"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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I'll Give You the Greatest Worst Nightmare!"


These men are planning to destroy Japan next summer. Again.

Yesterday, when Toho released their announcement to the press that Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi were teaming together to co-direct the next domestic Godzilla film to be produced in Japan, jaws could be heard dropping across the Pacific. Yes, the man who pushed the state of miniature visual effects to the next level, and the man who revolutionized storytelling in anime, were to be bringing the Big G back home — in tandem with Legendary's trilogy directed by Gareth Edwards.

I don't think anyone on this side of the Pacific, after more that two decades of whatever Toho threw at fans, realize the gravity of this paring. Visually, they may have a better idea once the first of Higuchi's pair of live action ATTACK ON TITAN films hit Japanese screens this summer. As for Anno, who is also penning the screenplay, all you have to do is look at his body of work to see there's a big change coming. A very big change. Something that we might never thought we'd see.

As the press release related, the film will be shooting this fall and will be released "Summer 2016." More information has been gleaned from the Extras Casting Call that has already gone out from the CineBazar casting agency, which has opened applications for potential extras needed between September and November. This indicates the film's Principal Photography will be completed before December, giving Higuchi and Anno several months to shoot and render the visual effects.

Personally, while I've always looked towards the new productions with a sense of cautious optimism, notably, the Gareth Edwards film, I'm very excited for the potential of this new incarnation, especially as we get closer to production time this fall. Until then, perhaps we can get a sense of what these two hardcore fans of the Showa Godzilla (1954-1975) have in mind, from their two written statements issued by Toho:


December 2012. After the production of EVANGELION: 3.0 YOU CAN (NOT) REDO, I was broken. A so-called depression set in. It was the comeuppance for six years that drained my soul. 2013 came and went. That was a year in which negative memories rumbled back, over and over. While I could represent myself, it became impossible for me to even physically go near the studio, even once, because of the burden of the next film [EVAGELION 4]. Early 2014. I was finally able to return to the studio. Then, I gradually got back into working, because of that year of self-rehabilitation.

So, it’s 2015. After 20 years after the premiere of the old EVA; and you've been waiting more than two years since you last bought your tickets, so I’m working towards realizing the completion of the new EVANGELION theatrical features (why am I promoting it, already?). To those who follow me, and all the anime fans, it’s only through your continued support that gives me the motivation to move forward, again, towards the finale. Sincerely, I thank you.

And, now, at the same time, I’m also starting work putting together a visual effects fantasy film. This all started at the end of January, 2013. A representative from Toho contacted me directly, saying, “We’d like to direct a new Godzilla film.” At the time, I was still recovering from EVA 3.0, and right on the spot, flatly refused the offer, “It’s impossible. Even to begin work on the next EVA is impossible.” 

Eventually, it was Toho’s sincerity and the enthusiasm of my ally, Director Shinji Higuchi, and I decided to take the job as Director that March. My prayer is that this will not be just a repeat of science fiction visuals of the past, and the wish we put into the Tokusatsu Museum Exhibit, was to embody the idea of giving back to the creators and artists who came before us, which was our intention and our responsibility. And when that epiphany occurred to me, my resolution was to undertake this task.

Now, one does because they can, not because they cannot. I made my decision because this is a new, once-in-a-lifetime chance. This is not EVA. This is not an original creation of my own, and is something I’ve never done before — this is why I decided to do it.

That May, I began my work with pen to paper. And I decided on how I was going to depict the principal subject. And in the following month, June, I submitted my G-Project Memos and Story Proposals to Toho, and then began working on the Plot Outline, etc. 

Godzilla exists in a world of science fiction, not only of dreams and hopes, but he's a caricature of reality, a satire, a mirror image. Recently, Japan has also been careless in the way it has attempted to depict him. In all honesty, Japanese production budgets and schedules are so tight, compared to the world’s capitol [Hollywood], not to mention the constraints imposed on filmmakers in terms of content. Frankly, I’m not sure how far outside the lines we can go.

However, movies have pride, even trifling little films; therefore, just as in the case of the new EVAs, I’m going in full force. When I think about what I’ve accomplished, the twists and turns befitting a screenplay, everything has led to this point. I write this with the hope that the reader might understand at least to some degree that no matter what a creator writes, it’s just an excuse, but I’m under pressure to make a visual effects fantasy film representative of modern Japan, with the full awareness of our current situation, and will be subjected to intentions both good and bad.

Finally, to all those of you who have given me support, to all the fans who’ve purchased tickets to my films, to everyone who has given me the will to continue with my works, I’m eternally grateful. Thank you.


