This month an unusual tokusatsu hero appeared on TV screens throughout Tokyo. Hailing from Okinawa, Ryujin Mabuya has an accent so thick that subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen to help viewers of TOKYO MX understand the dialogue. Despite, or perhaps because of this strong regional flavor, the channel is obviously anticipating that the show will have a wide appeal as it is broadcast on Saturdays between 18:15 and 18:30.
According to Cyzo, it’s the first time that TOKYO MX has picked up a local hero show but they reckon that it’ll pay off. Prior to its Tokyo debut on Oct. 1, a DVD box set of the show went on sale nationwide. The event to promote the sale of the DVD organized by TOKYO MX was packed to the gills with enthusiastic fans and the channel received over 2,000 applications for 250 available pairs of tickets.
Local, or gotouchi heros, often used to promote moral values to children in their region, have been popular for some time and some even make it to nationwide fame. Take Hokkaido’s Marimokkori, for example, whose likeness is seen reproduced on cell-phone charms or stuffed toys throughout the country. Ryujin Mabuya is already hugely popular in Okinawa and, at its height of popularity, the show had 17.8% viewing figures. Now it’s been picked up by TOKYO MX, the hero’s status is likely to rise even higher.
The show is full of local character: Shisaa (lion dog) statues, which can often be seen guarding homes in Okinawa from evil spirits, suddenly come to life, eyes flashing red as they shoot up into the sky and Ryujin Mabuya’s enemy, Habu Devil, has distinctive snake arms calling to mind Okinawa’s famous habu awamori (a distilled rice liquor that contains a snake).
Unlike other tokusatsu that feature storylines in which good conquers evil, the conclusion of a Ryujin Mabuya series has this hero reconciling with his enemy, showing local children the power of forgiveness. That doesn’t stop Habu Devil and his Devil Gang from getting up to lots of mischief in the meantime, giving viewers the chance to witness lots of glorious fights between our hero and his colorfully costumed enemies.
At the start of next year, a Ryujin Mabuya movie will be released nationwide after first being shown on local Okinawan TV. If successful, 2012 could be the year in which this local hero breaks into the big time.