"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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

FROM FIRST "GODZILLA" TO NEW "STAR WARS"
Akira Takarada Goes to a Galaxy Far, Far Away!

旧ゴジラ俳優・宝田明、アニメ『スター・ウォーズ』に声の出演


The star of the original GODZILLA performing "Bendu" for REBELS.

Toho's top leading man of the '60s, Akira Takarada, has joined the Japanese voice cast of STAR WARS: REBELS! Starting with the third season, premiering on December 11th in Japan, Mr. Takarada can be heard intoning the character of "Bendu". In the English-language version, the imposing creature is played by Tom Baker of "Doctor Who" fame.


Tom Baker, best known as the Fourth Doctor, in a recent photo.

After recording, Mr. Takarada said, "Bendu is like a merciful father, so I felt like a good guy, but I had to remind myself to speak to Kanan [Jarrus] right from the bottom of my heart. After recording for eight hours, I felt as though it was a tough job, especially after such a long absence [from voice acting]. But it was very fulfilling." Previously, Mr. Takarada played "Jafar" for the Japanese-language version of Disney's "Aladdin", released in 1993.


Bendu of Atollon, a being who exists at the center of the Force.

Ecstatic was the reaction from REBELS producer-director [and diehard Godzilla fan] Dave Filoni, "Godzilla and Star Wars are both beloved in fans' hearts around the world, and are both similar in that respect. I was really happy to hear that Mr. Takarada was cast, then got to see him recording, which was amazing. The character was magnificently expressed by his voice, and I'm extremely satisfied with the results." Filoni suggested Takarada for the role in the first place.

Dave_Filoni
Yes, REBELS producer-director Dave Filoni loves him some Godzilla.

STAR WARS: REBELS is broadcast nationwide in Japan on Disney XD, over Cable and Satellite Cable, Saturdays at 1:00 pm, with an encore broadcast on Sundays at 1:00 pm.

Original article published November 30, 2016 on Oricon Style (Japan Time), translated by August Ragone.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"SHIN GODZILLA" WILL ROAR ACROSS NOR CAL!
Listing of Cinemark/Century Cinemas Bookings

シン•ゴジラはカリフォルニア北部に侵入!

Shin Godzilla Square
Coming to a Bay Area theater near you... And even in Milpitas!

UPDATED 09/09/16: Not long after Funimation Films announced they had acquired the North American theatrical rights to Hideaki Anno's SHIN GODZILLA (currently breaking box-office records in Japan), US fans couldn't sit still and wait for Funimation to list theaters near them booking the film (now available), and took it upon themselves to do their own searches and compile their own lists.

Of course, while cross-referncing online agencies, such as Fandango and Movietickets, yielded results, these all still fell far short of the purported 440 venues Funimation announced in their press release issued last week on September 2nd. The anticipation generated for this film has also urged employees of many theaters to tip others off to bookings and dates.

SHIN GODZILLA is being booked through a number of theater chains, including Cinemark (incorporating the Century Cinemas). And while Cinemark's listing is insane, with multiple dates in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, Ohio, etc., I've decided to only list the Northern California theaters from Chico to Monterey. NOTE: This is only Cinemark's bookings and is not to be taken as complete. Newly-added theaters appear in red.

Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD
845 Market Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94103

Roxie Theater (October 16th-18th)
3117 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Century 20 Daly City and XD
1901 Junipero Serra Blvd.
Daly City, CA 94015

Century Tanforan 20
1188 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066

Century 12 San Mateo
320 East 2nd Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94401

Redwood Downtown 20 and XD
825 Middlefield Road
Redwood City, CA 94063

Century Cinema 16 Mountain View
1500 North Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043

Century 20 Oakridge and XD
925 Blossom Hill Road
San Jose, CA 95123

Santana Row 6
3088 Olsen Drive
San Jose, CA 95128

Century 14 Vallejo
109 Plaza Drive
Vallejo, CA 94591

Century Laguna 16
9349 Big Horn Blvd.
Elk Grove, CA 95758

Shattuck Cinemas (Landmark Theaters)
2230 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704

Century at Hayward
1069 B Street
Hayward, CA 94541

Walnut Creek 14 and XD
1201 Locust Street
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Regal Hacienda Crossings Stadium 20 & Imax 
5000 Dublin Blvd.
Dublin, CA 94568

