Thursday, November 8, 2012

KAMEN RIDER OR KAMEN READER? Two Tokusatsu Stars Promote G-FAN Magazine!

Actor Kazuki Kato poses with yours truly following our interview in January 2012.

G-FAN #100 has been published, and among its contents are interviews I conducted with two of the more recent Kamen Rider stars. Kazuki Kato (Kamen Rider Kabuto, Kamen Rider: The Next, Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit) and Keisuke Kato (Kamen Rider Kiva) provided fascinating stories about their careers, but what surprised me most is the amount of interest they showed in me and G-FAN magazine.

In fact, they've even updated their respective blogs with information (and pictures) of the current issue!

Kazuki Kato's blog entry can be read here. I took the photo used on Kato-san's blog. I'm very proud to say that my apartment's carpeting appears on his blog!

Your humble blogmeister shakes Keisuke Kato's hand after conducting our interview in January of this year.

Keisuke Kato's blog entry can be seen here. Naturally, he provided the photo in this blog post himself!

To order your own copy of G-FAN #100, go here.

(Special thanks to Asako Kato of English Avenue Daikanyama!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

GODZILLA AT 58: Ginza Celebrates the Big G's Big Day in a Big Way!

Posters at the Cine Pathos Theater in Ginza, advertising the Godzilla birthday celebration and Gunhed event.

Saturday, November 3, was a big day for kaiju fans lucky enough to be in Tokyo. The Cine Pathos Theater played host to not one but two big events for fans of tokusatsu. Appropriately enough, the first event focused on Godzilla's birthday. Thus, attendees were treated to screenings of Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

Let the Yuki Special shine a light on me! A toy replica of Space Godzilla's Yuki Special was offered for free to all attendees.

But movies turned out to be a small portion of what was on tap. Advertised to appear were screen (and scream!) legend Kenji Sahara, Space Godzilla star Jun Hashizume and director Kensho Yamashita, Final Wars SFX director Eiichi Asada, and longtime Toho SFX director Koichi Kawakita. Little did any of us know that these guests were just the tip of the iceberg!

Kenji Sahara reminisces about Destroy All Monsters following the screening of the film!

The first guest was none other than Kenji Sahara, who entered the theater immediately after Destroy All Monsters played to a packed house. Sahara-san clearly enjoyed sharing his memories from the set of DAM as well as other Toho features. After Mr. Sahara's talk show wrapped, he signed autographs for the fans in attendance.

Following Kenji Sahara's appearance, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla was screened. Not having seen the film for a number of years, I was particularly interested in seeing it again. I found it enjoyable for the most part, but the "climactic" battle at the end was badly paced and bored me to distraction.

Director Kensho Yamashita and actor Jun Hashizume talk Space Godzilla.

Once Space Godzilla ended, two new guests took the stage: Kensho Yamashita and Jun Hashizume. The pair (naturally) recalled their work on Space Godzilla. At one point, Hashizume-san mentioned that he's a fan of Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, which I found quite interesting. (Hashizume-san went on to work with Sea Monster star Akira Takarada in Godzilla: Final Wars).

Jun Hashizume and Kensho Yamashita sign autographs.

Even before the Space Godzilla interview ended, more special guests joined the lineup! SFX director Eiichi Asada appeared along with Godzilla suit actor Tsutomu Kitagawa and kaiju suit maker Shinichi Wakasa. They signed autographs for fans with the Space Godzilla guests.

Godzilla himself signs his name for his adoring public!

In preparation for the screening of Godzilla: Final Wars, Messrs. Asada, Kitagawa, and Wakasa held a Q&A session about the making of the film. After that, the film screened. Unfortunately, Don Frye (and the other English-speaking actors) were dubbed into Japanese. Noticeably, the crowd had practically no reaction to any of Don Frye's lines. Something must definitely be lost in translation!

Eiichi Asada listens to his fellow interviewees recount their Final Wars memories.

Overall, I still enjoy the movie immensely, but it would benefit greatly from a bit of editing. The movie really bogs down once the principal characters are taken aboard the spaceship. Aside from that, I had a blast watching it, but I missed hearing Don Frye's line readings!

Shinichi Wakasa, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Eiichi Asada tell you all you need to know about monster fights!

After the Final Wars credits rolled, Koichi Kawakita was introduced to the audience. His appearance was no surprise, as he was an advertised guest. But it was the night's final surprise guest who really surprised me!

Yukiko Kobayashi and Koichi Kawakita talk Godzilla on the Big G's big day.

Destroy All Monsters leading lady Yukiko Kobayashi made her way into the theater after being introduced by the emcee. This came as a complete surprise to me, especially since her movie was screened at the very beginning of the event! But I'm not complaining; it was great to meet her at long last!

What an event it was. Last year's Mechagodzilla event was great fun, too, but I'd have to give the edge to this year's shindig. The guests were more accessible, which in my book is always a big plus. Full marks!

Monday, November 5, 2012

GUNHED: Toho's High-Concept SFX Film Is Feted in Tokyo

Open your wallets, folks, there's plenty of opportunities to buy, buy, buy!

