Monday, July 12, 2010

Super Festival 53: A-MA-ZON!

Okazaki Tooru (岡崎徹)

Super Festival continues their Kamen Rider-themed guests with Ozaki Tooru, the stud behind Kamen Rider Amazon. More Tarzan than Rider, Amazon was infamous for departing from the formula laid out by the previous three series: He transformed not into an insect but a gaudy lizard/angler fish combo, spoke Japanese like a junior high ALT, ran around in a leather loincloth, and was generally inscrutable. Hardly the kind of thing most impressionable elementary students would want to run home from school to catch. Or is it? In spite of historically low ratings and a short run, the friends of Amazon were out in full force, easily dwarfing the turnout for Kamen Rider Stronger.

Okazaki took to the stage with trepidation, face twisted into a mortified smile that did little to hide the fact that he was totally over the whole Kamen Rider thing. Yet as the talk show began his waxen mask of fear melted away to reveal the good humor underneath.

Q: Amazon, your Japanese has gotten a lot better since the show concluded.

A: Oh, you know. After I returned to South America I palled around with the Japanese immigrants there which helped me brush up my skills. Eventually I was comfortable enough to move to Nagasaki where I became a naturalized citizen.

Q: Why did you decide to become an actor?

A: During my school days I couldn't compete with my friends academically. I knew that I couldn't make it into a good university so I had to find another way to stand out. Becoming an actor seemed like the best solution. After graduating high school I left my hometown of Nagasaki to pursue my dreams in Tokyo .

Q: It’s a good thing you did. You were the only thing standing between Japan and the evil forces of Geddon! How did you get the part?

A: My manager approached me asking if I wanted to be Kamen Rider, and that was that. There wasn’t even an audition. I went into the situation blind. Kamen Rider was a social phenomenon, so of course I knew about it, but I had never sat down to watch the show until then. Even so, I was surprised to be playing a lizard!

Q: Was it cold traipsing around in just a loincloth?

A: We started filming in late summer, so it worked to my advantage in that respect. The opening sequence shot in the jungle came back to bite me, so to speak. You see me running through the underbrush, but every time I jumped into a bush it would kick up a cloud of mosquitoes and gnats. I got eaten alive. All you can do is grin and bear it.

The same goes for braving the elements. Come winter I was frozen to the bone, but I wasn’t in a position to complain! I had been given the lead part of a major production despite my inexperience. Sometimes you just have to man up.

Q: You took to the extreme conditions rather well.

A: I was an outdoors kid, always running around half-naked. This helped prepare me for my role as Amazon. All the sun gave me a dark complexion, which meant I never had to worry about sunburns. On the flipside I had to wear super heavy makeup. It wasn’t noticeable during broadcast, but you can see it on the digitally remastered DVDs.

Q: What was your shining moment as Amazon Rider?

A: Fighting the Snake Beast Man at the Fuji Q Amusement Park. In one scene they have me dodging an oncoming roller coaster by jumping to the maintenance platform on the side of the track. The narrow rails were hard enough to maneuver without considering that I was scrambling precariously on top of steel girders. It was a scary, scary shot.

And then you see the final edit, and the stunt is over in a flash. You’d never know what I went through for that shot!

Q: Were you ever spotted on the street?

A: That's the thing about Tokyo people. They’d recognize me, but never seem surprised. Kids would sometimes come up to me and ask me for my autograph. They were always polite about it.

By popular demand, series producer Hiroyama Tooru returned for an encore performance of his circular ramblings.

After Rider 1, 2, and V3, I knew we had to mix things up. Rider X was a bit of a poof, but Amazon was a man’s man! A lizard man! And scary! How manly is that?

I’m not the one that chose Okazaki for the part. No, I just did what I knew the women wanted! I could tell they were waiting to be swept up in his muscular arms and coddled like babies.

When you imagine a sentai hero you normally don’t picture them in their underwear. However, Tarzan’s New York Adventure set a precedent that I would be a fool not to follow.

Ozaki had a great body, which is why I kept him in his skivvies for as long as I could. The guilt has been eating me up the whole time. I tried to compensate by giving you a vest and leggings mid-season! The last thing I wanted was for you to go down in Kamen Rider history as "the naked one." For the grand finale I sent him back to the Amazon in a suit to leave the audience with the image of Okazaki as a clothed, civilized man.

I apologize for the years of embarrassment. But now look at you! It all paid off in the end You’re a made man, now its all suits all the time, yessiree. Doesn’t he look good in a suit, ladies?"

At this point they escorted Mr. Hiroyama off the stage before he got around to reminiscing about Amazon’s wardrobe malfunctions on and off the set.

The mandatory mugging for the camera begun awkwardly, but Okazaki soon slipped back into character. He looked as genuinely terrified as Amazon had been when accosted by the paparazzi’s flash bulbs and abrasive questions.

Thankfully, Okazaki regained his composure once things quieted down and the fans queued up for their big chance to score an autograph from Amazon. The line was twice as long as it had been for Stronger, surprising given the relative popularity of the two shows. The wait dragged on. Vendors closed up shop, people wandered home, until only the fans and their mentor remained in the building. Okazaki remained chipper to the very end, laughing with the children whose parents grew up in awe of each week’s adventures. Seeing the sincere joy on his face reminded me that a true Rider wears his heart on his sleeve, even the perpetually shirtless ones.

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