|THE UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES OF AKIO JISSOJI
Avant-Garde Director Discusses ULTRA SEVEN
Translation and notes by Oki Miyano
Additional material by Bob Johnson, Keith Aiken & August Ragone
The name Akio Jissoji may not be very well known outside of Japan, but the mere mention of it elicits memories in the minds of Japanese Cinephiles and Ultraman fans alike. Strange, unique camera composition, atmospheric lighting and some of the most thought- provoking stories in the mythos are part of Jissoji's contribution to the Ultra Series.
|Akio Jissoji takes time to speak with Ultraman Age Magazine. (Photo from Ultraman Age Vol. 8)
In a career that has spanned four decades, Jissoji has amassed an impressive body of work in movies and television that goes well beyond his peerless takes on ULTRAMAN and ULTRA SEVEN. With the recent DVD release of some of his best film works, Henshin! Online provides a look into the background of one of the most popular directors in the annals of the Ultra Series, with an interview that focuses on ULTRA SEVEN -- a series which showcased his unique concepts very aptly.
We also present a report from H!O's own David Chapple on a recent screening of some of Mr. Jissoji's films, with special guest appearance by Hiroko Sakurai, who played Agent Fuji on ULTRAMAN. We hope you enjoy this special look into the life of Akio Jissoji!
Interview by Ryuichi Sasakura
November 11, 2002 at Godai Ltd.
Published in Ultraman Age #8 (Tatsumi Publishing)
Photo by Jun Uematsu
A Tokyo native, Akio Jissoji, was born in 1937. After finishing college, Jissoji began employment at KRT (now known as TBS: Tokyo Broadcasting System). Once he left TBS, he worked as a director at Tsuburaya Productions on ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman), ULTRA SEVEN (Urutora Sebun), OPERATION: MYSTERY! (Kaiki Daisakusen), and other classic shows. Jissoji went freelance in 1971, co-founding a production company, Godai, with several friends. He has worked extensively as a writer and director of films, commercials, theater, and television dramas.
|Jissoji fondly recalls his involvement with the Ultraseven series. (Photo from Ultraman Age Vol. 8)
His films include IMPERMANENCE (Mujo; ATG, 1970), MANDARA (ATG, 1971), TOKYO: THE LAST MEGALOPOLIS (Teito Monogatari; Toho, 1988), THE PROSPERITY OF VICE (Akutoku-no Sakae; Nikkatsu, 1988), THE MURDER CASE ON THE D-SLOPE (D-saka Satsujin Jiken; Toei/Tohoku Shinsha,1988) and ULTRA Q THE MOVIE: LEGEND OF THE STARS (Urutora Kyu Za Mube: Hoshi-no Densetsu; Shochiku/Tsuburaya Productrions/Tsuburaya Films, 1990).
"I believe the concept of 'invasion' in ULTRA SEVEN is different from the Baltan Invasion in ULTRAMAN. The concept of 'invasion' became more cruel."
ULTRAMAN AGE: What did you think when you heard the concept for ULTRA SEVEN?
JISSOJI: Writer Tetsuo Kinjo thought up the basic idea that alien races are coming to invade the Earth, one after another. Someone at TBS described it in a similar way. I personally thought that it lost something important -- ULTRA SEVEN was heading in the wrong direction, because the show was focused on aliens, rather than on monsters. As a result, it seemed to be too aggressive and destructive -- as if the show condoned men destroying everything that opposed the will of human beings. That is like how the United States is today -- it is thoroughly going after all manner of terrorists.
The basis of ULTRA SEVEN was more progressive and more founded in serious science fiction, than ULTRAMAN was. In a sense, ULTRAMAN is simple and anachronistic, but it allowed me to create fairytale-like settings. ULTRA SEVEN threw away all those fairytale conventions. For instance, at that time, the Vietnam War was going on, and this altered the meaning of the word "invasion." I believe that the concept of "invasion" in ULTRA SEVEN is different from the Baltan Invasion in ULTRAMAN. I think that the concept of "Invasion" became more cruel.
ULTRAMAN AGE: I'd like to ask you about Episode 8: "The Targeted Town" [Nerawareta Machi; shown in the US as "Smokers on the Rampage"].
JISSOJI: That was my first opportunity to work with Mr. Kinjo. My focus was to describe that an invader had already crept into our normal society. I wanted to express an alien terror hiding in our everyday lives. I was very interested in Mr. Kinjo's proposal. He said, "How would you know if your next-door neighbor, whom you said hello to everyday, were in fact an alien?"
In this episode, a cigarette becomes the cause of terror. It could be an ordinary thing, such as food or oxygen. Though I didn't really use the next-door neighbor concept, I like this episode because I got to use many of my own early ideas. I picked an industrial district for the setting since I lived in Kawasaki during my youth -- I really like Kawasaki's industrial image very much. Though that image is in now a part of the past, I love places where old steel drums or earthen pipes are scattered about -- like the one I used in the ULTRAMAN episode "Terror of the Cosmic Rays" [Kyofu-no Uchusen; Episode #15]. By using those favored landscapes, I wanted to describe the terror that could exist in oridinary daily life. You can see remnants of the original next-door neighbor idea in the scene where Dan Moroboshi and [alien invader] Metron talk in the apartment.
[Note: The Odakyu line Mukougaoka Park station was used as the Kitagawa-cho train station in this episode. Although the station is technically located in Kawasaki, it is not in the industrial area. The Kawasaki industrial area was also used in the 1964 Toho film DOGORA: THE SPACE MONSTER (Uchu Kaiju Dogora) in which the monster attacks a power plant that has six chimneys. The same building was destroyed again in the 1975 Toho movie TOKYO CONFLAGRATION (Tokyo-wan Enjo; released in the US as "High Seas Hijack"). This footage has been reused again and again, most recently in last year's GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA. For more information on the power plant, visit their website.]
ULTRAMAN AGE: Did you have an idea of the meeting in a Japanese-style apartment room from the beginning?
JISSOJI: Yes, from the beginning, I had an idea for the tatami [woven grass mats, a traditional Japanese flooring] room meeting. However, I didn't tell this idea to anyone when the project started. When we shot the scene, I said to the crew to follow director's orders, even if the producers were against it. But, later I was scolded -- because TBS had plans to export its products overseas, they wanted to avoid overtly Japanese tastes. But, I always ignored TBS' intentions [laughs].
I showed Dan Moroboshi and alien Metron sitting at a small Japanese- style table in a tiny, dirty room. I originally planned to make a glittering and bright, futuristic-looking set that could be seen through the shoji [sliding rice paper] door in the room. This futuristic set was to be the interior of Metron's spaceship. I wanted to make the set look as if the spaceship was hidden in the apartment - - but, we didn't have big enough of a budget. [laughs]
Tohru Narita designed alien Metron. I had one meeting with him, but I didn't give him any detailed orders, I just asked him to design a suit that would be able to sit on the floor, and he asked why. "Well, I had this idea of having a tatami room meeting" [laughs], though I didn't tell him that. [laughs]
|Space Alien Metron. © 1967 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
I think Narita's design is excellent, even from today's point of view, and I think that the finished monster costume is great -- but when I went to the set, all I could do was laugh. When the rehearsals started, I began to feel funny and thought what a stupid scene were were shooting. [big laugh] It was so funny to me. I had the assistant director, Masataka Yamamoto, start rolling the camera, while I was watching the shooting from the corner of the soundstage -- laughing my head off. I laughed and laughed until my sides ached. How rude I was! [big laugh]
As for the special effects, I had a detailed meeting with [special effects director] Jun Oki. Shooting of the non-effects scenes had started earlier, so I told him to watch those scenes to understand how to marry them with the special effects shots. I also said to him that he didn't have to choreograph an intense fight scene. I think that is why he got the idea of using stop motion shots for the battle sequence.
The antithesis of "The Targeted Town" was my next episode, "From Another Planet With Love" [Yusei-yori Ai-o Komete. Note: The 12th episode of ULTRA SEVEN was shown in the US as "Crystallized Corpuscles" -- this is the infamous "banned" episode].
In "The Targeted Town" I tried to describe a terror hiding in our daily lives, and an invader who was living in your neighborhood. However, in "From Another Planet With Love,", I used the opposite approach, in that I tried to show men keeping an eye on, and conversing with the invaders in order to find a way to coexist. I spoke with wrtier Mamoru Sasaki, and others, about ULTRAMAN's Jamila [Episode #23, "My Home is the Earth"], and discussed trying to make an episode in which people were seeking a way to achieve peaceful co- existence with aliens. Though such an idea was against the basic concept of ULTRA SEVEN, I think Mr. Kinjo saw it would make the program richer to use such a different story other than the ordinary straight-forward invasion theme.
ULTRAMAN AGE: There was quite a gap between "From Another Planet With Love" and your next episode.
JISSOJI: I had intended to direct two more ULTRA SEVEN episodes, but I had to stay in Kyoto for the shooting of TBS' GALE [Kaze; a TV Drama]. While I was in Kyoto, my rotation with the other directors kept changing. I ended up directing an episode close to the end of the series. Even so, sometimes I would visit Tsuburaya Productions when I was briefly back in Tokyo. I didn't go there to see the filming, but just to visit Hajime Tsuburaya and the other guys in Bungei-Shitsu [the writing and publishing department]. It wasn't easy to produce a special effects television show every week, and near the end of the series the budget became really tight. This was both a positive and a negative, from a creative point of view. I often talked with Mr. Toshihiro Iijima about our financial difficulties.
|Ultraseven. © 1966 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
"I wanted to describe a terror when ordinary and extraordinary worlds are tied and twisted together."
ULTRAMAN AGE: What kind of discussions did you have before you made your next episode?
JISSOJI: I directed "The Boy Who Cried 'Flying Saucers!'" [Eban-ga Kita!; Episode #44 is known as "The Stargazer" in the US] and "Nightmare of Planet #4" [Dai-Yon Wakusei-no Akumu; Episode #43, "Tyranny By Design"] mainly because our budget was really tight, and partly because we were tired of effects-heavy fight scenes. Before I shot those two episodes. Mr. Shozo Uehara and I plotted another one entitled "15 Aliens + 35 Monsters" [15 Seijin Purasu 35 Kaiju], a spectacular story in which we planned that all the old monsters appeared together. Though the script was printed, and I wanted to create the best Ultraman-style fighting scenes, many of the monster suits had already been modified -- some of the heads had been removed and used on different suits. Besides, the special effects team did not want to have to shoot so many monsters at one time. So I gave up. [laughs] I talked again with Mr. Uehara, and we decided to create episodes with fewer special effects scenes. We didn't have enough time, so we shared the project. Uehara wrote one episode and I wrote the other.
ULTRAMAN AGE: First, please tell us about "Nightmare of Planet #4." What kind of images did you have in mind when you shot this episode?
JISSOJI: In addition to downplaying the special effects, I once again wanted to describe the theme I had used in "The Targeted Town": terror hiding in our everyday lives. This time, I wanted to describe it more thoroughly, with a place that seems to be on earth but actually isn't. The terror is that the landscape is very familiar to you, but you are, in fact, on another planet. Most of the non-effects scenes were shot on location. We just used ordinary places for those of the other planet.
This method was used in the Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 classic ALPHAVILLE. Around that time, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was also released. Though I saw it with Mr. Iijima, I was inspired more by ALPHAVILLE. The only effect I planned for the episode, was a forced perspective hallway-like room used by the Robot Commander. Some people thought that scene was shot in the actual hallway of the TBS building -- but it was a totally different place. [laughs] The sets were usually reused in other episodes, but that forced-perspective hallway was too unique to use for anything else -- so I was scolded again. [laughs]
ULTRAMAN AGE: The Robot Police Commissioner [Robotto Keibi Taicho] was constantly crewing a piece of candy in his mouth. The sound it made quite effectively helped create an eerie and bizarre feeling in that episode.
JISSOJI: I have a mental block against sounds when its rhythm is different from my own. I thought I could use this effect to create an uncomfortable atmosphere -- this is why I used candy. I would use a cell phone sound if I made the episode now. Though it is an uncomfortable noise, it creates a different kind of rhythm and that rhythm creates sound effects. The candy noise was not the only example of my instinctive feeling or perception that I used to create the feeling of the episode. I used a dolly instead of a zoom lens. I don't like zooming, rather, I prefer a viewpoint that is moving along a track. There is no specific reason for it, I just instinctively like it more.
ULTRAMAN AGE: What about the other episode, "The Boy Who Cried 'Flying Saucers!'"?
JISSOJI: Though we tried to make episodes that didn't need extensive special effects sequences, Ultra Seven had to show up sometime. In "Nightmare of Planet #4," Ultra Seven destroyed the flying saucers [actually missiles en route to earth] in climax, but I was disappointed by the quality of the miniature set -- it wasn't so hot. So, though we needed to use Ultra Seven for "The Boy Who Cried 'Flying Saucers!'", I wanted to shoot his scenes without the need to build any miniature sets.
I wrote and directed an episode of ULTRAMAN TIGA entitled "Flower" [Hana; Episode #36]. There is a sequence where Ultraman Tiga is human-sized and fighting on a stage, even though it is supposed to be a special effects scene. That's what the atmosphere I wanted to create for "The Boy Who Cried 'Flying Saucers!'". Even at that time, I had this idea that it could be shot as either a special effects or non- special effects scene.
About the look of the alien, Peroringa, I simply told designer Noriyasu Ikeya to make something with psychedelic colors that were strong enough to cause dizziness. Though it was a story set in the future, I again used an industrial district like Kawasaki [the episode was mostly shot in the neighborhoods surrounding Tsuburaya Productions, the Tamagawa River in the Seyagaya Ward, and Tama Plaza in Yokohama]. We decorated a warehouse and a staff room at Toho Built [formerly, the Toho Art Center] and used them as sets. I included more shots of industrial districts in this episode than in "The Targeted Town" -- so I expected a colorful alien would be a strong contrast to the monotone atmosphere.
|Psychadelic Alien Peroringa? © 1966 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
A TBS director named Shinichi Fukuda was the model for Fukushin, the protagonist in the episode -- "Fukushin" was Fukuda's nickname. Though he seemed unfriendly, he actually had a great sense of humor, and I often played mah-jongg with him. Once, when we were playing a game, I decided to use his name. [laughs]
Besides his name, I also used his personality. Fukuda was a very romantic type of guy, and I used that for Fukushin's character. For instance, Fukuda loved to look at the stars in the sky.
I wanted to make those thousands of stars seen through Fukushin's telescope into thousands of flying saucers. I wanted an image of a sky full of flying saucers, so I asked Ikeya to make a hundred flying saucers. It was impossible. [big laugh] Because of the budget crisis, it ended up as a hundred pairs of glass ashtrays glued together! [laughs] I was nearly speechless when I saw those ashtrays. [Producer Masami Sueyasu, who had previously worked at Toho, was in charge of the show's budget. There seemed to be a lot of conflict between him and the special effects team.]
The fighting sequence was a little bit different from what I had imagined, so I don't like it too much -- but, I think I told [Jun] Oki that I didn't need any outstanding wrestling scenes. My original vision of the last scene, is hundreds of flying saucers, the red- colored Seven, and the psychedelic-colored Peroringa, all moving against a monotone background. My image was a scene full of color that mixes together to create a vortex -- this vortex becomes white and concludes in a huge explosion. Though it came out totally different, in an episode of ULTRAMAN DYNA, "The Monster Play" [Kaiju Gikyoku; Episode #38], the final battle is, in a way, an extension of my original plan for "The Boy Who Cried 'Flying Saucers!'". But, if I could get enough money together, I would love to do that episode all over again! [laughs]
ULTRAMAN AGE: After 35 years, how do you look back on your work for ULTRA SEVEN?
JISSOJI: It was a big event in my life. The experience is very special to me, because I met Ikeya, Oki, and other important people through ULTRA SEVEN -- and together with them, I founded our production company, Godai. Though I know ULTRA SEVEN was continued recently as a video series, my image is there is always an extraordinary world next to our ordinary world -- and one day, a tiny part of the border between the two of them breaks. At this fissure, the two worlds become intertwined, and from there the story evolves.
I still want to develop that intertwined, broken world. It doesn't have to be ULTRA SEVEN -- if Tsuburaya Productions calls me, I will go there, because it still feels like home to me. I would appreciate it if the fans would ask Tsuburaya Productions to use me again. If you want to see my work, don't ask me, ask Tsuburaya Productions. What kind of story will I create next? I will think of that when then they call me! [Laughs]
Guiding Light of ULTRA SEVEN
Screenwriter Tetsuo Kinjo
Author: Oki Miyano
Tetsuo Kinjo was a student of Tamagawa University (there is a station called Tamagawa Gakuen on the Odakyu line. It is about a 20-minute train ride from Seijo Gakuen, the station closet to Toho Studios and Tsuburaya Productions). As a student, Kinjo was striving to be a screenwriter. Somehow, he met Eiji Tsuburaya, and Tsuburaya introduced him to veteran screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, who wrote many scripts for Toho special effects films.
|Anne with space alien Pegassa © 1967 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
Kinjo became a member of Tsuburaya Production at its inception. He was appointed the supervisor of Plannning Department, and then that of Writing & Publishing Department. Though it was a production company, as a small professional group, Tsuburaya Productions was loosely organized, and members' positions were unclear, and everyone had to juggle several responsibilities.
Although Kinjo is best known as a writer, his practical role at Tsuburaya Productions was the so-called Production Manager. Kinjo's specific role is unclear, but seemingly, he was like a big brother for the young staff -- even though he was only 28 years old. Kinjo seems to have supervised overall ULTRA SEVEN's shooting. Jissoji apparently assumed readers would understand Kinjo's role at Tsuburaya Productions. Kinjo resigned from Tsuburaya Productions in 1969, and returned to his home in Okinawa. He passed away shortly thereafter, when he accidentally fell off the roof of his home. He was only 37.
ULTRA SEVEN strongly reflected Kinjo's point of view as a native Okinawan. At the time, Okinawa was still occupied by the US, and Kinjo needed a passport to travel to Tokyo to become a student. Okinawa is different from mainland Japan in many ways. It was an independent empire until 15th century and the physical features of native Okinawans is different from those of the average Japanese. They are more related to the people of Southeast Asia.
Geographically, Okinawa is closer to Taiwan, and traditionally, Taiwan has been influenced by China. So, Okinawa's culture is different from that of Japan, and closer to that of China or Korea. During WWII, Okinawa was used as defense shield to protect mainland Japan and delay a massive invasion by US forces. The Japanese Imperial Military took advantage of Okinawa, and as a result, almost one third of entire population of Okinawa was killed in the battle.
Kinjo must have witnessed this living hell as a child. Though Okinawa returned to Japan from the US in 1970, more than 10% of Okinawa is still being used for US military bases. Jissoji only briefly motioned about the meaning of "invasion" -- but for Kinjo, "invasion" must have had a deeper meaning, since Okinawa was invaded by both Japan and the US. He was technically an American at that time, and many of the US bombers that flew missions over Vietnam, were dispatched from Okinawa. I think his attitude is notably reflected on such episodes: "The Dark Zone" (Dakku Zonn; Episode #6) and "The Messenger of the Nonmalt" (Nonmaruto-no Shisha; Episode #42).
An Evening in Celebration of Akio Jissoji
As reported by United World News writer David Chapple
Dateline: Shinjuku district, Tokyo Japan; Saturday, June 21, 2003. To celebrate the release of a new DVD box set of three films by famed Japanese director Akio Jissoji, a local theater sponsored an interview with renowned actress Hiroko Sakurai followed by an all- night screening of three of Jissoji's movies. The event began at 11:30pm with a thirty minute onstage interview with Ms. Sakurai, whose most famous role was as Science Patrol agent Akiko Fuji in the hit series ULTRAMAN (1966). She first met Jissoji on the set of ULTRAMAN and, after directing her in several memorable episodes of that series, he cast her in two of his films.
|Hiroko Sakurai. Photo credit: Dave Chapple
During the interview she talked at length and had many stories about Jissoji as a director and as a person that elicited laughs from the audience. The DVD box set of three of Jissoji's films was released in Japan on June 25, and retails for 34,000 yen. The films included are MUJOU (1970), MANDARA (1971), and UTA (1972), which were all screened during the event.
In related news, two of Jissoji's Ultraman films were also recently made available on DVD for the first time. ULTRAMAN THE MOVIE: ULTIMATE DVD COLLECTION VOL 1 includes the 1967 release ULTRAMAN: THE MOVIE (Chouhen Kaiju Eiga Urutoraman) and 1979s ULTRAMAN: DIRECTED BY AKIO JISSOJI (Jissoji Akio Kantoku Sakuhin Urutoraman). Both films are compilations of episodes from the original series. Bonus features include AFTER THE DREAM: THE ULTRAMAN FACTORY (Yume-no Ato Urutoraman-no Kojo), a documentary hosted by the director. The set comes with a small figure of the character "Little Taro" (from THE ULTRAMAN STORY) and a 16-page booklet with series data. The set was released on August 13.
