Tag Archives: Akira Sasaki

GOMORA (making) #2

Gomora in the studio

Kurakata added he had been really nervous wondering if the radio control receiver might break at any time especially in the scene where Gomora’s tail was severed and the part where the tail dropped off caught fire as the heat and fire could have damaged the receiver.

Although there are some pictures of Ultraman and Gomora fighting with each other in front of Osaka Castle that should have been demolished by the kaiju before Ultraman appeared, it is known that these are the still photos shot before the castle was destroyed.

As to the miniature of Osaka Castle, it is known that Akira Sasaki who sculpted the original Ultraman and Ultraseven heads was involved in making it. He says he still remembers the sculpting of Osaka Castle well along with the National Stadium that appeared in Ultraman Episode 19 featuring Abolas and Banila.

Kunio Suzuki who acted Gomora got into the suit with goggles probably to protect his eyes from explosions of gunpowder
Gomora standing by at the side of Osaka Castle

Sasaki says it took him about 10 days to make the castle with the help of part-time assistants using plaster and wood with the structure to be built on the rock foundation made of styrofoam.

He adds the castle was all white when it was shaped, and they painted it finally. He also explains that the National Stadium miniature was not the whole thing of it but with one fourth or one fifth of it reproduced, saying he had a very hard time as he had to work overnight in succession to make it meet the deadline for the filming.

It is well known that the Gomora costume was remodeled into Zaragas in the end. Although it seems that Gomora was due to reappear in Ultraman Episode 37 set to be resurrected by Geronimon along with Red King, it was not realized because Gomora had already been made into Zaragas at that time, and they had Telesdon appear instead.

One of the still photos with Ultraman shot before the castle was destroyed by Gomora

 


ALIEN BALTAN II;III (making #2)

Alien Baltan III

For Alien Baltan III, the costume of Baltan II was used again after being repainted although the mechanism to light up the V-shaped part on the head was left unused.

It is also said the leg openings of the Baltan II suit were made to look integrated with the boots by taping the joints up just like the costumes of Ultraman while the first Baltan apparently wore boots just as they were.

Although it is unclear, it is pointed out that Baltan II’s  boots appear to have fin-like parts on the back of the heels like the Type B suit of Ultraman, and I feel like figures with the reproduced fins for the boots were once available even though I am not sure.

 

Chances are that, as it was hard for the actors to act with the aliens’ heads that seem to have easily come off and the big nippers, their battles with Ultraman on the ground ended up being rather short.

The costume variations of Alien Baltan had not been referred to in publication (there was no classification to describe them as Alien Baltan I, II and III either) until the 1980s when ardent fans who had grown up with the Ultra Series started talking about them as the character had been dealt with to that point as the same (species of) Alien Baltan regardless of the slightly different appearances.

I think we (a bit younger than the forerunner fans who were born in the late 1950s) were aware that Alien Baltan II and III apparently looked different from the first Baltan when we were kids as we watched the reruns (no videos were available) over and over back then.

(to see a post about what happened to the costume in the end, click here)


ALIEN BALTAN II; III (making #1)

Alien Baltan design drawn by Tohl Narita

It is not that the costume of Alien Baltan II (and III) was sculpted based on a new design drawn by Tohl Narita as a character with a different appearance from the first Alien Baltan.

It is said that the costume of the first Baltan was in an unusable state allegedly because of deterioration as the costume could possibly have been used at stage shows.

Along with the eyes that light up, rotate and move sideways just like the first Baltan, Baltan II has a luminescent section over the V-shaped part on the head with the color changing from white to red alternately.

Alien Baltan II

While it is known (it was learnt quite recently actually) that the first Baltan costume was sculpted by Tamotsu Sato who was with Shimada Workshop that was involved in film art for Toho movies, Baltan II was sculpted by Akira Sasaki who made the masks of the original Ultraman and Ultraseven.

As to the sculpture, Sasaki says, “I don’t think I had any particular reason for having made it look thinner than the first Baltan. If anything, I think I made it look more like Narita’s design.”

It is truly a shame that there is little record available about the costume of Alien Baltan II including pictures showing the sculpting process, images of its front, side and back views (to be shot at the back of the Bisen studio) or still photos as it is said that people including publishers were likely to have thought the same costume as the first Baltan would be used naturally for the filming with no one ready for the new costume sculpted by Sasaki to be featured.


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.


JIRASS (making)

Jirass design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “This is a design being Godzilla with a muffler scarf attached to it.”

Such stuff around the neck like a frill-necked lizard is called “erimaki” signifying “muffler scarf” as the lizard is called “erimaki tokage” in the Japanese language, so I followed suit in translating Narita’s description of Jirass (Jirāsu in Japanese pronunciaton).

When looking at Narita’s design drawing, it makes me feel like it shows his unwillingness to design a kaiju based on the existing Toho kaiju as the monster drawn by him looks more like a dinosaur than Godzilla while Godzilla’s characteristic fins on the back are drawn with more of a Narita style (I personally think the design is worth being sculpted into another original kaiju just as it is).

To avoid any misunderstanding, needless to say, it was not Narita who decided to use the Godzilla costume for Jirass but producers made the decision probably to reduce cost and to adjust the filming schedule.

It is said that the Godzilla costume used for Jirass was the one with the head from the costume used in the Toho movie “Invasion of Astro-Monster” (1965) and the body from “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964) put together.

This combined costume seems  to have been displayed at a supermarket called Akafudadō in Ueno back then before being lent to Tsuburaya Productions while it is undescribed why such a combination was done (it is thinkable the other costumes should have been in an unusable state, of course).

The frill was sculpted by Akira Sasaki who says he remembers the Godzilla costume was brought in from the Toho Studio and that he must have used bamboo to hold up the  frill made of latex from within while he also recalls he attached the frill by pasting rubber onto the neck and the end of the frill.

He says it made the remodeling even harder as the costume had to be returned to Toho intact and the frill had to be placed firmly while it was to be removed by Ultraman in the end.


GAVORA (making)

Gavora design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “I think this was remodeled from Nelonga. I made it look like another monster by hiding its face rather than fiddling with every part of the costume. Therefore, when the lids flip up, Nelonga shows up.”

In my post about the making of Magulla, I referred to an explanation that Nelonga was remodeled into Magulla by applying a removable spiny surface to the costume before Magulla was converted into Gavora finally.

Given the episode in which Magulla appeared (#8 in production order) was produced after this Gavara episode (#7 likewise), however, the costume might have been eventually converted into Magulla in reverse order rather than Govora.

Nevertheless, as it is least likely that the Baragon costume borrowed from Toho was remodeled so much as Magulla with spines all over the body, the removable surface might have been applied to Magulla for real.

Same as above

Above all, it seems to be unlikely that the horn Nelonga characteristically had was removed for Gavora and put back for Magulla while all of these are so confusing and deepens the mystery.

It was Akira Sasaki who sculpted the flip-ups and attached them to Gavora, and he says in a book it was very hard to adhere the fins (made of FRP for the white parts with urethane for the red parts) to the costume so as not to come off.

Although the spines of Magulla were also sculpted by Sasaki, the connection between these two monsters is obscure unfortunately as it is an old story.

Furthermore, Sasaki says two heads might possibly have been made for Govara: one with the closed fins and the other with the opened fins so that one can be replaced by the other.

The sculpture of the fins is excellent and the concept that the monster shows its real identity after opening the flip-ups is very much attractive anyway.


MAGULLA (making)

Magulla design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “At any rate, I wanted to make an utterly black monster. This is a case where the form came along when I decided the color.”

As it is well known among fans, the costume of Magulla was the same as Nelonga that was a monster remodeled from Toho’s Baragon by replacing its head while it was made into Pagos of “Ultra Q” in the first place.

In Magulla’s case, given it is said that the costume was remodeled again into Gavora, it makes an explanation sound more plausible that the costume was wrapped up with the thorny surface so that it could be removed after shooting.

The remodeling work is said to have been done by Akira Sasaki who sculpted several primary Ultra Series characters including the original masks of Ultaman and Ultraseven.

Sasaki himself says in  a book interview that he just barely remembers he sculpted only the back part cutting and pasting urethane.

In the same book, Tetsuo Yamamura says the thorns on the back were made of urethane scraped and painted black without latex coating.

If it is true that the costume was wrapped with a removable surface, the same method used for Gomess of “Ultra Q” might have been applied to Magulla.

It is certain that thinking it was a costume borrowed from Toho to be remodeled into Gavara and to be returned to Toho finally makes it least likely that the costume was converted into Magulla by remodeling it so much as the thorny parts were directly adhered to the suit, but the truth remains unknown.

I myself didn’t notice that Magulla was a remodeled monster from Nelonga as a kid while they looked totally different, moreover, partly because Magulla was not such an impressive monster unfortunately as he kept a relatively low profile in the episode if anything.


JURAN (MAMMOTH FLOWER) (Making)

While it is uncertain who designed Juran, Akira Sasaki known for his involvement in the kaiju sculpting including the original Ultraman and Ultraseven masks says in a book interview it should be Yasuyuki Inoue, Toho Special Art Division, who designed the flower monster.

Sasaki says, when he joined the crew members for the first time at the Tokyo Bijutsu (art) Center (abbreviated as Bisen), Inoue brought the design to him and asked him to sculpt it.

After thinking about what it should be made of, Sasaki says he decided to sculpt it with styrofoam.

Sasaki recalls he made the male and female molds of the flower part of the monster and, by heating the molds, he cast the parts by pressing a sheet of styrofoam 5 mm thick between the molds to sculpt the monster flower in two different sizes.

He says a petal of the larger Juran measured about 1 meters, and it melted away excellently when thinner was sprayed over the flower.

While he says he worked on the sculpting at the Bisen as he was offered a room about 66 square meters for his own use there, he laughs he remembers the sloping floor with nostalgia as the studio was like a shanty without any air conditioning.

For the scenes in which Juran’s giant root was found in the castle ditch, a life-sized prop was used as it was shot in a giant pool of Toho,and optical compositing was applied to the scenes with the root floating in the ditch.

It is said that, in the scenes of Juran coming into bloom, the petals were initially manipulated by wire but they were eventually retaken in stop motion as the scenes with the wire manipulation did not satisfy Eiji Tsuburaya and he rejected them.

It is known that Satoshi Furuya, original Ultraman actor, is found among the onlookers watching the giant root with his line “Don’t shove!”


Ultraseven Is Possibly Samurai Warrior

As I wrote in my previous post, Koji Uenishi performed Ultraseven so that he made the hero look like a samurai warrior while he was from a group of sword action actors under Toshiro Mifune (Uenishi is alleged to have been with Mifune Production back then).

According to the autobiography “A Man Who Became Ultraman”authored by Satoshi (Bin) Furuya, Narita told him that the actor for Ultraseven was brought to Narita as Tsuburaya Productions decided to place more emphasis on action for the upcoming product and he redesigned Ultraseven he was working on assuming Furuya was supposed to play the new hero.

And, when he looked at Ultraseven in the studio for the first time, Furuya also says the appearances made him imagine a bushi (samurai warrior).

When looking at the prototype model (small statue to see what it would look like before making the costume for real) sculpted by Akira Sasaki, it makes us aware the shape of Eye Slugger looks slightly different from the costume actually worked out.

As to the crest-like part including that of Ultraman and Ultraseven’s Eye Slugger, I remember I read somewhere someone says Narita told him that those parts came from the chonmage (traditional topknot hairstyle) worn by samurai warriors when asked where they came from.

Although I am not sure if this is true (partly as Narita seems to have been a cheerful man who was very much fond of joking all the time), I think Ultraseven is certainly a hero who could be associated with the samurai warrior along with his powerful-looking, brisk movements performed by Uenishi.

At any rate Uenishi Seven is one of the unforgettable heroes alongside of Furuya Ultraman.


How Was The Ultraseven Design Worked Out? 4

Prototype model sculpted by Akira Sasaki

Tohl Narita himself described the Ultraseven design as he tried to make it look a bit intricate while he attempted to make the Ultraman design extremely simple while he thought cosmos representing justice must be simple (he made kaijus defined to symbolize chaos).

When looking at the Ultraseven design transition shown by Narita’s design drawings, we can see it developed from an astronaut-like armored character into the design known today.

It is also known that Narita was initially working on the Ultraseven design on the assumption that Satoshi (Bin) Furuya who played the original Ultraman would continue to act Ultraseven.

Ultraseven Type A costume with the mask and protector sculpted by Akira Sasaki

As I mentioned in my post before, Furuya told Narita that he was unwilling to take the role of the new hero as he had played Ultraman wearing the costume with his masked face while he found the face should be the essence of actors.

In the end, Furuya was appointed to the role of one of the Ultra Garrison members Amagi as he hoped to play without the hero costume.

Although this decision disappointed Narita very much, he allegedly finished designing Ultraseven while he made the intricate parts come together intensively on the upper part of the body to cover up the short limbs of Koji Uenishi who was decided to play Ultraseven.

The white (to be repainted silver afterwards) lines sharply extending to the boots were intended to make the legs look longer than in reality.

As Uenishi was an actor specializing in sword action under world-famous Toshiro Mifune, his performances got to make the new hero look as impressive as the samurai warrior in contrast with Furuya’s Ultraman that made us imagine the extraterrestrial life form.

At any rate, I can’t help but to admire Narita’s attitude as an artist as he tried to and managed to create a completely different hero from Ultraman whereas the latter was created as the hero nobody had ever seen before.