"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog


Monday, February 1, 2016

WHIMSICAL RENDERINGS OF ULTRAMAN'S KAIJU
A Selection of Kim Hu's Pop Ultra Kaiju Studies

気まぐれなイラストで『ウルトラマン』の怪獣たち。


Bemler, the Space Monster from Episode 1.


Baltan, the Space Ninja from Episode 2.


Redking, the Skull Monster from Episode 8.


Dodongo, the Mummy Monster from Episode 12.


Hidrah, the Highland Dragon from Episode 20.


Jamila, the Mutant Monster from Episode 22.


Woo, the Legendary Monster from Episode 30.

These wonderful pieces, only a fraction of his killer kaiju gallery, were created by Kim Hu — a self-described "Artist. Illustrator. Toy designer. Toycollector" — as part of his Inktober 2015 a-kaiju-a-day challenge. The Tokyo resident, and his fantastic kaiju illustrations, can be found on Instagram or follow him on Facebook.

Friday, January 22, 2016

RAGONE HOSTS "SUPER SENTAI SPECTACULAR"!
New Marathon Streaming Live on January 23rd

DISCOVER THE ORIGIN OF THE "POWER RANGERS"!


Dynamic poster for Shout! Facotry TV's Super Sentai Spectacular!

For our third marathon with Shout! Factory TV, I'll be hosting a three-hour live streaming event featuring the original Japanese episodes of DINOSAUR TASK FORCE: ZYURANGER (1992) which will be blasting out onto digital screens across the web on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 9:00 am Pacific/Noon Eastern at Shout Factory TV!

This new marathon will feature seven episodes of the original series that inspired the "Power Rangers" franchise, presented in Japanese with English subtitles. After fans have watched these first episodes during the "Super Sentai Spectacular", all 50 episodes of ZYURANGER will be available on Shout! Factory TV for free streaming.

As a returning host, I'll discuss the history of the franchise, setting the context as a long-time fan. My first experience with Super Sentai was watching the first show that started it all: SECRET TASK FORCE: GORANGER in 1976 through 1977 on KMUV-31 (Sacramento), KEMO-20 (San Francisco) and KIKU-13 (Honolulu). So, I'm an OF (Original Fan).

As with our previous marathons, this will also be interactive: Join in on the conversation with myself and other Super Sentai fans, using the hashtag #Zyuranger while you watch on Twitter, Facebook, and on Pluto TV (Channel 515), or get the Pluto TV app for tablet and TV devices (Roku, Amazon Fire, Fire TV Stick, Android, Chromecast, and Apple Airplay), mobile (iOS, Android and Amazon), and on the web.

So, what's DINOSAUR TASK FORCE: ZYURANGER about?

When the sinister witch Bandora is released from her prison after 170 million years, five ancient warriors are woken from suspended animation to once again defend Earth from Bandora and her evil horde. Armed with enchanted weapons and giant mechanical deities known as the Guardian Beasts, it’s up to these warriors to defeat Bandora and her monsters before she can exact revenge upon the Earth for the death of her son.

Schedule of Episodes:*
09:05 am – The Birth
09:30 am – The Revival
10:00 am – Fight in the Land of Despair
10:25 am – Reawaken, Legendary Weapons
10:55 am – Scary Riddles
11:25 am – Arise, Daizyuzin
11:50 am – I Can See! I Can See!

*Times listed are Pacific time, approximate and subject to change.

Grab your Dino Bucklers, fire up the Guardian Beasts, and join us for the "Super Sentai Spectacular" on Saturday, January 23rd!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

THE MAN WHO CONTINUES TO DRAW RAY BEAMS
The First Book on Optical Animator Sadao Iizuka

光線を描き続けてきた男 飯塚定雄


"Treasured Photobook" follow-up featuring animator Sadao Iizuka.

In the monstrous footsteps of Yonsensha Publishing's previous heavily-illustrated "Treasured Photobooks" on important figures of the golden age of Japanese visual effects films at Toho Studios (monster suit actor Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima, visual effects director, Koichi Kawakita, and monster-maker Keizo Murase), comes this biography, focusing on legendary optical animator Sadao Iizuka.

