As I have posted in my recent articles, we had some boy heroes in our childhood including the characters acted by the two Kanekos.
They should have been truly heartthrobs for kid viewers watching the shows in which they appeared back then with Hoshino-kun (kun is an honorific title for boys and juniors) who appeared in Ultraman included as another unforgettable kid character.
As to Hoshino-kun, he disappeared in the midst of the series after his appearance in Episode 25 without any explanation about it in the episodes.
Akihide Tsuzawa (1954-present) who played Hoshino-kun says he pulled out of the show as he broke his leg while skiing on the artificial slope in the amusement park Yomiuri Land still existing in the suburb of Tokyo he visited privately.
Tsuzawa says he was forcibly invited by his older brother who wanted to show his brother with great popularity as Hoshino-kun to his girlfriend, and, after the injury which required two months to heal, he says he quit his acting career as he was.
As expected it seems that he gained enormous popularity as a kid actor while playing Hoshino-kun then.
In spite of a kid character, Hoshino-kun often played an important role in many episodes as an excellent apprentice member of the SSSP, and I think Tsuzawa got to act Hoshino-kun impressively enough such as in Episode 21 while I find it most impressive that Alien Zarab’s restraints that left Hayata tied up easily came apart with Hoshino-kun’s tears (of innocence) falling on them in Episode 18.
One of my readers was nice enough to inform me of a trailer previously released by the Tsuburaya Productions featuring the original Ultraman with computer-generated images.
As I replied to his comment, I had already seen this trailer and it surely raised our expectation for a new product about the original Ultraman, but nothing has happened so far somehow unfortunately.
Apart from whether computer-generated characters are good or bad, the image of the original Ultraman shown in the trailer (apparently based on the Type A suit) was intriguing as it has some features which should have been abandoned due to technical issues when the series was produced in those days.
First of all, it’s said that Tohl Narita wanted to make Ultraman’s body metallic silver which could make his entire body look like metal instead of the painted silver which can be seen now.
And, as it is a computer-generated character, he has no unnatural folds like the wet suit and no eye holes naturally while Narita had no choice but to open the holes against his will to ensure the view from inside.
I guess Narita should have preferred the body getting no folds if such a material for the body should have been available instead of a wet suit.
It might be said that the trailer’s image should be close to his ideal in these respects.
Alongside of the computer-generated expressions of his muscles, it is true that all these factors with the biological features would help to make him look more like an unknown extraterrestrial life form although I find it a bit creepy…
While I’m not sure what Narita would say about it, it might be that the Ultraman that Narita idealized could not be realized unless it’s a computer-generated character eventually.
The silhouetted Ultraman shown in the opening credits should be based on Type A given the period when they was made.
It is intriguing to see them show the design of Ultraman seems to have been interpreted in a bit different way from today inevitably as long as they are based on Type A.
The ones we can see in the Version A image I named temporarily show Ultraman with much smaller eyes than in reality, and, in the Version B, the mouth of Ultraman is shown to be open.
Although these figures which make him look more like an alien rather than superheroes found today might make us feel a little bit odd, it makes it more likely that there was a perception among people back then that Ultraman has the movable mouth like a human being.
Every time I watched the silhouette of flying Ultraman shown in the Version A opening credits (top of this article), I found the shape of his profile looks different from what it looks like in reality with his nose curved up forward.
A while ago, I learnt the Ultraman suit made first had the mask shaped like this when viewed from the side.
I find it extremely interesting to know what kind of transitions the design of Ultraman went through until it reached completion as seen today.
The Ultraman opening image was replaced by a new version from Episode 12 (Mummy Man and Dodongo), and Tohl Narita was credited as ‘kaijyu design’ from Episode 26 (Gomora) instead of ‘art’ for which he had been previously credited.
If I put the two versions of the opening credits as Version A (see yesterday’s post) and B (shown in this post) temporarily, the monsters found in them are as below:
It’s fun to see some monsters featured from Ultra Q, which I think shows the perception that Ultraman is the sequel to Ultra Q sharing the same universe.
