"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


Thursday, April 28, 2016

"SHIN GODZILLA" STATIONARY MAQUETTE NO. 1!
Model Displayed at Nico-Nico Super Conference

ニコニコ超会議、シン・ゴジラ1号雛型!


Maquette No. 1 on display at the Nico-Nico Conference this weekend.


First model produced for CG animators to render for the film.


This large-scale reference model is incredibly and infinitely detailed.


From this angle, this maquette is quite unmistakably Godzilla.


The maquette in this image also recalls the original 1954 creation.


Both the tail and the dorsal plates are reminiscent of Godzilla '54.

(Photos by Takao Yoshiba, Konfunk)

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

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
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!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

APRIL 27, 1956: "GODZILLA" UNLEASHED IN U.S.
The Big G's American Bow 60 Years Ago Today!

60年後のアメリカ版『ゴジラ』!


The original one-sheet that greeted moviegoers on this date.

"This is Tokyo… a smoldering memorial to the unknown… an unknown which at this very moment still prevails, and could at any time, can lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world."


The State's huge marquee trumpeting the "King of the Monsters"!

Today marks the sixth decade in which moviegoers at Loew's State Theater in New York City first heard that great opening narration by Raymond Burr and GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! was loosed upon an unsuspecting public... But, how did it happen? How did this Japanese-made kaiju creature feature come to our shores on that 27th day of April in 1956?


Richard Kay and Harold Ross' 1953 cheapie wasn't a jewel at all.

In 1955, producers Richard Kay, Harry Rybnick, and Harold Ross of Jewell Enterprises (Untamed Women), purchased the international rights to GODZILLA from Edmund Goldman of Manson Distributing Corporation (later known as Mason International), who discovered it via Toho's then-US attorney, Paul B. Schreibman (who was also in the distribution business with Topaz Films). Okay, my head is spinning... Anyone need a scorecard?


Producer Joseph E. Levine (1905-1987), Getty/Jack Mitchell photo.

With a potential big hit on their hands, they foresaw a problem in moviegoers accepting an all-Asian cast film. Additional investment from distribution maverick Joseph E. Levine (Walk Into Hell), Terry Turner (Should a Girl Marry?), and Ed Barison (The Golden Mistress), for a cut of the action, they decided to produce new scenes, helmed by veteran film editor Terry O. Morse (Fog Island) and written by Al C. Ward (Perry Mason), featuring an American foreign correspondent, recounting the narrative in flashback.


Morse's 1945 debut with former Universal stars Zucco and Atwill!

Kay and Rybnick brought in actor Raymond Burr, featured as the killer in Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (1954), to play the starring role of "Steve Martin" (this was long before public heard of the comedian of the same name), and for just stepping in for insert scenes, Burr turned in a solid and somber performance — reportedly shot in five days. Japanese-American real estate agent and character actor, Frank Iwanaga (The Frogmen), played the part of Burr's interpreter, security officer "Tomo Iwanaga".


The one and only... Raymond William Stacey Burr (1917-1993).

Counter to what some critics have written recently, Morse's footage (shot by Guy Roe) was cleverly inserted into the original — although moviegoers weren't completely fooled. In retrospect, it's obvious that when Burr speaks to Dr. Yamane, it's not actor Takashi Shimura, but a double. In order to accommodate the new footage, the picture was extensively cut, rendering all the characters (save for Dr. Serizawa) less dimensional than in Honda's original.


Turner's 1960 doc-spoiltation symptomatic of his promotional style.  

While much attention was paid to what was going on in a particular scene, not that much attention was given to what was being said, in Japanese (several scenes feature characters speaking out of context). Morse was probably thinking, "Who is ever going to notice?", and at the time, he was right. Dubbing only minimal footage seemed wise, since this was one of the early attempts at this technique used to prepare a foreign film for American audiences.


Lurid fare post-GODZILLA from Rybnick, Kay and Barison, 1958.

The voice dubbing talent was led by the loquacious character actor, James Hong (Big Trouble In Little China), Sammee Tong (Bachelor Father), and an as yet-to-be-identified Chinese-American actress, recording all of their dialogue over three long days, and according to Hong, without the actors ever seeing any of the footage.


You really see nothing in this 1958 Kay-Rybnick monsterless movie.

Despite the seemingly rushed schedule for Morse's inserts (and toning down the original's nuclear theme), they still manage to maintain a gritty, moody, near Film Noir feel, lending this adaptation a life all its own. In fact, Toho was compliant and well aware of the steps taken in making this adaptation — from the changes to the original, as well as approving Ward's English-language screenplay (Schreibman was Toho's LA attorney, after all).


Turner and Thompson's ballyhoo was as big as the monster, itself. (From the April 4, 1956 issue of "Variety"; owned by the author.)