In 1954, while still in high school, IIzuka was studying art under Seiji Tojo at the Nikaikai Institute of Art, when he started a part time job at Toho Studios. Chief of the Special Technical Department, Eiji Tsuburaya, put Iizuka to work in his Art Department, where the young artist worked on GODZILLA (1954), GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955), MADAME WHITESNAKE (1956), and RODAN (1956), among others.

Noticing Iizuka's artistic abilities, Tsuburaya transferred him to the optical animation department in 1957, with his first job being the ray-filled orgy, THE MYSTERIANS. His talents were seen in such films as VARAN (1958), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959), SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (1960), MOTHRA (1961), THE LAST WAR (1961), GORATH (1962), KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA, DOGORA, and GHIDRAH (all in 1964), and even Daiei's GAMERA (1965).

Iizuka was not only responsible for the rays emitted by the Maser Cannons in THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966), but he also went on to creating the optical animation for ULTRA Q and ULTRAMAN, the same year, not to mention ULTRA SEVEN (1967). And after leaving Toho, he formed Den Film Effects with his other student, Minoru Nakano, and they worked on MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978), the latter Heisei Godzilla films, and the recent, ULTRAMAN X (2015).

From the book's obi (paper band): "Godzilla's radioactive heat ray, King Ghidorah's gravity rays, Ultraman's Spacium Beam and Shredding Halo! These cool ray beam techniques are absolutely essential to Japanese visual effects! For more than 60 years, Sadao Iizuka continues to emit beams of light as one of the true heroes of the visual effects industry!"

This all-new, illustrated book, clocking in at a whopping 303 pages, was compiled by Iizuka and his protégé Hajime Matsumoto (Zeiram, Heisei Godzilla series, et. al.), featuring an interview (in Japanese) between master and disciple, and includes a foreword by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi (currently making the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence). Together, they illustrate the "Iizuka Method", and his indelible impact on anime and visual effects creators.

If you've ever been fascinated by the myriad of beam weapons and deadly rays in the Japanese fantasy film — this publication comes highly recommended, despite the language barrier for non-Japanese readers, with is wealth of incredible llustrations and production stills. This one now sits proudly among the best books in my own reference library.

Click on the link below to order from Amazon Japan:
SADAO IIZUKA: THE MAN WHO CONTINUES TO DRAW RAY BEAMS
Format: 8.2 x 5.9 inches
ISBN-10: 4800308518
ISBN-13: 978-4800308511
Release Date: January 8, 2016
MSRP: ¥2916 ($24.86 USD)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

TOHO'S NEW "GODZILLA RESURGENCE" EXPOSED
Private Photos Taken at Toho Studios Leaked!

シン•ゴジラが露出!禁断の写真は発行されました!


A face only a mother Godzilla could love... Clearasil, anyone?

Earlier today, a number of low-res images began appearing on Twitter and Facebook featuring shots taken of the "monster suit" from Toho's upcoming production of GODZILLA RESURGENCE, directed by Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (Attack on Titan), bowing this coming July 29th in Japan.


Heavy radiation damage from H-Bombs or the Fukushima disaster?

This will probably be the most divisive Godzilla design since Patrick Tatapolous' deviation for the 1998 Roland Emmerich debacle. Anno's conceit recalls the initial concept for Godzilla by Ishiro Honda, as a literal victim of the H-Bomb — his scales resembling keloid scars — and may not be his only form or mutation.


Might this nightmarish Big G be regenerating or is he decomposing?

Design for this new, nightmarish Godzilla was executed by Mahiro Maeda (Mad Max: Fury Road) and then realized as a maquette by Takayuki Takeya (Attack on Titan). Godzilla will be manifest using several different techniques, puppets, animatronics, and enhanced by digital effects, with the main "suit" operated by three people.

Now, I've been privy to other images and information, but promised to not make them public, and will adhere to that promise. But, now that the cat is out of the bag in regards to today's images (which aren't those I was allowed to see a while back), and there's no way to stop the further proliferation of them to the public.

