Tangent Knights 3: Gemini Ascendant annotations

This document explains background, scientific concepts, allusions, in-jokes, and the like in Tangent Knights 3: Gemini Ascendant. Be aware that this document contains spoilers for the whole of the audio novel. I would strongly recommend not reading it until one has completed the novel, since many of the notes contain spoilers for things not revealed until later.

For general reference about Japanese tokusatsu series, I recommend:

Kamen Rider Wiki: https://kamenrider.fandom.com/wiki/Kamen_Rider_Wiki

RangerWiki (Super Sentai/Power Rangers): https://powerrangers.fandom.com/wiki/RangerWiki

Metal Heroes Wiki: https://metalheroes.fandom.com/wiki/Metal_Heroes_Wiki

Ultraman Wiki: https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Ultraman_Wiki

Numerous tokusatsu series are in official US release with English subtitles at the following sites:

ShoutFactory TokuSHOUTsu:

Series: https://www.shoutfactorytv.com/tv/tokushoutsu

Films: https://www.shoutfactorytv.com/film/tokushoutsu

Toei Tokusatsu World Official (only some episodes subtitled): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7pddu3yyzkzFEiXfQLex3w

Ultraman Official by Tsuburaya Productions: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5PBnSG7C0WXp5gjd4bzKtw


This is easily the best cover yet. I like the choice of an intense moment from the climax. The first two covers just highlighted the books’ title characters, but it makes sense to emphasize both Caprice and Gemini here, pitted against each other in their armors’ final forms. It’s a good interpretation of their designs, too. I envisioned Caprice Spectrum Mode as having more of a diffraction-grating rainbow effect, but the scene here is in an indoor space that wouldn’t have a lot of ambient light anyway.



0:45: I repeat my trick from Book 2 of doing a Kamen Rider-style “last episode” recap, then revealing it’s Cory narrating to someone in-story. It was tougher to make it work as Cory narrating to her comatose father without giving away whom she was talking to, so I had to save the exposition about Eiji himself until after the recap.

Cory at Nimbus

3:15: It’s been two days since the end of Book 2. It’s now June 4, 2046.

9:45: It wasn’t until I was well into writing Book 3 that I realized I needed to make Orion a cyborg. Given what happens to Orion later in the book, I realized it would be too easily reversible if his armor was strictly external like Tempest’s. I’d already turned in Book 2 and didn’t have the chance to seed it there, but I was able to lay the groundwork for it here, which probably works better anyway, since it’s fresher in the listener’s mind.

But working in this exposition required sacrificing the original end I wrote for the elevator scene:

CORY: I forgot you were stabbed by a giant squid robot!

RILEY: Only a little.

11:07: I came up with “digital intelligence” because it sounds less judgmental than “artificial intelligence,” which implies that computer-based individuals are less “real” than organic ones.

11:44: Dr. Penn is basically right that quantum-level information can’t be copied, only transferred. Quantum data is encoded in the quantum states of subatomic particles themselves, and interacting with them closely enough to read their data alters their quantum state, disrupting the data. This is basically the idea behind quantum teleportation: rather than physically teleporting the particles, you transfer their state information to a new set of particles that essentially “become” the originals, because in quantum terms, information is identity. The state information in the original particles is lost in the process, so rather than creating a duplicate of the original, you transfer its unique quantum information to another set of particles.

I’m not sure this would really be the case for quantum computers as opposed to quantum teleportation, but it’s a convenient handwave for Echo’s uniqueness.

11:55: “I wonder why they chose the name, then”: I never figured out Echo’s own reason for their name, but it may have something to do with the mountain nymph Echo from Greek mythology, who used her gift of gab for deception, distracting Hera to keep her from catching her husband Zeus in his many, many affairs. When Hera found out, she cursed Echo to repeat the last thing she heard, and Echo eventually wasted away until she was nothing but a disembodied voice (the mythological explanation for actual echoes).

My choice of Echo’s name was somewhat influenced by the Japanese word hibiki (resounding/echoing), which, as I mentioned in the Book 2 notes, is the name of characters in both the Kamen Rider and Ultraman franchises.

New Avalon Matrix office

19:00: When I got to this point, I realized it was awkward having characters named Malika, Erika, and Chandika. But at the time I named Chandika in Book 1, I didn’t yet plan on bringing her back or having her join the team under that name. If I’d known, I might have gone with the alternate form Chandi instead. Well, at least “Erika” is pronounced differently.

19:57: Alex’s lecture on temporal causality seems random, but it’s planting a seed for later.

22:28: As always, I want every Tangent Knight armor or weapon upgrade to symbolize a character milestone, so it has meaning rather than just being a gimmick. So I didn’t want Erika to become a Knight too easily. Given how much she craved phase armor from the start, her milestone for earning it had to be setting aside ambition and seeking the armor for selfless reasons — symbolized by giving up her wings. (I also wanted to add only two new Knights per novel to avoid clutter — Caprice and Cauldron in Book 1, Orion and Prometheus in Book 2, etc.)

25:00: Tseng’s interplay with Erika here is an effort to find some humor in the character. As I mentioned in the Book 2 notes, Cauldron’s arc owes a lot to Gentoku Himuro/Kamen Rider Rogue in Kamen Rider Build. Gentoku was initially Build’s primary antagonist and a very dark, driven character, but he eventually had an epiphany and joined the heroes, at which point he revealed a more humorous side — namely, once he’d lost his government job and wasn’t in suits anymore, it turned out he had an incredibly awful fashion sense. I didn’t think that gag worked, but I liked the general idea of softening a redeemed villain through humor. Also, since I had some really intense drama going on with Cory and Malika, I didn’t want to lose the fun and humor of the series.

There’s a serious side to it, though, since the subtext is that Tseng is worried about reuniting with his family and is subconsciously trying to prove to himself that he’s not a terrible father. Although, of course, he kind of is.

Malika in alien base

25:50-27:40: As usual, the locations are inspired by frequently used filming locations in tokusatsu shows. The underwater glass tunnel is from the Shinagawa Aquarium and was notably used in Kamen Rider Kuuga among others. The stone circle and surrounding buildings are loosely based on the Gunma Astronomical Observatory, which contains recreations of several ancient cultures’ astronomical constructs, and whose stone circle has often been used in tokusatsu to represent ancient temples, ritual locations, or the like. It was featured in the climactic episodes of Kamen Rider Build, among others.

28:30: In a prose novel, I could’ve had Malika and Echo debate in her mind. For audio, I had to concoct a way to give the suppressed Malika a voice, and my solution proved useful for a later development.

29:04: “Neural lace”: This is a real concept, a mesh surgically implanted atop the brain and used to interface with it and treat neurological disorders.

30:05: If I had known at the beginning that Malika’s story would go in this direction, having her basically enslaved and robbed of bodily control, I might not have made the character an African-American woman. I realized I was treading on sensitive ground, and as a white cis-male, I’m unavoidably limited in my ability to truly understand and address the issues here. I only hope I treated it with enough sensitivity.

I also had to modulate Echo carefully, showing their genuine caring for Malika while not losing sight of the fact that what they’ve done to her is inexcusable and all their rationalizations are inadequate.

30:50: “It’s preferable to subjugation”: I also realized there was a risk of Malika’s story being ableist, given that she felt inadequate with her disability and believed she needed her merger with Echo to make a difference. I hoped to have her learn she could be just as valuable either way. I don’t think I quite managed to pull that off, and I don’t know if it would’ve worked anyway, given that her condition was progressive and degenerating. But at least I managed to work in a nod to the idea here.

31:35: In keeping with the tokusatsu convention of meaningful character names, Sarmash’s name is derived from saru, Japanese for a monkey or ape. Though that’s not really accurate, since Sarmash’s species is no closer to bonobos than humans are to chimpanzees.

31:44: “upload English into their speech centers”: This was the most convenient way to handle the language issue in an audio novel.

32:17: “less war and more love”: Bonobos are known for being more peaceful than other great apes and prone to using sexual interaction as a means of social bonding and relaxing tensions. I’ve seen it argued that this difference might have been exaggerated due to different observational protocols and environments, but it still seems to hold as the conventional wisdom, and it served my story needs.

33:28: “where a human is concerned”: It’s a frequent pattern in 21st-century Kamen Rider and Ultraman to have the villains interrogate humanity’s worth or right to exist, and for the characters to debate humanity’s capacity for violence vs. love and hope. So it was fitting for the climax of the Caprice Trilogy to put humanity’s worth on trial.

Caprice in lab

36:16: Vidkun Quisling was an infamous Nazi collaborator who led the government of occupied Norway in World War II. His name has become synonymous with traitors or collaborators with the enemy.

