By Mishio Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior SpecialistThe other day I had the honor of receiving a distinguished service award at the Japan Action Awards 2019. My efforts to hold repeated events featuring suit actors (performers playing superheros and their enemies in masks and full-body suits) from the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider series TV shows and films were recognized as helping promote the action community.
Past recipients include such eminent figures as actor Yasuaki Kurata, internationally famous as the Japanese “Dragon”; Osamu Kaneda, president of Japan Action Enterprise Co.; actor Kazuo Niibori, known as the suit actor for many red-clad leaders in the superhero teams on the Super Sentai Series TV shows; and even popular film actor Hiroshi Tachi.
I used to be the easiest target in school dodgeball games, and my right arm and right leg would move forward in sync when skipping during dance class. I couldn’t believe I would be receiving an award related to action. When I was notified toward the end of last year, I hardly told anyone for a while.
Because I was so bad at sports and physical activities, I admired the action scenes in the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai shows all the more, I think. I was mesmerized by the theatrical combat of the Ono Kenyukai group, which were indescribably hot and melancholy, and blown away by the brilliant actions of members of the then Japan Action Club (now Japan Action Enterprise) when watching a Super Sentai show.
Ever since I was in my teens, I wanted to let many people know how wonderful it was that they could watch such action on TV week in, week out. Some of the events I regularly hold — such as Jiro Matsuri (featuring suit actor Jiro Okamoto), Kanreki Matsuri (with tokusatsu actors age 60 or older) and Chojin Hinamatsuri (Doll festival with suit actors) — shine a spotlight on suit actors. These events are the result of my wish to share.
I received the award alongside two legends in the industry. One was Kanzo Uni, a theatrical combat specialist renowned for his work in “Onihei Hankacho” (Onihei case file) and other period dramas and films. Sadly, he died in January. I remember seeing his name in the end roll of the popular police drama “Taiyo ni Hoero!” (Roar to the sun!), which I watched enthusiastically during my junior high school days.
The other was Hideaki Kusaka, aka Mr. Robot. He was the man inside giant robots in tokusatsu sci-fi superhero TV shows for nearly 40 years, from “Denshi Sentai Denziman” in 1980 to “Kaito Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger,” which had its final episode air recently. I am truly humbled and honored to have received the award together with these two great men.
In my speech at the ceremony, I spoke of my goals: “Action people in Japan perform high-level stunts at the risk of injury, even though they’re not treated well enough by global standards. I’d like to help bring about a world where they are justly rewarded.”
A distinguished service award sounds like one given to people who have achieved distinction and fame. But I think I received the award as encouragement to do even more for the action industry.
I received the trophy from Kurata, whom I adored as a young girl. He told me, “I’m very glad that you received the award.” His words made me really happy. I’d like to continue conveying to the world how marvelous Japanese action is.