ULTRA SEVEN: BANNED!
New light shed on the infamous Episode #12
Author: Oki Miyano
ULTRA SEVEN episode #12 "From Another Planet With Love" (Yusei-yori Ai-o Komete), written by Mamoru Sasaki and directed by Akio Jissoji, was banned not because of its contents, but for the invading alien's nickname which was created independently by scribes from Shogakukan Publishing.
|The notorious Hibaku Seijin. © 1967 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
A pictorial that appeared in the October 1, 1970 issue of SHOGAKU SECOND GRADE (Shogaku Ninen-sei) called the alien "Hibaku Seijin" since the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-Bombings are called Hibaku-sha ("hibaku" means "exposure to radiation".)
The problem arose when a 13 year-old girl discovered the article in her brother's copy of the magazine. Ironically, their father was a member of Tokyo Federation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations. The Asahi Shinbun newspaper jumped on the story in an the story into the article on October 10, 1970, and the molehill became a mountain.
Due to public opinion, and embarassment over the ensuing commotion, Tsuburaya Productions (and possibly broadcaster TBS) took the situation very seriously and promised the Tokyo Federation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations to seal the episode forever.
According to Kashi (creator of this Japanese Ultraseven website ) the Asahi Shinbun Newsaper published a recent article on the situation on August 3, 2001. The headline said, "Why was the episode is banned? A wish for Seven." The article asked its readers why this episode has to remain banned. It was written as the opinion of the newspaper.
Since an article that appeared in their newspaper 33 years ago was one of the catalysts that led to the episode being originally sealed, fans felt this showed an irresponsible attitude from Asahi Shinbun.
Unfortunately, Episode #12 became infamous in 1989. That year, a young anime and tokusatsu fan named Tsutomu Miyazaki, kidnapped and murdered four little girls. When he was arrested, among his confiscated belongings was a massive library of video cassettes, including the banned episode. The word Otaku (meaning "shut-in" or "stay at home") became popular because of this terrible incident. To this day, many Japanese still associate Otaku with insidious people like Miyazaki.
While an English-dubbed version of the episode (entitled "Crystallized Corpuscles") aired on the US cable television channel TNT on May 3, 1997, there seems to be no hope in sight to have the original Japanese-language episode released from it's prison.
|GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS PRODUCTION REPORT
The men behind the monsters discuss the latest Godzilla film
Translation: Oki Miyano with Keith Aiken
Additional Material: August Ragone, Ed Godziszewski, and Keith Aiken
Source: Uchusen #108 (Asahi Sonorama)
Special thanks to Bob Johnson, Bob Eggleton, and Gene Cahill
As GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, aka "GMMG"), nears completion, more details about the film and it's production are coming to light. Director Masaaki Tezuka, top crew members Eiichi Asada, Shinichi Wakasa, and Shinji Nishikawa, and actor Akira Nakao all spoke about the movie with the popular Japanese film magazine UCHUSEN. The following is a translation of those interviews with additional biographical information and notes from Henshin!Online. Interviews with GMMG executive producer Shogo Tomiyama and actor Hiroshi Koizumi are also available on Henshin!Online under the News Archives for August 1 and September 24, respectively.
|Godzilla lumbers towards Tokyo Tower in GMMG. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
GMMG will have its first public screening at the Tokyo International Film Festival on the 49th Anniversary of the premiere of the original GODZILLA (Gojira), November 3, 2003. This will be followed by a theatrical release in Japan on December 13.
THE DIRECTOR: MASAAKI TEZUKA
|Masaaki Tezuka, director of GMMG. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
Born in Tochigi, Japan, on January 24, 1955, Masaaki Tezuka graduated from the Nihon University of Art with a degree in cinema in 1977 and became a freelance assistant director. Over the next 22 years (a typical training period for directors in Japan) he worked on such movies as Kinji Fukasaku's VIRUS (Fukkatsu-no Hi, 1980) and Yasuo Furuhata's BUDDIES (A-un, 1990), but spent most of that time apprenticing under the renowned director Kon Ichikawa, whom Tezuka deeply respected. He went on to assist his mentor on no less than 14 films, including KOTO: THE ANCIENT CITY (Koto, 1980), THE BURMESE HARP (Biruma-no Tategoto, 1983), PRINCESS FROM THE MOON (Taketori Monogatari, 1987), and 47 RONIN (Shijushichinin-no Shikaku, 1994). A lifelong fan of Toho's Godzilla series, Tezuka worked on Takao Okawara's GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA 2 (Gojira tai Mekagojira) in 1993, then joined the studio as a full employee the following year. Following assistant director assignments on REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 2 (Mosura 2: Kaitei-no Daikessen, 1997), and REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3 (Mosura 3: Kingughidora Raishu, 1998), Tezuka realized his childhood dream when executive producer Shogo Tomiyama promoted him to director for GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS (Gojira X Megaguirus: G Shometsu Sakusen, aka "GXM", 2000). While the film faired poorly at the box office, Toho soon realized that their new director had a great deal of potential.
Tezuka's greatest directorial strength is his desire to continuously improve as a filmmaker and discard what does not work on film. Showing a surprising lack of ego, he volunteered as a second unit effects director on Shusuke Kaneko's GODZILLA-MOTHRA-KING GHIDORAH (Gojira-Mosura-Kingughidora: Daikaiju Sokogeki, aka "GMK", 2001) so that he could work with the award-winning director and crew. When offered the chance to direct GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira, aka "GXMG", 2002), Tezuka used what he had learned on GMK and took a more proactive role in the production by making changes to the film's crew and reworking portions of the script. Still not completely satisfied with the finished film, he wrote his own proposal for its sequel, GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. Toho quickly approved Tezuka's idea, and he wrote the screenplay with GMK co-author Masahiro Yokotani. He was also involved in choosing the cast and crew and worked closely with them on how best to bring his vision to the screen.
The following is an excerpt from an interview conducted on June 17 at Toho Studios. The entire interview will be available in the near future.
UCHUSEN: This new movie is a direct sequel to GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA, and continues concepts from that film, correct?
TEZUKA: Last year, I wanted to tell the story of Kiryu [Mechagodzilla] and Akane [Yumiko Shaku], and I think I accomplished that. But, I only focused on Godzilla for the first 10 minutes of the film. As a result, I think his presence was kind of subdued. So this year I want to showcase both a strong Godzilla and the Kiryu which has to face him. That is my desire. I believe strongly that this Godzilla moves, fights, lives, growls, and bares his fangs like an animal.
When I watch MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA [Mosura tai Gojira, aka "Godzilla vs. The Thing", 1964], in a sense I can say Godzilla is not giving a real performance; he's just stomping through. However, that Godzilla looks cool because it feels like a living creature. Other than emphasizing more on Godzilla, I'd like to show what was omitted from the previous screenplay and redo some things I didn't describe clearly last time. With this film, I will pay more attention to these details.
UCHUSEN: What is Mothra's role in the film?
|Mothra battles Godzilla. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: First of all, there is the question of why Mothra comes to Japan. My answer is that Mothra has come to warn mankind that they have altered life and that must change.
UCHUSEN: The running time for GMMG is the same as last year's film, Plus another monster has been added to the story. A good script is needed to pull this all together.
TEZUKA: In GXMG, Godzilla landed in Japan twice, then returned for the final sequence. That pattern has been used repeatedly since the "VS" [Heisei] Godzilla films. But this time, once Godzilla appears he's going to remain active in the story until the climax of the film. Another interesting scene will be how Mothra arrives to confront Godzilla.
UCHUSEN: Even though it is approached in a different manner, GMMG has The same theme as GXMG.
TEZUKA: "All life is important." I think when we forget this point, things go wrong -- so, I won't hesitate to repeat this many times.
UCHUSEN: It's been a long time since Hiroshi Koizumi has been in a special effects film.
TEZUKA: Last year, Mr. Koizumi recorded an audio commentary for of one the Toho DVDs, and he seemed to be doing well. When he said he wanted to act in another Godzilla movie I took him seriously [laughs]. Then, Toho decided to make another movie with Mothra. Mr. Koizumi starred in the original MOTHRA [Mosura, 1961] and that will be very convincing for those who are familiar with the old Mothra, so I planned to call Mr. Koizumi myself. I wanted him to feel comfortable and accept my offer [laughs].
The first day of shooting included one of Mr. Koizumi's scenes. I'm glad I could see his performance. Just having him in my movie is enough to make me happy.
THE DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL EFFECTS: EIICHI ASADA
|Director of Special Effects: Eiichi Asada © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
Eiichi Asada was born March 13, 1949. He worked as an assistant director on several films including the Haruki Kadowaka production of THE INUGAMI FAMILY (Inugami-no Ichizoku, 1976), then moved to Toho where he took a job as chief assistant to special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano on DEATHQUAKE (Jishin Retto, 1980), THE IMPERIAL NAVY (Rengo Kantai, 1981), ZERO (Zero-sen Moeyu, 1984), THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (Gojira, aka "Godzilla 1985", 1984), and PRINCESS FROM THE MOON. While at Toho he also worked with sfx director Koichi Kawakita on SAYONARA JUPITER (Sayonara Jupeeta, 1983) and PSYCHIC GIRL: REIKO (Choshojo Reiko, 1991). After going freelance in the early 1990s, Asada was the Special Effects Supervisor on Shinya Tsukamoto's HIRUKO: THE DEMON HUNTER (Yokai Hanta Hiruko, 1991) and VIDEO GIRL: AI (Denei Shoujo Ai, 1991). Nearly 20 years after his last Godzilla movie, Asada was chosen by Shogo Tomiyama and Masaaki Tezuka to be the director of special effects for GMMG.
The following is an excerpt from an interviewed conducted June 10th at Toho Studios.
UCHUSEN: What are your feelings now that shooting has started?
ASADA: I was really looking forward to it -- I couldn't wait to start shooting on the set. I felt very excited, even when we did the camera tests, because this is my first Godzilla film since I worked under Teruyushi Nakano on THE RETURN OF GODZILLA, and my last big effects picture since PRINCESS FROM THE MOON in 1987. I wanted to enjoy this project so that I would be able to say I want to continue working even after the film wraps.
UCHUSEN: What is your focus when you direct sequences with Godzilla?
ASADA: From the first film, a creature like Godzilla's existence is impossible, but it is still considered to be a living creature. So, I want to show Godzilla as being as animal-like as possible.
|Behind the scenes: Godzilla X Mothra . © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
UCHUSEN: How about Mothra?
ASADA: In the newer Mothra films [1990s REBIRTH OF MOTHRA trilogy], the Mothras' image were different from that of the original one. But this time we created an older-style Mothra, like the one from Eiji Tsuburaya's era. For this film, I want to mostly rely on conventional methods, and employ as few computer generated images as possible. I want to have Mothra fly as a living creature on the sound stage [not in the computer].
UCHUSEN: What is the proportion of composite shots and computer generated images in the special effects scenes?
ASADA: Because digital technology has advanced so much, I'd like to effectively use CGI on non-effects scenes. However, these days, even children are sophisticated enough to tell if an image is CGI or not. So basically, I'm using conventional methods -- but because of the Shobijin and Mothra, I needed more composite shots than were used last year.
UCHUSEN: What are your concerns when you compose a shot?
ASADA: Because of the small screen size, television necessitates a number of closeups, however this time I'm working on a motion picture, so I'm trying to create wider shots. Although a standard ratio film is not wide enough to catch the two Mothra larvae in one shot, Tohoscope has enough room to create such long shots such as the creatures playing off of each other, face to face. On the contrary, the difficulty with Tohoscope is trying to compose a closeup. I think that a skilled cameraman, such as Eguchi, will solve this sort of problem. [laughs]
THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER: SHINJI NISHIKAWA
|Production Designer: Shinji Nishikawa © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
Born in 1964, Nishikawa is a highly regarded illustrator, comic artist, and member of Design Works. His first job was as a character designer for Nintendo Famicom games in 1988, followed by a stint as an illustrator for Kodansha Publishing. After being introduced to Koichi Kawakita he became a designer for the Kawakita group, starting with GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE (Gojira tai Beorante, 1989). Nishikawa was one of the chief designers of Biollante, and has served as designer on all of Toho's subsequent special effects monster films with the exception of GMK. In recent years Nishikawa has become the head designer and storyboard artist for special effects films at Toho.
Using the pen name MASH, Nishikawa has authored several comics, including two clever parodies of the Toho universe; GODZILLA LEGEND and GODZILLA GAIDEN. He has also chronicled the production of the Godzilla films with which he has been associated in comic form. These strips are available in book format, the most recent volume having been released on 7/17/03. His artwork can be seen at his official website.
UCHUSEN: What instructions were you given for designing the new Mothra?
NISHIKAWA: This time, I got my ideas mostly from director Tezuka. He basically wanted this Mothra to be as similar to the original as possible. In addition, Mr. Tezuka wanted to use modern techniques to create a more realistic image of Mothra as a living creature.
UCHUSEN: What were the most important points in creating such a living creature?
NISHIKAWA: For the imago Mothra, I focused on the legs. Mr. Tezuka really liked the way the Mothra in GMK moved its legs, so this time he wanted its legs to move constantly. Once it stops moving, it starts to look fake, like a prop. As for the wings; Mr. Wakasa initially proposed a look similar to the Rainbow Mothra, which had a sharp, angular wing design, but I decided to copy the appearance of the imago from MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA instead.
UCHUSEN: So, the image of Mothra is influenced more by MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA, than that of the original film?
|The original Mothra and the GMMG version. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
NISHIKAWA: The idea was that Mothra will fight Godzilla in GMMG, so I needed to think about that instead of just how Mothra looks while flying. The wing design in MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA shows a space between the forward and rear sections, so you can clearly identify four different wings. I thought the basic concept was that, when Mothra is hovering over Godzilla, the wings will cover Godzilla like a shroud. Because that's how I perceived it, I wanted to recreate that look as much as I could. But, when I drew that image, it had a very mysterious shape and I was concerned that it might not be a practical design for the wings. I was relieved that the wings flapped very well on the set.
UCHUSEN: What additions were made to Kiryu?
NISHIKAWA: The changes were all based on descriptions in the screenplay. Kiryu's chest, arms, and weapons were changed. Both director Tezuka and effects director Asada had different ideas for the weapons. Mr. Tezuka suggested a propellant tank. Mr Asada brought in a Bandai Chogokin Mechagodzilla figure, put the back unit on upside down, and said "How about this?". As you will clearly see, Kiryu's new back unit is shaped like that.
Last time, Kiryu's head was too heavy. Because there was very little time, we made the back unit and the suit at the same time, and the back unit ended up not fitting well on Kiryu's body. This time, we already have the Mechagodzilla suit, so we could make the back unit smaller so it fits much better.
|The new Kiryu Mechagodzilla. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
UCHUSEN: So, the back unit was designed to be carried like a backpack this time?
NISHIKAWA: I was originally thinking of a completely different approach, but Mr. Tezuka really liked the scene [in GXMG] where Mechagodzilla used the back unit jets to fly. Since I knew from the beginning that Kiryu would fly in GMMG, I designed the new back unit accordingly.
The shape of Kiryu's shoulder cannons were rectangular last time, and that appearance gave an uneven, unsophisticated impression. This time, I used Mr. Asada's idea to make the shape more like a pentagon. Mr. Asada was very strong in his opinions on that.
UCHUSEN: Were the guns on Kiryu's arms changed?
NISHIKAWA: I used the same concepts that I did before, however, the forearm cannons are more powerful this time so I increased their length. I originally wanted the cannons to extend past Kiryu's hands in GXMG, but [GXMG effects director] Yuichi Kikiuchi wanted Mechagodzilla to be able to use the cannons while its hands were in motion. In the early stages of designing Kiryu, the cannons were not intended to be rail guns, but this time I decided that's what they should be. I also wanted to change the shape of Kiryu's hands back to my original concept for GXMG.
UCHUSEN: So you used the earlier design with some modifications?
NISHIKAWA: Yes, but in the last movie we treated Kiryu as the hero, and this time it is just a machine or a weapon. You will get a very different impression of Kiryu in GMMG.
UCHUSEN: You also drew storyboards for GMMG. What impressions did that give you for the film?
NISHIKAWA: Both Mr. Tezuka and Mr. Asada had very similar points of view. They understood each other very well, and were completely in synch. From working on the storyboards, I could tell that the combination of the two directors was very good. They wanted to recreate the classic image of the Kaiju Eiga [Japanese Monster Movies] by using low camera angles. Godzilla also moves quite a bit in this film. I realized when the monster suits are still, they do not look like living creatures. Because of that, the monsters in this film are always moving.
UCHUSEN: How would you describe effects director Eiichi Asada?
NISHIKAWA: He has a strong visual sense for how to express details onscreen, because he has worked on effects films since the days of Teruyoshi Nakano. In a sense, he is trying to make a deep and weighty image, by taking care of the atmosphere on the set. Meanwhile, he is also aggressively using digital technology. I think you will get a nostalgic feeling for the classic monster movies when you see GMMG in theaters.
UCHUSEN: After you finished drawing the storyboards, how do you feel they were developed on screen?
NISHIKAWA: This time, Director Tezuka was concerned that we didn't have the monsters make any unusual movements. In other words, by keeping to the basic concepts of the classic monster movies, the audience will feel the weight, the depth, and the size of the monsters.
Since the Heisei Godzilla series, there have been so many new Ultraman, Masked Rider, and effects shows on television. But, we should show something that only Godzilla can do, so we went back to the basic concept of the movie monster. With GMMG, audiences will see why Godzilla is THE movie monster.
THE MONSTER MAKER: SHINICHI WAKASA
Shinichi Wakasa's career path was chosen, at the age of four, when he saw his first Godzilla at a children's publicity event for MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA. One of his early jobs was on director Kinji Fukasaku's MESSAGE FROM SPACE (Uchukara-no Messeji, 1978), for which he created the makeup designs for the evil Gavanas invaders. "It was a crew of one: ME! But it was a good experience," he later joked. While he would later create makeup effects of burn victims for Shusuke Kaneko's CROSSFIRE (Kurosufaia, aka "Pyrokenesis", 2000) and supervise effects on the cult hit EVIL DEAD TRAP (Shiro-no Wana, 1988), Wakasa is best known as a maker of monsters.
|Monster Maker: Shinichi Wakasa [Photo Credit: Gene Cahill]. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
In the early 1980s he established the company Monsters Inc., with Tomoo Haraguchi (director of SAKUYA: SLAYER OF DEMONS, 2000) and Chieko Tsuneoka (who has since moved on to a position with the Japanese bureau of the NY Times), and created monsters for the "Ultra Legend" pictorials for TV-Kun magazine (Shogakukan Publishing), which begat Tsuburaya Productions' short-lived ANDRO MELOS (Andoromerosu, 1983) teleseries. Since then, Monsters Inc. has created monster suits, props, and animatronics for a variety of film and television projects, including Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRAMAN TIGA (Urutoraman Tiga, 1996) and ULTRAMAN COSMOS (Urutoraman Kosumosu, 2001) television series, and the theatrical feature ULTRAMAN COSMOS 2: THE BLUE PLANET (Urutoraman Kosumosu 2: Buru Puranetto, 2002). Wakasa is also responsible for the Soldier Legion from the Daiei film GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF LEGION (Gamera 2 Legion Shurai,1996).
His first Toho creation was Fire Rodan for the 1993 film GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA 2, which was followed by the Sea God Muba in OROCHI: THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON (Yamato Takeru, 1994), Space Godzilla and Little Godzilla in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (Gojira tai Supeesu Gojira, 1994), the final stage Destoroyah in GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (Gojira tai Desutoria, 1995), Death Ghidorah in REBIRTH OF MOTHRA (Mosura, 1996), Dagarah from REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 2, and both Grand King Ghidorah and Rainbow Mothra from REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3.
In 1999, Wakasa finally got a chance at the monster that had so captured his imagination 35 years before: Godzilla. His radical redesign of the King of the Monsters, with its sharp, angular dorsal fins, was introduced in GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Ni-sen Mireniamu). With varying modifications, this look has become the Godzilla design for the new "Millennium" series, having also appeared in GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA. Wakasa also built the various suits and props for Godzilla's recent opponents Orga and Megaguirus.
For GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, Wakasa and Monsters Inc. took on the task of building the suits and props for all three titular monsters.
UCHUSEN: What was your starting point in creating the new Mothra?