36:50-38:25: Eiji’s brain being shifted into multiple phases is one of the most fanciful ideas in the trilogy. But I needed a reason why Caprice would need to upgrade her phase-armor powers even more to save Eiji. Sophie’s handwave about the different “native” phase vectors of different universes’ nanomaterial is also fairly fanciful, but needed to set up the spectrum metaphor and the mechanism for Caprice’s next power-up.

38:40ff: I wasn’t aware of it when I wrote the trilogy, but routine interaction among parallel universes is a trademark of the “New Generation” era of the Ultraman franchise beginning in 2013, with antecedents in the Ultraman Zero movie trilogy from 2009-2012. All the Shōwa-era (pre-1989) Ultra series (except the 1979 anime) were in a single universe, while most series in the 1990s and early 2000s were in separate universes that didn’t cross over except in a few theatrical films. The New Generation is an odd hybrid where nearly every series is set on a different parallel Earth, yet cross-universe interaction is commonplace. The majority of New Generation Ultras are immigrants to their series’ universes (Intersects in Tangent Knights terms), most often originating from the Shōwa-era universe. They often derive their powers or alternate forms from past Ultras or kaiju, sometimes blending attributes from two or three Ultras from different universes—not unlike what Cory and Sophie are discussing here, combining phase metal from multiple realms to create more powerful armor forms. It’s interesting that, along with all the intentional tokusatsu homages in Tangent Knights, I managed to create this parallel by accident.

Morgan’s penthouse interview

41:30: Que gusto de verlo, cariño”: “How nice to see you, dear.”

Morgan in Eiji’s hospital room

47:09: From what I could find, ankle monitors tend to beep for one minute if they’re taken out of the house-arrest radius. I was glad of that, since it would’ve been annoying to have Morgan’s anklet beep throughout the scene.

51:16: “Su patria importa”: “Your homeland matters.” The word patria is a fairly loaded term in Spanish history due to its connection with nationalist and separatist movements; see https://www.thelocal.es/20201012/spanish-word-of-the-day-patria/. I’m not sure if it carries the same weight for someone of Latin American origin like Morgan, but it’s appropriate to the context if it does.

51:47: It’s probably self-evident that “¡Ese es exactamente el problema!” means “That is exactly the problem!” As usual, I tried to have Morgan speak Spanish only when the meaning was clear from context, as with the previous line, or from close English cognates as in this case.

And yes, it’s “el problema,” not “la problema.” Apparently many Spanish words ending in -ma, -ta, or -pa are actually masculine despite ending in -a; something to do with those words being derived from Greek.

Malika faces Supermatrix council

56:02: The name Ouzet for the elephant councillor is a wordplay on the Japanese word for elephant, zou, which reminded me of the 1990s movie character Kamen Rider ZO, pronounced “zetto-oh” (approximating “zed-oh,” since Japan learned English from the British first), which I inverted into “oh-zetto,” or “oh-zet.” It ended up being pronounced “Ooh-zet,” obscuring its derivation further.

56:10: The description of Ouzet’s speech is consistent with real elephant communication, which is believed to be quite complex and might potentially represent a true language, or nearly so. See: https://www.4elephants.org/blog/article/how-elephants-communicate

57:07: Just as “Matrix” is a term from quantum mathematics, “Supermatrix” is also a real mathematical term. Here’s an article about it, though I admit I don’t understand it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermatrix (Part of the reason I write science fiction, rather than going into physics like two of my uncles, is that I could never quite get a handle on higher mathematics.)

Supermatrix is based on an organization from one of my unused 1990s comics ideas, aliens who operated clandestinely to regulate the advancement of dangerous species like humans. I originally called them Nightguard, then realized that sounded too much like Right Guard deodorant and changed it to Darkguard. But that name was too awkward when spoken aloud, so it wouldn’t do for an audio novel.

I don’t like it when characters arbitrarily avoid explaining things to build suspense for later revelations, but when I tried having Echo and Supermatrix explain everything to Malika up front (actually in the next Supermatrix scene, not this one), it was too dry and talky and didn’t have the emotional impact it would have later. But I think Supermatrix’s arbitrary secretiveness does help establish the flaws in their mindset, their overly controlling and manipulative habits.

58:00ff: This Gemini action scene wasn’t in the outline, but I realized I’d had no action at all up to this point. The whole first part of the novel was underdeveloped in the outline and I had to flesh out a lot as I went. This proved to be a great solo action showcase for Gemini, befitting her role as the title character of Book 3.

58:45ff: The reason Malika is more verbose than usual after she transforms is to reassure herself that she can speak freely again and to revel in that freedom, though it’s also an excuse to work some necessary exposition into her dialogue rather than needing narration to break the flow of the scene.

1:02:00: Supermatrix’s practice of abducting, training, and upgrading locals to serve as agents on their planets of origin is admittedly similar to what was done by Gary Seven’s employers in Star Trek: “Assignment: Earth” (a group later named the Aegis in the ST comics by Howard Weinstein and in novels following his lead, including several of my own, but given a different identity in season 2 of Star Trek: Picard). It also owes something to the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire, members of non-Muslim subject peoples taken as children and raised to serve as local administrators in their home territories, so they would be acceptable to their own communities while still serving the empire’s interests. I did a similar riff on this in my novelette “Twilight’s Captives.”

1:03:42: “I knew the speech center had links to the motor cortex”: This may be a bit of a fudge to justify the foregoing action scene, but it has some basis in reality. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_processing_in_the_brain

Cory and Tseng persuade Spark

1:12:52: A quantum state vector is a mathematical representation of the quantum state of a particle, object, or in this case, an entire observational realm (timeline/universe). It’s treated as a vector in Hilbert space, a virtual multidimensional space where each dimension represents a different variable defining the state of the object being described. Thus, any change in the state of one parameter changes the direction (or phase) of the vector. Which is why “parallel” timelines are actually perpendicular in Hilbert space, as Alex mentioned in Book 1.

1:13:17: “Geekdom is a bond like no other”: I’d intended Cory to win Spark over with her talk about courage alone. Having their shared fandom close the deal was a serendipitous discovery as I wrote the scene.


Tangent Knight Dragonfly debut, training

3:40ff: A training session may not be the most exciting place to debut a new superhero armor, but the relaxed pace gives me the luxury of describing it in detail (both introducing Dragonfly and reintroducing Prometheus) without having to interrupt a fight scene. These are the adaptations one has to make when telling a tokusatsu story in a non-visual medium. (There are prose novel spinoffs and sequels to various toku shows, but as I don’t live in Japan or read Japanese, I have no idea how they approach the armor descriptions.)

Dragonfly is the first Tangent Knight with an insect theme, but it was the default for 20th-century Kamen Riders (except Amazon Rider, sort of a monitor lizard/piranha hybrid), and used for a fair number of 21st-century Riders (e.g. Kuuga is named and styled after a kuwagatamushi/stag beetle, and Kabuto after a kabutomushi/rhinoceros beetle, while the first Reiwa-era Rider, Zero-One, has a grasshopper motif like the original Kamen Rider). The Metal Heroes series B-Fighter, very loosely adapted by Saban as Big Bad Beetleborgs, used (you guessed it) a beetle theme. The 2023-4 Sentai series, Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger, will be the first full Sentai team with insect-themed costumes, though there have been a few individual Rangers with insect themes, including Go-Busters’ beetle-themed Beet Buster and Stag Buster and Magirangers’ butterfly-themed MagiPink.

Cory and Nalah study session

10:45: The Heavenly Kingdom was a rebel state in 19th century China, the group behind the Taiping Rebellion; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Heavenly_Kingdom. Presumably it succeeded in taking over China on Realm Seventeen, and Hong Baozhai would be a descendant of its founder Hong Xiuquan. The Hawaiian Empire isn’t based on anything beyond just inverting the way our history played out.

12:00: The unseen T.J. is a nod to the Red Ranger T.J. (Selwyn Ward) from Power Rangers Turbo/Power Rangers in Space.

Eclipse interrogations

14:15: I wanted to show one or two of Caprice’s visits to other realms, but I didn’t have room. I attempted, then abandoned a scene set at a hotel in Bermuda, riffing on the common 20th-century tokusatsu practice to do episodes arbitrarily set at resort hotels, amusement parks, or tourist sites, presumably as some sort of product-placement deal in exchange for funding. Ultimately I had to settle for a throwaway wink to that trope in the epilogue.

15:54: “The Great Leader’s always an alien”: As I mentioned in the Book 2 notes, Cory is referencing the Great Leader of Shocker and similar characters in early Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series, the hidden leader revealed in the series endgame.