The thought of this resurrection has my chest pounding. Almost three decades have passed since I snuck into this film industry, and had no idea what would transpire before me, because I was so idealistic. The difference between my first, carefree world of amateur filmmaking, compared to the reality of the ups and downs of the industry, I feel as though I’ve been a hero running for 30 years. But, at last, the time has come! 

I’ve come to see those reckless heroes of my high school and college days hit mid-life. It all seems like a dream, but now I must come back to reality. There’s no more room for idle talk. “What you really want to do, what you really need to do, what you should never do, what you may not be able to do,” are the thoughts that’ve fought in my head, and held me back.

It’s a veritable championship over one’s own mind. What now, then? Playtime is over. Nevertheless, with my best friend standing alongside me, we will triumph over the pressure that would otherwise make me run far away. I was born in this country which gave life to this great divinity [Godzilla], which destined me to work in visual effects, up until this very moment. I give unending thanks to Fate for this opportunity; so next year, I’ll give you the greatest worst nightmare.

Stay tuned to this blog for more news and updates on production of "Godzilla 2016"!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi Revive the King!

2016年新作『ゴジラ』脚本・総監督 庵野秀明&監督 樋口真嗣 !

First promotional icon for upcoming film to be released next year!

The news only broke a short time ago in Japan as I begin to type (2:00 PDT), but according to the regarded film site, Oricon, not only has the author of the screenplay for Toho's upcoming, yet untitled, domestic Godzilla movie been announced (of which I first reported outside of Japan, here), but that the film boasts two directors; one credited as the "Supervising Director" and "Screenwriter," while the other has the "Director" and "Visual Effects Director" credits.

The new Godzilla will start shooting this fall and is slated for release in Japan next summer. Both of these exceptional filmmakers are life-long friends, and are very well-known outside of Japan, mostly for their work with the Gainax animation house on such hit anime series as NADIA, SECRET OF THE BLUE WATER (1990) and NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (1995), but they are also no strangers to the world of Tokusatsu (visual effects films): Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi.

Perhaps you don't realize what this means. It is momentous.

Higuchi at Tokusatsu Exhibit conference in 2012. Photo: C/Net Japan

Director Higuchi (b. 1965), who posted photos of an empty Toho Studios conference room this past weekend, is no stranger to the realm of the giant monster movie, supervising and directing the visual effects for highly-lauded "Gamera Trilogy" of the 1990s. His revolutionary vision of miniature effects stunned audiences and turned the industry upon its head. Higuchi has helmed such films as THE SINKING OF JAPAN (2006) and upcoming two-parter ATTACK ON TITAN (2015).

And before you ask, Higuchi's association with the Big G goes back to his serving as an effects assistant on RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984). But, since he was swept up with Gainax, drawing storyboards for Hiroyuki Yamaga's WINGS OF HONNEAMISE (1987) and then NADIA, it wasn't until 1995 that he returned to visual effects, and another six years before he supervised a sequence for GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001). This time, he's getting his own Godzilla.

Anno at Tokusatsu Exhibit conference in 2012. Photo: C/Net Japan

Coming into the field as a hardcore fan of Eiji Tsuburaya's visual effects films, Director Anno (b. 1960), was one of many Tokusatsu Maniacs who was captivated by the Anime Boom of the '70s and '80s, being a hardcore fanatic of the seminal Space Battleship Yamato franchise, he channeled most of his energies into that field, creating the singular anime series of the last 20 years. And now, Hideaki Anno is making a Godzilla film. Let that sink in.

On Toho's official Godzilla website, the directors were asked to give a message to fans concerning this latest resurrection, some of which details Anno's conflict in having to delay proceeding on the next (and final) EVANGELION film in order to take up the Big G's reigns, while Higuchi expressed his passionate "Love of Godzilla." But, while both men are determined in their solidarity, what is their state on mind going into this production with so much at stake?

Read the messages by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Highuchi, here!

50th Anniversary Brings All-New Adventures


Preview art for the third anime series based on the famous manga.

The late mangaka Shotaro Ishimori's team of cybernetic warriors will return this year in an all-new animated series this year, with director Jun Kawagoe at the helm, to celebrate the heroes' 50th Anniversary. "Cyborg 009" first appeared in the pages of Shonen King magazine in 1964, which Ishimori never finished, but was completed by his son, Joe Onodera, and Ishimori Productions stable artists Masato Hayase and Sugar Sato, as "God's War" in 2014.

Recent DVD reissue of the original 1968 Toei Animation series.

