Thursday, January 30, 2020

Toei Heroes to the Rescue!

Hiroyuki Takano. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight, immediately after work, I made my way to Shinjuku to see a stage play starring two Toei (and even Tsuburaya Pro!) actors -- Hiroyuki Takano and Sayoko Hagiwara. These two names ought to be rather familiar by now, as I've blogged about both multiple times.

Takano-san can be seen in Ultra Seven (1967-68), Fight! Mighty Jack (1968), Operation: Mystery (1968-69), Spectreman (1971-72), Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Kamen Rider (1971-73), Silver Mask (1971-72), and Submersion of Japan (1974-75). However, his most notable role was co-starring in the Toei superhero series Barom-1 (1972) as Kentaro Shiratori.

Sayoko Hagiwara. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Sayoko Hagiwara, who played the role of Ryoko Hoshi, Yullian's human form, on Ultraman 80 (1980-81) from episode 43, as well as Dyna Pink on Kagaku Sentai Dynaman (1983-84). She also appeared on Choushinsei Flashman (1986-87) as the villainous Leh Nafel.

I arrived rather late (due to work), so I was only able to catch the last 30 minutes or so of the play. It didn't bother me so much, as the reason I came was to visit Takano-san and Hagiwara-san, anyway. After the show, I spotted several friendly faces in the audience, and suffice it to say, it was great to see so many great people in one spot.

A great time was had by all.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Fiveman Is Back!

Kei Shindachiya. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Earlier tonight, I paid another visit to the bar owned and operated by Chikyu Sentai Fiveman (1990-91) star Kei Shindachiya, who played FiveBlue on the show. Shindachiya-san also made guest appearances on Choriki Sentai Ohranger (1995-96) and Ultraman Gaia (1998-99) after his success on Fiveman.

We had a great conversation about many topics. Shindachiya-san talked about being a big Godzilla fan in his younger days and would see the movies at the theater. He didn't keep up with the Heisei versions but did see the American versions, as well as Shin Godzilla. Of the American versions, his favorite was Godzilla: King of the Monsters. We also talked about the recent Star Wars series, as well as various locations in California we were both familiar with.

Overall, it was a great way to spend an evening. I can't believe it had been nearly two years (!) since I last visited the bar. Time sure does fly. I'll certainly do my best to return long before another two years pass.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Salute to Android M11

Which one is real M11? Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I recently decided to reach back into picture archives and share some photos of Android M11 I've taken throughout the years. These days, M11 is just as associated with Chicago as he is with his role in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). Here are the pics. Enjoy!

 M11 onstage in July 2012.

M11 signs for his hardcore fans. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

All smiles in July 2012. 

With Damon Foster in July 2010. Photo by Brett Homenick.

 With yours truly in July 2007.

M11's Eye on Japan in July 2009. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Sizing up his autograph line in July 2009. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Translating for Yoshikazu Ishii in July 2005. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Translating for Yoshikazu Ishii in July 2005. Photo by Brett Homenick.

M11 talks with Zillamon51 in July 2004. Photo by Brett Homenick.  

With Mark Rainey in July 2004. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

With Carl Craig in July 2003. Photo by Brett Homenick.

You could say that Chicago has successfully achieved international understanding through M11. Keep on keepin' on!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

She Looks Familiar...

Yoko Takahashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended another event with none other than actress Yoko Takahashi. If you're thinking she looks familiar, she should! I just her met her last Monday evening, as well.

As always, it was an enjoyable time.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Great Way to Cap the Evening!

With Yoko Takahashi.

As you can see, it's been a busy week for me. Today, I spent the evening at an event with actress Yoko Takahashi. Takahashi-san was a prolific actress in the 1970s, with her best-known work in the West being the Oscar-nominated Sandakan 8 (1974). She also can be seen in Kon Ichikawa's The Devil's Ballad (1977).

Takahashi-san was in a particularly fun mood tonight, and she seemed eager to practice some English. She even sang the theme song to Popeye, which both surprised and amused me. Suffice it to say, I couldn't have planned a better way to finish the evening.

Showa Heroes Assemble to Kick Off the New Year!

