Category Archives: Ultraman Kaiju Makings

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

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.


RED KING (II) (making)

Still photo featuring Type B Ultraman and Red King II

As to Red King II, while it was seen as the kaiju who just reappeared, it is not that the design was redrawn by Tohl Narita and there is no description about it in his art books.

The difference between Red King and Red King II is only that Red King II conspicuously had whites in his eyes with the light from inside although Red King appears to have only black eyes as they were not lit up while it is said the eyes of the latter also had whites properly. Red King’s eyes had a mechanism to move its eye balls under the transparent domes instead of the light.

Takayama himself seems to have told in his sculpting diary that he made a new head for Red King II when the costume was restored to it after the suit was used as Abolas with the original Red King head replaced.

As the shape of the head looks the same as the original Red King, it is assumed that the new head for Red King II was cast out of the same mold as the original Red King.

Still photo featuring Type B Ultraman and Red King II

While this is chronologically one of the episodes with the Type B Ultraman suit used in it, the scene where they fight with each other looks much more stylish in a way with the Type B Ultraman and Red King II while the whites of his eyes made the kaiju look sort of more sophisticated than the Type A Ultaman head that might have looked mysterious or somewhat creepy and the original Red King head that looked much more wild like a beast.

As I especially like Type B Ultraman, the fight they fought was very much impressive along with the equivalent fought between Type B Ultraman and Alien Baltan (II) as the latter also unfolded, in Ultraman Episode 2, with the use of the Type A Ultraman suit and the original Alien Baltan that looks so much different from Baltan (II).

That being said, it never means I hate Type A Ultaman, the original Red Kind and the original Baltan as they are definitely attractive as well.

Regarding Red King (II), it might be a bit shame that it was portrayed too comically in this episode like a comical human character to be the biped kaiju designed to represent Ultraman kaijus while it was perhaps intended to be comparable to Godzilla in his movies.


GUBILA (making)

Primary design of Gubila drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “Designing fish kaijus hardly works out well.  It is not that it doesn’t go well in designing or sculpting one, but I can’t get into it because I can easily imagine the outcome of the finished film. These are the designs I drew while trying to draw whatever variations I came up with.”

I think Narita means, as it was hard to film the action of fish kaijus in water with technology of the time, how they had looked in the finished films tended to put a damper on his motivation to design one.

In the case of Gubila, however, I think they managed to avoid a mess that could have happened to tokusatsu scenes in water as Gubila had a drill on the tip of its head and the fight with Ultaman unfolded after it appeared above ground by moving through the ground with the drill from the sea bed it dug into while the scenes in water were filmed with a puppet.

Primary design of Gubila drawn by Tohl Narita

As I previously wrote, it is said that the design of Gubila was based on the filefish and the drill on the turban shell. It is also explained that, as remodeling Gavadon (B) for Gubila was initially being planned, Narita’s primary design of Gubila had been drawn on that assumption although it was redesigned and newly sculpted in the end.

Tetsuo Yamamura says in a book that the hair planted on top of the costume was made from a broom cut short. He seems to have seen the costume placed in the storage of the Tokyo Bijutsu (Art) Center (abbreviated as Bisen) with its drill removed after the filming.

Finalized design of Gubila drawn by Tohl Narita

The sound Gubila makes is said to have been duplicated from the high-pitched segment of the equivalent of Balgon that appeared in the 1966 Daiei movie “Gamera vs. Balgon” while it is unknown why the sound of a Daiei kaiju was used for an Ultra kaiju although I don’t believe this is a rare case.

Incidentally, Balgon was a kaiju sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama, and it is said that its costume that looks rather thin for a movie kaiju shows it was made by Takayama with his method of sculpting TV show kaijus. It is known that Takayama was also involved in Daiei tokusatsu movies including “Daimajin.”


JAMYRA (making)

Jamyra design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “This is an attempt to push the limits of having the suit get a man inside.”

While Narita describes as above, integrating the head and body by removing the parts corresponding to the shoulders might have been the same method as the one applied to Alien Zarab.

Nevertheless, I found the shape of Jamyra so impressive when I watched the show as a kid along with how this tragic kaiju who was formerly a human was portrayed in it.

Hiroko Sakurai who played Akiko Fuji writes in one of her books as remarks from Akio Jissoji who directed this episode that Jissoji felt Narita might not have liked Jamyra so much because Narita gave his design of the kaiju immediately without any hesitation to Jissoji when Jissoji asked Narita to let him own the design he found fabulous.

Sculpting plan drawn by Ryosaku Takayama

This story could indicate Jamyra was a kaiju that ran counter to Narita’s three principles for kaiju designs as it could be seen as a distorted human form.

It is unknown whether the design of Jamyra included in Narita’s art books (the image on top) was the one that used to be owned by Jissoji.

Tetsuo Yamamura says the costume was seemingly made of a sheet of foam rubber while the method was commonly found among the costumes including those of Bemlar and Pester adding that he dimly remembers the cracked skin was made by spreading latex over the mold and having each piece pasted (onto the body surface) without gaps between each other.

