Category Archives: Ultraseven Kaiju Makings

ALIEN POLL; GANDER (making) #1

Alien Poll design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about Alien Poll) “I like to design what doesn’t require an actor in it as it expands the possibilities of design.” (about Gander) “I made the wings neither the ones of feathers like animals nor mechanical ones. While I often sculpt birds for my works, I applied the sculpting method to it.”

I like this episode very much among the ones of Ultraseven as it features many attractive things such as the elaborate tokusatsu scene with the use of the miniature Pointer traveling above the snow field in the snow storm, the TDF  base frozen by Alien Poll, and the drama that unfolded at stalemate featuring the TDF members and Chief Yamaoka.

Gander design drawn by Tohl Narita

It was also a noteworthy episode as it was revealed Ultraseven was vulnerable to cold and that he would have to absorb solar energy to restore his strength by flying close to the sun.

It is said that three puppets of Alien Poll (about 75 centimeters) were made by Ryosaku Takayama using latex. While not much is known about it, it seems that Takayama had been involved in sculpting puppets for puppet shows before he gained fame as a kaiju sculptor, so he must have known his stuff in sculpting such puppets as Alien Poll.


ALIEN CANNAN (making)

Alien Cannan design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “This is an alien design as a variation descended from Alien Pitt and Alien Shaplay.”

It was a bit shame that Alien Cannan only appeared rather fleetingly and that they only wore clothes for the body part instead of full-costumes without showing their whole bodies just staying in their spacecraft disguised as a light house.

But I think the design and sculpture of Alien Cannan’s head were fabulous with its form that makes me feel like it is an abstract sculpture work that has no unneeded features while the three heads of the alien were sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama.

Alien Cannan heads sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama at his Atelier May

Just like Alien Shaplay, it came in the form of having the lower part of their heads with an organic feel shown beneath the mechanical top part while I think the expression and sculpture applied to the eyes are just excellent.

While it may remind us of Kamen Rider from today’s standpoint, Alien Cannan designed by Narita came far ahead of Kamen Rider as the show “Kamen Rider” started airing in 1971.

Even though it had been said that these aliens were played by actresses as they were voiced as such, Tetsuo Yamamura assumes they were acted by male actors.

Alien Cannan heads and Ryosaku Takayama with a big smile (I love this picture!)

There is an explanation that, given the ends of the heads that should be tucked into their clothes are found to have been laid over them, the heads were made according to the measurements taken from actresses so that the ends turned out to be exposed over the clothes as the small-sized heads were just barely worn by male actors possibly because the actresses to wear the costumes became unavailable or something.

Featuring Windom with its electronic brain disordered by a beam attack fired from the aliens’ spacecraft instead of a newly designed and sculpted space monster to be manipulated by the aliens should indicate the difficulties the staff suffered back then in terms of cost and time although, nevertheless, the story that unfolded centering on Furuhashi (and his mother) might have successfully made the episode attractive enough.


ALIEN SHADOW; GUBLLA (making)

Alien Shadow designs drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita:

(about Alien Shadow) “Female molds of sculptures have a strange feeling of vitality. I wanted to make the female mold into the face so that the inverted bumps and dents could be applied to the face. Although I don’t think it looked so good in the show, I’d like to complete Alien Shadow by sculpting it myself as a future challenge.

“By the by, my sculpture work “Fossil of Human with Wings” I exhibited to Shin Seisaku Kyōkai (Association for New Art) shortly after I resigned Tsuburaya Productions was worked out by making this whole body into the female mold.”

(about Gublla) “I got the idea from the caterpiller.”

Full body design of Alien Shadow drawn by Tohl Narita
Alien Shadow heads at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

Although it is a bit hard to understand Narita’s words about his sculpture work, I think it means he applied the idea of inverted bumps and dents to his work from Alien Shadow by making the whole human body into the dented form.

As to the heads sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama for the show, the photo below tells us that the helmets were removable. It is said the aliens’ clothes were made by the dress-making section of Tsuburaya Productions.

As to Gublla, Tetsuo Yamamura says that the costume was really well made while the head and the tips of the arms were made of FRP with its body including the tail cast from the mold as each segment was different in size and shape.

Gublla design drawn by Tohl Narita
Enlarged head part from the above image

It is said that Gublla’s hair was made from plant fibers, the same material as Woo.

Yamamura says the scene of Gublla’s head being melted down was filmed with a plaster head coated with gold wax as they were melting the wax with a hairdryer.

It is known that the mask of Alien Shadow was fleetingly used in the ending scene of “Kaiki Daisakusen (Operation Mystery)” Episode 11 “The Jaguar’s Eyes Are Red.”

Gublla at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

ALIEN BURACO (making)

Alien Buraco design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “I had been wanting to create an alien, not a stylish but an unpleasant one.”

As to Alien Buraco, it is perceived that Narita was apparently influenced by aliens drawn by Edd Cartier. It is certain that Alien Buraco looks outstandingly like a weirdly-shaped alien with a monstrous appearance represented by the head positioned at the lower part of the body compared to the other characters designed by Narita throughout the series from Ultra Q through Ultraseven.

While the costume was made so that the actor could pop out his arms from inside, the groaning alien with its body trembling looked so creepy along with the bizarre story in which women were targeted by the aliens as the bed for spores, staple food eaten by the aliens.

Alien Buraco at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

Although I personally like the alien’s bluish emerald green eyes that could have diluted the weirdness of the alien, I remember I sort of hated this episode when I was a kid because I found it instinctively creepy (including the spore depicted to be inflating with beats).

While the plot development in which Kiriyama already knew Ultraseven was trying to head for Saturn to obtain Radiation Alpha 73 seemed unnatural, the script is likely to have had a scene of Ultraseven, after Hawk 3 flown by Dan was shot down by Alien Buraco’s spacecraft, getting back to the TDF Base to fetch the special capsule containing Radiation Alpha 73 and flying away.

Chances are that, as this scene was left out, it ended up making Kiriyama’s quote sound somewhat abrupt.

Alien Buraco at the Bisen studio

Along with Episode 21 prior to this Episode 22, the two episodes were filmed by the tokusatsu staff with the drama part included, not only the tokusatsu part.

It is said that it was a considerate arrangement that allowed the tokusatsu staff to work under the blue sky with fresh air. The filming location for the two episodes was Shimoda, Izu, known as a beach resort, and they were filmed with the cooperation of a resort hotel named Hamano Hotel (it seems that it doesn’t exist anymore) as credited in the opening credits.

As the hotel is said to have been located just across from a rest house that belonged to TBS, all of these might have been included in the considerate arrangement.

I find the alien’s mechanical-looking spacecraft was also impressive.


IRON ROCKS; ALIEN MIMY (making #2)

Article publicized when Ultraseven aired (from Ultraseven Pictorial)

In the episode script, Iron Rocks is said to have been specified as a human-shaped robot made of the debris from sunken Battleship Yamato as it was to come ashore heading for the TDF Far Eastern Base with the costume to require two actors like Dodongo.

The trailer of the time also seems to have announced Iron Rocks to come ashore in the episode to come next.

While Alien Mimy is known as an alien who didn’t show their true identity except the appearance of their characteristic spacecraft in the show, it is unlikely that Narita drew any design of Alien Mimy.

I assume the starfish-shaped spacecraft should have been designed by Noriyoshi Ikeya who was to take over kaiju designing from Narita shortly afterwards.

The Ultraseven Pictorial has an article of the time about Iron Rocks coming ashore with four legs along with the illustrated Alien Mimy while describing the starfish spacecraft as their undersea base.

Alien Mimy illustrated in the article: (caption) “Alien Mimy with excellent technology. But what they do is so cruel like devils”

As the four-footed Iron Rocks and Alien Mimy seem to have appeared in the manga version of Ultraseven drawn by Jiro Kuwata, the alien illustrated in this article might have been based on the one drawn by Kuwata (I realize the alien has a kind of Kuwata feel to it vaguely).

The plot of an aliens’ undersea base for invasion with a battleship robot seems to originate from one of the episodes of the tokusatsu show “WoO” left unproduced that was being planned along with “UNBALANCE” while the latter resulted in “Ultra Q” finally.

The same plot also came close to being realized as one of Ultraman episodes that was left unproduced either featuring a kaiju called Yamaton shaped like Battleship Yamato.

Yamaton seems to have appeared in the manga version of Ultraman drawn by Daiji Kazumine with the design worked out by Tohl Narita. It is surprising to learn this story went through such a long history over the three products (WoO, Ultraman and Ultraseven) until it got realized.

Tohl Narita: (about Yamaton) “I drew this design for a manga after the show Ultraman ended.”

Yamaton design drawn by Tohl Narita titled as “Steel Primitive Man Yamaton”

IRON ROCKS; ALIEN MIMY (making #1)

Tohl Narita: (about Iron Rocks) “Just like Dino-Tank, this is a strange one as it was the kaiju from Battleship Yamato. This is a design I drew when I was thinking seriously of resigning Tsuburaya Productions.”

As the design drawing of Iron Rocks is included in neither of Tohl Narita’s art books, it is uncertain whether a design drawing by Narita did exist or not.

Although it had been said for a long time that the prop used for Iron Rocks was one of the Battleship Yamato props used in a Toho movie, it was revealed quite recently that the Iron Rocks prop was genuinely made by the sculpting section of Tsuburaya Productions, most likely, from scratch without using the Toho prop.

While I had received an impression of softness from its material in appearance, it seems that the prop was made from latex cast out of the mold and was reinforced with FRP from inside.

But it is told that they estimated the rigidity according to the size wrongly and that the whole thing collapsed as soon as it was taken out of the mold. The sculpture of Iron Rocks seems to have been disapproved by Eiji Tsuburaya either when he was on the set saying, “Such soft stuff doesn’t work out.”

It is likely that the prop was supported by thick lauan lumber materials from inside in the end.


ALIEN SHAPLAY: GIRADORUS (making #2)

Giradorus primary design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about the primary design of Giradorus) “Although this was a kaiju I wanted to make, I dropped it because I thought there could be some difficulties when filming rather than when sculpting.”

(about the final design of Giradorus) “We had a kaiju for the first time in a while after consecutive appearances of aliens. A man got in by standing on his knees moving the kaiju’s head with his arms put into it.”

Following yesterday’s entry, Takashi Kitahara who played Alien Shaplay’s human form also says he voiced the alien in the scene of crying “Giradorus! Giradorus!” while falling off the cliff as much expressively as possible as if the alien would be possessing the kaiju.

Giradorus final design drawn by Tohl Narita

Kitahara says his grandson who watched this episode on DVD with him cheered Alien Shaplay and Giradorus in tears shouting, “Come on! Hang in there, Grandpa!” Kitahara adds that he has been very much proud of this role he played in the glorious show “Ultraseven” in his long career as an actor thanking all viewers.

As to Giradorus, the design was drastically changed from the primary version to the final one by Tohl Narita, I think the one dropped also looks attractive enough.

With the same method as Zumbolar of “Ultraman” applied to Giradorus for its luminescent parts, Shigeo Kurakata (in charge of mechanism) says in an interview that, as the translucent parts were made from FRP by Ryosaku Takayama as thinly as possible so as to make them lit up from inside and that the thinness gave Kurakata a hard time because the heated light bulbs set inside could have melt them.

The style of having a man act standing on his knees is the same as Alien Iyros.  Tohl Narita seems to have got back on right track in his kaiju designs as well along with alien designs.

By the way, Dr. Iwamura, Sakaki’s superior, played by Yoshio Yoshida (1911-1986) was so impressive with such a grumpy nature as to make the Ultra Garrison members cringe even including Dan supposed to be the superhero while I found it so funny when I watched this episode as a kid.

Yoshida is also known to have acted Mephisto (older brother), the lazy devil summoned by the protagonist boy, in “Akumakun” (the younger brother was played by Kenji Ushio known as Jigoku Taishi/Ambassador Hell in “Kamen Rider”).

Yoshio Yoshida as Mephisto in “Akumakun”

ALIEN SHAPLAY: GIRADORUS (making #1)

Alien Shaplay primary design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about Alien Shaplay) “I had been thinking of the style of covering the upper half of the head with something like a helmet making the most of the actor’s face rather than a mask covering the whole head. But I gave it up as I thought (the tight schedule of) the Ultra Series would make it impossible to decide on an actor, to sculpt the mold and to make further adjustments to it.”

Although the Alien Shaplay design turned out to be the one Narita didn’t like so much running counter to what he originally had in mind, I find it very much attractive with its mechanical appearance seemingly combined with a creature like an insect.

Intermediate design by Tohl Narita; looks like a rectangular grid pattern was being thought of for the head with the fanged mouth
Final design drawn by Tohl Narita

While it is said the upper part of the mask was made from FRP and the lower part from latex, I am really drawn to the appearance like a creature merged with mechanical parts.

This design makes it look like Narita broke new ground for his design after he appears to have slightly got stuck with some preceding alien designs as if making Alien Shaplay herald some masterpiece characters he had worked out subsequently before he pulled out of the show.

Along with the dotted part of the head, I find its shape viewed from the side is fantastic.

Alien Shaplay head at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

The clothes the alien wore were allegedly made by the dress making section of the Tsuburaya Productions. The curly-toed shoes remind me of those of the Type B Ultraman costume. I personally like to see aliens including Alien Bado wear such shoes while I don’t think of putting them on myself (I would apologize for my inconsistency if someone finds me wearing ones in the future).

Takashi Kitahara who played Alien Shaplay’s human form Sakaki says in a recent interview which appeared in a book that he got very much excited with the role of an alien as he had never played such a character in his career.

Alien Shaplay at the back of the Bisen studio

ALIEN BADO (making)

Alien Bado design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “As I like to allow myself to get ideas as much freely as possible, I try not to have still photos and novels of American sci-fi movies with me at hand, but this is an example that shows I went and received influence from them.”

When I read Narita’s description of Alien Bado in his art book, I didn’t understand which American sci-fi movie he was talking about. But quite recently I found a speculative explanation online that he could possibly have been influenced by Metaluna Mutant, the imaginary creature that appeared in the 1955 American movie “The Island Earth.”

Come to think of it, Alien Bado’s head shape appears to be similar to that of Metaluna Mutant, but, as the rest of the design is so much different, I doubt if it can be called “influenced by an American sci-fi movie” while the article writer was found referring to the same thing as me.

The writer admires Narita by saying it shows Narita’s strictness with himself as an artist, and I agree to it.

Alien Bado head design drawn by Tohl Narita

While this is not related to Narita, the battle that unfolded between Ultraseven and Alien Bado appears to exhibit enormous influence from professional wrestling matches aired on TV with great popularity in Japan back then (I was not among them as is often the case with me. I became a karate fan in later years instead).

The Alien Bado costume was not sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama but by the sculpting section of Tsuburaya Productions. I think I heard the costume had its zipper at the front not at the back of the costume. While plural individuals of Alien Bado appeared in the show, needless to say, they only had one single costume for filming.

It is interesting to see Alien Bado drawn by Narita wear clothes. While the alien was allegedly played by Haruyoshi Nakamura, another man (described as Yukikatsu Okita) acted it exclusively for trampoline action.

What draws my attention about the head design drawn by Narita is that it has no name of the alien while it is just titled as “Ultraseven, Project Blue, alien” with words “Made by K” added. That makes me speculate Narita could possibly have incorporated an idea someone else close to him came up with into the design although I may be wrong.


ALIEN BELL; GUMONGA (making #2)

Gumonga design drawn by Tohl Narita

As to Gumonga, the opening and closing of the mouth was operated by remote control. The shell Alien Bell had on his back was made by being cast out of the same mold as Gumonga while it is unknown why the alien has the shell shaped like Gumonga on his back.

Gumonga’s face with the big eyes and big mouth like a cartoon character might look too humorous for a spider monster dwelling in the mysterious mock space.

For the scenes in which the Ultra Garrison members fell down with parachutes and Amagi and Soga looked up at Earth in the sky, the front screen projection to project images over actors onto the background is said to have been used instead of the rear screen projection to do the opposite.

Gumonga being sculpted at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

The clear combined images seem to have surprised the staff when the film was shown.

It is explained the scenes of the forest where Amagi and Soga wandered around were filmed in the woods that used to be located in Fuchu City, Tokyo, and the ones of the bottomless swamp were shot in the now-defunct outdoor studio possessed by Toho named “Ikuta Open” in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The set of Vallarge is said to have been built in Ikuta Open for Ultraman Episode 7 while the set was originally for the 1966 Toho movie titled “Adventures in Kigan Castle” starred by Toshiro Mifune.

While this episode was concluded by a line uttered by Captain Kiriyama that goes like “wisdom without God will raise the devil with wisdom,” there is an explanation it came from the words “intellectual training without God will raise the devil with wisdom” inscribed in stone at Tamagawa University Tetsuo Kinjo who wrote this episode graduated from.