There have been three anime series based on the characters (1968, 1979 and 2001; the latter having its own three-apart adaptation of the conclusion, "God's War," which was then-unfinished), as well as four theatrical films in 1966, 1967, 1980, and 2012 (Kenji Kamiyama's CG animated 009 RE: CYBORG was a failure of sorts, while Ghost In the Shell's Mamoru Oshii directed a 3D short for Panasonic in 2010). This new adaptation, reportedly, is aiming to develop the further adventures of the Cyborg 009 team.

DVD art for the popular 1979 series produced with Nippon Sunrise.

Transcending decades, fans have passed the torch from generation to generation, as new adaptations have found followers who've fallen in love with Ishimori's bionic avengers, so the chances for success with a new series, as opposed to a reboot feature, are far greater. The staff will have to meet this challenge by staying faithful to the origins of the characters and the dilemmas that have made "Cyborg 009" the classic that is has remained for half a century.

Jun Kawagoe's 2001 series was broadcast on the Cartoon Network.

This challenge is being met by the return of veteran Jun Kawagoe (Mazin Kaiser SKL), who directed the critical and ratings hit, CYBORG 009: THE CYBORG SOLDIER, which ran for 51 episodes from 2001-02. Kawagoe's first go was a very faithful to the original, keeping in spirit with the original look and storyline, but updating it for a modern generation, without selling out the spirit and soul of what Ishimori created in 1964.

Kenji Kamiyama's reimagined CG feature 009 RE: CYBORG (2012).

After 13 years, Kawagoe has come back to give new life to Ishimori's creation — the first to be produced after the completion of "God's War." So, naturally, fans may have concerns about every aspect of story, the designs, and how they are integrated into this completely fresh production. While no date has been set, fans are awaiting the return of their favorite cyborg guardians, which they expect to be true and faithful to the original, although steering them towards a new horizon.

Can lightning strike a second time with Kawagoe? We'll find out later this year...

Cyborg 009 Official Site

Saturday, March 28, 2015

VOTE FOR ME: IT'S RONDO AWARDS TIME AGAIN! Well, You Don't Have to. But, It Would Be Nice.

第13回「ロンド • ハットン クラシックホラー賞」始まる!

Yes, it's true. Love means never having to say you're ugly.

Actually, I'm a bit late to the party on announcing this, since the Nominees and Ballot went online at the beginning of the month; I've been nominated in two categories Best Article (Category 13: ‘The Complete Godzilla Chronology,1954-2014,’ in "Famous Monsters" #274) and Best Blog (Category 19: "The Good, the Bad and the Godzilla"). I'm flattered once again for my blog, which has received it's 6th nomination, and garnering five welcomed "Honorable Mentions"; especially, when it's just something I goof with (maybe I should take it more seriously?).

With that being said, I can't assume full credit in the nomination for ‘The Complete Godzilla Chronology,1954-2004' (FM #274), because while I did put together and edit each of the annual "Kaiju Issues," I didn't author every entry in this issue (and all the writers are credited on their respective pieces). If, for some bizarre, irrational reason we win this particular award, it will be accepted in the name of all the writers who worked hard on this issue and the champion FM staff: David Chapple, David Eric Dopko, Bob Eggleton, Matt Frank, Mark Jaramillo, David McRobie, Jason Varney, Ed Blair, Holly Interlandi, Dominie Lee, Jennifer Gerritsen, and publisher Philip Kim.

As an optimist, I don't think we're going to win because of the ton of amazing colleagues on the ballot, but its heartwarming and humbling to be nominated amongst so many deserving writers, artists, thinkers, producers and creative folk — truly a monstrous list of superstars. I just like Japanese movies and television shows featuring monsters, mutants and superheroes, and to have whatever work I out there, mostly done for the love of it (because you're not going to make much money from it), well, it's a nice to be recognized for it — and just that simple recognition by your peers is reward enough.

But, if you're family, a friend, or a fan (or fiend) who'd like to see me win a second statue from The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (never did I believe that I'd win even one), please follow the link below for the official rules and ballot. Now, if you're unfamiliar with any of the categories, you are not required to vote for everyone and everything. You can simply vote in the categories you wish you, and copy and paste them into an e-mail and send them off to the address included in the instructions — and thank you!

(Tim Lucas already has enough of them, already.)

All ballots must be submitted by Midnight, Sunday, April 17, 2015! Fill out your ballot, here:


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Brew, Snacks, and Kaiju Come to Osaka in April

『元祖怪獣酒場』が大阪なんばに登場 ! 2015年4月下旬オープン!

Kanegon welcomes you to Osaka's new "Original Monster Bar" in April!

On the eve of this month's closing of the "Kaiju Sakaba" (The Monster Bar) in Kawasaki, near Tokyo (with a cryptic notice on their website concerning the spot undergoing "relocation"), Tsuburaya Productions has just announced a new pub: "Genso Kaiju Sakaba" (The Original Monster Bar) will be opening in Osaka this coming April for a daily immersive experience of drinks, eats, and monsters, monsters, monsters. If you've been lucky enough to visit the Kawasaki pub, you know how fun it will be!