20:35: I admit I’m repeating the frequent 21st-century Kamen Rider plot device of the same mastermind pitting two sides against each other, and I even acknowledge the similarity to Morgan’s schemes in dialogue. This grew from my decision late in writing Book 2 to reveal that a Cefal was behind Eclipse. I thought it would be a cool twist, and an appropriate homage to the Shōwa-era KR villains that Eclipse is a riff on, but I didn’t really have a plan for how it would fit into Book 3. What I came up with is reasonably coherent, I think, but it is a bit of a rehash.

Malika in infuser lab

25:34: I’d intended the elephant Ouzet to be a leading Supermatrix character along with Sarmash, but my decision to add Erebos to the story regrettably marginalized Ouzet. By the time I wrote this book, I was getting into some of the 1980s Super Sentai series from head writer Hirohisa Soda, one of the franchise’s most consistently strong runs. Soda’s series didn’t always develop the Sentai members that well, but the villains had a lot of melodrama and rich conflicts, which inspired me to establish a rivalry between Erebos and Akuma. With them and Sarmash representing the various factions in Supermatrix, Ouzet proved redundant. But I kept Ouzet in the early chapters since I didn’t want to spoil the surprise about Erebos.

Total Ecliptic henshin

30:40ff: Over the course of this trilogy, I’ve tried to homage the different categories of monsters that have appeared in Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, such as aliens or extradimensional beings (Intersects), cyborgs (Ecliptics), and robots (Catchforms). The Total Ecliptics are a riff on the more adult, horror-themed 1992 reboot Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue (not to be confused with the similarly named 2023 Hideaki Anno reboot), whose Rider underwent a grotesque, werewolf-style transformation into a monstrous grasshopper man, a prosthetic creature makeup rather than the usual armor costume. This was itself something of a deconstruction of the original KR concept, in which the Riders were robot-bodied cyborgs whose insect-themed Rider armor was implicitly inside them until they transformed. I wanted to do a more realistic take on what that kind of armor emergence would look like, which would surely be rather horrific.

Granted, since the armor’s out of phase, there’s no good reason it couldn’t just materialize on top of their skin instead of bursting out painfully. The crude brutality of the transformation illustrates how little regard or empathy Lord Erebos has for his experimental subjects.

32:00: Yukawa’s spidery Total Ecliptic form is a nod to the first KR monster, Kumo Otoko (literally Spider Man), and to the fact that Yukawa is an homage to actress Yukie Kagawa, who played the villain Amazoness in Toei’s Spider-Man. Hauer’s rhinoceros-beetle form is a riff on Kamen Rider Kabuto and other kabutomushi-themed characters.

32:10: Armor Operator Corbett is named for the characters Leo and Mike Corbett from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy — more for Mike, who was (apparently) killed in the first episode. As I mentioned in the Book 2 notes, I’d originally planned to feature one or two of the Aerie’s other operators and maybe give them Tangent Knight names, but this poor redshirt is as close as I came.

Tangent Knights battle Total Ecliptics

41:40: Nimbus City’s business district is based on one of the most recognizable tokusatsu action scene locations, the skyway adjacent to High-tech-dori Avenue (yes, really) in the Makuhari community of Chiba City, Japan, recognizable for its distinctive skyscrapers, plazas, and skywalks. The plaza where Echo attacks Caprice is this one outside the NTT Makuhari Building in Chiba, notable for the wall of rectangular columns mentioned in the text.

43:28: “I’ll show you what humans are!”: The challenge “What do you think humans are?” seems to be a recurring one in tokusatsu, so Cory is riffing on it, and on a common Japanese phrasing (I think it’s “mite kudasai”) that tends to be subtitled as “Please look” or “Let me show you.”

45:06: “Tangent Knight Echo”: I foreshadowed this in Book 1, when Malika rejected Echo’s suggestion that she adopt the name. The moiré ripple pattern of the armor is based on the idea that the gold and silver phase metals blended together and interfered to produce a Turing pattern, but it’s also meant to suggest sound waves and echoes. They obscure the normally translucent visor to symbolize the suppression of Malika’s identity and humanity, and to make this form more forbidding.

Despite Caprice’s objection, it’s not unprecedented for Kamen Riders’ code names to be simply their civilian names. The first was Kamen Rider Shin from the 1992 movie, whose given name was Shin. The next few were extra Riders exclusive to movies and sequel specials, e.g. Den-O’s Kamen Rider Gaoh, Fourze’s Kamen Rider Nadeshiko, and Drive’s Kamen Rider Heart. They’ve become much more common in recent series, including Ex-Aid’s Kamen Rider Poppy and Ride Player Nico, Zi-O’s Kamen Riders Geiz, Woz, and Tsukuyomi, Zero-One’s Kamen Riders Horobi, Jin, and Naki, Saber’s Kamen Rider Storious, and Revice’s Kamen Rider Vice (the first Main Rider to do it, though he shares lead status with Kamen Rider Revi). There are a few borderline cases, e.g. Drive’s Kamen Rider Chaser (real name Chase), Ex-Aid’s Kamen Rider Para-DX (Parado), and Build’s Kamen Rider Evol (Evolto). The majority of these characters are artificial intelligences, aliens, or otherwise inhuman, so it’s coincidentally appropriate that Echo is the one to use the convention. (There are also the Ultra Force members from the 1987 American animated pilot movie Ultraman: The Adventure Begins, who were just “Ultramen” in the movie but are known in Japan by their human hosts’ names, Ultraman Scott, Ultraman Chuck, and Ultrawoman Beth.)

However, my “official” designation for this form is Tangent Knight Gemini Echo Mode.

The character beat symbolized by Echo Mode, of course, is Echo’s betrayal of Malika and their friends. As usual, though, villain upgrades are as much about creating obstacles for the heroes as advancing the villains’ character arcs. Echo is as much an obstacle for Malika as for Caprice.

47:55: Recall in Book 1 how Alex mused about the implausibility of how people could breathe or hear when out of phase with the air? I made sure to establish in the script that the cross-phase limbo was airless and silent. I had an earlier bit in this sequence, deleted for time, where Dragonfly shifted to limbo space to evade a Total Ecliptic and held her breath. In retrospect, that was a bad idea, since holding your breath in vacuum could rupture the alveoli in the lungs. Just as well it was cut, then.

Caprice battles Echo across realms

48:55: The bridge is an homage to the Shidakura Hanging Bridge in Okutama, which has been used in numerous productions over the decades. It appeared twice in The Return of Ultraman and was destroyed in miniature both times. It was featured in episode 11 of Toei’s Spider-Man, as discussed here: https://kamenriderrecap.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/japanese-spider-man-episode-11-recap-a-bridge-too-far/ I even found a YouTube video of it, which I linked to in my manuscript as a guideline for the audio ambience of the scene.

50:55: For the big confrontation between the Knights, the ideal setting was the abandoned historic quarry at Mount Iwafune (Iwafuneyama) in Tochigi, Japan; see https://tokusatsunetwork.com/2019/11/tokusatsu-filming-locations/#MountIwafune. This is the site of some of the biggest, most epic battles in toku shows from the late 1990s and the 21st century, although recent series tend to use it so routinely that’s it’s lost some of its specialness.

51:11: With Caprice’s “Ohh, perfect!” I wanted to imply that it’s the actual Mt. Iwafune, a toku fan’s ideal choice for a climactic battle, where Cory subconsciously brought herself for just that reason. I hesitate to say that’s literally the case, since I wanted it to have a sense of remoteness, while Mt. Iwafune is actually a fairly small area in the middle of a town. Well, maybe this is a realm where that part of Japan is unpopulated.

One bit of action deleted for time was a cool move I’ve seen in a number of swordfight scenes, where the two fighters walk or run crabwise (sideways) in parallel as they face each other, as if each is trying to preclude the other from outflanking them. I don’t know if there’s a specific name for the move, but it seems perennial, so I wanted to homage it. Well, maybe in the next trilogy.

54:10: “A massive blast”: I originally intended the Phase Sword simply to shatter or disintegrate the Phase Staff, but once I chose Mt. Iwafune as the battle site, I had to include a humongous explosion to do it justice.

Tempest in Nimbus

55:19: “Why do these things always attack stadiums?” Another nod (see Book 1) to the ubiquitous use of stadium exteriors as battle sites in Sentai and KR.

57:00: Chandika calling the attacks is a nod to the vocal and sound effects used by modern toku heroes’ equipment, with the toys driving the design of the in-show items. Once the technology came along in the early 2000s for toys to incorporate sound chips, the equipment in the shows started to play music and vocal phrases, which have only gotten more elaborate and annoying over the years. It’s a trope I chose to avoid because it’s implausible and irritating, but I couldn’t resist a judicious nod here.

