Friday, September 30, 2016
An exhibit focusing on Gamera and his many foes is currently running in Mori Tower's Tokyo City View, located on the tower's 52nd floor. The emphasis is on the Heisei Gamera series, although the Showa version of Daiei's Super Monster also made his presence known. The exhibit runs between September 24 and November 13, and if you're a Gamera fan, it's well worth checking out. Here's what's in store.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Vantage Point Interviews continues rolling along with my interview with voice actor Robert Axelrod, who voiced Lord Zedd and Finster and the ever-popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. This interview was originally published on John Roberto's Kaiju-Fan Online in 2005, but given that the site sadly no longer exists, I thought it should publish it on my own page.
Follow this link for the interview. Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Nick Curror (right) in a screenshot from the infamous Space Warriors 2000 (1985).
Vantage Point Interviews has been inactive for a while (my apologies, by the way), but a brand-new interview has just been published with one of the stars of the bizarre cult flick Space Warriors 2000, a movie Ultraman himself would most certainly prefer to forget.
The child actor from the film, Nick Curror, recently surfaced, and Vantage Point Interviews has the scoop. Unfortunately, there are few details, but this Q&A does add a few more pieces to the puzzle of this truly strange film.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
On Monday, I paid another visit to Keiko Nishi's cafe. Nishi-san played TAC member Noriko Mikawa in Ultraman Ace (1972-73), and while she made an appearance at Super Festival the day before, I missed her there.
As always, she was very kind and generous with her time, which makes every trip worth it. Thank you again, Nishi-san!
Today I enjoyed a great lunch with Toho star Yosuke Natsuki that lasted several hours. Naturally, we discussed a myriad of topics, including some interesting Toho history. For one thing, Natsuki-san revealed that he was originally approached to play the Japanese lead in the Frank Sinatra-directed None But the Brave (1965), but declined the offer due to the low salary. (The role was eventually played by Tatsuya Mihashi.) Even Toho advised against accepting the role at the time.
Many thanks to Natsuki-san for a fun and memorable afternoon. It was truly a great time, as it always is.
Actor Masanori Machida performs a dramatic reading in front of an intimate audience. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Following Super Festival, I attended a performance by actor Masanori Machida, who played the little boy Saki in Gappa the Triphibian Monster (1967).
After taking a few pics and signing the show's leaflet, I sat down to watch the performance (which included other actors), and in my unbiased opinion, Machida-san did the best job. The audience seemed to react the best to his reading, as well.
Many thanks to Machida-san, who's as cool as they come!
An honest-to-goodness Ultraman Ace suit actor poses for photos with fans. Photo by Brett Homenick.
I have to admit that this Super Festival seemed to lack the energy of most of the others I've attended. By the time I arrived, it felt like a considerable number of dealers were already closing up shop. To make matters worse, most of the familiar faces I've become accustomed to seeing at Super Festival were nowhere to be found.
Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi was the lone exception. I spotted him posing for photos with an Ultraman figure before we took our own photo.
Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.
In the picture below, do you notice the Color Time sandwiched between us? Kikuchi-san thought it would make a nice addition to the photo.
Also on hand was Kamen Rider series actor Toru Okazaki, who starred in Kamen Ruder Amazon (1974-75). His line was long, and given that I had nothing for him to sign, it didn't make much sense for me to start waiting in it. Still, I got to snap some photos as he signed autographs for others. He seemed to be having a wonderful time.
Kamen Rider series actor Toru Okazaki. Photo by Brett Homenick.
While browsing the various tables for things for sales (and spending money I always promise myself I won't), I noticed this guy hanging around.
It's still the worst thing to happen to Godzilla, but I couldn't resist taking its photo. I'm sure someone out there actually likes this design, but I can't even begin to imagine who that might be.
Noted screenwriter Keiichi Hasegawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.
On Saturday, September 24, I attended a dinner with two notable names from the world of Ultraman. One was Keiichi Hasegawa, whom I blogged about last week. Among American tokusatsu fans, his biggest credit (by far) is writing the screenplay for GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), one of the most popular entries in the Millennium Godzilla series.
Yours truly with director Hirochika Muraishi.
The other guest on hand was director Hirochika Muraishi, who is probably best known as the director of the movie Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey (2000). His career dates back many years before that, including the celebrated Denjin Zaboga (1974-75). He was also a suit actor (!) on the TV program Tetsujin Tiger Seven (1973-74). He directed many episodes of Ultraman Tiga (1996-97), Ultraman Dyna (1997-98), Ultraman Gaia (1998-99), and beyond.
