Tag Archives: Ryosaku Takayama

Cute Kaiju Nakira: Another Narita-Takayama Made Kaiju

Amidst the unprecedented Kaiju Boom that arose in the wake of “Ultra Q” and “Ultraman” along with the Godzilla movies, kaijus appeared even in non-tokusatsu dramas.

Nakira is a kaiju that appeared in Episode 16 “Cute Kaiju Nakira” of the serial drama “Naite Tamaruka (I Never Cry)” aired on TBS, the same channel as the Ultra Series, from 1966 to 1968 with 80 episodes in all.

The show was a popular ninjō (人情: human emotion) drama meant to evoke tears and laughter among viewers portraying a good-natured male protagonist who works hard, even though a bit clumsily, against difficulties with different characters and settings in each complete story.

In the episode, Nakira was a costume monster designed by an ad agency worker in competition with a rival advertising company while I checked it out on the Internet as I myself don’t remember it.

It seems that the story conclusion was the ad agency worker managed to get the better of the rival agency by creating Nakira as an advertising character (the man himself was seemingly set to act Nakira wearing the costume).

The thing is that Nakira was a kaiju actually designed by Tohl Narita and sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama although it was set to have been created by the adman in the episode.

While Nakira looks like a human baby’s features were applied to a kaiju with Garamon or Pigmon-like projecting parts, what it looks like surely makes us aware it was just like a Narita-Takayama-made kaiju.

The name Nakira should have come from the Japanese verb naku, to cry or weep, in association with the show title.

The show “Naite Tamaruka” seems to have been produced featuring Kiyoshi Atsumi, Yukio Aoshima and Katsuo Nakamura while each of them played a different leading character according to the episode by turns, and Nakira appeared in the episode featuring Aoshima.

Aoshima (1932-2006) was a popular talent who served as the governor of Tokyo in later years, and you can find him to appear in Ultraman Episode 11 as a funny news reporter.

At any rate, Nakira might be called another extra kaiju created by Narita and Takayama along with Imora of “Kaiju Booska” hidden behind the commonly acknowledged Ultra Kaijus made by them.

Aoshima in Ultraman Episode 11

Silver Kamen Aliens Featured At The Event

Alien Khimaira

As you may know, Noriyoshi Ikeya designed the hero Silver Kamen and the aliens that appeared in the Silver Kamen episodes while I am not sure if he designed all of the aliens featured in the show (I think all the “Silver Kamen” and “Silver Kamen Giant” aliens were sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama).

At least the aliens I saw in the episodes screened at the event were surely designed by him, and they were: Alien Tigris (Episode 1); Alien Khimaira (7); Alien Solomon (8); Alien Domino (9); Alien Titan (10)

It is said he dared design Silver Kamen and the aliens not to make them look extremely strong, and, as the result, all these characters have their own unique forms and atmosphere distinctive from the equivalents of the Ultra Series.

Alien Solomon

It should be only natural as the show itself is said to have been plotted and produced with a strong sense of rivalry against the big-name hero show Ultraman.

It should be partly because the Nihon Gendai Kikaku (Japan Modern Planning) and Jissoji-led Kodai Group that were involved in the Silver Kamen production had many people who  had to leave Tsuburaya Productions for the company’s financial reasons.

Alien Domino

As to the Silver Kamen aliens, they were not unilaterally evil but were set to try to rob Kasuga brothers of the hidden photon rocket engine blueprint because they thought earthlings would invade their planets if the rocket should be completed.

Against their expectations, children watched “Mirrorman” aired in the competing timeslot a lot more as an orthodox tokusatsu hero show while the human-sized Silver Kamen didn’t play an active part at all in the show centering on the stories about the agony of Kasuga brothers.

I remember, however, I watched “Silver Kamen” and “Silver Kamen Giant” more than “Mirrorman” in my childhood somehow, and I have found the Silver Kamen aliens attractive enough again this time.

Alien Titan

Who Is Fuminori Ohashi? 3

Agon

Ohashi also seems to have been involved in the production of the kaiju TV series “Agon” aired in 1968 (4 episodes).

It is explained online, although it was produced  in 1964, the broadcast was delayed as they couldn’t get any sponsorship.

According to the information on the Net, the Toho people protested that Agon’s design was a rip off from Godzilla, but the dispute came to an end as it was figured out that Ohashi was also involved in sculpting the first suit of Godzilla.

Nevertheless, as there seem to be the crew members involved in the production of the movie who maintain they had never seen Ohashi on the set, the truth remains unknown.

I dimly remember there was an explanation that the costume of Agon was converted into that of  Magma Taishi’s Aron. (Ultraseven has another Aron.)

While Agon and Magma Taishi’s Aron certainly look alike, it seems that the costume of Agon also had a balloon in the neck to be blown up to show the inflation and deflation of the throat just like Aron.

Ohashi seems to have claimed that it was him who taught Ryosaku Takayama how to deal with latex to model monster costumes.

Besides all these, Ohashi is alleged to have been involved in making many of the ape masks and hands for the 1968 US movie “Planet of the Apes” after participating in the production of the 1967 UK 007 film “You Only Live Twice” as an art member.


Who Is Fuminori Ohashi? 2

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Magma Taishi

Making the most of his height, Ohashi seems to have played an active role in performing as a suit actor in the 1930s.

Inspired by “King Kong” screened in 1933, he is said to have acted King Kong in the 1938 Japanese King Kong movie “King Kong appears in Edo” while the title sounds pretty attractive and exciting.

As shown in Aron whose photo is featured in my previous post, he had excellent sculpting skills as he was even requested to join the modeling work for the Disneyland props and, later, the production of a TV tokusatsu series under contract with a US production company.

It is said that the suit of Aron was equipped with a balloon inside the neck to show the trembling movements of its throat.

 

Alongside of Aron, Ohashi sculpted the mask of Magma Taishi whose fine features have seemingly been admired by those including Toru Matoba (SFX director of the primary Ultra Series) and Eizo Kaimai (kaiju sculptor who participated in the Godzilla movies and Ultra Series).

Ohashi is alleged to have worked out his own modeling materials such as compound latex to be patented later.

Nevertheless, as he overly elaborated details of the costumes, the suits he modeled seem to have been extremely heavy and rigid while the surface was coated over and over so it is likely that those including Eizo Kaimai and Ryosaku Takayama were called in to remodel Ohashi’s monster costumes making them thinner by hollowing out the inside of the costume.


Who Is Fuminori Ohashi? 1

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Aron sculpted by Ohashi for Magma Taishi

In my article about Kaiju Oji, I  briefly referred to the name of Fuminori Ohashi (1915-1989) who seems to have been known as a prestigious kaiju modeler living in Kyoto back then.

While I don’t think his name is talked about so much as Ryosaku Takayama and I don’t know much about Ohashi, I would like to introduce some information on him as it looks like he was a person with a peculiar career and his alleged association with Takayama.

After graduating from Department of Sculpture, Tokyo School of Fine Arts (current Tokyo University of Arts) Ohashi started his career as an assistant director in the film industry, and then he turned into an actor.

 

In the 1930s he seems to have been known as the Japanese Tarzan star in the Japanese Tarzan movies starring him, and, on the other hand, he began to get involved in modeling suits of creatures featured in films back then.

In the 1950s Ohashi appeared even in the movies directed by Akira Kurosawa including Yojinbo (1961) as an actor, and, at the same time, he seemingly founded his own modeling company “Ohashi Arts and Crafts.”

According to the online information he also seems to have been involved in modeling props for Desneyland at their request that started being built in Los Angeles around the same time.


Kaiju Oji (Kaiju Prince)

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Takeru and Nessie

Among the TV tokusatsu series we had as a kid including the products featuring a boy protagonist, Kaiju Oji (Kaiju Prince: 1967-1968; 26 episodes) seems to be rarely talked about among tokusatsu fans here in Japan.

Although it aired around the same time as Ultraseven and Giant Robo, I have to admit Kaiju Oji was much less impressive than them. While it features dinosaurs in spite of the title announcing kaiju, I don’t remember the episodes and characters including the dinosaurs at all.

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Takeru

The story is about a boy named Takeru (played by Mitsunori Nomura: 1956-present; unrelated to this Takeru) living in a jungle like Tarzan on a volcanic island crustal changes made appear in the Pacific Ocean as he was a survivor in an airplane accident after the plane crashed into the sea.

Takeru (his yell is “Awwwrahhh!”) is often found to swing on a vine and ride on top of the head of Nessie who is a friend of Takeru’s or to glide with a handmade equipment like a hang glider found least likely to be capable to glide anyway we look at it.

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Takeru has his twin brother who lives in the civilized society

While the series was produced by P Production after they made Magma Taishi (Ambassador Magma) at the request of an ad agency which signed up with a US TV company to export the tokusatsu TV show to the US, it didn’t get to win sufficient viewership and the season seems to have been shortened from 52 episodes to 26.

It was to feature monsters/dinosaurs modeled by Fuminori Ohashi (1915-1989), his suit was elaborated too much for an actor to play inside with its heavy weight and rigidity which made it hard to deal with, Ryosaku Takayama was appointed to remodel the suit as Takayama’s name can be found in the opening credits seemingly on the regular basis.

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Insect Humans that seem to have appeared as a villain in the show while I don’t remember them at all

Knack Of Kaiju Desining

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Jamyra from Tohl Narita’s art book

I apologize If my post about Pandon referred to as something like kushikatsu unintentionally offended any Pandon fans!

Getting back to the talk about Noriyoshi Ikeya, while Ryosaku Takayama advised Ikeya to distort the human body shape to design monsters, that seems to have been what Tohl Narita incorporated into his designing.

Narita says in his art book he designed Jamyra at the idea of distorting the human body shape not to make it look like a costume worn by an actor.

I vividly remember I read an article about King Joe in an issue of the Bokura Magazine or Shonen Magazine showing the design process of King Joe allegedly explained by Narita.

Final design of King Joe from Tohl Narita’s art book

In that article it is said to have been explained that a trick to make the robot look unlikely to be a costume applying cylindrical objects to the human body shape. (The images here are not from the article but from Narita’s art book)

As I was still a small child then, when just looking at some illustrations showing the design process, I mistakenly understood it was about, funnily enough, how Alien Pedan constructed the super robot, and I found it pretty amazing and exciting (good old days…)!

Although I’m looking for the illustrated article online, it’s really a shame that I have found it out nether online nor in the Ultraseven Pictorial I have covering the articles featured in the Bokura Magazines and Shonen Magazines back then.

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Primary design of King Joe from the same book as above

Why Was Pandon Made Into Kushikatsu?

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Original version of Pandon modeled by Ryosaku Takayama at his Atelier May

It seems that Noriyoshi Ikeya who took over the art designing from Tohl Narita was initially upset about the bolt out of the blue.

When he had a hard time in designing Space Bacterium Dally, the first monster he designed, it is said to have been Ryosaku Takayama, kaiju suits modeler, who suggested Ikeya to distort the shape of the human body for the design so that it doesn’t look like a suit worn by an actor.

Among the aliens and monsters Ikeya designed for Ultraseven, it is known that Pandon was drastically changed from the original design Ikeya drew.

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Same as above

As to Pandon, I have to admit I found it less striking as a kid than Zetton to culminate the final episodes of the series.

While Takayama sculpted Pandon according to Ikeya’s design in which Pandon was to be a two-headed monster, the two heads were combined into one finally at the crew members’ judgement on the set.

Because they found the operation of the two heads which were supposed to move separately should be very hard.

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Pandon remodeled by the crew on the set (photo from the show)

Ikeya regretfully said in a recent book interview that, although he protested against Koichi Takano, SFX director, saying it should be their job to manage it even though it’s challenging.

But there was nothing Ikeya could do about the Pandon already remodeled before he knew.

I found it hilarious when I read an article recently published saying the change which made Pandon look like kushikatsu (Japanese dish: deep-fried skewered pork) was really regrettable while I think that’s a nice way to put it.

The change should also have been definitely disappointing to Ikeya.

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Kushikatsu whose flour surface looks similar to Pandon

Fierce Battles Fought Against Another Kaiju

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Ryosaku Takayama (left) and Tohl Narita

Although I may be talking about things sort of irrelevant to or out of line with supposedly amusing topics suitable for this blog, those who were involved in the production of the primary Ultra Series including Tohl Narita and Ryosaku Takayama should also have fought fierce battles with kaijus in their lives, difficulties in the society in another word.

In my observation, in feats performed by people, the credit still tends to go to the group instead of the individual who practiced it here in this society.

 

Therefore, it looks like the achievements attained by Tohl Narita, for example, have yet to win the evaluation they deserve, and the success of the products do not necessarily mean the artists were richly rewarded, either.

In Japanese society often characterized by ‘groupism,’ it should make it much harder to choose your own way of life, for instance, choose to do what you really want to do for your job. (As I’m a person who didn’t follow the groupism, it might be said that it has given me even harder times.)

 

In my notion, however, the people involved in the production of Ultra were those who dared to choose their own way of life, for a simple example, by becoming artists like Narita and Takayama despite the social surroundings.

That’s one of the reasons why I respect them so much as human beings besides as artists.

I find every essence of beautiful humanities such as love, passion and purity in them and their attitudes, and their noble humanity should have shined the series so that the brightness is not lost even now.

So I really hope as many people as possible will know about their feats and spirit, and, if this blog should be of any help for it even with my poor writing ability, it will make me so happy.


Narita Takayama Kaijus Filled With Love

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The color version of the image previously posted showing Takayama modeling Garamon

The abundant expressiveness of the monsters modeled by Ryosaku Takayama seems to be greatly attributable to the relatively high mobility of the costumes that enabled the actors inside to act quite easily.

It is well known that Takayama’s kaiju costumes were much lighter than the Toho monsters although they failed to win favor with Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla actor.

Nakajima says that he found kaiju costumes for TV shows too light lacking in a feeling of massiveness to be expected from monsters.

 

Alongside the appearances faithfully modeled after the designs drawn by Tohl Narita, they are said to have been made in consideration of the actors who perform inside.

Tetsuo Yamamura says that the costumes made by Takayama were distinctively flexible while the latex surfaces taken out of the mold were attached with another latex and rubber cement instead of adhesive which was normally used by the other modeling workshops leaving the costumes too stiff to act freely when it dried up.

According to him, the inside of each monster was covered with cotton fabric carefully sewed all over the inner side.

 

There seem to have been people, however, who showed disagreement to TV show kaiju costumes among those involved in modeling film monsters as it looked to them like the latter were being made very easily.

I hear Narita consoled Takayama saying that it should be all right as they were making costumes taking inside actors into account for their own good when they heard criticism about their monsters.

While I think I already wrote about most of the above on this blog before, I find Narita Takayama kaijus were full of love in every aspect.