Tag Archives: Akio Jissoji

Director Akio Jissoji #2

Akio Jissoji in 1962 (the year when I was born!)

At any rate, Akio Jissoji appears to have been a man seen as someone who thinks outside the box far exceeding behavioral patters often found among Japanese, which can probably make him called a “maverick” in this sense while I can’t resist feeling some sort of empathy with him as I have been dealt with as sort of a maverick among the Japanese somehow too (I hope I will not sound boastful).

He is described as the only Japanese director who dealt with movies and operas while it doesn’t seem to be a rarity overseas, which might indicate how much different he had been from conventional Japanese people.

Anyway, after he joined TBS, it is said that he played active roles in his work for TV dramas and live coverage shows as a director whereas his staging didn’t get to win approval of the TBS producers because it could have been thought of as too surreal in a way as Jissoji had a lot of still photos included in the scenes (I guess it could have been done like Ultraman Episode 35 showing the fight scenes between Ultraman and Seabose with the still photos as you should know) or had a street interview appear abruptly and irrelevantly in the midst of the show.

 

It is told that he went so far as to have snow fall in the ending scene of a TV drama aired in 1962 by applying abrupt cut-to-black to the scene even though the snowfall was totally irrelevant to it. Of course Jissoji was yelled at by the TBS producers who strongly complained to him, “Why did you have snow fall of all things???”

They say it was Eiji Tsuburaya who praised young Jissoji for the staging by saying to him, “It was a pretty nice arrangement. You should have had much more snowfall, though.” (I definitely love these people’s crazy thoughts!)

Moreover, while dealing with Hibari Misora, a late Japanese major star singer who had prominently gained unparalleled popularity (I think she is often referred to as one of the greatest Japanese singers of all time who goes down in history), in a live coverage TV show in 1963, Jissoji’s strange way to stage the show allegedly sparked a flood of complaints from the audience and producers because Jissoji had the back of her throat persistently shot while she was singing so that even the close-up of her uvula was shown to the audience through the screen or, conversely, had her shot in such full shots that she kept being shown just as small as a pea on the stage.


Director Akio Jissoji #1

Akio Jissoji

While Akio Jissoji (1937-2006) was born in Yotsuya, Tokyo, in 1937, he was brought up in Qingdao, China, until he came back to Japan with his family at the end of the war when they were in Manchuria.

Because of this, it seems that Shozo Uehara, one of the script writers for the Ultra Series who was from Okinawa along with Tetsuo Kinjo, referred to Jissoji as a man with a “continental perspective” in contrast with the perceptions that could be raised while being born and living in the island nation Japan including Okinawa.

It is said that, as Jissoji loved Europe, it was also because of his longing for “continental” European landscapes that have remained unchanged over hundreds of years.

I personally think having a “continental perspective” should cause a lot of difficulties in living in Japan, as I feel like it doesn’t match this island country. So Jissoji could have been a person who could hardly get himself easily understood by others in this nation.

 

After Jissoji graduated from Department of French, Faculty of Literature, Waseda University in Tokyo in 1959, it is explained that, surprisingly enough, he worked for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a short while as he had passed the public servant exam.

After resigning from the Foreign Ministry, he joined TBS that seems to have been called “Rajio Tokyo (Radio Tokyo)” back then to become a TV show director.

Having written all this so far, I find his actions seem, by the common standards, truly unpredictable and abrupt about why and how he transferred to the TV station from the Foreign Ministry as it may indicate a part of his “continental view.”

I personally like Jissoji’s way of thinking and acting that could show sort of his easy-going nature that makes me feel like I can share a lot of it with him in a way while I am not sure whether his actions came from an easy-goingness or not.


Thank You In Advance, Tokusatsu

“Ultraman Tanjō/The Birth of Ultraman” with the use of a Kaiyodo Ultraman figure for the cover wrongly described as Type B on the flap of the cover although it is Type C Ultraman

Regarding how Ultraseve fought with Star Bem Gyeron, while how Ultraseven dealt with the kaiju could make the fight look unfair in a way, what comes to my mind is the description made by Akio Jissoji in one of his books titled “Ultraman Tanjō/The Birth of Ultraman” published by Chikuma Shobō in 2006.

