Monday, December 30, 2019

TOKUSATSU DNA RETURNS! The Heisei Gamera Series Is Brought into Focus!

The entrance to Tokusatsu DNA's Heisei Gamera exhibit. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier tonight, I visited the Tokusatsu DNA Heisei Gamera exhibit in Kamata, Tokyo. Naturally, I didn't enjoy it as much as last year's exhibit (the Heisei Gamera series is not my bag), but it was still quite cool to see props, suits, maquettes, and everything else from those films. There was a small section dedicated to the Showa Gamera and even Daimajin series, which was the highlight for me. I just wish there was a lot more to see. In any event, the exhibit was very well done, so let's check out some of the highlights.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters at Tsutaya!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was recently released on home video in Japan, the signage for which was all over my local Tsutaya. Here's what is currently on display.

GKTOM is in great company with Joker (the film of the year). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Seeing Toho's Half Human on the Big Screen!

 Signage advertising the Toho all-nighter at Shin-Bungeiza. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I really don't like all-nighters. I value sleep too much to sit through them. Besides, I find it's usually hard to enjoy a movie when it's 4:00 a.m., and you realize you're still miles and miles away from home (more specifically, your bed). But this all-nighter at Shin-Bungeiza (in Ikebukuro) was too good to pass up. It featured a rare 35mm screening of Toho's "lost" Abominable Snowman picture Half Human (1955).

The film print for Half Human wasn't in the best shape. There were a quite a few scratches, jumps, and other imperfections. But it was still a revelation to see the film in 35mm (and especially without the timecode at the bottom of the screen!). For the first time, I noticed Shigeo Kato's role as one of the primitive mountain men. Nothing beats seeing a film like this in the best-possible quality.

After Half Human, I stayed for a screening of The Human Vapor (1960), which I'd never seen before 35mm. Unlike Half Human, this print was virtually flawless. It'd also probably been years since I'd seen the film at all, and I'm much more familiar with the American version (with its focus on Yoshio Tsuchiya's Human Vapor character) than the Japanese (which centers on Tatsuya Mihashi's police detective). 

I decided against seeing the other two, especially since I've seen Matango several times on the big screen and didn't really feel much need to see it again. Besides, I got to see the two flicks I really wanted. Suffice it to say, it was a great time at the movies!

An Evening at the Theater!

Yumi Mizusawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Friday evening, immediately after work, I got on the train and headed to see actress Yumi Mizusawa in a stage performance near Ikebukuro. The play was quite interesting, and it ended in a much more violent way than I expected. Anyway, after the show, I had a great time chatting with Mizusawa-san.

As a refresher, Mizusawa-san starred in the TV series What Is Youth? (1965-66) alongside Toho star Yosuke Natsuki. While her credits are mostly non-genre, she appeared in episode 91 of Kamen Rider (1971-73) and episode 16 of Iron King (1972-73). Her most notable film appearance is in Kihachi Okamoto's Epoch of Murder Madness (1967).

Sunday, December 22, 2019

It's Morphin' Time!

Yuuta Mochizuki, Reiko Chiba, and Seiju Umon. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today, I attended a special reunion of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (1992-93), which was repackaged by Saban as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. On hand were Yuuta Mochizuki (who played Geki), Reiko Chiba (who played Mei), and Seiju Umon (who played Goushi). It was a fun event, and here are the highlights.

Reiko Chiba. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yuuta Mochizuki. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Seiju Umon. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla Celebrated!

Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla! Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just returned from a reunion party focusing on Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994). While admittedly not the strongest entry of the Godzilla series, it was quite pleasing to know that the folks who worked on the movie generally had a positive opinion on it.

Masahiko Shiraishi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Many of the Toho SFX staff on hand were people I've met several times in the past. Masahiko Shiraishi was among them.

Kazuki Hayashitani. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Kazuki Hayashitani is not just a Toho SFX alumnus; he also organized the night's event. So I have to credit him for a job well done.

Yosuke Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.  

Former Toho SFX assistant director Yosuke Nakano was also there. I probably spent the most time talking with him. As you can probably tell from his T-shirt, he champions Space Godzilla as a film.

Tsutomu Kobayashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.  

It was my first time to meet Tsutomu Kobayashi. He worked as a sculptor on the Heisei Godzilla and Mothra films, working closely with suitmaker Tomoki Kobayashi (no relation).

The venue was a bit cramped, but the event itself was enjoyable. Space Godzilla isn't my favorite Godzilla film, but I'm glad that many of the SFX staff members who worked on it have such fond memories. Many thanks to those who attended!

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!

The real Santa has arrived! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I attended a Christmas party hosted by the one and only Santa Claus! That's right; he came to Japan directly from the North Pole to stage this event. Well, okay, it wasn't the real Santa Claus per se, but it was just as cool as the genuine article.

