Monday, September 18, 2017

THE WAR IN SPACE! SFX Director Nakano Busts Myths About Toho's '70s Space Opera!

SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano and model maker Takashi Naganuma talk all things Zone Fighter. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just returned from another fantastic event with Toho's dynamic duo: Teruyoshi Nakano and Takashi Naganuma. The two SFX titans have worked on many projects together, but Zone Fighter was the focus of tonight's discussion. 

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The highlight of the evening for me, though, came when I had the chance to ask a question that I'd wanted to ask for a long time but kept slipping my mind. While it's certainly not the most pressing issue in Toho history, I'd been curious for years about The War in Space (1977). 

SFX director Teruysohi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Most fans in the West believe that the film was largely inspired by Star Wars, but I've also heard it claimed (with no evidence, of course) that it was actually the cartoon Space Battleship Yamato that Toho used for inspiration.

Granted, I doubt many folks care about the true origins of The War in Space, but given the uncertainty, I had to ask one of the film's principal creators. So I proffered the question: Which one really inspired The War in Space?

The answer I received truly surprised me. Neither, Nakano-san answered. The true inspiration? Old Hollywood pirate movies! As random as it may sound, that's how The War in Space's SFX director answered the question of what inspired the movie. At least we can finally forget the unsupported rumor that Yamato had anything to do with it.

Those unexpected bits of Toho trivia are just one of the reasons I love evenings like this. I'm glad I remembered to ask the question after all this time!

Teruyoshi Nakano pals around with his old friend, Zone Fighter. Photo by Brett Homenick.

That about sums it up for this rather cool night. Yesterday's typhoon is long gone, so I didn't even need to bring an umbrella tonight. That said, given the day's heat and humidity, I can't wait for fall to get here!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ULTRAMAN DISCOVERS WHAT'S NEXT! Attending a Special Screening of the Millennium-Era Ultra-Saga!

In between director Kazuya Konaka (left) and screenwriter Keiichi Hasegawa (right).

Today, I braved a typhoon to attend a special screening of Ultraman (a.k.a. Ultraman: The Next, 2004). While this movie was highly praised at the time of its release, I have to admit my view hasn't changed since I first saw it on video seven or eight years ago. I don't think turning Ultraman into a horror movie makes a whole lot of sense. While it was great to see the film in 35mm, I still don't think it succeeds.

One of the main guests was screenwriter Keiichi Hasegawa. Hasegawa-san penned numerous episodes of Ultraman Tiga (1996-97), Ultraman Dyna (1997-98), Ultraman Gaia (1998-99), Ultraman Cosmos (2001-02), Ultraman Nexus (2004-05), Ultraman Mebius (2006-07), Ultraseven X (2007), Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle (2007-08), Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey (2008-09), and Ultraman Ginga (2013). Hasegawa-san has also written for Toei programs, such as Kamen Rider W (2009-10), Kamen Rider Fourze (2011-12), Kamen Rider Drive (2014-15), and Kamen Rider Ghost (2015-16). Godzilla fans would know him as the screenwriter for GMK (2001). Hasegawa-san wrote the script for Ultraman.

I've met Hasegawa-san a few times since last year, and he's always a lot of fun to hang out with. I think the above photo speaks for itself on that score.

Kazuya Konaka was the other guests of honor. Konaka-san helmed episodes of Ultraman Dyna, Ultraman Cosmos, Ultraman Nexus, Ultraman Mebius, Ultraseven X, Ultraman Ginga S (2014), and Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga (2016-17). Konaka-san also directed the feature films: Ultraman Zearth 2 (1997), Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Dyna (1998), Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace (1999), Mirrorman Reflex (2006), and Ultraman Mebius and Ultra Brothers (2006). Konaka-san, as I'm sure you can guess by now, directed Ultraman.

It was my first time to meet Konaka-san, and I found him to be very kind and friendly.

That's all for now. I'll be back soon with more updates.

BACK IN BACK IN TOWN! Tayama-san Brings Down the House!

 Masami Tayama rocks the house. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After work on Friday evening, it was music time! So, as soon as I got off work, I headed toward Shinjuku in order to see Masami Tayama's latest show. As always, it was a great one. I even got a shoutout from the stage, which was pretty cool.

The performance was held at Back in Town, at which Tayama-san usually plays once a year. Tayama-san alternately performed solo (with just his acoustic guitar) and with a backup band. Both styles were quite enjoyable.

After the show, I spent a few moments with Tayama-san and his wife. They are charming folks I always look forward to seeing. Many thanks for a great evening!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

GODZILLA AT NIGHT! The Big G Illuminates Shinjuku!

Today's happenings brought me back to Shinjuku, and while there, I saw that the images of Godzilla adorning the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building were illuminated. Since I had my camera with me, I took some photos. Enjoy!

THE EIGHTH SAMURAI! Visiting Actor Shigeo Kato!

Actor Shigeo Kato. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I spent another pleasant afternoon with actor Shigeo Kato, a veteran of countless Toho movies dating back to the early 1950s. At 92 years old, Kato-san is still in great health, and I hope I can have the same level of independence if and when I'm lucky enough to reach his age.

We met at Kamakura Station and then went to our usual cafe for a chat. Kato-san mentioned to me that, in light of the recent passing of Haruo Nakajima and Yoshio Tsuchiya, he is the last surviving cast member from Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954). Given his undying spirit and boundless energy, I think Kato-san should be dubbed the Eighth Samurai.

Many thanks, as always, to Kato-san for his kindness and generosity. These get-togethers are a lot of fun each and every time they happen!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

TOKYO TOWER UP CLOSE! A Legendary Location in Japan Megalopolis!

Over the last few days, I've shared several photos taken from Roppongi Hills of Tokyo Tower. Earlier tonight, I was in the vicinity of Tokyo Tower and took the opportunity to get some closeup shots. Enjoy!

MARIA THERESA GOW IN CONCERT! A Birthday Celebration for an Ultra-Heroine!

Maria Theresa Gow in concert. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight I attended a special birthday concert hosted by Maria Theresa Gow, who Westerners would know as Georgie Leland in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman Gaia (1998-99). The event was held at the Prince Park Tower Tokyo, right in the shadow of Tokyo Tower.

The concert was a lot of fun and very energetic, with many concert-goers getting up from their tables and dancing in the aisles. I'm happy to report that I stayed seated the whole time!

After the show, I was able to have a brief conversation with Gow, and naturally I wished her a happy birthday. Come to think of it, I hadn't seen her since the last birthday show of hers that I attended! Can't wait for next year!