As to the Version A, the silhouette of Peguila is not the one of Chandlar as it has no ears (or two curved horns on both sides of the head).
There seems to be an explanation describing the silhouette of Goro as that of M1 as it’s designated as such in the storyboard while it looks more like King Kong than Goro or M1 and I always wonder what the object shaped like an airplane beside the silhouette is.
Possibly mirroring the unprecedented popularity of the show that could have granted them some mental leeway to do so, I feel like more playfulness was incorporated into the Version B as shown in this post with uniquely simplified distortion of each character.
Especially, I love the silhouettes of Gango, Pigmon and Alien Baltan shown right above.
As to the unknown monster (third from left, top row), Sadao Iizuka is likely to have said it has no model.
Watching the Ultraman opening credits with silhouetted characters shown in the back is a lot of fun while it makes me vividly remember how much it made me excited while watching the opening as a kid and realize I get as much excited even now.
A professional manga artist I personally know (as one of my business clients) said to me that it’s amazing to see each shape of the silhouette properly make us associate it with each character solely with silhouettes in admiration of Tohl Narita as it proves the uniqueness of the characters designed by him.
According to Sadao Iizuka, known for his drawing work of beam effects in tokusatsu products including the Toho movies, the impressive silhouettes were not to be applied to the opening credits initially with only smokes featured in the back.
It seems to have been Iizuka who suggested to use silhouetted characters as he found just showing ascending smokes was going to be unpicturesque and boring.
And he got the young staff members working under him to draw the silhouettes to be added to the opening credits image.
I really like these silhouettes as I find each of them so charming with features of each character nicely captured while they are full of handmade feelings.
It came as a great surprise when I learnt Satoshi Furuya acted the original Ultraman for the first time in 47 years at the age of 70 in 2013.
Along with Susumu Kurobe (Hayata) and Hiroko Sakurai (Akiko Fuji), Furuya appeared in a special event wearing the suit of Ultraman reproduce solely for him although it should have been a truly challenging task for him.
While he seems to have been worried if he would manage to endure the tough task to appear in front of the audience in the Ultraman suit at his age, looks like he successfully fulfilled the role.
Although it’s a bit shame to find the mask looks slightly different from the original, the appearance with long limbs unique to Furuya Ultraman remained unchanged enough to make us remember the original Ultraman he played 47 years ago.
I have never heard of anyone who got into such a suit at that age, and it’s even more amazing to find his body shape maintained just like when he was in his 20s.
As he’s a diligent person, he seems to have trained himself to develop physical strength in preparation for the challenge although there was no problem about his body shape perfectly maintained.
It is extremely impressive to be able to see Furuya Ultraman’s shooting pose of Spacieum Beam again that Tohl Narita admired saying, “it makes me feel like looking at a beautiful sculpture. There was nothing wrong with my judgement in choosing Bin-san (for the role of Ultraman).”
As to The Return of Ultraman, while I love the theme song composed by Koichi Sugiyama and background music by Toru Fuyuki, it was a bit shame for me that quite a few Ultraseven music pieces were found to be used in the show.
As long as music could affect the whole impression of the universe of a story, I would rather they had applied more of original music to The Return of Ultraman instead of using the music from Ultraseven.
While The Return of Ultraman also had a lot of fascinating music on the whole, I find it a little regrettable.
Besides the Ultraseven music, I love the Ultraman music composed by Kunio Miyauchi as well.
Whereas Fuyuki’s Ulraseven music has an orchestral classical style, Miyauchi’s Ultraman music sounds like jazz played by a combo band.
I believe that helped to make the universe of each product more distinctive as the two products were initially not connected in terms of the universes of the stories.
I like the straightforwardness of the Ultraman music with an optimistically carefree feel including the theme song with a buoyant rhythm although I don’t know how many times we sang the song along with the show or to ourselves as a kid.
Miyauchi created music of Ultra Q and Kaiju Booska as well, these works don’t make me feel odd as Ultra Q and Ultraman had the same or connected settings of the universe.
