Saturday, December 19, 2020

Ending the Year with an Explosion!

Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I attended an end-of-the-year party with several Toho luminaries. It was quite a surprise to see SFX director Eiichi Asada among the revelers. 
Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The event was very similar to previous ones, with a lot of high spirits and good humor. Despite that, everyone kept safe with mask-wearing and social distancing.
Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As usual, I shared several laughs with Naganuma-san and got to ask Nakano-san several tokusatsu questions. Suffice it to say, I had a great time.
I think we can all agree that 2020 was a lousy year, so here's hoping things will (eventually) improve in 2021. It certainly won't happen overnight, but we're in it for the long haul.
And that's (probably) a wrap for this year! See you on the other side.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Toho Director Tsugunobu 'Tom' Kotani Passes Away at 84

Tom Kotani in May 2018. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Japanese director Tsugunobu "Tom" Kotani died of heart failure at his home in Komae, Tokyo, at 10:48 p.m. on December 13, 2020. He was 84 years old. A private funeral was held in his honor, for which his eldest son Hidenobu served as chief mourner.

Mr. Kotani was born on December 21, 1935, in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward. He majored in French literature at the University of Tokyo. Upon graduation, Mr. Kotani took the Toho entrance exam in 1960 and joined the studio along with seven other newcomers, including future Godzilla 1985 (1984) director Koji Hashimoto. His first job as an assistant director was on the Hiroshi Inagaki fantasy Gen and Acala (a.k.a. The Youth and His Amulet, 1961), co-starring Toshiro Mifune and Yosuke Natsuki (and with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya).

Teruyoshi Nakano (left) with Tom Kotani in July 2019. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After becoming a director in his own right in 1970, Mr. Kotani helmed the Yuzo Kayama vehicle It’s My Sky! Young Guy (1970) and the Tetsuya Watari actioner Cockroach Cop (1973). His best known credits would be the Rankin/Bass productions The Last Dinosaur (1977), The Bermuda Depths (1978), and The Ivory Ape (1980). He also directed The Bushido Blade (1981), with Toshiro Mifune, Richard Boone, and a variety of Western and Japanese talent in front of the camera.

Tom Kotani with The Last Dinosaur actress Masumi Sekiya in November 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Mr. Kotani was formerly married to Toho actress Wakako Tanabe, who played Gaira’s Haneda Airport victim in War of the Gargantuas (1966).

I was fortunate to meet Mr. Kotani on several occasions. He took interest in me as an American when we first met at a public event in November 2016 and exchanged contact information. Due to his poor hearing, he preferred to communicate via text messages instead of phone calls. We met a couple of times near home (which was still close to Toho Studios) for lunch. I certainly enjoyed learning about his life and career from those meetings. While we never did a formal interview (he declined the one time I asked), I did take notes on our conversations.

I wanted to see him again, but due to COVID concerns, I put off reaching out to him for about the last year. But I’ll also remember his kindness and appreciate the time we were able to spend together.

Rest in peace, director Kotani.

A Fun (But Cold!) Afternoon!

With Sadao Iizuka.

On December 16, I spent an enjoyable afternoon with Sadao Iizuka. While it was great to hear more about his career, I can't say it was fun braving the cold to do it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Jazzy Christmastime in Asakusa!

Shinichi Yanagisawa sings jazz. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Shinichi Yanagisawa and His Swing All-Stars returned to the HUB Asakusa tonight for another performance. Just like two months ago, there were only two sets, but the show was still quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, I missed the first set due to work.

It was great to see Yanagisawa-san still in good health and spirits, and he was right at home (as usual) on the drums and the mike. 

After the performance, I said a few words to Yanagisawa-san before heading back home. I'm grateful to attend each of his shows, and I hope they continue for a long time to come.

Monday, December 14, 2020

New Updates at Vantage Point Interviews!

With Kenji Sahara in June 2012.

There's more new content at Vantage Point Interviews. For the first time ever, my second interview with Kenji Sahara from July 2009 has finally been published. (The first one was published on VPI a couple of years ago.) Check it out -- you'll be among the first!

Also new at VPI are my interviews with Ultraman: Towards the Future model maker Norman Yeend and Godzilla vs. Biollante actress Beth Blatt. Content is king at Vantage Point Interviews, and these new additions to the site more than live up to that motto!

Monday, December 7, 2020

'Machineman' Star Osamu Sakuta Passes Away at Age 62

Osamu Sakuta in May 2017. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Word has been circulating on Japanese social media that actor Osamu Sakuta has recently passed away at the age of 62. No further details are available at this time.

Osamu Sakuta was born on July 9, 1958, in Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, and began his professional acting career in 1971 after his family moved to Tokyo while he was in elementary school. He is best known for starring as Ken Takase, the titular character in Nebula Mask Machineman (1984), for Toei Studios. Prior to that, he could be seen in guest appearances on a variety of television tokusatsu programs as a child actor, such as episodes 38 and 39 of Spectreman (1971-72), episodes 31 and 48 of Kamen Rider (1971-73), episode 24 of Barom-1 (1972), and episode 7 of Kikaider (1972-73). He also appears as Lieutenant Oe in the Toho war epic The Imperial Navy (1981) and as Okada in the Ken Takakura drama Kaikyo (1982), directed by Shiro Moritani. In the 1990s, he became a voice actor for both TV anime shows as well as Japanese releases of American movies and TV programs.

I met Sakuta-san at an event held in May 2017. He was very friendly and approachable, and since we were connected on Facebook, I’d hoped that our paths would meet again someday. It’s a shame it was not to be.

Rest in peace, Sakuta-san.

UPDATE (12/8): Osamu Sakuta died of pancreatic cancer on December 4 at 11:59 p.m.