Crazy Kanegon is cooing koo-koos to open shop this spring in Osaka!

While the Kawasaki pub was "managed" by the nefarious insectoid alien, Baltan (seen in Ultraman), the Osaka spin-off will be similarly "managed" by the whimsical and weird money-munching mutant, Kanegon (from Ultra Q)! The new website (Japanese only) has put a call out soliciting for part time staff at this new location near Nanba Station, Osaka. So, next time you're in town, be sure to stop in and hang out with the Ultra Monsters!

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Tributes Unveiled in Tsuburaya's Hometown

来たぞ我らのウルトラマン像 ! 故・円谷監督の出身地に ...

Mayor Hashimoto with 4-year old Ultra Fan, Kosuke Mastsuzaki.

On March 1st in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, four fiberglass statues were unveiled of Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Gomora and Eleking along the street where the house that Eiji Tsuburaya (1901-1970) was born in once stood — honoring the birthplace of the legendary film-maker who created the traditional Japanese cinema art form of Tokusatsu (special visual effects). Mayor Katsuya Hashimoto, hopes these installations will help attract more tourism to Sukagawa.

Statue of one of the most popular of all the Ultra heroes, Ultra Seven!

Interviewed by the Asashi Shimbun's Naoyuki Takahashi, Hashimoto said, "When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, we had citizens who helped many others rather than dwelling on their own personal disasters. I want our city to be full of such citizens who embody the Ultraman spirit."

The mighty Gomora roars in the night along peaceful Taimatsu-dori!

This is not the first cooperative between the city of Sukagawa and Tsuburaya Productions, the company that Eiji built. As part of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the company, in May of 2013, Sukagawa was officially christened as the Sister City to the "Land of Light," the homeworld of Ultraman in the Nebula — becoming the virtual town of "Sukagawa M78: Town of Light." With the city hall accepting resident registration applications (!).

The eerie Eleking howls during the Full Moon over Sukagawa City!

This was followed by the unveiling of an actual stone, art deco-style edifice of Ultraman in front of Sukagawa's main train station on July 7, 2013 (the fictitious birthdate of Eiji Tsuburaya, which falls on the Tanabata), commemorating the "Sister City" status. Of course, there have been Ultraman statues and a permanent exhibit at Fukushima Airport since 2008, including displays with some original props from the pantheon of the long-running series.

The beautiful art deco-style Ultraman sculpture at Sukagawa Station!

On December 28, 2014, the first of six "Ultraman Mailboxes" was christened at Fukushima Airport, a co-op between Japan Post Co., Ltd., Tsuburaya Productions, and the Fukushima Airport Building Co,, Ltd. Letters and Postcards dropped into these special mailboxes will be postmarked with a special design incorporating Ultraman with Peonies, the official flower of Sukagawa. The others are stationed at various locations around Sukagawa.

Sukagawa's Postmaster drops in the first piece of mail into the box!

Needless to say, Sukagawa has other, and older tributes to the "Old Man" and his children from the Ultra Series — and while there's always the Soshigaya "Ultraman Town" walk in Tokyo, one really just needs to take a side trip to the birthplace of Eiji Tsuburaya to get closer to where it all began.

Only in Japan... (and that's why its awesome.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Could Toei Possess Original Korean Elements?

韓国の怪獣映画『大怪獣ヨンガリ』東映の外海配給ポスター !

Toei's international sales poster for the South Korean monster movie.

Conceived during Japan's "Monster Boom" of the mid-'60s, the South Korean production of YONGGARY, THE GIANT MONSTER (promoted as "The Great Monster Yongary") was made by the Seoul-based Keukdong Entertainment Company and directed by Kim Ki-duk in 1967, but also employed veterans of Japan's home-grown kaiju eiga, including key members of the effects staff from Daiei Motion Picture Company's Gamera films to helm the miniature effects, as well as Masao Yagi and the staff of Equis Productions to create the monster.

American International Pictures picked up the film and released it directly to Stateside television in 1969 as YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP. While it was readily assumed that YONGARY's worldwide distribution was handled by Keukdong, several sources have listed the involvement of Tokyo-based Toei Company Ltd. in connection with the film. While Toei served as an investor and broker on YONGARY, the foreign sales poster (courtesy of Akira Takiguchi) provides some proof that Toei also handled the international distribution.

