Tag Archives: Toei Company

Yokai Vs. Kaiju

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Gegege no Kitaro (Kitaro and his fellows) drawn by Shigeru Mizuki

Many monsters featured in the Toei and P Production were characterized by their weird appearances unlike the Ultra Kaijus.

The Tsuburaya products, based on Eiji Tsuburaya’s concept to avoid showing children anything ugly and weird, stuck to featuring monsters which are more straight-ahead while, as you know well, Tohl Narita’s monsters with statuary looks got to make the monsters attractive enough so that they are highly reputed even today.

On the other hand, the Toei and P Production monsters had no restraints like that unlike Tsuburaya that had to defend the Tsuburaya brand.

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Yokai Daisenso (Daiei, 1968)

As the result, it is undeniable that the weird but unique-looking monsters which appeared in those series ended up having their attraction in their own way.

As a matter of fact we had other characters as much popular as kaijus back then which were yokai.

Yokai (literally suspicious mystery/suspicious mysterious being; kai is the same Chinese character as kaiju while the latter means mysterious beast) is a specter which looks like a goblin or imp which had been traditionally talked about in Japanese folktales while kappa featured in Episode 41 of Ultraseven is one of the yokais.

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Kappa in the Yokai Daisenso

Along with the anime Gegege no Kitaro (1968-1969) based on the manga created by Shigeru Mizuki well known for his yokai manga with much popularity among people, yokai characters have been frequently featured in manga and anime products alongside of kaijus in Japan although kaijus managed to win much more popularity.

Yokais were featured even in movies such as the 1968 Daiei (known for the original Gamera series) movie  Yokai Daisenso (Yokai Major War) in my childhood and I remember I fully enjoyed it as they had their own attraction.

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Dymon (leader of villain yokais) in the Yokai Daisenso; it’s fun to see his chest sculpted like Giger’s Alien

Eyeball Mosters

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Hitotsume (from Akakage)

I received a comment pointing out the resemblance between one of the Giant Robo monsters Ganmons and the famous Ultraman Gaia monster Gan Q.

When watching Ultraman Gaia with my kids as it aired for the first time and seeing Gan Q appear in the show, the first thing the monster reminded me of was Ganmons.

Gan is the Japanese word for eye while the word me (/meh/) is more customarily used, and, as gankyu means eyeball, Gan Q is a sort of phonetic equivalent or pun of the term.

While I don’t know much about Gan Q featured in the recent series after Ultraman Gaia, I think the Gan Q that appeared in Gaia didn’t have its eyelid (I may be wrong).

Ganmons of Giant Robo, however, had its eyelid and it was forced to be closed by Robo with his reacher-like equipment coming out of, if my memory is correct, his buckle before being beaten by him.

Actually we had another eyeball monster which appeared in Masked Ninja Akakage and is called Hitotsume (single eyed).

This is a monster regularly summoned by a villain ninja through his yojutsu (mysterious skill), and, as Akakage and Giant Robo were produced by the Toei Company, Ganmons might have been a developed form of Hitotsume in terms of the idea.

It is fully thinkable that the Tsuburaya people could have created Gan Q inspired by Ganmons although I don’t think they publicly referred to it.

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Gan Q

Who Is The Rival Of Ultraseven?

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Giant Robo of Toei Company

Getting it straight, it is “Giant Robo” who can be deemed as the rival of Ultraseven.

That’s another tokusatsu product which aired around the same time as Ultraseven from 1967 through 1968 on NET while produced by Toei Company (looks like it aired as “Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot” in the US).

The product based on a manga series created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama was about a 30 meters tall giant robot named Giant Robo (GR1) as it is that was constructed by the BF (Big Fire), the secret alien organization plotting to conquer Earth.

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While Robo is a robot which obeys a person who has initially recorded his voice on the control device shaped like a watch, Daisaku Kusama (acted by Mitsunobu Kaneko: 1957-1997), a team member of the United Nations Police Organization ‘Unicorn,’ got to record his voice onto the watch (although he looks too young to be the member).

Thus Robo ends up fighting against the BF in cooperation with the Unicorn members.

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As Daisaku’s code name is ‘U7,’ it is said that it implies that the Toei people were fully aware of the presence of Ultraseven.

In a word, Giant Robo was a great product we children were irresistibly drawn to even no less than Ultraseven while featuring quirky and weird-looking monsters with totally a different feel from those of the Ultra Series.

While Toei produced a lot of TV tokusatsu series including Captain Ultra and Masked NInja Akakage I already talked about on this blog, I think GR was the most exciting product among them.

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Daisaku Kusama

Akakage (Red Shadow) Is A Lot Of Fun!

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From left: Shirokage, Akakage and Aokage

In addition to the Ultra Series, I also enjoyed the other SFX TV series in my childhood.

One of them is Akakage (Red Shadow).

It’s a series officially titled Kamen-no-ninja (Masked Ninja) Akakage produced by Toei Company and aired on Fuji Television Network from 1967 through 1968 based on a manga created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama.

As the title shows, it a TV show  featuring SFX ninja action and classified as an SFX period drama.

