It is said that Akio Jissoji who was brought back from Kyoto was surprised to find the Tsuburaya Productions staff was so depressed and demotivated from the reduced budget caused by the low viewership the final season of the show “Ultraseven” had marked.
One of the two episodes he directed after he came back to Tokyo, Ultraseven Episode 43 “Nightmare on Planet 4,” was planned by Shozo Uehara, the script writer in charge of the episode, to feature many aliens and kaijus probably almost out of desperation under the title of “15 Aliens+35 Kaijus” while being fully aware that it would be rejected.
As expected, it WAS rejected on the grounds that the alien and kaiju characters were too many as over 50 of them would be needed. Instead, “Nightmare on Planet 4″ was produced as an episode having no kaiju characters appear conversely. It is said that Uehara and Jissoji had plotted to make episodes they wanted to make by initially presenting the idea of an episode hardly possible to be realized to the producers and, out of the opposite momentum, having them agree to whatever they wanted to make.
The story of the episode”15 Aliens+35 Kaijus” is alleged to go like this:
Alien Baltan who should have been defeated by Ultraman intruded on the earth. While Ultraseven tried to chase the alien, he used up his energy by fighting with the aliens and kaijus landing on the earth from space one after another and rampaging in every part of Japan or the world. It was the allied forces comprising the aliens and kaijus who had been defeated by Ultraman and Ultraseven.
Although Pigmon informed the Ultra Garrison of the allied forces’ attack, the team was no match for the aliens and kaijus. The moment Dan turned Ultraseven in spite of his severe injuries to stand up against them, Space Beast God (Uchu Jushin) “Gōdo” (probably Gode or Gord if it is English that should apparently have been derived from the word “god”) appeared from the sky, and he wiped out all the aliens and kaijus Ultraseven failed to defeat so he went back to the sky.
Without learning a lesson from his experience of the “spoon incident” in Ultraman, Jissoji entirely featured things characteristic of Japan such as a shabby apartment with an excessive lived-in look and feel that doesn’t match the futuristic depiction of the world in Ultraseven and went to the extreme by setting scenes with Dan Moroboshi and Alien Metron talking over a short-legged table called chabudai in Japanese, sitting cross-legged on the traditional tatami straw mat in Ultraseven Episode 8.
While this episode has won a great reputation as a masterpiece today along with the witty ending narration alleged to be added to the script Tetsuo Kinjo originally wrote by Mamoru Sasaki or Jissoji himself, it is said that, due to this episode, Jissoji could possibly have got sidelined again as he was told by TBS to film period dramas (jidaigeki shows) in Kyoto instead of working with Tsuburaya Productions.
It seems that the filming crew shot the scenes laughing out loud endlessly at the strange view of an alien sitting on the tatami straw mat across the chabudai table (it was common to have meals at such a table in Japanese homes at that time while using a dining table in a western style room was getting popular).
Although another episode of his directed products, Ultraseven Episode 12, has been banned, it is unlikely that Jissoji was told to go to Kyoto because of the dispute this particular episode had caused as no dispute seems to have arisen when the episode was broadcast for the first time including the rerun aired at a later time.
As the show “Ultraseven” proceeded, the viewership declined unexpectedly and the Tsuburaya people came to have no choice but to make the series with a reduced budget.
It is explained that it was why Jissoji was brought back from Kyoto as the director who was very good at filming episodes without spending a lot of money. It seems that, with someone who had yelled “Get that guy back!”, Jissoji was decided to direct the two Ultraseven episodes as the end of the series was approaching.
As I described in my previous post, the Ultraman and Ultraseven episodes directed by Akio Jissoji included the ones that are much talked about among fans for their unusual features that can not be found in the episodes by the other directors while his style of making each story look like what makes us wonder whether the events are really happening to the characters or just something like an illusion as it is often referred to as “Jissoji Magic” in later years.
Jissoji seems to have stated that Mamoru Sasaki and Jissoji got to throw a breaking ball at ease because Tetsuo Kinjo, the main script writer and planner of the original Ultra Series, fought it out with a straight ball.
