As fans of tokusatsu, we often take it for granted that our shows are going to be given a full run. We expect to see a show last about a year and have a (fairly) solid beginning, middle, and end, but that isn’t always the reality. These are the top five tokusatsu shows that were cancelled.
5. Chou Sei Kantai Sazer X
Sazer X was the third series the Star God series from TOHO, producers of the Godzilla film series. The first series, Gransazer, was their first TV tokusatsu in about 12 years and was popular enough that a second and third series were made. Unfortunately, the third series was the last in the franchise. The shows typically featured heroes powered by ancient gods and energy from space but Sazer X took a different approach – the powers were purely tech-based and the team was on the hunt for a set of mystical orbs capable of granting a wish. All but one member came from the future in hopes of stopping the enemies that enslaved the human race before their army is able to grow. The series was cut short at 38 episodes, giving viewers a truncated final arc after two rather well done arcs beforehand. I’m of the mind that the cancellation actually helped the show’s narrative, pushing the production team into making a decision I don’t think would have been made otherwise.
4. Choujinki Metalder
Metalder came at a time when the Metal Hero franchise was all over the place. The first five shows looked very similar but after the third entry, the final Space Sheriff show, ideas and motifs were thrown around and reworked to make Juspion and Spielban distinct from what came before. When even this didn’t work to bring the series back to heights of popularity, Toei attempted something radically different – Metalder. This was a story-heavy show with dark undertones and dramatic story line guiding its (at times) goofy characters into tough situations. It’s said that the story was too difficult for kids to understand and so Metalder came to an end at 39 episodes, giving viewers a very bitter sweet ending.
3. Gekkou Kamen
Here’s an interesting fact – the very first tokusatsu show was also the first Japanese drama, and the first of either to be cancelled. Gekkou Kamen was a black and white hero story that followed the adventures of a police detective on the case of criminals and monsters in the 1950s, with various episodes making up different story arcs. The series was an overnight success and remains the longest running Japanese hero show to this date. Despite the success of the show, Gekkou Kamen was pulled from the air after a young boy died attempting to imitate a stunt seen on the show.
2. Ultraman Nexus
Here we have another attempt at changing things up going pretty bad for the studio behind it all, Tsuburaya. Ultraman Nexus was the third part of the Ultra N Project, aimed at moving the Ultraman franchise towards an older audience. The project originally began with a stage show Ultraman, Noa, and the feature length Ultraman movie, Ultraman the Next, which was a bomb at the theaters. Ultraman Nexus was the third part and tied into the previous projects. Nexus was drastically different from anything that had come before, more along the lines of a Kamen Rider series in tone, but definitely darker. Nexus gave viewers a grim world view at the beginning with the title character struggling to reconcile the fact that he’s been given powers to save people despite his checkered past. Also a first was the idea that the host of the Ultraman character wasn’t the main character. Komon Kazuki, a member of the monster attack team, was the main character and the person whose eyes we saw the story through. Nexus was eventually cut down from a proposed 51 episodes to just 37, with an extra episode released on DVD. Remarkably, at no point did the production team ever change their vision for the show. Despite falling ratings and threats of cancellation, the story’s tone was consistent throughout.
1. JAKQ Dengeki-tai
Sentai! It’s popular, it would never be cancelled, right? Well, that wasn’t always true. Back when Sentai was still relatively young, it was cut short with just its second show, JAKQ. While Goranger featured secret agents on the hunt for baddies and monsters, JAKQ took itself more seriously, presented the monsters as nasty threats with very real world repercussions, and played itself as straight as a tokusatsu series possibly could. Despite the goofy look of the heroes, this was a show that divorced its stories from the visuals. In an era where ratings mattered a lot, the series was losing viewers fast and so a new character was introduced. You’re probably familiar with the new character: Big One, played by Hiroshi Miyauchi of pretty much every franchise ever fame. Big One’s character was flamboyant and goofy, colorful and loud, a stark contrast to the serious characters in the show up to this point. Big One more or less becomes the main draw and leads to what a lot of fans consider to be the lowest points of the show, eventually leading to the defeat of the final enemy with a literal rat bomb. JAKQ came to an end after 35 episodes and this would be the final time Ishinomori worked on a Sentai series.