In this case, Santa was played by writer Hiroyasu Yamaura, and his Christmas party was quite fun. The first stage consisted of respective harp and synthesizer recitals performing Christmas music. There was also a comedy skit in between the music, featuring two salarymen and their boss. The second stage was basically a dance party. I didn't expect to boogie during the show, but in retrospect, I wouldn't have had it any other way. It was certainly unusual, but it was extremely enjoyable. A great time was had by all!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

In the Company of a Daiei Actor!

Jun Fujimaki. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight, I attended a special event with former Daiei actor Jun Fujimaki. Fujimaki-san played Kogenta Sarumaru in Daimajin (1966), Yasutaro Oki in 100 Monsters (1968), JGSDF officer Okazaki in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), and Commander Yui Ibuki in Dengeki Sentai Changeman (1985-86). I met him earlier this year, but I jumped at the chance to spend an evening with him and chat with him in more detail.

I was quite pleased (and rather surprised) by how much time I was able to spend speaking with him. One thing he told me was that the reason he had so little time in 100 Monsters is that he was busy shooting the hit TV series The Guardman (1965-71) at the time. 100 Monsters was filmed in Kyoto, and The Guardman was shot in Tokyo, so the difficulty there should be pretty obvious. Also, his favorite tokusatsu production of his own is Daimajin.

Suffice it to say, it was a very enjoyable evening with a great actor from the Showa era. Fujimaki-san is a heck of a nice guy. He even complimented my terrible Japanese, and if that doesn't prove he goes out of his way to be friendly, nothing else would!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Japanese Superstars Gather at the Hotel New Otani!

Kon Omura, Takashi Sasano, Mitsuko Kusabue, and Akiko Santo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier tonight, I attended a special event featuring a bevy of Japanese luminaries from the entertainment and political world. It was held at the Hotel New Otani, and it was certainly one for the ages.

Kon Omura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One of the headliners was actor Kon Omura, who is best known in the West for his comic-relief roles in Gamera vs. Guiron (1969) and Gamera vs. Jiger (1970). I had the privilege of meeting Omura-san last year, and I jumped at the chance of meeting him again, which is why I decided to attend. But there were a couple of cool surprises in store.

Mitsuko Kusabue. Photo by Brett Homenick.

A surprise guest who was presented a special award was Toho actress Mitsuko Kusabue. Kusabue-san isn't a name very familiar to Godzilla or tokusatsu fans. In terms of genre output, she appeared in the Toho SFX fantasy The Lost World of Sinbad (1963), but she is better known for her roles in dramas and comedies, such as Mikio Naruse's Yearning (1964) and the Shacho series of salaryman comedies.

Kon Omura, Takashi Sasano, and Mitsuko Kusabue talk onstage. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Kusabue-san was given her award, delivered a speech, briefly socialized with the other guests, and was promptly whisked away, never to be seen again. Granted, that wasn't unexpected, but suffice it to say, it would have been great had she stuck around and mingled with the attendees. She's one of the few Toho actresses left who acted in the 1950s, so I'd definitely love the chance to pick her brain.

Mitsuko Kusabue. Photo by Brett Homenick.

But hey, seeing her in person was quite cool, and I did get to snap some photos of her, so considering I didn't expect to see her at all, anyway, it was a great bonus.

Akiko Santo. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The other surprise for me was the presence of former actress (and current politician) Akiko Santo. Santo-san appeared in episode 28 of Kaiju Booska (1966-67), episode 3 of Mighty Jack (1968), and a couple of Moonlight Mask movies. However, his biggest genre credit is voicing Susan Watson (Linda Miller) in the Japanese release of King Kong Escapes (1967). She is currently a member of the House of Councillors in the Diet.

Naturally, a lot of people wanted to take photos of Santo-san, but when I finally had a chance, the first thing I did was mention that I was a big fan of King Kong Escapes, which of course amused her. Despite so many people vying for her attention, she spent a good amount of time with me and was very accommodating, so I'm especially grateful to her for her kindness.

Kon Omura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last (but certainly not least) is the man himself, Kon Omura. Omura-san was also constantly being asked for photos by attendees, so his time was limited. But he couldn't have been any friendlier. When a bingo game was being played, Omura-san approached me and asked me if I was having a good time. I answered in the affirmative. It was things like that that made me appreciate him all the more.

I had a longer chat with Omura-san's wife, Yoko. I explained the Gamera series' popularity in the West and that Omura-san was dubbed into English in his Gamera films (which piqued her curiosity). I enjoyed getting the chance to talk about growing up with Gamera films with the wife of one of the series' most iconic performers.

When Omura-san stepped off the stage at the end of the event, I shook his hand and thanked him again for being such an incredible special guest. It was a great evening and actually much more fun than last year's event.