Personally, I wish that the person who leaked them hadn't, so we could've had authorized, high-res images when the official news eventually came. In that regard, please stay tuned to this blog for further information and news on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops!

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
December 11, 2015: Meet the"Godzilla Resurgence" Composer
December 10, 2015: The "Godzilla Resurgence" English Poster!
December 9, 2015: Japanese Press Reveals Shin Godzilla's Size
December 9, 2015: Scoop! Teaser for "Godzilla Resurgence"
December 9, 2015: Here's Your Big G in "Godzilla Resurgence"!
November 12, 2015: "Shin Godzilla" Promo Reel Screens at AFM!"
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

Friday, January 1, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARUO NAKAJIMA!
The Original Godzilla: January 1, 1929

お誕生日おめでとう ゴジラさん、中島春雄!


Nakajima prepares to play Godzilla in this publicity shot, 1954.

Read more about the incredible Mr. Godzilla, here!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KUMI MIZUNO!
Toho's Siren of the 1960s: January 1, 1937

お誕生日おめでとう、水野久美様


Continuity photo taken during the production of MATANGO (1963).

For my biography on Ms. Mizuno, please click here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

MEET THE "GODZILLA RESURGENCE" COMPOSER
The Prolific Shiro Sagisu Picks Up the Baton!

鷺巣詩郎は『シン・ゴジラ』の音楽を作曲されました!


Recent portrait of GODZILLA RESURGENCE composer, Shiro Sagisu.

The selection of well-known arranger, composer, and music producer, Shiro Sagisu, to create the soundtrack for Toho's upcoming GODZILLA RESURGENCE, written and directed by mavericks Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, may well be the least shocking aspect of this highly-debated film. Because Sagisu has a deep connection with the Big G, which goes back before he was born.


Director Shinji Higuchi (left) with Composer Shiro Sagisu. ©Gainax

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Godzilla fans outside of Japan are either completely unfamiliar with Sagisu, or only know the composer from his scores for Anno's on-going NEON GENESIS EVANGELION series and movies or Shinji Higuchi's recent pair of live action ATTACK ON TITAN films. But, Sagisu's life has been filled with kaiju — more than anyone may have ever guessed.


Sagisu's first single from his debut album, "Eyes", released in 1978.

His father was a close friend and comrade of the master of Japanese visual effects, Eiji Tsuburaya: Tomio Sagisu (who also created manga under the pen-name Shoji Ushio). A member of Tsuburaya's effects crew, the elder Sagisu worked on numerous films at Toho (largely uncredited), until he founded his own company in the early 1960s, known as P-Productions.


"Summer-colored Diary" (1983) arranged by Sagisu for Chiemi Hori.

The elder Sagisu's company produced visual effects and animation for a number of movie studios and television networks, and pioneered their own productions, such as AMBASSADOR MAGMA (shown in the US as THE SPACE GIANTS), SPECTREMAN, LION MARU, DENJIN ZABOGA, to name a few. Today, in addition to being a composer, the young Sagisu is the President of his father's company.


Sagisu has arranged for contemporary artists such as May'n (2011).

Born on August 8, 1957, Sagisu cut his teeth working for his father's company, and was soon put in charge of directing, writing, music and sound effects for live "monster shows" to promote the P-Productions brands in the mid-1970s. He also collaborated with his father in the production of a pilot film, which was never picked up, for a proposed sci-fi film/series entitled SILVER JAGUAR in 1980.


Shiro Sagisu's Original Soundtrack for MEGAZONE 23 (1985).

The young Sagisu broke out on his own varied and wide-ranging music career in 1978, including his own instrumental releases, composing and arranging songs for some of the more successful Idol Singers, starting in the early 1980s, as well as more popular vocalists, with nearly a hundred successful collaborations over the years. Sagisu has also racked up scores of soundtracks for films and television shows.


First Soundtrack to NADIA, THE SECRET OF THE BLUE WATER (1990).

Some of his more notable television themes and scores include GOOD LAUGHS, MY FRIEND (1982-14), SAKICHI, THE FALLING STAR (1984), KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD (1986-87), NADIA: THE SECRET OF THE BLUE WATER (1990-91), MACROSS II: LOVERS AGAIN (1992), NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (1995-96), HIS AND HER CIRCUMSTANCES (1998), BLEACH (2004-12), and MAGI: THE LABYRINTH OF MAGIC (2012-14).


