All posts by Booska

Director Akio Jissoji #7

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.


Director Akio Jissoji #6

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.


Director Akio Jissoji #5

The Ultraman movie screened in 1979 with the episodes complied from the ones directed by Jissoji titled “Ultraman/Akio Jissoji-directed product”; it was shown prior to the TV anime series “The Ultraman” to promote the third “Kaiju Boom” that arose around 1980.

The Ultraman and Ultraseven episodes directed by Akio Jissoji were as below:

Ultraman (six episodes)
#14: The Pearl Defense Directive (Mamoru Sasaki)
#15: Terrifying Cosmic Rays (same as above)
#22: Sabotage Terrene (same as above)
#23: My Home is the Earth (same as above)
#34: A Gift from the Sky (same as above)
#35: The Monster Graveyard (same as above)

Ultraseven (four episodes)
#08: The Targeted Town (Tetsuo Kinjo)
#12: From Another Planet with Love (Mamoru Sasaki)
#43: Nightmare on Planet 4 (Ko Kawasaki; Shozo Uehara)
#45: The Boy Who Cried Flying Saucer (Ko Kawasaki; Shozo Uehara)

*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.


Director Akio Jissoji #4

Akio Jissoji on the rooftop of TBS where the scenes of Alien Baltan’s episode were filmed later (in which Hayata and Ide talked to Arashi controlled by Alien Baltan)

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.


Director Akio Jissoji #3

“Gendai No Shuyaku”; Eiji Tsuburaya, M1 and Ragon; probably it was set to have Eiji interviewed by the kaijus in the living room of his private home in real life

As described in my previous post, Akio Jissoji could be referred to as an unconventional Japanese who didn’t fit in the thoughts and actions shown by others.

With a TV drama titled “Dekkaku Ikiro! (Live Big!)” directed by him that failed to gain popularity and reputation in 1964, he nearly got sidelined and, while thinking to go to France or other European countries to learn about movies with nothing to do at TBS, Hajime Tsuburaya, Eiji’s first son who was with TBS then, suggested Jissoji to join the Television Movie Department saying, “In addition, why don’t you write a script for a tokusatsu show as you should have a lot of time.”

At Hajime’s suggestion, Jissoji wrote scripts titled “Bakutaru (vague)” and “Kiriganai (endless)” for Ultra Q (UNBALANCE), but the episodes were left unproduced unfortunately. “Bakutaru” is said to have been a story about a kaiju which feeds on dreams based on a legendary monster “Baku” alleged to eat people’s dreams while they are asleep. “Kiriganai” was planned to have an amorphous kaiju which comes back to life endlessly every time it is finished off.

 

For the amorphous kaiju, there is a design drawn by Tohl Narita. It is said that “Bakutaru” developed into Ultraman Episode 15 and “Kiriganai” into Ultraman Episode 34 afterwards. Moreover, Ultraman Tiga Episode 40 “Dream” was based on the idea from Jissoji and the kaiju named Bakugon that was to appear in “Bakutaru” was featured.

In 1965, Jissoji played the role of an assistant director for “Supai/Heikosen No Sekai (Spy/The World Of Parallel Lines)” directed by Hajime Tsuburaya. In 1966 the TV documentary “Gendai No Shuyaku/Ultra Q No Oyaji (Starring Role At The Present Time=something like “a man of the hour” in an English expression that is likely to be more ideomatic/Big Daddy Of Ultra Q)” with Eiji Tsuburaya featured won reputation, and he was temporarily transferred to Tsuburaya Productions from TBS while he directed some episodes of “Ultraman” and “Ultraseven,” for which he got known as a highly reputed director.


Director Akio Jissoji #2

Akio Jissoji in 1962 (the year when I was born!)

At any rate, Akio Jissoji appears to have been a man seen as someone who thinks outside the box far exceeding behavioral patters often found among Japanese, which can probably make him called a “maverick” in this sense while I can’t resist feeling some sort of empathy with him as I have been dealt with as sort of a maverick among the Japanese somehow too (I hope I will not sound boastful).

He is described as the only Japanese director who dealt with movies and operas while it doesn’t seem to be a rarity overseas, which might indicate how much different he had been from conventional Japanese people.

Anyway, after he joined TBS, it is said that he played active roles in his work for TV dramas and live coverage shows as a director whereas his staging didn’t get to win approval of the TBS producers because it could have been thought of as too surreal in a way as Jissoji had a lot of still photos included in the scenes (I guess it could have been done like Ultraman Episode 35 showing the fight scenes between Ultraman and Seabose with the still photos as you should know) or had a street interview appear abruptly and irrelevantly in the midst of the show.