Naoya Makoto (left) and Shun Sugata. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today, Monday, January 13, was a public holiday in Japan, and as luck would have it, I was able to attend the first Showa Hero event of the New Year. The guests on hand were no strangers to the realm of herodom -- Naoya Makoto and Shun Sugata.

Naoya Makoto. Photo by Brett Homenick.

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've met Makoto-san several times, and while Goranger is certainly a groundbreaking tokusatsu program that launched the Super Sentai series in Japan, I must admit that I prefer Fireman.

Shun Sugata. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Shun Sugata played Kamen Rider ZX in the TV special Birth of the 10th! Kamen Riders All Together!! (1984). His other tokusatsu roles include episode 39 of Denshi Sentai Denjiman (1980-81) as Akimoto and Engine Sentai Go-onger (2008-09) episode 13 as Gang Father.

In films, Sugata-san has appeared in Pulse (2001), Ichi the Killer (2001), Graveyard of Honor (2002), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) as Boss Benta, The Last Samurai (2003) as Nakao, Izo (2004), Tokyo Gore Police (2008), and Martin Scorsese's Silence (2016) as the samurai commander.

As always, it was another enjoyable event, and the guests were a lot of fun to meet.

Challenge from the Year 2020!

Bin Furuya. Photo by Brett Homenick.

"Challenge from the Year 2020" is the title of episode 19 of Ultra Q (1966), and it featured Bin Furuya in probably his most iconic suit-acting role (aside from the original Ultraman, of course). In this episode, Furuya-san played the alien creature Kemur, who is easily one of the most recognizable monsters from the entire series.

So it's quite apropos that as 2020 begins, there would be a special event with Furuya-san himself. The event was held in the evening of Sunday, January 12. Not only was Furuya-san on hand as a guest, but cinematographer Masao Nakabori joined the event, as well. Together, they mostly discussed the history of the original Ultraman (1966-67) TV series.

Masao Nakabori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Nakabori-san even brought along a rare treasure -- the viewfinder of a movie camera from around the 1930s. Attendees got to hold and examine the viewfinder up close. It was a quite a treat to see firsthand how cinematographers of the 1930s shot movies!

The event was a lot of fun. Furuya-san thanked me for sending him a New Year's card and gave me his updated business card. Nakabori-san is always great to talk to, especially about the history of filmmaking in Japan. I hope to have a chance to see them both again very soon.

Another Night of Comedy (and Singing)!

Yumiko Tanaka. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Friday night, January 10, I attended a stage show co-starring actress Yumiko Tanaka. Tanaka-san, whose tokusatsu credits include Kamen Rider Super-1 (1980-81) and Godzilla (1984), is someone I always enjoy meeting. She always has a positive attitude.

The performance blended comedy and music. The first half was a comedic play, and the second half was essentially a variety show, the majority of which consisted of singing and dancing by the various performers. It was all quite amusing. A great time was had by all -- and certainly yours truly!

Celebrating the Holidays at the Godzilla Store!

Hedorah is in a festive mood at the Godzilla Store. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I paid a visit to the Godzilla Store, and there were quite a few amusing displays. The photos really do speak for themselves, so enjoy!


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Shozo Uehara, Prolific Japanese Superhero TV Writer, Passes Away at 82

Shozo Uehara in March 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Legendary Japanese television writer Shozo Uehara, whose career spanned decades and involved both tokusatsu and anime, passed away on January 2 of liver cancer. He was 82.

Shozo Uehara was born on February 6, 1937, in Naha, Okinawa. During his career, he wrote episodes of Ultra Q (1966), Ultraman (1966-67), Ultra Seven (1967-68), Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Zone Fighter (1973), and Ultraman Taro (1973-74) before penning many of the Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and Metal Hero series for Toei Studios.

Shozo Uehara (left) shares a laugh with Ultra-series directors Toshihiro Iijima and Eizo Yamagiwa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I had the privilege of meeting Uehara-san in March 2016 at a launch party for an Ultra Q book. Many veterans from Tsuburaya Productions were on hand for the event, and it was great to see the camaraderie among them. 

In between Tsuburaya Productions writers Shozo Uehara (left) and Hiroyasu Yamaura.

Uehara-san leaves behind a legacy that few others could match, and his imagination has influenced more tokusatsu and anime productions in the last several decades than those of most other writers. Thank you for the years of entertainment. Rest in peace, Uehara-san.