Category Archives: Cast & Staff

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.


Part-Timers’ Great Contributions To Kokusatsu #2

The woman on the right hand side could be Kato-san with Imora somehow

Judging from the woman found to be drying Goldon’s back in my Goldon making entry, I guess the smiling woman in these photos as if showing her good nature wearing a white kappogi (coverall apron) could be Kato-san although it is left unspecified in the issue of the Tokusatsu Hiho magazine containing these photos.

In one of the pictures shown in the magazine along with the talk between Kaimai and Murase, while it should have been taken at Toho with Baragon and the sculpting staff shown, the woman on the left hand side with a big smile could also be Kato-san as she and the woman shown in the photos taken at Ex Production look alike.

The woman on the left hand side could be Kato-san with Baragon at Toho

While the photo posted in this entry shows the Imora costume that was remodeled from the Banila suit with its head replaced, the caption of the Tokusatsu Hiho says it is unknown why Imora is included in the photo as it was written in Ryosaku Takayama’s diary that the sculpting of Banila and remodeling into Imora were done by himself without referring to the involvement of Ex Production.

At any rate, I like these photos as if showing an idyllic atmosphere of Japan we definitely had in those days with the people smiling happily. As there was a lot of demand for kaiju costumes when the “Second Kaiju Boom” arose with such tokusatsu products as “The Return of Ultraman,” “Spectreman (P Production)” and “Mirrorman” in the 1970s, it seems that many part-timers including housewives helped to sculpt the costumes.

Eizo Kaimai (left) and Keiso Murase in their talk featured in an issue of the Tokusatsu Hiho magazine

Around the “First Kaiju Boom” including the original Ultra Series it is said that a lot of art university students took part in the production such as costume sculpting or miniature modeling as part-timers while many of them were from Musashino Art University from which Tohl Narita and Noriyoshi Ikeya had graduated. Young, quiet and stoic-looking Ikeya devotedly working on the set seems to have gained much popularity from female students from the art universities.

Anyway, I believe this should be the first blog where Kato-no-obachan was referred to for people outside of Japan (I made her name into one of the tags)! I would like to thank those part-timers including her for their great job they did in enabling us to enjoy the tokusatsu shows when we were kids!


Part-Timers’ Great Contributions To Kokusatsu #1

As a statement made by Keizo Murase I wrote about a housewife who worked part-time for Ex Production in my previous post, and there seem to have been some housewives who helped to sculpt kauju costumes back then while working part-time.

A talk featured in an issue of Tokusatsu Hiho (secret treasure) made between Eizo Kaimai and Keizo Murase, both of whom were involved in sculpting work at Toho for the movies including the Godzilla series, revealed Kato-san referred to in my previous post was one of them, and it is likely that she could do almost every piece of work related to sculpting as she had been working for Toho as a part-time assistant for sculpting.

While the moderator in the talk says he has often heard of Kato-san’s name as Kato-no-obachan (obachan, not obaachan as it denotes an older woman, represents “auntie” but it can also be used for a middle-aged woman who is close to you when you call her or refer to her in a friendly way; no is a Japanese modifying particle explaining the attribute of the obachan in this case), Murase says in the talk that Kato-san was so helpful because she was kind enough to bring would-be part-timers together who would rally around her whenever she called them.

Kaimai and Murase say pasting the scales onto the King Ghidora costume was the work done by those obachans including Kato-san as those including her and her kids spread latex onto the scale mold, cast it out, cut each scale out of the sheet cast out of the mold with scissors and pasted them from the lower part of the costume (to make the scales come over one another).

While the Ghidora heads and legs were sculpted separately from the body to be put together later, it seems that the scales were pasted temporarily leaving some marginal space scaleless about 10 centimeters in length from each end of the separate parts so that the people could put the scales onto the joined sections after the separate parts came together.


Mysterious Man: Shōji Ōtomo #3

Zetton set to have its eyes back in the pair of projecting parts on his face and to give out a light ball of one trillion degrees Celsius from his mouth (Kaiju Ultra Zukan)

It is said that Shōji Ōtomo drew attention with the nick name of “Mr. Kaiju” while the kaiju pictorial he had authored gained so much popularity that it became a hot topic back then that even the Crown Prince of Japan was one of the children who purchased the book.

Ōtomo seems to have worked on a picture book of Eiji Tsuburaya to be authored by Hajime Tsuburaya in the hope of restoring the friendship with him, and  Ōtomo suddenly died of heart attack right before the book got completed leaving the restoration of their relationship unrealized with Hajime Tsuburaya having also died only 13 days after Ōtomo had passed away while Ōtomo had claimed he would be dying by 40 since he was younger. (it is likely that the book titled “Tsuburaya Eiji – Nihon Eigakai Ni Nokoshita Isan/Eiji Tsuburaya – The Legacy He Left Behind in the Movie Industry of Japan” published in 1973 is still available in the reprinted version).

