Tag Archives: Tohl Narita

Part-Timers’ Great Contributions To Kokusatsu #2

The woman on the right hand side could be Kato-san with Imora somehow

Judging from the woman found to be drying Goldon’s back in my Goldon making entry, I guess the smiling woman in these photos as if showing her good nature wearing a white kappogi (coverall apron) could be Kato-san although it is left unspecified in the issue of the Tokusatsu Hiho magazine containing these photos.

In one of the pictures shown in the magazine along with the talk between Kaimai and Murase, while it should have been taken at Toho with Baragon and the sculpting staff shown, the woman on the left hand side with a big smile could also be Kato-san as she and the woman shown in the photos taken at Ex Production look alike.

The woman on the left hand side could be Kato-san with Baragon at Toho

While the photo posted in this entry shows the Imora costume that was remodeled from the Banila suit with its head replaced, the caption of the Tokusatsu Hiho says it is unknown why Imora is included in the photo as it was written in Ryosaku Takayama’s diary that the sculpting of Banila and remodeling into Imora were done by himself without referring to the involvement of Ex Production.

At any rate, I like these photos as if showing an idyllic atmosphere of Japan we definitely had in those days with the people smiling happily. As there was a lot of demand for kaiju costumes when the “Second Kaiju Boom” arose with such tokusatsu products as “The Return of Ultraman,” “Spectreman (P Production)” and “Mirrorman” in the 1970s, it seems that many part-timers including housewives helped to sculpt the costumes.

Eizo Kaimai (left) and Keiso Murase in their talk featured in an issue of the Tokusatsu Hiho magazine

Around the “First Kaiju Boom” including the original Ultra Series it is said that a lot of art university students took part in the production such as costume sculpting or miniature modeling as part-timers while many of them were from Musashino Art University from which Tohl Narita and Noriyoshi Ikeya had graduated. Young, quiet and stoic-looking Ikeya devotedly working on the set seems to have gained much popularity from female students from the art universities.

Anyway, I believe this should be the first blog where Kato-no-obachan was referred to for people outside of Japan (I made her name into one of the tags)! I would like to thank those part-timers including her for their great job they did in enabling us to enjoy the tokusatsu shows when we were kids!


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

Thundermask & Tohl Narita

Thundermask

“Thundermask” is another TV tokusatsu series I remember I watched as a kid while it aired from 1972 to 1973 with 26 episodes, and it is the giant hero’s name featured in the series.

It was coproduced by Toyo Agency and Hiromi Production and the serial manga version was drawn by Osamu Tezuka, but it is not that Tezuka authorized Thundermask as it was just made into the manga by him.

While it seems that this tokusatsu product was planned by Mushi Production that Osamu Tezuka (author of “Astro Boy Atom”) founded as a TV tokusatsu series featuring “Majin Garon” authored by Tezuka, it came to a halt (Mushi Production folded afterwards in 1973).

It looks like some of the former Mushi Production employees formed Hiromi Production and took over the plan as another tokusatsu show featuring a new hero.

It is said that Tohl Narita was called in to have him design the new hero but was picked out to get him to join the production of “Totsugeki! Human!!” and he left the project at the outset.

It is explained that they brought the new hero into being based on the draft drawn by Tohl Narita (as “Greenman”) was redesigned into Thundermask by a manga artist and designer Makiho Narita who belonged to Hiromi Production (no blood relationship to each other although their family names are the same Narita).

While it is unknown how much the design by Narita was incorporated into the hero in the end, if Thundermask was fully designed by Tohl Narita, two tokusatsu heroes designed by him, Human and Thundermask, could have showed up in front of us.

An image borrowed from online showing the character (possibly Greenman) obviously drawn by Tohl Narita (left) and Thundermask apparently illustrated by someone else

Maboroshi Tantei & Tohl Narita

Maboroshi Tantei drawn by Jiro Kuwata

Before his participation in the Ultra Series, it is known that Tohl Narita was also involved in the production of the (sort of) tokusatsu TV series “Maboroshi Tantei,” literally “Detective Illusion.”