It seems that the upper, the lower part of the body and its arms seem to have been made separately before being put together.

Jamyra at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

It is known that, although the light of the eyes was accidentally turned off due to an unexpected wire disconnection during the filming, it was allowed to go on without reshooting the scene as Koichi Takano, tokusatsu director, judged that Jamyra’s eyes with the light off could express the kaiju’s agony and grievance more explicitly.

It is explained the switch for the eye lights were set inside the arm to allow the actor, Teruo Aragaki, to operate it.

While I often saw a lad imitate Jamyra by making his face come out of the opening of a round neck shirt so that it ended up getting miserably stretched out, it is hilarious that I have just learnt a figure of a boy with his shirt worn in the funny way was made into a figure set and released from Bandai including Jamyra titled “Mizugiwa-no Jamyra (Jamyra at the Water’s Edge)” in 2015 so  they can be placed at the edge of a glass (image at the bottom of this entry)!

Jamyra at the back of the Bisen studio


TELESDON; REBORN TELESDON; UNDERGROUND HUMAN (making)

Telesdon design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about Telesdon) “I wanted to make a sharp-looking kaiju rather than the one with a sense of heaviness.” (about Underground Human) “I tried to cover the eyes with the underground flower, diamond.”

Telesdon is a kaiju that is truly attractive with its sharply pointed head shaped like a beak and its segmented body that really make it look like a kaiju going its way underground while its rampage shown while marching through the city amidst crossfire in the darkness of night was also very much impressive.

The scene processed with optical compositing of Telesdon viewed from between the buildings was fascinating too.

Telesdon at the Bisen studio; the curve from back to head shown by the side view is very much beautiful

It is said that Telesdon’s head had a core made of FRP underneath the latex placed on the surface that helped to make the head look sharp and rigid, but it seems that the costume was used at stage shows, after the series ended, with the core removed to avoid possible injuries an actor inside might suffer while acting.

It is assumed that the absence of the core caused even intense distortion in the head and neck as the deterioration of the costume occurred, and Detton that appeared in “Return of Ultraman” was “what it used to be Telesdon” after the use of the suit in “Ultra Fight.”

Tetsuo Yamamura says in a book that the Telesdon costume was coated with knitted fabric. He says the suit was used a lot at stage shows because it was easy to get in and to move while he also wore it and performed at stage shows adding that he felt sorry for Telesdon as he found it continued to be used until it got completely worn out.

Underground Human design drawn by Tohl Narita

Reborn Telesdon doesn’t look so much different from Telesdon in appearance as the costume was still “fresh.”

As to Underground Human, it seems that, in the script, they were described as those with featureless faces. While the design by Narita was left unused somehow, Akio Jissoji who directed this episode seems to have been very much disappointed at what the Underground Humans looked like with the stuff he referred to as “something like hanpen,” Japanese food made of fish paste.

I remember the Underground Humans apparently wearing pads over their eyes were not scary at all when I watched the show as a kid.

Hanpen

KEMLAR (making)

Kemlar design with the shells unfolded drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “While it is similar to the idea about Gavora, an attempt was made to make it look different by covering it with something, which was the shells on the back.”

It is said that the Kemlar costume was planned to be remodeled from that of Gamakugira initially, but, as Ryosaku Takayama found it would require a lot more work to remodel the costume, it was newly sculpted eventually.

This makes Narita’s description of Kemlar more comprehensible as the shells were for covering up the costume based on Gamakugira like Gavora‘s fins that veiled the kaiju remodeled from Nelonga.

Although the design by Narita shows the shells were to cover its head too like Gavora, it seems that Takayama adjusted it so as to make the shells cover only the kaiju’s back.

Kemlar design with the shells folded drawn by Tohl Narita

While, from the design, it appears that the jaw was planned to divide into two and that the costume was sculpted accordingly, the mechanism was left unused although you can see a slit in the center of the jaw where the two parts were supposed to come apart and meet.

It is likely that Kemlar’s weak point was set to be an luminescent organ inside the mouth in the script first and that it was changed to the equivalent on the back.

The light Kemlar gave out when breathing out the toxic gas was to come from the luminescent organ in the mouth. Thus, because the sequence was dropped in which the light from the mouth made Hoshino aware of the luminescent organ in the mouth as its weak point, it ended up making Hoshino’s remark sound unnatural in the completed film as he abruptly specified the luminescent part on the back as the kaiju’s weak point.

The change seems to have been made as the weak point on the back would make the fight scene look more picturesque than the one in the mouth. The luminescent organ was made by Shigeo Kurakata using a rubber ice pack and an air pump to inflate and deflate it.

In the script, chances are that Kemlar was supposed to unfold its tail like a peacock without any depiction of the shells on the back unfolding.

Takayama wrapped vinyl leather he bought around its tail saying in his diary it looked so impressive when the whole tail was wrapped with the material as it made the tail look like that of an earwig.

Tetso Yamamura says in a book that the shells were made from FRP and that they were excellently sculpted while I find it very much attractive that the shells look so different between the front side and back side.

Incidentally, as the word for smoke is “kemuri” in Japanese, Kemlar is named after that while Kemur was named as such because it vanishes like kemuri.