A photo of Toho kaiju “Kumonga” is shown instead of “Gumonga” of Ultraseven with the description for the latter  (Kaiju Ultra Zukan)

I remember I was surprised at the anatomy illustration of Ultraman when I was a kid and that it made me wonder “Wow! Is he a robot?” as his metallic skeleton was shown in the illustration (I didn’t know the word “cyborg” back then). As to Alien Baltan’s feet shaped in a very different way from the actual costume, it has an explanation describing them as being able to give out toxic liquid with the organs secreting the liquid properly shown in the anatomy illustration. And it is fun to find that the projecting parts on Zetton’s face are interpreted as having his eyes back in there.

By today’s standards, although it should have been unavoidable with no videos available to review in those days, the specifications he laid would be found to lack accuracy in one way or another such as his statement that Ultraman left the earth for home after he had fought against Zōffy (not Zoffy. Apparently mixed up with the mysterious alien currently called Alien Zetton) and Zetton in the explanatory section for Ultraman.

At any rate, there is no doubt that Shōji Ōtomo greatly contributed to helping us kids expand our imagination with the settings he had devised, and it seems to be appropriate to see him called “the first otaku (enthusiast of anime or tokusatsu)” while he gives me an impression he was totally a mysterious man beyond description.

Note:  The anatomical and technical illustrations were drawn by having illustrators draw them at the instruction of Otomo based on his ideas with the rough sketches drawn by Otomo and presented to them, and it is not that the illustrations actually featured in magazines/books of the time were the works drawn by Otomo himself.


Mysterious Man: Shōji Ōtomo #2

from “Ultra Kaiju Zukan”

It is explained online that it was Shōji Ōtomo who introduced Maurits Escher and René Magritte to Japanese people for the first time along with the “Star Trek” TV series.

It seems that he started being involved with Tsuburaya Productions around the time when the TV show “UNBALANCE” that was to turn “Ultra Q” in a while was being planned. As the show was planned to be produced with the cooperation from a group of Japanese sci-fi novel writers to work out the plots in the first place, Ōtomo might have got involved in the show through that channel.

It was him who devised each precise setting for the hero and kaiju characters and the equipment used by the defense teams with the anatomy illustrations and cross section illustrations based on his ideas even apart from the depictions or descriptions found in the shows.

Same as above

The settings he specified such as Ultraman’s energy limit putting it as three minutes and Zetton’s light ball allegedly given out of its mouth as one trillion degrees Celsius were incorporated into the official settings by Tsuburaya Productions (I hadn’t known he set the energy limit as three minutes until recently).

On the other hand, it also seems to have been Ōtomo who caused dispute afterwards by adding the subtitle that could be seen as offensive to atomic bomb victims to Alien Spell so that Ultraseven Episode 12 featuring the alien has been banned since then in Japan.

It is said that he was so meticulous about his work and such a demanding boss that three editors who had worked under him resigned when the publishing company Kodansha regularly had his articles appear in their magazines.

Chances are that Ōtomo was finally banned from Tsuburaya Productions because Hajime Tsuburaya, Eiji’s first son, took a dim view of the way Ōtomo had dealt with their kaiju characters perhaps by taking the liberty of stretching the stories and settings at his discretion.


Mysterious Man: Shōji Ōtomo #1

Shoji Otomo

Regarding the original Ultra Series, Ultra Q, Ultraman and Ulttraseven, that have been featured in this blog, I feel like referring to Shōji Ōtomo (1936-1973) should never be missed.

Shōji Ōtomo is known for his work related to the Tsuburaya tokusatsu TV series especially while playing a major role in publicizing kaiju pictorials featuring kaiju anatomy illustrations based on the ideas Ōtomo had devised.

Although it is very hard to describe him about what he actually was as he is referred to as “a Japanese editor, sci-fi researcher, movie critic and translator” on the Internet, it is told that he was born as Toyoji Shishimoto to his father, Hachiro Shishimoto, international journalist, and his mother, Ai Shishimoto, social movement journalist. The name Shōji Ōtomo was one of his pseudonyms.

Ōtomo spent his childhood in Mexico from two to five years of age when his father was assigned abroad, and, while looking at Aztec pyramids and the like, it helped him get into something mysterious.

While his mother Ai Shishimoto was alive until she died at 103 in 2013, the Ultraseven Research Book published by Yōsensha in 2012 got to have her appear in an interview included in the book in which she said Ōtomo had been drawing a lot of monsters inspired by the statues he had seen in the Aztec areas so that he had drawn some 100 monster drawings when he was two years old.

After he came back to Japan, he graduated from Keio Universtity where he met Toshihiro Iijima and Keisuke Fujikawa at Broadcasting Study Club (an extracurricular activity) Ōtomo was involved with for a short period of time when Iijima and Fujikawa, who were to become a director and a writer for the Ultra Series respectively in later years, were upper-year students of the university.


Another Tokusatsu-Related Actor, Chikara Hashimoto, Passed Away

Daimajin played by Hashimoto

An obituary of Chikara Hashimoto who played Daimajin in its suit was published. According to it, he died of lung cancer at 83 on October 11.

While I hadn’t known  it, he is described as an actor who used to be a professional baseball player. After his resignation from baseball due to an accidental injury, he turned into an actor at the suggestion of an assistant director of Daiei movie company.

Taking advantage of his height, he was picked for the role of Daimajin for its Daiei movies, and he acted the character for all the three episode of the series.

Dymon played by Hashimoto

It is known that, when he was about to act Daimajin, he was told not to blink, while his eyes were exposed through its mask with the eye parts uncovered, because it would be unsuitable for the guardian deity to blink like a human.

Therefore, it seems that Hashimoto never blinked while the scenes where Daimajin appeared were being filmed, and it is said that, as the dust swirling in the studio made his eyes bloodshot, which allegedly managed to make Daimajin’s furious expression on its face all the more impressive unintentionally as the result even with its mask covering Hashimoto’s face.

Hashimoto in “Fist of Fury”

Although I didn’t know this either, Hashimoto is likely to have also acted Dymon in the 1968 Daiei “yōkai” movie “Yōkai Daisensō (Yōkai Great War)” and got to make the character as much impressive with its suit designed to have his eyes exposed again.

And, moreover, I have just learnt he played one of the Japanese bad guy martial artists impressively in Bruce Lee’s 1972 “Fist of Fury.” It makes me feel somewhat ashamed that I didn’t notice it at all while both the “Daimajin” movie series and “Fist of Fury” are my favorites!

After he stopped being an actor in 1985, chances are that he showed up at some tokusatsu-related events and the like as the Daimajin actor.

The series of obituaries of tokusatsu-related actors such as Haruo Nakajima and Yoshio Tsuchiya really make me sad…


Dr. Tsuchida (Yoshio Tsuchiya) Passed Away At 89 #2

Tsuchiya as Dr. Morita in Ultraman Episode 18

Tsuchiya also seems to have played the head of Alien Xs in the 1965 movie produced by Toho and UPA “Invasion of Astro-Monster” as happily as the equivalent of the Mysterians with no unwillingness to act while dressed as an alien.

The “Ultraman Research Book (Ultraman Kenkyū Dokuhon)” published in 2014 covers an interview with Tsuchiya in which he says he came up with the idea that the aliens’ language must be depicted to be translated into the Japanese language as it is unthinkable they, if they exist, would speak Japanese abruptly.

Therefore he showed his happiness about Alien Zarab’s portable electric brain capable of translating the alien’s words into Japanese when the interview went on with the scene of the episode being shown to him on DVD or something.

When the interviewer told him that he looked great in a while lab coat, Tsuchiya said, “Oh, of course. I was a medical student,” as he graduated from the predecessor of Faculty of Medicine of University of Yamanashi.

Tsuchiya as Dr. Tsuchida in Ultraseven Episode 14 and 15

In the interview, Tsuchiya also says he liked appearing in tokusatsu products very much and that he often went to see what was taking place on the tokusatsu set out of curiosity while acting for the drama part of the movie (the same is likely to be true of Kenji Sahara).

Eiji Tsuburaya who knew Tsuchiya’s fondness of tokusatsu seems to have been kind enough to send for Tsuchiya when a “never miss” tokusatsu scene started being filmed in the studio.

Therefore, Tsuchiya says in the interview he missed Eiji Tsuburaya when the renowned tokusatsu director founded his own company and started working on TV tokusatsu shows instead of movies.

Tsuchiya adds he wanted to support Hajime Tsuburaya, Eiji’s first son, and decided to appear in Ultra Q Episode 2 as it was directed by Hajime Tsuburaya while he still feels like Tsuburaya Productions is so close to him like his family.

Tsuchiya seems to have been an actor admired very much by Akira Kurosawa as well. It is so sad to learn about Tsuchiya’s death right after the death of Mr. Godzilla.


Dr. Tsuchida (Yoshio Tsuchiya) Passed Away At 89 #1

Yoshio Tsuchiya as Gikan Ono in Ultra Q Episode 2

It has been publicized that Yoshio Tsuhiya, former Toho movie actor, passed away at 89 although it seems that he had already died from lung cancer in February this year.

While he has been renowned as an actor who played a leading role in such Toho movies including tokusatsu as “The Human Vapor” (1960), I find, as a TV tokusatsu fan, the roles he played in the Ultra Series were also very much impressive.

As to his roles for the Ultra Series, he played Gikan (technical official) Ono in Ultra Q Episode 2, Dr. Morita in Ultraman Episode 18 and Dr. Tsuchida in Ultraseven Episode 14 and 15.

The line uttered by Dr. Tsuchida about King Joe describing it as “That’s a great mechanism!” is often referred to in a joking way when the Alien Pedan’s Robot is talked about among fans.

 

It seems that Tsuchiya himself liked to play a weird character rather than a stoic one and that he proposed to act the head of the Mysterians in the 1957 Toho movie “The Mysterians” as he was drawn to playing an alien even though he had been planned to perform the leading “human” role that ended up being acted by Kenji Sahara instead as Tsuchiya insisted on playing the alien.

It is explained that, while the acting management section of Toho refused his proposal saying it is not the right role for him as he can’t show his face, Tsuchiya told them he would like to play the alien even if his face is not visible and that showing the face is not everything about actors.

Then, chances are Tsuchiya directly conveyed his intention to play the alien to Ishiro Honda, director of the movie, and his passion appears to have inspired Honda a lot.