 

As you can see, the series was aired around the same time as Ultraman and Ultraseven, and I love Akakage as well.

It features three ninja fighters, Akakage, Aokage (Blue Shadow) and Shirokage (White Shadow) who cooperate in fight against evil.

Akakage is a masked ninja who looks so cool, and Aokage, as a boy ninja, gained popularity among us around the same age.

Above all, the series is full of crazy things such as a huge robot, a flying object like UFO, modern-looking mechanical devices or gigantic monsters which appeared with historical studies neglected.

 

The ninjutsu (ninja techniques) they use are also amazing such as flying almost freely in the air.

But I love the absurdities which are a lot of fun.

Akakage was produced by late Toru Hirayama, renowned producer of Toei Company who is well known among Japanese Tokusatsu fans for the SFX TV dramas he produced such as Captain Ultra, Giant Robo, Kamen Rider, Kikaider and so on.

Under the brand name of Ultra the Tsuburaya products were expected to be thoroughly orthodox one way or another.

But the Toei crew produced their products thinking outside the box which was their unique attraction.

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Agon, my favorite kaiju appearing in Akakage

Transition Of The Series

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Ultraman (July, 1966 – April, 1967)

Ultraman’s defeat seems to have come as a bolt from the blue even for the SSSP cast members.

It is likely they learnt the end of the series for the first time when they looked at the name of Zetton associated with the last character of the alphabet and Fuji’s line ‘Goodbye!’ in the script.

It seems the possibility to extend the series with the high viewing rates of all time to four seasons was studied, but it was abandoned because of the tight shooting schedule eventually.

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Captain Ultra (April,, 1967 – September, 1967)

I wish I could have seen one more season of Ultraman.

Thus Ultraman came to an end with 39 episodes, and, after half a year interval during which Toei’s Captain Ultra was aired, Ultraseven got started.

It may be noteworthy that Episode 38 and 39 of Ultraman seem to show the transition of the series.

Episode 38 was about a battle with monsters on another planet, which was a full-scale space action story in the series of Ultraman.

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Ultraseven (October, 1967 – September, 1968)

This style of space action is said to have been plotted during the early stage of preparation for the following Ultraseven while it was prepared under the provisional title Ultra Garrison.

Incidentally Ultra Garrison was supposed to be a product featuring the Ultra Garrison with no superhero like Ultraman.

Episode 39 got the style of an invading alien and a monster controlled by him established, which you can see in Ultraseven. (The scene with the VTOLs chasing the alien’s spacecraft in valleys is so similar to that of Episode 1 of Ultraseven.)

These episodes could be deemed to herald the coming of Ultraseven after Toei’s space action drama Captain Ultra.


Takeda Hour

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Gekko Kamen

Kuuso Tokusatsu Series (Fantasy SFX Series or Early Ultra Series, which stand for “Ultra Q,” “Ultraman” and “Ultra Seven”) were broadcast as one of the programs of “Takeda Hour.”

Takeda Hour was a prime-time TV program slot from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every Sunday from 1958 through 1974 broadcast by TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) and sponsored by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited..

 

The hour started with a characteristic chorus featuring the company name and the bird-eye views of the company building.

At any rate, it was a long-awaited hour for us kids at the time.

With the beginning of the Takeda song, we rushed to a television set and breathlessly waited for what’s coming next.

It was the avan title of Ultra Series!!!

 

I vividly remember the excitement I had every time even now.

Kids throughout Japan should have been glued to the tube during this hour.

Looking into the Internet, I found the list of the Takeda Hour programs broadcast at the time (Shown in bold and red are SFX series).

If you find any errors, please let me know!

Title Duration Producer Episodes
1 Gekko Kamen Feb. 24, 1958-Jul. 5, 1959 Senkosha 130
2 Jaguar’s Eyes Jul. 12, 1959-Mar. 27, 1960  38
3 Nakiwarai Sakuranbo Gekidan Apr. 3, 1960-Jul. 31, 1960  ?
4 Yuyake Tenshi Aug. 7, 1960-Sept. 30, 1962 ?
5 Onmitsu Kenshi Oct. 7, 1962-Mar. 28, 1965  128
6 Shin Onmitsu Kenshi Apr. 4, 1965-Dec. 26, 1965  39
7 Ultra Q Jan. 2, 1966-Jul. 3, 1966  Tsuburaya Productions  28
 8 Ultraman Jul. 17, 1966-Apr. 9, 1967  39
 9 Captain Ultra Apr. 16, 1967-Sept. 24, 1967  Toei Company  24
 10 Ultra Seven Oct. 1, 1967-Sept. 8, 1968  Tsuburaya Productions 49
 11 Kaiki Daisakusen Sept. 15, 1968-Mar. 9, 1969  26
 12 Yojutsu Bugeicho Mar. 16, 1969-Jun. 8, 1969  Toei Company  13
13 Judo Icchokusen Jun. 15, 1969-Apr. 4, 1971  92
14 Guts Jun Apr. 11, 1971-Nov. 21, 1971  Senkosha  33
 15 Silver Kamen Nov. 28, 1971-May 21, 1972  26
16 Kimero! Finish May 28, 1972-Oct. 1, 1972  Toho Company  18
 17 Iron King Oct. 8, 1972-Apr. 8, 1973  Senkosha  26
 18 Henshin! Ponpokodama Apr. 15, 1973-Jul. 29, 1973  Kokusai Hoei  15
 19 Go! Go! Idol Aug. 5, 1973-Sept. 30, 1973  ?  9
 20 Onmitsu Kenshi Oct. 7, 1973-Dec. 30, 1973  Senkosha 12
 21 Onmitsu Kenshi Tsuppashire! Jan. 6, 1974-Mar. 31, 1974  14

Spiegel & Ultra Hawk 1

I hear that Tsuburaya Productions’ preparation for “Ultra Seven” got started near the end of “Ultraman.”

