Tower of the Sun and Ultraman

tower_of_sun1
Tower of the Sun (from the postcards I got in the venue of the Expo ’70 at the time)

I have received an inquiry from a reader asking about a possible connection between Taro Okamoto (1911-1996) and Tohl Narita (1929-2002).

Taro Okamoto is a Japanese artist who is famous for his surreal artwork.

He is especially known among Japanese people as the creator of Tower of the Sun built as a symbolic statue for the Expo ’70 held in Osaka in 1970.

While I have to admit that I don’t know much about Taro Okamoto unfortunately, I don’t think their connection has ever been referred to particularly.

20151212
Do we look alike?

Nevertheless, there seem to have been people who pointed out a similarity between Tower of the Sun and Ultraman back then.

As Ultraman is a 1966-1967 TV series,  it could be deemed that Taro Okamoto might have been inspired by Narita’s design in that sense.

While I liked the design of Tower of the Sun as a child and found it quite impressive even when I actually saw it in the venue, I myself didn’t think that it looked like Ultraman, though.

It is intriguing, however, that the Tree of Life, interior sculpture of Tower of the Sun, was designed by Tohl Narita.

expo70
Expo ’70 (from the postcards)

While I couldn’t figure out descriptions showing a particular connection or relationship between the two, in my conclusion, chances are they were just Surrealist artists almost contemporary with each other rather than which influenced which.

I think it can be said both Ultraman and Tower of the Sun are the artwork created in the days when a variety of talents produced their works inspiring one another.

That may be a big feature of the time.

Incidentally, the motif of Tower of the Sun is described as a crow Okamoto kept and adored.

tower_of_sun2
Tower of the Sun still preserved today in the venue made into a park

LARUGEUS

larugeus1

Episode Episode 12: I Saw a Bird
Alias Anscient Mysterious Bird
Height 7 centimeters – 50 meters (wingspan: 100 meters)
Weight 300 grams – 15,000 tons
Homeplace Unknown (ancestral bird species set to have been around before the third glaciation)
Features Usually taking the form of a Java sparrow
Designer Unknown
Sculptor Unknown
Actor None (puppet)

Larugeus is the monster bird Dr. Ichinotani assumes to be in a species of ancestral birds that lived before the third glaciation.

Although it usually takes the form of a bird like a Java sparrow, it transformed into a giant bird and destroyed animals of a zoo and livestock to feed on them.

An assaulted zoo keeper found lying on the ground breathed his last saying, “I saw a bird.”

The monster in the form of the little bird was found in a wrecked sailing vessel presumed to date back to the 10th century that suddenly appeared on the sea like a ghost ship.

shipwreck
Shipwreck like a ghost ship

The vessel had a ship log in its room that also ended with the words “I saw a bird.”

As soon as the log was found, the ship started melting down like wax (wax was used for the shooting actually) and sank in the sea.

The little bird flew to a boat driven by an adventurous boy Saburo (Akihide Tsuzawa) on his way to an offshore island.

He named the finch Kuroo (/kuro-o/), and the bird and boy spent a few days in unity in a fisherman shed on the isolated island.

Whereas the local police caught the dangerous bird and put it in custody, it shaped into the giant bird ruining the police station and soared into the sky.

saburo
Saburo and Kuroo

In the end, after flying around over people including Manjome and Saburo as if saying goodbye to the boy, Larugeus flew away somewhere.

This is an episode that has a fairy-tale feel with special end credits the other episodes don’t have along with a piece of lyrical music overriding the end credits that was newly recorded for this episode.

It’s also known as the episode in which Akihide Tsuzawa played Saburo before he acted Hoshino in Ultraman.

I think he performed his role pretty freshly and impressively in this preceding Ultra Q episode.

larugeus2
Strong wind cause by Larugeus’ flapping inflicting enormous damage on the local city

BALLOONGA

balloonga1

Episode Episode 11: Ballonnga
Alias Balloon Monster
Height 50 centimeters – ∞
Weight Set to be unknown
Homeplace Space
Features Infinitely growing up absorbing any energy
Designer Tohl Narita
Sculptor Akira Sasaki (He says he doesn’t remember making it at all in a recent book interview)
Actor None (puppet)

Balloonga is a monster like a giant balloon with creepily wriggling tentacles on its surface floating in the air that grows big infinitely while absorbing energy on Earth.

Its spore initially adhered to the manned Saturn rocket Saturn 1 bound to return to Earth and made it crash into the sea by absorbing the fuel.

And, after the spore was found in the Cessna Manjome had flown over the waters where the rocket went down, it started growing larger and went up to the sky.

balloonga2

Floating in the air over the heart of Tokyo, Balloonga paralyzed the city by absorbing any energy including electricity on the earth and the power of a typhoon and kept growing.

