Category Archives: Kaiju Makings

GOMORA (making) #2

Gomora in the studio

Kurakata added he had been really nervous wondering if the radio control receiver might break at any time especially in the scene where Gomora’s tail was severed and the part where the tail dropped off caught fire as the heat and fire could have damaged the receiver.

Although there are some pictures of Ultraman and Gomora fighting with each other in front of Osaka Castle that should have been demolished by the kaiju before Ultraman appeared, it is known that these are the still photos shot before the castle was destroyed.

As to the miniature of Osaka Castle, it is known that Akira Sasaki who sculpted the original Ultraman and Ultraseven heads was involved in making it. He says he still remembers the sculpting of Osaka Castle well along with the National Stadium that appeared in Ultraman Episode 19 featuring Abolas and Banila.

Kunio Suzuki who acted Gomora got into the suit with goggles probably to protect his eyes from explosions of gunpowder
Gomora standing by at the side of Osaka Castle

Sasaki says it took him about 10 days to make the castle with the help of part-time assistants using plaster and wood with the structure to be built on the rock foundation made of styrofoam.

He adds the castle was all white when it was shaped, and they painted it finally. He also explains that the National Stadium miniature was not the whole thing of it but with one fourth or one fifth of it reproduced, saying he had a very hard time as he had to work overnight in succession to make it meet the deadline for the filming.

It is well known that the Gomora costume was remodeled into Zaragas in the end. Although it seems that Gomora was due to reappear in Ultraman Episode 37 set to be resurrected by Geronimon along with Red King, it was not realized because Gomora had already been made into Zaragas at that time, and they had Telesdon appear instead.

One of the still photos with Ultraman shot before the castle was destroyed by Gomora

 


GOMORA (making) #1

Gomora design drawn by Tohl Narita
Enlarged head from the above image: interestingly enough, a horn curved forward is found to have been added over the original horn on the snout

Tohl Narita: “I was impressed with the helmet of Kuroda Nagamasa (1568-1623), a samurai lord from Japan’s Warring States Period. I thought of incorporating the impression into this kaiju. Needless to say, it ended up having horns that were wider and thicker than those of his helmet.”

Gomora should be one of the most popular kaijus featured in “Ultraman” with its powerful and massive appearance so that it represents the kaiju characters that appeared in the show.

Along with the excellent design drawn by Tohl Narita, the subtly curved horns sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama are fabulous while the head used in the show still exists and has often been displayed at tokusatsu exhibitions with the sense of being alive still remaining unchanged as I actually saw it at an exhibition held in a museum even with the single horn on its snout missing and the mark where the left horn broken by Ultraman was fixed by being put back where it used to be.

Primary Gomora design drawn by Tohl Narita
Enlarged head from the above image
Helmet alleged to have belonged to Kuroda Nagamasa

Shigeo Kurakata says in an interview that the opening and closing movements of the mouth were operated by radio control with the receiver installed where its tail and body met.

He says, as, along with the kaiju rampaging a lot, many scenes featuring Gomora were filmed with the camera zooming out on the kaiju, they decided on the use of radio control instead of wire operation while the wire operation was predominantly used for the other kaijus. Takayama is said to have called the wire operation method “himokon” (himo=wire/string; derived from “rimokon” that is the Japanese abbreviation of “remote control”), which I find so witty.

Shigeo Kurakata (right) and the Gomora suit hung from above

DINO-TANK; ALIEN KILL (making) #2

Dino-Tank being sculpted

At any rate, I still find it quite odd that Dino-Tank didn’t even have its legs, which I assume was designed to make it look like it was integrated with the tank while it is an unlikely creature on the earth.

The brick-like parts covering its lower part of the body were made from the brick toy called “Daiya Burokku (daiya is from diamond)” by fastening them onto the surface. The brick-like parts should have been placed so as to make the dinosaur’s body look united with the tank part while the brick-like parts are found to have been drawn on Narita’s design as well.

When closely looking at the Dino-Tank costume, it makes me aware that the head and arms appear to have been attached to the body with a feel of different texture although such a process of putting separately sculpted parts together was not unusual.

Dino-Tank at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

This makes me speculate the body part could not possibly have been made by Takayama as, in my personal view, the body looks rather crude compared to the other parts elaborately sculpted while I am not sure…

The tank is said to have been based on the miniature of the type 61 tank borrowed from Nikkatsu movie company with details added to it while it was used in the 1967 Nikkatsu kaiju movie “Gappa: The Triphibian Monster.” The Daiya Burokku parts are also found to have been used for the surface of the tank Dino rode.

Regarding the story of this episode, it is said that the preparatory script didn’t have the concept of Amagi getting over his weakness caused by his traumatic experience he underwent in his childhood and that the one who removed the time bomb from Spiner was set to be Furuhashi. Thus, it can be said that the content of this episode was deepened by applying Amagi’s personal experience to it.

As to the making of Alien Kill, there is nothing to say about it as they were just portrayed as looking the same as humans. Although there seem to be fans who are interested in which actors played the aliens, I have to admit I am not so much drawn to the topic!

