I half-promised in my post about toku leech guys that I'd be expanding more on the genre, but in researching more materials to review, I only reminded myself why I put the topic largely on hold for so long. I've even had pages and pages of concept art saved to my personal files for ages, and still procrastinated delving any further into it, because it's a bigger rabbit hole of unbelievable character design than you can possibly ever imagine. I have now lost entire days of my life just browsing, browsing, and browsing the villains of several dozen incarnations of Super Sentai (the "power rangers") alone, and that's still barely scratching the surface.
TOKUSATSU MONSTER DESIGN:
MORE FAVORITE HADES BEASTS
There is absolutely zero hope of me ever adequately doing this genre the justice I really think it deserves, and I won't try. Instead, I'll be doing posts of my personal favorites from various series, aiming for around just ten to fifteen monsters per post.
First up, we'll look at thirteen more of the Hades Beasts from Magiranger, which you got a taste of already thanks to Hades Beast Leech. If you can believe it, Leech isn't even one of the weirder or more outrageous of his pals, who form part of the Underground Hades Empire Infershia. It's a demonic army from the center of the Earth, of course! These rangers have more of a magical witchcraft angle than most, the villains are basically themed around the monsters you encounter in an RPG dungeon, and even the episodes are instead called "levels!" NERDS!!!! I think someone oughta teach these geekwads a lesson!!!
We're actually going to start off with the big boss. N Ma is one of those radical nihilist kind of villains, believing that all life is an impurity upon the universe and that it's his purpose to erase it - including himself! Maybe he just needs a friend??? His default form manifests in the shape of a gigantic octopus-spider, a huge "head" that's also the abdomen of the "spider," resembling a complex formation of humanoid skulls nestled within one another. He's got tusks that are also sucker-lined octopus limbs, a set of spidery chelicerae, eight dangling spidery bone legs, a bunch of small tentacles AND a bunch of larger tentacles ending in human-snake skull hybrids. That's so much stuff! He's a spider octopus hydra skull, and it all meshes elegantly regardless. It's not his only form, though!
HADES BEAST EMPEROR N-MA
We'll count N Ma's "Ultimate God Form" as the same monster, but he's pretty different looking, now a devilish red humanoid with black exoskeletal features, extremely long bony fingers, a Giger Xenomorph style head with a more bulbous octopus-like shape and what evoke a pair of wings without actually at all being wings. Each kind of starts like a biomechanical, xenomorphy dragon wing as it sprouts from his back, yes, complete with hooked, batlike finger bones, but then each "wing" ends in a huge, black, stretched out humanoid skull, the big skull has four smaller skulls instead of teeth, and a tentacle dangles from each of those, overall looking like a pair of additional octopus skull monsters on his shoulders. This is exactly as wicked rad as it is not aerodynamic, which is very, very much so. It's also kind of obscured in his concept art here, but in addition to the eerie, pure white little eyes in his gloomy skull-like face, there's a pair of larger yellow reptile-eyes on the sides of his octoskull.
If you've seen all that much of my opinions on just anything really, you probably think I prefer N Ma's nonhumanoid form. It says a lot about his character design that I instead find the giant bug shaped one forgettable compared to his humanoid demon look. That is SOME humanoid demon!
Also referred to as "The Singing Genocidal Princess Siren Neries," this is another of the more powerful villains, capable of consuming souls and able to control silk with her voice, but once again what really stands out are the visuals! She's a humanoid in shiny purple tights with an almost reptilian looking face, but she also has basically a monstrous bird skeleton wrapped around her as armor, the large skull pointed straight down so the beak kind of runs down her chest and her face looks straight out of the eye holes. It's just a really unique effect! There's also a row of strands connecting the upper and lower beak, like musical strings, and more strands drip from her skeletal wings. Other rib-like bars and thin grids recur throughout her bony gloves, boots and chestpiece, giving her the motif of not just a bird-woman but a highly abstracted harp!