But, as posted previously, as the Ultra Series broadcast by TBS, Toei’s “Captain Ultra” came in between.

I knew that the early Ultra Series included “Captain Ultra.”

And  I did watch and enjoyed it in those days as a child.

But I thought that it was between “Ultra Q” and “Ultraman” when it was broadcast.

 

One reason is that both “Ultra Q” and “Captain Ultra” had no Ultra hero, just humans fight against monsters.

Another reason is…

I don’t mean to be rude to Toei Company, but I found it quite unlikely that “Captain Ultra” was a product which came after “Ultraman.”

The quality of Tsuburaya’s SFX stood out so much.

I also think that the designing by Tohl Narita for the Ultra Series played an important role in making the Tsuburaya’s products look more sophisticated.

 

Be that as it may, I remember I enjoyed “Captain Ultra” as well doubtlessly.

It’s likely that “Ultra Seven” was initially planned as a space opera product like “Captain Ultra” with a provisional title of “Ultra Garrison” without no appearance of an Ultra hero like Ultraman.

Spiegel, the spaceship driven by Captain Ultra, separates into three parts each of which flies individually.

The concept was taken over to Ultra Hawk 1 appearing in “Ultra Seven” which also separates into three fighters.

(The photos are the ones of the toys I found on the Web.)


Memory of Captain Ultra

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Joe (far left), Captain Ultra (center) and Hack (far right)

Toei’s “Captain Ultra” was not rerun so much as Tsuburaya’s “Ultra Q,” “Ultraman” and “Ultra Seven,” I guess.

So I remember little of its content.

It didn’t feature a superhero like Ultraman or Ultra Seven.

It’s a product broadcast from April 16 through September 14, 1964 with 24 episodes in total.

According to the Internet, the story is:

 

“In the late 21st century, the earth has faced the age of ‘Space Exploitation’ with the development of space exploration plans.

But unknown dangers are constantly waiting for the human beings who have made their way into space.

And then the space police patrolling party has been established belonging to the space station ‘Silver Star.’

Once they receive rescue signals by a special shooter, Captain Takehiko Hongo nicknamed ‘Captain Ultra’ keeps fighting against Alien Bandel and various monsters along with Joe, Alien Kikero, and Hack, versatile robot, driving the spaceship Spiegel.”

 

Wow! Sounds like fun!!!

I remember Hack very well. He’s a good guy.

As to Joe, not much.

It’s likely that Joe was dropped halfway through because the spiny head looked very much scary to viewing children and gained a bad reputation among them.

Nenji Kobayashi who played Joe developed into a popular actor in later years up to now.

It’s interesting to learn that the head which looks funny now was so much scaring to the children of the time.

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Hack (left) and Joe

Captain Ultra

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Captain Ultra & his buddies fighting against Metalinome

The early Ultra Series, in fact, are not only the First Trilogy, “Ultra Q,” “Ultraman” and “Ultra Seven.”

“Ultraman” started to be broadcast just after the end of “Ultra Q,” but there was a product titled “Captain Ultra” (1967) between “Ultraman” and “Ultra Seven.”

“Captain Ultra” was not a product produced by Tsuburaya Productions.

It was created by Toei Company, which is one of the movie companies founded after Toho Company known for Godzilla.

In fact, “Ultraman” ended up with 39 episodes in spite of its high viewer ratings which marked the highest rating of over 40%.

 

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Alien Bandel

Because the belated shooting failed to keep up with the broadcasting.

The TBS which broadcast “Ultraman” at the time decided to start “Captain Ultra” after “Ultraman.”

Tsuburaya Productions was given half a year to prepare for their next Ultra which was “Ultra Seven.”

As long as “Captain Ultra” was produced by another company, it’s not counted in the Tsuburaya’s Ultra Series currently.

 

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Satoshi Furuya (left; Ultraman) & Hirohisa Nakata (Captain Ultra) , handshake for the handover

“Captain Ultra” was subtitled “Uchu Tokusatsu Series (Space SFX Series),” not “Kuuso Tokusatsu Series (Fantsy SFX Series)” which covered the First Trilogy.
“Captain Ultra,” was named after “Captain Future,” an American science fiction novel series.

It was a product like a space opera.

It had a unique taste different from Tsuburaya’s products.

It was fun to watch it as a child.

I remember Metalinome and Alien Bandel well.

Don’t they look good?