A Tokusatsu Show Almost Forgot: Majin Bander #3

The other head of Bander

As far as the outline of the story I described in my previous post, I think it sounds quite interesting. And I dimly remember the scene where the armed police squad fired at Bander in the field although I remember nothing else of the series.

While I should have watched it in 1969 when I entered elementary school, the memory is quite ambiguous probably because there should not have been any occasions when the show was rerun.

The greatest feature of Majin Bander as a character was that it had two heads to be replaced by one another according to his emotion. The face usually looks mild (or plain) as the guardian for the Paron but, when he gets mad, the mild-looking head goes down into the body and the other head with the angry-looking expression on it comes up from within the body instead.

This concept of a guardian changing into a majin is just like, in the Daiei “Daimajin” movie series, the haniwa-clay-figure-like statue with its gentle-looking face turning into angry-looking Daimajin when getting rid of villains.

Reissued Bander figures I found online; Bander looks somewhat awkward with the unwantedly long arms out of proportion to the body

About the two heads, it was properly sung in the theme song like “His face changes scary when he gets angry.” The phrases “Tonde Koi Bandā/Tonde Koi Bandā/Heiwa No Tsukai/Uchu No Hate Kara Yattekoi (come flying, Bander/come flying, Bander/Emissary of Peace/come from the farthest reaches of space)…” sung in the song still stays with me in my head.

It is known that the character Bander was played by Eiichi Kikuchi who acted Returned Ultraman in the 1970 tokusatsu show “The Return of Ultraman.” Kikushi says in an interview covered in a book that it was a costume that left him almost unmovable with inflexibility except the movement with which he just moved forward and backward.

When I talked about Bander to one of my colleagues at work a long time ago, he was astounded saying, “How come you can remember such stuff?”

Oh, well, that is the way a tokusatsu fan goes…


A Tokusatsu Show Almost Forgot: Majin Bander #2

The image of seemingly a record or sonosheet (flexi disc) consisting of “Song of Majin Bander” and “Bander March” borrowed from online

First of all, I have to apologize to you about a mistake I carelessly made in my previous post.

The word “majin” could have two different meanings according to the Chinese characters used for the term. One is “evil human” and the other “evil god” while the two words are pronounced the same way in Japanese.

And this “Majin Bander” is applicable to the latter case. Making an excuse, these two words are often confused even among Japanese. The name “Daimajin” from its famous Daiei tokusatsu movies means “great evil god,” and the name “Mazinger” should have been derived from the term “evil god” as well while both of them are good guys.

Therefore, it might be better to interpret the term “majin” literally representing “evil god” as a character with such mighty power that it could be intimidating.

 

As to the story of “Majin Bander.” while I don’t remember it at all, it seems to go like this:

Space energy called “Oran” alleged to be some thousands times as much powerful as a hydrogen bomb was stolen from Planet Paron. To get the Oran back, Prince of Paron accompanied by the character named X1 came to the earth along with Majin Bander.

The emergence of the prince with scissors-like hands caused the government to send in the armed police squad to attack them.  Prince called Bander to make it defend him.

In the meantime, the villain Gōdā (maybe Goder or something if put in English) was plotting to conquer the world with the use of Oran. Dr. Tachibana who learnt about the object of Prince of Paron having come to the earth decided to fight with Goder in cooperation with Prince, X1 and Bander.


A Tokusatsu Show Almost Forgot: Majin Bander #1

“Majin Bander”

While I have many tokusatsu shows I hope to watch again even besides the Ultra Series out of the ones I enjoyed watching when I was a child, the show “Majin Bander/Bandā” is also one of them.

“Majin” is the Japanese word to be literally translated into English as “evil human” often representing a being that has a magical power even if it is not exactly a human. It could be translated as “warlock” or, according to the nature of the character, “genie” in English.

Incidentally, it is known that the name of the popular anime robot “Mazinger Z” was from the association between this word “majin” and “mashin (machine)” as they phonetically sound similar in Japanese.

 

It is said that “Majin Bander” was the tokusatsu show aired in 1969 with 13 episodes while the series was shortened for an unknown reason although it had been planned to have 26 episodes in the first place.