The back of Dino-Tank

DINO-TANK; ALIEN KILL (making) #1

Dino Tank design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “This is based on a weird idea of a dinosaur riding on a tank, but I personally don’t like to design such a thing.”

While it is unknown who came up with the idea of Dino-Tank as “a dinosaur on a tank,” I think it is a weird idea as Narita says as they look so irrelevant.

I was a bit disappointed when I was a kid at the mere combination of an ordinary dinosaur and ordinary tank. The significance of the story in which Amagi finally overcame his weakness was slightly hard to understand for a kid back then.

So this was not such an impressive episode when I watched it as a kid although I find it enjoyable enough now after I have learnt the significance of overcoming one’s own weakness and how hard it is.

Enlarged head part of the above design that looks excellent

When looking at the design and sculpture now, the dinosaur drawn by Narita and the head and arm parts of the Takayama-made costume look so excellent seemingly reproducing a now-extinct real-life dinosaur.

Generally speaking, it should be even harder to sculpt something simple and plain like the dinosaur with a touch of reality than to sculpt a character with a complex design. It is also interesting that the dinosaur had his teeth curved outwards.

Actually, I like Dino Tank’s roar as it is very much impressive. It is said that Kazuho Mitsuta who directed this episode decided not to use any background music for the scene where the kaiju fought with Ultraseven to make the tank caterpillar sound conspicuous as the director thought it would make the scene more thrilling.

While Narita’s design includes a tank design, it seems to have been left unused

DORAKO; REBORN DORAKO (making) #2

Reborn Dorako introduced as Dorako (II) in the “Fantastic TV Collection No. 2” published in 1979

While Dorako uniquely had a red lamp on the tip of its tail, it can be found that it was instructed as such in Narita’s design.

At any rate, there are no other words left to say than excellent and fabulous about Takayama’s skill of sculpture that enabled him to make the Dorako costume look totally identical to Narita’s design reproducing the details and entire shape.

To be honest, I ever thought Dorako had sickle and tape-measure hands without noticing it actually had two sickle hands in my childhood as the sickle and tape-measure hands were described as such in kaiju pictorials that were available at that time.

Deteriorated Reborn Dorako used as a stage show costume

For instance, one describes the tape-measure hand as giving out a whip from it and another as a magnetic hand.

Regarding Reborn Dorako that appeared in Ultraman Episode 37, as it is well known, the appearance is so much different from the original Dorako.

Although it is understandable that it had no wings given that it was its “reborn” version brought back to life by the superability of Geronimon as the wings were torn off by Red King (II), it is not as convincing that it had human-like five-fingered hands instead of the sickles and that it had 4 horns while the original Dorako had only a single horn.

Dorako’s right hand is described as a magnetic hand in the 24th edition of “Kaiju Ultra Zukan (Pictorial)” published in 1971 (the first edition was released in 1968)

The statement made by Tetsuo Yamamura covered in a book revealed that it was Kunio Suzuki, one of the Ultra kaiju suit actors, who took the liberty of fastening the additional horns onto the costume for no particular reason at his discretion. And the additional horns were the horns removed from the suit of Imora that appeared in “Kaiju Booska.”

Yamamura says Suzuki was in charge of maintaining kaiju costumes along with his role as a suit actor back then. While this story might amusingly show the easy-goingness of the good old days, it remains unknown why Reborn Dorako ended up having five-fingered hands.

Incidentally, “Reborn Dorako” along with the other resurrected kaijus that appeared in this Geronimon episode used to be called “Dorako II” in publications although it was just called Dorako in my childhood with no particular specification.


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

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.


GUIGASS (making)

Guigass design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “I designed it with the image of strength above all.”

As it is well known among fans, the costume of Guigass was remodeled from that of Hydra. Hydra was sculpted by Ex Production and the remodeling into Guigass was also done by the same company. So Narita’s design should have been naturally drawn on the assumption that the costume was to be based on Hydra.

Tetsuo Yamamura says in the Ultraman Research Book that the costume was very heavy with the feeling of weight felt around the shoulders leaving the arms only movable with the parts below the elbows when worn.

Enlarged head part of the design

Keizo Murase says in the same section of the book it actually had a pile of lead weights in the shoulders while the purpose is left unexplained in the passage.

Partly because Guigass was a kaiju less impressive along with its appearance that makes it look just like an abominable snowman, I didn’t notice it was remodeled from Hydra for a long time before I was told so. Nevertheless, the sculpture of the costume is so excellent along with Hydra.

Photo allegedly taken at Ex Production

In my personal impression, Ex Production did a very good job in sculpting Ultra kaijus alongside of those sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama as I believe the production company was also involved in sculpting “kaijin (mysterious human)” characters for the series “Kamen Rider” in later years.

Putting it the other way around, the fact that Takayama sculpted his kaijus as much excellently makes his ability as a sculptor look even more outstanding while he was actually a “painter,” not a sculptor, although Ex Production consisted of staff who had been deeply involved in Kaiju sculpting for Toho movies as skilled sculptors.