Century 16 Downtown Pleasant Hill and XD
125 Crescent Drive
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Fairfield Stadium 16 Cinemas
1549 Gateway Blvd.
Fairfield, CA 94533

Century at Pacific Commons and XD
43917 Pacific Commons Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538

Century 20 Great Mall and XD
1010 Great Mall Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035

Century Napa Valley and XD
195 Gasser Drive
Napa, CA 94559

Cinemark Movies 14
3300 N. Naglee Road
Tracy, CA 95376

Cinemark 14 and XD
801 East Ave., Suite 2
Chico, CA 95926

Cinemark Yuba City
1410 Whyler Road
Yuba City, CA 95993

Tower Theater
2508 Land Park Drive
Sacramento, CA 95818

Century 16 Greenback Lane and XD
6233 Garfield Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95841

Century 14 Northridge Mall
350 Northridge Shopping Center
Salinas, CA 93906

Monterey 13
1700 Del Monte Center
Monterey, CA 93940

Santikos Casablanca Theatre 16
11210 Alamo Rance Parkway
San Antonio, CA 78253

Please contact your local theater for dates and times. Do not panic if you do not see your local theater or town represented in this list, more bookings, check out Funimation's official search engine at their official website. Stay tuned to this blog for more updates and information as they happen!

Thanks to Thomas Ng for the heads up!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

TOHO GEARS UP FIRST "GODZILLA" ANIME MOVIE
From the Makers of "Gargantia" & "Sidonia"

アニメ映画『ゴジラ』化決定!脚本は虚淵玄氏、2017年公開


Teaser art for the upcoming animated feature with title logo.

After recently registering the domain godzilla-anime.com, Toho has just announced its upcoming animated feature, simply titled (in English, no less), GODZILLA. With the current box office success of Hideaki Anno's SHIN GODZILLA ("Godzilla Resurgence"), many fans were speculating a follow-up live action feature, but Toho Animation is preparing this animated feature for theatrical release next year.

Conceived and written by author Gen Urobuchi, known for his dark and nihilistic stories, whose growing credits include PSYCHO-PASS (2012), GARGANTIA (2013), KAMEN RIDER GAIM (2014), as well as the currently-running THUNDERBOLT FANTASY, while Tokyo-based Daytime Emmy Award-winning Polygon Pictures (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) is animating this first-ever feature-length Godzilla anime adventure.

GODZILLA is to be directed by veterans Kobun Shizuno, who helmed the last five years of DETECTIVE CONAN feature films, and the series KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA (2014), and CG director Hiroyuki Seshita, who cut his teeth on Square Ennix's FINAL FANTASY movies, helmed the recent AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN (2016) series and feature, as well as the upcoming theatrical adaptation of BLAME! (2017).

The preview art features a futuristic aerospace craft and armored travelers standing on a precipice overlooking a primordial forrest... Could this be a time travel story or set on another world? Stay tuned to The Good, The Bad, and Godzilla for more information as this story develops!

Monday, August 1, 2016

"SHIN GODZILLA" FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRAILER
Encore Films' Bi-lingual Southeast Asia Promo

庵野秀明の『シン•ゴジラ』はシンガポールと台湾で8月に上陸。


Singapore release poster for Anno's SHIN GODZILLA (2016).

Yesterday, the first international trailer for SHIN GODZILLA, formerly promoted as GODZILLA RESURGENCE, was uploaded to Southeast Asia distributor, Encore FilmsYouTube Channel. Founded in 2003, and the top distributor for Japanese productions, Encore Films has released the DEATH NOTE trilogy (breaking records in Singapore), and is the exclusive SEA distributor of Studio Ghibli's animated features. They are also distributing titles into Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.


Encore Films' bi-lingual teaser for SHIN GODZILLA (2016).

Encore's Singapore exhibition of Hideaki Anno's controversial entry in the long-running monster movie series is in conjunction with Golden Village, a luxury multiplex chain based in Singapore, a 50/50 joint venture between Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Cinemas and Australia's Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, established in 1992. Anno's SHIN GODZILLA opens in Singapore on August 25th, but will have its Taiwan opening under the Catchplay banner on August 12th.



Catchplay's Taiwanese trailer for Anno's SHIN GODZILLA (2016).

Stay tuned to this blog for further news on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops! Check out the official website (Japanese only).