It seems that it was initially planned to have a tokusatsu series feature “Majin Garon” based on the manga authored by Osamu Tezuka, but it didn’t go well and it is likely that the plan was replaced by the one about the show “Majin Bander.”

In my impression, the show looked very much old-fashioned or outdated even when I watched it as a kid. And it is no surprise when I have learnt that the series had finished being produced in 1966 and that the broadcasting had been postponed indefinitely due to affairs to secure the time slot for this show.


DINO-TANK; ALIEN KILL (making) #2

Dino-Tank being sculpted

At any rate, I still find it quite odd that Dino-Tank didn’t even have its legs, which I assume was designed to make it look like it was integrated with the tank while it is an unlikely creature on the earth.

The brick-like parts covering its lower part of the body were made from the brick toy called “Daiya Burokku (daiya is from diamond)” by fastening them onto the surface. The brick-like parts should have been placed so as to make the dinosaur’s body look united with the tank part while the brick-like parts are found to have been drawn on Narita’s design as well.

When closely looking at the Dino-Tank costume, it makes me aware that the head and arms appear to have been attached to the body with a feel of different texture although such a process of putting separately sculpted parts together was not unusual.

Dino-Tank at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

This makes me speculate the body part could not possibly have been made by Takayama as, in my personal view, the body looks rather crude compared to the other parts elaborately sculpted while I am not sure…

The tank is said to have been based on the miniature of the type 61 tank borrowed from Nikkatsu movie company with details added to it while it was used in the 1967 Nikkatsu kaiju movie “Gappa: The Triphibian Monster.” The Daiya Burokku parts are also found to have been used for the surface of the tank Dino rode.

Regarding the story of this episode, it is said that the preparatory script didn’t have the concept of Amagi getting over his weakness caused by his traumatic experience he underwent in his childhood and that the one who removed the time bomb from Spiner was set to be Furuhashi. Thus, it can be said that the content of this episode was deepened by applying Amagi’s personal experience to it.

As to the making of Alien Kill, there is nothing to say about it as they were just portrayed as looking the same as humans. Although there seem to be fans who are interested in which actors played the aliens, I have to admit I am not so much drawn to the topic!

The back of Dino-Tank

DINO-TANK; ALIEN KILL (making) #1

Dino Tank design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “This is based on a weird idea of a dinosaur riding on a tank, but I personally don’t like to design such a thing.”

While it is unknown who came up with the idea of Dino-Tank as “a dinosaur on a tank,” I think it is a weird idea as Narita says as they look so irrelevant.

I was a bit disappointed when I was a kid at the mere combination of an ordinary dinosaur and ordinary tank. The significance of the story in which Amagi finally overcame his weakness was slightly hard to understand for a kid back then.

So this was not such an impressive episode when I watched it as a kid although I find it enjoyable enough now after I have learnt the significance of overcoming one’s own weakness and how hard it is.

Enlarged head part of the above design that looks excellent

When looking at the design and sculpture now, the dinosaur drawn by Narita and the head and arm parts of the Takayama-made costume look so excellent seemingly reproducing a now-extinct real-life dinosaur.

Generally speaking, it should be even harder to sculpt something simple and plain like the dinosaur with a touch of reality than to sculpt a character with a complex design. It is also interesting that the dinosaur had his teeth curved outwards.

Actually, I like Dino Tank’s roar as it is very much impressive. It is said that Kazuho Mitsuta who directed this episode decided not to use any background music for the scene where the kaiju fought with Ultraseven to make the tank caterpillar sound conspicuous as the director thought it would make the scene more thrilling.

While Narita’s design includes a tank design, it seems to have been left unused

DORAKO; REBORN DORAKO (making) #2

Reborn Dorako introduced as Dorako (II) in the “Fantastic TV Collection No. 2” published in 1979

While Dorako uniquely had a red lamp on the tip of its tail, it can be found that it was instructed as such in Narita’s design.

At any rate, there are no other words left to say than excellent and fabulous about Takayama’s skill of sculpture that enabled him to make the Dorako costume look totally identical to Narita’s design reproducing the details and entire shape.

