Category Archives: Cast & Staff

Director Akio Jissoji #16


“Ultraman Zenyasai (Ultraman Eve Festival)” 1966

Moreover, it seems that they used some real-life young “pigs” to attract the audience’s attention in the show, although it is unthinkable by today’s standards, and that it caused an uproar as the pigs started running away even out of the theater (Suginami Kokaido/Public Hall) where the show was performed.

Although it was aired safely in time after Toshihiro Iijima had to work overnight to edit the film by trimming off unwanted blooper reels and adding the finished films from the Ultraman episodes that were already completed before the broadcasting, Jissoji, according to one of the books authored by Hiroko Sakurai (Akiko Fuji), went to the telecine company himself to remove his name from the credits as he was ashamed of the result of the stage show.

 

Jissoji’s act made Takashi Kakoi, TBS producer, so mad that Kakoi angrily asked Jissoji why he had got rid of his own name although Jissoji was in charge of the show. Jissoji seems to have said “Oh, no. I don’t think I deserve such an honor to have my name shown in the credits” or something trying to throw Kakoi off the track.

Sakurai points out in her book that the mess arose because they didn’t spend much time in rehearsing the show while the people including Jissoji were playing mahjiong the night before to let nature take its course about the show as they found it bothersome to rehearse carefully.

Sakurai writes in her book that, although Jissoji explained to her that it was a good time when people were allowed to do such sloppy things, Kakoi seems to have said to her about it, “I was at a loss for words.”

 

That being said, I like these stories about Jissoji as I believe it should have definitely been a more idyllic time than it is now back then so that people could live more freely with looser restrictions along with the stories about how Eiji Tsuburaya dealt with this extraordinary director as I have referred to it in these serial posts.

Well, while I think it is time to conclude my posts about Director Akio Jissoji with this entry, I don’t know how much helpful they have been to let you learn about the unique director with my limited knowledge and ability I believe fell far short of informing you of what he was really like, hoping my poorly written articles will not mislead you by dishonoring his great achievements as a highly reputed director.

Lastly, I would like to introduce Jissoji’s word about Eiji Tsuburaya that makes me miss the idyllic time while it seems to illustrate how much Eiji cared for the young people who were following him without blocking them from developing:

“Oyaji-san (Big Daddy, Eiji was nicknamed as such) was so kind to me. He let me film anything I liked.”

Director Akio Jissoji #15


Silver Kamen vs. Alien Chigurisu (still photo)

While Akio Jissoji directed the two episodes #1 and #2 of the show “Silver Kamen” as it was planned by the TBS producer Yoji Hashimoto who was in charge of this show to have Mamoru Sasaki, Jissoji’s close friend, as the main script writer, and, through that line, Akio Jissoji was given the offer to participate in the show.

Incidentally, Yoji Hashimoto is known among ardent fans of the Ultra Series as the producer who told the Tsuburaya Productions to incorporate more drama depicting human relations even into their tokusatsu shows. It is said that that is why precise depictions of the human characters were featured in the show “The Return of Ultraman.”

 

Nevertheless, as his directed episodes were filmed hastily with little time for preparation, it seems that the Silver Kamen episodes Jissoji had directed turned out to be unsatisfactory to him. It is said that, while the scene of Alien Chigurisu being burned down was filmed ahead of the other scenes for #1, the fire caused by the gunpowder accidentally traveled to the costume, they were not able to use it for the other scenes to be filmed.

Therefore, the scenes including the ones that had the alien appear were filmed in dark to cover up the damaged costume. It is also said Jissoji went to the adjustment section of TBS to tell them not to adjust the brightness of the scenes.

This reminds me of another story about what happened to the “Ultraman Eve Festival,” the preliminary episode of the show “Ultraman” arranged by Jissoji and Yuzo Higuchi, another director for “Ultraman,” as it ended up being a total mess with so many accidents in which Ultraman played by the original actor Bin Furuya fell down the stairway on the stage when the hero dashingly showed up, Pigmon also fell down to the floor after tripping over a cable or something so that its head came off in front of the excited audience, and Antler appeared with the body part of its body worn back to front.

Director Akio Jissoji #14


Silver Kamen Giant

As the tokusatsu show “Silver Kamen” (1971-1972: 26 episodes) started airing on TBS around the same period as “Mirrorman” (1971-1972: 51 episodes) produced by the Tsuburaya Productions and broadcast on Fuji Television, the “Silver Kamen” was a challenge from those who set up their own companies after their resignation from the Tsuburaya Productions towards the tokusatsu original.

Actually the “Silver Kamen” aired in the same time slot that was called the “Takeda Hour” back then as the original Ultra Series and Kaiki Daisakusen broadcast in the form of the Tsuburaya Productions having lost the glorious time slot.

The “Silver Kamen,” however, failed to gain so much popularity while it started as a tokusatsu show featuring a human-sized hero, and the show ended up starting featuring the giant version of Silver Kamen in Episode 11 and the subsequent episodes with its title also changed into “Silver Kamen Giant” from Episode 12.