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
July 22, 2016: "Shin Godzilla" Coming to the Americas
July 20, 2016: "Godzilla Resurgence" to Hit 100 Countries
July 18, 2016: New Theatrical Trailer for "Shin Godzilla"
April 28, 2016: "Shin Godzilla" Stationary Maquette No. 1
April 16, 2016: Bandai's Quartet of "Shin Godzilla" Sofubi
April 14, 2016: Behold! First "Shin Godzilla" Retail Figure
April 13, 2016: Toho's Upcoming "Shin Godzilla" Revealed
January 3, 2016: Toho's New "Godzilla Resurgence" Exposed
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!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

RAGONE HOSTS "ULTRAMAN" 50TH ANNIVERSARY
A 12-Episode Marathon Streaming on July 31st!

「ウルトラマン50周年記念マラソン」ストリーミングイベント!


Shout! Factory TV’s ad for this upcoming 50th marathon event.

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of ULTRAMAN this Sunday! On July 31st at Noon Pacific, I'll be hosting "The Ultraman 50th Anniversary Marathon" on Shout Factory TV. I've hand-picked 12 of my favorite episodes for this live, streaming tribute for my favorite teleseries of all time. In addition to an informative intro on the series, at the top of each episode, I'll share anecdotes, factoids, on the specific stories, and a whole lot more!

This only happens once every 50 years, so be sure to watch all the Ultra action on Shout Factory TV 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 via your Desktops or Laptops, Macs and PCs. And don't forget to join us in the Ultra Twitter convo with the hashtag #Ultraman — SHUWATCH!

Schedule of Episodes*
12:00 pm – Ultraman 101 with host August Ragone 
12:15 pm – Episode 01: "Ultra Operation No. 1"
12:45 pm – Episode 03: "Science Patrol, Move Out!"
01:10 pm – Episode 07: "The Blue Stone of Villarge"
01:40 pm – Episode 15: "Terror of the Cosmic Rays"
02:10 pm – Episode 16: "Science Patrol Into Space" 
02:40 pm – Episode 17: "Passport to Infinity" 
03:10 pm – Episode 25: "Cyphon, the Mysterious Comet" 
03:40 pm – Episode 27: "Monster Majesty"
04:00 pm – Episode 28: "Human Specimens 5 & 6"
04:30 pm – Episode 33: "The Forbidden Words"
05:00 pm – Episode 36: "Arashi, Don’t Shoot!" 
05:30 pm – Episode 39: "Farewell, Ultraman!"

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

"SHIN GODZILLA" IS COMING TO THE AMERICAS!
Plus Listing of Other Countries Getting Stomped

さて、『シン•ゴジラ』をアメリカに来ています!


Funimation's tweet from Comic-Con International, yesterday.

After much speculation on who and when Toho's upcoming GODZILLA RESURGENCE would come to America, it was announced on Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego that the distribution rights were acquired by Dallas-based Funimation Entertainment. Instead of just North American rights (US and Canada), the agreement includes North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. They noted the film will begin NA screenings before 2017.

Officially, Funimation noted that the Hideaki Anno's monster movie will be distributed under the title SHIN GODZILLA, dropping Toho's overseas sales title, GODZILLA RESURGENCE. Now, as is customary in current distribution deals, the 31st Big G film will be theatrically distributed by Funimation Films, with the agreement also including home entertainment, video on demand and broadcast rights for all of the Americas. These will follow the initial theatrical releases.

In a press release issued today, Gen Fukunaga, the CEO and President of Funimation said, "Funimation is extremely pleased to be working with Toho to bring SHIN GODZILLA to audiences across the Americas." While not specified at this early juncture, it's unknown whether these screenings will be English Subtitled or English Dubbed.

Following up on my earlier story on Toho's press conference, in which SHIN GODZILLA was sold to 100 countries and territories, daily Nikkan Sports, published a map of the localities in question, and listing all of the countries the film has been sold to, so far. Then, I compiled a list of these countries and territories, but have excluded those already announced in the Funimation Films deal, since it would be redundant and self-evident. I've broken them up by region:

EUROPE: Ireland, Scotland, England, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Belgium.

AFRICA: Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, Sudan, Egypt, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

MIDDLE EAST: Israel, Beirut, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

ASIA: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hainan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor, New Guinea, The Philipines, and South Korea.

