Tag Archives: Shōji Ōtomo

Mysterious Man: Shōji Ōtomo #3

Zetton set to have its eyes back in the pair of projecting parts on his face and to give out a light ball of one trillion degrees Celsius from his mouth (Kaiju Ultra Zukan)

It is said that Shōji Ōtomo drew attention with the nick name of “Mr. Kaiju” while the kaiju pictorial he had authored gained so much popularity that it became a hot topic back then that even the Crown Prince of Japan was one of the children who purchased the book.

Ōtomo seems to have worked on a picture book of Eiji Tsuburaya to be authored by Hajime Tsuburaya in the hope of restoring the friendship with him, and  Ōtomo suddenly died of heart attack right before the book got completed leaving the restoration of their relationship unrealized with Hajime Tsuburaya having also died only 13 days after Ōtomo had passed away while Ōtomo had claimed he would be dying by 40 since he was younger. (it is likely that the book titled “Tsuburaya Eiji – Nihon Eigakai Ni Nokoshita Isan/Eiji Tsuburaya – The Legacy He Left Behind in the Movie Industry of Japan” published in 1973 is still available in the reprinted version).

A photo of Toho kaiju “Kumonga” is shown instead of “Gumonga” of Ultraseven with the description for the latter  (Kaiju Ultra Zukan)

I remember I was surprised at the anatomy illustration of Ultraman when I was a kid and that it made me wonder “Wow! Is he a robot?” as his metallic skeleton was shown in the illustration (I didn’t know the word “cyborg” back then). As to Alien Baltan’s feet shaped in a very different way from the actual costume, it has an explanation describing them as being able to give out toxic liquid with the organs secreting the liquid properly shown in the anatomy illustration. And it is fun to find that the projecting parts on Zetton’s face are interpreted as having his eyes back in there.

By today’s standards, although it should have been unavoidable with no videos available to review in those days, the specifications he laid would be found to lack accuracy in one way or another such as his statement that Ultraman left the earth for home after he had fought against Zōffy (not Zoffy. Apparently mixed up with the mysterious alien currently called Alien Zetton) and Zetton in the explanatory section for Ultraman.

At any rate, there is no doubt that Shōji Ōtomo greatly contributed to helping us kids expand our imagination with the settings he had devised, and it seems to be appropriate to see him called “the first otaku (enthusiast of anime or tokusatsu)” while he gives me an impression he was totally a mysterious man beyond description.

Note:  The anatomical and technical illustrations were drawn by having illustrators draw them at the instruction of Otomo based on his ideas with the rough sketches drawn by Otomo and presented to them, and it is not that the illustrations actually featured in magazines/books of the time were the works drawn by Otomo himself.

Mysterious Man: Shōji Ōtomo #2

from “Ultra Kaiju Zukan”

It is explained online that it was Shōji Ōtomo who introduced Maurits Escher and René Magritte to Japanese people for the first time along with the “Star Trek” TV series.

It seems that he started being involved with Tsuburaya Productions around the time when the TV show “UNBALANCE” that was to turn “Ultra Q” in a while was being planned. As the show was planned to be produced with the cooperation from a group of Japanese sci-fi novel writers to work out the plots in the first place, Ōtomo might have got involved in the show through that channel.

It was him who devised each precise setting for the hero and kaiju characters and the equipment used by the defense teams with the anatomy illustrations and cross section illustrations based on his ideas even apart from the depictions or descriptions found in the shows.

Same as above

The settings he specified such as Ultraman’s energy limit putting it as three minutes and Zetton’s light ball allegedly given out of its mouth as one trillion degrees Celsius were incorporated into the official settings by Tsuburaya Productions (I hadn’t known he set the energy limit as three minutes until recently).

On the other hand, it also seems to have been Ōtomo who caused dispute afterwards by adding the subtitle that could be seen as offensive to atomic bomb victims to Alien Spell so that Ultraseven Episode 12 featuring the alien has been banned since then in Japan.

It is said that he was so meticulous about his work and such a demanding boss that three editors who had worked under him resigned when the publishing company Kodansha regularly had his articles appear in their magazines.

Chances are that Ōtomo was finally banned from Tsuburaya Productions because Hajime Tsuburaya, Eiji’s first son, took a dim view of the way Ōtomo had dealt with their kaiju characters perhaps by taking the liberty of stretching the stories and settings at his discretion.

Mysterious Man: Shōji Ōtomo #1

Shoji Otomo

Regarding the original Ultra Series, Ultra Q, Ultraman and Ulttraseven, that have been featured in this blog, I feel like referring to Shōji Ōtomo (1936-1973) should never be missed.

Shōji Ōtomo is known for his work related to the Tsuburaya tokusatsu TV series especially while playing a major role in publicizing kaiju pictorials featuring kaiju anatomy illustrations based on the ideas Ōtomo had devised.

Although it is very hard to describe him about what he actually was as he is referred to as “a Japanese editor, sci-fi researcher, movie critic and translator” on the Internet, it is told that he was born as Toyoji Shishimoto to his father, Hachiro Shishimoto, international journalist, and his mother, Ai Shishimoto, social movement journalist. The name Shōji Ōtomo was one of his pseudonyms.

Ōtomo spent his childhood in Mexico from two to five years of age when his father was assigned abroad, and, while looking at Aztec pyramids and the like, it helped him get into something mysterious.

While his mother Ai Shishimoto was alive until she died at 103 in 2013, the Ultraseven Research Book published by Yōsensha in 2012 got to have her appear in an interview included in the book in which she said Ōtomo had been drawing a lot of monsters inspired by the statues he had seen in the Aztec areas so that he had drawn some 100 monster drawings when he was two years old.

After he came back to Japan, he graduated from Keio Universtity where he met Toshihiro Iijima and Keisuke Fujikawa at Broadcasting Study Club (an extracurricular activity) Ōtomo was involved with for a short period of time when Iijima and Fujikawa, who were to become a director and a writer for the Ultra Series respectively in later years, were upper-year students of the university.