 

It is told that he went so far as to have snow fall in the ending scene of a TV drama aired in 1962 by applying abrupt cut-to-black to the scene even though the snowfall was totally irrelevant to it. Of course Jissoji was yelled at by the TBS producers who strongly complained to him, “Why did you have snow fall of all things???”

They say it was Eiji Tsuburaya who praised young Jissoji for the staging by saying to him, “It was a pretty nice arrangement. You should have had much more snowfall, though.” (I definitely love these people’s crazy thoughts!)

Moreover, while dealing with Hibari Misora, a late Japanese major star singer who had prominently gained unparalleled popularity (I think she is often referred to as one of the greatest Japanese singers of all time who goes down in history), in a live coverage TV show in 1963, Jissoji’s strange way to stage the show allegedly sparked a flood of complaints from the audience and producers because Jissoji had the back of her throat persistently shot while she was singing so that even the close-up of her uvula was shown to the audience through the screen or, conversely, had her shot in such full shots that she kept being shown just as small as a pea on the stage.


Director Akio Jissoji #1

Akio Jissoji

While Akio Jissoji (1937-2006) was born in Yotsuya, Tokyo, in 1937, he was brought up in Qingdao, China, until he came back to Japan with his family at the end of the war when they were in Manchuria.

Because of this, it seems that Shozo Uehara, one of the script writers for the Ultra Series who was from Okinawa along with Tetsuo Kinjo, referred to Jissoji as a man with a “continental perspective” in contrast with the perceptions that could be raised while being born and living in the island nation Japan including Okinawa.

It is said that, as Jissoji loved Europe, it was also because of his longing for “continental” European landscapes that have remained unchanged over hundreds of years.

I personally think having a “continental perspective” should cause a lot of difficulties in living in Japan, as I feel like it doesn’t match this island country. So Jissoji could have been a person who could hardly get himself easily understood by others in this nation.

 

After Jissoji graduated from Department of French, Faculty of Literature, Waseda University in Tokyo in 1959, it is explained that, surprisingly enough, he worked for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a short while as he had passed the public servant exam.

After resigning from the Foreign Ministry, he joined TBS that seems to have been called “Rajio Tokyo (Radio Tokyo)” back then to become a TV show director.

Having written all this so far, I find his actions seem, by the common standards, truly unpredictable and abrupt about why and how he transferred to the TV station from the Foreign Ministry as it may indicate a part of his “continental view.”

I personally like Jissoji’s way of thinking and acting that could show sort of his easy-going nature that makes me feel like I can share a lot of it with him in a way while I am not sure whether his actions came from an easy-goingness or not.


Ultraman With Chiropractor

In a certain place of Tokyo I visited the other day, I found a display ad board in front of a chiropractic office. It says “Getting rid of the villains. Leave it to us!” apparently comparing such disorders as tight shoulders and neck or lower back pain to “villains.”

The thing is, the Ultraman thrusting his fist like he pops out of the blinding light in the scene where Hayata turns into Ultraman is excellently drawn! Every detailed part of the drawing including the eyes with the diamond cut pattern properly featured and the nicely shaped red marking that looks like it was drawn faithfully copying the way it looks in the actual costume makes me aware the owner or an employee of this office should be a big fan of Ultraman!

Incidentally, tense shoulders and neck are disorders often described as “national disease” a large number of Japanese suffer from (except me somehow). I guess it is not because of the matter of the genetic body structure or something but they should be sort of lifestyle diseases as many Japanese have to do a lot of desk work at their workplaces till late in the evening.

Last but not least, the Ultraman who faces forward in his pop-out scene like this fabulous drawing is Returned Ultraman instead of the original Ultraman who shows the top of his head in that particular scene.


DALLY (making)

Dally design drawn by Noriyoshi Ikeya

Dally is the first Ultra Kaiju that was designed by Noriyoshi Ikeya who took Tohl Narita’s place in designing kauju characters after Narita resigned Tsuburaya Productions with Alien Platic as his last kaiju design while I am thinking of referring to why Narita left the production company in my post to come sometime later.

I hear the work of designing a kaiju troubled Ikeya a lot initially as Narita suddenly quit before he knew. It is said that it was Ryosaku Takayama who suggested Ikeya to design a kaiju by hiding the shape of the human body when Ikeya was in trouble with the Dally design while the design allegedly came from the tick, the same source as Alien Cool designed by Narita.