Echo explains at cliffside

1:01:18: “The eruption destroyed the Cefal’s entire Solar system”: In my original novel-trilogy premise that I reworked into Tangent Knights, the heroine’s phase metal powers escalated until she risked triggering an ekpyrotic catastrophe that would destroy entire universes. For TK, I dialed it down to just the Solar system, because I realized a long time ago that stories about threats to the whole universe are too implausible. Given the sheer age and vastness of the universe, if anything had the power to destroy the whole thing, then statistically speaking, it would surely have already happened.

1:02:12: Listing dolphins among the more peaceful species is a bit iffy. For all their deserved reputation of friendliness toward humans, they are still predators, and are prone to violence and abusive behavior toward other dolphins. (Humans and dolphins are both kinder to each other than to our own respective species, probably because we have less to fight over.) But I guess it’s a relative thing.


Return to Nimbus

0:14: “How did we get here so fast?” This is a riff on the abrupt, inexplicable changes of location in toku fight scenes, a trope that began due to the need to stage action sequences and explosions in remote areas, so that characters might be on a city street or indoors one moment and in a quarry or on a hillside the next. The pattern persists today even with many action scenes being staged in urban locations like the one in Chiba that this sequence is based on.

Similar scene changes happen in Power Rangers when it cuts from new footage filmed in New Zealand (or the US from 1993-2003) to recycled Sentai action footage. The new footage usually tries to match the general look of the original Japanese locations, but with mixed success. Though starting with Power Rangers: Cosmic Fury in 2023, the franchise will no longer be using stock Sentai footage aside from giant robot battles, with all the ground-level action being newly filmed.

3:52: “Most of my friends live there!” Inspired by the line from the 1994 animated series The Tick. When an interviewer asked the Tick if his powers would let him destroy the Earth, he said, “I hope not! That’s where I keep all my stuff!”

5:25: Having the Total Ecliptics take Eiji hostage is totally corny and contrived, but it’s in keeping with the 1970s-style melodramatic villainy of Eclipse. Taking the heroes’ friends hostage was a standard move of Shōwa villains, though it usually involved tying them to posts or crucifixes above a quarry.

9:00ff: I love it that after all the importance Erika placed on earning her armor, she ends up saving Malika by shedding her armor and leaving herself vulnerable.

11:40-12:20: In the Spectrum Mode henshin, the sword movements are somewhat inspired by She-Ra’s transformation sequences from her 2018 Netflix series, inspired by the same kinds of magical-girl anime henshin sequences that informed Caprice Unbound’s debut in Book 1.

The character milestone symbolized by the Phase Sword and Spectrum Mode is the payoff of Cory’s pursuit of greater power to save her father, and the next step in her ongoing arc of power escalation. It’s the point where she crosses a line against others’ warnings and initiates the conflict that propels the rest of the novel.

I made each of Caprice’s major upgrade forms lighter and thinner to imply that she needs less protection as her inner power grows. Caprice Base Mode was somewhat like the heavy metallic armors from the Metal Heroes franchise. Unbound Mode was more like Kamen Rider armor, a flexible undersuit with rigid outer pieces. Spectrum Mode is closer to the lightweight spandex of Sentai/Power Rangers or the “wetsuit” design of Ultraman costumes.

However, Spectrum Mode is inspired by some of the most sparkly final forms of Kamen Riders, such as Wizard’s Infinity Style, Ghost’s Mugen Damashii, or Build’s Genius Form.

As with Gemini Echo Mode, the visor obscuring Cory’s face is meant to suggest an impersonal distance, to feed the concern that she’s losing touch with her humanity as her power grows. And yes, this is ironic given that toku helmets almost always obscure the face.

I wanted Caprice’s most advanced armor to have a skirt to homage heroines like Sailor Moon, and either a short cape like the earliest Sentai heroes or a scarf like the Shōwa Kamen Riders. At this point, Caprice is so powerful that her armor can look however she wants, so she’d indulge herself with such decorative elements. The diagonal-cut cape is my (and her) compromise between the cape and scarf options.

15:18: The usual objection to superhero capes is that they can be easily grabbed or snagged, so I made a point of establishing that Caprice Spectrum could turn her cape intangible.

17:09: Heroes’ final forms that can predict the immediate future include Super LupinRed in Lupinranger vs. Patranger and Kamen Rider Zero-Two in Zero-One. The bunshin/cloning technique is a staple of ninja-themed heroes such as Dynaman’s DynaBlack or Maskman’s Yellow Mask, as well as Ultraman Dyna (no relation) and his 25th-anniversary tribute character Ultraman Decker in their Miracle Type forms. It was lucky for me that both techniques have analogies in quantum physics.

After the battle

20:10: Cory’s wish to participate in the rescue work reflects my feelings about Kyuukyuu Sentai GoGoFive, the basis for Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. That series was nominally about a team of rescue workers, and it did have the occasional sequence of the team engaging in rescue operations (and I do mean “sequence,” singular, since they always reused the same stock miniature footage from the premiere episode), but mostly the team fought monsters like your typical Sentai. I often wished they would do less fighting and more rescuing.

Reviving Eiji

28:25: Penn’s use of the Schroedinger’s Cat analogy is a bit inaccurate. The fact that quantum superpositions tend to collapse through interaction with large ensembles of particles is the resolution to the Cat paradox, because the dual state of the radioactive atom (which releases poison and kills the cat if it decays) would decohere into a single state through its interaction with the particles of the poison trigger itself well before you reach the point where the cat gets involved. So you’d never get a situation where the cat is literally both alive and dead. At most, as Malika says, you’d get one observational realm (“alternate universe”) for each of the two states.

32:45: Caprice Kami is inspired by the appearance of Lady M, the heroine in my original novel-trilogy premise mentioned above. Lady M’s powers made her look like a silvery statue of herself, sort of like the Silver Surfer, but nude until she figured out how to phase clothes and objects along with her. The other major influence is the Woman of the Beginning (Hajimari no Onna) of Kamen Rider Gaim, a mysterious future incarnation of the female lead who periodically appeared in the present to deliver cryptic, temporally jumpy messages, accompanied by ethereal music. I previously homaged this character in Star Trek: The Original Series: The Higher Frontier.

The “thinner armor” trend of Caprice’s upgrades reaches its logical extreme with Kami Mode. I considered making her fully nude like Lady M, to imply that she’d left behind human sensibilities like modesty, but the wafting, diaphanous dress (inspired by the Woman of the Beginning) seemed more elegant.

33:50: Caprice Kami’s voice has what’s known as a reverse reverb effect, a backward echo preceding her speech, to suggest that she’s come backward in time.

34:42: For some reason, Japanese fiction routinely uses the English phrase “time slip” (taimu suripu) for time travel, so Cory would naturally favor the term.

Cory reconnects with Eiji

38:00:Sugoi!”: Amazing, terrific, awesome. Like the English “terrific,” it originally meant “awful, horrifying” but somehow got flipped around to a positive.

38:38: Sentai/Ranger teams with retractable visors include Flashman (“Shut goggle!”) and Hurricaneger/Ninja Storm (with retractable visors and face plates to bare the whole face). GoGoFive/Lightspeed Rescue’s visors turn transparent, with a respirator mask underneath. A borderline case is Go-Busters/Beast Morphers, whose sunglass-style visors are the last part of their helmets to materialize, so that they briefly appear without them during the henshin sequence.

Malika with Sophie

42:25: You may note that I haven’t given Malika any nude scenes of the sort that I gave Cory in Books 1 & 2, even though I generally include a lot of nudity in my fiction and have made a point of stressing Malika’s great beauty. The difference is that Malika has been in a far more vulnerable, exploited situation here, so I feel it would’ve been inappropriate to present her in a sexual or titillating way. That’s a mistake I made in Only Superhuman, a book I wanted to be very sex-positive but has parts that are too male-gazey in retrospect, getting its heroine naked in vulnerable situations that might make female readers uncomfortable. Since then, I’ve tried to avoid sexualizing female characters in situations where they were not empowered or in control.

Echo’s punishment

43:30: Many early Sentai fight scenes were filmed at the docks, often with the team members doing their roll calls high up on the vast, boxy cargo cranes before leaping down to fight the villain.

45:50: “None of it is excusable”: Once again I’m evoking the common Japanese phrase yurusanai, “I will not forgive/allow” — or in this case yurusenai, “I cannot forgive.”