Third volume in the Original Soundtrack series for BLEACH (2006).

Sagisu's feature credits are Noboru Ishiguro's MEGAZONE 23 (1985-89), Kunihiko Yuyama's LEDA: FANTASTIC ADVENTURE OF YOHKO (1985), Yoshiyuki Tomino's GARZEY'S WING (1996), Kim Sung-su's MUSA (2001), Kazuaki Kiriya's CASSHERN (2004), Jo-Dong Oh's THE RESTLESS (2006), Noriyuki Abe's BLEACH (2006-10), and Toshiyuki Kubooka's BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012-14).


Poster for the South Korean fantasy film, THE RESTLESS (2006).

With more than 37 years of experience with mountains of credits to his name — and as a fan of his earlier soundtracks (such as NADIA, EVA and CASSHERN), it will be interesting to see what Sagisu will bring to the kaiju eiga canon with his music for GODZILLA RESURGENCE, which opens nationwide in Japan on July 29, 2016.

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
December 10, 2015: The "Godzilla Resurgence" English Poster!
December 9, 2015: Japanese Press Reveals Shin Godzilla's Size
December 9, 2015: Scoop! Teaser for "Godzilla Resurgence"
December 9, 2015: Here's Your Big G in "Godzilla Resurgence"!
November 12, 2015: "Shin Godzilla" Promo Reel Screens at AFM!"
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

THE "GODZILLA RESURGENCE" ENGLISH POSTER!
Toho Updates Website With Trailer & Posters

英語版『シン・ゴジラ』ポスター!


English Poster unveiled on Toho's official Shin Godzilla website.

Toho's official SHIN GODZILLA website, dedicated to the film, being marketed to countries outside of Japan as GODZILLA RESURGENCE, just a day after the reveal of the teaser poster and trailer to the press, was updated with those, as well as the international English-language poster, featuring the names of the main cast and the three principal filmmakers bringing the monster back to cinematic life.

No surprise are writer-director Hideaki Anno and co-director/visual effects director Shinji Higuchi, as well as associate director/visual effects creative director Katsuro Onoue. A veteran of Toei Studios, Onoue has a lengthy list of credits, including work with Higuchi (Attack On Titan) and Anno (Evangelion 3.0), as well as visual effects under Kenji Suzuki on GODZILLA 2000 (1999).

Stay tuned for more information on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops!

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
December 9, 2015: "Japanese Press Reveals Shin Godzilla's Size"
December 9, 2015: "Scoop! Teaser for "Godzilla Resurgence"
December 9, 2015: Here's Your Big G in "Godzilla Resurgence"!
November 12, 2015: "Shin Godzilla" Promo Reel Screens at AFM!"
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

JAPANESE PRESS REVEALS SHIN GODZILLA'S SIZE
This Will Be the Biggest Big G of Them All!

中日スポーツは「シン・ゴジラ」のサイズを発表!


Today, Chunichi Sports revealed the new Big G's measurements!

Today has been a flurry of reports on the upcoming film GODZILLA RESURGENCE, including the reveal of the monster, the first teaser trailer, and now, according to Chunichi Sports, the specs on the new Big G's size! According to the headline of this article, the new King of the Monsters will stand (?) a whopping 118.5 meters tall — that's just under 389 feet! In comparison, the Legendary Pictures iteration stands 108.2 meters (355 feet). Not much, but it's still Godzilla.

Special thanks to Takao Yoshiba for the image and stay tuned to this blog for more information on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops!

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
December 9, 2015: "Scoop! Teaser for "Godzilla Resurgence"
December 9, 2015: Here's Your Big G in "Godzilla Resurgence"!
November 12, 2015: "Shin Godzilla" Promo Reel Screens at AFM!"
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

SCOOP! TEASER FOR "GODZILLA RESURGENCE"
Japan's Cinema Today Posts First Teaser Trailer!