Dally costume at Ryosaku Takayama’s Ateler May

It is fun to see Alien Cool and Dally designed in such a different way even though the same creature was used for designing while Alien Cool appears to have had the shape of the spider incorporated into its design as well.

That being said, the design and costume ended up unavoidably showing the human body shape by some degree, and a lot of smoke was used to cover it up in the show. Dally was acted by Tetsuo Yamamura following Gander and Alien Prote.

Yamamura says Shigemitsu Taguchi (1944-present), noted as one of the script writers who played major roles for the secondary Ultra Series (Ultraman Series) including “The Return of Ultraman” and the subsequent series that ended with “Ultraman Leo,” measured Yamamura for the size of the Dally costume and informed Takayama of the measurements over the phone as Taguchi served as assistant director while the show Ultraseven was being produced.

Dally costume at the Bisen studio
Same as above

Yamamura’s remarks indicate the costumes of Gander and Alien Prote were sculpted without accurate measurements taken from Yamamura.

Yamamura also states the Dally suit was found to be faintly painted with an orange that was slightly fainter than the suit of Ultraseven but it was repainted pink on the set at Ikeya’s instruction while Yamamura assumes it was because it looked just like a shrimp even though it sounds a bit contradictory to the design with its body that appears mostly painted pink all along.

It is alleged that the name Dally was derived from Salvador Dali, the renowned Spanish surrealist painter.

I think the large eyes neatly positioned in the hollows/sockets on its face and the well-shaped fangs and jaws like a stag beetle (distinctive from the subtly curve jaws Antlar had) successfully made this creature described as a “space bacterium” in the show look pretty attractive!

Dally looks like it is hung in the air with someone inside (see the feet); this picture tells us what the Bisen studio exterior was like (in the back)

KERONIA (making)

Keronia design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “This is a kaiju in the form of leaves put together and it is asymmetric.”

I think Keronia was an attractive kaiju in its own way, while the design itself may not be so appealing by today’s standards, with the impressive fight with Ultraman and the idea that a “plant” life form species on the earth, instead of an alien, challenged humanity after gaining the intelligence and ability that grew to the level that could far surpass the human race.

I find how the asymmetry made the design attractive even moderately in this case indicates it is the work done by Narita who was an excellent sculptor as it would have looked too simple and plain otherwise.

Enlarged heads part from the above design; I like how the side view looks

The human-sized Keronia who appeared from the closet was extremely creepy while the actor seems to have nearly tripped and fell down behind the scenes after he ran out of the room probably because he had to run with the costume’s huge head unproportional to his body hardly held in the proper position and with the poor visibility through the head.

It seems that Ryosaku Takayama wrote in his kaiju sculpting diary that he made about 35 pieces of the leaf-like surface and that it took a lot of work so that he had to make a particular box to dry them with two infrared lamps set on it while working throughout New Year holidays pressed for sculpting kaiju costumes to meet the deadlines.

Giant Keronia head (left) and human-sized Keronia head; Keronia was another kaiju whose “Takayama eyes” were very much impressive with the eyes that, strangely enough, fully make you feel the creature is actually alive

The head of the human-sized Keronia was also sculpted by Takayama along with the head of the giant Keronia although the giant Keronia costume also had its head and body separated to be worn. Hiroko Sakurai who played Akiko Fuji attacked by the human-sized Keronia says she was so frightened, while acting, by the scene because of the situation of the plant human suddenly showing up from inside the closet.

Looking at the expressive actions of Ultraman performed by Bin Furuya, it makes me feel enthusiastic teamwork of the staff on the set joining forces to try to make the show more attractive by featuring impressive fights between Ultraman and a kaiju as explicitly shown by the scenes, for example, where Ultraman smashed out of the building in the sequence of Hayata turning into Ultraman (I would really sympathize with the building owner if it were real) or Ultraman sort of somersaulted on the ground while fighting with Keronia, including “Ultra Attack Beam” Ultraman unexpectedly fired at the plant human his Spacium Beam didn’t work on.

At any rate, it is hilarious to see the baby Keronia set to be flammable and useful as a household fuel. The appearance of Shoji Nakayama as Dr. Ninomiya who would play Captain Kiriyama in “Ultraseven” made this episode even more impressive.

Giant Kenonia costume in the Bisen studio