Ultraseven In Hawaii

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The English version of the Ultraseven theme sung by Masato Shimon

The other day, one of my readers kindly shared the information on the Ultraseven shows held in Hawaii in 1975 in the comment section on this blog.

As the linked articles were so funny and worth seeing while they convey the atmosphere the shows had back then, I hope you will take a look at them and enjoy!

Although I have known that Ultraseven was aired in Hawaii in those days, these articles were such a fun thing.

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Ultraseven English pamphlets shown in ‘Ultraman Whitepaper’

It was when books with detailed information on the Ultra Series for adults started being published here in Japan in the 1980s that I learnt about the fact though it was just briefly referred to in those books.

While I was a senior high student then, I didn’t imagine at all the Ultra Series would gain this much popularity even outside of Japan (and I’m now running a blog on it in English!) at the time.

The information of one of the books told us that the English version of the Ultraseven theme song was sung by Masato Shimon.

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An interview with Noboru Tsuburaya shown in ‘Ultraman Whitepaper’

Masato Shimon was a representative singer of Japanese tokusatsu and amime TV shows in the 1970s, and he’s known to have sung the theme song of Kamen Rider, tokusatsu hero series that have been so popular along with the Ulraman Series.

And, excitingly enough. one of the articles mentioned above shows him on the stage of an Ultraseven show!

Last but not least, I always appreciate comments from readers that let me know what I have never known or seen.

Many thanks to you all!!!


Expressiveness Of Jamyra

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As to the expressiveness of the monsters which were capable of performing drama, as one of my readers pointed out in his comment, Jamyra is an unforgettable example.

When the monster was destroying a village with furious hostility against human beings as he found they had abandoned him, the words Ide yelled at him ‘you Jamyra, do you have no humanity anymore?’ stunned the monster mutated from a human.

While looking around the village he destroyed with houses ablaze, he just kept standing motionless like he felt ashamed of and regretful for what he did.

 

Although Jamyra’s eyes have no pupils, the glowing eyes supposed to be emotionless looked so expressive alongside the movements of his mouth like mumbling something.

The closeup of his face in the scenes in which he tried to destroy the international conference venue like hell that represented the human race he hated looked so impressive.

I feel like I can’t stand watching him writhing in agony anymore while Ultraman was pouring Ultra Water Stream over him.

Even more than the story line, these scenes make me realize how much expressive these monsters were.

 

With all the factors coming together including the designing and sculpting of monsters, stories, acting performed by suit actors and soen (role to operate the mechanisms of costumes or miniatures including wire action), they got to make the kaijus look so prominent to the extent that they struck a chord with us.

According to Satoshi Furuya’s memoir ‘A Man Who Became Ultraman,’ Teruo Aragaki who played Jamyra told Furuya that he performed to express the emotions of the tragic monster wishing to turn back into a human.

Furuya also says in the book he can’t see this episode featuring Jamyra as he finds it too sad.

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Who Played Garamon?

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Eiji Tsuburaya speaking to Minoru Takahashi

Thinking of the abundant and subtle (probably I should add this word) expressiveness of the Ultra kaijus, the suit actors’ fervent performance should be another important factor to remember.

Garamon is also an unforgettable monster whose unique behavioral gestures as a robot monster were found absolutely impressive while these were performed by the actor Minoru Takahashi.

When you look at the body proportion of Garamon, you will be aware that the monster measures just about 3-heads tall.

 

And the photo shot on the set for ‘Garamon Strikes Back’ with the main cast members in it shows he is a very tiny monster in reality even compared with Hiroko Sakurai, allegedly 155 centimeters tall.

It’s said that applying the small size to the monster was a means to make him look relatively large in comparison with the Yumigatani Dam miniature that was to be destroyed by the meteorite monster.

Takahashi is said to have been 115 centimeters tall according to the  measurements figured out by Ryosaku Takayama before sculpting the costume.

It is said to have been Toru Matoba, SFX director, who came up with the idea of assigning Takahashi to the role of Garamon.

 

While Takahashi was a diligent actor who followed the director’s instructions without complaint and tried to elaborate his own performance to make it look better, the shooting with the costume on seems to have been so tough to the seemingly relatively old age actor who was short on physical strength.

That may be why he didn’t play Pigmon in Episode 8 and Episode 37 of Ultraman and Pigmon turned out to be acted by a child actor (the height of the costume was extended).

Nevertheless, Takahashi’s charming performance should have greatly helped Garamon remain to be a representative monster of Ultra Q.

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Narita Takayama Kaijus Filled With Love

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The color version of the image previously posted showing Takayama modeling Garamon

The abundant expressiveness of the monsters modeled by Ryosaku Takayama seems to be greatly attributable to the relatively high mobility of the costumes that enabled the actors inside to act quite easily.