OCEANIA: Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Please keep in mind that this list is not "final" by any means, as more countries and territories are likely to follow, such as France and Italy. Stay tuned to this blog for further news on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops! Check out the official website (Japanese only).

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
July 20, 2016: "Godzilla Resurgence" to Hit 100 Countries
July 18, 2016: New Theatrical Trailer for "Shin Godzilla"
April 28, 2016: "Shin Godzilla" Stationary Maquette No. 1
April 16, 2016: Bandai's Quartet of "Shin Godzilla" Sofubi
April 14, 2016: Behold! First "Shin Godzilla" Retail Figure
April 13, 2016: Toho's Upcoming "Shin Godzilla" Revealed
January 3, 2016: Toho's New "Godzilla Resurgence" Exposed
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!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"GODZILLA RESURGENCE" TO HIT 100 COUNTRIES
Toho's Greatest Global Distribution of All Time

シン・ゴジラ、史上最大規模100の国と地域で上映


Anno and the cast at the press conference. Photo: Sports Hoichi

With Hideaki Anno's GODZILLA RESURGENCE less than ten days from release, Toho held a new press conference on the film earlier today in Tokyo. On stage were Director Anno, producer Akihiro Yamauchi, and the film's three leads, Hiromi Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, and Satomi Ishihara. RESURGENCE has been sold to 100 territories across the globe as of July 19th, with more pending. Conversely, 12 years ago, GODZILLA FINAL WARS was sold to 67 territories, worldwide.

Toho announced at the press conference that the film will open in Taiwan on August 12, the Philippines on August 24, Hong Kong and Macao on August 25, and Thailand on September 8th. Toho said that after 12 years since the last production, this new Japanese-made Godzilla is likely to cause a whirlwind overseas, as RESURGENCE is released throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Yes, inside sources say a NA release may be announced shortly.

No further dates or territories were announced, but stay tuned to this blog for further news on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops! Check out the official website (Japanese only): shin-godzilla.jp

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
July 18, 2016: New Theatrical Trailer for "Shin Godzilla"
April 28, 2016: "Shin Godzilla" Stationary Maquette No. 1
April 16, 2016: Bandai's Quartet of "Shin Godzilla" Sofubi
April 14, 2016: Behold! First "Shin Godzilla" Retail Figure
April 13, 2016: Toho's Upcoming "Shin Godzilla" Revealed
January 3, 2016: Toho's New "Godzilla Resurgence" Exposed
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!

Monday, July 18, 2016

NEW THEATRICAL TRAILER FOR "SHIN GODZILLA"
2nd Theatrical Trailer Teases Purple Death Ray!

新しい『シン・ゴジラ』予告2が上陸!


From the new, impressive trailer for GODZILLA RESURGENCE.

This past weekend, Toho released the first round of TV Spots for Hideaki Anno's upcoming feature film, GODZILLA RESURGENCE (Shin Gojira), which was also uploaded online. Then, on July 18th at 3:00 PM (Japan Time), the studio's YouTube account, Toho Movie Channel, posted the second and final, full-length theatrical trailer for the movie opening July 29th.


Three 15 Second TV Spots for GODZILLA RESURGENCE.

This new trailer features mostly all-new shots, scenes of destruction, some impressive visuals, and a completely new track of Shiro Sagisu's score, different from all of the previous trailers. Strictly for hardcore G-Nerds, the trailer — at the very end — reveals the Big G's signature radioactive death breath power-up, which looks a princely purple... So, what are you waiting for? Watch it, now:


2nd Full-length theatrical trailer for GODZILLA RESURGENCE.

Stay tuned to this blog for further news on GODZILLA RESURGENCE as it develops! Check out the official website (Japanese only): shin-godzilla.jp

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
April 28, 2016: "Shin Godzilla" Stationary Maquette No. 1
April 16, 2016: Bandai's Quartet of "Shin Godzilla" Sofubi
April 14, 2016: Behold! First "Shin Godzilla" Retail Figure
April 13, 2016: Toho's Upcoming "Shin Godzilla" Revealed
January 3, 2016: Toho's New "Godzilla Resurgence" Exposed
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!