46:40: Malika’s wrestling over Echo’s punishment reflects my own. I had a hard time deciding whether Malika would kill Echo or spare them. I don’t like my protagonists to kill, and I think that killing a character is often more of a copout than an actual resolution, leaving too much unsettled. But given the fraught racial and gender issues raised by what was done to Malika, it would have been wrong to suggest that what Echo did was in any way forgivable or justifiable, or to place consideration for Echo above Malika’s right to reclaim her own power. Echo’s fate here seemed like a workable compromise, though I’m not sure any solution would’ve been ideal.


48:40: It wasn’t until after writing the big Nimbus battle that I realized that, if New Avalon University used the same 10-week quarter schedule as my own alma mater, then spring quarter finals would have to be no later than the week of June 10, 2046, right after the big battle on Saturday, June 9. That would require Alex’s physics lecture early in Book 1, on Wednesday, April 4, to have been in the first week of the quarter. Having a guest lecturer on the second day of class (assuming a MWF schedule) is iffy, but doable if it’s a continuation of a course from the previous quarter.

I briefly considered reworking the timing so that the looming finals would be an added complication alongside the buildup to the climax. But I realized that college hadn’t been a major element in the trilogy, so why start now? I also realized that Eiji’s post-coma physical therapy should take weeks even with advanced tangent medicine. So the two timing problems solved each other — as with Book 2, I could put a time jump in the middle, using finals to occupy Cory while Eiji recovered. I had to go back and seed in the early references to finals, including the study scene with Nalah.

Eiji at Grounds Table

50:46: We’re now up to Wednesday afternoon, June 27, 2046, a 16-day time jump since the scene on the docks. This is slightly shorter than the 20-day time jump midway through Book 2.

52:10:“Hajimemashite. Kagami desu”: “Pleased to meet you. I’m Kagami.” Literally, hajimemashite means “It’s the first time.”

52:18: Hentai is Japanese erotic comics and animation.

53:00: In the past, I’ve come close to stereotyping Asian characters as martial artists, e.g. with Kari/Tenshi in Only Superhuman and with Cory here, though both works have had other Asian characters who weren’t martial artists. Still, I wanted to try to counter that stereotype here by making it clear that Cory’s interest in martial arts is her own choice rather than a universal ethnic trait. (Similarly, I established earlier that Malika’s martial arts skill is superior to Cory’s.) Cory’s sensei Keith is a nod to my friend and martial-arts consultant Keith R.A. DeCandido (who ironically didn’t get to offer any notes on Book 3 due to my being late with the manuscript).

53:10: I have to apologize to the GraphicAudio adaptors for having both “EIJI:” and “ENID:” dialogue tags in the same scene — although that’s probably simple to follow compared to the earlier debates between “MALIKA:” and “MALIKA: (channeling Echo)”. At least I never had Eiji, Enid, Erika, and Echo in the same scene.

53:50: For the record, Brangaine is the handmaiden of Iseult/Isolde in Arthurian mythology.

54:50: I had Philip panic in the first two battles he was drawn into, which I thought might come off as a stereotype, so I had him react more bravely this time.


Plaza battle

0:55: The Kumanoid attacking here is the same individual that fought Gemini back at the Supermatrix base.

Eiji confronts Tseng

6:35:Daijoubu: “It’s all right.”

6:50: Dar-Su’s contrition ritual is similar to the bows of apology in Japanese culture, something Eiji would appreciate. My first thought was to have him bow in the Japanese way, but that felt like appropriation.

Matrix makes plans

16:00: Eiji’s reservations about tokusatsu violence reflect my own; indeed, his “stabbing and blowing up” line is a paraphrase of something I wrote once on an online bulletin board. But his comments about what makes it all worthwhile reflect my own views as well.

Morgan’s penthouse

20:40: Hisashiburi da na: Basically “It’s the first time in a long while”; essentially “Long time no see.”

21:20: I love the touch that Morgan still keeps Eiji’s favorite tea blend — a hint that she could never entirely let him go. One of those lovely moments where a character reveals something to me that I didn’t plan or expect.

Dinner with Riley

30:40: Even the stairway where Cory and Riley argue is based on a frequent tokusatsu location from the early 2000s, the entrance to an underground walkway in Kawaguchi, Saitama, though I don’t think I’ve seen it in any recent productions. See the first, fifth, and sixth photos here: http://neokerberos.free.fr/kawaguchiunderground.htm

Raid on Supermatrix base

42:50: “You once told me that the world is made up of the people in it”: Don’t go searching for this. There is a bit in Book 2 where Cory says something along these lines, but not to Riley. I assume she said it at some point not depicted “onscreen.”

44:37: “She thrust the blade skyward, discharging the energy in a beam…”: Okay, so why didn’t she need to do that when she absorbed Echo’s blast into the Phase Sword back in Nimbus? Because it didn’t fit the flow of the action there. I tried to imply in that scene that she used the energy to help power her Spectrum Cloning.

45:20: In my original trilogy idea, the overpowered Lady M ended up killing her male lead/lover, making the other characters decide they had to bring her down. I didn’t want to take Cory anywhere that dark, but I wanted the story to play out similarly. Plus I was struck by the idea of the sword selectively phasing, and the fakeout that would allow.

47:05: It was only at the end of this scene that I decided Dragonfly needed her own Errant Mode capability, to get the others home without Caprice. I went back and seeded it in her earlier scenes.

Ying chews out Cory

51:45: It feels awkward to have no scene of closure with Cory and Riley. But my space was limited, and the end of their relationship had already been established in the previous scene. So I focused on the impact upon Cory’s relationship with Ying instead. And Riley’s refusal to see her is itself a form of closure.

52:08: Cory can now routinely summon her armor without needing the henshin pose and call. It’s another indicator of how her power is still growing.

Matrix confronts Cory

53:44: “Information from the future can only come back in a form that preserves causality”: This line was inspired by the anime Godzilla: Singular Point, a mind-bending series with some really impressive physics ideas. The anime uses this concept as a central plot point.

56:10: Sophie’s hypothesis about a global superposition is basically the way fiction usually portrays time travel, as something that can “alter” or “erase” the original timeline, but it’s incredibly hard to justify scientifically, for the reasons Alex explains. While Sophie’s hypothesis is technically grounded in real quantum physics, it’s deeply implausible, and as you’ll see, it turns out not to be true. But it was necessary to create a sense of mystery and suspense about the possible outcomes, and to justify why Supermatrix believes there’s any chance of averting Kami Mode.

1:00:06: It’s not uncommon in tokusatsu and anime for heroes to ascend to greater and greater levels of power until they become effectively godlike; examples include Kamen Rider Gaim and Sailor Moon. This may be a factor in why Cory believes Kami Mode is her inescapable destiny.

However, I’m of the school of thought that you don’t want to make your hero too powerful, since it makes things too easy for them. So once Caprice’s powers (or Lady M’s in the original premise) reached this miraculous level, I had to modulate the story so those powers became the source of threat and conflict rather than their solution.

Cory’s family in Catchfire Tower

1:03:50: “My memory of the past three weeks”: It’s now June 30, twenty days after Eiji’s revival.

1:04:20: “Empecemos”: “Let’s begin.”

Erika and others at Fireforce HQ

1:04:50: My treatment of the Intersects’ secret barracks is inconsistent. In Book 1, I established that only some of the Intersects were awake at any one time, while here I’m implying that they’re all awake. So wouldn’t their barracks be pretty crowded now? But it could be that Morgan waking them in shifts was just another of her power plays to keep the Intersects under control.

1:07:55: Note that even though Tseng is allied with the good guys now, he hasn’t really changed his values or priorities. I notice this about a number of characters in Japanese fiction. As I mentioned in earlier notes, they’re often defined less by good or evil than by strong devotion to their goals and values, which can be opposed or aligned with those of other characters at different times. Sometimes characters switch allegiances because they realize they’ve been in the wrong, but they often retain their core values and attitudes. For instance, Gentoku/Kamen Rider Rogue in Build, my main inspiration for Tseng’s redemption arc, was always driven to serve his country, but he realized he’d gone about it the wrong way.

Nalah and Scott at airport

1:11:20: It never comes up in the text, but I assume the climactic events of the trilogy take place on July 7, the birthday of Eiji Tsuburaya, the Father of Tokusatsu.

1:11:37: Sukuma wiki is a popular East African dish, while babu is Swahili for “grandfather.” I cribbed these from the research I’d done months earlier for Star Trek: The Original Series—Living Memory.

1:11:45: Kenya’s time zone is seven hours ahead of New Avalon’s Atlantic Time.