 

Although the series finally managed to win popularity to some degree, the series ended with the 26 episodes as it is obvious that the “Mirroman” won the viewership competition. At the point when the show changed into “Silver Kamen Giant” most of the staff from the Kodai Group are said to have got out of the series including Akio Jissoji although Noriyoshi Ikeya seems to have kept being involved in it in charge of the art work.

While it is apparently an act Jissoji took showing his disapproval towards the series that started featuring the giant version of the hero as it made the show look more similar to the ones featuring the giant heroes by the Tsuburaya Productions against his will, given the “Silver Kamen” was planned to be produced under the combination of Jissoji and his long-time partner Mamoru Sasaki, script writer, who worked with Jissoji in “Ultraman” as well, it is a real bummer that Jissoji left the show in disappointment.

Incidentally, the Kodai Group has been widely involved in making TV commercials perhaps since it was set up, and it is said that it financially supported Jissoji’s activities in producing movies with the ATG as the ATG movies designed to be artistic rather than commercial were not always profitable enough while it seems to be one of the reasons Ikeya was also admired as an excellent business manager to manage the company well.

Director Akio Jissoji #13


Silver Kamen

Although I know little of Akio Jissoji’s other works than the tokusatsu shows he directed, it seems that his activities with the ATG as a film director has been described as the integral part of his film works after he resigned TBS in 1970 to become an independent film director.

The ATG (Nihon=Japan Art Theater Guild) was likely to have been known as a Japanese movie company that existed from 1961 to the 1980s producing and distributing artistic movies of good qualities with non-commercialism policies as it had an enormous influence on the Japanese movie industry even though I knew little about it unfortunately.

While chances are Jissoji was also noted for the indecent depictions featured in his movies. Moreover, Jissoji is said to have described the highlight of the Tsuburaya tokusatsu as the fetishism shown in their tenacity towards even textures of the objects including the miniatures, allegedly adding that he hated to see a computer-generated Godzilla rampaging in the city (I think he had said that before a computer-generated Godzilla was actually realized).

 

In addition, Jissoji seems to have been a fan of the anime “Evangelion” and, also, to have liked anime-like girl figures openly stating he was a big collector of them.

After Jissoji was involved in the show “Kaiki Daisakusen (Operation Mystery)” aired from 1968 to 1969 with the Tsuburaya Productions, he resigned TBS in 1970, as I mentioned above, and formed a company named “Kodai Group” with Noriyoshi Ikeya, kaiju designer for Ultraseven after Tohl Narita, who left the Tsuburaya Productions.

As some staff who left the Tsuburaya Productions founded their own company called “Nihon Gendai Kikaku (Japan Modern Planning),” Jissoji and Ikeya are likely to have named their company Kodai (meaning ancient) wittily contrary to the Gendai.

The tokusatsu show created by the combination between the Kodai Group and Nihon Gendai Kikaku was “Silver Kamen” (1971-1972).

Director Akio Jissoji #12


Recently released Jissoji’s book with his illustrations featured titled “Ultra Kaiju Gengakan (literally Dreamlike Images House)

There seem to be many stories about Akio Jissoji’s amazing abilities referred to by many people who had worked with him.

Noriyoshi Ikeya, who had been very close to Jissoji as they formed a new company after Ikeya resigned the Tsuburaya Productions, said Jissoji’s knowledge about art was incredible and far beyond that of Ikeya who had worked as the kaiju designer for Ultraseven after Tohl Narita’s resignation. And Jissoji was very good at drawing too while I have a book authored by Jissoji with his own illustrations. Furthermore, a sort of his art book with his illustrations of the Ultra Series characters came out recently although I have not purchased it yet.

In addition, Jissoji seems to have been known as a fast reader who reads through a book or script so quickly while understanding and remembering the contents perfectly. Therefore, chances are Jissoji had a wide range of knowledge about a variety of things including art and music as his vast knowledge of classical music especially amazed people around him.

From the cover of a book authored by Jissoji I have with me titled “Ultraman’s Tokyo” as the title should be understood easier as “Ultraman and Tokyo” or “The Landscape of Tokyo Featured in the Ultra Series” while it is a book about the changing scenery of Tokyo with Jissoji’s nostalgia of what the city used to be

Nevertheless, it is said that he was tolerant to musicians contrary to his stubbornness towards filmed images so that, when Jissoji worked with Toru Fuyuki known as the music composer for the show Ultraseven for some other job, Jissoji allegedly told Fuyuki that it would be OK to play unskillfully and sloppily although I imagine Jissoji wanted something played in a relaxed manner instead of precisely prearranged one, needless to say, highly evaluating and relying on Fuyuki’s excellent skills as a remarkable musician.  It is also said that Jissoji had perfect pitch.

Ikeya seems to have described Jissoji as a man hard to explain to others as he had so many different characters that varied according to opponents that it made it likely for others to get him wrong as Jissoji often refused job offers saying there is a difference of “perspective” even though he was also a good-natured man who would happily accept offers from those he liked to work with saying, “Perspective? It doesn’t matter.”