庵野秀明×樋口真嗣のゴジラ!『シン・ゴジラ』特報


Now, here's the "announcement" trailer for GODZILLA RESURGENCE!

While this very first teaser doesn't reveal much, except some B-Roll panic scenes, a new credit attached to the film comes up during on of the intertitles: Katsuro Onoue as "Associate Director/Visual Effects Creative Director."

A veteran of Toei Studio's Visual Effects Laboratory, Onoue has a lengthy list of credits, including work with Higuchi (Attack On Titan) and Anno (Evangelion 3.0), as well as working with Kenji Suzuki on GODZILLA 2000 (1999).

Stay tuned for more information on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops!

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
December 9, 2015: Here's Your Big G in "Godzilla Resurgence"!
November 12, 2015: "Shin Godzilla" Promo Reel Screens at AFM!"
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

HERE'S YOUR BIG G IN "GODZILLA RESURGENCE"
Image Reveals the "Greatest, Worst Nightmare"!

ニッポン対ゴジラ !


Public unveiling of the new Big G with tagline "Japan vs. Godzilla".

On December 9th (Japan Time), the first image of the titular monster for the highly anticipated collaboration from directors Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (Attack On Titan) to be featured in GODZILLA RESURGENCE (Shin Gojira) with the Japanese release date of July 29, 2016.

While this image has not appeared on any of Toho's official sites, this "nightmare" version of the Big G was revealed to celebrated American Godzilla artists, Bob Eggleton (Famous Monsters) and Matt Frank (IDW's Godzilla), as well as myself, just recently.

Additionally, journalist Norman England, who worked on a number of the films as a set photographer, also confirmed it's authenticity: "It's the real deal, all right. I  was able to handle the suit when I was working on a project over at Toho a little over a month ago."

In my mind, it does look like the work of noted designers, Mahiro Maeda and Takayuki Takeya, whom I profiled as the rumored artist and sculptor, back on August 1st — imparted to me from sources close to the production (see link, below).

What do I think of this design? First off, it looks like one of the early maquettes sculpted by Teizo Toshimitsu for the 1954 film. Ultimately, I will reserve any final judgements until there's more to work with. Although, I have to say that a departure from the norm — but still retaining the basic Godzilla elements — is welcome.

Now, with visual effects rendering and compositing underway, it's only a matter of time before more images are forthcoming from the new film. Stay tuned to this blog for more details as they develop!

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
November 12, 2015: "Shin Godzilla" Promo Reel Screens at AFM!"
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"SHIN GODZILLA" PROMO REEL SCREENS AT AFM!
Official English Title: "GODZILLA RESURGENCE"

東宝はサンタモニカ市で『シン・ゴジラ』PVを示しています!


Toho's AFM program booklet ad for the promo reel screening!

With no prior announcement, Toho revealed that they were screening a promo reel for their latest Big G production, SHIN GODZILLA — now formally announced as GODZILLA RESURGENCE for overseas markets — at this year's annual American Film Market, which just took place in Santa Monica, California on November 4th-11th. Over the years, Toho has presented a number of their Godzilla films during the event, but this is the first time they are previewing a film — for potential sales — a half year before completion.

The American Film Market, also known as AFM, is an 8-day industry event, founded in 1981, attracting over 8,000 filmmakers, studios, producers, writers, distributors, etc. from more than 70 countries, and has become one of the international marketplaces for the film industry — utilizing every theater in Santa Monica — is more than a film festival, with the impetus on production and distribution deals. AFM is not open to the public.

While I've managed to network to get into some of Toho's screenings AFM in the past — this one came right out of nowhere and without warning — with that being said, I do have friends attending, and at least one of them is attending the screening, so please stay tuned for details...

See previous reports on SHIN GODZILLA:
September 22, 2015: Toho Announces Three Principal Cast Members!
September 6, 2015: Shooting Begins on Toho's "Godzilla 2016"!
August 1, 2015: Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?
April 1, 2015: The Directors of "Godzilla 2016" Speak!
March 31, 2015: "Evangelion" Creator Helms New "Godzilla"!
December 7, 2014: The "Japanese Godzilla" Will Rise Again!

(Image courtesy of Glenn Abbott)