There seem to be many stories about Akio Jissoji’s amazing abilities referred to by many people who had worked with him.
Noriyoshi Ikeya, who had been very close to Jissoji as they formed a new company after Ikeya resigned the Tsuburaya Productions, said Jissoji’s knowledge about art was incredible and far beyond that of Ikeya who had worked as the kaiju designer for Ultraseven after Tohl Narita’s resignation. And Jissoji was very good at drawing too while I have a book authored by Jissoji with his own illustrations. Furthermore, a sort of his art book with his illustrations of the Ultra Series characters came out recently although I have not purchased it yet.
In addition, Jissoji seems to have been known as a fast reader who reads through a book or script so quickly while understanding and remembering the contents perfectly. Therefore, chances are Jissoji had a wide range of knowledge about a variety of things including art and music as his vast knowledge of classical music especially amazed people around him.
Nevertheless, it is said that he was tolerant to musicians contrary to his stubbornness towards filmed images so that, when Jissoji worked with Toru Fuyuki known as the music composer for the show Ultraseven for some other job, Jissoji allegedly told Fuyuki that it would be OK to play unskillfully and sloppily although I imagine Jissoji wanted something played in a relaxed manner instead of precisely prearranged one, needless to say, highly evaluating and relying on Fuyuki’s excellent skills as a remarkable musician. It is also said that Jissoji had perfect pitch.
Ikeya seems to have described Jissoji as a man hard to explain to others as he had so many different characters that varied according to opponents that it made it likely for others to get him wrong as Jissoji often refused job offers saying there is a difference of “perspective” even though he was also a good-natured man who would happily accept offers from those he liked to work with saying, “Perspective? It doesn’t matter.”
By the by, Hiroko Sakurai says Jissoji told her to get closer and closer to the glass showcase when the scene of Akiko Fuji pressing her nose onto it until she looked so funny by saying to her, “Closer! Much closer!”
Although there seems to have been a notion and perception among the staff to film an actress as much nicely as possible while Toho actresses including Sakurai were known for their neat and clean images, Jissoji had no qualms about breaking it in his unique way.
As Sakurai was also filmed with a fisheye lens in Ultraman Episode 34 with Skydon featured, it seems that she got mad about it when she saw the scene for the first time on the occasion of dubbing (the series were dubbed afterwards every time by the actors and actresses with no sound recording while acting on the set). Moreover, Sakurai writes in one of her books that Jissoji just said to her with a laugh when she asked him why he did such a ridiculous thing, “Because I had ever wanted to film an actress with a fisheye lens one day.”
While Jissoji was trying to pursue his own principles to realize his own images in filming, there were times when he ended up having truly unsatisfactory and dishonored results.
In Ultraman Episode 23 with Jamyra featured, even though the scenes where the SSSP members were informed of Jamyra’s true identity by Alan were filmed with location shooting, people around Jissoji saw them as the scenes filmed nearby as the backgrounds were too dark. For the scenes of Robot Commander sitting in the set designed to aim at the effect like the Ames Room in Ultraseven Episode 43, his colleagues asked him if he had filmed the scenes using a hallway of TBS.
Furthermore, for the scene of bamboo woods in the 1990 movie “Ultra Q The Movie Legend From The Stars,” it seems that his colleagues said to him although the scene was filmed in real-life bamboo woods, “What a luxurious set you made! It must have taken a lot of work and money to prepare so many bamboos!”
Jissoji’s way of arranging performances that could have been seen as eccentric gave him a bad name from the actresses, Hiroko Sakurai as Akiko Fuji in “Ultrman” and Yuriko Hishimi as Anne Yuri in “Ultraseven,” with a lot of close-ups of them featured.
Those scenes included the one where Sakurai had to press her face onto the glass showcase in Ultraman Episode 14 so that she looked so weird, and Hishimi still complains in one of her books that her face covered with pimples was filmed with the close-up shots in Ultraseven Episode 8 while Jissoji was known for his daring way of filming to go so far as to have even pores of actresses caught on film.
There also seem to have often been argument and conflict with the tokusatsu staff and tokusatsu director Koichi Takano as Jissoji often trimmed the tokusatsu scenes filmed by them with no hesitation if he didn’t like them while they worked very hard to film the scenes overnight for days.
It is also said that there were some actors who didn’t like acting under Jissoji’s direction as they saw Jissoji as the director who would deal with them like “props” to realize his own ideal images of the whole product. Nevertheless, actors including, if I put out the names related to tokusatsu shows, Minori Terada (1942-present), Shin Kishida (1939-1982) and Kimihiro Reizei (1947-present) have been known as the actors who liked working with Jissoji regularly.
Terada can be found to appear in Ultraman Episode 14 as the assistant driver of a dump truck attacked by Gamakugira. Kishida should be well known among Ultraman fans as the actor who played Ken Sakata (older brother) in Return of Ultraman while he also played a leading role in Kaiki Daisakusen (Operation Mystery) Jissoji also got involved in before Return of Ultraman. Furthermore, Reizei is known as Fukushin who appeared in Ultraseven 45 “The Boy Who Cried Flying Saucer” (Terada also acted the human form of Alien Metron in Ultraman Max Episode 24 directed by Jissoji).
Incidentally, the scenes of Akiko Fuji played by Hiroko Sakurai appearing beautifully wearing pearls in Episode 14 and kimono in Episode 34 of Ultraman, both of which were directed by Jissoji, were intended by him to make up to Sakurai for badly dealing with her by having her filmed with the scenes that made her look so funny while Sakurai recalls those scenes featuring beautiful Fuji with laugh saying, “(It is hilarious to find the scenes were shown) Even with shimmering lights…”
I remember the design of Space Beast God (Uchu Jushin) “Gōdo” was drawn by Noriyoshi Ikeya some time ago and featured in a magazine covering tokusatsu-related figures although I failed to buy the magazine at that time (a figure of Gōdo based on the design and produced in limited quantity came out from a toy figure merchandiser Billiken Shokai then too).
At any rate, I have to say Jissoji and Uehara were so smart that they plotted an episode they thought would be almost impossible to be realized with so many kaiju and alien characters to be featured as it led to the people concerned allowing them to make whatever episode they wanted without spending too much money.
Moreover, it is ironically interesting to find the episodes “Nightmare On Planet 4” and “The Boy Who Cried Flying Saucer (Here Come Flying Saucers!)” are seen as sort of masterpieces of the Ultraseven episodes now.
Personally, I feel like it is good to find that the episode “15 Aliens+35 Kaijus” ended up being left unproduced as it could have spoiled the concept of the show Ultraseven with the theme “aliens’ invasion of the earth from outer space” separately from the preceding show Ultraman as the rejected episode was supposed to have the aliens and kaijus who had appeared in Ultraman and Ultraseven show up together as I still have a notion that they are two separate series with no world to be shared between them except both of the heroes happened to be from Nebula M78, Land of Light.
That having been said, on the other hand, it is true that I slightly wish I could have watched the characters from the both series appear in the same show not in the form of such a cheep-looking show as “Ultra Fight” even though I have to admit I realize the cheep-looking tokusatsu shows including “Ultra Fight” are also attractive in their own ways!