All things considered, more research should be taken up to unearth as much as possible on the Japanese involvement in this South Korean imitation of the kaiju eiga, as there may be a chance that some of the film's original language elements (woefully incomplete in the Korean Film Archive) may be sleeping deep within some Tokyo film vault... Or did Toei ship everything to American International? Sure, it's not the legendary "bloodier" Japanese version of Hammer's DRACULA (1958), but doesn't YONGARY deserve some love, too?

Postscript: While the film was issued last July on R2 DVD in Japan, it was the English-dubbed version, licensed by Run Corporation through MGM as "Daikaiju Yongari." MGM contacted Toei in 2002, and were told that they had no extant materials for YONGARY. Unless Toei turned all of their materials over to AIP, perhaps they are elsewhere (such as the National Film Archive), if not discarded...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Discarded Rider of the '70s Revived for Today

幻の仮面ライダー3号が登場 !

New teaser art for the upcoming film introducing Rider No. 3!

Fans all know Kamen Rider V3 is the third cybernetic hero, created by Riders No. 1 & No. 2 in his own series in 1973, but the initial concept was very much different. Originally, KAMEN RIDER (1971-1973) would continue, with the 100th episode introducing a new Rider: No. 3! The character was to be an android conceived by the Double Riders to help combat the latest enemy organization, Ghost Shocker! Rider No. 3 only appearred in pages of the October 1972 issue of Tanoshii Yochien (Shogakukan Publishing) in the manga story, "No. 3 Rider vs. Black Shogun" (illustrated by Norihiko Ishikawa), where the character was created by Black Shogun to defeat the Double Riders.

Former pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada plays the new Black Shogun.

Ultimately, this character was scrapped and KAMEN RIDER V3 was created instead. Now, the discarded hero comes to life in Toei's upcoming feature directed by Takayuki Shibasaki, SUPERHERO WAR GRAND PRIX: KAMEN RIDER NO. 3 (Supahiro Taisen GP: Kamen Rider San-go), opening on March 21, 2015! Noting the broken manacle chains on his wrists, it seems that No. 3 may have the same origin as the '70s manga. While the Kamen Riders have traditionally mounted motorcycles, Rider No. 3 has been granted a car, to tie in with the currently-running series KAMEN RIDER DRIVE (2014) and the "Grand Prix" theme of the film.

Kamen Rider No. 3 production design. Note manacles and chains.

Meanwhile, the design and execution of the costume recalls the re-imagined titular characters featured in the theatrical films KAMEN RIDER: THE FIRST (2005) and KAMEN RIDER: THE NEXT (2007). Any direct tie-in or crossover with the previous pair of stories is unknown at present, but Toei has already produced a number of movies and series in which the "alternate realities" of the Kamen Rider Universes bleed through. Now, Kamen Rider No. 3 comes to life and becomes canon. And in spite of the wildly uneven nature of Toei's seasonal superhero movies, there's no guarantee it will be any better (or worse). Hopefully, if nothing else, the film will be entertaining.

Click to jump to the official website to see the first teaser trailer!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Two-Parter Stomps Into Theaters Next Summer


Just-revealed advance poster art's tagline, "The world is cruel."

Director Shinji Higuchi's highly anticipated live action adaptation of Hajime Isayama's manga and anime series will hit Japanese cinemas nationwide next summer, with not one, but two consecutive feature films bowing in August and September 2015. Today, Toho Company Ltd., which is producing and distributing the film, has revealed the advance movie poster on their official movie website.

Written by Yusuke Watanabe (20th Century Boys) and critic Tomohiro Machiyama (working with Isayama), both films will feature visual effects directed by veteran Katsuro Onoue (Sinking of Japan), and not Director Higuchi, who is supervising the entire project. Earlier this year, Higuchi teased the film with a viral car commercial featuring a tie-in promotion with the franchise, which led people to believe that he was also directing the visual effects.

Toho's PR department also unveiled the tagline, "Its magnitude is... beyond ultra-grade GODZILLA!", capitalizing on the successful Gareth Edwards film adaptation of the Big G, which did impressively at the domestic box office in Japan. And this hyperbole isn't all hype: The film's titular titans tower at 120-meters (390 feet), twice as tall manga and anime counterparts, while Godzilla is 350-feet high.

Not to be confused with the second anime feature to be released June 26, 2015, ATTACK ON TITAN 2: WINGS OF FREEDOM, audiences will have to see how this colossal conflict between these naked gargantua and the last bastion of humanity plays out next year — will the live action films be a monstrous success or a titanic failure? My money is on Director Higuchi.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Man Who Redefined Godzilla for the 1990s
December 5, 1942 - December 5, 2014

訃報 川北紘一特撮監督

UPDATED 12/11: Toho's visual effects director who forged and shaped Godzilla's look for the 1990s, Koichi Kawakita, passed away from liver failure on December 5, 2014, with the family releasing the news today in Japan. Only next of kin are allowed at the funeral (chief mourner is his widow, Shigeko). There will be public a memorial service announced for a later date.