To be honest, I ever thought Dorako had sickle and tape-measure hands without noticing it actually had two sickle hands in my childhood as the sickle and tape-measure hands were described as such in kaiju pictorials that were available at that time.

Deteriorated Reborn Dorako used as a stage show costume

For instance, one describes the tape-measure hand as giving out a whip from it and another as a magnetic hand.

Regarding Reborn Dorako that appeared in Ultraman Episode 37, as it is well known, the appearance is so much different from the original Dorako.

Although it is understandable that it had no wings given that it was its “reborn” version brought back to life by the superability of Geronimon as the wings were torn off by Red King (II), it is not as convincing that it had human-like five-fingered hands instead of the sickles and that it had 4 horns while the original Dorako had only a single horn.

Dorako’s right hand is described as a magnetic hand in the 24th edition of “Kaiju Ultra Zukan (Pictorial)” published in 1971 (the first edition was released in 1968)

The statement made by Tetsuo Yamamura covered in a book revealed that it was Kunio Suzuki, one of the Ultra kaiju suit actors, who took the liberty of fastening the additional horns onto the costume for no particular reason at his discretion. And the additional horns were the horns removed from the suit of Imora that appeared in “Kaiju Booska.”

Yamamura says Suzuki was in charge of maintaining kaiju costumes along with his role as a suit actor back then. While this story might amusingly show the easy-goingness of the good old days, it remains unknown why Reborn Dorako ended up having five-fingered hands.

Incidentally, “Reborn Dorako” along with the other resurrected kaijus that appeared in this Geronimon episode used to be called “Dorako II” in publications although it was just called Dorako in my childhood with no particular specification.


DORAKO; REBORN DORAKO (making) #1

Dorako design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “I applied the skin and color of the oniyanma to a kaiju.”

Oniyanma is the largest species of the dragonfly in Japan. That being said, I feel like it is quite hard to associate Dorako with the oniyanma as the kaiju makes it likely that some sculptural features were incorporated into it with its entire form and the tile-like texture so that they make the kaiju look more like a sculptural art work than a creature in my opinion.

While I totally admire Ryosaku Takayama, along with Narita’s design, for his work of sculpting the insect-like wings so excellently, as it was supposed to have its left hand shaped like a sickle and right hand like a tape measure, Takayama seems to have had a very hard time to sculpt the right hand to make the mechanism work.

Enlarged head part of the above design

As there is a weapon called “kusari-gama” (sickle and chain) often portrayed as a weapon to be used by the ninja in period dramas, the tape measure hand seems to be designed to give out a chain or something in combination with the sickle hand, or at least chances are that it was supposed to have the right hand with something like a whip that would roll out like the chameleon tongue.

At any rate, the tape measure hand was replaced by another sickle hand (probably on the set as the costume is found to have a sickle hand and tape measure hand when it was delivered to the Bisen studio) after all so that Dorako had sickles on both hands finally.

To prove this, the costume that actually appeared in the show had a slightly differently shaped sickle for each hand.

Dorako at the Bisen studio with his sickle and chain hands

ANOTHER DIMENSION TRAIN (making)

Odakyū 3100 Train (the sign says Hakone)

The “Another Dimension Train” that appeared in the final episode of “Ultra Q” titled “Open Up!” was the miniature of the real-life train called “Odakyū (company’s name) Romancecar” officially identified as “Odakyū 3100 Train” while it was operated from 1964 to 2000 connecting Shinjuku, Tokyo, and Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, known for its picturesque scenery including Mt. Fuji.

The shape of the train truly evokes a feeling of nostalgia to me as the design appears to be typical to the Showa Period (1926-1989) I spent my childhood with. It should also be an unforgettable train for Ultra fans because it impressively appeared in “Ultraseven” Episode 2 with Alien Waiell in disguise of Ishiguro on board.

from Ultraseven Episode 2

The same miniature as the one used in “Open Up!” can also be found to appear in “Ultra Q” Episode 10 as a train passing through New Tokyo Station where Super Express Train Inazuma was about to leave for Kyūshū.

If my memory is correct, the miniature could still remain in existence and could have been covered in a book while I don’t remember which book it was.

