Tohl Narita: “This is a kaiju formed from the lion.”
As it is well known among ardent Ultraman fans, Zumbolar was the kaiju whose costume was remodeled from that of Gavadon B while I didn’t notice it at all when I was a child.
Although it was initially planned that Gubila would be converted from Gavadon B, Gubila turned out to be a newly sculpted kaiju, and the remodeling of Gavadon B into another kaiju was realized with this Zumbolar.
While Narita drew an impressive design based on the lion as he stated, it is a shame that the costume remodeled from the other kaiju seemingly ended up falling short of fully expressing the attraction of Narita’s fascinating design with an active feel. If the costume should have been newly made, the kaiju might have given us a totally different impression.
The remodeling work was done by Ryosaku Takayama who had sculpted the costume of Gavadon A and B as the FRP was applied by Takayama to the translucent lighting parts projecting from its body and 40w light bulbs were set in there by Shigeo Kurakata, kaiju mechanic, while the same method was also used for Giradorus later that appeared in “Ultraseven.”
It is said that Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla actor, was initially planned to play Zumbolar. As the costume was too small for Nakajima to wear, it was decided to extend the costume by cutting it into halves although it turned out that Kunio Suzuki took Nakajima’s place finally so that the costume helped being separated.
Kurakata says in a book that the excessive use of gunpowder in this episode caused complaints from the Bisen studio where the series were filmed and that the use was restricted for the subsequent episodes. It seems that the large amount of fire used in this episode left Suzuki who acted the kaiju no choice but to stand up to avoid the fire while filming although Zumbolar was set to be a four-footed kaiju.
While this episode is noted for the appearance of Annu Mari as Patty from the SSSP India, Hiroko Sakurai (Akiko Fuji) says both of them wore long hair at that time and that Sakurai tied her hair to make their appearances distinctive paying respect to the guest actress supposing that Mari would appear with her long hair, whereas Mari showed up on the set with her hair cut short taking pains with Sakurai to make it easier for her to act Fuji with her long hair. It is an anecdote I feel somewhat warms my heart!
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.
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.
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.
Yuzo Higuchi, the director of this episode, agrees with the interviewer in a book article who asked him if this episode was meant to warn people about the excessive resort development which spread into every part of Japan back then.
“Woo” seems to be described as the name which came either from an Okinawan word (the script of this episode was written by Tetsuo Kinjo who was originally from Okinawa) denoting a kind of fabric pronounced in a similar way or from the title of the show “WoO” being planned along with “UNBALANCE” while “UNBALANCE” finally turned into “Ultra Q.”
As it is likely they had a lot of snowfall on the location set they hadn’t had for the last 20 to 30 years, chances are it made the filming very hard. Higuchi recalls they had to walk very carefully not to leave any footprints on the snow and that none of the cast and staff were good at skiing so they had to hire ski instructors in the locality to have them perform for the long shot scenes showing the SSSP members skillfully skiing down the slope in a graceful manner instead of the cast members, Kurobe, Ishii (present Dokumamushi) and Nihei.
While having the instructors ski instead of them, it seems that the cast had to wait shivering in cold with their overcoats on as their SSSP uniforms were worn by the instructors while they didn’t bring the spare uniforms to the location.
Higuchi says they had a very hard time because, for the medium shot scenes showing the actual cast, the SSSP members were not able to stop on skis where they were supposed to play to be properly caught on film as they easily got out of the picture with the momentum out of skiing from a place a little way off with their skis on.
The ski field that appeared in this episode is likely to have had a resort facility affiliated with TBS, which should indicate how much popular going to resorts including ski fields was among people during Japan’s postwar high economic growth period.
Tohl Narita: “In a word, it is a sen-nin. As there is nothing interesting if it’s all white (while the set would be white too*), I made its face dark. Even though I initially drew A, it looked too much like a sen-nin, and I drew B instead by flattening its head.”
*Narita’s own remark
Sen-nin means a wizard or hermit seen as immortal living in the mountains while it should have originated from Taoism and the word is often used in Japan to refer to someone living in the mountain, not necessarily in seclusion or for a religious purpose, saying something like “He’s a man just like a sen-nin living so deep in the mountain” apart from the Chinese religion (I believe most Japanese people are even unaware that the idea of sen-nin originally came from Taoism even though the word itself is so familiar to them).
It seems that Yuzo Higuchi who directed this episode featuring Woo had something more like an abominable snowman in mind and that he realized the actual costume had excessively long hair when he looked at it for the first time. But he says, as he didn’t know a kaiju like an abominable snowman (Guigass) had already appeared in the show then, the design of Woo is now fully acceptable to him.
As to its sculpture, the costume was made by Ex Production instead of Ryosaku Takayama following Goldon that appeared in the previous episode.
Keizo Murase who was with Ex Production back then says they used plant fabric of Manila hemp usually called “sutaffu (stuff?) among them. Even though the stuff is usually rather short in length, he says they obtained the long one from a bike store which used to be located right across Toho because the store owner had a lot of knowledge of the fabric material as they also dealt with ropes (I don’t exactly understand why ropes can be associated with a bike store).
Tetsuo Yamamura says the Woo costume was very light in weight with the long hair just covering the lower part of the body like a straw skirt with nothing to cover the actor’s body while the actor looked out through the bunch of hair so that his face could have been exposed if the covering hair should have been pushed aside.
Tohl Narita: “This is the underground kaiju based on the caterpillar I got the idea from.”
Featuring Goldon, this was another impressive episode with two of the same kaiju appeared even using one single costume with the other one set to appear after the previous one died.
And I feel like the appearance of Senkichi Omura who eccentrically played the miner Yamamoto obsessed with gold made this episode even more unforgettable along with the Ultraman’s Type B costume badly showing the deterioration including Dada’s episode.
The Goldon costume was sculpted by Ex Production instead of Ryosaku Takayama while the production company had made the costumes of Peter for “Ultra Q,” Hydra and Guigass (remodeled from Hydra) for “Ultraman” and Woo was added to these three with the episode to come right after Goldon.
Tetsuo Yamamura says the Goldon costume had no opening with the zipper on its back through which the actor could get inside but that it was the costume that could be separated into the upper and lower parts while they met where one of the dents lied between the segments of the body with the ingenuity uniquely featured for this particular kaiju costume.
Keizo Murase who worked on the Goldon costume at Ex Production back then before he founded his own company “Twenty” later states that Goldon was painted with gold powder (I think he means gold-colored powder) mixed with lacquer paint.
According to him, they made its back rough by spreading latex mixed with sawdust over it while he adds, because it will become sticky unless the part coated with latex containing sawdust get immediately dried, they had a housewife, who worked part time for them, make it dry with the heat of reflector lamps.
Murase says they regularly had a housewife named Kato-san (Ms. Kato) come to help them as a skilled, seasoned part-time assistant for their job while she had also been involved in the sculpting work at Toho as a part-timer.