Un grand Merci à Marie-Colette Jamieson pour sa traduction en
Anglais de l’article Les Super Héros Japonais du quotidien, les Local Heroes
In the 2000s, I had the opportunity to rediscover in the original version the famous Heroes of my childhood such as Bioman, X-gold, Ultraman, and other Heroes from of the Land of the Rising Sun. These TV series heroes belong to the « Tokusatsu » genre. These characters in colorful costumes or shining armor, are an integral part of Japanese popular culture and their adventures are still broadcast today (Kamen Rider, Super Sentai franchises, Kaiju Eiga, Henshin Heroes, etc.).
I discovered in 2014 that for the last 40 years, there have been Japanese socio-cultural and economic mediators inspired by the Tokusatsu universe: Gotochi Hiro / Heroes Local Heroes / Heroes Locaux. They defend and represent cultural, civic, economic and environmental values of a region, city or prefecture. These are actually « super emblems » or « super mascots. »
From origins to today:
The first officially referenced local hero is Rainbow Attack Ace (1973) who was a character from a TV commercial for a Tohoku (Endo Chain) store. As one thing lead to another, some cities, companies or regions have understood the communication potential of these Heroes inspired by TV series.
Rainbow Attack Ace (1973)
Thus there appeared in 2004 a very important hero: Sea Jetter Kaito, emblematic character of the museum Hishinomaki (Miyagi) in memory of the famous mangaka Shotaro Ishinomori ( who died in 1998), including author of the largest franchises Tokusatsu (Kamen rider, Kikaider , initiator of the super Sentai with Goranger and JAKQ). Sea Jetter Kaito (in fact a reboot design of a 1977 Ishinomori TV Hero TV series: Choujin Bibyun) was so successful that it was made into a film (with kamen rider actor Gattack, Yuki Satoh).
Sea Jetter Kaito ‘s Hishinomori Muséum
The 3rd Local Flagship Hero was Chojin Neiger in 2005 who was the defender of the land / rice paddies of Akita made directly into a TV series.
Chojin Neiger (2005)
With modern means of communication, the Heroes were able to benefit from a better visibility and Japan then experienced a real hero boom 15 years, with a real « Hero-boom. » Although there are more and more specialized magazines on the subject, their referencing is still imprecise, but we are speaking of several thousand Local Heroes spread throughout Japan.
The different missions of the Local Heroes:
Local Heroes intervene in many spheres such as school life, prevention (natural disaster risks, drinking and driving, child protection), citizenship (rules of good behavior). In general, Local Heroes are mobilized to help different charities and do mediation work in schools, various administrations, hospitals, small shops or shopping centers during local events (simple fairs or larger festivals). The Local Hero is both a protector and a cultural and economic emblem of a city or region. He/she can thus represent a line of railway line, a university, an administration, a company, but also a football (soccer), even an energy drink, a shopping center or an amusement park. Sometimes, certain Local Heroes lead us back to a certain quality of life by inciting us to take care of ourselves (food), our neighbors or the environment.
The Local Hero therefore has an obvious socio-economic, cultural and environmental role.
He/she transmits the message via stage or street performances and uses various modern communications, such as social media, to be all the more identified and supported (youtube, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.) Some Heroes even have their own mini TV series (Barisugor, Zeros) or mainstream film (the mature Dharuriser). Regarding their shows, if the purpose is always peaceful, a confrontation with an enemy is inevitable, which offers scenarios borrowing from combat, explanatory exchanges, public participation. Young children are encouraged to conspire against the villians and to encourage heroes in difficulty. These encouragements symbolize the energy of surpassing oneself that is necessary to complete a mission.
Maplekaiser from Hiroshima, Children’s protect
Otinger from Kumamoto (paramedic Team)
Football Hero Team « Genzoyer » from Ishikawa
Sungaia from commercial Nakano Broadway
God Eagle from Kobe (prevention of emergency actions during naturals disasters
Masuragao from Osaka (peacemaker of naturals spirits)
Who are the Local Heroes?
Most Local Heroes are volunteers from all socio-professional categories. There are few who are semi-professionals and even fewer who are full time professionals. Their common point is often to have had, experience in public events or communication, whether from up close or from a distance. The efforts required to set up their activities (logistics, organization, advertising media, contract management or partnerships) are reminiscent of those deployed for an entrepreneurial activity. The support of administrations, associations and businesses is essential to sustain their activities. The entire economic, cultural and social fabric is important to legitimize the existence of a Local Hero.
OrosunjaBabycar (Tokyo)= Healthy food for childrens
Thus, some Local Heroes have gained a good reputation over time and enjoy significant support from their city (Tryoh, Mapplekaiser, Ninja Reppu and Houjin Yatsurugi for example). But this is not always the case and some officiate completely in their personal capacity ( Sungaia of Nakano) and invest financially in their actions. Which does not mean that their condition will not change. Recently, God Eagle and Masuragao Have been recognized as Local Heroes.The populations support is the first and the most beautiful recognition of the Local Hero. When the latter gains solid popularity, the city then begins its support. So everything works out well, for the genuine hero, who shows creativity and devotion. The popularity of certain heroes is sometimes such that it unites enormously. This is the case of Houjin Yatsurugi for example, who since 2011 has declined 7 arcs of his universe with different characters. In 2014, this collective was able to generate a crowdfunding for a film released in 2015 that was exclusively dedicated to Local Heroes (Local Hero Daikessen = 109 heroes and 49 teams articulated in this feature film). Since 2014, he is also a major supporter of the National Festival of Local Heroes which takes place in Tokyo at the end of September.
