Sunday, June 30, 2019

A New Interview on Vantage Point Interviews

 Shigemitsu Taguchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

My interview with Tsuburaya Productions scriptwriter Shigemitsu Taguchi has has been posted at Vantage Point Interviews. In the Q&A, Mr. Taguchi talks about his history at Tsuburaya Productions and his memories of writing the various superhero shows there in the 1970s. He was the main writer of Ultraman Taro (1973-74) and Ultraman Leo (1974-75). 

Check it out and spread the word. But most of all, enjoy!

A Woman's Gamble

The poster for today's feature, Daiei's A Woman's Gamble (1966). Photo by Brett Homenick. 

After Super Festival, I attended a screening of A Woman's Gamble (1966) at the National Film Archive of Japan. The screening was a part of its program honoring notable figures in the Japanese film industry whom we lost in 2017 and 2018.

A poster for the Nikkatsu film Yoi-machi-gusa (1974). Photo by Brett Homenick. 

A Woman's Gamble is the first in the long-running Woman Gambler series at Daiei. Starring Kyoko Enami and directed by Shigeo Tanaka, the movie is quite different, to say the least, from their previous collaboration, Gamera vs. Barugon (1966). Although I was interested in seeing the film, I must admit that it moved a bit too slowly for my tastes.

A poster for Toho's Sun Above, Death Below (1968). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Outside the theater, I took some photos of other films I've seen over the years, such as Yoi-machi-gusa (1974) with Yoko Takahashi and Sun Above, Death Below (1968) with Yuzo Kayama. 

SUPER FESTIVAL 81! Tremendous Toys Take Tokyo!

Super Festival 81 came and went today in Tokyo at its usual location, the Science Museum near Kudanshita Station. There's not much to say about this one. I met up with Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi (one of the event's featured guests) and picked up a DVD of the Submersion of Japan TV series. Other than that, however, the photos can speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Tora-san seems just a bit out of place. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Could it be Behemoth, one of the Titans? Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Okay, who ate Captain America? Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Eiichi Kikuchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

AKIRA IFUKUBE IN CONCERT! Taking in an Orchestral Performance of the Maestro's Greatest Hits!

A display of personal pictures of the legendary composer Akira Ifukube. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Saturday, June 29, saw a performance of Godzilla and other Toho monster movie music composed by Akira Ifukube and Riichiro Manabe. The concert took place at Shibuya Cultural Center Owada's Sakura Hall, and it was attended by numerous genre luminaries. The guest of honor was Toho actress Kumi Mizuno, star of such films as Gorath (1962), Matango (1963), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Monster Zero (1965), War of the Gargantuas (1966), and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966).

Guests of honor Teruyoshi Nakano and Kumi Mizuno pose for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Also on hand as a special guest was longtime Toho SFX assistant director and director Teruyoshi Nakano, who helmed Toho special effects from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) through Godzilla 1985 (1984). Right before the concert began, Nakano-san was interviewed onstage, and the recent passing of Tadao Takashima was noted. Nakano-san and the interviewer made sure to pay tribute to Mr. Takashima's memory.

Nakano-san officially kicked off the festivities by calling out "Action!" in Japanese from his seat in the audience. Once the orchestra got the OK from Godzilla's former director, the concert began with selections from none other than Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). To be honest, I never thought the day would come when I would hear several cues from Megalon performed live by a full orchestra, but I couldn't be happier that I did.

Teruyoshi Nakano and Kumi Mizuno wave to the folks in the balcony. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The orchestra went on to perform the Monster Zero march, several selections from both Frankenstein Conquers the World and War of the Gargantuas, as well as Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Prior to that, however, Ms. Mizuno was brought onstage to talk about her career with Godzilla and other monster movies. In fact, she sat onstage as the orchestra performed the Monster Zero march, so the audience could see her reaction to it.

The concert closed with a performance of "Godzilla and Jet Jaguar: Punch! Punch! Punch!" during which the audience was encouraged to sing along. Kumi Mizuno was sitting in the front row during the performance, and I couldn't quite make out from my vantage point whether she was singing along. I'd certainly like to think she was, or that she at least enjoyed it.

Kyoko Ifukube, after the concert. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In the audience, I spotted actor Shiro Sano (Godzilla 2000GMKGodzilla: Final Wars), composer Chumei Watanabe, as well as various members of the Ifukube family. I spoke briefly with Watanabe-san (who was seated very close to me), but after the concert, I spoke at length with Kyoko Ifukube, one of the composer's daughters.

Overall, it was a wonderful concert, and it was a joy to hear such an eclectic selection of music from the Godzilla series. I hope to attend the next one in Tokyo!

