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.