When watching Ultraman Gaia with my kids as it aired for the first time and seeing Gan Q appear in the show, the first thing the monster reminded me of was Ganmons.
Gan is the Japanese word for eye while the word me (/meh/) is more customarily used, and, as gankyu means eyeball, Gan Q is a sort of phonetic equivalent or pun of the term.
While I don’t know much about Gan Q featured in the recent series after Ultraman Gaia, I think the Gan Q that appeared in Gaia didn’t have its eyelid (I may be wrong).
Ganmons of Giant Robo, however, had its eyelid and it was forced to be closed by Robo with his reacher-like equipment coming out of, if my memory is correct, his buckle before being beaten by him.
Actually we had another eyeball monster which appeared in Masked Ninja Akakage and is called Hitotsume (single eyed).
This is a monster regularly summoned by a villain ninja through his yojutsu (mysterious skill), and, as Akakage and Giant Robo were produced by the Toei Company, Ganmons might have been a developed form of Hitotsume in terms of the idea.
It is fully thinkable that the Tsuburaya people could have created Gan Q inspired by Ganmons although I don’t think they publicly referred to it.
Alongside of the Toei products including Giant Robo, there were tokusatsu TV shows produced by the P Production in the 1960s and 1970s.
As previously posted, Magma Taishi (1966-1967; Ambassador Magma) was produced by them and started being broadcast as the first home-made color tokusatsu TV show just one week before Ultraman started being aired.
Magma Taishi also featured unique-looking monsters, and I dimly remember Balzas, Dacoda and Umibozu (please note that the spelling of each monster’s name is inaccurate; the monsters photos are alphabetically ordered ) although I don’t remember the episodes at all.
While I checked them out online to write this post, I don’t remember most of the monsters featured in Magma Taishi unfortunately including their names although it’s not that I have covered all the Magma Taishi monsters here on this post.
When looking at each of them, it’s amazing to find how well sculpted the suit of Aron is, and I also find many other attractive-looking monsters which make me feel like watching each episode again.
As the cyclops-like single-eyed monster with funnel-shaped head parts Balzas holding a ferris wheel reminds me of Kemur who yanked one out in his episode of Ultra Q, the Magma Taishi crew might have been inspired by it.
The P Production is also well known for their TV tokusatsu series Spectreman (1971-1972) that also started a little before The Return of Ultraman started airing while I’ve heard the former still has so many fans in France.
As Giant Robo was also repeatedly rebroadcast alongside of the Ultra Series in my childhood, I remember I enjoyed watching it every time it aired.
The product has not been publicly reviewed so much as the Ultra Series, I don’t remember the details of each episode unfortunately as I previously said.
But the monsters which appeared in the series remain in my memory quite vividly because of their unique appearances and characters.
Generally speaking, while it’s true of any other TV tokusatsu series back then, the monsters and villain characters looked so weird lacking the beauty and cleanness the Ultra Monsters designed by Tohl Narita.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that we were also drawn to such weird-looking monsters as a kid.
Giant Robo also had its unique-looking, impressive monsters which I can’t forget even now such as Ganmons, Glober, Iron Power and Ganger.
While each of them is a monster and robot with an enlarged human body part featured or distorted shapes of real-life creatures, they looked so striking with much impact in their own way.
It was fun to find a series of GR type robots controlled by the BF such as GR2 and Calamity appeared although, if my memory serves me right, Calamity didn’t move at all to the end because of the technical malfunction the BF suffered in the episode.
Getting it straight, it is “Giant Robo” who can be deemed as the rival of Ultraseven.
That’s another tokusatsu product which aired around the same time as Ultraseven from 1967 through 1968 on NET while produced by Toei Company (looks like it aired as “Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot” in the US).
The product based on a manga series created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama was about a 30 meters tall giant robot named Giant Robo (GR1) as it is that was constructed by the BF (Big Fire), the secret alien organization plotting to conquer Earth.
While Robo is a robot which obeys a person who has initially recorded his voice on the control device shaped like a watch, Daisaku Kusama (acted by Mitsunobu Kaneko: 1957-1997), a team member of the United Nations Police Organization ‘Unicorn,’ got to record his voice onto the watch (although he looks too young to be the member).
Thus Robo ends up fighting against the BF in cooperation with the Unicorn members.
As Daisaku’s code name is ‘U7,’ it is said that it implies that the Toei people were fully aware of the presence of Ultraseven.
In a word, Giant Robo was a great product we children were irresistibly drawn to even no less than Ultraseven while featuring quirky and weird-looking monsters with totally a different feel from those of the Ultra Series.
While Toei produced a lot of TV tokusatsu series including Captain Ultraand Masked NInja Akakage I already talked about on this blog, I think GR was the most exciting product among them.
After I talked about the imaginary association between Pandon and kushikatsu, when we are at it, I will write about the Kaiju Bar in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.
The Kaiju Bar is called “Kaiju Sakaba” in Japanese as sakaba means bar, the pun on “Kaiju Hakaba” (Kaiju Graveyard) that appeared in Episode 35 of Ultraman.
It’s located in the Kawasaki area noted in connection with the products directed by Akio Jissoji as it was used for the location shooting of his products such as Episode 7 and Episode 45 of Ultraseven.
Actually I haven’t been to this bar yet while I’m not very much fond of drinking, but I find the concept is fun and it’s a good thing for Ultra fans to have such a place where they can enjoy talking about Ultra over a drink.
When browsing through their website, what made me laughed is the fried shrimp shaped like Twintail with the green pea for its eyes which I find so funny while the accompanying explanation says Gudon recommends this apparently because Gudon is set to be the monster which feeds on Twintail.
It has been often talked about among fans since the explanation of Twintail to be fed on by Gudon appeared in a kaiju pictorial in the 1970s with the phrase saying Twintail tastes like shrimp when eaten.
