Category Archives: Surroundings Around Tokusatsu Back Then

Yokai Vs. Kaiju

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Gegege no Kitaro (Kitaro and his fellows) drawn by Shigeru Mizuki

Many monsters featured in the Toei and P Production were characterized by their weird appearances unlike the Ultra Kaijus.

The Tsuburaya products, based on Eiji Tsuburaya’s concept to avoid showing children anything ugly and weird, stuck to featuring monsters which are more straight-ahead while, as you know well, Tohl Narita’s monsters with statuary looks got to make the monsters attractive enough so that they are highly reputed even today.

On the other hand, the Toei and P Production monsters had no restraints like that unlike Tsuburaya that had to defend the Tsuburaya brand.

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Yokai Daisenso (Daiei, 1968)

As the result, it is undeniable that the weird but unique-looking monsters which appeared in those series ended up having their attraction in their own way.

As a matter of fact we had other characters as much popular as kaijus back then which were yokai.

Yokai (literally suspicious mystery/suspicious mysterious being; kai is the same Chinese character as kaiju while the latter means mysterious beast) is a specter which looks like a goblin or imp which had been traditionally talked about in Japanese folktales while kappa featured in Episode 41 of Ultraseven is one of the yokais.

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Kappa in the Yokai Daisenso

Along with the anime Gegege no Kitaro (1968-1969) based on the manga created by Shigeru Mizuki well known for his yokai manga with much popularity among people, yokai characters have been frequently featured in manga and anime products alongside of kaijus in Japan although kaijus managed to win much more popularity.

Yokais were featured even in movies such as the 1968 Daiei (known for the original Gamera series) movie  Yokai Daisenso (Yokai Major War) in my childhood and I remember I fully enjoyed it as they had their own attraction.

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Dymon (leader of villain yokais) in the Yokai Daisenso; it’s fun to see his chest sculpted like Giger’s Alien

Quarterly Magazine ‘Uchusen’ (Spaceship)

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The Fantastic Collections were released from now-defunct Asahi Sonorama publishing company, and they started publishing the quarterly tokusatsu magazine ‘Uchusen’ (spaceship) in 1980 as well that often featured the primary Ultra Series.

The Uchusen magazine now continues being published by Hobby Japan that took over the publishing of the magazine after Asahi Sonorama was dissolved in 2007.

Asahi Sonorama was well known as a publishing company which had released flexi discs called sonosheets, a Japanese coined foreign word, that makes those around my age feel nostalgic.

 

As they used to release sonosheets about Ultra Q, Ultraman and Ultraseven featuring their songs, I have known the company’s name since my childhood.

It was the Uchusen magazine that properly dealt with the achievements of Tohl Narita and Ryosaku Takayama for the first time in history.

Therefore, much credit has to go to the magazine and Asahi Sonorama in introducing the feats of Narita and Takayama and helping them to be publicly acknowledged among people as today.

The covers of the Uchusen magazine featured the illustrations drawn by Yuji Kaida, kaiju illustrator I talked about previously, back then.

 

The writers who played leading roles for the articles of the quarterly magazine are found to be still active in publications related to the Ultra Series.

I really regret that I don’t have these magazines anymore as they went missing after I moved.

Ultra fans back then including me owe a great deal to the Uchusen, Fantastic Collections and Asahi Sonorama while they did a great job that helped to boost the Ultraman popularity that lasts even today.

I’d like to say a big thank you to them for giving us great happiness.

At any rate, the 1980s when we got to be blessed with excellent books and mooks of high quality was sheer bliss for Ultra fans like me.


Love Of Fantastic Collections

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‘Fantastic TV Collection/The Wonderful World of Fantasy SFX Video/Ultraman; Ultraseven; Ultra Q’

The Fantastic Collections were so exciting and made me so much happy at any rate while we rarely find this kind of content-rich mooks published now unfortunately in the midst of a deep slump in the Japanese publishing industry.

Among them, ‘Fantastic TV Collection/The Wonderful World of Fantasy SFX Video/Ultraman; Ultraseven; Ultra Q’ was the first mook published in 1979, and the sequel also came out featuring the secondary Ultra Series from The Return of Ultraman through Ultraman Leo while these two were combined into one as ‘Ultraman White Paper’ afterwards.

 

While the same is true of each one of these mooks, they were filled with photos of the characters and detailed explanations about the series, and, above all, they were filled with love for the Ultra Series.

It should have been the first attempt by people who grew up with the series to publish such mooks to unfold their love for the historical SFX TV shows.

I read these mooks over and over as we had no DVDs and no Internet with online videos back then, and they definitely helped us enjoy the Ultra Universe again in quite a long while and expand our love for Ultra.

 

While there was no way to enjoy the series as casually as today, the scarcity of information might have deepen our attachment to the products even more.

Although a lot of information on Ultra can be found out there now, I don’t think personally I have ever seen things that make me feel as much profound love for Ultra as these mooks.

It was around this time that a spotlight was put on the job done by Tohl Narita and Ryosaku Takayama at last and that it drew our full attention while I now find it great that their excellent achievements got to be publicly acknowledged when they were still alive then, all of which made us absolutely happy.

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Ultraman Hakusho (White Paper)

Fantastic Collections

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Fantastic Collections

What made me feel extremely happy when the Revival Boom arose in the wake of the Anime Boom triggered by the Space Battleship Yamato Boom was that the primary Ultra Series started being reevaluated.

In the midst of the Revival Boom, the anime The Ultraman and the live action Ultraman 80 started being aired as I have already talked about it.

It also made me definitely happy and excited that we had a rerun of Ultraman starting at 6 pm on weekdays for the first time in quite a long while as it was truly precious with no DVDs available back then.

 

It was a shame, however, to find the rerun was aired with a few episodes omitted from the latter part of the series, and, if my memory serves me right, Ultraman 80 started broadcasting in prime time starting at 7 pm weekly just after the rerun of Ultraman ended.

Above all, I found the reevaluation of the first trilogy of the Ultra Series pretty exciting for those like me who actually grew up with the first Kaiju Boom.

It was then that the epoch-making books (they were called mooks as magazine books) ‘Fantastic Collection’ covering the products from the Ultra Series to the other tokusatsu and anime series we enjoyed as children started being released from Asahi Sonorama which is a now-defunct publishing company.


Yamato and Ultra

When Space Battleship Yamato was aired for the first time, I was a 6th grader in elementary school, but I remember no one was watching the newly broadcast anime show around me.

While I enjoyed watching it, I didn’t expect it to win such enormous popularity later.

Actually, the show was highly reputed among the young manga artists I personally knew at the time (I often visited their workplaces as a manga fan).

And I vividly remember one of them said while watching a TV trailer advertising the show to be newly broadcast soon, “This makes me want to get a TV set (in his apartment room)!”

The anime’s unprecedentedness came home to me when I learnt how much attention of the professional manga artists like him was drawn to the anime show back then.

When watching the anime show actually, I was just amazed to find how the precisely and elaborately set mechas were animated in an unprecedented way.

Along with the settings and depiction of the mechas, Yamato might have got credit for unfolding or expanding the anime expression in every aspect although I don’t know much about how the product is perceived by people outside of Japan.

I think it is certain that the product was produced with an immoderate passion for bringing out an anime show that had never been before (I’m talking about the original Yamato, not the sequels).

I feel something in common with the primary Ultra Series in that respect.


Space Battleship Yamato Triggered The ‘Revival Boom’ 3

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Ultraman 80

While I failed to refer to the unprecedented Anime Boom that arose with the reevaluation of Yamato, let me get this straight.

The Yamato Boom came first; and then it brought about the Anime Boom that led to the Revival Boom finally.

It’s not too much to say the surge in popularity of anime products found today originated from the Yamato Boom that occurred in the late 1970s here in Japan.

And it could be said that Yamato raised a revolution in the style of conventional anime products and altered the Japanese anime history while I actually witnessed the trend.

 

Therefore, the anime development found today could have been impossible without Yamato as Hideaki Anno says his works wouldn’t have existed if there should not have been Yamato.

The emergence of the Yamato Boom caused the following Anime Boom and Leiji (Reiji) Matsumoto Boom while Matsumoto created the basic settings of the Yamato characters and mechas including actual designing.

The anime products based on the manga drawn by Matsumoto such as Space Pirate Captain Harlock and The Galaxy Express 999 were produced at that time.

 

As posted yesterday, the new product The Ultraman (1979) was produced in the midst of the Leiji Matsumoto Boom, and, responding to people’s request for a long-awaited live action Ultraman show left unproduced since Ultraman Leo (1974-1975), Ultraman 80 (1980-1981) appeared.

And Kamen Rider, the long-standing popular series alongside of Ultraman, came badk at last in the wake of the Revival Boom as Kamen Rider Black (1987-1988) and  Kamen Rider Black RX (1988-1989).


Space Battleship Yamato Triggered The ‘Revival Boom’ 2

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The Ultraman

The unprecedented Yamato Boom enormously affected the production of anime and tokusatsu products from then on including the settings, design of characters and mechas and, furthermore, music.

While I previously talked about recent theme songs without the title of the product in the lyrics, I think that trend originated from the Yamato ending theme song.

When I listened to the song for the first time back then, I was amazed to find no name of Yamato sung in the song and, as one of my readers commented about the anime songs created likewise in the wake of Yamato, it made me feel maturity for sure.

 

The skyrocketing Yamato Boom influence is extremely conspicuous even in the anime The Ultraman (1979-1980) in which the hero characters, Choichiro Hikari and Ultraman Jonias he changes into (after unification like Hayata and Ultraman) were voiced by the actors, Kei Tomiyama and Masato Ibu respectively, who played the leading characters in Yamato.

And, in the latter part of the series The Ultraman, the mechas obviously influenced by Yamato were featured (it could have been designed by Studio Nue involved in the Yamato mechas design) including female characters apparently affected by the ones Leiji (Reiji)  Matsumoto created in Yamato.

Moreover, its theme songs were sung by Isao Sasaki who sang the Yamato theme songs, which makes the Yamato influence rather apparent in the product.

While I’m not saying this is right or wrong, that’s what happened to us here in Japan back then.

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The Ultraman

Space Battleship Yamato Triggered The ‘Revival Boom’ 1

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Space Battleship Yamato

As always somehow, I received a comment referring to the related topic I was about to write about, which always makes me feel happily strange.

Today’s undiminished popularity of the Ultra Series originated from the ‘revival boom’ which arose sometime around the late 1970s through the early 1980s in Japan in the wake of the unparalleled and unprecedented ‘Uchu Senkan (Space Battleship) Yamato’ boom of all time.

While the anime product was originally aired in 1974, it didn’t get to gain so much popularity initially as it was when anime shows were deemed to be exclusively for children.

 

The product with the precise (by the standards of the time) sci-fi settings and the elaborate depiction of its mechas, however, was reevaluated through reruns and finally won high reputation as the anime show ‘worthy of adult appreciation’ (while I don’t like this expression personally).

Yamato’s success helped the other anime shows to be reviewed including the anime and tokusatsu products preceding Yamato, and it triggered what is called the ‘revival boom’ in Japan.

Incidentally, it was not until Yamato that ‘manias’ of tokusatsu and anime publicly appeared as you can see today.

The reevaluation of the Ultra Series boosted by the publication of adult-oriented, detailed books on the series happened in the same line, and it led to the start of the production of the anime ‘The Ultraman’ and, a bit later, ‘Ultraman 80.’


Anime vs. Tokusatsu

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Testuwan Atom

In my childhood, we had a number of children-oriented TV shows consisting of anime and tokusatsu including the ones imported mainly from the USA.

Gerry Anderson’s British SFX series such as Thunderbirds and Stingray were among them and gained much popularity among us children. (Gerry Anderson’s UFO was also my favorite in later years. I was almost addicted to it!).

They included Topo Gigio, Italian puppet show, which I remember I liked so much as a child.

 

While these trends originally stemmed from the scarcity of domestically produced drama shows including anime and tokusatsu, Tetsuwan (iron arm) Atom (Astro Boy/ Mighty Atom) is known as the first homemade TV anime series aired from 1963 through 1966.

After Atom, we had a series of domestically produced TV anime shows, and we enjoyed them a lot literally.

In the meantime, the emergence of the Ultra Series, the homemade full-blown tokusatsu series featuring kaijus, came as a total surprise to us.

 

Since then, anime and tokusatsu had waged a fierce battle in gaining popularity (viewership, more straightforwardly), which enabled us to enjoy each of them happily.

It is a famous story that Makoto Tezuka (now film director), son of Osamu Tezuka, great manga artist who created Atom, was absorbed in Ultra Q rather than W3 (Wonder Three) produced by his father’s anime production based on the manga created by his father.

I remember one explanation says Makoto burst into tears and embarrassed Osamu when his father tried to switch the channel to W3 while Makoto was watching Ultra Q.

At any rate, it was the golden age of anime and tokusatsu for us kids.