With screenwriter Keiichi Hasegawa.
It was a blast hanging out with Hasegawa-san again. Throughout the evening, he kept calling me Jason Bourne, which gave me a big laugh. (Maybe it's my new haircut!) Anyhow, he was certainly in great spirits this evening.
Retired Toho actor Tatsuyoshi Ehara. Photo by Brett Homenick.
On Friday, September 23, I was privileged to have lunch with former Toho actor Tatsuyoshi Ehara. Ehara-san began his acting career for Shochiku Studios in the 1940s as a child actor, but he made his mark at Toho Studios, appearing the Akira Kurosawa classics Sanjuro (1962) and Red Beard (1965).
His sole sci-fi credit was appearing as the guest star of episode 1 of Ultra Q (1966), which of course paved the way for television's tokusatsu boom. I enjoyed hanging with Ehara-san again for the first time in a few months.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Ultraman Nexus star Takuji Kawakubo poses with an Ultra-toy. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Today, I spent a pleasant evening in Yokohama at an Ultraman-related event with several guests in attendance. Each one was friendly and outgoing, and even though I'm not very familiar with Ultraman Nexus (2004-05), after this event, I think I'm a fan for life!
With series director Yuichi Abe.
With series star Takuji Kawakubo.
Also on hand was star Takuji Kawakubo, who played Kazuki Komon. Kawakubo-san is passionate about learning English, so it was a big topic of conversation for us. He was very friendly and a joy to speak with.
With series writer Keiichi Hasegawa.
I also met Keiichi Hasegawa, who was a writer on Ultraman Nexus. However, his biggest credit in the U.S. is penning GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001). He was also quite friendly to speak with.
What a great way to cap a busy week!
With longtime Tsuburaya Productions director Eizo Yamagiwa. Photo by Brett Homenick.
On Sunday, I attended a play written by Hiroyasu Yamaura, a veteran screenwriter who has been involved with many tokusatsu productions on the big and small screen. Also in attendance was Eizo Yamagiwa, a director who helmed episodes of the various '70s-era Ultraman programs.
With Hiroyasu Yamaura.
The play itself was a lot of fun. It was a comedic play-within-a-play, ostensibly about Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, but it was really about the love triangle (quadrangle, really!) involving the actors. Even though there were no monsters anywhere to be seen, it was extremely enjoyable.
On Saturday evening, I was invited to a dinner with Toei action star Sonny Chiba. I was fortunate to sit next to Chiba-san during the evening, and we spoke together in English. I asked him about some of his memories of making classic tokusatsu films, and he aked me a few questions about where I live and life in Japan. We also talked about American food vs. Japanese food. Suffice it to say, it was quite an evening!
Sonny Chiba tells a story to dinner attendees. Photo by Brett Homenick.
The dinner invitation was rather sudden, but what a memorable evening it was. When I mentioned his movie version of Golgo 13, he pulled up the poster image in his smartphone and showed it to me. (He also showed me his personal photos with Samuel L. Jackson and other Hollywood stars.) He also told me about the various Japanese foods we were served that evening. To say the absolute least, this kinds of evenings are rare, and they are never forgotten. Many thanks to Chiba-san and everyone else who helped make this possible!
On September 16, I attended a live musical performance by singer Masami Tayama. The venue was once again Back in Town, a place I have visited a couple of times in the past. Tayama-san makes his living as a musician, but many years ago, he played Shinji Chujo in the Toho classic Mothra (1961).
Tayama-san was joined onstage by other musicians, but it was truly his show. His vocals were powerful, and even though the lyrics were in Japanese, you didn't need to understand the words in order to feel the emotion of the music.
While waiting for Tayama-san to reemerge from the backstage area, I had a nice chat with some fellow fans, some of whom are familiar with kaiju eiga. We talked about a variety of subjects related to Godzilla, Gamera, and other creatures.
It was cool to see Tayama-san again, especially now that he lives far away from Tokyo. His appearances in the city are limited, but when he does one, I always do my best to be there!
On September 15, I made my way over to the bar owned by the actor who starred as FiveBlue in Chikyu Sentai Fiveman (1990-91). Kei Shindachiya (the actor in question) also made guest appearances on Choriki Sentai Ohranger (1995-96) and Ultraman Gaia (1998-99).
There were several other bar patrons in attendance, and a fun time was had by all. These low-key evenings are truly enjoyable. Many thanks to Shindachiya-san!