hasn’t got anything to do with, the Evangelion Anima novel series will get its third volume released August 25th and its fourth volume on November 24th.

 

Toys

  • Despite Godzilla vs. Kong being greatly delayed, Playmates’s line of action figures has started showing up on Walmart shelves as though the film were already incoming. I won’t go into some of the potential spoilers that are out there (you know where to look), but it seems that they’re taking a page from the Jurassic Park toys by having each monster feature removable chunks of flesh.


Also, Nozuki appears to have been renamed Warbat.

 

  • Rumors are swirling that Playmates’ hold on the Godzilla license for Godzilla vs. Kong has pushed Neca out of the Godzilla figure game for the time being, as they sent out notices that they will no longer sell Godzilla products at all after mid-August. They previously hinted back in March that they wouldn’t be making anything new after the latest wave (the 1989 and 2003 Godzillas), but this is still a bit of sad news for a fine line of figures; buy any you want now or forever hold your peace. On the plus side, they are giving us a sweet King Kong figure in September.

 

  • Mezco is doing a few Ultraman figures for their 5 points line. In other retro-styled figure news, Mego also has some Ultraman stuff in the works, if that’s more your speed. I’ll probably stick to Bandai imports, but depending on price/look, these could be intriguing.
    There’s also a lot of different Ultraman pins hitting the market, for the pin collectors out there.

I realize that I could probably have a whole section regarding upcoming video game releases, but I confess that those are somewhat harder to keep track of. With that, let’s call this roundup a wrap!

…apologies for what the above post may have done to any bank accounts.

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