With much of the Ultra Q music used in Booska, it is strange that the music is found quite assimilated into the Booska universe without a feeling of oddness somehow…
Incidentally, the first melody phrase heard to be sung at the beginning of the theme song of The Return of Ultraman was a tribute to the equivalent of the Ultraman theme song.
At any rate, I have a personal impression that sounds were cherished in the Fanatasy SFX Series (Ultra Q, Ultraman and Ultraseven) on the whole including music and sound effects, at least they were so impressive to me.
Toru Fuyuki was also involved in creating music for The Return of Ultraman except its theme song (it was composed by Koichi Sugiyama and sung by Jiro Dan, actor for Hideki Go) I love this song as well) afterwards.
And the music used in the show and known as ‘wandaba’ in Japan was also composed by Fuyuki and gained popularity.
I feel like I read somewhere he wrote the ‘wandaba’ at the request to make something like ‘ULTRASEVEN’ including the phrases ‘one, two, three, four…’
As to the music for Ultraseven, Fuyuki says in a book interview that, as he had to do the job within limited time and budget, he thought they should spend the budget for two seasons at one time rather than creating impoverished music with the budget for one season.
He recollects he was writing the scores in the room next to the studio on the first recording day so that they could record as many pieces of music as possible while composing additional music other than originally planned even with a score copyist standing by there for the orchestral parts.
As my readers pointed out in their comments, the voice of Jamyra (Jamila) which sounded like groaning was also very much impressive that helped to make us aware of the tragic monster’s hostility to the human race and his grief.
When he was defeated by Ultraman with Ultra Water Stream, he roared like a crying baby crawling and wriggling in mud before he breathed his last…
Akio Jissoji who produced this episode as the director said in his book that he aimed at the effect of the monster’s voice turning into a human baby’s cry with the use of the processed voice of a real baby recorded when a crew member in charge of sound effects made his own baby cry for real (poor baby…).
Jissoji seems to find the result satisfactory enough saying he feels proud that he got to express jamyra’s innocent emotions and sadness of being wiped off from Earth.
There were cases in which a voice of a kaiju was diverted to another one like Gyango (Gango) and Telesdon (I love their voices) or came from the other monsters of films, but I think they made the sounds distinctive by processing them or overlapping sounds with each other.
Alongside of Jamyra, I think the roars of kaijus featured in the primary Ultra Series were excellently attractive and impressive to the extent that we can associate each monster with the roar he made with Alien Baltan and Zetton as typical examples.
It is also well known that the funny sounds Gavadon (A) makes when moving forward were generated from rubbing a glass surface as they apparently sound as such.
As to the expressiveness of the monsters which were capable of performing drama, as one of my readers pointed out in his comment, Jamyra is an unforgettable example.
When the monster was destroying a village with furious hostility against human beings as he found they had abandoned him, the words Ide yelled at him ‘you Jamyra, do you have no humanity anymore?’ stunned the monster mutated from a human.
While looking around the village he destroyed with houses ablaze, he just kept standing motionless like he felt ashamed of and regretful for what he did.
Although Jamyra’s eyes have no pupils, the glowing eyes supposed to be emotionless looked so expressive alongside the movements of his mouth like mumbling something.
The closeup of his face in the scenes in which he tried to destroy the international conference venue like hell that represented the human race he hated looked so impressive.
I feel like I can’t stand watching him writhing in agony anymore while Ultraman was pouring Ultra Water Stream over him.
Even more than the story line, these scenes make me realize how much expressive these monsters were.
With all the factors coming together including the designing and sculpting of monsters, stories, acting performed by suit actors and soen (role to operate the mechanisms of costumes or miniatures including wire action), they got to make the kaijus look so prominent to the extent that they struck a chord with us.
According to Satoshi Furuya’s memoir ‘A Man Who Became Ultraman,’ Teruo Aragaki who played Jamyra told Furuya that he performed to express the emotions of the tragic monster wishing to turn back into a human.
Furuya also says in the book he can’t see this episode featuring Jamyra as he finds it too sad.