Sunday, November 19, 2017

ULTRAMAN SAGA! Key Crew Members Reunite to Discuss This Millennium-Era Ultraman Movie!

Screenwriter Keiichi Hasegawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the Ultraman Taro event, I attended a special dinner event that was preceded by a screening of Ultraman Saga (2012). I saw Ultraman Saga theatrically when it was released in Japan, and since I didn't have a lot of motivation to see it again, I decided to skip the screening.

Editor Akira Matsuki. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On hand were Ultraman Saga screenwriter Keiichi Hasegawa and editor Akira Matsuki. As readers of this blog know, I've met Hasegawa-san on several occasions, and he's always a lot of fun to hang out with. In fact, his appearance at this event was the main reason I attended.

The highlight for me was talking Godzilla with Hasegawa-san. Not only did he write GMK (2001), but he also grew up a fan of Godzilla. He saw Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966) in real time, which was his first Godzilla movie. I also had a blast talking about Godzilla vs. Megalon with him, everything from Jet Jaguar to Seatopia.

While a bit more soft-spoken, I also enjoyed meeting Matsuki-san for the first time. It's rare to meet film editors at such events!

What a busy weekend it was. Now it's time to catch up on sleep!

ULTRAMAN TARO COMES TO BLU-RAY! A Special Event in Shibuya Helps Promote the Release!

Writer Shigemitsu Taguchi (left) and actor Toyoyuki Kimura pal around with an old colleague onstage. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

In order to help promote the upcoming Blu-ray release of Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman Taro (1973-74), a special event was hosted by Cast Co. in Shibuya that was all about the sixth Ultra-series.

Two episodes from the series were screened, and after that, Ultra-series scribe Shigemitsu Taguchi and actor Toyoyuki Kimura (who played ZAT member Tadao Nambara) took the stage to answer questions about their work on the program.

After that, audience members could pose for photos with Ultraman Taro and get autographs from the two guests. In particular, Kimura-san was surprised to see an American at this event, and even though the signings were a bit rushed by the staff, he made took the time to ask me some questions about myself. That gesture was truly appreciated.

Aside from his regular appearances on Ultraman Taro, Kimura-san acted in several Toho movies during the 1960s and '70s, especially ones directed by Kihachi Okamoto, namely Fort Graveyard (1965), Epoch of Murder Madness (1967), Red Lion (1969), and Battle of Okinawa (1971).He can also be seen in The Crazy Cats' Big Explosion (1969), which was Teruyoshi Nakano's first work as special effects director.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Actor Koji Moritsugu poses for the paparazzi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Ultra Seven celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, and who better to celebrate it with than Koji Moritsugu, who starred on the series as Dan Moroboshi, the human form of Ultra Seven. Moritsugu-san held another event at his restaurant, and for the first time in a long time, the timing worked out in my favor.

Koji Moritsugu: Then and now! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Because there was no other guest (as there usual are at the shindigs), the focus was on the fans to ask questions of Moritsugu-san. When my turn came, I asked him whom he thought was the best director on Ultra Seven. He answered that Kazuho Mitsuta was the best. However, he said that Akio Jissoji was also quite good, even though he was a bit strange!

It was another fun evening at Moritsugu-san's restaurant with many friendly people. I hope it's not another several months before I'm able to return!

Celebrating 50 Years of Greatness

With actress Mie Hama. 

Today, I had the privilege of attending a special event with actress Mie Hama, the retired Toho star who appeared in the films King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967), which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Of course, Hama-san's other international hit film, You Only Live Twice, is also celebrating 50 years.

The event itself was quite enjoyable. There was a rakugo performance followed by a lunch made with local cuisine. The highlight, of course, was meeting Hama-san again, who is always incredibly friendly.

RETURNING TO LAKE ASHI! But Where Was Biollante?

Lake Ashi on a rainy (and windy) fall morning. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I also paid another visit to Lake Ashi in Hakone this morning. While this isn't the exact spot seen in the film, Lake Ashi is where Biollante first appears in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). Thankfully, I didn't see any rose pedals anywhere in the vicinity. Anyway, given the lousy weather, I couldn't see Mount Fuji in the background. Oh, well. Anyway, here's the view from this morning.


The view from just outside Hakone-Yumoto Station. Photo by Brett Homenick.

This morning, my travels brought me back to Hakone-Yumoto Station, which is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. I wish I had the time (not to mention cooperative weather) to go exploring, but hopefully I'll get around to that someday. Until then, here are the pictures I took. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Godzilla: Monster Planet

Maybe the less-than-half-full theater on opening night should have tipped me off.

I just returned from Godzilla: Monster Planet (or Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters or whatever we're supposed to call it this week), and I really don't have that much to say. It's essentially what I expected it to be.

That's not a good thing, by the way. For one thing, it's incredibly boring. It repeats the worst aspects of Shin Godzilla by having too many expository scenes in which the characters look at futuristic screens and plan their attacks on Godzilla. Monster Planet? Planet of the Monsters? Either way, we sure don't get what we're told. Other than a lackluster flashback scene toward the beginning, the only monsters we get are Godzilla and some rather generic pteranodon lookalikes.

The animation seemed to vary wildly from pretty impressive to unfinished. Some scenes of Godzilla are very well done (to a surprising extent, actually), but in a number of the human scenes, it seemed rather rushed. The aforementioned flashback scene at the beginning was particularly disappointing, as the monsters barely even seemed to move. Did the animators run out of money?

All this could be just me, I suppose. I don't watch anime, have no interest in it, and wouldn't know what passes for good animation these days. From where I sit, though, the animation just didn't really seem movie-worthy.

For all those who complain about the child protagonists in the Showa-era Godzilla (and Gamera) films, wait till you get a load of this flick's main character, Haruo, who virtually never stops sneering or screaming in angst. We get it. He has a vendetta against Godzilla. And this time it's personal. But the dial doesn't have to stay on 11 the whole way. There are ways to emote without uttering primal screams. Just sayin'.

Takayuki Hattori's score varies as much as the animation does, running the gamut from forgettable to the worst music I've ever heard him compose. (For the record, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla remains my favorite score of his, by far.)

I actually like the Godzilla design, and I think the premise is a cool concept. I just wish it had a much better execution. A large chunk of the problem, I'm sure, is that this story will be stretched out over a trilogy, so all the filler comes with the territory. While it may not be good storytelling, I'm sure it's good business.

On the way out of the theater, I bumped into a Japanese fan whom I often see at events. I asked him if he liked the movie. He laughed, shook his head, and said no. We both laughed as we went over some of the film's more egregious flaws. I guess that's probably not a great sign.

Shin Godzilla certainly divided fans, but I really don't see anyone championing this film. There's really just not much to it, other than a few interesting shots of Godzilla. I wish I could have hit the mute button whenever Haruo was on screen, but I guess the folks who watch it on Netflix will have that advantage over me.