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Eastern Front

Translations: Oki Miyano with Keith Aiken

Sakurai and Toshihiro Iijima. Photo Credit: Oki Miyano
1. THE 1/100 PLAN (1/100 Keikaku)
Director: Toshihiro Iijima
Writer: Kitao Senzoku (This is Iijima's pen name. He had lived in an area called Kita-Senzoku in the Oota district of Tokyo when he worked on the original ULTRA Q.)
Radiocast: 10/05/03

In the 37 years since the original series, Jun Manjome had retired as a pilot for a major airline. Yuriko Edogawa left her newspaper to become a freelance writer/photographer for nature magazines and Ippei Togawa has opened a restaurant near his home in Kagurazaka in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo [Note: Actor Yasuhiko Saijo actually owned a coffee shop in Kagurazaka until a couple of years ago]. Ippei and Yuriko visit Jun's condo for a planned reunion, but find a message for them on his computer that says he will be gone for a while. Looking for more information, Ippei fumbles around on the computer and finds another message that reads "Do not push the 'ENTER' key". Of course, Ippei pushes it and he and Yuriko are startled by a loud sound, then suddenly find themselves in a world they've never seen before.

It turns out that a mysterious program in Jun's computer has shrunk the pair down to 1/100th of their original size! As they attempt to find a way to return to normal they encounter dangers that they had never imagined before, including a cat attack and a threatening swarm of cockroaches. However, in the midst of this terror, they also find an undiscovered society.

ROUNDTABLE: The three main actors discuss making the show, including the fact that none of the cast members knew the show's final title until after they had finished shooting the entire series because the producers wanted to protect the copyright [Note: TBS didn't care for UNBALANCE, which was initially planned to be the series title]. The name ULTRA Q was inspired by "Oba-Q", the nickname of Q-TARO THE GHOST (Obake-no Kyutaro), a popular animated series created by Fujiko Fujio (DORAEMON, NINJA HATTORI) and "Ultra C", a popular term used for women's gymnastics during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. A Russian gymnast created an extremely difficult maneuver called the "Ultra C", which was used for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics. Tsuburaya came up with the term "Ultra Q" to describe a difficult question or unexplained mystery.

Since ULTRA Q didn't air until all 28 episodes were completed, Kenji Sahara said he didn't know about the reaction of viewers until he had already started working on his next film assignment.

Director: Toshihiro Iijima
Writer: Shozo Uehara
Radiocast: 10/12/03

At Jun's condo, Jun, Ippei, and Yuriko look at several photos taken by Yuriko in Okinawa. Most of the pictures are out of focus, but these unclear images seem to show Garamon, Gorgos and Namegon -- monsters that the trio had encountered many years before. According to Yuriko, a spectre called Kijimuna is responsible for the return of these monsters. She starts to tell of her mysterious experience in Okinawa.

She had visited the home of Tetsuo Kinjo, the late writer of several classic Ultra Series episodes. In Kinjo's study, which is filled with Ultra toys and gifts sent by fans after Kinjo's death, Yuriko found a notebook filled with descriptions of several classic Ultra Monsters plus two new creatures; the giant monster Ukami and the red-haired goblin Kijimuna. [Note: Kijimuna is the subject of a famous Okinawan folktale of a monstrous being that lives in the Banyan trees. The description of Ukami in this episode is intentionally vague so that the audience can imagine what it looks like for themselves.]

In an attempt to find Kijimuna, Yuriko went into the Yanbaru forest [the last remaining tropical rainforest in Okinawa and home to many endangered species]. In the forest, she encountered Tetsuo Kinjo, a man who is supposed to be dead. Is he a ghost? Kinjo introduced himself and Yuriko explained that she was trying to find Kijimuna. Kinjo called out, "Hey, Kijimuna, where are you?" and suddenly the monsters Garamon [original ULTRA Episodes 13 and 16], Gorgos [Episode 7] and Namegon [Episode 3] appeared before them. Kinjo said that Kijimuna was responsible for monsters' return, then faded away before Yuriko's eyes.

After telling her story, Yuriko shows Jun and Ippei a video that she shot with her camcorder while at the beach on Hyakuna, a place that Kinjo loved. This time the image is clear, and it shows the monster called Ukami out at sea. She then tells them that when she returned to Kinjo's study she discovered that the descriptions of the new monsters had disappeared from his notebook.

Is Kijimuna responsible for these weird events?

ROUNDTABLE: The three main actors share memories of Tetsuo Kinjo, who had written 10 of the 28 original ULTRA Q episodes. Sakurai calls him a "Monster Professor," a man who knew all about and loved monsters. According to Saijo, Kinjo wanted to appear in episodes of ULTRA Q just as Alfred Hitchcock did in his films [He finally got his wish with this installment]. Sahara says Kinjo was a very warm-hearted man who had told him about different dimensions and worlds. Through their talk, they confirm that Kinjo lives on in their memories.