QUEEN OF HELL SIREN NERIES
They don't come up that often on this site, but I always love a good cockatrice! They often tend to have a real scuzziness about them beyond just a simple chicken-reptile hybrid, and this is no exception! He's a humanoid chicken monster, yes, but his body is beautifully armored with red, orange and yellow scales shaped just right to also remind us of bird feathers. His shoulders are a couple of creepy, gaping beak-like growths with tonguelike purple cones in their centers, and he has some lovely warty, purple flesh down his chest for good measure. The head is also masterfully mid-way between chicken and snake, the beak itself continuing into a scaly viper-like visage that surrounds the cold, beady eyes. A pair of webbed and lacy wattles resemble reptilian fins, and the green, webbed crest interestingly has its own tiny little skull on the end! Kind of a tiny horse-like or dragon-like skull with no lower jaw, making it look like the entire crest is some finned serpent resting on the real head.
COCKATRICE THE FEET SCRATCHER
Finally, the arms. Or wings. Or neither, really; instead of arms, the Cockatrice has what resembles the horned and fanged head of a classical fire-breathing fantasy gaming dragon bisected into two appendages, each flattened half of the "dragon head" bearing an eye on only the outer surface, the inner surface even showing some exposed bone! This monster is as terrifyingly badass as anything could ever be while also being 50% chicken, which, if you're really experienced with chickens, is arguably scarier than if it were 0% chicken.
The "original" mythical cockatrice was actually said to cause immediate death to anything it looked at, even plant life, but that's obviously rather overpowered for the purposes of most fantasy media. This cockatrice is one of those that opts instead for a petrification ray, but in an even more disturbing twist, it also eats the statues. Is that a reference to chickens swallowing stones to help digest their food?! I want it to be.
This is one of the "Hades Beastmen," a kind of special category parallel to the beasts. The key difference is that the beasts reference the kind of monsters you would encounter in a fantasy RPG dungeon, whereas the beastmen reference character classes or more humanoid monster races! Gaston the Thief is, however, arguably weirder than many of the straight up beasts. The basic template of his design is a human thief wearing a lot of belts, piouches, armor and a black hood, but the hood is quite clearly made of flesh, and extends into big, black fingers, tipped with pale hooked claws, wrapping around his chest and shoulders. A pair of gold, pupil-less, big eyeballs also grow out of this black flesh right around his armpits, and even larger gold orb eyes grow from the hood where his human eyes ought to be, the surrounding flesh forming another pair of hooked finger things that sweep back from the eyeballs like a couple of "ears" or "antennae." Only his humanlike nose and ghoulish, rat-toothed mouth peek from the hood itself, and oh yeah, the hood-flesh also has various.....fish fins? Or something??? The whole getup makes him look like some kind of deep sea squid-spider tried to swallow a humanoid squirrel, if we're being honest.
THE STURM AND DRANG GREAT ROBBER, THIEF GASTON
His powers are pretty ludicrous, but also devastatingly threatening: he can not only steal items, but make them EXPLOSIVE. It has to be something that somebody wants back for the magic to work, and he calls it what the fandom wiki has translated as "important item dynamite."
This is one of the leaders, rather than just another monster of the week, but I also love a good Medusa! She seems to have a mostly human form, besides the pale lavender colored skin, but she wears a pretty killer outfit made up of scaly looking black and blue straps and buckles, and her head from the nose up is encased inn organic helmet of blue scales with a pair of big, curving bony horns and four large snake heads. Also interesting are her eyes; three red ocelli (arthropod-style eye lenses) in the center of her bulging forehead, surrounded by four long, thin purple visors. It's hard to tell where we can draw the line between what's just a costume and what's biological anatomy, here. And because you're going to bring it up anyway if I don'tm yeah, she also has the same three red ocelli things in the middle of each boob. Still keeping with a totally cool look, though, including that the black outfit exposes the paler skin of each in a way that almost looks like a couple of radiation hazard symbols. This is a little more detail than I've ever had to put into describing just a pair of boobs so let's move on to the fact that she carries a giant mirror shield with its own humanoid face and upper chest on it, and lest you think it's unwise for a gorgon to keep a mirror around at all times, her petrification power doesn't come from her gaze! It comes from being bitten by the snakes she can conjure from the mirror!