Kawakita graduated Nakano Broadcasting High School in 1960 and began his higher education at Kokusai Junior College. Intensely interested in movies, since seeing THE MYSTERIANS (1957), he began working a part-time position at Toho Studios that same year. Offered a full-time position at Toho, he dropped out of college in 1962.

Although headhunted for an Executive position, Kawakita expressed his desire to become a member of the Visual Effects Department, and was taken under the wing of Eiji Tsuburaya, the head of that division and the father of Tokusatsu (Japanese Visual Effects). Later, that same year, Kawakita became an assistant visual effects cameraman on GORATH (1962).

He was transferred to the flagging optical effects department in 1963, and became engaged in rendering the beams and other optical animation for Tsuburaya's films. In 1965, he assisted in the creation of composites and optical effects for Episode 12 of ULTRA Q, "I Saw a Bird!", which was his first work for a television production.

In 1966, he served as an assistant visual effects cinematographer for GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966). After Tsuburaya's death, he was transferred to Toho's new "Visual Planning Department" in 1971. For GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH, both production units were consolidated into one, and Kawakita served as director Yoshimitsu Banno's 1st Assistant Director and on Optical Effects.

Kawakita served as Chief Assistant Visual Effects Director on all of the 1970s Godzilla films, save for GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972) and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), while he worked on the television series ULTRAMAN ACE (1972), ZONE FIGHTER (1973), and JAPAN SINKS (1974). In 1976, he made his impressive film debut as Visual Effects Director on SAMURAI IN THE SKY.

While Tsuburaya's 1st AD, Teruyoshi Nakano, was the head honcho, Kawakita was placed in charge of developing and directing the monumental miniature and visual effects for SAYONARA JUPITER (1983) and GUNHED (1989), both rivaling some US-produced effects techniques, before changing the way the world saw the Big G with GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989).

Kawakita's re-imagining of the monster, a fiercer, more toothsome creature, which set a standard that sits to this day, remains Toho's de facto design of choice. During the 1990s, as head of Toho's Visual Effects Department, his tenure yielded a number of films, television productions, non-film projects and events before he retired from Toho in 2002.

One of his dreams was to produce a remake of his favorite Toho visual effects film, THE MYSTERIANS, proposed in 1990, which never came to fruition. As a free agent, Kawakita formed the independent Tokusatsu and VFX company, Dream Planet Japan in 2003. His last production was the miniseries GUNBOT: THE ARMORED ROBOT (2014), which began broadcast in November.

Director Kawakita was 72 years old.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Toho to Produce a New "Godzilla" in 2015

元祖「ゴジラ」12年ぶり復活 東宝、2016年公開 !

Monster Missing: Last seen in GODZILLA FINAL WARS, 2004.

SCOOP: It's big and it's terrible, and this incredible news broke just two hours ago in Japan and is spreading like wildfire across the world. And while I didn’t see this one coming, and some may think it could be a hoax, the announcement was published in the Japanese equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, Nikkei, the respected movie news website, Eiga.com, and Toho's official Godzilla website (can't get more official than that) — I've combined elements from several stories and the translations are my own:

Toho Company Ltd. will be producing an all-new Godzilla film to be released in 2016. This will be the first “Domestic Godzilla” in 12 years since GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004). In a press release issued today, Toho announced they’ve launched the “Godzilla Conference” as an organization to discuss and decide a wide range of strategies for promoting the Big G, including, but not limited to motion pictures. The group has also been officially nicknamed, “Godzi-con” (or “Gojikon” in Japanese parlance).

Toho vice president and general manager, Satoshi Senda, announced the launch of Godzi-con. Senda was hired by Toho in 1974, working in the film sales and marketing department, and most recently, was in charge of the foreign sales department. With his fellow board of directors, two younger members of the company, having both worked with visual effects-heavy films, Minami Ichikawa (producer of 13 Assassins) will serve as Production Manager, and Taiji Ueda (producer of Trick: The Movie ~ Last Stage), who will oversee the group as Project Leader, the Big G’s future may be bright, indeed.

"With the success of the Hollywood version of GODZILLA, we decided on a new [domestic] production," said Mr. Ueda in today’s press statement. The new production will be handled by Toho, in-house. "The screenplay is currently in development and we plan to start shooting next summer. We cannot announce cast or staff selections at this time. And we’re still deliberating whether to bring Godzilla to life via CGI or man-in-suit,” said Mr. Ueda. "This resurrection will be the centerpiece for ’16, and this is the force of our words."