Note: For more information on Tetsuo Kinjo, please see the biography posted 11/05/03 here on Henshin!Online.

3. IDENTITY OF THE EVIL SPIRIT (Akuryo-no Shoutai)
Director: Toshihiro Iijima
Writer: Keisuke Fujikawa
Guest Star: Susumu Kurobe
Radiocast: 11/02/03

Jun, Ippei, and Yuriko vacation in Kyoto. Even though their trip to the old city is mostly for pleasure, there is still some "business" that needs to be looked into. So, while Ippei goes to the Nishiki- Ichiba market, Jun and Yuriko head for the Sagano area. Their purpose is to research a famous poet from the Heian Period named Ono Takamura [Note: Takamura lived from 802-852 and was renowned for his skill at composing Chinese poetry].

In Sagano, the pair visit Jakunichi-koin Temple and talk to a priest named Shingen. Just one day shy of his 100th birthday, the priest has much to say about Ono Takamura. Shingen tells Jun and Yuriko that Takamura was not only a poet, but also a minister of the imperial court and a very mysterious man. An old tale claimed that Takamura would travel between this world and hell every night. The priest added, "Every day I pray for Takamura's spirit in order to keep him away from this world. However, these days, because I am now too old I am sometimes overwhelmed by his spirit. I can barely take a breath. Though I don't want to think this was caused by my weakness, rumors say that Takamura has recently begun appearing around this area." The priest then led Jun and Yuriko to a place called Yomigahara where it is believed Takamura had once lived ['Yomi' translates as "next world" and hara means "field", so Yomigahara means "The field in the nest world"]. After giving them Holy Scriptures to use as protection, Shingen departs.

After some time, the spirit of Takamura materializes in front of Jun and Yuriko. But, to their surprise, the ghostly image looks like a woman! The spirit tells them that Takamura was supposed to be a woman but had been bewitched while in his/her mother's womb.

ROUNDTABLE: Sahara, Saijo, and Sakurai are joined by guest speaker Keisuke Fujikawa. Because he had worked in radio before becoming a writer he was very happy to return to the sound studio for the new ULTRA Q.

The writer reminisced about his early days at Tsuburaya Productions; "One day I went to TPS and watched "Goro and Goro" [Episode 2 of the original ULTRA Q]. I thought the special effects were very interesting and asked if I could work on something like that for them. It turned out they wanted me to write for ULTRAMAN". While Fujikawa didn't get a chance to work on the original Ultra Q, his scripts for ULTRAMAN captured the earlier show's style by introducing such unique creations as Bluton (Episode 17: "Passport to Infinity") and Greenmons (Episode 5: "The Secret of Miloganda"). "I'm not good at thinking up regular types of monsters, so my monsters are not likely to become popular toys," he explained.

These days, Fujikawa is a popular novelist. He changed his career from a script writer to a novelist when he was 42 years old. At that time he had suddenly lost interest in writing screenplays while reading THE TALES OF TIMES PAST AND PRESENT (Konjyaku Monogatari), a classic of Japanese literature. Fujikawa realized that, even though the story that had been written in 9th Century, its concepts were very similar to the science fiction stories that he written for television. Eight years later, Fujikawa became one of the bestselling novelists in Japan by continuing to follow the themes that have always influenced his work.

4. MYSTERY OF THE POWERFUL WRESTLER FUJI-SAKARI (Fujisakari Kaishingeki-no Himitsu)
Director: Toshihiro Iijima Writer: Kitao Senzoku
Radiocast: 11/09/03

Jun and Yuriko attend a sumo match at Kokugikan to try and discover the secret of an undefeated wrestler named Fuji-Sakari. Before his competition, Fuji-Sakari clenches his left fist in front of his chest, places his right fist under it, moves both from right to left as if he was drawing a cross, and closed his eyes. To Jun and Hiroko it appeared that the wrestler was holding something in his fists.

Following Fuji-Sakari's victory, Jun and Yuriko leave the sumo hall and meet with Ippei at his restaurant. The three watch Fuji-Sakari's match on video and notice that the wrestler said something following his mysterious ritual; "Tanagokoro" [Note: The word 'tanagokoro' translates as 'palm' but a more literal translation would be "the heart in the hand". In the ancient times some people believed there was a heart in one's hand]. They look at some of Fuji-Sakari's previous competitions and discover that he says the same "magic word" each time. They also hear an audio distortion on the video monitor whenever he says "Tanagokoro".