Balloonga’s spore was found 20 years ago originally by Dr. Akihiko Naramaru (Hirayoshi Aono) when it came flying on a meteorite.

And it was killed by him as he anticipated that it could destroy human civilization if it’s allowed to grow up.

Dr. Naramaru was a scientist who had secluded himself from the academic world as his scientific paper on Balloonga was not appreciated with no evidence as the spore had been destroyed and he was left branded as a con man.

Dr. Naramatsu

At Dr. Naramaru’s suggestion, however, an artificial sun was formed by a rocket launched from the United Nations’ satellite, and Balloonga was lured to space having remembered its native food: (energy of) suns.

While watching the balloon monster leaving for space, Dr. Naramaru explained that Balloonga was a life form that ate (absorbed) stellar energy drifting in the universe, adding that the deceased pilot of Saturn 1 was his son.

He also impressively described Balloonga as a natural phenomenon, God’s warning and the natural enemy of civilization.


M1

m1_1

Episode Episode 10: The Underground Super Express Goes West
Alias Artificial Life
Height 2 meters
Weight 180 kilograms
Homeplace Tokyo
Features The first life form to have been artificially created
Designer Tohl Narita
Sculptor Ryosaku Takayama
Actor Haruyoshi Nakamura
Voice Masao Nakasone (words uttered at the end; Nakasone is the voice actor who provided his voice for Ultraman’s shout)

M1 is the life form artificially created for the first time in human history by Dr. Aikawa.

After its unstable cells were sealed in a high pressure cylinder to prevent cell division, it was initially to be transported by air to a research institute in Osaka by the Hoshikawa Aviation for which Manjome and Ippei work.

But it was mistakenly loaded in the Underground Super Express Inazuma (lightening) about to go on a public trial run.

The Inazuma is (fictionally) a high speed train that connects Tokyo to Kitakyushu in 3 hours at 450 kilometers (279.6 miles) per hour.

inazuma
Inazuma

The cylinder ended up being stored in the storage locker of the train made of special alloy just after a newspaper reporter took pictures of it.

And the cells reacted to the flash and shaped into a human-sized life form like an ape man as the strong light promoted cell division.

Although it is not an aggressive kaiju but a docile, charming one with humorous behavior, fiddling with the control device in the Inazuma’s cockpit, M1 made the Super Express Train run out of control.

itachi
Itachi

In the end, the first car of the train disconnected from the passenger cars smashed into the car stop with M1 and Itachi (meaning weasel; played by Tetsuo Yamamura), mischievous shoe shine boy who sneaked into the train out of curiosity, on board and exploded enormously.

The impact hurled M1 and the storage locker with Itachi inside into space, and the two started turning around Earth in a comical way.

While it’s hard for me to understand what the ending stands for, the words uttered by M1 at the very end of the episode came from the call sign Chaika (seagull) of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to have flown into space in Vostok 6 in 1963.

The name M1 is said to represent ‘man-made one.’

m1_2
M1 in the train cockpit with Itachi in the back

TARANCHULA

taranchula1

Episode Episode 9: Baron Spider
Alias Giant Spider
Height 2.5 meters
Weight 120 kilograms
Homeplace Cape Ishizaki in the suburb of Tokyo
Features Dwelling in an abandoned western style house
Designer Yasuyuki Inoue (Special Art Devision of Toho)
Sculptor Special Art Devision of Toho
Actor None (puppet)

Taranchulas are the giant spiders found in an abandoned western style house Manjome and his fellows wandered into in the woods to shelter from a dense fog one night.

They encountered two Taranchulas in the house while they had to stay overnight there with a man among them who fell unconscious when he bogged down in a  bottomless swamp of the woods.

The house was owned by a man who was there 90 years ago and was known as a spider lover nicknamed ‘Baron Spider.’

taranchula2
Taranchula initially appeared in the lighthouse on Cape Ishizaki

It was implied that the giant spiders were the incarnation of Baron Spider and his beloved daughter.

After the people were attacked by one of the giant spiders and Manjome stabbed it to death with a knife, they tried to flee from the Baron Spider’s House.

While they were attempting to go down the wooden walkway over the deadly swamp frantically, they found the other Taranchula getting closer from behind chasing them.

Manjome and his friends about to stay overnight in the abandoned house

As soon as they hit and killed the Taranchula by a car, they saw the abandoned house break down in flames.

The scenes of Taranchula approaching the car with the people aboard to go at them while the engine wouldn’t start easily is so creepy and horrifying even now when I watch them.

