Good news for monster fans: Not one, not two, but three separate tokusatsu exhibitions are stomping their way through downtown Tokyo as you read these words.

While you may never have heard the word "tokusatsu," you are likely familiar with what it is. A contraction of the Japanese words tokushu and satsuei, it means "special effects." Although it can be used to refer to any effects-heavy production, in common usage it refers to the decidedly analog, handmade "rubber suit" effects seen in "Godzilla" movies, the "Ultraman" series, and "Power Rangers"-style shows.

Long pooh-poohed by Westerners used to higher budget fare, it's easy to forget that Japanese tokusatsu once represented the cutting edge of special-effects technology worldwide. In fact, in the early 1970s director George Lucas reportedly visited Japan to brush up on the then-latest techniques before launching a franchise Western audiences still revere: "Star Wars."