As a European fan of Tokusatsu, what first appealed to me in this culture of Local Heroes is the wealth of creativity they show in designing a costume in relation to their activities and what they represent. If the costumes go from the sublime to the average (from simple lycra to complex armor, with an approximate or professional finish), there is always a real singularity to each one of them. Ryota Ishii, for example, who oversees the Local Heroes Team at Josai International University, is for me the Jean Paul Gaultier of Local Heroes designers. He has a mature, disturbing approach, uses various materials and is inspired by different cultures to offer a style apart.
Ryota Ishii, from International University of Josai
Ryota Ishii is moving away from the standards of the genre. The Nex Changer of Osaka have a very animated style belonging to the 1980’s (Thanks to the beautiful design of Tooru Saegusa). Toshigi’s Eagle Tiger / Shadow Tiger or Team Insectoïde Zerong Tokyo have a very « Lucha Libre » style inspired by Wrestling. Kaerun for example has a costume whose emblem is a frog representing environmental quality. One might fear a very childish / childish costume but on the contrary it presents in the end a very mature and mature style.
Thus all styles and tastes are represented and strongly assumed in the culture of the Local Heroes. It reveals a true creative diversity. And that’s why they fascinate me. Whereas local heroes are constantly reinventing themselves, the Tokusatsu genre (film / special effects series like Ultraman, Bioman, X-gold, kamen rider), which has been a source of inspiration for them for 40 years, currently only offers creativity and design that has difficulty renewing itself. It is not for nothing that a film with a hundred local heroes could be started in 2015 after an unprecedented Crowdfunding (5 million Yen collected on the 3.5 requested).
The Local Hero has become a very strong Quasi- Underground culture, « creative, cultural, and social » that deserves attention and should inspire us. Moreover, on February 24, 2018, a cultural exhibition exclusively dedicated to Local Heroes was held in Tokyo. Exhibition initiated by Ryota Ishii from the International University of Josai, which I mentioned earlier.
Local Heroes, complete artists.
The Local Hero must possess some gift for comedy, but also know how to move and fight. He must also be a bit of a Designer and conceptor to realize his costume. A real street artist in a way, in all the nobility of the term. He must sometimes go on the road for shows shared with other Heroes, and bring his/her singularity to local fairs in the pouring rain. Usually at his expense. This is why the support of families is inseparable because it requires a large personal and often financial investment. And one of the best formulas is the creation of an entire family of Heroes, such as the Kishin family, which is involved in Hitachi on the level of civility and good behavior.
Kishin family (Guardian cop) from Hitachi:
However, some Heroes disappear as quickly as they appeared, or decide to modify their concept in order to be better appreciated, better identified and therefore more popular for shows. For this, there are also several festivals of Heroes throughout the year throughout Japan. The most famous remains the Local Hero Matsuri in Tokyo. More than a hundred Heroes participate, which in full cast (villains, right arms, sidekicks) represents between 300 and 400 people who meet on the last weekend of September to celebrate with people, propose their show and make themselves better known. This is the occasion for a huge convention and a time of major encounter with the population and the possibility of selling some goodies for future activities.
Why become a Local Hero?
To be in touch with some Local Heroes, their motives revolve around the pride of making the youngsters dream, the pleasure of donning a hero’s costume and promoting the values (cultural or economic) of their city or company. The culture of the Local Hero is an integral part of the population that oscillates between disinterest and curiosity. The Local Hero refers mainly to certain difficulties of daily life (protection of childhood, serious or orphan diseases, natural disasters, social or professional registration difficulties, etc.) with which one must live in spite of everything. But they also bring a lot of dreams and are very educational and fun. Given the investment required, it is not easy to stay in the circuit to sustain their missions. Especially since some Heroes have sometimes totally improvised.
Her some Yuru Kyara. Some Local Heroes for babies and the most youngers:
The future …
In view of the growing number of heroes, durability will undoubtedly be dependent on mutualisation which can ensure more and more elaborate stage shows. A perfect example of this mutualisation is the Xeno-N Troop which evolve both individually and as a group. The level of physical prowess is also getting higher and higher. It then becomes a gateway for stuntmen or sports clubs, who can be better identified themselves while conveying important values via a science-fiction medium. In any case, participating in this type of human adventure is very enriching, even if it can sometimes be thankless. A true artist’s life, finally.
As part of the 2018 Festival, France with Nekokiders, and China with Team Dream Guardian, will be the 2 international countries present at the festival.
China Team= Dream Guardian
French Team Nekokiders
Originally, Nekoriders was not a Local Heros project. However, the Japan Heros Project’s missions involving Tokusatsu-inspired projects and promoting Japanese culture on this subject (including in the social role constituted by the Local Heros) have led to a stir of interest among certain Local Heros responsible for this invitation to the festival. Many thanks to God Eagle from Kobe, Masuragao from Osaka and my friend Yuichi Terao. And a thought to Ryota Ishii, my Jean-Paul Gaultier to me, and I hope he will become so for others. ^ _ ^
Also note the movie of Local Hero Dharuriser, which has just been selected at the Thailand Festival. Dharuriser strives to be mature, complex on the motives and difficulties of a Local Hero.