HADES WISE GODDESS GORGON
When we talked about Leech, we mentioned that he played drums for a band with two goth girl demons, Nai and Mea. Mimic is actually their personal pet, apparently! This insectoid monster doesn't disguise itself as just a "box," however; it disguises itself as a taxi cab. Once it unfurls into its true form, the car's hood forms a sort of giant upper jaw with tons of oversized spiky teeth sprouting from its slimy underside, but the creature's real "face" is a small, somewhat bug-like skull also situated in those gooey, green gums. The front of the car is split between the monster's arms, which are lined with more giant teeth, and the rest of the vehicle becomes a set of beetle-like wings on the back, lined with a latticework of root-like veins. The most striking detail, however, is the taxi cab's false driver, a little skeleton man growing from the beast's stomach, bony hands still clutching a "steering wheel" forming from the monster's pelvis!
MIMIC, THE FORBIDDEN BOX THAT MUST NEVER BE OPENED
This is the only form we ever see for Mimic, but how? The Hades Beasts supposedly existed well before cars did. Perhaps it was "upgraded" by magic, perhaps it can molt or metamorphose into new forms of mimicry, or perhaps its outer casing can in fact shapeshift to imitate other things, like the usual treasure chests, and we just didn't see that happen in the show? Sadly, Mimic is slain by the heroes like pretty much every other monster, and yes, his owners miss him :(
This really looks more like a tick than a spider! A black and red, hunched humanoid whose face is mostly overlapping folds and flaps with a few tiny eyes. Very yonic, alien and parasitic looking, not at all like the face of a spider! It also seems to have more eyes on its upper chest and a single, small blue one where its sternum would be. Its fingers also make me think of a parasite, thick red digits lined with short, straight thorns. Of course the most prominent part of this design is the huge, round, spiny, silken sack on its back, held onto its body by a mesh of red tissue. This is actually where the spider collects the souls it feeds on, and this sack is also a bomb! Yes, this is another monster that will take something important to you just to blow it the heck up, only probably a little more important than your phone or your wallet. It's a really cool concept, with a really distinct design! I'm a big fan of spider themed monsters that don't just follow an obvious spider shape, but kind of "reskin" something else with spider anatomy, or just find an inventive way to evoke the "feeling" of a spider.
SPIDER THE SOUL EATER
It's always a treat when a toku monster is nonhumanoid enough to be a floating prop rather than a costume! Specter has a wonderful design incorporating several "ghostly" motifs into one, resembling a gnarled, branching, pale blue tree in roughly the shape of an armless and legless humanoid. Its gnarled surface forms a shape like an animal skull for the torso, with tree branch "horns," and a lower jaw that tapers into a ghostly tail like a spinal column. The head resembles a more humanoid skull, but rings of wood form what look like a second set of giant eye sockets to either side of the gaping jaws, and the being's menacing, glowing eyes peer from the darkness between its wooden fangs! There may be other ways to say "THE THEME IS GHOSTS!!!!!!!!!" with a single character design, yes, but I dare you to find one that can say it louder than this.