WAKASA: At the beginning, Shogo Tomiyama told me that we would be using Mothra this year. This was in February. At that time, I was thinking about just changing the color scheme of the Rainbow Mothra from cold to warm colors. But, when I spoke with Mr. Tezuka, he mentioned the flashback to the original MOTHRA that was shown in GXMG. Since it's a fact that Mothra had already come to Japan once before, Mr. Tezuka said he wanted to keep the atmosphere of the original film. That didn't necassarily mean he wanted to recreate the original Mothra. But, the story of GMMG takes place in the same world as the one where the first Mothra appeared, so we agreed to make something that was not too dissparate.
UCHUSEN: What were the key points to the new Mothra?
WAKASA: First of all, I made it much bigger than the Mothras from the Heisei series and GMK, though the Mothra made for GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA [Gojira tai Mosura, aka "Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth", 1992] was relatively big because it needed to be a counterbalance to Godzilla. The new larva is also much larger than the others I had created before.
UCHUSEN: One important characteristic of Mothra is the way its wings flap.
WAKASA: I previously made the imago Mothra for REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3. This time, before we started to make Mothra's wings, my team and I spoke with wire operator Satoru Shimase on what kind of materials should be used. I really think it makes the best wing movement of all the Mothras created so far. The core material is carbon rods, which I also used on REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3.
UCHUSEN: How about the Mothra larva?
|Wakasa's new Mothra. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
WAKASA: Basically, I copied the appearance of the first Mothra, though its not as white as the original larva, or as dark as the ones from MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA. I put its color somewhere in the middle of them.
UCHUSEN: Are you reusing the Kiryu suit from GXMG?
WAKASA: It's a new creation, more or less. I used the original suit mold and as many parts from the first suit as I could.
UCHUSEN: It looks different. Is that because the colors have been changed?
WAKASA: This is because Mr. Asada wanted me to add a lot of weathering to the Kiryu suit.
UCHUSEN: A new suit actor plays Kiryu in GMMG.
WAKASA: Hirofumi Ishigaki, who played the previous Mechagodzilla, quit his job. So, they picked Mr. Nakagawa for the part.
|New Mothra mouth detail. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
UCHUSEN: How about Godzilla?
WAKASA: I made a big scar on his chest, but didn't change many other details. We made three new Godzilla suits -- a main suit, another one for action scenes, and a water suit. Last year, I made an upper body suit for closeups, but this year we're using an animatronic Godzilla prop instead.
UCHUSEN: It looks like there was more work for Monsters Inc. this year, because of Mothra.
WAKASA: We started work earlier than usual because there was quite a bit for us to manage this time. I feel we did more on GMMG because Monsters Inc. only made the Godzilla suits for most of the recent films. We had other companies build the opponent monsters. But this year, I wanted to make Mothra, too, so we made the various Godzillas first.
UCHUSEN: What is the basic theme of your creations this time?
WAKASA: For both Mothra and Godzilla, I was told to make them more like living creatures. I think this is most reflected in the mechanical Godzilla I created for closeups, and in details on Mothra - - like the new shape of its mouth.
THE PRIME MINISTER: AKIRA NAKAO
Born August 11, 1942 in Chiba Prefecture, Akira Nakao became a professional actor in the early 1960s. His resume includes films for several of Japan's major studios, including HUNTER'S DIARY(Ryojin Nikki, 1964), THE HEART OF HIROSHIMA(Ai to Shi-no Kuroku, 1966), SHADOW OF DECEPTION(Naikai-no Wa, 1971), AKURYU ISLAND(Akuryu-To, 1981), NINJA WARS(Iga Ninpocho, 1982), BARROW GANG BC(1985), STREET OF THE RONIN(Roningai, 1990), TOKYO DRAGON(1997) and THE FRAME(Hasen- no Marisu, 2000).
|Akira Nakao as Japan's Prime Minister with Koizumi. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
Nakao's first Toho film was the 1970 horror movie THE VAMPIRE DOLL (Yurei Yashiki-no Kyofu Chi-o Suu Ningyo, aka "Legacy of Dracula: The Bloodthirsty Doll"). Over the next two decades he occasionally worked for the studio on movies like THE MAN WHO BECKONED A TEMPEST (Arashi- o Yobu Otoko, 1983) and MINBO: OR THE GENTLE ART OF JAPANESE EXTORTION (Minbo-no Onna, 1992) before landing his most famous role as Commander Takaki Aso in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA 2(1993). The gruff boss of G-Force proved popular with fans, and Nakao returned as the character in both GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA and GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH.
He returned to the Godzilla series in GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA, this time as Minister of Science and Technology Hayato Igarahi, the man who oversees the 1999 Kiryu Project for Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge (Kumi Mizuno). Igarashi is elected the new Prime Minister in 2003, just in time for Kiryu's first trial by fire against Godzilla. The Japanese public quickly turns against Kiryu due to the massive damage caused during its battles with Godzilla and a brief solo rampage when the cyborg temporarily went out of control. When Godzilla returns to menace Japan once more in GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, Igarashi must decide how best to deal with the monster and a public who feel the cure may be worse than the disease.
In an interview conducted on July 5th at Toho Studios, Nakao talked about working on GMMG with writer Taketo Tomoi:
"In the last film Prime Minister Igarashi made every important choice in a decisive manner, but in GMMG he is now required to be more cautious because he has to deal with both the pros and cons of using Kiryu once again. But as far as I am concerned, this change doesn't make any difference in how I prepared for the role.
Director Tezuka's plans were extremely detailed this time around. He had thorough storyboards prepared [by Shinji Nishikawa] and has thought out every single movement of the actors, so his direction is quite easy to follow. On the other hand, I now have to act at a very specific point on the set, so that aspect of the direction is more difficult than usual. Normally, a director's orders are a sort of instruction manual and I have more freedom to work things out for myself, but Tezuka's direction is like a blueprint. I need to perform at the exact mark the director has intended so that my footage can be composited with the special effects -- fitting into either the director's designs or drawings. That is the most important thing and I have tried to follow his direction perfectly so far.
Some of the actors who played members of the JXSDF [the "Counter Special Lifeform Self Defense Force"] in GXMG are in the new film and we work together in perfect harmony. On many occasions, my action was to just stand at my mark or match someone's eyeline as the director had instructed, so we worked quite quickly. Sometimes, we'd joke "That's it? Shall we film the scenes scheduled for tomorrow, too?"
To see what wasn't apparent on the set, or to see myself in scenes with the special effects added -- that is the interesting part of acting in a Tokusatsu film. In regular movies, I can imagine any scene from the story. GMMG has a story too, but the special effects are sometimes more influential than the story itself and the destruction scenes are more powerful than my imagination. Such images surprise me when I first see the movie, so I'm always the one who is most looking forward to the preview screening. I even want to see the special effects scenes more than anyone else [laughs]. Since the stars of this film are Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, and Mothra, my screentime in GMMG has been compromised all because of Mothra! [laughs]
The next Godzilla film? That will be the 50th Anniversary, but I don't think my administration will still be around then [laughs]. So will I end up playing an extra fleeing from Godzilla, a [close up of a] pair of frightened eyes, or the former Prime Minister? [laughs] After getting all the way up to playing the Prime Minister, I only can appear as some higher up from now on. Maybe only retirement awaits the Prime Minister, but I am looking forward to developing new plans to counterattack Godzilla if my administration is still hanging in. Will my administration stay in power longer than [Prime Minister] Koizumi's? [Real life Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was reelected in a landside on September 21st.]
I want to ask the fans to please not miss a single moment of this movie -- you will miss something important if you are not observant. You should pay particular attention to the war between the monsters -- the tide of the battle turns every second. Please, try not to blink for 90 minutes!"
|Gigantor: Bigger Than Big on Theater Screens!
Animated robot goes live-action
Author: Bob Johnson
Translations by: John Cassidy and Oki Miyano
Source: Official Testujin-28 Project Website
Godzilla is not the only Big G from Japan that is creeping up on a 50th anniversary celebration and a new movie courtesy of Toho Motion Picture Company. Created as a manga (comic book) in 1955 by artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, TETSUJIN 28 (Ironman No. 28) was serialized in Shonen Magajin (Boy's Magazine) the following year. A live action mini-series was produced in 1960, but it was not until the animated series was broadcast on Fuji TV in 1963 (and subsequently brought to US television by Fred Ladd under the name of GIGANTOR), that the character's popularity really took off! With the recent release of the series on DVD in Japan, and by Rhino in the US (see the 10/20/02 article in the News Archive for further details), interest is at an all-time high on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
|Logo design for the new TETSUJIN 28 film. © 2003 Tetsujin-28 Project
The importance of Tetsujin 28's influence on Japanese fantasy genre can not be taken for granted. As Japan's first giant robot superhero, Tetsujin's affect on future creations can be felt in everything from JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT to Go Nagai's MAZINGER Z and on through MOBILE SUIT: GUNDAM and NEON GENESIS: EVANGELION, as well as other super robot anime and manga.
In anticipation of Tetsujin's upcoming 50th anniversary, Toho is hard at work on a 100 million-yen adaptation for a big screen release in the spring of next year. Helmed by director Shin Togashi (OFF-BALANCE and PRAY TO THE STARS), production took place over the summer and wrapped in early September.
On August 18th, a press conference was held in Tokyo, announcing the film and introducing the cast and members of the creative team. The conference began with a blaze of camera flashes as producer Nobuyuki Toya, Shin Togashi and special effects director Hajime Matsumoto appeared before the media.
Joining them on stage were the stars of the movie. Shosuke Ikematsu, who plays Tetsujin's 13-year-old controller "Shotaro Kaneda," was chosen from over 8,000 child actors that auditioned for the role. Appearing in her first film, Yu Aoi takes the role of "Mami Tachibana." Yuko Nakazawa, Yusuke Takaoka, Akira Emoto and Katsuo Nakamura also stepped onto the stage. Each of the actors was dressed in the attire they will wear in the film. Hosting the evening's event was TV Asashi Newscaster, Yasumasa Matsui.
The back of the stage was adorned with a huge billboard from the movie and a six-foot statue of the head of the movie's robot hero stood to the right of the stage area. Each person attending shared his or her comments on the experience of being involved in a movie based on a childhood icon.
|Tetsujin discovered! © 2003 Tetsujin-28 Project
Producer Noboyuki Toya, "Many people from my generation were excited about TETSUJIN NO. 28 as children. I have had a strong desire to make this story into a movie for a long time. I was attracted to Tetsujin because he did not have weapons like other robots did. He was just very powerful and was used for peaceful purposes, saving Japan and the rest of the world.
"Juvenile crimes are becoming more serious these days. I want to send a message to young people through this film that the young protagonists protect the world by doing the best work they possibly can. It is a pleasure that I am making this film with a wonderful staff and actors.
"Though the film will take a long time to make and will not be released until April of next year, I want to do the best I can on it. I would like to have your help and encouragement in making this film very successful."
Director Shin Togashi, "TETSUJIN NO. 28 is the first television show I remember. I can recall the black and white image of Tetsujin flying through the sky. Like me, many others still have memories of Tetsujin in their minds and I am very glad to have the chance to direct such a memorable story. Because the film is about two robots fighting, I want to make it into a rhythmical and impressive hour and forty-minute movie.
"The difference between the original comic book and this film is that I want to focus on Shotaro himself. I want to describe the process of growing up and at the same time, add a rich texture to the film. I am working with some very talented people and will do my best. Please look forward to the completion of this film."
Special Effects Director Hajime Matsumoto, "Everyone in this industry dreams of creating a live action scene of giant robots fighting like bulls! So, it might be my biggest challenge ever.
|Wireframe model for the computer animated Tetsujin. © 2003 Tetsujin-28 Project
"In the movie, Shotaro's father (played by Hiroshi Abe from GODZILLA 2000) leaves him a message that says, 'have faith in yourself and move ahead.' As he said, I will believe in myself and do the best I can. Thank you very much."
Actor Shosuke Ikematsu (Shotaro Kaneda), "I hope the film will make Tetsujin into everyone's hero like he once was. I would like to play Shotaro as a kind and cheerful boy."
Yu Aoi (Mami Tachibana), "Though I am appearing in this kind of film for the first time, I will do my best not to fall short of Mitsuteru Yokoyama's expectations and play my character in a positive way."
Yuko Nakazawa (Kana Ejima), "I am playing in a film for the first time in a long while! In my last film, I was not nervous because I was just one of many actors. This time I will play a detective who is serious and has a sense of justice. I need to thoroughly concentrate on my role so that I suppress my own [humorous] character and contribute to making it a good film.
"Today I was surprised to see the size of the head of Tetsujin. It was the first time I've seen it. It made me expect to see a high-quality film. I will do my best to make a wonderful movie." [Note: Nakazawa is a member of a popular vocal group called "Morning Musume").
Akira Emoto (Yonusuke Otsuka), is a well-known actor from such films as DR. AKAGI, ONMYOJI: THE YIN-YANG MASTER and SHALL WE DANCE? -- he is no stranger to battling giants having appeared as a revenge-driven military man in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA. "I was reading TETSUJIN NO. 28 in the magazines because I was born in 1948. I will be playing the familiar character of Otsuka, the police chief, so I will do my best!"
Yusuke Takaoka (Kenji Murasame), "I am happy to be surrounded by great actors and actresses. I will believe in the director and will try to do my best work. I would like to finish shooting in good health and in one-piece."
Katsuo Nakamura (Tatsuzo Ayabe), "I play Shotaro's grandfather, who also assists his son. I am playing a good role this time, so I am expecting an Oscar. I should be careful though, because Emoto is also expecting the award. [laughs] I will do my best, thank you very much."
In the original comic book, little boy Shotaro Kaneda controlled the gigantic robot, originally developed by the Japanese army in World War II as a secret weapon to fight its enemies. The movie will be set in modern-day Tokyo, where the evil Commander "Zero" plots to build a bio-computer that will turn the city into his own dystopia, so Shotaro must control Tetsujin to fight against this menace.
The 20-meter tall Testujin's battle with Black Ox (a rival robot from the original comics and television series), sent by Commander Zero, will be accomplished via CGI animation. To interact with the cast, full-scale props of the robots' heads and limbs were created.
Interviewed at Toho Studios in Seijo, Producer Noboyuki Toya explained the aim of the project: "The charm of Tetsujin No. 28 is that he doesn't carry weapons like other robots do. Children admired him because he had a strong body and he could either strike or throw about his enemy. We want to offer such a vision to a new generation of children." Looking forward to the completion of the film, cartoonist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, the creator of TETSUJIN NO. 28 says, "I am so happy that Tetsujin will come to life again so vigorously!"
|Shosuke Ikematsu as Shotaro Kaneda. © 2003 Tetsujin-28 Project
Aoi, who plays the scientist who supports Shotaro says, "Reading the script, I imagined something really big," and originally she was very surprised. Like a modern child she said, "Being very lovely, I think I still persevered." Displaying self-confidence, Nakazawa says, "The head [of Tetsujin] was surprisingly huge. Now, as we near the end of the shoot, I can feel the power of this film."
Yukijro Hotaru, one of the genre's busiest actors, has a brief cameo in the film. Fans will instantly recognize him from his roles in ZEIRAM, all three Gamera films from the '90s, MIKAZUKI and GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK. Reportedly, Matsumoto called him up to ask him to do a bit for the film, wanting to tap in on his extreme reactions to kaiju and fantastic situations. In TETSUJIN NO. 28, he will play a terrorist. He agreed to do the film, but wondered, "shouldn't the director be calling me and not the special effects director?"
The film is also rumored to actually feature two Tetsujins. One, the original Tetsujin and the other a new, updated version. This has yet to be confirmed as of this writing.
With the movie now well into the post-production phase, nostalgic feelings are driving the production team to turn out the best movie they can. They hope that the same nostalgia driving them will bring out theater patrons both young and old to see the big screen adventures of Japan's first giant robot!
TETSUJIN NO. 28 Timeline GAO!!
1956: Comic book TETSUJIN NO. 28 serialized in Shonen Magazine.
1959: Radio drama on Nippon Broadcasting.
1960: Live-Action drama (13 episodes) broadcast on Nippon Television (NTV).
1963: Black and White TV anime (84 episodes) broadcast on Fuji TV.
1964: Fred Ladd's Delphi Productions releases the series as GIGANTOR to US
television. Only 51 of the original 84 episodes were actually released.
1980: TV anime MESSANGER OF THE SUN: TETSUJIN 28 (51 episodes) broadcast on NTV.
1992: TV anime SUPER-ELECTRO ROBO: TETSUJIN 28 FX broadcast on NTV.
2002: Rhino releases original 1963 series on two DVD box sets in the US.
2003: Live-action movie TETSUJIN NO. 28 is announced to the public and the
TV anime shows will be broadcast on TV Tokyo.
2004: Toho to release the new live-action theatrical version of TETSUJIN NO. 28.
Note: For more information on the history and background of GIGANTOR, check out the excellent article by manga and anime expert Fred Patten, which originally appeared in Markalite magazine, issue #2.
|THE LATEST ON ZATOICHI
"Beat" Takeshi's award-winning film is coming to America
Author: Keith Aiken
Translations: Oki Miyano
Source: Yomiuri, Sponichi Annex, Yahoo News
On August 19th, actor Tadonobu Asano and producer Masayuki Mori, joined director/star "Beat" Takeshi Kitano in Yurakucho, Tokyo for a press conference promoting ZATOICHI. The new movie is based on Shintaro Katsu's 26-film series about the legendary blind swordsman.
|© 2003 Shochiku/Office Kitano
Kitano is proud of his first period film and was in great spirits at the conference. He jokingly told reporters, "Initially, I wanted to make ZATOICHI GOES TO HAWAII, but the fans would hate me -- so I had no choice but to make it a period film." The 56 year-old knows audiences will compare his ZATOICHI to the original, but is confident they will enjoy his movie. "Diehard Katsu fans might say 'What is this?', but I feel that I've made the definitive period film." Kitano went on to describe bringing updated concepts to the new version, such as blonde hair for Zatoichi, increasing the tempo of the swordfights, and including a tap dancing sequence during the film's finale. "The script was mostly handled in a serious manner, but I think it is wrong to try to make a Chambara [swordplay] film too realistic. If I tried to make a Chambara film based in reality, it would just end up a collection of lies."
Asano plays Zatoichi's opponent, the evil ronin Gennosuke Hattori. He had previously acted alongside Kitano in director Nagisa Oshima's 1999 film TABOO (Gohatto), and was excited to work with him again. "It was a great challenge to play this role, but it was worth it. I am so impressed by the finished film." The 29 year-old actors laughingly admitted "If I had been a ronin [masterless samurai] in real life, I would have been easily killed by Kitano's Zatoichi."
ZATOICHI was selected for competition at the Venice Film Festival in Italy, where it played alongside LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE (a co- production between five countries which also stars Tadanobu Asano). "I'm very happy that my movie was chosen from so many other Asian films." Kitano said. "I had hoped to attend the festival as a guest, now I get to attend as a director in competition." Sound problems cut short a screening of Kitano's film DOLLS at last year's festival. "If that mistake occurs again this year I will chop everyone with my secret Zatoichi sword." In the end, he had nothing to worry about.
|© 2003 Shochiku/Office Kitano
When results from the Venice Film Festival were announced on September 3rd, Kitano became the first Japanese director to win the Silver Lion, an award celebrating outstanding contributions to film, art, and cultural movements. Holding up the camera-shaped trophy, Kitano beamed "I'm so glad that ZATOICHI has received credit for it's artistic merit."
On September 6th, Shochiku released ZATOICHI to 230 theater screens across Japan. With so many prints, producer/Office Kitano president Masayuki Mori said that ZATOICHI would need to draw an audience of more than one million in order to recoup costs. Kitano joked that he would not be able contribute to the box office take, "I can't watch the movie -- because I'm blind." The film earned $2,424,805 in its first week of release.
|© 2003 Shochiku/Office Kitano
On September 13th, ZATOICHI won the top honor at the Toronto International Film Festival when attendees awarded the film the festival's People's Choice award. Previous winners include Oscar winners CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, and AMERICAN BEAUTY.
Last, but certainly not least, is the announcement that ZATOICHI was one of the first major acquisitions of the festival. Miramax Films, a division of Walt Disney Co, has picked up the North American rights for the film.
More ZATOICHI information and the Japanese theatrical trailer are
available on the official site
And a movie review is on the Japan Times website.
|KIKAIDA FACTOIDS! ONLINE
Everything you wanted to know about Kikaida but were afraid to ask...