As we children were very much fond of fried shrimp back then, it might have grabbed our heart.
Getting back to the talk about Noriyoshi Ikeya, while Ryosaku Takayama advised Ikeya to distort the human body shape to design monsters, that seems to have been what Tohl Narita incorporated into his designing.
Narita says in his art book he designed Jamyra at the idea of distorting the human body shape not to make it look like a costume worn by an actor.
I vividly remember I read an article about King Joe in an issue of the Bokura Magazine or Shonen Magazine showing the design process of King Joe allegedly explained by Narita.
In that article it is said to have been explained that a trick to make the robot look unlikely to be a costume applying cylindrical objects to the human body shape. (The images here are not from the article but from Narita’s art book)
As I was still a small child then, when just looking at some illustrations showing the design process, I mistakenly understood it was about, funnily enough, how Alien Pedan constructed the super robot, and I found it pretty amazing and exciting (good old days…)!
Although I’m looking for the illustrated article online, it’s really a shame that I have found it out nether online nor in the Ultraseven Pictorial I have covering the articles featured in the Bokura Magazines and Shonen Magazines back then.
It seems that Noriyoshi Ikeya who took over the art designing from Tohl Narita was initially upset about the bolt out of the blue.
When he had a hard time in designing Space Bacterium Dally, the first monster he designed, it is said to have been Ryosaku Takayama, kaiju suits modeler, who suggested Ikeya to distort the shape of the human body for the design so that it doesn’t look like a suit worn by an actor.
Among the aliens and monsters Ikeya designed for Ultraseven, it is known that Pandon was drastically changed from the original design Ikeya drew.
As to Pandon, I have to admit I found it less striking as a kid than Zetton to culminate the final episodes of the series.
While Takayama sculpted Pandon according to Ikeya’s design in which Pandon was to be a two-headed monster, the two heads were combined into one finally at the crew members’ judgement on the set.
Because they found the operation of the two heads which were supposed to move separately should be very hard.
Ikeya regretfully said in a recent book interview that, although he protested against Koichi Takano, SFX director, saying it should be their job to manage it even though it’s challenging.
But there was nothing Ikeya could do about the Pandon already remodeled before he knew.
I found it hilarious when I read an article recently published saying the change which made Pandon look like kushikatsu (Japanese dish: deep-fried skewered pork) was really regrettable while I think that’s a nice way to put it.
The change should also have been definitely disappointing to Ikeya.
In the ‘Another Stories’ show on NHK, Noriyoshi Ikeya specifically stated his design motto.
He said, in designing Ultraseven aliens and monsters after Tohl Narita, he stopped imitating or incorporating features of real-life living creatures to avoid making the characters look grotesque.
He admitted he referred to fashion magazines instead to incorporate quirky designs which were popular in late 1960s characterized by features such as psychedelia.
He also said he perceived the aliens and monsters as characters which are to appear to be destroyed in the end, and he had much more sympathy with them than the heroes.
According to him, while he said the aliens and monsters he designed might not look strong, he was more emotionally attached to them as the beings which appear to perish.
As to the design of Nonmalt, he said he designed it modeling after cabbage for no particular reason.
While it was not talked about in this show, it is said that the design of Alien Guts initially showed its exposed brain to make it exhibit the alien’s high intelligence.
But it seems that Toshihiro Iijima, director, suggested Ikeya to avoid it because Eiji Tsuburaya wouldn’t OK such weird appearance.
One explanation has it that a suggestion was considered to apply a transparent dome to Alien Guts’ head to show the brain inside, it was also rejected and the patterns reminiscent of the brain folds were finally incorporated instead.
I saw Noriyoshi Ikeya appear in an NHK TV special titled ‘Another Stories’ that featured Ultraseven while it aired days before the Ultraman 50th Anniversary Special.
As its title shows, it was a TV special about ‘another (behind-the-scenes) story’ of the Ultraseven production as of 1967-1968.
And its detailed coverage of Ultraseven were much more fun than the Ultraman 50th Anniversary Special as it feels like the latter covered things in a way that could look a bit frivolous.
What was most impressive to me about the ‘Another Stories,’ Ikeya was covered for quite a long portion of the show.
It is said that Ikeya monsters including aliens have no pupils because it shows the grief they have as they are not human beings but beings that are unaccepted in the human societies or beings to be forbidden to exist and to be driven away from the human societies.
A similar thing was referred to by Ikeya himself in the ‘Another Stories’ show.
I have learnt that Noriyoshi Ikeya passed away late last month (Oct. 25) at the age of 76 from cancer while I find it a great shame.
Ikeya is known as an art designer who designed the Ultraseven aliens and monsters taking over from Tohl Narita after Narita quit the Tsuburaya Productions in the midst of the Ultraseven production.
Ikeya designed impressive characters for the Ultra Series such as Alien Guts and Twintail which gained much popularity.
Ikeya joined the Ultra Series production crew from Ultraman at the invitation of Narita while both of them graduated from Musashino Art University.
After his participation in Kaiki Daisakusen (Operation Mystery; 1968-1969), tokusatsu series aired after Ultraseven ended, Ikeya founded Kodai, film art company, with Akio Jissoji, director, and had been deeply involved in the sphere of film art.
Alongside of film art, he was also involved in character design for TV tokusatsu series such as Silver Kamen and Iron King.
It was a shame to find Ikeya got out of the production of The Return of Ultraman after designing several kaijus only for its primary episodes to devote himself to film art.
I think the aliens designed by Ikeya and featured in the primary episodes of Silver Kamen looked so surreal and attractive with a flavor different from Narita’s design.
I believe he did a great job in designing all these alien and kaiju characters we enjoyed watching as kids along with Tohl Narita.