SPECTER THE POSSESSOR
Specter can, of course, take possession of organic bodies, but it also transforms the host into a monster as it slowly consumes them from the inside. This gives us a two-for-one creature design to review here, but probably a lot stranger than what you expected:
Originally sent to inhabit a human corpse, Specter instead gets shunted into a cactus, and the result is an amazingly cool, fearsome creature initially consisting of a ball-shaped cactus that can split open, like a toothy flower. Eventually it grows an entire "body" from inside that maw, a shambling mess of viciously barbed and red-tipped roots, jointed like a collection of knobbly, bloodstained fingers. Two legs are formed from thinner roots fused together, and a smaller pair of thorny appendages are bent like little mantis claws under its new "head" - a sort of yellow flower with four long, thin, curving petals more like bony jaws! Genuinely, have you ever seen or even conceived of a more vicious looking cactus monster? Even for plant-based monsters in general, this is an exceptionally predatory and alien looking being.
IT'S A SLIME! And what an incredibly fun way to fit a slime into a humanoid frame! The gooey green glob is partially encased in a thick, heavy looking suit of armor with numerous portholes for the creaature's pseudopoda, some of them even comically stuffed with corks. One big pseudopod forms the right arm, ending in a comical toothy mouth, and it has an even bigger Audrey II looking mouth in the bulbous ball of jelly filling its torso area. The one detail that really completes it all, however, is that the armor still has a more human-sized helmet on top, and you can faintly see a human skull just through the membrane of goo. You'd think the slime had just digested a guy and taken over his armor, if said armor wasn't so obviously designed for a slime.
BLOB THE GLUTTON
Blob doesn't do much but swallow and temporarily imprison people until it's finally destroyed, but one episode does show that blobs are an entire species in the underworld, as we briefly see a giant, purple version without the armor suit.
Another completely nonhumanoid beast! Worm has a huge, conical bone body, like a segmented snail shell, flaring open into a ring of partially formed skulls. You can kind of miss the way they're arranged, but each is basically just the right half of a sharp-toothed skull slightly overlapping the next skull beneath it, forming a kind of spiraled demon-skull digging mechanism! Each also has that one tattered rotten wing sprouting out of its side, which the flightless creature seemingly uses more like a ring of flippers to help it crawl around in any orientation! The most immediately prominent feature of the whole thing, however, are the multiple worm heads writhing out of that gaping skull-vortex. Slick, tubular worms with grooves running their entire length, rather than the ring-like segments of earthworms. I also like the strands of tissue joining them together towards the base! And when we get a closer look at these heads, they're just as lovingly designed as the body:
WORM THE SOIL EATER
Can you BELIEVE they used this monster for nothing but episode three? Every aspect of this creature screams either "final boss" or very close to it. This is MINIMUM the kind of monster you roll out to permanently kill off a main character mid-way through a series run.
An interesting change of pace! This is literally just a supernatural, infectious mold wielded as a weapon by one of the other villains, but it's officially considered one of the Hades Beasts! Its true form is just a grapefruit-sized green orb with a single eye, seemingly the fruiting body from which it produces a fog of green spores. Anyone infected is slowly consumed by mold that supposedly drains their lifeforce, or maybe their literal blood, it's not clear. Once the "main" mold opens its eye, all hosts are said to die simultaneously as the entity feeds on the collected energy.
HADES FUNGAL BEAST MOLD
In a series that also features mimics and slimes as kaiju, I can't help noticing how much this little rascal looks like the original "Gas Spore" design from Dungeons and Dragons, if you just took off the little stalks on top! The fact that they officially categorize this small, infectious orb as a Hades Beast also reminds me of the good old days when toxic mold was also considered a "monster" in D&D materials, and why shouldn't it be?! It's alive, isn't it?? Last I heard, it's only ever categorized as a "trap" or an "environmental hazard" in newer gaming materials. And speaking of spores:
I'm happy to report that this is not related to our previous monster; there are simply two completely different fungus-based Hades Beasts! This other example is a more traditional, humanoid tokumonster, but a lot of little touches really set it apart from your typical "mushroom man!" The large, pumpkin-orange mushroom cap looks "rotten" or "chewed open" in the front to resemble an open hood, exposing an interior mycelial lattice with bubbly blue, gelatinous tissue pulsing within like a cluster of dimly glowing eyes. The sides of the ragged cap-hood continue extending, too, into a whole open "robe" with multiple frilly, cascading layers. There are also mushrooms growing down his sides, like shelf fungi, and the effect of their caps sticking out through the surrounding tissue makes them look almost like protruding ribs! More mushroom clusters form his shoulders, and more robe-like fungal frills form a pair of "sleeves." I really like the design of the hands, as well, each one a sort of flattened mitten resembling a single broad mushroom cap, and so the inner palms are textured like a mushroom's gills! Cool!!! The rest of the body we can see through the "robe" is just kind of a lumpy, pot bellied humanoid mushroom, but there's a few small lumps with dark pores evoking teeny, tiny skulls. The whole thing is just BEAUTIFUL, somehow both minimalistic - effectively one big mushroom with limbs - and highly elaborate when we break down all those individual details.