Henshin! Online is proud to present the unabridged factoids written and compiled for JN Productions' Hawaii DVD release for the 1972 Toei Superhero teleseries JINZONINGEN KIKAIDA -- the show that took Hawai'i by storm in 1974 and was brought back in 2001 for legions of "Generation Kikaida" in Honolulu and for the benefit of fans world-wide. Here you will find interesting anecdotes and asides in the what's-and-where's of KIKAIDA, as well as trivia about the Guest Stars, People Behind-the-Scenes, and more (including some real useless information!) -- beyond what was included on Hawai'i-produced DVDs! Entries for all 43 episodes will be added as each successive DVD is released by JN Productions -- which we hope will add to your appreciation and viewing pleasure of KIKAIDA.
|THE RETURN OF PROFESSOR CHUJO
Hiroshi Koizumi Guest Stars in GMMG
Translation: Oki Miyano
Additional Material: Keith Aiken
Source: Uchusen #108
"To me the camera shutter clicking is like the sound of the guillotine." --Hiroshi Koizumi as Shinichi Chujo in MOTHRA
|Hiroshi Koizumi is back in the latest Godzilla film. © 2003 Uchusen Magazine (Asahi Sonorama)
GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS is the official sequel to the 1961 film MOTHRA (Mosura). Responding to a personal request from director Masaaki Tezuka, Hiroshi Koizumi, famous actor from the "Golden Age" of Toho special effects pictures, performed in the new movie. Of course, he played Dr. Shinichi Chujo, his character from MOTHRA. Did the noble archeologist once again successfully ring a bell for peace?
Hiroshi Koizumi was born in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture on August 12, 1926. After graduating from Keio University in 1948, he became a newscaster for the public radio station NHK. In 1951, Koizumi passed an acting audition for Toho's New Face program and made his screen debut the following year. He played supporting parts in several movies, including Kon Ichikawa's MR. LUCKY (Rakki-San, 1952) and MR. PU (Pu-San, 1953) and films for director Yasujiro Ozu, before getting the lead role in the first Godzilla sequel, GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (Gojira no Gyakushu, aka "Gigantis: The Fire Monster"), in 1955. Following his performance in Ishiro Honda's classic film MOTHRA, Koizumi appeared (mostly as a gentle scientist or scholar) in many films from Toho's "Golden Age." His credits include I BOMBED PEARL HARBOR (Taiheiyo-no Arashi, 1960), CHUSHINGURA (1962), ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE (Matango, 1963), ATRAGON (Kaitei Gunkan, 1963), MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA (Mosura tai Gojira, aka "Godzilla vs. the Thing", 1964), DAGORA:THE SPACE MONSTER (Uchu Daikaiju Dogora, 1964), GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (Chikyu Saidai-no Kessen, 1964), GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, aka "Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster", 1974), CATASTROPHE: 1999 (Nosutoradamusu-no Daiyogen, aka "The Last Days of Planet Earth", 1974) and a cameo appearance in THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (Gojira, aka "Godzilla 1985"). He also was featured in a pivotal role in Toho's superhero television series RAINBOWMAN: WARRIOR OF PIETY (Ai- no Senshi Reinbouman, 1973).
From 1970 to 1980, Koizumi was the host of the television show QUIZ GRAND PRIX. Though his current position as a top advisor for the Japan Actors Union has kept him too busy to work on films in recent years, he decided to make an exception for GMMG. This new picture will be Koizumi's 11th special effects movie for Toho, and his 120th film role overall. He recently spoke about the project with the popular Japanese film magazine UCHUSEN.
|The new Mothra. © 2003 Toho Co. Ltd.
"DR. MOTHRA" RETURNS AFTER 42 YEARS
"Mothra is the protagonist in the new movie, so they wanted me since I played the archeologist who communicated with the Shobijin ["Little Beauties", Mothra's twin priestesses] in the original MOTHRA in 1961. I think it is interesting as an actor to play the same role after 42 years. I'm enjoying the shooting; it's been a while since my last film.
I was surprised because Professor Chujo had become very rich over the past 40 years [laughs]. According to Mr. Tezuka, one of Chujo's books was a best seller. In the film, Chujo knows the prime minister [PM Hayato Igarashi, played by Akira Nakao]. I think they graduated from the same university.
My memories of the older Toho special effects films are all mixed together because I always played a scholar or a professor. I never made any special preparations for playing a scholar, nor did I particularly like science. However, because my major was the arts in college, the role of a linguist in MOTHRA might have been a proper one for me. Though I graduated from college, I was a student during all the confusion following the war. I couldn't study in a good learning environment, and still feel like I got a degree without studying enough.
However, since I lived in such a chaotic era, I have a very special feeling for MOTHRA, because it has such a peaceful theme. Mothra symbolizes the islanders' hope.The film's peaceful atmosphere was a true representation of director Ishiro Honda's humanity -- he was a very kind person. I also think the idea to use the Peanuts [the twin sister singing duo of Emi and Yumi Ito] and their songs was great, since they were perfectly suited for the film.
|Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, and Frankie Sakai in the original MOTHRA. © 1961 Toho Co., Ltd
For this new movie, I will interact with the Shobijin again. But, my actual co-stars [on the set] are small dolls, so I have to act while using my imagination. This method has not been changed since the original MOTHRA. However, today's technology will create higher quality images, so I'm looking forward to seeing the completed film.
My initial impression of director Tezuka was one of surprise, because he is very young and I noticed that he loves Godzilla. His style of direction is easy to understand, and he is a very gentle soul. He can take charge of the set without yelling, and he carefully listens to other people's opinions. On the set, I'm always treated as the senior member [of the crew]. Mr. Tezuka has never forgotten to prepare a chair for me. This kind of arrangement reminds me of my age. I think, perhaps, that Takashi Shimura felt like this when we made MOTHRA.
The lead actor, Noboru Kaneko, is a totally modern young man. Do I have any advice for him? Nothing too specific. I really think the vitality of today's young people is great.
The theme of the new film is "all life is important", and it is Professor Chujo who, acting as an interpreter, reveals this as Mothra's message to mankind. I think this theme will be understood by modern audiences, including children. The story of the Kiryu [Mechagodzilla], which was constructed by using the first Godzilla's skeleton, is very convincing. Don't you think it is very unclear these days that some lines must not to be crossed? I think there is an anxiety that the world will be decimated if we don't stop pushing nature at some point. I think this is a great theme for GMMG, because the same idea was first used at the time of the original GODZILLA (Gojira,1954).
|Koizumi with Noboru Kaneko in GMMG. © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
My first appearance in Godzilla films was 1955's GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN. That means the series has been running for 50 years. I think this is due to the existence of Eiji Tsuburaya. His contributions to the Japanese film industry are truly great. I think Godzilla has a beloved nature, too. That's why [former Tokyo Yomiuri Giants/current NY Yankees baseball player] Hideki Matsui is fondly nicknamed "Godzilla." [laughs]
I'd like to act in more Tokusatsu [special effects] movies if they want to have me. Special effects films are a dream world, and I think people should have dreams. I hope the fans will let their imaginations expand, and enjoy these films for a long time to come."
|TADAO TAKASHIMA CONQUERS THE WORLD
Popular Toho Actor Returns
Author: Keith Aiken
Japanese Material Translated By: Oki Miyano
Source: Nikkan Sports, Evening-paper FUJI, Special thanks to Monster Zero
After a five year absence, popular veteran actor Tadao Takashima, star of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and ATRAGON, has returned to the public eye. Despite his reputation as a first rate cut-up, Takashima has, in fact, been battling depression for many years and was forced to retire from acting in 1998. "It's not unusual for celebrities to suffer from depression because they are constantly exposed to so many people," his elder son Masahiro said. "Even so, this was very shocking".
|Tadao Takashima stands with his son, Masanobu, at a press conference. © 2003 Nikkan Sports
Born July 27, 1930 in Kobe, Takashima originally planned to become a jazz musician before switching to acting. He joined Shintoho in 1951 and appeared in such movies as TERRIFYING INVASION OF THE FLYING SAUCERS (Soratobu Enban Kyofu Shingeki, 1956). After moving to Toho Studios, Takashima was paired with Yu Fujiki for a series of comedies and musicals, then director Ishiro Honda chose the duo for leading roles in KING KONG VS GODZILLA (Kingukongu tai Gojira, 1962) and ATRAGON (Kaitei Gunkan, 1963). Takashima also appeared in CHUSHINGURA (1962), YOU CAN SUCCEED TOO (Kimi-mo Shusse-ga Dekiru, 1964), FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (Furankenshutain tai Baragon, 1965), and SON OF GODZILLA (Kaijuto-no Kessen: Gojira-no Mosuko, 1967).
In 1993, Takashima acted alongside his son Masahiro in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira). Both of Takashima's sons had followed in their father's footsteps; Masahiro also starred in GUNHED (Ganhedo, 1989) and GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (Gojira tai Desutoria, 1995), while the younger Masanobu appeared in GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (Gojira tai Beorante, 1989) and NEW MASKED RIDER (Shin Kamen Raida, 1992).
After several years of treatment, Takashima has decided to return to the world of entertainment. His son Masanobu said "He was thinking that to show up in public and be active again was the best way to show gratitude to his fans and all the people who have been taking care of him for so long. For now, he wants to pick a job that is suited to his age and allows him to set his own pace."
On September 7th, the 72 year-old made his first public performance as a guest singer at Hiroshi Miyagawa's dinner show at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. Miyagawa is best known as the composer for SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (Uchusenkan Yamato; aka Star Blazers). The show was produced by a close friend of Masanobu's, actress Kaori Tori, and she arranged for the father and son to perform a jazz number together. This was followed by an appearance on the NHK television game show QUIZ: YOU'LL KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT (Quiz Mireba Nattoku) on September 14th. More performances are being planned for the near future.
Henshin! Online offers our best wishes to Mr. Takashima for a full recovery.
|COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU!
or "How You Can See Japanese Monsters On The Big Screen!"
Author: Keith Aiken with Mark Obert and Kyle Yount
Source: Sony Pictures, American Cinematheque, Toho, ADV Films, Monster Zero
With Godzilla's fiftieth anniversary fast approaching next year, fans in Japan are looking forward to numerous events and celebrations. American fans living in California are also in luck. Following last month's US premieres of GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA-MOTHRA-KING GHIDORAH, the American Cinematheque has announced it is working with Toho to host the Godzilla 50th Anniversary Celebration. This event will be held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA in June 2004. Details are still sketchy, but plans include screenings of several classic and recent Godzilla films. The Cinematheque has promised to provide further information as it becomes available.
|Films both old and new, like the original MOTHRA, are available for the enthusiast! © 1962 Toho Co., Ltd.
For those fans not living in California, there is still an opportunity to see Godzilla or other Japanese fantasy movies on the big screen. Several titles are available for theatrical or festival screenings in North America, so fans should contact their local theater. Godzilla's anniversary could help motivate arthouse, repertory, or independent theaters to book these movies. Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA has prints of the following Toho films:
THE H-MAN (1958)
BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959)
GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA II (1993; Toho international English dub)
GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA (1994; Toho international English dub)
GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (1995; Toho international English dub)
REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3 (1998; Toho international English dub)
GODZILLA 2000 (1999)
GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS (2000; Toho international English dub)
GODZILLA-MOTHRA-KING GHIDORAH (2001; Toho international English dub)
Each print can be rented for $150 plus 35% of the box office take and shipping and handling. The good folks at Monster Zero have offered to forward any inquiries to Sony; just email a letter of intent from a theater or convention organizer to email@example.com and Sony will be in touch.
Toho also offers 35mm prints of some of their most famous science fiction, drama, and action films. Serious inquiries can be sent to their Los Angeles office for the following titles:
GODZILLA (1954; Japanese language with English subtitles)
TOHOKU NO ZUNMUTACHI (1957)
THE MYSTERIANS (1957)
INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER (1965; aka MONSTER ZERO)
EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP (1966; Toho international English dub)
SON OF GODZILLA (1967; Toho international English dub)
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968; Toho international English dub)
ZATOICHI MEETS YOJIMBO (1970)
GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (1971; Toho international English dub)
THE WOLVES (1971)
GODZILLA VS GIGAN (1972)
UNDER THE FLUTTERING MILITARY FLAG (1972)
GODZILLA VS MEGALON (1973)
TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975; Japanese language with English subtitles)
47 RONIN (1992)
BEGGING FOR LOVE (1998)
ADV Films, located in Houston TX, also carries theatrical prints. More titles are expected, but for now the following movies are available:
GAMERA, THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995)
GAMERA 2: ADVENT OF LEGION (1996)
GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS (1999)
THE PRINCESS BLADE (2001)
For further details, please contact Anna Bechtol at ADV.
|GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA UPDATE
New Reports and Information
Author: Oki Miyano and August Ragone
STORY: A year has passed since Kiryu repelled Godzilla from destroying Tokyo. US and Japanese forces are challenged by a huge UFO which appears on their radars, coming dangerously near to the Japanese islands. At his country home, Professor Shinichi Chujo (Hiroshi Koizumi) and his nephew Yoshito Chujo (an Engineer in the Kiryu Squad, played by Nobuko Kaneko) are visited by Mothra and the Shobijin, who trust the elder Chujo because he understands them and tried to help them back in 1961. They implore the professor to convince the Japanese Government to return the original Godzilla's remains to its watery grave. This is because all life is sacred, and unless this is done soon, Mothra will turn against humanity.
|GMMG Poster © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
Professor Chujo makes an appeal to his old university colleage, Prime Minister Igarashi (Akira Nakao)to abandon the Kiryu Project, and send the Godzilla skeleton back to its resting place. Meanwhile, the carcass of Kameba, a giant turtle-like creature, washes up on the shores of Kujukuri Beach in East Chiba Prefecture [this is where the great ape came ashore in KING KONG VS GODZILLA], and all contact with a nuclear submarine in the Pacific Ocean is lost. Finally, a still- wounded Godzilla appears off the coast of Japan and lands in Tokyo. The special forces of the JXSDF counter Godzilla's attack in the Shinagawa Ward using
only its Maser Cannon batallion -- the badly damaged Kiryu is not yet fully operational and cannot be sent into battle. As the situation becomes grim, Professor Chujo attempts to summon Mothra to fight Godzilla by employing a similar method used to calm the giant moth in its attack on New Kirk City, 43 years earlier...
|Godzilla appears at Shinagawa © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
The staff of GMMG have employed 23 seperate techniques to bring the monsters to life on big screen -- these includes monster suits, marionettes, puppets and animatronics. Their are six different Godzillas which have been created for this film, while Mothra's texture was made from a special fabric only available from motion picture supply companies in Hollywood. The amount of optical and CGI composite shots planned have increased from 390 in GXMG to more than 400 for this film.
The monsters, in their duel to the death, are expected to destroy a number of famous Tokyo landmarks including the Rainbow Bridge, the Diet Building, Tokyo Tower, the Caretta Shiodome, and the Roppongi Hills.
|Battle at the Diet Building © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
From this skeleton of information available at the moment, it looks like Masaaki Tezuka's GMMG is shaping up to be a spectacular monster movie. The film will premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival in November, and open nationwide in Japanese theaters on December 13th.
|Akira Tsuburaya: Steering Tsuburaya Productions into the Future!
Source: Source: Newtype the Live, July 2003
Translation and Notes by: Oki Miyano, August Ragone and Bob Johnson
Earlier this year, a new line-up came into being at Tsuburaya Productions, the home of Ultraman. The company underwent major management changes as reported earlier on Henshin! Online. At that time, Akira Tsuburaya returned to the company and became its new Vice President. Born on February 12, 1944 as the third son of Eiji Tsuburaya, Akira entered Tsuburaya Productions in 1966 after finishing College. Starting as an assistant director, he became a producer on NTV's LIL'CHIBIRA (Chibira-kun) in 1970. After producing many special effects television series including TRIPLE FIGHTER (Toripuru Faita, 1972) and FIREMAN (Fuaiaman, 1973), he went independent, and in 1989 established Tsuburaya Eizo (aka "Tsuburaya Pictures"). Here he produced many popular films and television series, such as MIKADROID (Mikadoroido), EKO EKO AZARAK (Ekoeko Azaraku) and MASKED ANGEL: ROSETTA (Kamen Tenshi Rozetta.
|Vice president of Tsuburaya Productions, Akira Tsuburaya © 2003 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
Making a triumphant return to his father's studio, Akira -- the sole surviving son -- was named vice president of Tsuburaya Productions in January 2003, and recently gave the magazine "Newtype: The Live" his views on the past, present and future of Tsuburaya Productions.
TSUBURAYA: When ULTRA Q [Urutora Kyu] was produced, it was originally a vehicle to bring Eiji Tsuburaya's special effects work to television. His first work was done with Toho, both monster movies including Godzilla and what is called the "Mutant Series" [MATANGO, THE HUMAN VAPOR, THE H-MAN and SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN] -- but the monster movies were particularly popular. Based on their success, we figured that the Japanese prefer monster movies and we made ULTRA Q for television. Afterwards, we thought the monsters might be better pared-up with a superhero, so we created ULTRAMAN [Urutoraman].
Ultraman's image was something like a combination of Superman and MOONLIGHT MASK [Gekko Kamen, the first superhero on Japanese television in 1957]. The theme of "punishing vice and rewarding virtue" was
similar to that of P-Productions' THE SPACE GIANTS [Maguma Taishi], which was broadcast at that time.
NEWTYPE: ULTRAMAN became a great hit. No one expected that is would become such a long-running program.
TSUBURAYA: As one of the staff of ULTRAMAN, I would sometimes go into the suburbs for location shooting. I would see a lot of children come and gather to watch the filming. My biggest surprise came when we were shooting an episode of ULTRA SEVEN [Urutora Sebun]. It was the story of a monster called "Dah'ri" [Episode #31: "The Devil That Dwells In The Flowers"]. Dah'ri was a tiny, bacteria-like monster and Ultra Seven had to go inside a woman's body to defeat it. We got permission to shoot it at the National Children's Hospital. At the beginning, we were filming at the regular hospital ward, but later on we went deep inside of the hospital at a special treatment ward.
Although many of the children in the ward were handicapped, they were delighted to watch us shoot the episode and gathered around us. They all looked so happy! Up to this point we had been working on films and did not realize the potential of television. I was surprised to see what power television could have in influencing the mind of a child. Because of this experience, I made up my mind to create television programs for children. It is also the reason I chose to be a producer.
NEWTYTPE: What was the Tsuburaya Research Institute?
TSUBURAYA: Let me give you a brief explanation. Eiji Tsuburaya had a unique contract with Toho Studios. Originally, he was contracted by the studio to work as a special effects director. However, his contract changed, and later he became the head of the special effects department. Thus, he had to consider not only his family, but also the people under him in his department. Such a position naturally urged him to establish his own company. First there was the Tsuburaya Gumi [team] at Toho, then this, became the Tsuburaya Research Institute. For those who worked for him in the Research Institute, he found jobs from both Toho and outside film studios like Shochiku. Eiji Tsuburaya established the Institute, then made his name through Godzilla and turned the Institute into Tsuburaya Productions.
[Note: Tsuburaya Research Institute was established in 1948. At the time, Eiji Tsuburaya was temporarily purged from Toho Studios for working on propaganda films, so he had to work as an independent filmmaker. Later, he came back to Toho, the Research Institute was renamed, and Eiji worked as a special effects director for Toho Studios -- and at the same time dealt with non-Toho projects under the Research Institute moniker. It was not an official corporation until 1963 when it was registered as such. This was the birth of Tsuburaya Productions].
NEWTYPE: Watching Eiji Tsuburaya's works and playing inside of Toho Studios as a child, you naturally started to think about a career as a filmmaker.
TSUBURAYA: At that time, the Japanese film industry had already passed its peak, and it was difficult for directors to make a living. At that time, television started to become more popular than films. For many directors, work from television kept increasing dramatically, except those who created very unique images. These directors stayed in the film industry. Many filmmakers looked down upon television and said they didn't want to make "electric slide shows."
I was convinced, through my experience of watching children in the hospital, that television would exceed motion pictures in popularity. I think, establishing Tsuburaya Productions and making television programs (as an experienced filmmaker), Eiji Tsuburaya had a remarkable sense to see into the future. I was watching this transition in the film industry and wanted to be a producer, so that I could offer working opportunities to those filmmakers whom despised television. However, I didn't have any ambitions about breaking the wall between film and television. At that time, Tsuburaya Productions' staff was young and most of them were from Toho. When we were making ULTRA Q, we used 35mm film instead of 16mm, and its quality unconsciously became as high as feature films.
NEWTYPE: Not only from Toho, there were people from the television world at Tsuburaya Productions.
TSUBURAYA: Those from the world of television were Toshiro Iijima, Harunosuke Nakagawa, Akio Jissoji and others. They worked at the time as directors for TBS [Tokyo Broadcasting System] and were know for their striking and wonderful images. Koji Kajita and Samaji Nonagase were from Toho. Tsuburaya Productions had a variety of talented filmmakers at that time.
NEWTYPE: After Tsuburaya Productions created ULTRAMAN, they kept creating new Ultraman characters, each one reflecting the times in which they were produced.