Jissoji who ended up disobeying the rules, regardless of whether they were the officially set ones or tacit ones the producers and staff were supposed to abide by, brought about such episodes as the ones in which Ultraman hardly used his finishing blow Spacium Beam, Ultraman appeared twice in one episode with the appearance in the first half and one more in the latter half or with something very much like Japan featured going against an agreement among the producers not to have things typical of Japan appear while having the export of the show in mind so that people outside of Japan could enjoy it easily.
What is especially noteworthy is that, above all, Jissoji depicted Hayata to mistakenly try to turn Ultraman with a spoon with which he was eating curry rice instead of the Beta capsule (Ultraman Episode 34).
About this, Toshihiro Iijima who was also one of the directors from TBS says he thought “how dare he do this!” and tried to find and get Jissoji throughout the TBS building to reprove him (Iijima was a senpai/senior to Jissoji. Being a senpai can tacitly have a responsibility to take care of a kohai/junior in Japan or even substantially control one). Nevertheless, Jissoji didn’t show up by hiding himself somewhere.
*The script writers’ names are in the parentheses: The Ultraseven episode 12 is banned now in Japan.
Mamoru Sasaki (1936-2006) was a script writer who got along very well with Jissoji, and they worked together a lot for producing the Ultraman episodes cited above. Ko Kawasaki was one of Jissoji’s pseudonyms along with Yuri Manpukuji as Jissoji wrote the scripts of the Ultra Q episodes with these pseudonyms that ended up being unproduced. Both pseudonyms were derived from regional names of the places where he lived back then.
Even though Episode 43 and 45 of Ultraseven were meant to be the episodes co-written by Jissoji and Uehara as shown above, it is said that Episode 43 was almost written by Uehara on his own and Jissoji wrote the script of Episode 45 almost by himself.
If you are an ardent fan of the original Ultra Series, you should be aware that these episodes directed by Jissoji that include the ones written by himself consist of extremely unusual ones with extraordinary stories and characters except Ultraman Episode 22 that, with Telesdon featured, gives us an impression that it is genuinely a classic style tokusatsu action show including the impressive tokusatsu scenes where Telesdon rampages in the night city in flames.
Jissoji himself admits he was not good at filming the real-life scenes to be composited with the tokusatsu scenes afterwards and that he began to avoid filming such scenes intentionally as he found it was too much work to make arrangements with the tokusatsu director and staff for those scenes in advance because such scenes required precise prearrangement to make both real-life and tokusatsu scenes fit in well with each other.
As Jissoji is also known for his filming techniques including the method commonly called “name (pronounced like /nahmeh/)” in Japanese that denotes “licking (the verb form is nameru)” with which he filmed scenes as if a camera “licks” a character with a lot of close-ups. And filming an object over/through another object was another feature of his filming techniques.
Incidentally, as tokusatsu scenes where the miniatures and the kaijus appeared were filmed by the tokusatsu staff and directed by the tokusatsu director, mostly Koichi Kono, so the above features can be seen exclusively in the drama part of the show in which human characters play.
His “name” technique seems to be thought of as pretty unusual and incomprehensible by people, and, when the “Ultra Q No Oyaji” previously referred to was filmed and he tried to shoot the scenes through a bird cage, Eiji Tsuburaya said to him with a puzzled look, “What a strange place you’re shooting from. Shall I get rid of the bird cage if it gets in the way?”
It is said Eiji Tsuburaya told Jissoji at that time the parallax of the Mitchel cameras would make it easier to focus on an object, saying, “I hope to let you give filming with it a try.”
These episodes seem to tell us how kind and thoughtful Eiji Tsuburaya was to younger people while it makes us more convinced of the fact that a lot of young people got to develop themselves under him as shown in the Tsuburaya products including the Ultra Series (sadly enough, I feel like such a warm atmosphere can hardly be found in this country now).
It is likely that Jissoji said he fully understood what Eiji Tsuburaya was saying about the camera when he actually used a Mitchel camera in later years.
When he was with TBS, Jissoji attempted to incorporate a variety of filming techniques inspired by New Wave/Nouvelle Vague movies that arose in France so he applied them to ordinary TV dramas and shows and got a bad name for them from TBS, which led to making him sidelined even temporarily.