HYDRA (making)

Hydra design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “It feels like a birdman.”

It is known that Hydra was designed after the real-life statue that appeared in the show. It is a statue named Kōgenryū (literally, “wild field dragon”) that still remains in existence at the Izu Shaboten (Cactus) Park (Hydra’s alias is Kōgenryū in the show as well, but it means “plateau dragon” with a different Chinese character used).

As to how this statue was chosen for the show, Yuzo Higuchi, director of this episode, plainly says in a book that they found it by chance during location scouting. Things were often decided in such an easy-going way back then while I love it.

Hydra was sculpted by Ex Production instead of Ryosaku Takayama who should have already been extremely busy in making Narita-designed Ultra Kaijus one after another.

Enlarged head part of the design

Ex (representing “expert”) Production pronounced as “Ekisu Purodakushon” or abbreviated as “Ekisu Puro” in Japanese was formed by the founders including Masao Yagi and Keizo Murase who had been involved in the sculpting work for Toho tokusatsu movies such as Godzilla.

It seems to have been when Ex Production was just established that the order was placed with them for the Hydra costume. Murase founded his own sculpting company in 1972 called “Twenty” (written and pronounced as “Tsenny” in Japanese) known to have made the massively sculpted costumes of Vakishim and Verokron for “Ultraman Ace.”

Among other things, it is said Vakishim was too large to take out of the workshop and that they had to sever the costume temporarily for delivery to the studio.

Hydra at the back of the Bisen studio

According to Murase, Hydra’s scales all over the body were made from an artificial leather material by cutting each piece apart and pasting them over each other.

He says they made scales for King Ghidorah by casting the latex pieces from the mold, which enabled them to give the scales more solidity with the center part of each piece slightly elevated while the same method could not be applied to a TV show kaiju due to the budget and schedule.

The Hydra costume was remodeled into Guigass by Ex Production afterwards. In the 1970s, Ex Production and Twenty seem to have played their active roles in sculpting characters mainly for the shows featuring human-sized heroes such as Kamen Rider and Kikaider.

Incidentally, it is likely that Izu Shaboten Park has changed its name into Izu Shaboten Zoo Park (Izu Shaboten Dobutsu Koen) with the Kōgenryū statue remaining as it had been.

Izu Shaboten Zoo Park Map shown at their website (I added the Kogenryu statue inscription)

ABOLAS; BANILA (making #2)

Banila design drawn by Tohl Narita

The removed original heads of Abolas and Banila used in the show still remain in existence as they are often displayed at exhibitions (I have actually seen them).

According to the settings recently publicized, the birthplace of Abolas and Banila seems to be described as “Myū Empire” although I don’t know since when.

The preparatory script of this episode appears to have been written under the title “Emissary from Ancient Times (zenseiki karano shisha)” by Masahiro Yamada. And the final version of the script as “Demons Rise Again” was co-written by Yamada and Ryū Minamikawa, the pseudonym of Samaji Nonagase, the director of this episode.

Enlarged head part of the above picture

In the preparatory script, chances are that the two capsules found out contained Abolas and an ancient human instead of Banila while Fuji assumed the mission of the ancient human could be to destroy the civilization if he should realize it is an evil one when he woke up from the long sleep in the capsule.

While the ancient human brought Abolas back to life at the stadium, it is likely that he was set to be shot dead by Arashi and that Abolas was to lose his life exposed to his own foam after fighting with Ultraman.

It seems that the concept of kaijus emerging from capsules served as the original idea of Capsule Kaijus of “Ultraseven.”

It is said, in the final script, the episode was to end with the scene of Abolas being smashed into pieces by Spacium Beam to be scattered around at Ultraman’s feet without showing Ultraman flying away.

It is also well known that the tokusatsu part of this episode was directed by Eiji Tsuburaya at least partly to help out the staff troubled by the delayed filming.

As Abolas’s head appears to be distorted, he should have been photographed after the filming

ABOLAS; BANILA (making #1)

Abolas design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about Abolas) “I saw a picture of a dinosaur skeleton, and I made the head unlikely to be a skull so as to be attached to Red King’s body.” (about Banila) “I tried to make the sea dragon into a kaiju.”

Although just the head was replaced from Red King with the body as it remained unchanged except the color, it is amazing that Abolas looks totally different from Red King with its impressively shaped head.

Shinichiro Kobayashi known as the “kaiju morphologist” admiringly points out it was very much effective that Red King’s small head was replaced by Abolas’ large head along with the body repainted blue.

Enlarged head part of the above picture

I find Banila designed from the sea dragon looks very much unique and attractive along with the idea of forming a sea dragon into a biped kaiju.

It is a bit shame, however, that, although Banila’s characteristically shaped mouth had a mechanism to perform a movement distinctive from the other kaijus, it wound up not being shown clearly through the screen (I think the mouth opens sideways, not up and down).

It is well known that the Abolas costume was restored back to Red King (II) and the Banila costume was remodeled to Imora that appeared in “Kaiju Booska” with each of their heads removed eventually.