TSUBURAYA: Being ahead of its time is important in creating a new image for Ultraman. You can not be either too far ahead or too far behind. That is the job of the producer. He must have a sense of trends and convey the trend to directors and writers so they can reflect it in their productions. Unfortunately, at that time I didn't have any chances to produce any Ultraman episodes. You can find my name only in the credits of ULTRAMAN LEO [Urutoraman Reo], as a planner.
To tell you the truth, I don't like ULTRAMAN LEO that much [laughs]. I didn't like the idea of using the spirit of endurance to create a fierce Ultraman who has a violent streak... Well. I think saying that might make a lot of producers mad. A producer from TBS, Yoji Hashimoto, brought this idea to us when I and another of Tsuburaya's producers, Ken Kumagaya, were planning ULTRAMAN LEO.
Hashimoto was the well-known producer of Toei's JUDO IS THE ONLY WAY [Judo Ichokkusen] and THE YOUNG DETECTIVE [Keiji-kun]. His theme was the importance of endurance and hard work and that appealed to viewers and was a trend at that time. Hashimoto brought this style into Ultraman and wanted to impose hard training on Leo. I didn't like Hashimoto's idea because such a style didn't suit a superhero well.
[Note: YOUNG DETECTIVE was produced by Toei Studios and broadcast on TBS from 1971 to 1976. It is a story of a young detective. Through his lifestyle, viewers learn importance of endurance, efforts, self-sacrifice, and hard work (and other important spiritual features as a Japanese). Among regular players, you can see Mari Nakayama (GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH) and Akira Nagoya (who went on to play the commander of ZAT in ULTRAMAN TARO). JUDO IS THE ONLY WAY was also produced by Toei Studios and was broadcast on TBS from 1969 to 1971. Based on a popular manga, it is similar to Akira Kurosawa's version of SANSHIRO SUGATA, however, protagonists use surreal techniques in every episode, and the story is comical, fantastic and over-the-top. Each episode focused on preaching endurance, effort, self-sacrifice and hard work. It was a trend, in Japan, to produce this type of story in the '60s and '70s, including such sports anime as THE SAMURAI GIANTS (Samurai Jiantsu), THE FANATICAL KARATE GENERATION (Karate Baka Ichidai), STAR OF THE GIANTS (Kyojin-no Hoshi) and ATTACK NO. 1 (Atakku No.1). ].
I think all Ultramen after Ultra Seven have been created in a way that adds something new to the basic concept of the first Ultraman; and whether new or old, all of the Ultramen have this basic concept. The difference between each Ultraman's image depends on how much it is closer to, or farther from, the
original. As a defined figure, there is always a shadow of the original Ultraman, and it is almost impossible for us to ignore it.
Thus, I think none of the superheroes I created were my original concept. However, I was trying to create something different from Ultraman, especially when I was making TRIPLE FIGHTER and FIREMAN. The producer of MIRRORMAN [Miraaman, 1971-1972] and JUMBORG ACE [Janbogu Esu, 1973], Toyowaki Awa, another of our producers, also tried to create new type of hero. At that time, it was not unusual that viewer ratings of a superhero television series were more than 20%. Thus it was shocking to me when FIREMAN's viewer rating was less than 20% [laughs]. Even I failed, because we had a very profitable superhero in Ultraman, and I greedily tried to create another profitable hero [laughs].
Seriously, whenever we had a time when none of our shows were on the air, Tsuburaya Productions had a huge deficit, but whenever we started a new Ultraman series, it brought profit to the company. I wanted to make the company financially stable by creating a new profitable hero. It was that time when plastic Ultraman toys became popular. Every Ultraman magazine feature contributed to the increasing circulation of Shogakukan Publishing's magazines, and this phenomenon kept Ultraman's popularity high, even when no new Ultraman series were on the air.
[Note: Shogakukan Publishing Company designs magazines targeting each grade of elementary school pupils. Those magazines are called, for instance, "Shogaku Ichi Nensei" (First Grade), "Shogaku Ni- Nensei" (Second Grade) or "Terebi-kun" (Lil'Tele) and are tremendously popular. Magazines are read nationwide. As an average Japanese grade school pupil, you cannot catch up on trends without reading these magazines].
Later, Shogakukan requested that Ultraman's father and mother be created, and this ended up creating an entire Ultra Family. I was surprised by the influence of magazines had on our series. Of course I was interested in the management of Tsuburaya Productions. In my early career, I produced a television series of short episodes, called LIL' CHIBIRA . Each episode was 10-minutes long -- this might have been my first work as a producer in the Tokusatsu World. After LIL' CHIBIRA, I gradually started to produce 30-minute series.
From my understanding, the role of producer is as an arranger or coordinator. In Japan, generally a director's position is stronger than that of the producer's, but in the US, the producer can do anything on his film. He even has the right to edit it. Meanwhile, a director's role is to bring ingredients for the producer. However, the Japanese system is different. I think an important role of a Japanese producer is how to establish a process and environment to make a production a project of a profit oriented organization.
Basically, a director is taking charge of shooting sites. He is responsible for all of it. Meanwhile, a producer's work starts from making a plan, then selling it, and taking all other steps until the project is ready to go. Thus a producer's work requires a lot of energy before actual film shooting begins. A producer needs a detailed plan of how to use his energy so that he will not use it up before shooting is over. It would be better if there were two producers and they divided the work into two
parts, but that is unrealistic.
Usually, three or four television projects are going at the same time. If it were a film, I could take care of one project for a long time, but every television series is either six months or one year long. There are a lot of episodes on a series and I need to save energy to keep myself powerful during this long period. The most difficult thing is how to hold your energy until the project is over. As a producer, I often need to talk to and negotiate with people who have different points of view. That is always accompanied by misunderstanding and miscommunication. It creates a tremendous amount of emotional stress.
NEWTYPE: Describe the steady image of a superhero.
TSUBURAYA: "A hero is strong" -- I think this is the rule. He must win at the end. I believe that I must obey this rule. However unfortunate a position the monster has, it would be a serious problem in a big city. I think I always have to make this point clear.
NEWTYPE: In a modern, complicated society, reality is not simple, and it is difficult to judge something to be either right or wrong. Even so, why is such a basic rule for Ultraman still being widely accepted?
TSUBURAYA: Because children always want to be strong, and they are fascinated by a strong superhero. A feeling of admiring superheroes or strong men is, in a way, reflecting an idea of "punishing vice and rewarding virtue." But some of Ultraman's episodes are too complicated to use this simple rule and they become too difficult to understand.
There is always a concept of right or wrong in the world. We need to teach children not to do something wrong. These days, two or three Ultramen appear in one series. I don't like it because it is as if you are saying justice is weak. For instance, first two Ultramen lose and the third one wins and I think many children must wonder why the third one doesn't come in at the beginning. Those two weak Ultramen create the premise that some Ultramen are weak. I think that makes children hard to understand Ultraman as an absolute power.
I don't think we need more than one hero. I think a hero should be strong and have absolute power. However, I think it is necessary to have a battle scene between human beings and a monster as a process before a hero comes. Through producing TRIPLE FIGHTER, I learned any super hero should be
only one. TRIPLE FIGHTER is a story of two superhero brothers and a sister, but they become one superhero when they fight against a monster. I think we can have a variety of Ultramen, but it should be the one at the end. I don't think it is fair when one monster is defeated by more than one hero.
NEWTYPE: As my last question, what is your perspective as vice president of Tsuburaya Productions?
TSUBURAYA: I'm planning a new Ultraman series. I think Ultraman always serves as a foil to monsters because everyone knows Ultraman defeats the monster at the end. Every time, the audience knows what Ultraman will do, and they expect monsters to do something different. Ultraman's routine is just supporting every monster's unique performance.
Thus, I need to create more interesting and attractive monsters. I think the story should be simple and straight. These days, good-looking actors play protagonists and they get more attention than
Ultraman himself, but our main target is children so we should put priority on the basic concept.
Currently, I'm also planning to remake MIRRORMAN sometime next year. Rather than a giant superhero, he will be human-sized, so this Mirrorman looks more interesting to me. I also have a plan to air a brand-new ULTRA Q series, late night, starting in October. This will be a pure horror show. Most Japanese horror films after THE RING (Ringuu) prefer to describe the inner psychology of horror. ULTRA Q is .outdoor horror. (threats from the outside, rather than from within the psyche).
I'm thinking of making this into a thoroughly scary series.
Also on the slate is a remake of OPERATION: MYSTERY! [Kaiki Daisakusen, 1968-1969], though the schedule is still not defined. I haven't classified and organized our old projects yet. I need to do that first, before launching new projects. Ultraman's new theatrical feature-length film will be released in August [ULTRAMAN COSMOS VS. ULTRAMAN JUSTICE]. Hopefully we can find some interesting ideas during the second half of this year, and eventually create a new project for Ultraman.
|THE FACE OF FEAR
Character Actor Ren Yamamoto Passes Away
Author: August Ragone
His face of fear perfectly reflected the terror that director Ishiro Honda wanted his movie monster to have, and character actor Ren Yamamoto had an unmistakable face -- a face familar to fans of the Japanese Fantasy Film -- passed away following a cerebral apoplexy on June 17, 2003 at his home in the Setagaya Ward of Tokyo. He was 73. A memorial service will be held in the Shinjuku Ward on August 12th.
|A recent photo of the late Ren Yamamoto. © NLT Theatrical Group.
Born as Kiyoshi Yamamoto in Kanagawa Prefecture on 05/12/1930, at the tender age of 20 (in 1951), Yamamoto was one of the few selected out of dozens of young hopefuls in Toho Studios' third "New Faces Contest" (also selected that year was a young Hiroshi Koizumi) -- his first speaking part was the 1953 Kon Ichikawa production of MR. PU (Pusan). During Yamamoto's long career, he appeared in total of 73 motion pictures and numerous television series.
Yamamoto had the distinction of working with such directors such as Kon Ichikawa, Ishiro Honda, Hiroshi Inagaki, Shue Matsubayashi, Kihachi Okamoto, Senkichi Taniguchi and "Beat" Takeshi Kitano -- as well as solid program directors such as Jun Fukuda -- and appeared in many well-regarded films, such as SAMURAI II: DUEL AT ICHIJOJI TEMPLE (Zoku Miyamoto Musashi Ichijoji Ketto, 1955) and CHUSHINGURA (Chushingura Yuki-no Maki, 1962) -- and one of my all-time favorite, Toho all-star serio-comic action extravaganzas: WARRING CLANS (Sengoku Yaro, 1963).
But the films he is best remembered for were made during the Golden Age of Japanese Film at the Toho Motion Picture Company in the 1950s and 1960s -- the studio's first cycle of Kaiju Eiga. Yamamoto appeared in many of the studio's early Kaiju Eiga in the 1950s and '60s. In the original GODZILLA (Gojira, 1954) he played the doomed Oto Islander, Masaji. He played "JSDF Captain Ikeda" in Motoyoshi Oda's GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (Gojira-no Gyakushu, 1955), "Shinagawa" in Honda's ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (Jujin Yukiotoko, 1955, and uncredited military officer (speaking on a wireless in a jeep) in Honda's RODAN (1956), Honda's THE H-MAN (Bijo-to Eikitai Ningen, 1957), "Detective Marumune" in Fukuda's SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (Denso Ningen, 1960), "Nishiyama" in Honda's THE HUMAN VAPOR (Gasu Ningen Dai'ichi-go, 1960), " Sailor Namiki" in Honda's MOTHRA (Mosura, 1961), Demolitions Commander in Honda's KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (Kingukongu tai Gojira, 1962), Inagaki's WIRLWIND (Daitatsumaki, 1963), Ferryboat Captain in GODZILLA VS. THE THING (1964) and "Genki" in Honda's FRANKENSTEIN CONQURES THE WORLD (Furakenshutain tai Baragon, 1965). His last Kaiju Eiga role was that of "Saburo Kameda" the sole survivor of the sinking of the Kaijin Maru in Honda's WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (Sanda tai Gaira, 1966).
In 1969, Yamamoto joined the NLT Theatrical Group, and after Director Okamoto's THE BATTLE OF OKINAWA (Okinawa Kessen, 1971), went freelance, working frequently on stage, in film and on television -- the latter a medium in which he had already appeared several times as a loan-out from Toho.
His notable genre appearances on television include Episode #1 of ULTRA Q (1966) as a construction worker, Episode #11 (as the thief "Onida") & #30 ("Machimura" the Bear Hunter) of ULTRAMAN (1966-1967), Episode #17 (Dictator Higeller of Polissia") & Episode #41 ("Ambassador Hudoro of Planet Chame") of BOOSKA: THE FRIENDLY BEAST (1966-1967), Episode #10 (the human form of "Alien Icarus") & Episode #43 ("TDF Officer Mukui") of ULTRA SEVEN (1967-1968), Episode #11 of MIGHTY JACK (1968) as "Reporter A," Episode #15 of OPERATION: MYSTERY! (1968) as a Kanagawa Police Detective, Episode #10 of ANDROID KIKAIDA (1972-1973) as "Professor Nakabori," Episode #1 & #2 (Old Fisherman) and #29 (Factory Worker) in FIREMAN (1973), Episodes #25 & #31 of ULTRAMAN TARO (1973-1974) and Episode #2 of SECRET TASK FORCE: GORANGER (1975-1977) as "Professor Koto."
Yamamoto's last three films were reflective of his varied career -- in 1991 he played a police officer in the critically-acclaimed THE ABDUCTION (Daiyukai) for Director Okamoto; he played "Old Man Rizougin" in Kitano's bizarre ARE YOU GETTING ANY? (Minna Yatteruka!, 1995); and as "Tadao Tadokoro," in the 1997 independant horror film about huge, man-eating insects -- BUGS (Baguzu).
But after all the details and facts and minutia are long forgotten, fans will still remember the naked horror in the face of that young actor, as he looked upon something that was not there -- a terrifying titan, a creature that Director Honda told him was the "most frightening thing you have ever seen" -- and Yamamoto sold that scene to audiences, a scene as compelling now, as it was in 1954.
Sleep well, Masaji.
|GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA NEWS
Toho holds press conference and updates the official GMMG website
Translation: Oki Miyano
Additional Material: Keith Aiken/Henshin! Online
Source: Nikkan Sports, Monster Zero
Toho has finally begun the promotional blitz for their newest Godzilla film, GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. The official website has been updated with photos, cast and crew profiles, monster data, and a great new theatrical trailer.
|Back Row: MG, Mitsuki Koga, Noboru Kaneko, Ko Takasugi, Godzilla. Front Row: Eiichi Asada, Hiroshi Koizumi, Akira Nakao, Masaaki Tezuka © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
In addition, a press conference for the film was held earlier this week. The following is a translation of the Nikkan Sports coverage of the event.
NOBORU KANEKO HAS HIS FIRST STARRING ROLE IN GODZILLA FILM
On August 4, lead actor Noboru Kaneko (age 28) and others [including Hiroshi Koizumi and Akira Nakao] took part in a press conference for GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (directed by Masaaki Tezuka; scheduled for nation-wide release on December 13th) at Toho Studios in Seijo, Setagawa Ward, Tokyo. In the 27th film in the series since the original GODZILLA in 1954, the three giant monsters Godzilla, Mothra, and Mechagodzilla will share the screen for the first time.
The previous 26 Godzilla movies have had a combined attendance of 97 million. With Toho aiming to break the 100 million mark with the new film, actor Kaneko said he was feeling the pressure to do a good job. "The tension was so great for me, I almost tried to run away! The director told me he wanted the audience to be crying at the end of the story. It is going to be a very emotional movie."
On the day of the press conference, the crew shot a fight between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla that resulted in the destruction of the Diet Building [whether this was staged soley for the press or an actual scene for the film, is unclear]. The three monsters will also clash at other Tokyo landmarks such as the Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Tower. Executive producer Shogo Tomiyama said "The battle between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla will end with this film. The last scene will be very shocking." GMMG will be premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival this November.
Godzilla's executive producer provides details on GXMG, G-SOS, and the 50th anniversary film
A Henshin!Online/Monster Zero Co-Feature
Translation: Oki Miyano with John Cassidy
Additional Material: Keith Aiken and August Ragone
Source: Newtype:The Live Interview by Tetsu Nakamura
|Godzilla's Executive Producer: Shogo Tomiyama © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
As executive producer of the Godzilla series, Shogo Tomiyama is the man responsible for the development of each new film in the franchise. After getting the Toho company brass to approve a new movie, Tomiyama works with the writers to develop the story, sets and watches over the budget, and selects and/or approves the cast and crew. He describes all these efforts to create a movie as "getting it to the goal."
Tomiyama was born in Tokyo in 1952 and had a long history with the Toho Special Effects films well before he produced the Heisei Godzilla series. While at University, he took a part time job in the "Special Effects Art Department" at Toho Studios where he worked on both the film SUBMERSION OF JAPAN (Nippon Chinbotsu) and the teleseries ZONE: THE HUMAN METEOR (Ryusei Ningen Zonn)in 1973. Two years later he became an full-time employee at the studio, working in the Advertising Department. In 1983, he moved into project development in the "Toho Motion Picture Planning Department." In 1986, he produced his first film WOMEN IN LOVE (Koisuru Onna'tachi), and then became involved with Godzilla in 1989 when he was chosen as the protégé of executive producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, the man who had helped create the legendary monster.
Tomiyama worked as associate producer on GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE, then took over as producer on GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH (1991) when Tanaka's failing health forced him to take a less active role in the series. Tomiyama went on to produce all the remaining movies in the "VS" (also known as the "Heisei") Godzilla series, as well as the 1994 fantasy film YAMATO TAKERU (released in the US as "Orochi: The Eight-Headed Dragon"). When Toho took a brief break from Godzilla following 1995's GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH, Tomiyama turned his attention to the REBIRTH OF MOTHRA trilogy (1996-1998) and THE ABDUCTION (Yukai, 1997). In 1999, he became Executive Producer of a new series of Godzilla films -- GODZILLA 2000, GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS, GODZILLA-MOTHRA-KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK and GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA. He is now producing the latest entry in the series, GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (abbreviated as G-SOS), which is scheduled for release on December 13, 2003.
On May 1 of this year, Tomiyama sat down with reporter Tetsu Nakamura to discuss the new films and his plans for Godzilla's 50th anniversary. The following is a translation of the interview as it appeared in the Japanese publication Newtype: The Live.
|THE AIM OF THIS PRODUCTION IS MAKING "THE GOAL."
NAKAMURA: Congratulations! Since Toho has officially decided to make a new Godzilla film with you as the producer, how well did last year's GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA perform?
TOMIYAMA: Not as well as GODZILLA-MOTHRA-KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK but better than GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS. I think, as in the case of GMK, last year's box office success was partly owed to the animated co-feature HAMTARO (Tottoko Hamutaro). But as a producer, I seriously tried to find any specific reason why GMK had been more profitable than GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA.
I thought GXMG was interesting. Lead actress Yumiko Shaku gave a good performance, and baseball player Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui was one of the guest stars so I was sort of satisfied with the completed film.
NAKAMURA: I heard that the storyline in the new movie will continue from the previous one, and that Mechagodzilla will appear again. Is it an official sequel to GXMG, and not like the other Godzilla films made after GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH whose stories were all independent from each other?
TOMIYAMA: Although there was a continuity among each movie of the so-called "VS." series [1984-1995], this is the first time we've tried to tell one story over two films. I thought it would be interesting to make one three-hour story.
NAKAMURA: Do you mean to say that we'll see the winner of the battle between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla this time?
TOMIYAMA: In this production of GODZILLA X MOTHRA X MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, the battle between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla will come to an end. That will conclude the story. I'm also thinking next year's 50th anniversary of Godzilla's birth. I intend to make the anniversary film into a sort of conclusion to all the Godzilla movies ever made.
NAKAMURA: Will the film in production now, carry over the themes and ideas from the previous for Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, the Special Defense Force, and the other characters?
TOMIYAMA: Yes, plus Mothra will be in the movie. Though only shown in a flashback sequence in GXMG, this time the real monster will appear.
NAKAMURA: What is Mothra's character and role this time?
TOMIYAMA: The previous film reflected the philosophy of director Masaaki Tezuka. He thought that Mechagodzilla should be as realistic as possible despite the fact that it's a product of the imagination. So GXMG's view of the world was realistic. Contrary to the portrayal of Mechagodzilla, Mothra is an incarnation of fantasy. So are the "Little Beauties" (Shobijin), Mothra's twin priestesses, who are two of the main characters in the new movie. As a result of having more fantasy elements than the last film, it will be a challenge to create a different atmosphere while being consistent with the previous one at the same time.
This time, Mothra will appear in both larval and imago forms. Tezuka is giving very meticulous instructions to Shinichi Wakasa, who is in charge of creating the monster suit and props. For instance, Tezuka has specific orders about the sculpting on the face of the larva and how it should look in silhouette when viewed in profile [laughs]. He said, "I want it to be very pretty." Tezuka also wants to return to the classic Mothra design for the imago. He is calculating the ratio of proportion from the original Mothra and plans to make the new imago Mothra's body and wingspan as large as possible.