Supermatrix attack begins

1:12:55: For a toku-style “season finale,” I naturally needed an existential threat to the whole planet, or at least the entirety of New Avalon. In the absence of giant monsters smashing skyscrapers, I had to work in some element of the mass urban destruction that characterizes so much tokusatsu. Fortunately, a lot of older Sentai series have scenes where alien armadas invade and bombard the city, often recycling some of the same stock footage of miniature destruction year after year. This often happens upon their initial arrival, before the Sentai shows up to counter them, after which they inexplicably dial back to sending one monster per week until the climactic arc, when the same invasion footage may get hauled out again. (I find it’s helpful to assume the initial invasion wipes out most of Earth’s regular military, which is why planetary defense is the exclusive responsibility of the Sentai team from then on.)

1:13:12: The Supermatrix mothership was inspired by my abortive attempt to make an amateur science fiction film in college, which never came to fruition because I could never gather enough talented people to make it with me. Anyway, I eventually realized I enjoyed planning it more than I ever would’ve enjoyed actually trying to make it. But I “built” a model spaceship for it out of two copies of the triangular base from AMT’s 1975 Star Trek Space Ship Set, seen in various photos here (though it’s black where mine was white):

http://fordosmodels.blogspot.com/2014/12/star-trek-space-ship-set-amt-11600_31.html I liked the shape of the base, finding it evocative of the Martian War Machines from The War of the Worlds. So I bought a second kit and taped the bases together bottom-to-bottom to create the ship. I went looking for it in my storage closet while writing this note, but I only found one of the two bases; I don’t recall where the other one might be. So I can’t provide a photo of the complete “ship.”

1:13:23: Taihen da!”: “It’s an emergency!” or “This is awful!”

1:13:45: Ultraman and Super Sentai often gloss over whether the buildings destroyed by the monsters — or as collateral damage inflicted by Ultra Warriors and giant robots — are occupied. Evacuation is often mentioned or depicted, but sometimes the attacks are so sudden that the buildings implicitly must have had people in them, yet there’s no attention is given to the loss of life and it’s quickly forgotten. Granted, most toku doesn’t take itself too literally and makes no secret of its artificiality (indeed, a city can be half-destroyed in one episode and back to normal in the next), but it’s still a convention I could do without.

In my own work, I try to avoid treating any loss of life as casual or incidental. I want to give it the gravity it deserves and acknowledge the loss. It isn’t always feasible, especially if I want to emulate the large-scale chaos of tokusatsu, but I did what I could here, in terms of limiting the casualties and acknowledging the ones that did occur.

1:14:13: Espere”: “Wait!”


Rescue operations and Erebos ultimatum

0:02: Here’s a chance to do what I talked about earlier, showing rescue work rather than fighting. And once again, poor Caprice gets left out of the rescuing.

2:02: Erebos outing Cory’s identity is a bit of an afterthought, since there’s little room to follow through on it. It just seemed artificial for him not to. A hero’s identity being outed in the endgame episodes is standard in Ultraman, and has often happened in Kamen Rider. Megaranger’s climactic arc revolved around the villains learning the Rangers’ identities and immediately attacking them, driving them from their homes and school (a nice contrast to the frequent pattern of the villains being the only ones who do know the heroes’ secret identity, rather defeating the purpose of it).

Airport hostages

4:45: A vacuum energy detonation large enough to destroy New Avalon would probably be comparable to the asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. It would be the end of civilization at the very least.

5:44ff: For convenience, the loudmouthed man who brings out the worst in the crowd was named Cobb in the script, a nod to Lee J. Cobb’s antagonistic character in 12 Angry Men, though I thought of him as the obstructionistic jerk in every disaster movie. The selfish woman who backs him up was designated Karen, after the negative archetype of that name in recent vernacular.

6:18: I did my best to acknowledge Nalah’s social activism from Book 2, but again, the climax was so full that I could find little opportunity.

Matrix strategizes

15:40: “He will decide his own fate”: A paraphrase of the battle cry of Kamen Rider Meteor from Kamen Rider Fourze: “I will decide your fate.”

17:58: “Countdown to Destruction”: See https://powerrangers.fandom.com/wiki/Countdown_to_Destruction . Cory is referencing the 2-part series finale of Power Rangers in Space, the climax of the “Angel Grove Saga,” the first six seasons of Power Rangers that told a continuous narrative (while subsequent series followed the Sentai pattern of a new cast and storyline each season). It’s one of Power Rangers most epic and well-regarded storylines, though it suffers from the very weak acting of the main cast at that time. It featured a massive invasion of Earth and the “entire universe” (meaning three or four previously featured alien planets) by an alliance of all six seasons’ archvillains, with Earth conquered and subjugated until the Rangers and the public rallied in the second part. It culminated with the Rangers’ mentor Zordon sacrificing his life to free his “good energy” to eradicate all the villains, or purify the human-looking ones.

18:30: “We know how the story ends”: A paraphrase of Kamen Rider Saber’s battle cry, “I will decide how this story ends.”

19:34: “Ninja body replacement”: A standard fantasy ninja trick, more properly called body substitution technique (migawari no jutsu), where an enemy grabs at a ninja only for them to turn into either an empty costume, a crude bamboo dummy, or a log, depending on the series. A standard move of all three ninja-themed Sentais, Kakuranger, Hurricaneger, and Ninninger, as well as Kamen Rider Shinobi from Kamen Rider Zi-O and users of the Ninja Buckle attachment in Kamen Rider Geats.

Malika and Erika in gym

22:54: “The Gemini twins in mythology could control the wind”: It’s more accurate to say that mariners prayed to them for favorable winds, but putting it this way helped set up Gemini Ascendant’s wind powers.

27:30: I didn’t consciously plan it, but there’s a recurring theme here that I quite like: Tangent Knights achieve new power by embracing love. Cory first became Caprice because of her selfless love for her mother, and it was the friendship of Daniel, Malika, and Alex that let her unlock Unbound Mode and power up Tempest and Gemini to Rising Mode. Daniel’s hate almost destroyed him with Rising Thunder Mode, and it was extending his love to Chandika and uniting with her that let him unlock Avatar Mode. And now Malika and Erika embracing their love for one another is the character milestone that earns them both their final forms.

There are no Japanese tokusatsu heroes I know of who’ve been overtly gay, though there have been some teases here and there; the relationship between Eiji Hino and Ankh in Kamen Rider OOO had a homoerotic subtext, as did those between Sakura Igarashi and Hana Natsuki in Kamen Rider Revice and Momoi Tarou and Sonoi in Avataro Sentai Donbrothers (at least in my opinion). Sayo Oharu in Kiramager was implied in one episode to be receptive to a same-sex relationship, but it wasn’t followed up on. But the first overt same-sex relationship I’m aware of involving a tokusatsu lead character is the recent one in Power Rangers Dino Fury between the Green Ranger Izzy Garcia and her girlfriend Fern, which was very open and well-handled and earned the show a 2022 GLAAD award.

Catchfire lab confrontation

34:55: “Dragonfly Rising”: I originally chose “Rising” as a name that could follow both “Tempest” and “Gemini” in different ways, not realizing at the time that it would fit Dragonfly too. Since she and the others were both upgraded the same way, their Matrix phase metal reprogrammed by a Cefal-metal cyborg Knight, it’s fitting to reuse it. I love lucky accidents that look like they were planned (until I give them away in the annotations).

Not many tokusatsu heroes have had wings, though many (including all Ultramen) can fly or levitate without them. Sentai members with wings include the entire bird-themed Jetman team, Zyuohger’s leader Zyuoh Eagle, Abaranger’s pterosaur-themed AbareYellow, and Donbrothers’ KijiBrother. Some Kamen Riders have alternate forms with wings, including OOO’s Putotyra Combo and Build’s combinations including the Taka (Hawk) Halfbody.

Supermatrix mothership

35:24: The bonoboid technician Negue’s name is a near-reversal of “Eugene,” as in Eugene “Skull” Skullovitch, half of the regular comic-relief duo of the early seasons of Power Rangers, who spent much of Power Rangers Turbo transformed into chimps. It’s a long stretch for an ape-themed name, but it was the one thing I could think of that produced a decent-sounding result.

Tseng stalks Akuma

37:40: If I’d had more time for revisions, I would have ideally seeded the invisibility prototype earlier in the trilogy. It was an afterthought when I realized I hadn’t figured out how Tseng could sneak onto Akuma’s ship undetected.

Gemini vs. Caprice

39:53: “I’m the one who has to stop you now!”: Reminiscent of Kamen Rider Zero-One’s catchphrase, “There’s only one person who can stop you, and that’s me!” (or “I’m the only one who can stop you,” depending on how you translate it).

