Sunday, September 24, 2017

SCOOP! Bandai's Frankenstein Figure Conquers Super Festival!

Fearsome Frankie can't wait for you to free him from his glass case. Photo by Brett Homenick.

"I'd like to see a scoop." -- anonymous

The words "scoop" and "Frankenstein Conquers the World" are practically synonymous these days, especially in light of the news of that Bandai will be releasing a new, limited-edition Frankenstein figure in January of next year. Normally, this news would mean absolutely nothing to me (I'm not a toy collector), but far be it from me to miss a scoop, right? 

So, wanting to get in on the scoop, I took a few shots of Frankie, as he spun around his glass case at Super Festival 75. Sanda and Gaira were also there, presumably they wanted to be a part of the action, too. There's nothing like a good scoop to bring the world together. 

GUESRA CALLS YOU! But Will He Be Yours?

X-Plus' limited-edition Guesra soft vinyl assembly kit. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On sale today at Super Festival 75 was this limited-edition X-Plus soft vinyl assembly kit of Guesra, one of Ultraman's more famous foes from the original series. Collecting toys is not my bag, so I didn't pick it up, but this particular item seems to be of interest to some folks, so here ya go!

SUPER FESTIVAL 75! A Brief Look at the Tokyo-Based Collectibles Show

I stopped by Super Festival 75 today. Unfortunately, I didn't see very much there worth photographing. It seems like I've seen it all before. I actually did manage to spend some money this time, but only about 1,500 yen (which ain't a whole lot). Here are some of the more interesting sights. I'll also make a couple of follow-up blog posts. Stay tuned.

MONKEY SHINES! Meeting a Furry Friend on the Way to Super Festival!

Hey, who's that monkeying around in the tree? Photo by Brett Homenick.

On the way to Super Festival today, a man was walking his pet monkey around the park just outside the Science Museum (where Super Festival is held). Since I had camera in hand, I took a few shots of the unusual sight. Here they are.

ULTRAMAN: THE NEXT IS BACK! Round Two for This Tsuburaya Pro Feature!

Director/producer/cameraman Kiyoshi Suzuki. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday night, there was another Ultraman: The Next (2004) event that I just couldn't pass up. I'm very glad I attended. I was particularly interested in meeting the man who was (for me) the guest of honor.

It was my first time to meet Kiyoshi Suzuki, a veteran of Tsuburaya Productions who joined the company in 1964 and worked on Ultra Q (1966) and Ultraman (1966-67) as an assistant cameraman. From there, Suzuki-san also worked on such tokusatsu productions as: Kaiju Booska (1966-67), Ultra Seven (1967-68), Mighty Jack (1968), Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Mirrorman (1971-72), Iron King (1972-73), Ultraman Taro (1973-73), and Ultraman Leo (1974-75). Suzuki-san also worked behind the camera as a director, and in that capacity he shot episodes of Super Robot Red Baron (1973-74), Super Robot Mach Baron (1974-75), and Dinosaur Expedition Born Free (1976-77). In the Heisei era, Suzuki-san has mostly worked as a producer on various Ultraman movies that have been made since the 1990s.

Kazuya Konaka returned to this event, as well. Konaka-san has directed episodes of Ultraman Dyna (1997-98), Ultraman Cosmos (2001-02), Ultraman Nexus (2004-05), Ultraman Mebius (2007-07), Ultraseven X (2007), Ultraman Ginga S (2014), and Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga (2016-17). Konaka-san also helmd the feature films: Ultraman Zearth 2 (1997), Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Dyna (1998), Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace (1999), Ultraman: The NextMirrorman Reflex (2006), and Ultraman Mebius and Ultra Brothers (2006).

Also on hand was actress Kyoko Toyama, who starred in Ultraman: The Next as Sara Mizuhara and reprised her role in episodes 33 and 34 of Ultraman Nexus.

It was another great evening. Many thanks to all the friendly guests for their kindness.

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!

 Masamitsu 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 Masamitsu 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!