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.

ALIEN BORG (making) #1


Alien Borg illustration drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “Pitt, Shaplay, Cannan and Borg are a series of aliens with abstract forms. I had the armor and helmet in mind for Alien Borg. This type of alien has to be made of metal, or at least metallic parts should be applied to its large part to realize the image. I thought of bringing the costume sculpted by Takayama to the model factory Gunji to complete it, but I gave up the idea.”

Unfortunately, it seems that the design of Alein Borg drawn by Narita doesn’t remain in existence, and his illustration of the alien is covered in one of his art books instead.

Alien Borg is one of my favorite aliens with excellent looks while it is also fun that it is set to be a female alien although she looks so masculine with the armor-and-helmet-like appearance.

Alien Borg costume at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

While the design is supposed to be based on the armor, I find it so fascinating that Narita’s sculptural ideas were incorporated into every part of the design including the thin lines patterned all over the body. The head with the crest-like rises and radiating lines instead of the eyes are also very much unique and attractive. The asymmetrically shaped shoulder protectors are fun to see as well.

It is said that Alien Borg was originally designed as Kacchū-Ningen (Armor Human) that was to appear in the rejected episode titled “Vengence of 300 Years” written by Shozo Uehara. Kacchū-Ningen seems to have been set as the butler who serves Alien Tōku (maybe Tawk or something if spelled in English) in the episode left unrealized.