Tag Archives: Shigeo Kurakata

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

 


GOMORA (making) #1

Gomora design drawn by Tohl Narita
Enlarged head from the above image: interestingly enough, a horn curved forward is found to have been added over the original horn on the snout

Tohl Narita: “I was impressed with the helmet of Kuroda Nagamasa (1568-1623), a samurai lord from Japan’s Warring States Period. I thought of incorporating the impression into this kaiju. Needless to say, it ended up having horns that were wider and thicker than those of his helmet.”

Gomora should be one of the most popular kaijus featured in “Ultraman” with its powerful and massive appearance so that it represents the kaiju characters that appeared in the show.

Along with the excellent design drawn by Tohl Narita, the subtly curved horns sculpted by Ryosaku Takayama are fabulous while the head used in the show still exists and has often been displayed at tokusatsu exhibitions with the sense of being alive still remaining unchanged as I actually saw it at an exhibition held in a museum even with the single horn on its snout missing and the mark where the left horn broken by Ultraman was fixed by being put back where it used to be.

Primary Gomora design drawn by Tohl Narita
Enlarged head from the above image
Helmet alleged to have belonged to Kuroda Nagamasa

Shigeo Kurakata says in an interview that the opening and closing movements of the mouth were operated by radio control with the receiver installed where its tail and body met.

He says, as, along with the kaiju rampaging a lot, many scenes featuring Gomora were filmed with the camera zooming out on the kaiju, they decided on the use of radio control instead of wire operation while the wire operation was predominantly used for the other kaijus. Takayama is said to have called the wire operation method “himokon” (himo=wire/string; derived from “rimokon” that is the Japanese abbreviation of “remote control”), which I find so witty.

Shigeo Kurakata (right) and the Gomora suit hung from above

GOGA (making)

The primary design of Goga drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “The idea came from a shell and a slug.”

It is explained that the concept of a shell monster originated from a rejected script titled “Fossilized Castle.”

It is said that the script was based on a sample story titled “Living Fossil” worked out in the planning stage of the show featuring a shell monster named “Kaigeru” (probably it came from the Japanese word “kai” that means shell).

It is very much intriguing to find the design of Goga drawn by Narita has the settings meant to be instructions for sculpturing, and, probably based on this, three puppets of Goga in different sizes, large, medium and small, were made by Ryosaku Takayama.

The finalized design of Goga drawn by Tohl Narita
A sketch of Goga with the settings and instructions for sculpturing (click to enlarge)

The instructions put down by Narita are:

(about the eyes) Freely extendable. Firing from the tips.

(about the mouth) Mouth (just the specification)

(about the skin) Skin like a slug. (The body) Comes further forward than it is in this drawing when the entire body shows up. (with another arrow) Darker than the shell.

(about the front part of the shell) Smooth (like a steel board)

(about the shell) Whitish

(about the drill) This is where it rotates. Like a drill. It digs into the roof and ground.

(about the way it moves) Crawling with up-and-down movement. Usually walking with its bottom up.

Goga puppets at Ryosaku Takayama’s Atelier May

Along with these settings, specifications about the sizes can be found to the right as “diameter 3 jaku (shaku) =approx. 36 inches; 1 shaku =approx. 12 inches; 2.5 sun = approx. 3 inches.

Incidentally, shaku and sun (pronounced like shortened “soon”) are almost obsolete Japanese units of length people of my generation and younger are unfamiliar with.

It is a rarity to see such settings added to a design by Narita while it might indicate that they had time to spare for precise arrangements at this point when they were working on “Ultra Q” as all the details of such settings should have been decided through discussion with those concerned.

The largest puppet is said to have been burnt and destroyed for real in the ending scene of the show…

The drill mechanism is said to have been installed by Shigeo Kurakata.

A snapshot of one of the Goga puppets with the puppet of M1 behind

ALIEN SHAPLAY: GIRADORUS (making #2)

Giradorus primary design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: (about the primary design of Giradorus) “Although this was a kaiju I wanted to make, I dropped it because I thought there could be some difficulties when filming rather than when sculpting.”

(about the final design of Giradorus) “We had a kaiju for the first time in a while after consecutive appearances of aliens. A man got in by standing on his knees moving the kaiju’s head with his arms put into it.”

Following yesterday’s entry, Takashi Kitahara who played Alien Shaplay’s human form also says he voiced the alien in the scene of crying “Giradorus! Giradorus!” while falling off the cliff as much expressively as possible as if the alien would be possessing the kaiju.