It is widely known that this “Open Up!” episode was not aired when the series broadcast for the first time as the broadcasting of the episode was decided to be deferred because it could put a damper on the rising popularity caused by the Ultra Q episodes predominantly featuring kaiju characters while “Open Up!” had none of them and could have been too difficult for children to understand as it was a plot worked out as one of the “UNBALANCE” episodes before the show turned into “Ultra Q” in accordance with its shift into a kaiju series from the sci-fi show featuring mysterious phenomena.

from Ultra Q Episode 10

“Open Up!” was an episode Hajime Tsuburaya, Eiji Tsuburaya’s first son, put so much energy into by directing it while being inspired by the script written by an up-and-coming female script writer Mieko Osanai that triggered Hajime into deciding to join the staff for “UNBALANCE.”

Nevertheless Takashi Kakoi made up his mind to postpone airing the episode, and “Ultraman Eve Festival” was broadcast instead so as to develop the popularity of kaiju characters before the sequel “Ultraman” started broadcasting a week later.

It is said that Hajime reluctantly agreed to Kakoi’s suggestion to make the episode broadcast when the rerun of the series would air, and it was actually broadcast as the rerun was shown. It seems that there were some children who were surprised to see the episode they hadn’t watched abruptly aired (I don’t think I was one of them because I was too young then).

from Ultra Q Episode 10

Glancing At A Toy Store With Ultraman Gaia On Display

The other day, I visited a certain place of Tokyo as I had something to do there and found a toy store on the street. Toy stores in town are becoming a real rarity these days in Japan as many mom-and-pop toy stores have been replaced by major electric appliances chain stores that sell toys as well and also probably with fewer children due to the decreasing birthrate here in Japan.

Although I didn’t have time to take a close look at the items the store had, at a first glance, a figure of Ultraman Gaia came into my sight.

Ultraman Gaia was, as you surely know, one of the series usually called “Heisei (the current era of Japan starting in 1989) Trilogy” consisting of “Ultraman Tiga,” “Ultraman Dyna” and “Ultraman Gaia.”

 

While I have to admit I have not been so much drawn to the Heisei Trilogy as the original Trilogy comprising “Ultra Q,” “Ultraman” and “Ultraseven” aired in the Showa Period (1926-1989), I am fully aware that each of the Heisei series is enjoyable enough.

Especially, Ultraman Gaia is an unforgettable show among the Heisei Trilogy for me because I enjoyed watching it with my sons when they were cute little children.

Although they have already outgrown TV shows featuring superheroes, the memory of fun time I spent with my sons watching Gaia with a lot of excitement shared with them still remains etched vividly in my mind.

At any rate, the Heisei Trilogy is the series I hope to enjoy someday when I have time in the near future.


ALIEN BORG (making) #2

Alien Borg costume at the Bisen studio

Narita’s remark tells us that the soft-looking appearance of the costume was somewhat unsatisfactory to him as it is meant to be an alien with the solidity and rigidity of the armor, so he seems to have thought of bringing the costume sculpted by Takayama over to Gunji modeling factory where such props as the Ultra Hawks were made.

It is interesting that the costume photographed at Takayama’s Atelier May apparently has a shorter and smaller head while what happened to it is left unknown even though at least the height should obviously have been extended sometime later.

As to the suit actor who played this alien, it had long been told it was Eiichi Kikuchi who acted Ultraman in “Return of Ultraman” in later years, but Kikuchi himself says in a book he doesn’t remember it at all.

Tetsuo Yamamura says it could have been Kunio Suzuki as he remembers he felt it was a  bit shame to find the good-looking costume didn’t fit Suzuki perfectly. There is an explanation that the human-sized Alien Borg was played by Kikuchi.

In my personal experience, I vividly remember one of my friends knowlegeably told me that this was the kaiju who would appear in the Ultraseven episode to come next pointing at the cover of an issue of Shonen Magazine (above) we happened to find when we were kids and the series was just being aired for the first time.

I found a blog seemingly run by the daughter of Soya Kondo who played the human form of Alien Borg by chance, and the daughter writes it makes her happy to find her beloved mother still stays in people’s minds through the show Ultraseven.


Fan Site of Ultraman & Japanese TV tokusatsu (SFX) in 1960s &1970s