Monday, July 11, 2016

REST IN PEACE: YUMI ITO OF "THE PEANUTS"
APRIL 1, 1941 - MAY 18, 2016

ザ•ピーナッツの伊藤ユミさん死去


Yumi (right) and Emi from the Weekly Yomiuri, September 9, 1972.

The sad news was just released that the former singer has now been reunited with her twin sister Emi, who passed away four years ago. Japanese media traditionally respects the privacy of the families of celebrities when it comes to their passing, so the media withheld this from the public until the family agreed to make a formal statement, and was issued by a representative of Watanabe Productions, their former management company.


One of their first magazine covers, Mainichi Graphic (June 28, 1959).

Yumi Ito (born Tsukiko Ito) was the melodic vocalist of The Peanuts, while Emi, held down the harmonies. When they started out, the sisters sang the melodies together, until they signed with Watanabe Productions. Even though they were technically identical, the twins could be readily told apart as Emi had distinctive, trademark moles by her eyes. During their early career, Yumi would have false moles applied, so they would appear more identical.


Their debut 45 Single, "Kawaii Hana", released April 1959.

From the years 1959 through 1975, they were known as the world-famous pop duo, "The Peanuts". Discovered as "The Ito Sisters" in a Nagoya restaurant, they released their first hit single, "Kawaii Hana" (Pretty Flower) in April 1959, a lyrical version of Sidney Bechet's "Petite Fleur". Between that July and December, they appeared in five films for as many studios, debuting in THE WONDERFUL AGE OF 19 for Shochiku and BASTARDS IN A CAGE for Toho.


The original Single for "The Daughters of Infant", issued in 1961.

While they are perhaps best known in the States for Toho's spectacle, MOTHRA (1961), by the time Ishiro Honda's film went into production, The Peanuts were already veterans of seventeen feature films, two weekly television variety shows, and a weekly radio show. They would reprise their role as the "Little Beauties" for MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA and THE GREATEST BATTLE ON EARTH, both released in 1964. Further appearances of the "Little Beauties" employed pale substitutes.


First issue of "The Song of Mothra"/"The Daughters of Infant", 1978.

While the song, "The Daughters of Infant", was the first Single release in conjunction with MOTHRA, back in late 1961, it wasn't the original recording from the movie. The Single was arranged and conducted by Hiroshi Miyagawa, their constant collaborator, who went on to world fame for his music to the Space Battleship Yamato franchise. Both of the songs from the film, by Yuji Koseki, weren't issued on any release until 1978 — three years after The Peanuts retired.


With the cast of "Rawhide" (Brinegar, Fleming, and Eastwood), 1962.

The Peanuts were my first introduction to Japanese pop music, which was only reinforced by my Aunt Camille, who gifted me a big stack of colored wax of early '60s J-Pop, bought while she and her husband were stationed in Japan. She saw my obsession with Japan and made it grow with these 45 Singles. But, The Peanuts are magic, their vocal harmonies during the final curtain in MOTHRA, still raises goosebumps on me to this day. Now, I can't believe they're gone.


Yumi (left) and Emi in Daiei's musical LEAPING LADY DAIMYO, 1961.

After retiring from singing in 1975, Yumi turned her career towards another passion: fashion design. And while the women whose voices sang, beautiful, wondrous melodies and harmonies, have left us to be joined together in the next world, those of us left behind still hold now the incredible gift of their lovely voices recorded for all and our posterity to come. Yumi Ito was 75 years old.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"THE BIRTH OF ULTRAMAN": JULY 10, 1966
The Episode of ULTRAMAN You Never Saw!

お祝いウルトラマン前夜祭『ウルトラマン誕生』とは


The completed final draft script for the half-hour preview special.

Before the scheduled premiere of ULTRAMAN on July 17, 1966, the TBS network proposed to bump up the broadcast date of the first episode ("Ultra Operation: No. 1") a week early, since the rival Fuji Television network were debuting their own color kaiju series on July 4th: AMBASSADOR MAGMA (which would beat Tsuburaya Productions’ show to the airwaves by nearly two weeks).

Eiji Tsuburaya told TBS that there would be no way to get the first episode on-air by the 10th, since the episodes were being shot out of sequential order and ULTRA Q was set to air its final episode on July 10th. Unfortunately, since it featured nary a monster, TBS already decided to pull the final episode of ULTRA Q, "Open Up!" (eventually broadcast in rerun on December 14, 1967).