NAKAMURA: Why did you appoint Mr. Tezuka as a director?
TOMIYAMA: I think he did really good job on the previous film. He has a good reputation with both the production and business departments. At the beginning of this year, we were thinking of including Mothra, a "Plus Alpha" character, if another Godzilla film went into production. I had a chance to see Tezuka's plot idea for the film and it was really interesting. His concept eventually became an impulse to move the project ahead.
This will be Tezuka's third movie. I hope the best ideas from his plot are reflected in the film. I believe he will do his utmost to accomplish that.
NAKAMURA: Mr. Tezuka co-authored the screenplay, correct?
TOMIYAMA: That's quite right. So, I asked Masahiro Yokotani to team with Director Tezuka in writing the screenplay.
NAKAMURA: Why did you ask Yokotani to work with Tezuka?
TOMIYAMA: Well, he was one of the screenwriters for GMK, and he and Tezuka had previously worked together on Shusuke Kaneko's CROSSFIRE [aka "Pyrokinesis"] in 2000. I also needed Yokotani's youth. We didn't have as much time for preparation as usual so I wanted a writer who had physical strength and endurance.
NAKAMURA: Whose idea was the subtitle "Tokyo SOS"?
TOMIYAMA: Oh, that was Tezuka's idea. He wanted to add some "retro" elements to the movie title. TOKYO SOS means the main stage for the battle is in Tokyo.
NAKAMURA: Tell me about the other key staff members.
TOMIYAMA: Tezuka wanted to work with a new crew for this film, so there's a different Director of Photography and Special Visual Effects Director this time. The effects director is Eiichi Asada. He worked under Teruyoshi Nakano as a chief assistant effects director on RETURN OF GODZILLA [aka "Godzilla 1985", 1984]. He also worked on SAYONARA JUPITER [Sayonara Jupeeta, 1983] and the 1991 movie PSYCHIC GIRL: REIKO [Choshojo Reiko, 1991]. Yoshinori Sekiguchi is the Director of Photography for the non-effects scenes. He worked on YAMATO TAKERU, GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH, REBIRTH OF MOTHRA [Mosura, 1996], a real veteran. The soundtrack is once again being composed by Michiru Oshima. Her music is always essential to Tezuka's films. The production designer for non-effects scenes is Yukiji Seshita, while Toshio Miike is in charge of design on the effects sequences. Shinichi Wakasa is the lead prosthetics man. The hero in G-SOS is from the new Super Sentai show.
|THIS YEAR, THERE ARE NO "MASKED RIDERS"! [laughs]
NAKAMURA: This time around, young actor Noboru Kaneko is cast as the lead. He is famous as a cast member of Toei's 2002-2003 Super Sentai [aka "Power Rangers"] series 100 BEAST TASK FORCE: GAORANGER (Hyakujyu Sentai Gao-Ranger). Please tell us how he was selected to play the hero.
TOMIYAMA: Many rising young stars have played the hero in Godzilla films. Those actors range from Akira Takarada in the first GODZILLA  to brothers Masanobu and Masahiro Takashima in the "VS. Series." These days we've had Shosuke Tanihara in GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS, Shingo Katsurayama in GMK, and Yusuke Tomoi and Junichi Mizuno in GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA. The actors since Tanihara have appeared in Toei's MASKED RIDER (Kamen Raida) television series, so this time we picked someone from another popular show, but not MASKED RIDER [laughs]. I think each Tokusatsu (special visual effects) series has its own fans, and I wanted to develop new targets from other areas of the Tokusatsu World. Thus I selected Noboru Kaneko.
NAKAMURA: Mr. Kaneko will play Mechagodzilla's engineer in the film.
TOMIYAMA: I initially thought he was too good looking and tall for an engineer, but Kaneko himself was really motivated when he heard about the part. I think the most important thing for any Godzilla actor is being happy to perform in the movie.
NAKAMURA: I have the impression that Tezuka likes to feature fighting heroines in his films, since the last two of his films featured them as the central characters.
TOMIYAMA: After making two Godzilla movies starring action heroines I think Tezuka has a feeling of achievement. When we first talked about the current film, he stated that he wants to use a male hero this time. However, Tezuka's idea for the film's hero is not a soldier on the frontline, but an engineer. This is a unique point. I like his idea that an understated man is in fact very strong and reliable when he wants to be.
NAKAMURA: Will we see any of the characters from GXMG in the new
TOMIYAMA: There are some details that are better left to when you see the film. However, the story begins one year after the end of the previous film, so I think Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi [played by Godzilla series regular Akira Nakao] is still in power. He cannot resign before the current Koizumi Administration does in the real world.
NAKAMURA: What is the storyline for the film?
TOMIYAMA: Godzilla was wounded during the final battle in GXMG and hasn't been seen for more than a year. Mechagodzilla was also damaged, and the film will start with a montage of scenes showing it undergoing repair. Then, one day the "Little Beauties" fly to Japan on Mothra. The twin faeries have brought a message; and this is the key that connects the three monsters. Thus it is not a simple story like "Mothra-Mechagodzilla Alliance Against Godzilla."
NAKAMURA: What is the theme of the film?
TOMIYAMA: The importance and dignity of all life. This same theme was used by Tezuka in the last movie. The story is about why Godzilla appears and attacks a modern civilized society, whether it was the right choice to build Mechagodzilla, and what Mothra's message (told through the Shobijin) says to the world.
NAKAMURA: Is the film going to be about ninety minutes long again?
TOMIYAMA: Basically, yes. We somehow made it within ninety minutes last year, but the script for this film is much longer.
NAKAMURA: As in recent years, will this production be introduced at the Tokyo International Film Festival?
TOMIYAMA: People enjoy seeing each new Godzilla film featured at the Tokyo International Film Festival, so we are kind enough as always to make it available for screening.
NAKAMURA: Mr. Tomiyama, as a producer, do you feel as though you've outgrown all of your finished work?
TOMIYAMA: Of course, in the times I've seen our family at work, such productions work out just the way I wanted when we put some care into them. We know people enjoy monster battles, but the mysteries of life are also important, so in some way we have to be able to touch the viewers and make them think. In G-SOS we have the protagonist, a fancy rival and the attractive older sister team member. [laughs] Plus, people also expect to see the Little Beauties.
NAKAMURA: If I remember correctly, the 50th anniversary of Godzilla's birth is approaching next year. Do you have any new or old ideas in the works for this event?
TOMIYAMA: First, the decision to do the 50th anniversary commemoration project is not mine to make. Even if we don't start the film quickly under the best of conditions, I really hope it doesn't turn out bad. When we do the 50th anniversary project, I want to search thoroughly for talent both in and out of our studio, and we could turn up with as many as 10,000 potential cast and crew members. That is a very good thought.
NAKAMURA: Lastly, please give a closing message to our readers.
TOMIYAMA: With the fact that director Tezuka's Mechagodzilla world comes to a conclusion in G-SOS, I expect this movie to be earth-shattering and fun. I think this production will reach that goal with the final battle between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla. I hope you will enjoy this movie.
|Eastern Front Updated
Onslaught of Newsbytes!
Latest ULTRAMAN TIGA news from 4Kids! Photos and details from live- action CUTEY HONEY. Shusuke Kaneko reveals a secret behind his Gamera films and GMK plays in Northern California! GHOST IN THE SHELL sequel is coming! Miyazaki releases a music CD. GMM actress in GANRYU ISLAND! Classic Ultraman movies on DVD. BATTLEFIELD STADIUM takes baseball in a whole new direction! The makers of Anime Expo go live. Toho releases KILLERS and ROBOT CONTEST. GODZILLA x MECHAGODZILLA in the new Fangoria! SKYHIGH and GODANNAR are now online. The latest DVD news from America and Japan! For more details go here.
|GODZILLA: "I'M MY OWN WORST ENEMY!!"
Godzilla to be pitted against himself for 50th anniversary film?
Also, More Details on GMM!
Author: Bob Johnson
Production is rolling along on GODZILLA x MOTHRA x MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. As reported on Monster Zero/Godzilla News, the "fourth" monster in the film is Kameba, the giant sea turtle from the Toho film YOG, MONSTER FROM SPACE. Although his role amounts to a "deathly" short cameo, it is always nice to see Toho include nods to their older movies. Plus the more monsters the better!
|Could Godzillas collide? © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
The Absolute Zero Canon in Mechagodzilla's chest has been replaced with a newer, stronger weapon after being damaged in GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA. The new film opens with Mechagodzilla in his dock and technicians working to install the new device.
The centerpiece of the film is Tokyo Tower, a familiar "landmark" to fans of Toho's kaiju eiga, this structure gets destroyed yet again in what promises to be one of the films more ambitious effects scenes.
Lastly, the final fight of the film includes not only Godzilla, Mechagodzilla and Mothra, but also twin Mothra larvae! It's four monsters against one in the film's climactic battle, as Godzilla takes on all odds!
Rumors have run amok over the last year about just what Toho has planned for Godzilla's 50th anniversary film. No one knows for sure, but speculations are coming from everywhere!
Kung Fu Cult Cinema recently reported that the movie Toho has planned for next year will pit Godzilla against a foe that is every bit as mean, nasty and powerful as he is! Godzilla will be fighting HIMSELF!
According to EJoseph, an information provider for KFCC, "Toho Pictures has promised a special surprise for Godzilla's 50th anniversary film in 2004. If this rumor is true, they are making good on their promise. The enemy Godzilla will face is one that’s intimately familiar to him; himself!
"GODZILLA X GODZILLA originated first in 1994 as an unused story treatment by Kazuki Omori. In it, the ghost of the original Godzilla, killed in 1954, rose from the grave to fight its modern replacement. It was rejected in favor of GODZILLA VS DESTROYAH, in which Godzilla perished.
"The new treatment will be the final part of a trilogy that started with GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA and GODZILLA x MOTHRA x MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S. Unable to manufacture a weapon to defeat Godzilla, scientists create a clone of the beast. Acting under the control of the military, the clone is sent to destroy the original. How will Godzilla react when faced with himself? Hopefully fans will find out in December 2004."
Wishful thinking? Another rumor? Cold hard fact? Stay tuned to Henshin! Online as we unravel the truth and dispel the rumors! Whatever Toho has planned for Godzilla, it will be big, really big and we'll be there to report it!
|PINUP GIRL TO STAR IN GODZILLA x MOTHRA x MECHAGODZILLA
Has the Monster King met his match in the Race Queen?
Author: Keith Aiken
Translations and Additional Material: Oki Miyano
Source: Sponichi Annex, Media Project 21, Monster Zero, David Chapple
For nearly five decades Godzilla has battled a variety of opponents that ranged from the amazing to the bizarre. Recent additions to the list would best be described as attractive since they are not monsters, but rather female idol stars like Yumiko Shaku and Misato Tanaka. Now a popular young model named Miho Yoshioka has been cast in the newest Godzilla film.
|Miho Yoshioka on the cover of a swimsuit photobook. © 2003 Kouki Nishiea Shogakukan
Born on February 3, 1980, Yoshioka began her career as a Race Queen for Mario International then became a spokesmodel for companies like Suntory (Shinjiro Torii), Japan's leading producer and
distributor of western-style liquor products. She quickly moved on to TV and radio work in commercials and on the NHK educational television series ITALIAN LANGUAGE CLASS. In the past few years her face has appeared on the covers of most of Japan's major manga and tabloid magazines and she has been the subject of nearly a dozen lingerie, fashion, and swimsuit photo books, one of which sold more than 10 thousands copies on its first day of sale. The most recent volume is MELLOW AND MYSTERIOUS MIHO, a special collection of "erotic" but
sweet modeling pics from Italy, Australia, and Japan. This memorial tribute from Kouki Nishiea, Shogakukan has been announced as her last swimsuit photo book now that she has turned her attention to acting.
Her first movie is GANRYU ISLAND (Ganryujima), the latest adaptation of the legend of Musashi Miyamoto, which Toho will release in Japan on October 11 (see H!O`s Eastern Front for more details). On July 4, the Sponichi Annex reported that Miho Yoshioka had joined the cast of GODZILLA x MOTHRA x MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. The following is a translation of that article:
For more background info on Miho Yoshioka see her English language interview on the J-Mate website. Modeling photos of can be found online at IdolNet.com and NoFound.com while the Idol Photo Store has both Yoshioka screen savers and downloadable voice clips
Popular young idol star Miho Yoshioka has been selected as the heroine in the latest Godzilla movie, GODZILLA x MOTHRA x MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS. She will play the female protagonist, a pilot of the Mechagodzilla transport, in the 27th Godzilla film from Toho Co, Ltd. Yoshioka is well motivated to play her role. "I have to pull up my socks so that I can perform as well as the previous actresses who have played Godzilla heroines." she said.
|Godzilla pals around with Miho Yoshioka © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
Already popular as a Pinup Girl and Race Queen, the 23 year-old will now put her name alongside such actresses as the late Momoko Kochi (GODZILLA), Yasuko Sawaguchi (age 38: GODZILLA 1985), Yoshiko Tanaka (age 47:GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE) as a heroine in the chronicles of Godzilla. Yoshioka was inspired by the filming of her first film, GANRYU ISLAND (Ganryujima). She said "The movie was made by the staff and actors working all together. They took so much time, but that further motivated me. I want more film experience!"
Soon after reading the script, Yoshioka made up her mind to act in the newest Godzilla film. She explained that she wanted to do it "Because the film will be seen by everyone from small children to old people. The story's view of the world looks cool. Though it will be difficult to imagine, working with special effects is attractive to me."
Yoshioka's character will take over the position portrayed by Yumiko Shaku in the previous Godzilla film, GODZILLA x MECHAGODZILLA. She is the pilot of the AC-3 White Heron (Shirasagi), a plane used to transport Kiryu (nicknamed Mechagodzilla) into battle. She cooperates with the film's hero, a Mechagodzilla engineer played by Noboru Kaneko, in the battle against Godzilla.
In the film, Kaneko and Yoshioka play characters who joined the Japanese Self-Defense Force in the same year. In order to learn their official way of walking, saluting, and other small details, Yoshioka went thru a day of training with the actual JSDF. Now she feels ready to begin shooting GMM. Though she has to put on a thick pilot uniform in the summer for the filming, she is confident enough to say, "I'm used to working in hot weather from my race queen experience, and am strong enough to endure the heat."
To prepare for her role, Yoshioka studied and drew inspiration from Yumiko Shaku's performance in GxMG. "I was amazed at her strong presence." she said "Her image was totally different from her appearances on the television variety shows. I want to change my image by being as deeply conscious of my role as Shaku was. I don't feel any rivalry with her or the other previous Godzilla actresses. I'm so happy to have this role because it is very worthwhile. I want to perform my role as well as they did."
GODZILLA x MOTHRA x MECHAGODZILLA: TOKYO SOS will premiere on December 13th.
|IT'S OFFICIAL! SONY ACQUIRES GxM AND GMK
US studio to release films in North America
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Sony Pictures Ent, American Cinematheque
For some time, Godzilla fans have hoped that a US company would purchase the most recent movies in the long-running series. Recent news that GODZILLA·MOTHRA·KING GHIDORAH (aka GMK) and GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS (GxM) will be shown at festivals and on television have made it clear that this has finally happened. Now Sony Pictures Entertainment makes it official; the company has indeed picked up the two films for distribution in the United States and Canada.
|The latest versions of Godzilla are stomping their way to America! © 2003 Toho Co., Ltd.
GMK was first screened for Sony executives in February, 2002, and negotiations with Toho for both it and GxM began later that year. After lengthy discussions, an agreement was reached several weeks ago that gives Sony North American rights to the films. Early details from the studio are very promising; Sony has moved quickly with plans for theatrical, television, and video releases in both English and Japanese.
First up are screenings of the two movies at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA this August. While the films have played at industry events (such as the American Film Marketplace)and conventions, Sony considers this the US theatrical premiere for both GxM and GMK as the general public and the media will be allowed to attend. In the coming weeks further details will be available on the Egyptian Theatre website and the 24 hour information line at (323) 466-FILM, but the American Cinematheque has graciously provided H!O some advance information:
Sunday, August 10 - 5:00 PM
U.S. Premiere: GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS
2000, Sony Pictures, 105 min. Dir. Masaaki Tezuka.
Jam-packed with bug-crushing, city-stomping, radioactive monster action, GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRAS is set in an alternate universe where the capitol of Japan has been moved to Osaka and the country has converted to clean energy because the Big G keeps devouring nuclear power plants. When Godzilla rears his ugly head again, a team of scientists invent a device that shoots Black Holes (!) to destroy him - but not before an enormous mutant insect named "Megaguiras" shows up to do battle with our favorite monster.
Friday, August 22 - 7:00 PM
U.S. Premiere: GODZILLA, MOTHRA & KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK
2001, Sony Pictures, 105 min.
Already acclaimed by fans as the most exciting Godzilla film since the heyday of the 1960's, GMK features a terrific, redesigned Big G (hint: he's leaner, meaner and packs a nasty bite), bent on destroying Japan as vengeance for the restless souls of WWII victims. Standing in his way are the Guardian Deities - i.e. Mothra, King Ghidorah and Baragon. Director Shusuke Kaneko helmed the astounding trio of GAMERA films for Daiei in the mid-1990's - here, he's practically reinvented the Godzilla series for the 21st century.
Both movies will be the original Japanese language versions with English subtitles. In conjunction with the screenings, the Egyptian is planning either a Q&A session or an overview of the recent Godzilla films. Tickets are $9.00 general, $8.00 students/seniors, and $6.00 for members of the American Cinematheque.
Other theatrical screenings are coming, including the Canadian festival FanTasia which runs from July 17 to August 10. GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS is planned for July 22 and 23 with GODZILLA·MOTHRA·KING GHIDORAH on July 26 and 27. This will be the first time either movie is shown on the big screen in Canada. As an added bonus, GMK director Shusuke Kaneko will be in attendance.
After the theatrical showings, GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA·MOTHRA·KING GHIDORAH will air on US television for the first time on Sunday, August 31. The SciFi Channel will show GxM at 3pm, followed by GMK at 5pm. Sony has given SciFi the English language versions dubbed by Toho for international markets. More information will be available soon on the SciFi website.
Sony has further plans for both movies, including a possible limited theatrical release for GMK. Pioneer recently completed a limited run for the Toho fantasy film ONMYOJI and ADV plans a similar release for THE PRINCESS BLADE starting in August. While there have been discussions, Sony has yet to make a final decision regarding the Godzilla film. In the meantime both GMK and GxM will be available for festival and theatrical bookings throughout North America.
Tentative plans for the DVDs call for widescreen releases with both English and Japanese audio tracks. No release dates have been announced, as the schedule depends on Sony's theatrical decision on GMK. Henshin!Online will report further details as they become available.
|Gamera’s Limited Return!
The lowdown on one fan's blood, sweat and tears for Gamera.
Author: Bob Johnson & John Cassidy
Source: Uchusen Magazine & Shinpei Hayashiya
After putting a new "spin" on the Gamera mythos with a highly acclaimed trilogy of films (1995-1999), director Shusuke Kaneko and Daiei Motion Picture Company went on to other projects. While Gamera’s story had been told and the saga completed, fans still clamored for more. Now, after a four-year hibernation, the fire-breathing reptile is back in a short film that is seeing limited release in Japan.
|Hayashiya's G4. As good as Daiei's? © Daiei Motion Picture Co./Shinpei Hayashiya
GAMERA 4: TRUTH (the official title) is an original story. It was written, produced, edited and directed by a traditional Japanese storyteller (Rakugaka), Shinpei Hayashiya.
Hayashiya, one of Gamera’s most enthusiastic fans, took it upon himself to create this fan-made featurette. He loved the Heisei Gamera series, but was unsatisfied by the way it ended, with Gamera heading off to face a hoard of approaching Gyaos. There were many Gamera short stories on the Internet, but no actual films, so Hayashiya took it upon himself to create one.
Although the budget was miniscule, the results were heralded as impressive; not only by fans, but also by many of the people who worked on the official Daiei versions! Hayashiya’s Gamera and albino Gyaos suits were made out of cardboard and the effects done on a computer. He also elicited the help of Rapid Progress, a group of fans that were responsible for the independent series LINE. Line was a giant superhero that battled creatures ala Ultraman in direct-to-video, low-budget episodes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Together they turned out a 45-minute film on a budget of roughly $2500.00.
To give this a feel of an actual sequel, Hayashiya was able to recruit actor Yukiro Hotaru, who among his many roles, appeared in all three Gamera films. In Gamera 4, he returns in the same role that made him a fan favorite.
A preview of the film was held at the Tokyo E.R.O. Hall. Fans, as well as some of Gamera’s original filmmakers attended the screening. A surprise appearance by Kazuo Yagi, who played Gamera in the Daiei movies, along with the actual suit from GAMERA 2: ADVENT OF LEGION thrilled attendees.
Everyone spoke highly of GAMERA 4 and were quite surprised that one individual, on such a small budget, could create something this good. After the show, there was an interview session with many of the people who worked on the Gamera trilogy. Many were worried that after this, fans would have much higher expectations if Daiei ever did decide to make an official GAMERA 4.
GAMERA 4 also showed at the Miyazaki Film Festival (June 28, 2003) and will be showing at the Japan SF Festival on July 19, 2003. Although this was not an official Daiei Gamera film, it will reportedly be released on video under the Daiei-Kadokawa label.
Following is a journal by Shinpei Hayashiya called, THE NEW CUT MADE PUBLIC, translated by John Cassidy. It reveals some of the details on this amazing independent feature.
Throughout the world, a huge flock of Gyaos have broken out, and set their sights on Japan, to which they fly. Under the circumstances, the general of a fighter squadron changes his target from Gamera to Gyaos. Thus a dogfight ensues. The first to challenge Gyaos is the Phantom Unit. Now, will any of the jet fighters emerge victorious?
The Eagle Fighter has arrived to back up the Phantom Fighter. We may yet see what kind of fight ensues.
Ah! It's been caught!
On this side are Gamera's remains, a relay is sent from the Gamera Graveyard. Well, in any case, do you think this scene speaks for itself? Live-action techniques are also added to the new take, and add perfection to the super-complete edition.
So far, with most of the dogfights done (but ground fights had to be supervised and edited, too, right?), I wanted to do the editing by myself like this. The live-action scenery was there, and was good. Even in the dogfight scene, the live-action scenery was just the setting I wanted. By the way, when I missed the bank of clouds, it took one month at least to keep them still on my computer.
This was hard to combine. Although I got all the local buildings I needed together, and a suburb within, I sent the raw material I got in a rapid process.
A Simple Plasma Fireball Shot!
How many times have I drawn this attack pattern?? Nevertheless, those cuts and the angle devices came along just the way I wanted. This time, I did the "gugutt" and the gust of wind in one cut!
This is the junior Albino Gyaos, and with one Heavy Sonic-Wave Attack, it renders Gamera's technology weak, so I tried making Gamera's Plasma Fireball ineffective in this situation.
1.) The huge, opened wings oscillate into a chopping force.
2.) Because of the wings' friction with the atmosphere, they become a white light.
3.) Of course, with the oscillation from in the atmosphere, radiation increases from it.
4.) This becomes a Heavy Sonic-Wave Barrier, and can pulverize Gamera's Plasma Fireballs.
Furthermore, as for this barrier, it's not just a defense discharge, but also a small Heavy Sonic-Wave Needle is also fired as a weapon. Here, Gamera cannot rely on his plasma weapons. He must use just as powerful a weapon to blow away the barrier . . .
I was finally finished in April. At the end of the month, how do you think I did Gyaos' weird facial movements? The eyes, mouth and wings were glowing. I had to come up with a challenge against the attack that inflicted pain on Gamera.
The beaten Gamera draws blood! He shows a brief expression of pain. But there is a sudden change in his condition, that technique is unmistakable!
"Final Sword Flash!"
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Henshin!Online is a non-profit organization created by fans for fans.
|Tsuburaya Productions Hits 4-0!
Variety Celebrates Tsuburaya's Big Birthday
Author: Bob Johnson
Source: Tsuburaya Productions
The August 4, 2003 issue of Variety, the trade paper of the entertainment industry, will be running a spotlight special on Tsuburaya Productions' 40th anniversary. Although the focus is on business matters, there will be some talk about productions. It should still be a highly anticipated item for collectors.
|TPC ad from June 29 Weekly Variety © 2003 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
The issue is still being put together, but reporters were at TPC this week, interviewing many of the company's key people about business and production issues. Some of the people interviewed include; Company Chairman Kazuo Tsuburaya, President/CEO Masahiro Tsuburaya, Vice President Akira Tsuburaya, Company Spokesman Kazuho Mitsuta, Head of Domestic Sales Hideaki Tsuburaya and Atsushi Saito, who heads up the International Division.
Interviews are also scheduled with Lovinia Chiu of Medialink, a company that handles TPC's Hong Kong territory and a representative from 4Kids Entertainment.
As is the tradition with these types of issues, there should me many ads and letters of congratulations from other companies in the entertainment industry and hopefully a few surprises. So, stakeout your newsstand and grab the issues before they get wrinkled! Collectors will want to hang on to this one!!
|GMK and GxM come to America!
Multiple Godzilla sightings expected!
Author: Keith Aiken
Two recent Godzilla films are finally coming to the US. The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA will screen Masaaki Tezuka's GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS (aka GxM) on August 10 and Shusuke Kaneko's acclaimed GODZILLA·MOTHRA·KING GHIDORAH (aka GMK: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK) on August 22. While both films have played at festivals and conventions in recent years this is will be the official US premier.
|GMK premieres in the U.S.! © 2001 Toho Co., Ltd.
For those not in the Los Angeles area there is still good news. More theatrical screenings are being planned, plus Fangoria.com reports that the SciFi Channel will air both films on Sunday, August 31. GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS will be broadcast at 3pm, followed by GODZILLA·MOTHRA·KING GHIDORAH at 5pm. The two Godzilla films are preceded by the REBIRTH OF MOTHRA trilogy starting at 9 am.
Check with Henshin!Online for more details soon. (Additional source: Monster Zero)
|Farewell to ZAT's Brave Commander
Author: Bob Johnson and August Ragone
Source: Tsuburaya Productions
Fans of Ultraman have lost another of their beloved Captains. In 1997, two of the patrol's leaders tragically passed away. Akiji Kobayashi portrayed Captain Muramatsu in the original 1966 ULTRAMAN and Nobuo Tsukamoto lead the MAT team into battle in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN.
|Akira Nagoya as Yutaro Asahina: ZAT Commander © 1973 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
On June 24, 2003 at 8:35 AM, actor Akira Nagoya died of pneumonia at a hospital in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward. Nagoya was 72 years old. He was born in Tokyo in 1930. In 1949 he enrolled in NHK's theatrical group and graduated with honors. At this time he also appeared in numerous radio dramas.
In 1963, he joined the Kumo Theatrical Troop, which he left in 1975. While with the troop, Nagoya was a regular fixture on stage and television. In 1971 he won the 6th Kinokuniya Acting award for his roll in a film called KUGI (Nail) and in 1983 he received the Geijitsu Acting Award for his performance in AME (Rain).
Tokusatsu fans remember Akira Nagoya as the series narrator for Tsuburaya Productions' RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971-1972) and as the ZAT commander, Yutaro Asahina in ULTRAMAN TARO (1973-1974). He was also a regular on Toei Productions' popular and long-running TV series, LIL' DETECTIVE (Keiji-kun).
Fans are once more mourning the loss of another talent from the world of Japanese fantasy.
|TRAILERS! TRAILERS! TRAILERS!
Japanese Promos Available Online
Author: Keith Aiken
Theatrical trailers and promos for several recent Japanese fantasy films and shows are available online at the links below. While many of the sites are in Japanese, they can be navigated easily with the use of the Babel Fish Translation Service Additional information for most of these titles can be found here at Henshin!Online.
|Lots of trailers - including Returner & Zatoichi
ALIVE: VERSUS director Ryuhei Kitamura's second major motion picture was released in Japan on June 21.
ASTRO BOY Warner Bros has picked up the new Tezuka Productions/Sony Pictures television series and will air it this fall.
AVALON Mamoru Oshii's (GHOST IN THE SHELL) live-action film about warriors in a virtual reality war game features stunning visual effects.
AZUMI Toho released the film by Ryuhei Kitamura on May 10. Aya Ueto stars as a female samurai warrior during the age of civil wars in Japan.
BATTLE ROYALE II Kenta Fujisaku's sequel to father Kinji's controversial hit premiers on July 5.
BIG DADDY Godzilla and Minya star in this commercial for the National Fatherhood Initiative.
BLOOD OF THE SAMURAI The low budget 2001 Hawaiian production has spawned a television series starring popular Japanese actor Ban Daisuke (KIKAIDA).
BOKU-NO SONGOKU (Our Monkey King) Shochiku's animated movie, based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka, will be released on July 12.
COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE Sony Pictures' Special Edition DVD was released on June 24.
DRAGON HEAD Toho's live-action adaptation of the post-apocalyptic manga by Minetaro Mochizuk will be released on August 30. Directed by Joji Iida (ANOTHER HEAVEN, RAISEN).
GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX The official site features movie clips from Masamune Shirow and Kenji Kamiya's television series sequel to the 1995 animated film (movie clips).
HOUSE FOODS Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki directed these four animated commercials which started airing on Japanese television in June.
ICHI THE KILLER Takashi Miike's (AUDITION) 2001 ultra-violent yakuza film is now available on DVD.
JU-ON 2 (The Grudge 2) The sequel to Takashi Shimizu's horror hit, which deals with a supernatural curse born of resentment that spreads like a disease, opens in Japanese theaters this August.
KAI DOH MARU The animation teams from Japan's IG Plus / Production IG (BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE / GHOST IN THE SHELL) tell a tale of political intrigue and explosive action during Japan's Heian era. Manga Entertainment released the US DVD on June 24.
KILL BILL! Miramax will release Quentin Tarentino's martial arts movie (featuring stunts and fight choreography by the legendary Sonny Chiba) on October 10.
ONMYOJI During an age of demons and ghosts the Heian Emperor relies upon the imperial order of the Onmyoji to protect his kingdom, political intrigue and jealousy lead to betrayal. The 2001 Toho film from director Yojiro Takita was released to US theaters by Pioneer Entertainment this past April. Pioneer's DVD will hit store shelves on August 12.
ONMYOJI II Toho has reunited director Yojiro Takita and most of the cast and crew for the sequel, coming to Japanese theaters on October 4.
THE PRINCESS BLADE ADV Films will release the Japanese martial arts spectacular to US theaters this August. Actress Yumiko Shaku's (GODZILLA x MECHAGODZILLA) first movie was directed by Shinsuke Sato with special effects are by the renowned Shinji Higuchi, and fight choreography by Hong Kong superstar Donnie Yen.
RETURNER Takeshi Kaneshiro stars in director Takashi Yamazaki's 2002 action film from Toho.
SKYHIGH Based on Takahashi Tsutomu's dark and controversial occult manga and starring Yumiko Shaku, this film is coming to theaters November 8.
ULTRAMAN COSMOS VS. ULTRAMAN JUSTICE: THE FINAL BATTLE
The Ultraman Cosmos saga concludes, and a new Ultraman will be introduced, on August 2.
YOKAI MONSTERS: ALONG WITH GHOSTS The third movie in Daiei's classic series is coming to DVD in the US from ADV.
ZATOICHI Takeshi `Beat' Kitano's update of the legendary Blind Swordsman premiers in Japan this September.
|*UPDATED* Ultraman Cosmos' Final Battle?
The Thrilling Conclusion to the Ultraman Cosmos Saga
Author: Bob Johnson
Source: Uchusen Magazine
The new millennium began with a fresh concept for the established Ultraman character. In ULTRAMAN COSMOS, a kinder, gentler Ultraman would defeat the monsters that challenged the Earth in a more humane and peaceful way, resorting to brute force only when all other options were exhausted.
|Movie Poster for ULTRAMAN COSMOS VS. ULTRAMAN JUSTICE: THE FINAL BATTLE. © 2003 "Ultraman Cosmos vs. Justice" Movie Production Consortium
Following the production of 65 episodes and two feature films, the third and final ULTRAMAN COSMOS movie will be released in Japan in August of 2003. In this film Cosmos must face off with Ultraman Justice, a character introduced in last year's ULTRAMAN COSMOS 2: THE BLUE PLANET (2002), as well as encounter an all new Ultraman, Ultraman Legend. Following is a brief synopsis of the story from the new film, ULTRAMAN COSMOS VS. ULTRAMAN JUSTICE: THE FINAL BATTLE.
"Thirty-five hours from now all life on this planet will be reset. This is the final decision in the matter of Cosmic Justice." Such is the order from Derashion, a powerful force from beyond the stars. Is this the end for all life on Earth as we know it? Will the strange forces of Cosmic Justice prevail, or can Ultraman Cosmos' love for planet Earth and its people win the battle? When Ultraman Cosmos is overcome by the overwhelming power of Ultraman Justice is this the end of Ultraman Cosmos forever?
With Ultraman Cosmos, and his human guise Haruno Musashi (Taiyo Sugiura), gone, the story focuses upon the other members of Team EYES and their strong bonds to each other as well as their commitment to the protection of the Earth. Yet Musashi's presence lingers even in his absence. The ideals he believed in and his spirit of never giving up his dreams still remain in the hearts of his former team members.
Hiura, the former Captain of Team EYES, and Agent Ayano gather the team in the park where Musashi first met Ultraman Cosmos and where Ultraman Cosmos later morphed into his powerful Eclipse Mode. Here they meet Jueli, a mysterious being who is the human form of the space giant Ultraman Justice. Jueli claims she has come to Earth in the name of Derashion, a being who executes the will of Cosmic Justice.
|Ultraman Legend! © 2003 "Ultraman Cosmos vs. Justice" Movie Production Consortium
Derashion, she says, has made a prediction that 2000 years from now, the Earth will develope into a dangerous planet and all life on it will become extinct. Now it is up to Team EYES to prove to Derashion and Ultraman Justice that the Earth is not a danger to the cosmic order.
But can the Earth withstand Derashion's mighty robotic monster Gloakar Bishop? The colossal automaton first appears in the form of a gigantic spacecraft, the Gloakar Mothership. Once the spaceship has transformed itself into the robotic beast it can never return to its original form. Gloakar Bishop is equipped with a dizzying array of super weapons including the Bishop Cannon (a powerful blasting machine) and a terrifying beam weapon called the Jirusadesu Beam.
In Tsuburaya Productions' brand new theatrical feature film, humanity will witness the most spectacular battle ever filmed! ULTRAMAN COSMOS VS. ULTRAMAN JUSTICE!
Reportedly, the film contains some very impressive special effects, surpassing many previously attempted in the Ultraman feature films. Included in these is also a homage to the 1968 Godzilla movie, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. In COSMOS VS. JUSTICE, many of the good monsters that Ultraman Cosmos helped during the course of the series, descend upon Tokyo to help defend it from the Gloakar robot army. Many camera angles are remeniscent of the Toho classic.
In other positives, there are a lot of scenes that take place in space this time. These are as impressively handled as many higher budgeted US movies. When Cosmos and Justice are done in CG instead of men in costume the effect is much better than in previous films. The Gloakar robots really look and move like robots unlike lots of TPC's previous robotic beasts.
|Derashion's mighty robotic monster: Gloakar Bishop © 2003 "Ultraman Cosmos vs. Justice" Movie Production Consortium
The film, like the Cosmos series and previous two features is at times candy-coated and saccharine sweet. However, the mystery of just exactly who Ultraman Legend is, is a surprise that will have to wait until the movie comes out. It is sure to surprise many COSMOS fans however!
While Ultraman Cosmos faces new and ever more difficult challenges on the screen, he continues to move into new territories, the latest being Thailand. Tsuburaya Productions has just announced the sale of broadcast and theatrical licenses for ULTRAMAN COSMOS in Thailand. There is an article with more information on this development in the Bangkok Post. When reading this article though, please be aware that Tsuburaya Productions has not sold the copyright for ULTRAMAN COSMOS to Ultra Film Co. The terms "copyright" and "license," two totally different terms, have been mistakenly combined within the body of the article. All copyrights to ULTRAMAN COSMOS world-wide still belong to Tsuburaya Productions. Ultra Film Co. of Thailand only has the license to broadcast the series and distribute the first feature to theaters within their country.
Stay tuned to Henshin! Online as we sort out the facts and give you the straight scoop!
|Veteran Godzilla Actor To Star in Godzilla X Mechagodzilla X Mothra
Author: Aaron Smith
Source: Monster Zero News
Hiroshi Koizumi, 76, returns to Toho studios for GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA X MOTHRA, resurrecting the role of Dr. Chujo Nakazo from 1961's MOTHRA.
Read the full article at Monster Zero!
|Miyazaki: Changing the Face of Animation
Spirited Away takes the Oscar and more!
Author: Keith Aiken
Primary Sources: Disney's Miyazaki Collection, Japan Today, Nausicaa.net
Additional Sources: Cinescape.com, Box Office Mojo, Kyodo News, New York International Children's Film Festival, and Newport Beach Film Festival. (April 3-11)
Hayao Miyazaki`s SPIRITED AWAY won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Annual Academy Awards on March 23, beating out the four US movies nominated: LILO & STITCH, ICE AGE, SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON, and TREASURE PLANET. The Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences created the separate animated film category last year and presented the first award to SHREK.
|The Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away © 2002 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Nibariki
SPIRITED AWAY was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2002 and was selected by many leading journalists as one of their top ten films of last year. The film had previously received the Annie Award from ASIFA-Hollywood, the Golden Bear Award from the Berlin Film Festival, and was honored as the year's best animated film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the National Board of Review.
Commenting on the award, Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios said, "We're thrilled that the Academy has chosen to honor SPIRITED AWAY for its incredible achievement in storytelling and artistry and we're proud to be associated with legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki in bringing his masterpiece to moviegoers across the country. The film is far and away the most successful film to ever play in Japan and it has always been our desire to share this film with the widest possible audience here in the U.S. With this important Oscar recognition, the film will have the additional awareness and appeal needed to find a welcome reception. All of us at Disney are extremely proud to have had three of this year's nominees in the Best Animated Feature category and to have played a part in bringing the award-winning SPIRITED AWAY to moviegoers."
While the staff at Tokyo's Studio Ghibli applauded and shouted with joy upon hearing of the Oscar win, Miyazaki was less jubilant. The director, who did not attend the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, said he found it hard to celebrate because of current world events. In a handwritten message, he stated "It is regrettable that I cannot rejoice from my heart over the prize because of the deeply sad events taking place in the world. However, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to all my friends who have lent their effort in releasing SPIRITED AWAY in the United States and to all those who have shown their appreciation of the movie. "
He did not appear to talk to reporters at a press conference the following day, instead leaving matters to producer Toshio Suzuki. "In the normal course of events, Miyazaki should be making a speech. But he has said that he cannot be truly joyful because of the times we are in now. He has said that he cannot bear to have media broadcasting his happy face."
Prior to the Academy Awards, the US theatrical release had dwindled down to a mere 7 art houses and second run theaters, but the win prompted Disney Pictures to go with a wide re-release of the film on Friday, March 28. Backed by a print and television ad campaign, SPIRITED AWAY earned $1,765,491 on 711 screens the weekend of March 28-30, more than four times it's opening weekend take in September 2002. As of April 6 the film has grossed $8,879,467 in US theaters. Cook initially stated that successful box office totals could persuade Disney to postpone the scheduled April 15 home video release. While the first post-Oscar weekend raked in $200,000 above early estimates, Disney decided to release the dvd as originally planned.
Along with SPIRITED AWAY, the initial wave of Disney's Miyazaki Collection dvds consists of CASTLE IN THE SKY(1986) and KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989). Each will be a 2-Disc set, wide screen, 16:9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1 (Japanese & English dub) with an introduction from US executive producer John Lasseter, a voice talent featurette, storyboards, and trailers. SPIRITED AWAY will also include a Nippon Japanese TV special, an art and translation featurette, and storyboards-to-scene comparisons. More information, including trailers for all three releases, can be found at Disney's Miyazaki Collection site.
KIKI and CASTLE (under it's original title LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY), along with MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, were previously released in the US by Carl Macek's Streamline Pictures. Both KIKI and TOTORO were dubbed into English by Macek. Streamline was given distribution rights for a limited time, with Miyazaki owning the English dubs when those rights elapsed. This was important for both sides, as Streamline got the movies at a good price and Studio Ghibli ended up with free English dubs. At the time, Disney was requesting Ghibli films to screen at their studio and Miyazaki felt English language prints would hopefully interest them in a bigger distribution deal later. Regarding LAPUTA, the excellent website Nausicaa.net quotes Fred Patten from Streamline Pictures:
"Streamline Pictures theatrically distributed an English-dubbed print of LAPUTA from March 24, 1989 for the next ear, but Streamline never dubbed it. Streamline licensed LAPUTA from Tokuma Shoten [the financers of Studio Ghibli] in late 1988 or early 1989, and was sent a print from Japan that had already been dubbed into English for use as an in-flight movie by Japan Air Lines on its trans-Pacific flights. We have no idea who actually dubbed it."