Considering the producers' résumés, it was no small feat Morse had created a miracle, unlike the amateurish butcher jobs that would kill films like GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955) and KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962). The work of Honda, Tsuburaya and Ifukube still shines through in GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (and pretty potent stuff for US audiences in 1956), not diminishing its status as the greatest of the "Monster-on-the-Loose" spectacles of the period.


Newspaper ad for Loew's Poli Palace in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Based on those strengths, the film went on to huge international box-office success — which is why, 60 years after GODZILLA was unleashed in the US — not only has the world never been the same again, we're still talking about both Honda's and the version with that newspaper man who went onto a successful career as a lawyer.

With new films being produced by both Toho and Legendary pictures, Godzilla is still the undisputed King of the Monsters, as he stomps towards his centenary.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

BANDAI'S QUARTET OF "SHIN GODZILLA" SOFUBI
Four Godzilla 2016 Figures? What Does It Mean?

バンダイの「シン•ゴジラ」ソフビで新発売!


Page one of two from Bandai's Sales Sheet for "Shin Godzilla".

Japan's giant juggernaut toy company, Bandai, recently issued their advance sales sheets for upcoming toy releases, with two pages (just making rounds on the internet) featuring their first run of toys — soft vinyl figures — based on the new Big G design appearing in Hideaki Anno's GODZILLA RESURGENCE, hitting Japanese screens on July 29th. And there's some interesting (albeit wafer-thin) info that is provoking some speculation in my kaiju-addled brain.

The top half of the ad page shows a graphic that is a promotion plan leading up to the release of the film — nothing really exciting  there (based on the scant details therein). But, it's the bottom half of the ad page that is the most intriguing — and detail-filled payoff if one can read Japanese (who has two thumbs?). Three vinyl figures are to be issued, but the details of which may harbor a spoiler...

First, the non-spoiler news: Bandai's initial roll-out will be a 16.5 cm (6.5") vinyl figure of Shin Godzilla, labeled as "Godzilla 2016", the official name designation for licensing and merchandizing. Under the "Movie Monster Series" banner,  this tagged figure will come 24 pieces per case, and will retail for ¥2000 ($18.50 USD). Preorders open on April 29th and will hit retailers at the end of July.

Now, here come the possible spoilers: The next pair of "Godzilla 2016" figures not only both share the same line, "(Tentative) Movie Monster Series", as well as size (16.5 cm) and retail price (¥1600/$15 USD), will come 48 to a case, are listed for release on August 1st, and both with the same catalogue designation of "Godzilla 2016", almost, with one slight — but very important — difference between them:

One has been labeled as "Godzilla 2016: Monster A" while the other is labeled "Godzilla 2016: Monster B".  With these points of fact, there comes to mind only three possible answers:

One is that there are two different kaiju appearing in this film facing off with Godzilla, or appear somewhere in the story. At this late juncture, any other kaiju would require its name being registered and labeled in order to be advanced to retailers, unless the names are undergoing trademark registration. This is contrary to statements made by both Toho and the filmmakers, who've explicitly stated this is a "Japan vs. Godzilla" scenario, only.

If two guest mon-stars are not a possibility, are we to believe that there are two separate and individual Big Gs appearing in flashback or flash-forward sequences? Is it possible that there could be two forms of the same King of the Monsters, perhaps regenerating — or degenerating — during the story? Like some kaiju version of "The Incredible Melting Man"?

Or could the Big G going through a regeneration lend credence to the film's English title, "Godzilla Resurgence"? Only time will tell.


Page two of two from Bandai's Sales Sheet for "Shin Godzilla".

Meanwhile, the second page of Bandai's sales sheet reveals reissues of Bandai America's "Bandai Creation" line, under the banner "King of the Monsters Series". The first two, coming this July, will be "Final Godzilla" and "Mechagodzilla" (Kiryu), measuring 28cm (11") and 30cm (11.8"), respectfully. The latest edition to this line will be the new "Godzilla 2016", measuring 28cm (11"), is expected to drop in August. All three will retail for ¥4800 ($44.13 USD) each.

The bottom half of the second page heralds the revival of Bandai's "Movie Monster Series", kicking off at the end of July with "Millennium Godzilla", measuring 16cm (6.4"), listing for ¥1600 ($15 USD), and "Mechagodzilla 2004" (Kiryu), measuring 17cm (6.7"), listing for ¥1800 ($16.55 USD). Bandai's website is also listing a reissue of many of the 16cm vinyl figures in the "Movie Monster Series", to debut in July — which is shaping up to the "Month of Godzilla" this year in Japan.

(Special thanks to Astounding Beyond Belief)

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

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
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!

Friday, April 15, 2016

BEHOLD! FIRST "SHIN GODZILLA" RETAIL FIGURE
Banpresto's Big Sofubi Figure Lottery Prize Toy!

シン・ゴジラ ビッグソフビフィギュア、ニッポン上陸!


Yuji Sakai's sculpt for the first Shin Godzilla figure, revealed!