It is well known that Takayama’s kaiju costumes were much lighter than the Toho monsters although they failed to win favor with Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla actor.

Nakajima says that he found kaiju costumes for TV shows too light lacking in a feeling of massiveness to be expected from monsters.

 

Alongside the appearances faithfully modeled after the designs drawn by Tohl Narita, they are said to have been made in consideration of the actors who perform inside.

Tetsuo Yamamura says that the costumes made by Takayama were distinctively flexible while the latex surfaces taken out of the mold were attached with another latex and rubber cement instead of adhesive which was normally used by the other modeling workshops leaving the costumes too stiff to act freely when it dried up.

According to him, the inside of each monster was covered with cotton fabric carefully sewed all over the inner side.

 

There seem to have been people, however, who showed disagreement to TV show kaiju costumes among those involved in modeling film monsters as it looked to them like the latter were being made very easily.

I hear Narita consoled Takayama saying that it should be all right as they were making costumes taking inside actors into account for their own good when they heard criticism about their monsters.

While I think I already wrote about most of the above on this blog before, I find Narita Takayama kaijus were full of love in every aspect.


What’s Behind The Charming Kaijus?

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Tohl Narita and Ultraman with Bin Furuya inside (from ‘A Man Who Became Ultraman’ written by Furuya)

The monsters full of life force which make us feel even their emotions might have been the greatest features of Narita Takayama kaijus.

The abundance of such expressiveness could be one of the factors that make them look outstandingly attractive.

These monsters were also definitely great actors and stars in this sense no less than the Ultra heroes and human characters.

Then what is behind these charming features?

 

I think art might be a pile of humanity in the end while I’m not a specialist in the sphere.

I assume that these monsters might have mirrored the personalities and lives of Narita and Takayama in their own.

Come to think of it, stepping into the way of art must have been pretty tough for people of their generation.

As I posted before, Narita had no choice but to pursue the way of art as he severely burnt his left hand in his childhood, which allegedly left him disabled.

Takayama, born in 1917 and twelve years older than Narita (so Takayama shown in yesterday’s photo is in his 40s), is said to have kept drawing pictures even while he was inducted into the army.

 

The monsters they created might have been composed of their own lives and their absolute love for art.

That makes me remember Narita’s writing in his book to the effect that what is required to appreciate art is not knowledge but an accumulation of life in which you had real joy and real grief and knowledge and culture are just what complement desire to learn the truth.

It also reminds me that Satoshi (Bin) Furuya says the attraction of the Ultra Series is that the passion of people involved could be conveyed through the screen.

Such life force applied by Narita and Takayama to the forms could be called a form which transcends the form.


Charming Takayama Monsters Accompanied By Life Force

Narita (left) and Takayama studying the cray figure of Antler modeled by Takayama (picture I love while borrowed from the Net)

I told that the kaijus modeled by Ryosaku Takayama give me a feeling of vitality or cause me to feel ‘life force’ from the entire body including the eyes.

I personally think that it is this life force that makes costume monsters look all the more attractive.

Every time I see them dying and closing their eyes after being beaten, I’m amazed to find it looks as if they were dying for real while the mechanism (operated by wires) should have been Shigeo Kurakata‘s job.

 

it fully evokes a feeling of sympathy for the monsters, and, in my case, there are even times when it brings me to tears.

I think it’s definitely a great thing that Narita and Takayama created monsters that could ‘perform drama’ this expressively no less than actors who played the human characters.

I find it conspicuous especially among the kaijus featured in Ultraman.

They were inclined to be portrayed as beings which have particular reasons to appear with their own backgrounds, not just showing up and rampaging in the streets for no reason.

 

It’s likely that the stories were prepared to fully portray these features, and Narita and Takayama created kaijus fully living up to the roles given to the creatures.

I think that the fervent acting performed by suit actors is also an important factor that breathed life into the monsters created by Narita and Takayama.

I believe that the unique forms designed by Narita gained actual life when modeled by Takayama, and, in the end, performed by actors inside.

All of these make me think their kaijus are definitely ‘art piece’ in every aspect.


Tohl Narita And Ryosaku Takayama 2

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Ryosaku Takayama modeling Garamon

As previously described on this blog, it’s quite interesting to find the sculptor Tohl Narita drew kaiju designs and the painter Ryosaku Takayama modeld kaijus according to Narita’s designs.

I find it a great team work between the sculptor who could imagine the finished form of his design as a costume and the painter who could ‘read’ the design drawing and enrich the image to model an actual costume besides faithfully reproducing the appearance.

At any rate, Takayama definitely breathed life into the kaijus designed by Narita.

 

I think the greatest feature of costumes made by Takayama was that they had living, not lifeless, eyes which make us feel they are actually alive alongside the living feel of the entire surface.

It should be nothing less than Takayama’s skillful craftsmanship.