A Former Toho SFX Director Brings a New Hero to the Stage!

Yuichi Kikuchi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

After work on Friday, June 28, I headed out to catch the latest stage play directed by Yuichi Kikuchi. I blogged about him a few months ago, but to recap, Kikuchi-san is best known for serving as SFX director on Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002), as well as working as assistant SFX director on such movies as Gamera 3 (1999) and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). He was also SFX director on Ultraman (2004), Ultraman Nexus (2004-05), Ultraman Max (2005-06), Ultraman Mebius (2006-07), as well as other works.

The stage play was quite interesting, as it centered around the making of a superhero movie. The "movie within a play" sequences were a lot of fun to watch, as a suit actor battled several baddies onstage in scenes reminiscent of most Toei TV programs.

After the show, the inevitable photo ops took place. Kikuchi-san signed my mini poster of the show, and I took a photo of the play's superhero in all his glory, Not too shabby, eh?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Toho Star Tadao Takashima Passes Away at 88

A recent photo of Tadao Takashima. Photo © Nikkan Sports.

Veteran Shintoho and Toho star Tadao Takashima passed away at his home on June 26 of natural causes at around 1:00 p.m. He was 88.

Tadao Takashima is best remembered among Godzilla fans for his starring roles in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Atragon (1963), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), and Son of Godzilla (1967). His sons Masahiro and Masanobu went on to appear in the Heisei Godzilla series.

Rest in peace, Mr. Takashima.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

HAVE MERCY! Seeing Takasaki's Goddess of Mercy Up Close and Personal!

 Takasaki's Byakue Dai-Kannon (Goddess of Mercy). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I went all the way out to Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, to visit the 41.8-meter-high Byakue Dai-Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) statue. Aside from the fact that I enjoy seeing large statues, a miniature version of it was built and used in a deleted scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) in which Godzilla passes by it. So it also counts as a Godzilla location.

The statue is quite impressive to see in person. Though it's quite far from Tokyo, I found the trip well worth it. It's interesting to note that the statue is just eight meters short of Godzilla's height in the classic Showa-era films. So if you'd like to have an idea of what it'd be like to see something Godzilla's height, the Goddess of Mercy has you covered.

Out and About in Shinjuku ... Again!

Signage for Toy Story 4 Toho Cinemas Shinjuku. Photo by Brett Homenick.

My travels brought me back to Shinjuku today, and while there, I visited more familiar places: namely Toho Cinemas, as well as the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Here are the photos. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

SHOWA HEROES OF THE 1970S! A Trio of Good Guys Joins Forces to Save the World!

From left to right: Shoji Ishibashi, Takeshi Sasaki, and Naoya Makoto. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I attended a Showa Hero event today that was headlined by three heroes of the '70s: Shoji Ishibashi, Takeshi Sasaki, and Naoya Makoto. It was a somewhat unusual grouping, as the three stars all headlined separate TV programs. But they are without a doubt three of the biggest heroes of the Henshin Boom of the '70s.

Naoya Makoto poses with his birthday cake. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Even though his actual birthday isn't until June 25, Makoto-san was presented with a birthday cake. Makoto-san commented that he will be turning 71 and that time flies. Indeed it does.

Naoya Makoto. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

For those of you not in the know, Naoya Makoto starred as the titular hero's human alter ego, Daisuke Misaki, in Tsuburaya Productions' Fireman (1973), as well as Tsuyoshi Kaijo/Akaranger in the original Super Sentai program Himitsu Sentai Goranger (1975-77).

I'd met him before at a previous Showa Hero event, and while I know he's attended other events since then, I'd never gotten a chance to see him until today. It's always a joy to meet a hero from Tsuburaya Productions.

Takeshi Sasaki. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Takeshi Sasaki was the actor who replaced the injured Hiroshi Fujioka on the original Kamen Rider (1971-73) series as Kamen Rider 2, and then teamed up with him later in the show.

It might be an exaggeration, but I'm not sure I'd ever seen a guest at any event in Japan sign as much memorabilia as Sasaki-san. Most fans in the line brought multiple (and I do mean multiple!) items for him to sign, and he took his time, carefully signing each one. It was quite interesting to see.

Shoji Ishibashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The final guest in the lineup was Shoji Ishibashi, who played Gentaro Shizuka on Iron King (1972-73).

He was the only guest I hadn't met before. Back in 2015, I briefly met his Iron King co-star Mitsuo Hamada at an event to which I'd arrived late. Ishibashi-san was very kind and was a great guest to meet.

And that concludes the most recent Showa Hero event.