"The passionate voices of the fans clamored for a resurrection [of the Japanese Godzilla]. We will bring the monster back to Japan, with the high-quality we've given films like [Takashi Yamazaki's] PARASYTE (Kiseiju, 2014). By bringing together our collective know-how, which we’ve been striving for [over the last 12 years], we mustn't lose to Hollywood," he said with confidence.

The Godzi-con also announced that the Big G will also be looming over Tokyo's Kabukicho district. At the former site of the Shinjuku Koma Theater, demolished in 2009, a 12-meter (39-foot) high "Godzilla Head," made of fiberglass and concrete in his likeness from Takao Okawara’s GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992), will be erected on the 8th floor terrance of the new Shinjuku Toho Building, a 31-floor business and theater complex currently under construction, to be unveiled on April 15th.

The head will weigh 80 tonnes and from the top of its crown to the street, from the 8th-floor terrance will be 52 meters (170-feet, around the height of the first Godzilla from 1954), thus becoming a new landmark in the Shinjuku Ward, visible from Shinjuku-Yasukuni Street. Adjacent to the Shinjuku Toho Building, will be the brand-new Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, opening on April 25th, which will be offering a pair of specially-designed "Godzilla Rooms" for its' guests.

Mr. Ueda noted that these are just the "first steps" in their new promotion of the Big G, so I guess we can revel in the fact that Godzilla's 60th Anniversary isn't over, it's just beginning!

Stay tuned for more news as it breaks… Titanic thanks to master kaiju illustrator par excellence, Yuji Kaida, for tipping me off to the news!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


ああ「宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 星巡る方舟」本編冒頭映像 !

Click over to YouTube to watch this video full screen and in 1080p!

The Shochiku Motion Picture Company has just uploaded the first nine minutes and thirty-three seconds of the highly-anticipated animated feature-length film, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 ~ ARK OF THE STARS, opening nationwide in Japan on December 6th. This all-new adventure takes place between Episodes 24 & 25 of the hit remake of the 1974 space opera, in which the Yamato, returning from Iscandar, encounter a vanguard of Imperial Gatlantis (known in the US as the Comet Empire)! Meanwhile, a rouge force of the Gamilas Empire are pursuing her for revenge... Just watch it, already!

One of the spectacular theatrical images heralding the new film!

For the film, composer Akira Miyagawa has penned an instrumental arrangement of the famous theme song, collaborating with world-renown violinist, Taro Hakase, best known outside of Japan for the Celine Dion's song, "To Love You More" (off the album, "Let's Talk About Love"). On December 3rd & 4th (Japan Time), the full feature was previewed for 4,000 lucky Japanese fans over the Bandai Channel streaming service — three full days before the theatrical premiere — but thankfully, Shochiku has kindly allowed fans outside of Japan the chance to preview this first reel of ARK OF THE STARS, so enjoy! Japanese-language only.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Godzilla 'Toho Champion Matsuri' Perfection"


Spectacular cover for "the" book on the Godzilla films of the '70s!

Finally, the release of a new photo-filled publication, spotlighting the Big G's heroic exploits from 1969-1975, will hit the shelves of Japanese booksellers on November 18th. After months of waiting, the juggernaut imprint, Kadokawa Publishing, has just released the cover and samples from this eagerly-awaited, 176-page tome on the oft glossed-over period of Godzilla's cinematic history.

Sample page of GODZILLA'S REVENGE (Oru Kaiju Daishingeki, 1969).

The "Toho Champion Matsuri" (or festival) were a series of kiddie matinee packages, comprising a feature film and short subjects (episodes of live action and animated teleseries), answering rival Toei's seasonal "Cartoon Festivals." The inaugural program featured Ishiro Honda's MARCH OF THE MONSTERS (released in the US as Godzilla's Revenge and All Monsters Attack) on December 10, 1969.

Sample page of GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (Gojira tai Gaigan, 1972).

The following Champion Festivals included digest versions of the 1960s Godzilla films, with one all-new production per year, geared squarely at children. The exception to this rule was Ishiro Honda's GIANT MONSTERS OF THE SOUTH SEAS (known in the US as Yog, Monster from Space and Space Amoeba), a tribute to the late Eiji Tsuburaya recalling Toho's glory days, released on August 1, 1970.

GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1974).

The new series, depicting the Big G as a decidedly heroic defender of the Earth, began in earnest on July 24, 1971, with Yoshimitsu Banno's trippy GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (released in the US as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster). The next original feature was Jun Fukuda's far more conventional GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (released in the US as Godzilla on Monster Island), on March 12, 1972.

