New mission for ex-heroes
JAPAN is a country of countless heroes. Since Gekko Kamen, a masked hero on a motorbike, appeared on black-and-white TV in 1958, many superheroes have sprung to life in the country.
Superheroes have been produced in live-action sci-fi dramas and films, which are called tokusatsu works, over many years, including Ultraman after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and Kamen Rider (Masked Rider), which dealt with the social distortions of Japan's period of high economic growth.
Last month, another type of superhero emerged - vocal group Legend Hero 90's.
The group features actors who played superheroes in the "Super Sentai" series of tokusatsu sci-fi TV dramas in the 1990s. The series provided the basis for the Power Rangers series in the United States. Each superhero is identified by his or her colour-coded costume.
Leading the group is Masaru Shishido, who played Ohred in the Ohranger Super Sentai TV show which was broadcast in 1995.
Ohred's counterpart in the American Power Rangers Zeo kids TV show (1996-97) is the Red Zeo Ranger.
The catalyst for the group's formation was the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Watching news coverage of the disaster, Shishido asked himself if there was anything he could do as someone who played a superhero. Eventually, his desire to help grew into a yearning to bring a hero's solemn pledge to all of Japan and encourage people.
Shishido is a popular singer of sentimental pop songs and also writes music and lyrics. It did not take him long to come up with the idea of including a hero's message in his songs.
Three men responded to Shishido's call to join the cause: Kei Shindachiya, who performed as Fiveblue in Fiveman (1990), Keiichi Wada, who starred as Ryuranger in Dairanger (1993), and Keisuke Tsuchiya, who played Kirinranger in the same show.
After rehearsals, they made their debut with the song Legend Hero on Dec 16.
Shishido and the other members made sure their posters and other goods bore the names of the superheroes they played, not as former superheroes but as active ones, alongside their own names.
Said Shishido: "To people who were children back then, we're not supposed to be former heroes but active heroes who are fighting against something.
"As a hero, I want to bring a message of love and courage to everyone in the world."
With this idea in mind, he wrote the group's debut song, a message that calls for people to stand up as many times as they can even if their dreams are dashed.
"Heroes" who approve of their activities are on the increase. Many people who performed as superheroes in the past came to the event to celebrate the group's debut.
Shishido and other members were in their 20s when they starred in their respective tokusatsu dramas. Now, they are in their 40s, by no means young for superheroes.
But there are things they can convey more emphatically because of their age.
"As a middle-aged hero, I want to sing songs that encourage everyone in Japan - no, in the world," Shishido said resolutely.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK