Category Archives: Ultra Q

Clapton Changed Into Bostang

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Clapton drawn by Tohl Narita from his art book

When I knew about Tohl Narita’s 3 principles in kaiju design, I have to admit I found it contradictory that he designed Bostang and Peter that just looked like a giant version of a stingray and chameleon-like lizard.

As to Bostang, I learnt later that a monster named Clapton (I don’t think it plays the guitar) was to appear in an episode titled ‘Oil S.O.S.’

After Clapton was actually designed by Narita, its puppet was modeled by Ryosaku Takayama.

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But the prop was converted into a (giant) stingray when the episode was replaced by ‘Space Directive M774.’

It’s said that Clapton was set to be a monster which fed on oil, but the episode ‘Oil S.O.S.’ in which Clapton was to appear was left unproduced after all.

While Ultraman has an episode with the same title featuring Pester that is also a kaiju which feeds on oil, the Ultra Q episode left unproduced seems to be about a different story.

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The primary design of Clapton

Although why Clapton was changed into an ordinary stingray (Bostang) is unknown, it’s presumably because of shooting issues.

It’s fun to see Clapton have a drill-like part on the tip of its head similar to that of Gubila of Ultraman.

In the primary version of the design, we can find a creature like a jellyfish was also drawn as Clapton by Narita.

Although both versions of Clapton seemingly remained in the range of the giant versions of real-life creatures, I feel like they could have been much better than just an ordinary stingray.


The Emergence Of ‘Ultra Kaiju’

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Garamon (from ‘Garadama,’ Episode 13, Ultra Q)

Before Tohl Narita joined the production team of Ultra Q, the show was to feature kaijus arranged from Toho kaijus or just a giant version of real-life creatures.

That also tells us that the impact the Toho monsters inflicted on people was extremely enormous to that degree.

And the greatest importance seems to have been attached to how much they could look realistic as gigantic creatures as far as the designing and modeling is concerned.

 

Meanwhile, Narita designed kaijus that could deserve to be called ‘moving abstract art pieces’ almost completely apart from the kaijus or giant creatures which had been around.

So I personally think it was Narita who brought into being monsters living up to their names as ‘Ultra Kaiju’ in a real sense.

As shown in his ‘3 principles in kaiju design,’ Narita had made it his policy to avoid designing a kaiju in a mere giant form of a real-life creature.

 

Narita’s concept definitely contributed to giving birth to new kaijus that fit in best with the new tokusatsu TV series.

If the show should have continued featuring kaijus just arranged from Toho monsters or gigantic real-life creatures to the end, it would have fallen far short of gaining such popularity as you see last even today.

Alongside Narita, the people who had sustained the Ultra Series from this point forward took part in the production of the series around the same time, including Ryosaku Takayama (modeler), Samaji Nonagase (director), Toshihiro Iijima (director) and Toru Matoba (SFX director).


Tohl Narita Joined Ultra Q

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One of the Garamons (from ‘Garamon Strikes Back,’ Episode 16, Ultra Q)

While we perceived, as a child, that Ultra Q had episodes featuring kaijus and none of them, there was no way to know that the series included the episodes produced as UNBALANCE back then.

It was in the 1980s that I learnt about UNBALANCE when the Ultra Series started being reevaluated in Japan.

Tohl Narita writes in his art book that he was asked to visit the Tuburaya Productions in spring of 1965 while he heard they would need his help as the shooting of Ultra Q had made little progress because of the vulnerability of art production.

 

He says, after he was informed that Ultra Q was to mainly feature Toho kaijus (he put it this way) and the first half of the series, 13 episodes, had finished being shot, he was requested to join them for the production of the other half, the remaining 13 episodes (it turned out to be 15 episodes after all).

He also writes that he talked them into allowing him to design kaijus on his own instead of using Toho monsters and embarked on the tokusatsu design along with Keisuke Suzuki as his assistant on condition that he would get to be assisted by Suzuki.

 

And Narita’s participation in Ultra Q, as the result, made the latter half of the series look outstandingly distinctive from the first half with his absolutely attractive kaiju designs.

Narita recollects in the same writing of  his art book quite excitedly as below:

“At any rate, it was an amazing time of tokusatsu art. The tokusatsu art got to create the hero, minor parts, the villain and the stage.”


Ultra Q Is The World Of Kaijus

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Photo session held on the set of ‘Garamon Strikes Back’ (The way Eiji Tsuburaya and Kanegon look while standing side by side is somewhat odd and funny)

I almost admitted that Toho-like monsters featured in Ultra Q, especially the ones appearing in the episodes produced as UNBALANCE, didn’t look so much attractive as the kaijus designed by Tohl Narita.

I assume the characters, such as a giant flower, giant human, giant slug, giant bird, giant ape, giant spider, giant mole, giant octopus and so on, can hardly be deemed as kaijus in a real sense today.

At any rate, while it should be unbelievable to young people, it was when creatures that just grew to gigantic sizes were found impressive enough and passed for monsters.

 

As a matter of fact, they had much impact back then while we found them sufficiently frightening as a kid.

As I have written, the series being produced as UNBALANCE ended up changing into Ultra Q that was to mainly feature kaikus.

Takashi Kakoi, then TBS producer, seems to have taken pains in deciding the broadcast order of the series, and it was arranged so that the episodes featuring kaijus were to be aired, at the best, ahead of the other ones to attract viewers’ attention.

 

While Ultra Q started being extensively promoted as a kaiju show, a 15-minute-long TV special titled ‘Ultra Q Is The World Of Kaijus’ (unrelated to the photo on top) is said to have been aired on Dec. 25, 1965, before the series started being broadcast on Jan. 2, 1966.

I found a person on the Internet who recollected that he had watched the special as a child fortunately while his mother told him that a new show titled Ultra Q was likely to get started in a while featuring new kaijus which were different from Godzilla and Rodan.


UNBALANCE and Ultra Q

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Peguila (Episode 5, #14 in production order)

I created a list of Ultra Q episodes in production order, and I hope it helps.

When looking at the list, it explicitly tells us  the distinctive features among the episodes: the ones likely produced as UNBALANCE and the others as Ultra Q.

While it seems that it’s no longer clear now exactly when the switch from UNBLANCE to Ultra Q was made, looking at the list makes us realize the first season of the series are likely to have been produced as episodes of UNBALANCE.

 

It is until Peguila appeared in #14 with the kaijus designed by Tohl Narita mostly featured beyond.

Peguila is described as the first Ultra kaiju created by Tohl Narita and Ryosaku Takayama while it was designed by Narita based on the original draft drawn by Yasuyuki Inoue of the Toho Special Art Division.

As to Sudar in #23, it might make you wonder why such a seemingly ‘commonplace’ giant octopus was featured although the episode was produced after Narita joined the production.

 

It seems to be because this episode is the one plotted during the UNBALANCE period on the premise of featuring Toho’s giant octopus.

At any rate, I find the distinction between Season 1 and 2 of Ultra Q is so obvious.

As a matter of fact, it is enormously questionable that the series could have led to its sequel Ultraman and continued into later series including the recent products if the first-ever authentic tokusatsu TV series of Japan was produced at the same rate as UNBALANCE to the end.

It proves that Takashi Kakoi and Namegon did such a great job!


Ultra Q kaijus remodeled from Toho kaijus

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Gomess and Litra (from Ultra Q Episode 1)

UNBALANCE was a TV show that initially started being produced to realize a product like the US TV series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1963-1965).

So it’s imaginable that the switch to a kaiju show should have caused controversy among people involved in the production.

As a matter of fact, after the decision was made, the group of sci-fi writers who had ever cooperated allegedly left the project because they lost interest.

 

Nevertheless I absolutely want to thank Takashi Kakoi and, of course, Namegon as it looks like they definitely contributed to realizing the long-standing Ultra Series that continues even today.

There could have been no Ultra heroes without them.

As to the Ultra Q monsters before Tohl Narita joined the crew members, it will be undeniable that the monsters associated with Toho kaijus are, unfortunately,  not found to be so much impressive as the innovative creatures designed by Narita.

 

Given that no one could have had concrete concepts of what Ultra Q kaijus should look like yet, it must have been hard to create monsters apart from the Toho kaijus.

The diversion of monsters from the Toho films to Ultra Q seems to have been inevitable financially as well.

It should have been only natural to feature kaijus remodeled from the ones of the Toho movies as long as the Tsuburaya Productions was almost part of Toho back then.


Kaiju Namegon Might Have Paved Way For Ultra Series

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Did I hear my name?

Although UNBALANCE started being produced under the concept of ‘bring the Tsuburaya tokusatsu to living rooms,’ what should be shown is another story.

While it was decided to feature ‘what if the balance of nature gets disrupted’ and a group of science fiction writers cooperated in creating plots for stories, the ambiguity of the theme appears to have posed a threat to the unity of the series.

In fact, the episodes were found to feature all different things from monster-like creatures to sci-fi stuff or mysteries.

 

Inconsistent requirements from TBS people seems to have spurred the confusion.

In the midst of the time, Takashi Kakoi, then TBS producer, watched the dailies of the episodes and found the series would fall short of gaining viewership deserving the costly product at this rate.

Allegedly after watching ‘The Gift from Space’ shot as an episode of UNBALANCE and finding it amusing enough, he urged to make the series into a kaiju show to enable families including children to enjoy it given the broadcast time set to be at 7 p.m. on Sundays.

 

Eiji Tsuburaya himself is said to have been reluctant to make the series a kaiju show as he had already been long involved in producing kaiju movies with Toho.

He formed Tsuburaya Productions and embarked on the project of UNBALANCE to create something new on television, new media back then, other than kaijus.

As you know, however, the series ended up switching to the one to mainly feature kaijus with the title also changed into Ultra Q. (Thank heaves!)


Ultra Q’s Primary Point: Bring Tokusatsu (SFX) to Living Rooms

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An UNBALANCE script of an episode titled ‘Haunted Motor Vehicle’ left unproduced

When watching the Ultra Q episodes, you will realize that they have such distinctive features as below:

  1.  Episodes featuring kaijus associated with Toho monsters rather closely.
  2. Episodes featuring kaijus designed by Tohl Narita
  3. Episodes featuring characters that are not necessarily deemed as kaijus in the proper sense of the word or just mysterious phenomenon with no kaijus

What did these features come from?

 

First of all, as I have reiterated, Ultra Q was being produced as the product titled UNMALAMCE under the theme of ‘what if balance of the world of nature gets disrupted?.’

While a lavish style of production to finish shooting all the episodes before broadcasting was adopted, UNBALANCE was to mainly feature Eiji Tsuburaya’s tokusatsu (special effects) known through Toho films including the ones featuring kaijus such as Godzilla or Mothra.

 

So the point was to apply the world-renowned Tsuburaya SFX to a TV show, and the TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) people were not always likely to have thought of featuring kaijus in the TV series.

It’s easy to imagine that being able to watch tokusatsu shows on a TV set in a living room in a private home, moreover, EVERY WEEK was an awesome thing back then (presumably even now).

Therefore, the point of Ultra Q was, at least in the primary stage of production as UNBALANCE, ‘bring Tsuburaya tokusatu to living rooms.’


Main characters of “Ultra Q”

In “Ultra Q,” the same civilian main characters encounter mysterious incidents, supernatural phenomena or monsters in every episode unlike “Ultraman” and “Ultra Seven.”

Because “Q” is the product before the idea of featuring a superhero and a defense team emerged.

Episode 15 “Kanegon’s Cocoon” featuring Kanegon exceptionally has none of the regular characters appear in the drama.

Jun Manjome (acted by Kenji Sahara)

A pilot of Hoshikawa Aviation. Active guy with enthusiasm.

Self-proclaimed science fiction writer always dreaming of space travel who plays a major role in solving a case with bravery and good judgement.

Ippei Togawa (acted by Yasuhiko Saijo)

An assistant pilot of Hoshikawa Aviation usually called Ippei.

A bit hasty and awkward but amusing guy who sometimes shows shrewd instincts and contributed to solving a case.

Yuriko Edogawa (acted by Hiroko Sakurai)

Photographer of Mainichi Shinpo (newspaper company) who acts with Manjome and Ippei.

Curious about everything and often more active than males.

Seki (acted by Yoshibumi Tajima)

Managing editor of Mainichi Shinpo.

Fussy and difficult boss (not picky, though) devoted to work but a nice man at heart.

Dr. Ichinotani (acted by Ureo Egawa)

Director of Ichinotani Research Institute and an academic regarded as a world authority on science.

Good and reliable adviser to Manjome and the others who always makes level-headed decisions and often helped them to solve a case with equipment he invented.

According to one explanation, he played a major role in establishing the SSSP Japan branch of “Ultraman” though it’s not depicted or described in either drama of “Ultra Q” and “Ultraman.”


Last episode of Ultra Q

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Sawamura (left) first mistakenly rode on the train to a different dimension. He screams, “Let me off! Open up the doors!” but finally…

You might also be aware that “Ultraman” got started two weeks after the ending of “Ultra Q” in the list of Takeda Hour products.

Actually, “Ultra Q” was set to have 28 episodes from the beginning.

And, unthinkably today, the broadcasting started after all the episodes were filmed.

As posted before, “Ultra Q” was originally plotted as a product featuring incidents caused by enigmatic (super)natural phenomena and humans to solve them with the title “Unbalance.”

 

Takashi Kakoi, producer of TBS (broadcasting station of the series), decided to make it a series mainly featuring monsters after watching the rush of “Unbalance.”

This change including the title was made after some of the episodes were already filmed.

So “Ultra Q” has episodes of both periods:  the ones featuring just humans and the others featuring monsters.

Mr. Kakoi wanted to broadcast the ones featuring monsters first to make it gain enough popularity.

 

For its last episode, “Open Up!” was originally scheduled.

But, as it has no monster and was deemed too difficult for children to understand, the broadcasting was put on hold.

So “Open Up!” was broadcast on a rerun of “Ultra Q” for the first time.

It’s a story about a middle-aged man named Sawamura who is exhausted from daily life and a train from another dimension supposed to take him to Shangri-la.

It was a great masterpiece episode and I really love it!

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Train of another dimension