I think that a great feature about costume monsters lies in the feeling of being alive they make us feel.

As I wrote before somewhere on this blog, it’s known that Takayama often told the art university students working part time as his assistants to be aware that they were making and dealing with living creatures.

 

I think this is a story which makes us imagine how much Takayama loved the monsters he was modeling.

Alongside the outstandingly excellent designs drawn by Narita, a sense of life force/energy was applied to costumes by Takayama with his careful and elaborate work.

In the same line with the charm of Narita’s kaiju designs, I believe that Takayama’s modelling abilities should be an integral part of the attraction of the Ultra Kaijus adored by people even today.


Tohl Narita And Ryosaku Takayama 1

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The final version (left) and the primary version of Peguila drawn by Tohl Narita

When looking at the design of Garamon drawn by Tohl Narita, it makes us aware the drawing looks a bit different from the costume with a lovable feel added to his design.

Such an aspect should be ingenuity performed by Ryosaku Takayama who modeled the costume.

Narita also says in his art book that, when he joined the production members of Ultra Q, he found they had no one in particular to place a costume order with.

Enlarged image of the heads in the final (left) and primary version

So Narita writes he had Takayama make Peguila first as he had known Takayama since they once met.

While Peguila was initially designed by Yasuyuki Inoue, Toho Special Art Division, and redrawn by Narita, it looked more ferocious in the stage of the design drawing.

But the costume of Peguila finished by Takayama also looks somewhat lovable.

The horn that can’t be found in the drawing seems to have been attached to the monster when being modeled by Takayama.

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Peguila illustrated by Narita

Incidentally, whereas the primary design of Peguila allegedly based on the draft drawn by Inoue has flippers, Narita wanted it to have feather-covered wings like birds as shown in the final version of the design.

Narita and Takayama, however, had to settle for making wings of strips of latex after all probably to save time.

As Narita seems to have liked the feather-covered version of Peguila, the kaiju illustrated by Narita in later years has bird-like wings.


Stories About Garamon

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While Tohl Narita got involved in the production of Ultra Q as the kaiju designer, it’s not that he got to design any monsters he liked all the time.

I assume that the hectic shooting schedules in the later stages of each series might have, conversely, enabled him to design monsters of his own accord to some extent.

Because, presumably, they couldn’t afford to spend a great deal of time discussing the issues on kaijus carefully though it’s just my guess.

Garamon drawn by Tohl Narita (from his art book)

In the early stages, however, directors’ intentions appear to have been reflected rather strongly in producing kaijus.

As to Garamon and the SFX director Toru Matoba for the episode, for example, some of Matoba’s ideas are likely to have been incorporated into the meteorite monster.

While it’s known that Narita designed Garamon’s face after a fish such as a species called kochi shown from the front in a photo by attaching a dog-like nose to it, it’s also explained that a photo of kasago was shown by Matoba to Narita.

Kochi

Matoba seemingly states that he applied unique movements to Garamon after behavioral gestures performed by a popular baseball player, Shoichi Kaneda, back then.

According to Tetsuo Kinjo, the main screenwriter of the series, in his writing, he initially came up with an idea featuring a skeleton-like kaiju for the episode.

The skeleton-like features found in the shape of Garamon’s hands, legs and tail should be the traces of the idea.

It’s now well known among fans that Alien Baltan was designed by Narita in accordance with the requests made by Toshihiro Iijima (director) to apply nippers to Cecadahuman as I posted before.

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Kasago,  the same species as scorpion fish (How lovely!)

Peter and Sudar

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The monstrous fish drawn by Tohl Narita for ‘Fury of the South Sea’ (from his art book)

Tohl Narita writes in his art book that he designed Bostang almost just like a stingray shown in the photos he liked.

He also explains that the episode to feature Clapton (not the guitarist) was cancelled for reasons related to the shooting and that the kaiju ended up being switched to a stingray monster along with the episode replaced by ‘Space Directive M774.’

That makes me imagine the episode featuring Clapton could require miniatures of oil plants and it might have been the reason why it was left unproduced (or I also feel like I may have read so somewhere before).

As to Peter, he states he drew it just like Chameleon as it was adding that, whereas he made it a rule not to design mere giant versions of real-life creatures, he also felt he should be in no rush recollecting Peter should have been the first or second monster he designed.

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Variations of the monstrous fish

Regarding Sudar, a monstrous fish-like creature was properly designed by Narita for the episode ‘Fury of the South Sea,’ but he says in the art book that the design was not used as the episode was plotted to feature a giant octopus from the very beginning.

The design Narita describes as an experimental design of a monstrous fish seems to have been the piece he liked, and he writes it would have become a representative monster if it should have been realized.

As described above, it should be good to remember it’s not that he always got to create a monster as he liked according to the intentions of the production members.


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