Sections on each of the festivals including promotional materials.

Jun Fukuda's next creature feature, unleashed on March 17, 1973, solidified the Big G's mantle as a kaiju superhero in GODZILLA VS. MEGALO (released in the US as Godzilla vs. Megalon), teaming up in this outlandish, live action cartoon adventure, with an Ultraman-like automaton: Jet Jaguar (or should his name be romanized as "Jet Jaeger"?). Then, our hero faced his bionic double — from space!

Over seven interviews with cast members including Tomoko Ai.

Arguably one of the best rivals created during this period was the centerpiece of Toho's 20th Anniversary Big G actioner, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (released in the US as Godzilla vs. Bionic Monster and Godzilla vs. Cosmic Monster) on March 21, 1974. While a more straight-faced production than MEGALO, the space titanium terror would return for a rematch staged by Ishiro Honda.

Special interviews with staff personnel including Teruyoshi Nakano.

Honda's MECHAGODZILLA STRIKES BACK (released in the US as Terror of Godzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla) on March 15, 1975 was a fitting swan song for the flagging series, stymied by stiff television competition, which was deluged in free kaiju programming. Even though Honda's film harkened back to the glory days of the 1960s, it was too little, too late. The Big G went on vacation.

Archival interviews with late staff personnel including Ishiro Honda.

By 1975, the Champion Festivals had gone from seasonal to annual programs which only showcased revivals of the classic films through 1978 (including one Disney line-up featuring Peter Pan in 1976 and a double feature of Latitude Zero and Mothra in 1977), ending with an uncut reissue of Honda's 1957 classic, THE EARTH DEFENSE FORCE (released in the US as The Mysterians) on March 18, 1978.

Detailed overviews of four unmade Champion Festival Godzilla films.

While there have been several in-depth, historical overviews of the Big G's cinematic history, most revere the early, and more favored, films of Honda and Tsuburaya, with cursory coverage of the '70s entries. Now, we've got an entire book devoted to them in minutia; a veritable, "Everything You Wanted to Know About the '70s Godzilla, But Were Afraid to Ask" (well, if you can read Japanese, that is)!

So, if you've seen or own Kadokawa's previous publications of "Heisei Godzilla Perfection" or "Heisei Gamera Perfection", you know how good this one is going to be (jammed with amazing photographs and measuring 11.3"x 8.3"). Fortunately, you don't need to live in Tokyo to get one — pre-order your own copy of "Godzilla 'Toho Champion Matsuri' Perfection" direct from Amazon Japan for only $36.08!

You'll thank me later. You're welcome.

Monday, November 10, 2014

King Records' Limited Edition Soundtrack LPs

伊福部昭生誕100年、ゴジラ誕生60周年記念企画 ! 

The retro jacket for King Records' GODZILLA Original Soundtrack!

For those who were excited by Death Waltz’s limited-edition vinyl LP for the Akira Ifukube original soundtrack for GODZILLA (1954), but lost out on getting a copy, you can now rejoice: Japanese label, King Records is gearing up to issue an analog release of their very own, along with the same for Ifukube’s KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), as the “first complete limited-edition pressings” in Japan, on 180g vinyl LPs, just in time to celebrate both Ifukube’s centennial and the Big G’s 60th anniversary.

1960s Japanese movie poster vibe for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA!

For their first release, GODZILLA (KIJS-90015; 22 tracks, 37 minutes), King Records has gone back to the original 6mm master tapes, and striving for the best-ever sound quality, have employed the latest in mastering technology to match the warmth of the original masters as closely as possible. As for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (KIJS-90016; 33 tracks, 50 minutes), the originals have been mixed down from the unprecedented 4-channel stereophonic masters to 2-channel stereo for the first time. The unique depth of the heavy bass has now been fully and faithfully reproduced for the first time (using the original 35mm film magnetic tapes as a guide).

The 6mm master tapes for GODZILLA with the original track listings!

Past and present CD releases, though forms of processing, including equalizing, frequencies, and other digital restrictions, could not fully represent the information native in the master tapes — therefore, the main impetus of the project was to replicate the original sound as closely as possible, in the name of posterity and for the heritage of Japanese film music. As for the jackets, it was decided to go with a retro-vintage design; GODZILLA sports art that mimics the 1954 theatrical program book, while KING KONG VS. GODZILLA apes the color and feel of the early-to-mid 1960s movie posters. Both LPs will street on December 24, 2014 for ¥3,600 Yen ($32.00 USD).

Please click the above-embedded links to order from Amazon Japan. It's unknown at press time whether there will be further LPs in this series, but if sales are strong, we could see MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA and GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER. To quote Debbie Harry, dreamin' is free...