November 3 may have been Godzilla's birthday, but the festivities were shared with another Big G from Toho Studios. Following the events of Godzilla's birthday celebration (which -- I promise! -- I will eventually get to), a bonus event celebrating Koichi Kawakita's upcoming Gunhed book (due out in January) took place at the Cine Pathos Theater in Ginza.

I had to resist my immediate urge to buy this Gunhed shirt. Say what you will about the movie, but that's one cool shirt!

Prior to the screening of the film, a talk show featuring SFX director Makoto Kamiya, Gunhed composer Toshiyuki Honda, and Koichi Kawakita (who directed the special effects for Gunhed) was held. One thing I noticed that I certainly wasn't expecting was that the crowd for the Gunhed event was a bit larger than the one for Godzilla! The Big Guy just can't catch a break in Japan.

Makoto Kamiya, Toshiyuki Honda, and Koichi Kawakita talk about all things Gunhed.

An interesting bit of Gunhed history was briefly on display. Honda-san brought with him the master tape of the Gunhed soundtrack, a picture of which is below.

The talk show lasted quite a while, which was followed by an autograph signing. By this time, I had already gone over-budget, so I didn't purchase any autographs. During this time, I went with my friend Yasushi to an Italian restaurant for some food before the film started.

Ultimately, I arrived back a bit late, so I missed the first few minutes. Overall, I was impressed by the SFX (they've held up very well over the years), I enjoyed the soundtrack, and Brenda Bakke did an excellent job as Sgt. Nim. That said, I still have no idea what the heck is going on in this movie! Granted, I did miss the beginning, but I've never been able to follow the story in any of the times I've seen it. If I'm not mistaken, I think this is the first time I've watched the movie in its entirety (more or less) since the late '90s. It's a very flawed film, but there is interesting stuff in there.

LIVING ON TOKYO TIME: Friendly Faces in Japan's Metropolis

My buddy Derrick (Godzilla vs. Biollante, Lady Battle Cop) Holmes in Kabukicho! 

While attending the Godzilla birthday event in Ginza took the majority of my recent trip to Tokyo, I did manage to spend some relaxing time with my friends in the area.

While walking around Asakusa, I got a call from my friend Derrick who was hanging out near the Shinjuku area. I quickly changed my plans and met him for a nice chat and a tour of the area.

We ended up in a Starbucks in Shinjuku Station (I needed a break after carrying all my luggage!). All in all, it was a great time with a good friend. We ought to get together more often!

When worlds collide! Biollante's Derrick Holmes meets Godzilla vs. Destroyah's Jon Gallock!

I was then scheduled to meet another friend, Jon Gallock. Derrick saw me off shortly after meeting Jon himself. I made sure to snap a photo to preserve the moment for posterity!

Jon and I headed over to Krispy Kreme for some donuts and, surprisingly enough, a discussion about politics and the current state of the world. I usually don't get to talk politics with friends in Japan, so this was an intriguing change of pace.

My meeting with Jon was relatively brief, about 40 minutes. I had another (!) appointment to keep, as did Jon. We said our goodbyes, but hopefully we'll see each other again soon enough.

The day ended with my meeting director Yoshimitsu Banno for coffee and a great discussion of Toho history. Mr. Banno is one of my favorite folks with whom to speak in Japan, and I'm relieved he speaks great English! I was fascinated by hearing stories of Akira Kurosawa, Toshio Masuda, and Kihachi Okamoto by someone who was there. Amazing!

My next blog posts will focus more on the event in Ginza. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

THE VAMPIRE DOLL STRIKES AGAIN! Actress Yukiko Kobayashi Celebrates Godzilla's Birthday in Ginza!

Your humble blogmeister meets actress Yukiko Kobayashi in Ginza, Tokyo.

November 3 marks Godzilla's birthday, and this year the Cine Pathos Theater in Ginza celebrated The Big G's big day in style. An all-day film festival was held, which I was very happy to attend. More on that event in the coming days, but I wanted to make special mention of a very special guest.

Yukiko Kobayashi shares her memories of Destroy All Monsters with a packed crowd at the Cine Pathos Theater.

None other than Yukiko Kobayashi was a surprise guest. Even though Destroy All Monsters (in which she played Kyoko Manabe) was screened much earlier in the day, Kobayashi-san made her appearance following the screening of Godzilla: Final Wars. Her appearance was a complete surprise to me; in fact, she was a surprise guest! I've wanted to meet her since coming to Japan, and I finally got my opportunity!

Ms. Kobayashi and SFX director Koichi Kawakita discuss Godzilla on the Kaiju King's birthday.

As any good tokusatsu fan knows, Kobayashi-san also appears in Yog Monster from Space (as Saki) and The Vampire Doll (as the titular character). She also notably guest-stars in episode 9 of Ultra Seven.

Ms. Kobayashi proved to be a wonderful and generous individual. She graciously agreed to pose for a photo with me once my friend Yasushi asked her (even though she didn't pose with anyone else). Suffice it to say, I came away very impressed, and I hope to meet her again very soon!