That was a series aired from 1959 to 1960 before I was born (in 1962) with 56 episodes based on the manga drawn by Jiro Kuwata, also known as the manga artist who drew the manga version of “Ultraseven.”

Maboroshi Tantei (played by Hiroshi Kato) is the protagonist boy detective whose real name is Susumu Fuji while I am not sure if the name “Detective Illusion” makes sense in English (the term “maboroshi” was often used for anything mysterious back then probably for no particular reason).

Anyway, Susumu disguises himself as Maboroshi Tantei by putting on a fantastic-looking eye mask and solves each case he faces.

He has his own motor vehicle called Maboroshigou (gou is often used as the suffix after a vehicle’s name like Ultra Hawk Ichigou (Ultra Hawk 1) or Thunderbird Nigou (Thunderbird 2) while the Pointer is usually called just Pointer.

The land and air amphibious vehicle is capable to travel in the air seemingly with its wheels retracted inward as Maboroshi Tantei regularly uses the car to rush to the scene with his theme music nicely played in the background on the regular basis.

While I don’t think so much is known about it, this Maboroshigou was allegedly designed by Narita, and I really like the design I find futuristic in its own way while not much is mentioned about the Maboroshigou by Narita himself just referring to it in one of his books as a miniature was modeled to make it fly in the air with wings attached to the prop.

Real-life Maboroshigou and its miniature next to it

Noriyoshi Ikeya Featured In Tokusatsu Hiho 2

“Fireman” monsters designed by Ikeya

As Noriyoshi Ikeya himself said, it is not that he entered the field of film art because he wanted to be involved in tokusatsu and kaiju while he was initially called in by Tohl Narita to participate in the production of the series Ultraman.

Therefore the work he did in the field is not confined to kaiju design but he played an active role involved in film art including the films produced by renowned directors and TV commercials after leaving Tsuburaya so that he was awarded the Japan Academy Prize for the Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction twice in the 1990s.

Among the Ikeya monsters, it is fun to learn Takkong that appeared in “The Return of Ultraman” is likely to be thought as a challenge to the Narita design with the quirky shape after Ikeya took over the designing of Ultra kaijus from Narita.

I myself like the design of Twintail as it is admired as a masterpiece created by the combination of Ikeya and Ryosaku Takayama as Takayama modeled the costume along with Gudon and Stegon (the “Siver Kamen” alien costumes were also allegedly made by Takayama while he seemingly modeled the majority of the “Fireman” monster suits as well).

I wish I could have seen more of the monsters worked out by them in “The Return of Ultraman” (by the way, I feel like I wanted to see Zetton II modeled by Takayama again…).

According to an article, Ikeya seems to have said he had in stock design drawings of unreleased new monsters he had drawn every once in a while in his spare time.

I definitely hope these designs will see the light of day in the form of characters shown in film/video products someday.

Aliens designed by Ikeya for “Silver Kamen” (right); Multi for “Mirrorman” (top left); robots for “Iron King”

Noriyoshi Ikeya Featured In Tokusatsu Hiho 1

“Tokusatsu Hiho vol. 5” issued in January, 2017 with a tribute to Noriyoshi Ikeya

The  Tokusatsu Hiho (secret treasure) I mentioned yesterday is a fun magazine with a lot of detailed articles and quite a few pictures about tokusatsu products including the old ones and new ones from both movies and TV shows while I don’t know whether this is a periodical publication as the issue is always found to come out unexpectedly.

The same publisher released the Ultraseven Research Book and Ultraman Research Book in 2012 and 2014 respectively in this order as I find both of them very much informative and a lot of fun.

Colored articles from the above Tokusatsu Hiho

The latest Tokusatsu Hiho recently published features Noriyoshi Ikeya as a special who passed away the other day regrettably.

I don’t think the attraction of the monsters designed by Ikeya has been publicly talked about so much as those by Tohl Narita, but it was fun to learn from the articles how the Ikeya monsters are perceived among people.