Yuriko thinks there might be something behind this word, so she attends Fuji-Sakari's next match. However, Fuji-Sakari does not use the word this time and is defeated with humiliating ease. After the match, Yuriko visits Fuji-Sakari backstage, and the wrestler agrees to explain everything. He tells Yuriko that sometime ago he had fallen in love with his manager's daughter, but hesitated to ask for her hand because he was not a strong wrestler. He sought help from Grandma Otsune, a woman who owned a candy store and had been taking care of the wrestler since he was a rookie. After listening to Fuji-Sakari, Otsune went to a shrine to pray. She said to God, "Please allow me to borrow your 'tanagokoro'. I am willing to sacrifice my own life for this. Please make Fuji-Sakari stronger by the power of 'tanagokoro'!" Her prayers were answered, and Fuji-Sakari achieved one victory after another in the ring. But each victory came with a heavy toll, and now Fuji-Sakari can no longer use the 'tanagokoro'.

Grandma Otsune had died the day before.

ROUNDTABLE: Masanori Nihei joins the discussion. The actor played Ito (Ide) in ULTRAMAN and became a fan-favorite due to his unique character. Though he is now 63 years old, Nihei is still a bundle of energy. Prior to his work on ULTRAMAN, Nihei had appeared in a few episodes of ULTRA Q. He played a milk deliveryman Episode 2:"Goro and Goro", and was able to showcase his comedic talents in Episode 6:"Grow! Turtle" (Sodateyo Kame.)

Though Nihei was hesitant to talk about mistakes he made during the production of ULTRAMAN, he had to reveal some secrets when Hiroko Sakurai asked him about the door that he broke while drunk. He said, "At the time, Sandayu Dokumamushi [the actor who played Arashi, known at the time as Iyoshi Ishii] gave me money so I could pay for the door. I still owe him that money [big laugh]". Due to Nihei's funny stories, the recording studio was filled with cheerful atmosphere for the duration of the roundtable discussion.

5. AN ANGEL'S STORY (Tenshi-no Hanashi)
Director: Toshihiro Iijima
Writer: Masahiro Yamada
Guest Star: Masanari Nihei Radiocast: 11/16/03

Jun tells Yuriko the story of "Holy", a man who received a strange call on his cell phone. The caller claimed to be an angel and said that Holy had been chosen to have 3 wishes granted. His first wish is that he would be with Satomi, the girl of his dreams, as much as he wants. That wish does come true, but the others are used in ways Holy could never have expected...

ROUNDTABLE: More ULTRAMAN anecdotes with Nihei. He says that a malfunctioning flash effect on the prop MARS 133 gun (from Episode 16: "The Science Patrol In Space") caused many retakes. Also, there were only three steps built from the exit on the Jet VTOL, so the actors had to pantomime walking down a long flight of steps.

6. UKAMI: THE GIANT MONSTER (Daikaiju Ukami)
Director: Toshihiro Iijima
Writer: Shozo Uehara
Guest Star: Isao Sasaki
Radiocast: 11/23/03

A rash of industrial accidents occur in Spain, China and the Phillipines. At each disaster, eyewitnesses describe an aurora borealis-type effect that suddenly appeared and cleared away the damage. Jun thinks all these incidents might have been caused by Ukami, the monster that Yuriko read about in Tetsuo Kinjo's notebook [in Episode 2 of the radio show]. The late author's notes had described Ukami as a beast from the ancient kingdom of Nilai Kinai that can fly at the speed of light, create multiple copies of itself and emit an aurora-like rainbow of light whenever it appears and vanishes.

At Jun's suggestion, Yuriko returns to Kinjo's home in Okinawa. She tries to find Kinjo's drawing of Ukami, but it has disappeared from his notebook. Yuriko then ventures into Yanbaru Forest, where she again encounters Tetsuo Kinjo. He tells Yher that Ukami is not one of his creations; when he opened his notebook his hand began writing the description of its own accord. He had been thinking about all the disasters in the world and "something" reacted to his feelings and created Ukami.

Meanwhile, a ship illegally dumping garbage near Hachijyo Island is attacked by a rainbow-like vortex. Ukami appears, grabs the ship, and heads towards Tokyo.

ROUNDTABLE: Guest star Isao Sasaki sits in for a chat with Sahara, Sakurai and Saijo. Sasaki is a popular actor and singer who is best- known for performing many classic anime and tokusatsu theme songs such as SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO and ULTRA SEVEN: EVOLUTION. He says that ever since seeing the original ULTRA Q on television series he has wanted to appear on this type of show. Sasaki describes his many theme songs as "an appeal to justice and a warning against environmental destruction", which is also the theme of ULTRA Q.

During the discussion, the staff of THE ULTRA Q CLUB ask listeners to send in drawings of Ukami based on the monster's on-air description. The drawings can be sent to:
The Ultra Q Club
TBS Radio
Akasaka Minato-ku
Tokyo-to 107-8066