Giradorus final design drawn by Tohl Narita

Kitahara says his grandson who watched this episode on DVD with him cheered Alien Shaplay and Giradorus in tears shouting, “Come on! Hang in there, Grandpa!” Kitahara adds that he has been very much proud of this role he played in the glorious show “Ultraseven” in his long career as an actor thanking all viewers.

As to Giradorus, the design was drastically changed from the primary version to the final one by Tohl Narita, I think the one dropped also looks attractive enough.

With the same method as Zumbolar of “Ultraman” applied to Giradorus for its luminescent parts, Shigeo Kurakata (in charge of mechanism) says in an interview that, as the translucent parts were made from FRP by Ryosaku Takayama as thinly as possible so as to make them lit up from inside and that the thinness gave Kurakata a hard time because the heated light bulbs set inside could have melt them.

The style of having a man act standing on his knees is the same as Alien Iyros.  Tohl Narita seems to have got back on right track in his kaiju designs as well along with alien designs.

By the way, Dr. Iwamura, Sakaki’s superior, played by Yoshio Yoshida (1911-1986) was so impressive with such a grumpy nature as to make the Ultra Garrison members cringe even including Dan supposed to be the superhero while I found it so funny when I watched this episode as a kid.

Yoshida is also known to have acted Mephisto (older brother), the lazy devil summoned by the protagonist boy, in “Akumakun” (the younger brother was played by Kenji Ushio known as Jigoku Taishi/Ambassador Hell in “Kamen Rider”).

Yoshio Yoshida as Mephisto in “Akumakun”

ALIEN METRON (making)

Alien Metron design drawn by Tohl Narita

Tohl Narita: “I think I put more energy into the movement of light embedded into a simple and plain alien (than the alien itself).”

While Episode 8 “The Targeted Town” featuring Alien Metron has won great fame and popularity as one of the masterpieces among the Ultraseven episodes, it is said that Akio Jissoji, the director of this episode known as a caustic critic, described the alien as something like a “rubber boots monster” (the shape of the head seems to have made him imagine that way somehow).

According to Shigeo Kurakara in charge of mechanism,  the same device used for Alien Mefilas to light up his mouth with blinking lights was reused for Alien Metron while it is uncertain the same device was also share with Zetton who has the same kind of illumination mechanism.

He says the actor inside operated the switch to match the light blinking as it moves with Alien Metron’s utterances as the switch was equipped inside the alien’s hands while the shape of the hands best worked to hide the actor’s  switch operation.

Metron costume at Bisen studio

While the costume looks much thicker when viewed diagonally, it is said that the unpainted costume was delivered to the Bisen studio due to a busy schedule and that Noriyoshi Ikeya painted it on the set.

It seems that the costume structure made it extremely hard for the actor to look out as the uniquely shaped head unavoidably made a distance between the surface of the costume where the eye holes were inconspicuously positioned and the actor’s face, and it is likely to have resulted in the short battle fought between the alien and Ultraseven.

It is fun to find he has his back that looks very much different from his front with nut-like rising parts placed all over his back.

Metron costume at the back of Bisen studio and his spacecraft prop

ALIEN VIRA (making)

Alien Vira design drawn by Narita with the final version on the right

Tohl Narita: “I got the idea from a fan lobster. It became thinner in the final design.”

While he was not such a showy alien in appearance (at the same time, it was a puppet alien instead of a costume), Alien Vira was an impressive character along with the story featuring Dr. Yushima who was manipulated by the alien.

The primary version of the design looks more like a fan lobster as Narita says he designed the alien after it.

Alien Vira head presumably about to be cast out of its mold

Alongside of Narita’s fascinating design and Takayama’s excellent sculpture, the movement of the alien’s legs was also very much attractive as the mechanism was devised by Shigeo Kurakata.

Kurakata says in an interview for a book that, in the case of Alien Vira, he built the mechanism and gave it over to Takayama so that Takayama set it into the puppet he had sculpted.

Kurakata also says he doesn’t remember how he made it work as, when he tried to make the same mechanism recently, he found it didn’t move well.

Alien Vira at Takayama’s Atelier May with the mold found behind him

As to the miniatures used in this episode, Noriyoshi Ikeya commented that the set with the shrine gates was built imagining the areas including Ueno and Asakusa and that Alien Vira’s characteristically shaped space vehicles were made from the idea of making them look like they could connect infinitely.

Along with Alien Waiell who was severed into half with Eye Slugger and Alien Quraso who was actually set ablaze and destroyed at the end of his episode, Alien Vira should also have been burnt to ashes for real (what a waste!).

Alien Vira at Bisen Studio