In that book, Jissoji says everything was left to the tokusatsu staff to make the tokusatsu part of the show filmed at their discretion for the series. And it was not a rarity that the details of fight scene between Ultra heroes and a kaiju character/characters were just left out in the script only with the description indicating it is the tokusatsu scene with an arrow like → and the word “tokusatsu yoroshiku.”

“Yoroshiku” should mean “thank you in advance” in this case while the expression is often found to be used in conversations among Japanese people in various meanings such as when greeting someone or asking others for something. So the description in the script represents “leaving it to the tokusatsu staff, thank you in advance.”

 

As the result, I assume there could have been cases where what happened in the tokusatsu part ended up slightly mismatching the theme of the episode.

As to the effort paid by the tokusatus staff for the tokusatus parts, in the book authored by Jissoji, he refers to the statement made by Koichi Takano, tokusatsu director, as Takano put it as below:

“Although we made efforts to work out something new each time, pressed by the deadline for broadcasting, it was only natural we couldn’t work on something that would require a lot of extra work afterwards (probably optical compositing, etc.). We had to give up on things that would require a lot of preparation and an elaborate set even though we wanted to do it.

“Fight scenes with kaijus were no exception. While there were many things we would rather do such as filming in different sets, devising the use of gunpowder or the expression of beams/rays, and increasing composited images, we couldn’t make it due to time and money. So, as the last-ditch effort or the most straightforward means, it unintentionally ended up having Ultraman and a kaiju perform professional wrestling pretend play frequently.”


GAMAKUGIRA (making) #2

Gamakugira fighting seemingly with Type A Ultraman

Jissoji expected to have a creepier monster with a swollen belly and a more slimy texture that could make viewers feel bad and even feel like vomiting while having dinner together as a family in front of the TV although Jissoji liked the design presented by Narita.

Apart from whether Jissoji’s plot was appropriate or not, in later years, however, Jissoji admired Narita and Takayama for their consistent attitudes not to make kaijus look extremely creepy saying the kaijus would not have gained so much popularity otherwise.

While it is known among fans that the Type B costume of Ultraman appeared for the first time ever in this Gamakugira episode although it didn’t allow us to fully enjoy seeing the good-looking costume as the short battle scene unfolded mostly as an air battle partly with the use of dolls.

 

Nevertheless, it has been disclosed that there is a picture available with Ultranan found fighting with Gamakugira in it, and, although the angle of Ultraman’s head doesn’t allow us to see his face clearly, the seemingly rough surface of the mask (with the toe that is not curled up) makes us aware that it appears to be the Type A costume of Ultraman that was fighting against Gamakugira.

As it seems that the script properly included the scene in which Ultraman grappled with the kaiju, it makes people assume the grappling fight scene was actually filmed with the use of the Type A suit of Ultraman probably before the Type B suit became available.

 

There is an explanation that the filmed fight scene was rejected according to Jissoji’s intention as he hated such a duel like a professional wrestling match while there were some people (adults) who made fun of the tokusatsu show as a kaiju professional wresting show as real professional wrestling shows were so popular back then in Japan.

As a fan of Type B Ultraman, the scene in which the newly made costume appeared after the transformation scene truly dazzles me. Have a happy experience of Type B Ultraman with this episode!

(The photo seems to be originally from a commercial picture portrait called “buromaido (bromide)” in Japan that was available in those days. I personally assume the fight scene with Type A Ultraman might have possibly been shot only for such commercial items rather than it was actually filmed for the show while I am not sure.)


GAMAKUGIRA (making) #1

Tohl Narita: “As its name suggests, this is a composite of a gamagaeru (frog) and kujira (whale). I remember Mr. Takayama had a hard time to plant beads all over the body.”

According to the sculpting plan of Gamakugira/Gamakujira drawn by Ryosaku Takayama based on the design done by Narita, the beads are described as vinyl beads.

The beads seem to have included the plastic ones from toy necklaces, and I feel like I read somewhere that the materials were obtained by Mrs. Takayama as her husband was extremely busy in sculpting kaijus one after another while I believe she should also have contributed a lot to the making of kaikus her husband devotedly worked on.

Sculpting plans of Gamakugira (above) and Gavason drawn by Ryosaku Takayama

Although the monster appeared as Gamakugira in the episode script written by Mamoru Sasaki before Narita designed it accordingly, it seems to have been a name Sasaki provisionally gave to the monster.

It is likely that Sasaki simply put the words representing “frog” and “whale” together expecting Tsuburaya Productions would name the monster properly afterwards, so he seems to have been surprised to find the provisional name he gave to the monster in quite a haphazard way was actually used in the show.

While this episode was directed by Akio Jissoji with the script written by Sasaki as the two allegedly worked in perfect tune with each other all the time, it is widely known among fans Jissoji was disappointed at Gamakugira when he found it on the water set as it appeared to be such a laid-back kaiju like a good-natured dude bathing in a hot spring at leisure.

Gamakugira on the water set

 


BALLOONGA (making) & Another Amorphous Kaiju

Balloonga design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about Balloonga) “I didn’t come up with any other idea for a monster that inflates in the sky than this.” (about the other drawing for an episode with the title “Endless”) “This is a story that was not produced, but, just Balloonga, I had no choice but to draw a design like this in attempts to expand the story.”

I personally like Balloonga as an attractively strange monster along with Bullton. While it is said to have been sculpted by Akira Sasaki, he himself says he doesn’t remember at all having made the monster (prop).

It seems to be said the prop was brown just as raw rubber, the material the prop was made of, was, and it is likely that Hiroko Sakurai who played Yuriko Edogawa in “Ultra Q” (Akiko Fuji in “Ultraman”) remembers it was brown with a dirty look.

There is an explanation that there was another prop painted red for optical compositing.

An amorphous kaiju design for the unproduced Ultra Q episode “Endless” drawn by Tohl Narita

The other design (above) drawn by Narita was an unnamed monster that was supposed to appear in an episode titled “Endless (Kiriganai)” although the Ultra Q episode ended up being left unproduced.

The episode was written by the director Akio Jissoji under the pseudonym of Yuri Manpukuji and was to be directed by himself, but, according to a book Jissoji authored, it was rejected in the end as the monster was to come back to life endlessly.

It seems that it was an amorphous monster that appeared in the sky above a dam in Tokyo absorbing water, which caused a severe water shortage.

Although people destroyed the monster by removing water from the dam, it was set to restore itself perpetually (probably absorbing any moisture in the atmosphere).

It sounds like such a crazy story as it is so Jissoji.


Comet Fukushin 1

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With the overnight star watching Fukushin can’t resist the urge to nap even in front of the moving machine

One of my readers asked me about the ending of Episode 45 ‘The Boy Who Cried Flying Saucer’ of Ultraseven with Perolynga in it as he finds it seemingly too abrupt just showing Fukushin on bike with the sirens blaring out.

I know what he means and in fact had felt the same way over the years, so I don’t think the DVDs he has can be another version or something of the episode although I haven’t watched the US version.

Following the Outer Limits’ narration I dimly remember, I’d say, “There is nothing wrong with your television or DVD set…”

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“You’re performing pretty poorly these days,” Fukushin was reproved by his boss

As you can find many things associated with the state of the Japanese society of the time in this episode, however, it may necessitate explanation to understand it.

I think this episode is very much tinged with the Japanese society in the midst of high economic growth.

First of all, it was an episode shot in the areas around Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture next to Tokyo, that used to be one of the main areas sustaining Japan’s economic growth with many small machi koba (town factories), along with Episode 8 ‘The Tageted Town’ featuring Metron. (They were directed by the same director, Akio Jissoji.)

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Gen-san, auto wreckers, living next door always teasing Fukushin

The factory Fukushin was with in the show is also one of them.

In pursuit of materialistic abundance, daily hustles and bustles changed people’s lifestyle possibly including their behaviors and mentalities with the idyllic times far left behind.

On the other hand, Fukushin was a youth who just loved watching stars and could be a type of person left alone in the society that was becoming more and more competitive.

Fukushin’s lament that he wants to go to the stellar universe can possibly reflect the atmosphere of the times, or it could have been shared among people at the time.


Drama part and SFX part

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Mr. Koichi Takano directing Mirrorman

Naturally the honpen (drama part) to be acted by the cast members and the tokusatsu (SFX part) featuring the miniatures, the monsters and the Ultra hero were shot separately and simultaneously in the Ultra Series to save time and cost.

Therefore these two parts were directed by each director separately.

 

The scenes featuring monsters and the hero seem to have been left to the crew on the set with the details undescribed even in the script with only a word saying something like, “The monster has appeared. Leaving the rest to you!”

So the SFX part was left to the discretion of the SFX director on the set practically.

That’s why such a thing happened as Director Akio Jissoji turned out to be dissatisfied with how Seabose was directed in the SFX part as posted yesterday.

 

Koichi Takano (1935-2008) is known as an SFX director who contributed greatly to the Tsuburaya products including the Ultra Series and the others such as “Mirrorman” (1971-72).

Having started his career as an assistant shooter of Toho Company under Eiji Tsuburaya, Mr. Takano learnt SFX shooting directly from Mr. Tsuburaya.

Those who worked with Mr. Takano describe him as very much gentle and considerate with one mouth including Satoshi (Bin) Furuya, actor for Ultraman, and Tetsuo Yamamura, kaiju suit actor.


Everyone loved kaiju

Gamakugira

As posted yesterday, it’s likely Designer Tohl Narita designed Jamyra unwillingly at the request of Director Akio Jissoji.

Not limited to Jamyra, looks like Mr. Narita and Mr. Jissoji had a conflicting opinion over monsters on the frequent basis.

Regarding Gamakugira (Gamakuzilla?) appearing in “The Pearl Defense Directive” (“Ultraman” Episode 14), Mr. Jissoji wanted to make the monster look nauseatingly bizarre.

But he found a monster far from his image on the set.

 

It is a monster which could look somewhat lovable.

Bizarre-looking monsters were against Mr. Narita’s principle of monster design.

Mr. Narita told he was in trouble with a director who required him to design something bizarre implying Mr. Jissoji in later years.

In “The Monster Graveyard” (“Ultraman” Episode 35), Seabose is portrayed as a lovable monster which sulks and acts like a baby despite appearance like a skeleton.

The play was decided on the set by the shooting crew.

 

Looks like Mr. Jissoji didn’t like it.

But, in later years, Mr. Jissoji admitted it did well to have all those monsters that way.

He also highly esteems the work of Mr. Narita.

Such individual characteristics among the producers as they provoked conflicts at times should have made the Ultra World distinguished and immortal.

Mr. Jissoji says in his book, “Everyone loved kaijyu.”

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Seabose

Tohl Narita’s unwillingness

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Jamyra

According to the memoir of Satoshi (Bin) Furuya, actor for Ultraman, Teruo Aragaki, a kaiju suit actor, played, say, Jamyra to express the monster’s feeling to change back into a human.

Jamyra is a tragic monster. No. It’s not a monster actually.

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Design drawing by Tohl Narita

“It’s not a monster. It…No, He is a human like us.” (From a dialogue in the episode)

 

It’s set as a monster an astronaut of a certain country mutated into on another planet he drifted to by a rocket in the midst of competitive space exploitation.

Then Jamyra returns to Earth with hostility to all the human beings.

Jamyra is the monster to appear in “My Home is the Earth” (“Ultraman” Episode 23) directed by Akio Jissoji and written by Mamoru Sasaki.

It’s likely Tohl Narita was unwilling to design Jamyra as it looks like a deformed human body which runs counter to his three principles of monster designing.

 

When, thrilled with the design of Jamyra, Mr. Jissoji asked Mr. Narita to give over the design drawing to him, it’s likely Mr. Narita gave it to him with no stint.

It’s said Mr. Jissoji felt like Mr. Narita didn’t like Jamyra.

In “My Home is the Earth,” the presence of Tai-in Ide hesitant to attack Jamyra, who usually plays a role of a clown, is outstanding.

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Tai-in Ide