FUNGUS, WHO LAUGHS WITHIN THE FOG
Fungus's powers are fairly terrifying, too: he can fill the air with an orange fog of spores that can not only poison and sicken people, but completely dissolve them into musty, grey powder! And yes, as promised, he laughs within that fog. Have a clip!
You know, the localized "Power Ranger" shows usually give every monster a sillier name, but poor PEEWEE was just translated into "SCREAMER." Boooo! HER NAME IS PEE WEE, COWARDS!!!
PEEWEE THE HARPY
_PEEWEE'S_ design is actually kind of typical of "harpy" themed monsters in anime and manga; mostly a fuzzy woman with scaly, clawed limbs and elaborate plumage, mostly intense blue in this case. The dash of weirdness in her design comes from her huge feathery "hairdo," which covers her eyes, spreads into a big pair of wings, and has its own bird beak on her forehead, like a whole eyeless, legless bird is fused to her skull. More eerily, a pair of large holes through the wings give the impression of big owl-like eyes at a distance, completing a final "bird face" with the beak-like yellow panel on her upper chest! Not bad at all, though what really earns her a spot here is one of the coolest, most disturbing, and very "me" powers you could ever give a bird woman.
Peewee's voice, and she speaks in the third person by the way, spreads a curse that magically brings hunger pains to life, manifesting as a deadly parasitic "HARPY BUG" in the victim's stomach! It pains me to say that these creatures are barely visible in the episode itself, shown as only a faint X-ray outline, because the official design is just PHENOMENAL. You didn't just think it was a bird-headed worm and leave it at that, did you? Notice the fat, grubby worm body is also colored and textured quite a bit like a large intestine, but also like the gums of a predatory mammal. Small yellow spines down the sides resemble the claws of an insect larva, but much larger, backswept spines resemble "teeth" in a set of "jaws" formed by the parasite's U-shaped configuration! Eeriest of all, the monster also recalls a curled-up embryo, with the gaping, hungry baby bird beak on the back of the embryo's skull. WOW. I even feel like the little, smooth tail, bending abruptly off the fatter grub-intestine body, is quite possibly intended to resemble an appendix. This design so elegantly combines so many of my favorite motifs together it makes me feel less secure in my own creativity, and it was barely even used! I practically want to weep at its flawless majesty.
If anyone else wanted to show me pictures of their kids, I'd have to come up with a believable excuse to very suddenly go home and go to bed instead. But if it were Peewee, I'd be captivated for hours by her photos of whatever Harpy Bugs do at the beach. I'd just make sure to bring adequate snacks, or maybe call ahead for a pizza.
You can read more about the Underground Hades Empire HERE, including a list of the many other Hades Beasts! They've got a dragon made of swords, an ogre that's a giant crawfish guy, and plenty more!
OPTIONAL COMMENT PROMPTS TO CONSIDER: -Do you have a favorite of these guys, and why?
-Would you have preferred one of them go about their concept differently? Is something missing from one of the designs?
-Did you spot anything interesting that I skipped over?
-If you checked them out or already knew them, do you have any thoughts on a design I didn't include here???
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