40:30: I considered having Supermatrix’s interference field block cross-phasing, until I realized it would also prevent the Knights from phasing in their armor and weapons, and I couldn’t have the characters fighting in their street clothes. It turned out to be very advantageous that they could cross-phase, since it let me shift part of the battle into Akuma’s habitat and add variety to the audio ambience, as well as getting the two heroines alone for a tense confrontation (and inspiring the really cool cover art for Book 3).

41:39: “You are not the star of the show, Cory!”: Sorry, Malika, but she actually is.

42:20: “Traditional weapon of the Gemini twins”: The spear is also a traditional weapon of certain African woman warriors, as homaged by the Dora Milaje of Marvel Comics’ Black Panther, but I felt it would be a bit too on-the-nose to play that up.

43:50: “Gemini hauled back and flung the spear”: Here we see why Malika really picked the spear — to use in a dual attack that would negate Spectrum Mode’s predictive ability. Initially I just wrote that she used an unspecified kung fu move Caprice didn’t recognize, but in the revised drafts, I finally thought of this much better option.

44:50ff: Gemini sucking Caprice into the mindspace homages the Space Sheriff trilogy, the first three series in the Metal Heroes franchise. In those series, once per episode, the villains would suck the Space Sheriff into an illusion-filled alternate dimension where the monster was several times stronger. The vortex of light, the swirling nebular sky, the rain of explosions, and the temple ruins all homage these sequences, particularly the first two episodes of Uchuu Keiji Gavan. Also scripted but cut for space was a dreamlike progression of Gemini charging Cory atop a white stallion, which became a stampede trampling Cory, which became a rain of hailstones that drove her into the temple.

45:15ff: A railyard was a common location in early Sentai. I intended the train to be a Shinkansen (bullet train), and I scripted the track turning into a roller coaster, a nod to the amusement parks that were also common filming locations. The chase among the shoji screens is an homage to the kage no mai (shadow dance) battle move from Hurricaneger.

46:15ff: The giant battle is an Ultraman homage, bringing back an idea from Cory’s deleted dream sequence from Book 1, though approaching it differently. Caprice’s silver and red colors match the standard color scheme of Shōwa-era Ultras. Gold Ultras are much rarer, but Ultraman Tiga and his 25th-anniversary tribute character Ultraman Trigger have golden “Glitter” modes as their final forms, and Trigger’s nemesis Carmearra was gold and silver.

Enid rallies resistance

47:25: The retrospective narration about how Enid, Philip, and Sunbow ended up in the tunnels is excerpted from an earlier scene in the script that would have come at the start of this chapter, hence its description of the active early stage of the Intersects’ attack. It was the only glimpse I was able to provide of the mammoths and other Intersects invading the city, something I wish I’d had more space to explore. But it’s probably best that most of the scene was omitted, since it was kind of a contrived coincidence to have the three of them run into each other.

Kadir Azim/Sunbow is returning from Book 1, after only being mentioned briefly in Book 2. I’d thought I was done with the character, but I realized this was a chance to do more with him and give him some closure. His bionic arm is new, a consequence of losing his arm in the explosion in Book 1.

48:53: As scripted, the woman objecting that she works at Catchfire Tower was Kelly, the person Cory served coffee to in her debut scene in Book 1. I thought it would be a nice subtle touch to bring back an established Grounds Table customer. However, the speaker has a completely different voice and personality, so we can assume it’s not Kelly after all.

49:24: The Spartacus-like “I am a Tangent Knight!” sequence is an homage to “Countdown to Destruction”’s most memorable moment, when the villains demanded the Rangers surrender and the comic-relief duo Bulk and Skull had their crowning moment of heroism by claiming Spartacus-style to be Rangers themselves and inspiring the rest of the crowd to join in. I tried to find my own distinct take on the idea, though, rather than just copying it. It’s self-indulgent to homage “Countdown” like this after having Cory explicitly reference it earlier, but then, this whole trilogy has been self-indulgent for me.

Lab battle continues

51:33: Abunai!”: “Watch out!” (Literally “Dangerous!”)

53:45: “Power doesn’t corrupt”: Daniel’s observation is based on articles like this one: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-power-corrupts-37165345/

I tried to strike a balance with Cory. I wanted to keep her true to the purity and inherent goodness of the toku heroes she’s inspired by, who tend to be defined by their cheerfully matter-of-fact commitment to their core principles; but I also wanted her, like most of them, to have enough growth, complexity, and conflict to make her human and interesting. I did this largely through her complicated family relationships, and through the conflicts others had with her due to their differing perspectives or lack of faith in her.

57:30: As I mentioned in Book 2, ganbare is a Japanese blessing meaning “Keep striving” or “Don’t give up,” basically an exhortation to succeed through hard work and determination. Tanjento Kishi Kapuriisu is how “Tangent Knight Caprice” would be rendered in Japanese. The Japanese word for “tangent” is seisetsu, but tanjento is used sometimes as well, and tokusatsu titles often blend Japanese and English, like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (or are pure English like Ultraman). So the Japanese title for a Tangent Knights series would probably be either Tanjento Kishi or Seisetsu Naito. I went with the former because “Tangent” is a recurring “trademark” word here and thus the one that I expect Japanese creators would choose to emphasize by putting it in the exotic English language. Also because it makes it clearer to the listener what Eiji is calling her.

Eiji’s “Ganbare” line here follows the pattern often used by the announcers of 1970s tokusatsu series at the end of the episode, addressing the hero by civilian name followed by hero name, for instance, “Ganbare, Moroboshi Dan! Ganbare, Ultraseven!

59:40: Initially I thought Cory might actually achieve Kami Mode at the end and go off to a new phase of existence, like Kamen Rider Gaim. That was unsatisfying, though, so I looked for a way to have my cake and eat it too, letting Cory avoid the future of Kami Mode while still allowing for its existence in a causally consistent way. I’m quite happy with the solution I finally found.

1:02:30: As outlined, Morgan didn’t share in the phase metal because she subconsciously didn’t feel worthy of it. Once I established in Book 2 that Eiji’s experiment had involved phase metal, the idea that he had a trace amount that could serve as an anchor provided a more straightforward explanation.

1:02:37: It should be obvious from context that “Protege la esfera” and “Tenchi o mamore” both mean “Defend the realm.” For the Spanish, I felt that this sense of “realm” was better rendered as esfera (literally a sphere) than reino (a kingdom as a political entity). As for the Japanese tenchi (天地), it literally means “heaven and earth,” and is used to mean “all things,” the whole world, the universe.

1:03:57:“Her first impulse was to spread the wealth!”: Cory literally said as much to Morgan at the end of Book 2, that power should be shared rather than hoarded.

1:04:42: Eiji getting his fighting skills from Cory’s phase-metal “muscle memory” is a nod to how many Sentai warriors/Power Rangers seem to gain instant knowledge of how to use their powers and fighting skills as soon as they become Rangers, without prior training.

1:06:15: Since Tangent Knight Mamoru is a hero of the previous generation, his armor homages the original Kamen Rider and Sentai leads. The heavy breastplate and belt evoke Kamen Rider #1 (Ichigo), while the red undersuit evokes Akarenger, the first Red Ranger. The abbreviated silver gloves and boots evoke both OG heroes. Since Ichigo and Akarenger’s bug-eyed visors resembled Dragonfly’s, I decided instead on an eagle or falcon motif for the helmet, evoking the first animal-themed Sentai Red, SunVulcan’s VulEagle, as well as fan favorites like Liveman’s Red Falcon and Jetman’s Red Hawk. The crested silver helmet and red bodysuit suggest the classic Ultraman design. The shield motif is my own addition reflecting the name Mamoru (Protector), though it’s evocative of the Dragon Armor worn by the first Sixth Ranger, Zyuranger’s Burai, and his Power Rangers counterpart Tommy.

1:06:54: Ore wa” is just “I am.” I wanted a Japanese introduction, but something simple enough to be understandable from context.

There are, unsurprisingly, examples of toku heroes’ fathers being henshin heroes themselves. Kamen Rider Kiva’s father had been Kamen Rider Ixa a generation earlier. In Gaim, Kamen Riders Zangetsu and Ryugen were father and son, as were Ex-Aid’s Cronus and Genm. Kamen Riders Build and Zero-One both had fathers who designed and used the prototypes of their respective armors. Over in Sentai, the Magirangers’ mother and father were both Rangers, while in Ninninger, AkaNinger’s father and grandfather briefly took on variants of the AkaNinger mantle (and the father’s counterpart in Power Rangers Ninja Steel became a Red Ranger as well).

Negotiation with Supermatrix

1:10:48: “Demanding that we surrender again, and sell others into bondage? Inexcusable!” Naturally, as the lone native Japanese speaker, Eiji had to get in a translated version of the classic yurusenai ultimatum, complete with Japanese sentence structure putting it at the end.