The Streamline versions of KIKI and LAPUTA received limited art-house runs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO was distributed theatrically by Troma Pictures in 1993 and is currently available on Fox Home Video. Macek stated that he had to destroy his prints of LAPUTA after his rights elapsed, but the Streamline and JAL dubs are available in the Studio Ghibli laser disc box set and R2 dvds. Disney has created new dubs for KIKI and CASTLE IN THE SKY and plans to do the same with TOTORO when Fox's rights expire in 2004.
Disney's version of KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE was first released on home video on September 1, 1998 in both subbed and dubbed vhs and laserdisc formats. The English dub starred Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, the late Phil Hartman as Jiji, Debbie Reynolds as Madam, and Janeane Garofalo as Ursula.
CASTLE IN THE SKY, initially planned for release in 1999 (a trailer was included with KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE), was also considered for a US theatrical run. While Disney eventually decided on home video, CASTLE did screen at the New York International Children's Film Festival on February 4, 2000 and at the Newport Beach Film Festival in California on Saturday, April 5, 2003. The English voice cast includes James van der Beek as Pazu, Cloris Leachman as Dola, Anna Paquin as Sheeta, and Mark Hamill as Muska.
|Court Confusion Over Ultraman
Tsuburaya Productions Sets the Record Straight
Author: Bob Johnson
Source: Tsuburaya Productions and various Japanese news sites.
There have been reports lately of a court ruling by the Tokyo District Court in Japan that granted Chaiyo Productions in Thailand "usage rights" to the first 5 Ultraman programs. This would include all Ultra series up to and including ULTRAMAN TARO. Series from ULTRAMAN LEO through ULTRAMAN COSMOS were not included. The details of exactly what constitutes "usage rights" are not clear, even to Tsuburaya itself.
This ruling was based on a contract that Chaiyo possesses in which Tsuburaya Productions' late president Noboru Tsuburaya allegedly granted Chaiyo certain rights to the Ultraman characters outside of Japan. Tsuburaya Productions disputes the validity of the contract, considering it completely false, and is appealing the ruling.
The ruling does not grant Chaiyo any copyrights or ownership of any of the Ultraman characters. This has not and will not effect any future Ultraman productions from Tsuburaya. It is mainly a battle over merchandising and licensing rights outside of Japan.
Following is a statement from Tsuburaya Productions that will appear as a full-page ad in next week's issues of Variety, Television Asia, Television Business International and the MIP-TV News. Exclusive to Henshin! Online:
To Our Many Valued Customers and Licensees;
2003 marks Tsuburaya Productions' 40th year of producing Ultraman and other high quality entertainment properties. It is thanks to our many fine customers and licensees around the world that we have been able to continue to prosper.
Recently there has been some confusion in the market concerning the copyright and licensing rights to the Ultraman properties.
Be assured that Tsuburaya Productions is the genuine legal owner of all copyrights, character copyrights, merchandising rights, secondary usage rights and all other legal rights to any and all of the Ultraman television programs, theatrical films and other properties as well as to all of the characters that appear in those productions. Anyone wishing to make inquiries regarding any such usage of the Ultraman properties is invited to inquire at Tsuburaya Productions' Tokyo Home Office or at Shanghai Tsuburaya Planning Co., Ltd. in Shanghai. Any unauthorized usage of Tsuburaya Productions' legal rights to the Ultraman television series, theatrical films or to any of the characters that appear in those productions will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd.
Shanghai Tsuburaya Planning Co., Ltd.
|The Wonderful World of KIKAIDA!
Enduring Tokusatsu Series Finds a Home at H!O
Author: August Ragone
Riding astride his sidecar superbike, Jiro, a young man clad in blue denim, with a guitar slung across his back, swings his arms and transforms into a red and blue combat android known as Kikaida. The yin-yang patterned android, with exposed circuitry flashing under his glass-domed head, smashes through hordes of monstrous automatons in order to save Mitsuko and Masaru, the children of the scientist who created him, Dr. Komyoji.
|"Astride the Sidemachine, Kikaida ploughs through a horde of Androidmen!" © Ishimori Pro/Toei Co. Ltd.
Read the rest of Henshin! Online's Kikaida Article by clicking the "All About Kikaida" link above or by going to this page...
4Kids plans major relaunch and promotion of Ultraman Tiga this fall
Author: Bob Johnson
Source: 4Kids Entertainment
After a six month run on the FoxBox, 4Kids Entertainment's ULTRAMAN TIGA is taking time to recharge his powers for an all new fight!
|Ultraman Tiga Strikes Back! © 1996 Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd
Starting March 15, 2003, ULTRAMAN TIGA will be replaced on the FoxBox by a new cartoon, PIRATE ISLAND. This does not however signal the end of everyone's silver, red and blue hero. In September of 2003, ULTRAMAN TIGA will have a complete relaunch, coordinated with a marketing campaign that will include comics, trading cards and other ULTRAMAN TIGA products.
According to 4Kids' sources, "Although the ratings are currently on the low side, we believe that we can increase the awareness and popularity of Ultraman Tiga by conducting the relaunch this autumn."
Stay tuned to Henshin! Online for all the latest information as we keep you up to date with the new plans for ULTRAMAN TIGA! The best is yet to come.
|GAMERA DOUBLE FEATURE DVD DESTROY ALL PLANETS/ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS
Double the Pleasure, or Double the Trouble?
Author: Aaron Cooper
Retromedia’s DVD release of two classic Gamera films presents a dilemma. As a fan of Japanese fantasy and science fiction, it’s always a pleasure to see these films on one of the best viewing formats available in recent years: DVD. On the other hand, one always hopes for the best possible release of the source material in that format. So how does this release of DESTROY ALL PLANETS/ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS stack up?
|Retromedia delivers two Gamera flicks on one DVD with their release of DESTROY ALL PLANETS/ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS. © 1968 Daiei Motion Picture Company & 2003 Retromedia.
Before we can answer that, let’s do a quick recap of the availability of Daiei Studios classic Gamera films of the 1960’s and 70’s. The first film, 1965's GIANT MONSTER GAMERA saw theatrical release here in the US from World Entertainment Corp. under the name of GAMMERA THE INVINICIBLE. The subsequent five films were presented to the then still-growing television format under the AIP-TV banner and had been renamed to more so-called exciting titles such as WAR OF THE MONSTERS. Dubbed by Titra Studios (famous for such classic English voice acting work on Japanese anime like SPEED RACER and some of the Godzilla series of films), it was this presentation of Gamera that most fans remember as their introduction of the film series.
In the 1980’s, long after the fall of AIP, the rights of the Gamera films reverted back to Daiei for renegotiation. The series was re-dubbed (hideously, in the opinion of this author) by Sandy Frank Film Syndication Inc. and released to video by King Features Ent. in1987. A new generation of fans would be introduced to the series through these video releases and their subsequent trashing on the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 TV series or some other form of syndication. It wasn’t until the 1990’s, when Neptune Media released several of the classic films in their original widescreen aspect ratio with their Japanese language tracks and English subtitles to videotape and laserdisc formats that consumers could see what the original films truly looked like.
In the last couple of years in Japan, the entire Gamera series has been released to Region 2 DVD by Daiei Video and include beautiful letterboxed prints with original remastered Japanese language tracks, and in most cases, English subtitles. So now we return to the original question: How does Retromedia’s Gamera double feature release hold up?
Retromedia has presented a double feature DVD of DESTROY ALL PLANETS (aka GAMERA VS. VIRAS) and ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS (aka GAMERA VS. GUIRON) to the eager masses at a retail price of $19.99. According to Retromedia’s own liner notes, these are two of the more popular films. Two still galleries accompany the films, utilizing publicity stills and video release covers, with some promo/behind-the-scenes art thrown in too.
Probably the most noteworthy aspect of this release is that it presents original TV prints of the AIP/Titra Studios versions of these films, which fans should rejoice over! They really are that good. Besides that, the prints themselves are respectable. A few scratches surface here and there, and the colors are muted in some scenes, but overall the presentation is more then acceptable and is superior to any previous video release with the possible exception of the Neptune Media releases.
Therein lies the problem. This DVD release is truly a love/hate relationship. The bottom line is that there will be purists that despise this DVD. These are the same people that feel that all Japanese fantasy and science fiction must be presented in their purist form, unadulterated in any way and feel that any DVD release must be anamorphic widescreen and English subtitled. Then again, there are those that were exposed to these films in a time period that didn’t know any better, but their love for the genre grew from what they saw and they loved every second of it. This DVD is nothing short of brilliant for them and the wave of nostalgia that accompanies watching this DVD presentation is absolute euphoria. Finally, there is the middle ground, the casual fan. Those that appreciate the value of good dubbing of Japanese films, realize what it takes to present something to a TV audience, and want a fun, campy experience without having to ‘read’ a movie with subtitles. This DVD is also for them.
There you have it. If you are an absolute purist, stick to Daiei’s Japanese Region 2 DVD releases. If you have the right amount of nostalgia, or want to expose a new generation to the beloved world of Gamera, then you could do no wrong in picking up this disc, immediately!
Footnotes: Can’t get enough of Gamera? Then be sure to check out our interview with DESTROY ALL PLANETS star Carl Craig.
Renowned Film Director Kinji Fukasaku Passes Away
Source: Japan Today
Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 16:50 JST
|Renowned Japanese film director Kinji Fukasaku. Photo: Mainchi Daily News
TOKYO - Renowned Japanese film director Kinji Fukasaku, known for works such as the BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR (Jingi-naki Tatakae) yakuza movie series, died of prostate cancer Sunday at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 72.
Fukasaku, a native of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, announced he had cancer last September but went on to begin the filming of BATTLE ROYAL II, a sequel to BATTLE ROYAL of 2000, based on a best-selling novel, which sparked controversy by depicting killings between junior high school students.
But in late December, shortly after he began the filming, his condition deteriorated and he was hospitalized.
Fukasaku, who was married to actress Sanae Nakahara, joined Toei Motion Picture Company in 1953 and directed his first film in 1961, THE DRIFTING DETECTIVE (Furaibo Tantei) with Sonny Chiba. He became involved in the BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR series in 1973, in which he explored a realistic film approach about true-life yakuza conflicts that led to box office success and high acclaim.
In TORA! TORA! TORA! of 1970, a Japan-U.S. collaboration on Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Fukasaku and Nikkatsu action director Toshio Masuda worked on the filming of the scenes on the Japanese side after director Akira Kurosawa abandoned the project. He also directed a number of large-scale foriegn co-productions, such as THE GREEN SLIME (1968) and VIRUS (1980), as well as domestic fantasy films like MESSAGE FROM SPACE (Uchu'kara-no Messeji, 1978) and LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI (Satomi Hakkenden, 1983).
In 1982's THE FALL GUY (Kamata Koshin'kyoku), he depicted the romantic and bittersweet backstage of film production in the early days, which won him many awards.
"The greatness of director Kinji Fukasaku is that he created a dynamic revolutionary film called BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR within the system of a major film company, Toei," film critic Yoshio Shirai said.
"Moreover, he managed to expose the postwar black market on the big screen, making it a political postwar movie that excelled in a true sense," Shirai added.
"And although different in style, he followed the same theme through in BATTLE ROYAL. He was the last director to create full-blooded Japanese films."
Fukasaku had headed the Director's Guild of Japan since 1996. The following year, he was awarded the government's Medal with Purple Ribbon for his accomplishments in film. (Kyodo News)
|KAMEN RIDER 555 Seizes Kiryu City By Force!
Location Shooting of New Series Takes Over Entire Town
Translation: August Ragone
Source: Kiryu Times Web News
KIRYU CITY, GUNMA PREFECTURE: Filming the latest "Masked Rider" series,MASKED RIDER 555 [Kamen Raida Faizu], commenced on December 25th, in the center of town, with the crew taking over the largest residence near the offices of the Mori Limited Partnership.
|Masked Rider 555 stands ready for action! © 2003 Ishimori Productions - TV Asahi - Asatsu-DK - Toei
Every Sunday morning at 8 am, Asahi Broadcasting has been televising MASKED RIDER RYUKI (Kamen Raida Ryuki), which will be concluding soon and replaced by the new series -- MASKED RIDER 555 -- from January 26, 2003. Our report involves shooting Kiryu City locations for the second episode of the upcoming series.
At the center of all the activity, we found director Ryuta Tazaki behind the cameras in deep thought over shooting the day's scenes. Deftly considering the situation, he rushed to speak with the landlords and management of Mori Limited Partnership, asking them for their cooperation. This involved moving cars in Mori's parking lot, meaning delaying the Toei staff's lunch break, with the assistance of members of the locally based Watarase Film Commission.
There were about 40 members of Toei Television Productions, including actors and staff, working here on location to get the shots needed for the episode. During the morning, scenes were shot with the a male and a female protagonist conversing in a Chinese Tea House in Yano Gardens. In the afternoon, the scenes at the Mori Limited Partnership, the residence of the Suzuki Family, a Pawnbroker, a Ramen Shop, and others were shot -- as well as the activation of the Rider's Belt -- respectively.
The current Masked Rider series, because of their glamorous cast members, has been attracting large segments of young adults, and housewives, as ardent fans of the shows -- the popularity showing no signs of slowing down. This shift in viewership can be seen in the numbers of adults who walked into the shoots at the Pawnbroker and Ramen shops. "Dear Patrons, sorry for the inconvenience," chimed in the employees, who were obviously enjoying this behind-the-scenes experience.
Furthermore, the scenes shot on this day will air on TV Asahi, as the second episode of MASKED RIDER 555, on February 2nd at 8 am.
|Hi-Tech Superhero Meets Enchanted Town in MASKED RIDER 555
The What, Whys & Legends of Kiryu City
Author: August Ragone
Source: Kiryu International Exchange Association
Kiryu City in Gunma Prefecture is located on the northern area of the Kanto Plain, approximately 100 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. Why would the Toei production staff travel so far for a location shoot for KAMEN RIDER 555? There could be a very logical reason, besides a fresh and beautiful countryside location, opposite of the chrome and concrete of the big cities, which have been overused in the last few Rider Series, KUUGA, AGITO and RYUKI.
|This map, shows the relative distance between Tokyo (the large bayside mark) and Kiryu City (the smaller inland mark).
But, there could also be a mythological reason for this choice of location shooting. The further one gets away from the cosmopolitan cities of Japan, the more rich the traditional culture, arts and legends become; the more Japanese everything becomes. This cultural paydirt could be sifted by the writers and directors of the upcoming MASKED RIDER 555.
Kiryu is not some backwards hamlet, populated by superstitious mountain people, but a traditional center of culture and arts, with a rich history, and was the third city established in the prefecture, laying at the foot of Mt. Akagi. Kiryu is surrounded on three sides by mountains, with two rivers flowing through its center -- a modern city truly blessed with nature -- a beautiful place where the architecture of the past blends in with that of the ultra modern.
There is deep pride in Kiryu's 1200-year heritage, which dates back to the recorded poems exchanged by Onoko Yamada and Princess Shirataki (meaning "White Dragon"), who fell in love and later settled in Kiryu. Princess Shirataki taught the technique of raising silk worms, twisting thread and weaving to the villagers, thus starting Kiryu's local industry that has continued into the present day. Their lives and love, spawned romantic legends of their own.
After the princess passed away, as a result of child birth, a shrine was constructed to console her spirit, in what is now known as Kawauchicho in Kiryu City. There, Princess Shirataki is worshipped as a Goddess of Weaving and Marriage. Within the Shrine Compound there is a boulder, roughly 60 feet in diameter, where legend has it, if one presses his ear to a small hole in the rock, one can hear the rhythmic sound of Shirataki's weaving loom at work.
This of course led to less-than-flattering tales accusing the princess of being an enchanted spider-woman (because of her silk-spinning abilities), which the subject of the 1938 film, THE BEWTICHING PRINCESS SHIRATAKI (Yoma Shirataki Hime), directed by Keigo Kimura.
This "enchanted" city also figured significantly in history when a descendent of Genji (featured in the novel "A Tale of Genji"), the loyalist warrior Yoshisada Nitta (1301-1338), employed Kiryu silk-weavers during the 1333 battle to overthrow the Kamakura Shogunate in the name of Emperor Go-Daigo.
On September 15, 1600, leyasu Tokugawa's soldiers carried white silk banners produced in Kiryu in the great Battle of Sekigahara in which a young and wild Musashi Miyamoto participated, resulting in the unification of Japan under one ruler.
Kiryu's fame as a silk textile center grew steadily, eventually becoming known as the eastern capital of silk, with Kyoto being the center in the West. Since the end of World War II, electronics and machine-metalwork industries have also prospered in Kiryu, adding to the city's industrial diversity and economic well-being.
But, MASKED RIDER 555 is not about textiles, but as you have read, Kiryu is full of supernatural legends -- something more fitting for the basis of a superhero story. One of the most striking myths are those of the "Kappa" -- legendary Japanese water imps/vampires, featured in such films as DEMON WARFARE (Yokai Daisenso, 1968) and SAKUYA: SLAYER OF DEMONS (Sakuya Yokai Den, 2000). The evil creatures featured in MASKED RIDER 555 may be related to these, or other, mythic Japanese supernatural beings indigenous to the area.
But, the singularly unique thing about Kiryu, besides its many ancient temples and shrines, is the nationally treasured Camellia Grove -- and even more so, the legend that surrounds it.
The Camellia Grove was designated a natural treasure by Kiryu on February 15, 1967. The three camellia trees in the grove are approximately 22 feet high and their trunks are about 5 feet in diameter. While the age of the trees remains uncertain, it is believed that the site was first used as a cemetery over 1500 years ago. A five-story pagoda, dating from the Kamakura Era (1192-1333), is nearby, and can be seen from the grove.
The legend associated with the camellia grove has long been told in the Kiryu area and until now has been part of the region's oral tradition. Today, this legend has been preserved for future generations in traditional Japanese "Kamishibai" format.
Long, long ago there lived a vassal named Nariuji Gyobu Shuto who was in the service of Yoshi'ie Taro Hachiman, a most eminent samurai. Nariuji, too, like the nobleman Hachiman, was a samurai. Befitting his station in life, Lord Nariuji Shuto built a great manor in an area now called Hirosawa and there he took up his abode.
In this manor there also lived a charming little princess who was more dear to the hearts of her parents. Lord and Lady Shuto, than anything else in the whole wide world. Life in the manor revolved around the care of this little princess.
One day, most unexpectedly, this precious child fell ill. Everyday, from sunrise to sunset Lord Nariuji and his wife spared no effort in caring for the sick princess. Nevertheless, as the days passed, the child's condition steadily worsened.
Lord and Lady Shuto were beside themselves with worry and petitioned all the monks to pray to the gods on behalf of the sick child that her health might be restored to her as quickly as possible.
Despite all the ministrations of the household, the little Princess failed to improve and regretfully she passed on to the next life. Lord and Lady Shuto now became quite lonely, having lost their most treasured possession. Lady Shuto was especially grieved and grew listless, crying despondently everyday.
Lady Shuto tried to console herself saying, "I must resign myself to her loss," or, "I should try to forget her." Nevertheless, although the passage of time usually heals such wounds, for Lady Shuto, the memory of her daughter, the Princess, only grew more vivid. In her heart, she so longed to see the child again that she could hardly bear it.
Since she could not forget the sweet memory of the child, it came to pass that Lady Shuto began to visit the princess' grave everyday. There, before the gravestone, Lady Shuto would shed bitter tears of grief, praying to see the child once again.
These visitations continued for a long while. Then, on one occasion, Lady Shuto brought a small branch from a Camellia tree to the grave site which she pushed into the earth under which the Princess lay sleeping. Doing so, the grieving Lady Shuto said, "My little princess, see here before you your mother so distraught from the loss of the child whom she could never forget and who so longs to see your face again. Take pity on me, if you will, from under the earth where you lie in sweet repose. Let this small Camellia branch send forth its roots and sprout new leaves. In the fulness of time, may it be covered in beautiful blossoms."
What can come of such a heartfelt entreaty? No doubt, Lady Shuto's profound love found its way into the heart of the child as she lay in her grave. As though somehow enchanted, the branch did indeed take root in the soil, fulfilling Lady Shuto's loving plea, and as it grew, it was covered with leaves and lovely red blossoms.
Many hundreds of years have now passed since these strange events took place. The Camellia branch has grown into a most splendid grove. Each year, as spring approaches, the branches of the trees, stretching out wide in all directions, are covered with blooms. Even now, the trees remind all who gaze upon them of the imminence of spring which awaits us all.
I suspect that this legend will have some resonance and profound meaning in the story arc or plotting of MASKED RIDER 555. With Japan's rich cultural mythology, largely ignored in film and television, one would hope that this rich and deep well would be tapped. The legends found in Kiryu could serve as an excellent counterpoint to the theme of a technologically advanced superhero, in the form of Masked Rider 555. Such counterpoints are rarely found in western contemporaries.
Viewers and fans will find out for themselves MASKED RIDER 555 premieres on TV Asashi later this month.
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