The main cast members say that the interior set of the abandoned house built so elaborately as a movie set was very much impressive to them.

This is a horror story rather than a kaiju show.


MONGULAR

monglar1

Episode Episode 8: Terror of the Sweet Honey
Alias Mole Monster
Height 50 meters
Weight 20,000 tons
Homeplace In the suburb of Tokyo
Features Mole enlarged by Honey Jellion
Designer Unknown
Sculptor Unknown
Actor Yukio Fukutome

Mongular (just described as Big Mole in the drama) is the monster that a mole turned into after eating Honey Jellion, a kind of nutritional supplement developed by Kimura (Susumu Kurobe who played Hayata in Ultraman), researcher of an agricultural experiment station.

The giant mole made a locomotive fall off the cliff by derailing it as it bulged up the ground and inflicted enormous damage on villages and their agricultural products.

The Honey Jellion is a substance that functions to make creatures grow huge although the purpose was not explicitly described in the drama.

monglar2

While the substance was being cultured in the nests of ground bees, Itami (Hiroshi Iwashita), Kimura’s colleague, put a mole in the greenhouse where the bee nests were stored to let it eat the bee larvae and pupas so that the ingested Honey Jellion made it a giant mole.

Itami had been jealous of Kimura’s academic success in the development of Honey Jellion and his engagement to Aiko (Keiko Sawai) while Itami was seemingly in one-sided love with her.

Unaware of Itami’s ploy, Kimura, deeming the giant mole attributable to his mismanagement, deeply felt responsible for the incident.

monglar3

When Itami’s wrongdoing was revealed, the crooked man tried to detonate himself together with Mongular in a cave as a way of atonement.

The detonation drove Mongular out of the cave, and it disappeared after it came under heavy fire from a group of tanks and rocket launchers.

Itami breathed his last telling Kimura to make Aiko happy.

Right after that, a volcanic eruption with large landslides and cave-ins in the ground occurred, and Dr. Ichinotani assumed that it showed Mongular had died after crashing into  the volcanic layers.

itami
From left: Itami, Aiko and Kimura

Mongular is a cute-looking monster with tiny round eyes, and the scenes in which the sinless giant mole was being put under shellfire attacks writhing in agony made me want to cover my eyes.

This is an episode showing us that the ‘unbalanced zone,’ the theme mainly featured in Ultra Q, lies not only in the realm of nature but in the human mind in the form of extreme egoism.

The name Mongular apparently came from mogura, Japanese word for mole (As the word for a mole on the skin is hokuro, don’t say someone has mogura on his/her face if you’re a learner of Japanese!).


GORGOS

gorgos1

Episode Episode 7: S.O.S. Mount Fuji
Alias Rock Monster
Height 40 meters
Weight 100,000 tons
Homeplace Pond at the foot of Mt. Fuji
Features Made up of rocks clustering around a glowing nucleus
Designer Tohl Narita
Sculptor Undescribed
Actor Haruyoshi Nakamura

Gorgos is the four-footed monster with short limbs whose entire body is made of huge rocks.

With an acceleration in volcanic activities around Mt. Fuji, a large mass of rock suddenly soared into the air out of the pond and fell down to the ground at the foot of the mountain.

The rock had a ‘nucleus’ mysteriously beating like the heart with a glow that makes it tantamount to a ‘living rock.’

As it was in the way, the rock was blasted with dynamite by workers while they were unaware of the nucleus, and the pieces were dumped by trucks in a depot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And that night the dumped pieces clustered around the nucleus as they were attracted to it so that the mass of rocks became a rock monster.

Gorgos (with the same roar of Godzilla) started rampaging at the bottom of Mt. Fuji, and Takeru, wild young man living alone in the wilderness, stood against the rock monster.

Takeru jumped onto Gorgos courageously and managed to take the glowing ‘nucleus’ out of its back while holding on to the monster frantically.

Then he finished off the nucleus by shooting it with a pistol he had got from a police officer friendly to him.

gorgos4
Takeru (doll: top right) holding on to Gorgos

Gorgos is a kaiju I find quite interesting although it’s not the one that stands out so much in the series.

Although it’s a rock monster, it also looks like an aquatic creature such as salamander.

Above all, I found it fun and creepy that it had a glowing nucleus that attracted pieces of rocks as a kid.

As it seems that Gorgos was set to be a kaiju made up of a meteorite that came flying from space in ancient  times (it was not described in the drama), it could have been a space monster originally.

Takeru aiming the pistol at the nucleus of Gorgos

As Kemlar that appeared in Ultraman had a similar glowing organ on its back, I remember I mixed them up as a child.