So, at the beginning of June, TBS began considering options to cover the gap and give the Tsuburaya Productions the time needed to finish the premiere episode of ULTRAMAN. Then, after meetings between the network, Tsuburaya, and the sponsor, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, it was decided to produce a live, nationwide relay broadcast on July 10th and introduce Ultraman to the Japanese public.

Tentatively titled the "Ultraman Eve Festival", TBS Producer Takashi Kakoi, director Akio Jissoji (of "Modern Leaders"-fame), and writer Yuzo Higuchi (who was in charge of production on Ultraman from the TBS side), were appointed to supervise this live television special. The producers chose Tokyo’s Suginami Public Hall to host this television event.

Through a number of brainstorming sessions, Kinjo completed a preliminary teleplay, in which the three characters from ULTRA Q would appear on stage to bid their farewells to the audience. They planned to have actor Koji Ishizaka (Ultra Q's narrator) and popular singer Judy Ong appear as hosts, with the vocal group, The Bony Jacks, as the chorus singers for the special.

Tetsuo Kinjo wrote a revised second draft from the first, entitled "Ultraman: A Children’s Jamboree". Finally, after a third draft, dropping most of the early ideas (due to scheduling conflicts), the script was completed with the final title, "The Birth of Ultraman: An Ultraman Premiere Celebration". This new version, however, was more akin to a strange, high school production.

"Doctor Monster" devises a machine to bring back the monsters from ULTRA Q. kaiju are shuttled back and forth, then revolt, and joined by creatures appearing in ULTRAMAN. Anarchy ensues and Doctor Monster calls in the Science Investigation Agency. Even Eiji Tsuburaya was on hand, sitting in the audience like everyone else, before making his on-stage appearance with the cast of the new show.

While this was something of a mess, it served its purpose. The first episode of ULTRAMAN was delivered to TBS on July 13th, only four days before the initial broadcast, so it can be said that the decision to produce "The Birth of Ultraman" was a success, promoting the start of the series and introducing the characters of ULTRAMAN to the Japanese public, and striking back at Fuji Television.

ULTRAMAN's premiere the following Sunday, was a colossal success, and 50 years later, Ultraman kith and kin are still going strong as Japan’s foremost superhero — here's to another 50 years!

Now, watch the entire kinescope-captured special (no subtitles):


(By the way, Fuji Television's Ambassador Magma was later exported and broadcast in the US as The Space Giants.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EIJI TSUBURAYA!
JULY 10, 1901 - JANUARY 25, 1970

お誕生日おめでとう、円谷英二様!


Eiji Tsuburaya, the Father of Ultraman was born 115 years ago!

The "Father of Japanese Special Visual Effects" was born on July 10, 1901 as Eiichi Tsumuraya in Sukagawa, Fukushima (according to the family register). As with his life, even his date of birth is steeped in legend — official sources have often listed that Eiji Tsuburaya was born on July 7th — a date of fortune in the tradition of Tanabata (meaning "Seven Evenings"), a Japanese star festival derived from the celebration of ancestors, know as Obon. Celebrated on July 7th or August 7th, Tanabata commemorates the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair).

Tanabata originated from the Chinese Festival to Plead for Skills (Oi Xi), which came to Japan in the Heian Period (795-1192), and spread to the public during the Edo Period (1603-1867), where it was then combined with Obon traditions. From the Edo Period, girls wished for better sewing and craftsmanship skills, while boys wished for better calligraphy skills, by writing wishes on strips of tanzaku paper, which were hung on bamboo trees. This tradition is still practiced today.

A Japanese claiming they were born on the Tanabata, was akin to an American saying they were born on Independence Day. So, even if Eiji Tsuburaya was not born on July 7th, the myth of being born on the Tanabata certainly was apt, because Tsuburaya would become famous for his multiple artistic and practical skills, which he had in spades — and eventually, the name Tsuburaya would become world-renown with the production of GODZILLA (1954).

For more on the Old Man, order your copy of "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" (Chronicle Books), today!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

TAMASHII LAB'S SCIENCE PATROL "SUPERGUN"!
Screen-Accurate Replica from Ultraman, 1966

Tamashii Labの「科学特捜隊光線銃 スーパーガン」も初お披露目!


First reveal teased by Bandai Collectors' Twitter account on July 8th.

