Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Late Start on Kicking Off the New Year!

Katsumi Yanagijima. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Things have been quiet in Japan recently, due in large part to a certain pandemic that's still raging. However, things are slowly but surely starting to come back. For instance, I attended my first event in a couple of months last night, February 27. The guest of honor was cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima.

His name might not immediately ring any bells, but his credits as cinematographer certainly do: Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale (2000), Takeshi Kitano's The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003), The Grudge 2 (2006), and Robo-G (2012). Like many guests at such events, he was very approachable, and I just had to tell him how much I admired Battle Royale.

Hironobu Hagimae. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As a surprise bonus, Hironobu Hagimae was also on hand. Hagimae-san was the motorcycle stuntman for the original Kamen Rider (1971-73) and continued in that capacity throughout the '70s.

I've met him several times in the past few years, and it's always a blast to see him. He's a super-friendly guy!

I look forward to things returning to normal, but we still have a long way to go. Last night's event was a good start. Let's hope it continues.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Tetsuro Sagawa, 'Ultraman Ace's' Captain Goro Ryu, Passes Away at 84

Actor Tetsuro Sagawa, who played the role of Captain Goro Ryu on Ultraman Ace (1972-73), passed away on February 17 at an assisted living facility in Tokyo due to ALS. He was 84 years old.

Born Tadataka Katsuno on January 22, 1937, in Tateyama City, Chiba Prefecture, Sagawa made his television debut in 1963. Prior to his involvement in the Ultra-series, he appeared in episode 32 of The Space Giants (1966-67). Apart from his regular role on Ultraman Ace, he also narrated Ultraman Taro (1973-74) and Ultraman Leo (1974-75). On film, Sagawa played Nagato Fujibayashi in the tokusatsu romp Watari, Ninja Boy (1966). In later years, he would dub many Western productions in Japanese, often playing the voice of Henry Fonda and Clint Eastwood. 

A private memorial service has already been held by his family. Rest in peace, Sagawa-san.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

More Content on Vantage Point Interviews!

Photo © Catherine Byers.

More interviews have been posted on Vantage Point Interviews, so please go out of your way to check them out. First up is my interview with actress Catherine Byers (a.k.a. Bobbie Byers) who played the voice of Johnny Sokko in -- what else? -- Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot (1967-68). She also dubbed the titular hero in the anime Prince Planet (1965-66), as well as Bonnie in the Osamu Tezuka-created cartoon show The Amazing 3 (1965-66).

Also posted is my interview with special effects artist Lewis Morley, who worked on Ultraman Zearth (1996) and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995). The interview features many behind-the-scenes photos from his work on Power Rangers

As always, more interviews will be posted in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for them!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Ulf Otsuki, 'Godzilla vs. Megalon's' Bearded Seatopian Agent, Passes Away

Ulf Otsuki with his DVD copy of The Invisible Man in February 2017. Photo by Brett Homenick.

According to a January 2021 interview with his sister, classical pianist Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming, veteran tokusatsu character actor Ulf Otsuki passed away sometime in August 2020. No other details were revealed in the interview. Given that Ulf was born on August 27, 1934, it is impossible to know his exact age at the time of his death without more information.

Ul Otsuki in November 2016 with a signed baby picture of himself. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Internationally, Ulf Otsuki is best known by far for playing the bearded Seatopian agent in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). But, on television, Ulf's tokusatsu credits span about 50 years. He appears in episodes 38 and 39 of The Space Giants (1966-67) as George Yamaguchi, episode 20 of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot (1967-68) as BF Syndicate scientist B, episode 6 of Fight! Mighty Jack (1968) as the Q boss, episodes 20 and 21 of Warrior of Love Rainbowman (1972-73) as the villainous L-Banda, episode 15 of Zone Fighter (1973) as a Garoga agent, episode 11 of Kamen Rider Stronger (1975) as King Kazaal, as a regular on Daitetsujin 17 (1977) as Professor Hessler, episode 1 of Kamen Rider Super-1 (1980-81) as Professor Henry, and most recently episodes 13, 17, and 47 of Kamen Rider Drive (2014-15) as Harley Hendrickson. He also appears as a doctor in Juzo Itami's Tampopo (1985) and as Nostradamus in The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus (1994). As extensive as these credits are, there are many others.

The statue for which Ulf Otsuki modeled as a young adult. Photo by Brett Homenick.

When Ulf was 19 years old (and a member of the acting troupe Haiyuza), he was selected as the model for this statue by Japanese artist Yasuo Sugawara, an old friend of Ulf's mother. The statue is currently at the entrance of the Nara Prefectural Museum of Art, and one can view the statue without buying a ticket to enter the museum.

Ulf Otsuki at a Toho tokusatsu exhibit in August 2012.

I got to know Ulf very well over the years. I wrote a letter to him sometime around early 2008, and shortly thereafter he called me from Japan. We'd been in touch since then. When I moved to Japan in 2011, he was one of the first people I met during my initial visit to Tokyo. He was incredibly energetic and full of life. In early 2018, however, he suffered a massive stroke, and I was only able to see him once after that. I'll always fondly remember going to Ulf's house and watching classic movies with him.

Yours truly clowning around with Ulf at the Toho tokusatsu exhibit in August 2012.

Before we'd ever met, I conducted this interview with Ulf, but always wanted to do something more in-depth. He lived a fascinating life and truly did things his way. I'll miss him dearly. 

Rest in peace, Ulf.