Reading the articles, they seem to view the Ikeya monsters as sensitive and feminine in contrast with the bold and masculine design of the Narita monsters as it is known that Ikeya often referred to fashion magazines to design his monsters rather than real-life creatures.

It is also mentioned that his sensitive, graceful and stylish behaviors with gentleness and a perpetual soft smile on his face charmed people around him a lot while he was a silent type working on his task with few words.


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.


How Was The Ultraseven Design Worked Out? 3

Ultraseven design drawn by Tohl Narita

Although it is known among fans that Tohl Narita really loved the finished design of Ultraman created by him with assistance of Akira Sasaki in its sculpting stage, it seems Narita were very much unsatisfied with the Color Timer and the eye holes the costume finally had.

As I previously wrote, the Color Timer was added to the Ultraman costume in the judgement of people on the set without Narita’s permission so as to apply activity limitation to the hero as his weak point because they found a too perfect hero should be boring and also for the sake of minimizing scenes which would require costly special effects.

Final version of Ultraseven design drawn by Tohl Narita

Therefore Narita relocated the Timer to the hero’s forehead to avoid allowing someone else fiddle with his design assuming such a gadget he found ugly might be applied to the new hero again.

And the eye holes were positioned in the center of each eye so that they wouldn’t look unnatural while the costume would inevitably get such eye holes to enable the actor inside to look out.

It is fun to find these design drawings done as Redman as shown in them posted here.

While it is uncertain exactly when the title was decided to be “Ultraseven” in the end, the title actually came from another tokusatsu TV comedy show to be produced by Tsuburaya featuring an ancient apeman family titled “Ultra· Seven” although the comedy show was left unproduced.

Head design of Ultraseven drawn by Narita with the scribbled letters as Redman

As the Fixed Star Observer #340 borrowed his name as Dan Moroboshi, he also borrowed his name from this comedy show, and the hero was named Ultraseven meaning the seventh member of the Ultra Garrison along with the program title as such.

And, moreover, the product ended up being produced with no relationship, as far as the story is concerned, with the preceding two series Ultra Q and Ultraman while these two shared the same universe except Ultraseven was also from the same Nebula M78 Land of Light as Ultraman.

That makes it possible to be interpreted as a parallel world story to Ultraman from today’s perspective.


How Was The Ultraseven Design Worked Out? 2

Design for Ultraseven drawn by Tohl Narita

While I admired the enterprise the Tsuburaya people had on the occasion of working out “Ultra Garrison” with no Ultra hero to appear in it, they applied another Ultra hero to the new series in the end.

The title provisionally changed into “Ultra Eye” that was supposed to feature a new Ultra hero Redman (it is also said he was set to be Ultraman Jr. although it is uncertain if it means he was seen as a/the son of Ultraman) from Nebula M78, and the name of Ultraseven’s super weapon Eye Slugger came from this provisional title (named by Keisuke Fujikawa, one of the Ultra Series screenwriters).

Design for Ultraseven drawn by Tohl Narita

The human protagonist who transforms into the hero was decided to be Dan Moroboshi set to be an apprentice member of the Ultra Garrison as the Pointer driver.

And looks like it was decided to make the hero’s eyes distinctive and impressive in association with the title, and the goggle-like feature seems to have been applied to the hero’s design by Tohl Narita.

Design for Ultraseven drawn by Tohl Narita (written as Redman along with Narita’s signature)

I think that it is exactly Narita’s excellent job as he finally designed it so that it had a hollowed goggle shape around the eyes instead of making it look like the hero actually wears goggles with an embossed goggle shape applied to that part.

It is also said it was decided Koji Moritsugu was going to play Dan Moroboshi as they found the look of his eyes pretty impressive in connection with the title.

Although the program title was changed into “Redman” afterwards, it is explained this is another provisional tile applied until the trademark registration of the title was finished so that it wouldn’t be ripped off (They did the same on the occasion of producing Ultraman).

Design for Ultraseven drawn by Tohl Narita (written as Redman along with Narita’s signature)