Tamashii Nations, part of Bandai's Collectors Division, which has had great success with such adult-aimed products in the Tamashii Nations line, has launched a new division, announced at this very weekend's "Ultraman Day in the Suginami Public Hall" (where the "Ultraman is Born" premiere pre-show was held a half-century ago), under the moniker: Tamashii Lab.


Tamashii Lab's unveiling of the upcoming Science Patrol Supergun!

The first project out of their docket was unveiled at the "Ultraman Day" event, the trusty sidearm of the Science Investigation Agency, the "Supergun"! In the photos taken by fans attending the event, and Bandai Collector's Twitter account, this screen-accurate edition of the Supergun will come with two attachments seen in the series: Anti-Gravity Shell and the Balloon Marker.


Tamashii Lab's replica of the Supergun with special attachments.

With a number of garage kits and cottage industry outfits producing screen-accurate versions of the Supergun over the last few years (most out of resin, fiberglass, polystone, and even metal), and with various attachments, Tamashii Lab's over-the-counter product will most likely be the definitive (and perhaps cheaper) version. Although they'd better make the rest of the attachments, too.


Tamashii Lab's Special Attachments for their pending Supergun.

According to the freshman Tamashii Lab's website, "Based on years of advanced modeling techniques that Collectors Division has acquired, Bandai also adds its know-how to develop "most wanted items" from live action productions, exhaustively researched down to the most minute detail.


Original metal Supergun prop with all of the paint details worn off.

"And each and every time, the concepts will also change. Sometimes using the latest technology, and sometimes employing traditional methods. We aim to make products that will prove more surprising than the real thing."


Previous polystone version issued by Stealth Tanaka and A-Toys.

As of this writing, the release date for Tamashii Lab's Supergun was announced for December 2016, with the manufacturer's suggested retail price set at ¥12960 ($122 USD). This new diecast Supergun will feature sound effects of the ray emitter, as well as the cries of 40 monsters from the show, and various sound effects activated by the two PVC attachments. I'd say this is a hands-down winner!


Demo video featuring actor Susumu Kurobe who played Hayata!

Friday, July 8, 2016

CRUNCHYROLL HAS PREMIERED "ULTRAMAN ORB"
50th Anniversary Ultra Series Is Now Streaming!

新シリーズ『ウルトラマンオーブ』が日本と米国に放送スタート!


Here's the main English image art for the all-new ULTRAMAN ORB.

Crunchyroll, the mighty anime streaming service, which announced its aim to expand into more live action titles (or tokusatsu, the term for special effects productions), has already unleashed a plethora of Ultraman upon the US, Europe, and Latin America over the last two years. And on July 8th at 7:00 pm PDT, will begin simulcasting the latest series, ULTRAMAN ORB, in a tandem with the series' premiere on Japanese television for the 50th Anniversary of the franchise.


Orb's Spacium-Zephyrion form combines Ultraman & Ultraman Tiga.

Bowing on July 9th in Japan, ULTRAMAN ORB, produced by Tsuburaya Productions and broadcast on TV Tokyo, will be the first of the recent "Ultra Series" to not produced under the "Ultraman Retsuden" banner. Returning is director Kiyotaka Taguchi (Ultraman X), who promised in an Uchusen magazine interview, that the new series would return the franchise's roots and the themes of traveling a noble path, while still being a fun story. ORB is slated to run 25 episodes.


The Hurricane-Slash form combines Ultraman Jack & Ultraman Zero.

Once upon a time, the Earth was saved from total destruction when Ultraman and Ultraman Tiga sealed away a horde of demonic beasts. Since childhood, Naomi Yumeno, has sensed these terrible monsters, and as a young woman launches the SSP investigation site. When she is threatened by one of the kaiju, and is saved by Gai Kurenai, who is in reality the warrior known as Ultraman Orb! But, a mysterious, evil figure is lurking in the shadows to challenge Orb...


The Burn-Mite form combines Ultraman Taro & Ultraman Mebius.

Be sure start watching ULTRAMAN ORB tonight on Crunchyroll at 7:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time, and then join them each and every week for this special simulcast presentation of the latest in the Ultraman franchise — available worldwide (excluding Asia) — same Ultra Time, same Ultra Channel!

Check out the official Ultraman Orb wesbite (Japanese only), here.