Planning the diversion

4:08: “It is traditional before the final battle”: Cory and Eiji are geeking out over one of my favorite Sentai traditions, the helmetless season-finale roll call, where the main Ranger actors perform the roll call moves that are otherwise performed by their suit doubles with the actors just providing the voiceovers. The tradition began in the early 2000s (the earliest example I’m sure of is the Hurricaneger finale in 2003) and has become an annual highlight ever since. I couldn’t figure out quite how to make it work here, since the helmetless visual would be meaningless in audio, and I couldn’t find a plausible excuse for arbitrarily altering the henshin sequence. So I found a different way for the Knights to show their faces to the audience.

4:35: “Two of them now. I didn’t know when I was well off”: Alex is paraphrasing the Brigadier from Doctor Who: “The Three Doctors,” where the line was actually “Three of them.” As scripted, Sophie responded, “Ahm… isn’t that a Doctor Who quote?” Alex replied with dignity: “Sometimes, Sophie, one must fight fire with fire.”

Rallying the people

4:45: I chose the three climactic locations — ball field, water treatment plant, and airport — so that they’d all have distinctive audio ambiences and hopefully be easy for the listener to tell apart. As it turned out, adaptor Richard Rohan added a lot of narration to clarify the scene transitions I intended to convey through sound design alone. I was thinking a bit too cinematically, I guess.

As in Book 2, North Island Park is based on Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park. The ball field and the adjoining open-air stage were only briefly glimpsed in Book 2, so I gave them a larger focus here. I don’t know if that specific ball field is a tokusatsu location, but there have been quite a few baseball-themed episodes over the decades.

5:30: Lieutenant Monica Cahill is returning from the climax of Book 1.

9:00: Cobb (the ranting guy at the airport) is on the verge of spouting a standard anti-Semitic conspiracy theory when he brings up “bankers” controlling everything. Nalah’s “Oh, thank God” is as much relief that he was interrupted as that the Knights have made their appearance.

9:15: The Catchfire atrium is inspired by building atriums that are often used as tokusatsu locations, such as the one used for the lobby of Hiden Intelligence in Kamen Rider Zero-One, though I’m not sure exactly where the location is.

9:27: “Live Stage Show”: These are a traditional adjunct to tokusatsu series, live theatrical events set after the finales where the heroes reunite and battle revived monsters, usually with a Peter Pan-style moment where the heroes need to rally the audience to applaud or chant to give them the power to prevail over evil. The live events where the cast members of a new series are announced to the public with much hype are also a perennial part of the toku experience.

17:00: I gave the core Knights a quick roll call in the climax of Book 2, after an abortive attempt in the concrete yard fight, but here’s where I go all-out and finally let them do a full Super Sentai-style roll call in all its glory. This is a custom called nanori, literally “introduction,” and though it may seem silly, it apparently has its roots in samurai tradition. Before a battle, the samurai on both sides would announce their names, origins, and accomplishments to boost their own side’s morale and intimidate the opposition. It was considered improper to attack during the introductions. From there, it was adopted by kabuki theater, which added the custom of striking and holding a dramatic pose (mie). And tokusatsu derives a lot of its conventions from kabuki, as Cory alluded to when defending the genre to Echo in Book 2. This is why the monsters or villains never attack Sentai heroes while they do their transformations, intro phrases, and poses.

Here, though, it would’ve been implausible for the Knights to do a full, extended roll call while facing the enemy, since Supermatrix would not have honored samurai etiquette or kabuki conventions. So I hit upon them doing it remotely. But that let me make it work in something close to its original purpose, as a way to boost the people’s morale and to mess with the opposition—though not so much to psych them out as to provide a strategic distraction.

I had a very hard time coming up with a suitable roll call phrase for Gemini. I was trying things involving “the Mind” or “the Head,” but nothing worked. Like Cory in Book 2, I dabbled with “Echo of the…” something, but that proved unfeasible for obvious reasons. It wasn’t until I decided to give Gemini Ascendant aerokinetic powers that I finally hit upon “Freedom of the Wind,” which is great, because it pays off her character arc throughout the book.

For Dragonfly, I was originally going to use “Wings of Fire,” but given how badly Erika was burned in Book 2, I figured she wouldn’t be comfortable with that one. “Wings of Defiance” fits her character better anyway.

Prometheus’s “The Titan Unchained” is a reference to his mythological namesake, of course.

Cobb’s decision to charge his captors with the others doesn’t represent some miraculous change of heart so much as wanting safety in numbers, or just wanting an outlet for his rage.

Fighting back

20:15: It’s a bit of an arbitrary calculation that (Unbound Mode + Errant harness + Phase Sword)/2 = Errant Mode. But it was her highest form before Spectrum Mode, so it’s appropriate for her to return to it. With only half the phase metal in her body now, Unbound and Errant Modes might be weaker than before; although they still have a mix of phase metal from three different realms, plus all the experience the armor’s AI has accrued, so maybe that compensates.

20:40: I would’ve liked to have Nalah join Caprice in winning over the Intersect guards, but the flow of the scene worked better if I segued from Caprice’s persuasion to Gemini’s.

22:09: Eiji calls out his attacks in Japanese phonetics, so “Null Punch” becomes Naru Panchi. Naru Baria is Null Barrier, which is what Null Shield should’ve been called to be authentic to Japanese usage. I’d hoped to have a bit with Eiji pointing that out to Cory to correct my own mistake, but there just wasn’t room.

Akuma’s betrayal

25:53: “Classic plot twist!” Most early Sentai series brought in secondary villains midway through, either independent operators or generals of questionable loyalty within the villains’ organization. They were a regular feature of the seasons written by Hirohisa Soda, my favorite early Sentai showrunner. It was standard for them to attempt to overthrow, destroy, or otherwise betray the primary villain in the climactic arc of the series. I included Akuma’s betrayal as an homage to this trope, though I don’t think I really did it justice.

29:00: “No! Not again!” Dar-Su and Eiji were both abducted from their home realms by the Squid Drones, and Spark was captured by them in the climax of Book 2.

33:03: “Dragon Gem Finisher”: Just as every new armor power-up and weapon symbolized a character milestone or transition, I just had to commemorate Malika and Erika’s love by giving them a kombi (short for “combination”) move, a finisher combining both their powers. The name “Dragon Gem” works not only as an abbreviation of their names (in the Japanese portmanteau-abbreviation style, e.g. “cosplay” for costume play), but because the cone of light around the spear suggests a fiery diamond.

Tseng’s revenge

35:25: If this had been one of my usual universes, I probably would’ve given Tseng a less violent resolution to his redemption arc. But I chose to emulate the common Japanese arc of a character pursuing urami, a vendetta or grudge that they must carry until they finally disperse it by gaining revenge, even at the cost of their own lives. It’s often done with antiheroes or sympathetic villains, so it seemed right for Tseng. I left it deliberately ambiguous whether Tseng was trying to save the world or simply to take revenge.


36:20: Once the Knights begin their dive into the bombs, I tried to emulate an arty stylistic device in toku/anime where the characters symbolically appear in an empty void with no armor, just the people with no distractions or concealment, to focus purely on their emotion and interaction with everything else stripped away.

Infirmary aftermath

41:50: As Cory says, it’s common for toku series to end with the heroes losing their power in the finale, though they frequently get it back in the sequel movies, crossovers, and the like, often with no explanation. I made sure to hedge here, depriving Cory and Malika of their Tangent Knight powers while leaving the option for those powers to recover in the future.


48:33: “One year later” epilogues are a tokusatsu staple, so naturally I had to do one of my own.

50:26: “I didn’t declare a major until fourth year”: This probably isn’t easy to get away with unless you’re a billionaire’s daughter or a world-saving superhero. But in my first college career, I managed to avoid declaring a major until my third year. Like Cory, I wanted to learn simply for the sake of learning, not pursuing a career.

52:30: “Chandika’s new body”: I resurrected Chandika in the first place because I felt she deserved better than to be “fridged” (i.e. killed and marginalized in service to a male lead’s arc), but making her a disembodied consciousness living in her brother’s armor wasn’t much better. Ultimately she had to regain her own independent existence.

54:45: “A fake wedding as a trap to lure out the villains”: A classic Sentai trope, usually to catch monsters that abduct brides, feed on love, or something of the sort. Any male and female characters with an unrequited attraction will usually be cast as the fake couple.

55:05: It took me a while to realize it, but the final moments here are inspired more by the closing scene of The Incredibles than by anything in tokusatsu.

%d bloggers like this: