Tag Archives: Koji Uenishi

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.


Kikuchi Seven

Now it’s well known that Eiichi Kikuchi performed Ultraseven in Episode 14 & 15 featuring King Joe instead of Koji Uenishi who regularly played Ultraseven through the original series.

Kikuchi is known as the original actor for Returned Ultraman in The Return of Ultraman (1971-1972).

Episode 14 & 15 of Ultraseven were two-part episodes including a distant shooting location to Kobe which, aired on Jan. 7 and 14, 1968, were also meant to be the New Year’s special shows.

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Kikuchi Seven

It’s likely Kikuchi was called due to Uenishi’s schedule circumstances regarding this.

Although I was not careful enough to notice it as a child, Kikuchi Seven looks very much different from Uenishi Seven though I like both of them.

As Kikuchi was taller (180 centimeters) and thinner than well-built Uenishi (seemingly around 170 centimeters), a new costume was made for Kikuchi.

With no instructions about Seven’s fighting stance on the set, Kikuchi had to take a stance of his own with no choice.

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Kikuchi Seven

Uenishi Seven basically took his stance with closed hands.

But Kikuchi Seven assumed his stance with open hands or with one hand closed and the other opened following the karate style he practiced in those days.

In a recent book interview, Kikuchi admits it was surprising to hear a fan say he noticed the difference when he watched it as an elementary-school-age boy at the time.

Kikuchi also says the shooting was tough because the water came in through the eye holes and that the gloves colored his hands red and it was hard to wash it off.

The gloves certainly look old not matching the new suit.

It’s interesting to find how different a character looks according to an actor inside.

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Recent photo of Eiichi Kikuchi  (far right) ; Kikuchi in trampoline action for shooting ‘The Return of Ultraman’

Suit Actors On Location Shooting

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Kaiju actors on horseback

Continuing to talk about Episode 11: Fly to Devil’s Mountain, it is noteworthy that the half-naked cowboy found dead was performed by Koji Uenishi.

As you know, he was the original actor who played Ultraseven, and the other cowboys were acted by the suit actors for monsters as well.

According to Kazuho Mitsuta who directed this episode, he wanted to have actors who were capable to ride horses and that’s why they were chosen for the roles of the cowboys.

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Koji Uenishi

Also, the location shooting may have been meant to be a reward for their hard work while regularly struggling in the costumes drenched with sweat on the set, which is literally for a change of place.

Such an arrangement seems to have been made a couple of times.

In Episode 10 of UltramanThe Mysterious Dinosaur Base featuring Jirass, Satoshi (Bin) Furuya, the original actor for Ultraman, went on an overnight location trip to Izu together with the cast and crew members of the drama part.

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Bin Furuya (right)

This episode was also directed by Kazuho Mitsuta.

Furuya also played the role of a clerk who appeared fleetingly in a scene of the hotel  where the SSSP members were set to have stayed.

Furuya says he was delighted to play the role of a human instead of Ultraman at that time though he was unsatisfied with the brief appearance.

As it was July 17, 1966 when Episode 1 of Ultraman was to be aired, Furuya says in his memoir all the crew and cast members enjoyed watching it together with excitement in front of the color television in the hotel.


Uenishi Seven

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Ultra Seven & Capsule Monster Windom

It might be unthinkable that an ordinary actor plays as a suit actor today.

But that’s what happened to Satoshi (Bin) Furuya, actor for Ultraman.

As he’s not an action actor, it’s only natural that he was unfamiliar with playing action scenes.

The unfamiliarity, maybe unexpectedly, helped to create actions unique to the original Utraman.

And that surely made it look all the more like an alien.

 

Furuya Ultraman definitely remains the true Shodai Ultraman along with Uenishi Seven, which is the original Ultra Seven played by the original actor Koji Uenishi.

In the case of Mr. Uenishi, as he was an action actor specializing in sword fighting for samurai movies, he displayed his ability to play action scenes to the fullest in acting Ultra Seven.

Though Uenishi Seven is much shorter than Furuya Ultraman, mighty- and strong-looking Seven was as much attractive as Ultraman.

 

Tohl Narita was anxious to have Mr. Furuya play Ultra Seven after Ultraman though it was not realized.

But, once we’re familiar with Uenishi Seven, it may give us a feeling of strangeness if Seven is tall and slender like Ultraman.

Each one of them played the Ultra heroes as an actor with the face covered by the mask.

But I think they played Ultraman and Ultra Seven excellently and uniquely.


Variations of C Type Head 2

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The face of Ultraman is designed so simply.

So it looks so much different according to the size, shape and angle of the eyes and where they are placed on the face.

According to the pictures posted yesterday, No.1 displayed in the exhibition and No.3 owned by Satoshi (Bin) Furuya look similar.

But No. 1 has the eye holes though No. 3 has none of those.

 

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Nio

These two look very much beautiful, gentle and kind of intelligent.

Looks like their eyes are a bit smaller and placed higher than those on the head used for the actual shooting as pictured above.

No. 2 owned by Tohl Narita looks angry, in spite of the usual slight smile, which makes me imagine Nio, the guardian deity of the Buddha, with an expression of rage against the evil.

It looks so dependable and the angle of the eyes reminds me of the mask of A Type.

 

The slightly curved shape of the chin commonly seen among the three heads proves that they were duplicated from the same mold as the one used in the shooting.

The simple face of Ultraman shows various expressions from different angles.

It shows courage or, sometimes, sadness and so on.

Both Satoshi Furuya and Koji Uenishi who played Ultraman and Ultra Seven respectively say it’s very much difficult to play wearing the mask and show expressions.

But I think they did a great job in successfully playing the heroes expressively.

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Slight curve to your right hand side

Boss of Seven

Boss of Seven appearing at Dan’s bedside (Episode 48)

LIke Ultraman has a fellow member of the Space Ranger, Ultra Seven has a fellow of his own.

Seven’s fellow appears in the last two episodes of “Ultra Seven.”

He doesn’t identify himself in the drama and is commonly called “Boss of Seven” for the sake of convenience.

He doesn’t appear substantially, but just the vision appears.

 

Boss of Seven: “No. 340… No, I’ll call you ‘Ultra Seven’ as you’re called on Earth.”

“Ultra Seven” is the name Earthlings gave to Seven and he’s actually the fixed star observer No. 340 of Nebula M78.

Boss of Seven repeatedly warns Seven (Dan) to get back to Nebula M78 immediately because Seven has suffered serious damage from tough battles with the aliens to defend Earth against them.

His further stay on Earth will put his life in danger.

 

It’s a message which came by telepathy from Nebula M78 to urge Seven to return home.

And Boss of Seven tells Dan not to transform into Seven and fight against the enemy any more to save energy as otherwise he will not be able to return home which means his death.

Boss of Seven looks exactly the same as Seven though with a different voice because the suit of Ultra Seven was used as it was and played by Koji Uenishi.

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Boss of Seven stopping Dan from becoming Seven (Episode 49)

Suit actor as the true vocation

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Gander

Tetsuso Yamamura says he loves monster suits very much and loves to be called suit actor.

He states positively suit acting is his true vocation.

According to him, Koji Uenishi, actor for Ultra Seven, was someone who played for keeps and never pulled punches.

Gander appearing in “Showdown at 140 Degrees Below Zero” (“Ultra Seven” Episode 25) was played by Mr. Yamamura.

And the space monster is defeated by Ultra Seven quite easily.

 

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Alien Prote

It’s because Koichi Takano, SFX director, took account of the possibility that then young Mr. Yamamura might get severely injured in the fight scene with Mr. Uenishi.

Mr. Yamamura says  Mr. Takano was so kind and gentle.

Satoshi (Bin) Furuya, actor for Ultraman, says the same thing.

In “Ultra Seven,” Mr. Yamamura also played Alien Prote (Episode 29) and Dally (Episode 31) besides Gander.

 

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Dally

In later years, Mr. Yamamura played lots of monsters for the Tsuburaya products.

Both Mr. Yamamura and Akihide Tsuzawa, who played Shonen Hoshino in “Ultraman,” are the precious witnesses of the early Ultra who watched the production set exactly from the same perspective as us at the time.

Mr. Yamamura says in a talk with Mr. Tsuzawa for a book like this:

“We are happy as we could be with Tsuburaya of that time.”

I wish they turn their experiences into a book anew!!!


Seven, Man and Amagi

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Seven, Amagi and Anne (not a picture of the drama)

Satoshi Furuya says in a recent interview for another book, when he got the role of Amagi, he was happy about it and also felt sorry for Tohl Narita at the same time.

 

Mr. Narita designed Ultra Seven supposing Mr. Furuya is willing to play the role following Ultraman.

But Mr. Furuya had an intention to act a UG member in “Ultra Seven.”

Mr. Furuya says in his memoir, when he told Mr. Narita as such, Mr. Narita looked so much disappointed.

 

Mr. Furuya says, when the shooting got started, he paid Mr. Narita a visit in the art room of the studio, wearing the brand-new UG costume Mr. Narita designed.

Mr. Narita looked dazzled and spoke to him in a gentle manner, saying, You look cool in the costume. I’ll build a dream along with Amagi this time.”

 

Koichi Takano, SFX director, introduced Furuya to Koji Uenishi, actor for Seven.

He asked Furuya to give advice to Uenishi through the experience of Ultraman if necessary.

Furuya responded with pleasure.

And the shooting of the SFX part got started.

In his memoir, Mr. Furuya says as below:

 

“I find Ultra Seven in the center of the set. […]

It looks strong visibly.

The movement makes me feel strength and weight.

I feel as if I ‘m looking at a samurai warrior of Japan’s olden days.

A totally different hero from Ultraman.

I hope children will like it soon.”


Satoshi Furuya as Tai-in Amagi

Satoshi Furuya as Amagi (top left) with caption saying, “Mr. Satoshi Furuya full of hustle”

It is of much interest to learn publications for children of the time turned the spotlight on Koji Uenishi as the suit actor for Seven properly.

The publications also cover Satoshi Furuya as Tai-in Amagi of UG, of course.

The article about him goes like this:

 

INTRODUCTION OF ULTRA GARRISON MEMBERS (headline)

Thanks to fans (strapline)

It is Mr. Satoshi Furuya who is full of hustle saying,’I was picked as the role of Tai-in Amagi thanks to fans,’ 

It means cheers from people he enjoyed as he played the role of Ultraman previously made it possible for him to appear.” 

 

As you can see, the article deals largely with him. (Even larger than Koji Moritsugu as Dan in the upper middle!)

It has more about Mr. Furuya:

  • He dreamed of becoming a jet pilot in childhood.
  • He bears Shodan (first degree of balck belt) of Karate, is a good first baseman of Toho (movie company) in baseball and good at volley ball as well.
  • He is good in playing the shamisen (three-stringed Japanese musical instrument) and at tap-dancing.

Mr. Furuya said in his talk show he learnt Karate when he was with Toho (movie company) but bears no particular degree.

Anyway, you can see their popularity of the time through all of these.