In a distant barrio in the Philippines, lives an ancient folkloric titan trying to live a simple life as a humble farmer. He takes care of his crops, makes sure his daughter gets to school on time, and occasionally helps out at the local tindahan. It’s a peaceful life, maybe even a happy one but one that won’t last very long though, as inevitably, the barrio will have need of Nardo’s powers—especially with all those giant monsters running around.
This is the world of CARPIOMAN, the latest project produced by local tokusatsu stalwart Chris Cantada (Chris Cantada Force) created and directed by Miko Livelo (Blue Bustamante) and Mihk Vergara (Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo). It stars Jerald Napoles (Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap) as Nardo, the loving, down-to-earth, living embodiment of the legendary mythological hero Bernardo Carpio reimagined as the tokusatsu dynamo CARPIOMAN.
Its pilot which released earlier this week on the Chris Cantada Force YouTube channel is a thoughtful, hilarious, and charming homage to the tokusatsu genre grounded in the wit and flavor of Filipino culture and mythology. We had a chance to have a quick chat with producer Chris Cantada about CARPIOMAN and how it all came to be!
From recontextualizing the local folklore hero Bernardo Carpio as a lightning arnis-wielding tokusatsu badass, to the baybayin that flashes on screen during fights, all the way down to its down home, remote barrio setting, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that CARPIOMAN is a true blue Filipino story. Cantada says that its concept was born solely from directors Miko Livelo and Mihk Vergara paths crossing over at one fateful event.
“Miko approached Mihk at a birthday party of a friend, and asked if they should team up for an Ultraman type show. Mihk pitched using Bernardo Carpio as the main character. And because they were drift compatible, Carpioman was born.”
Drift compatible. A term that denotes explicit synergy between distinct individuals, drawn from the movie Pacific Rim which is another piece that plays around with mecha/kaiju/tokusatsu tropes. Cantada’s usage of the term here tells us how in-sync the two creators were in the vision for CARPIOMAN even before he joined the team in January of last year.
“Miko already made a Super Sentai send up in Blue Bustamante, while Mihk did an Anime-inspired sports battle movie with kids in Patintero. Needless to say, it was a solid Venn diagram of interests.”
It was a solid Venn diagram that also appears to welcome Cantada’s own into the fold as not only does the trio love the tokusatsu genre, they also appreciate the value of a good story framing all the giant-sized fights and fantastical super moves. Cantada adds that it’s the show’s well-thought-out story that was a huge part of what he loved about CARPIOMAN.
“I came into the project after they filmed. When I saw the first rough cut, I immediately fell in love with the story first and the Toku part second. Even with my own skits, I start with story first rather than costumes and VFX. Miko and Mihk are great storytellers!”
Apart from the two directors, rounding out the helm are Tey Clamor, a cinematographer best known for her work with 2019’s Babae at Baril and Metamorphosis; and Nimoy De Jesus, a veteran cosplay craftsman that specializes in Toku/Sentai props and armor.
“[Miko and Mihk] both really wanted Tey Clamor to shoot it, because they wanted a fresh take on Tokusatsu tropes- with the genre being so steeped in male aesthetics. Master helmet maker Nimoy De Jesus, who makes most of my suits and helmets, was the one tasked to make the CARPIOMAN costume.”
At this stage, the result of the team’s hard work has clearly paid off. The pilot episode of CARPIOMAN is beautifully shot, refreshingly charming, and contains that bombastic tokusatsu flavor while keeping the Filipino culture firmly at its core. While this pilot is a stand-alone one-off deal at the moment, it manages to set up some pretty interesting things thanks to its clever world-building moments.
As of now, Carpioman is already quite the achievement but Cantada relays that its future is still in a state of flux and that the power is in the audience’s hands if we’d like to see more of the show—and of course we do!
“Right now we’re trying to gauge the interest of the audience. This pilot episode was intended to stand tall as a one-off episode. That being said, we have a 6 episode season ready to produce, if there’s a wealthy art patron who’s willing to give us money to make more Carpioman!”
Finally, on a fun note, and just to sweeten the deal for all you wealthy art patrons reading this right now, when asked about if there is a possibility that we’ll see Carpioman interact with other famous characters from Philippine folklore and mythology, Cantada had this to say:
“Never say never! If it’s fun and they are public domain, why not?”
There you have it. Let’s make this sheep happen, yeah?
The pilot episode of Carpioman can be viewed on the Chris Cantada Youtube Page for free right now!
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