It’s also said that Gorgos was to reappear in Episode 25 ‘Strange Commet Cyphon’ of Ultraman but it was replaced by Red King (II) instead (perhaps because of the suit’s condition).

I feel like I wanted to see Gorgos appear again in Ultraman.


Newly Released Space VTOL!!!

DSCN3590

OK, now it’s about the Space VTOL I bought together with the big soft vinyl figure of Ultraman.

This should be the newest product among the ‘Mecha Collection Ultraman Series’ I posted previously following the Jet VTOL, Ultra Hawk 1, S-submarine and Mini VTOL.

Although they are so tiny and can be built quite easily without glue, they look pretty nice and realistic enough.

DSCN3591

The distinctive feature of the Space VTOL is that an equipment called the Hydrogenated Sub Rocket is attached to the airframe of the VTOL to enable the aircraft to fly into space.

The Hydrogenated Sub Rocket was developed by Dr. Iwamoto and the Science Center and was used for the first time in Episode 16 ‘Science Special Search Party into Space’ of Ultraman in which Alien Baltan (II) appeared.

space_vtol1
Space VTOL with the Hydrogenated Sub Rocket  (Ultraman, Episode 16)

While I haven’t assembled any one of the above plastic models yet including this Space VTOL, I can’t resist buying it everytime a new release goes on sale!

The product to be released next seems to be the Vellucidar (although I think it had been spelt as Belsider before, it may have been changed. Vellucidar looks better to me) and the SSSP vehicle (I prefer the Pointer).

Let me show them to you again when I’ve got the new ones!


Big Soft Vinyl Figure of Ultraman Is Very Nice!

DSCN3584

The other day I purchased a soft vinyl figure of Ultraman recently released from Bandai, much larger than the ones that have been around.

And, also, I found a plastic model of the Space VTOL and bought it as well!

First of all, the figure is a pretty good one that looks quite similar to the real Ultraman found in the show.

As it’s about 9 inches tall, it’s much more impressive than the regular-sized soft vinyl figures already released from Bandai.

201608161

Actually, the regular ones that had ever been around were reduced in size a couple of years ago for some reason (I imagine it’s for making them more affordable or so).

So I find this bigger one very much satisfactory about its size and appearance.

The cool thing is that it has the original Ultraman’s features reproduced rather excellently and faithfully for a handy soft vinyl figure of this kind.

DSCN3587

While lifelike figures of Ultra Heroes can be found at much higher prices out there, I find this is a real bargain.

This Big Soft Vinyl Figure Series also seems to include Ultraman Taro, Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Zero and Ultraman X although I only bought this Ultraman.

It’s a shame to find that Ultraseven is not among them yet, but I will surely get it immediately if it should be released in the future!

Let me talk about the Space VTOL plastic model in my following post!

DSCN3589


KAIRYU (MYSTERIOUS DRAGON)

dragon1

Episode Episode 6: Grow Up! Little Turtle
Alias Mysterious Dragon
Height 20 meters
Weight 500 tons
Homeplace Ryugujo  (Dragon Palace Castle)
Features Breathing out a beam
Designer Undescribed
Sculptor Remodeled from Toho’s monster Manda
Actor None (puppet)

This Dragon is the monster that appeared where it’s supposed to be the Ryugujo when Taro arrived there on Gameron, and it’s called Kairyu (Mysterious Dragon) in Japanese.

The Ryugujo that Taro reached had no palace and no beautiful Otohime (princess) with no feast unlike the folk tale.

Taro just found a little girl on a swing there with a habit of rubbing under her nose frequently and laughing creepily who just claimed that the place was the Ryugujo and she was the Otohime.

otohime1
Otohime on a swing somehow

With strange laughs, Otohime played tricks on Taro, and he tried to chase her on Gameron’s back while she was flying on a rocket!

Then the rocket changed into Kairyu. and the Dragon shot down Gameron with Taro holding on to its shell by breathing out beams shaped like lightning.

While these scenes featuring Otohime are too surreal for me to understand, in the end, Otohime gifted a box to Taro.

In the folk tale ‘Taro Urashima’ I mentioned, the protagonist young man turns into a white-haired old man when opening a treasure box Otohime told him never to open (what a treasure box!).

otohime2
Otohime on a rocket blowing a bubble gum

Although the same thing happened to Taro in this episode as well, he turned back into the original boy immediately.

Everything may have been just a daydream he had or he may have been off with the pixies…

As to the folk tale ‘Taro Urashima,’ there are people describing it as a kind of ‘time paradox’ story as the treasure box thing shows that quite a long time has passed since the protagonist left the beach although he spent just a few days in the Ryugujo.

ryugujo
Otohime about to gift a box, plot device with fairy tales

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