Banpresto, a subsidiary of the toy juggernaut, Bandai, has revealed the first figurine based on the new version of the Big G appearing in Toho's upcoming release of GODZILLA RESURGENCE, bowing in Japan on July 29th. And while this Big G is somewhat frightening, the retail price is the complete opposite of most Japanese Godzilla figures on the market.

This 13.4" soft vinyl beauty has been meticulously created by Yuji Sakai, the foremost Big G sculptor in the world, and according to the Banpresto press release, will be released in late July, and sold in "bookstores, hobby shops, game centers, movie theaters, etc.".

So, what's the non-monstrous price for this figure? ¥620 (including tax) — that's only $5.70 USD — how could anyone go wrong with this figure at that price? There's one caveat... This is a lottery ticket price — so, while that's an amazing price on one hand, there's no guarantee you'll get one. But, as with many Banpresto products, you will see them flooding the market in no time.

Banpresto's press release also notes these disclaimers: "Release date may differ on a case-by-case basis depending on individual retailers. Will supplies last. Actual product may differ from photograph. Details are subject to change without notice."

This is our first look at the new Big G's lower legs and feet — overall, I like the way this is looking. Of course, I reserve final judgement until after I see GODZILLA RESURGENCE, itself. Crossing fingers, but not holding my breath...

Meanwhile, as part of the on-going promotions for the upcoming film, cross-promoting two big properties under director Hideaki Anno's belt is "Godzilla x Evangelion". As a bonus in the same press release, this image was included, a mock movie poster illustrated by famed Big G artist and designer, Shinji Nishikawa, for "Godzilla vs. Evangelion".


Nishikawa's fake "movie poster" for "Godzilla vs. Evangelion"!

It is not known as of this writing, if Nishikawa's mock poster, featuring the hyperbolic tagline: "Godzilla Invades!", will be sold on the retail market (Banpresto's press release also mentions two different prize posters, but no specific details), but I'm sure it will be in some form. Still, we are finally seeing the first retail products for the upcoming film, and so far, they look... monstrous.

The Banpresto Lottery Prizes are (not all are pictured):

○ A Prize: Shin Godzilla Big Soft Vinyl Figure
○ B Prize: Godzilla Head Magnet
○ C Prize: Silhouette Ruler
○ D Prize: Clear File Set
○ E Prize: Rubber Strap
○ F Prize: Mini Figure Collection
○ Final Prize: Original Poster
○ Double Chance Campaign: Shin Godzilla Big Soft Vinyl Figure

(Special thanks to Andy Perry, Stephan Lapin, and Paul Haberman for their assistance.)

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

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
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!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

TOHO'S UPCOMING "SHIN GODZILLA" REVEALED
New Info & Trailers for GODZILLA RESURGENCE!

これが『シン•ゴジラ』出現!現実 (ニッポン) 対 虚構 (ゴジラ) !!


Anno & Higuchi's "Shin Godzilla" has now been finally revealed!

On Wednesday, April 13th, Toho released the first images and trailer for the highly-anticipated GODZILLA RESURGENCE, helmed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi. Many had pondered whether a set of photos leaked on the 'net several months ago were legitimate (some denying them because they didn't want to accept the countenance of Anno and Higuchi's Godzilla). But, now all that becomes moot. This is our new Big G.


The red-hot heat seething through the fissures in Godzilla's hide.

Full of fire and fury (as seen in the official trailer linked below) our new Godzilla has the appearance of lava, hardened on the surface with cracks exposing a red-hot interior. While this iteration was reported to be brought to life via digital rendering and animatronic puppeteering, Toho is now touting a "full CG" monster. Conversely, the official trailer reveals some traditional miniature photography, and (of course) Anno/Higuchi's renown fetish for military hardware.


Humans can only run for their lives from the terror of Godzilla.

In today's press release, Toho also trumpets GODZILLA RESURGENCE will also boast the inclusion of 328 well-known actors in supporting and cameo appearances, including:

Kengo Kora (The Mourner), Ren Osugi (Hana-bi), Akira Emoto (Shall We Dance?), Kimiko Yo (Departures), Jun Kunimura (Gojoe), Mikako Ichikawa (Rampo Noir), Pierre Taki (Samurai Fiction), Takumi Saito (13 Assassins), Keisuke Koide (Cyborg She), Arata Furuta (Apartment 1303), and ex-AKB48 member Atsuko Maeda (The Complex), just for starters.


"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Anno," the Big G is such a narcissist.

The roles for the three main cast members were also revealed (and their names not quite as ridiculous as earlier mistranslations have fumbled): Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yutaka Takenouchi as Hideki Akasaka, Aide to the Prime Minister, and Satomi Ishihara as Kayoko Ann Patterson, Special Envoy for the President of the United States.


Shot of Godzilla's dorsal plates reveal more detail from the film.

There. No super spies, psychic sisters, or suicidal soldiers seeking solace; seemingly more grounded in the vein of Koji Hashimoto's RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984), as opposed to the outlandish antics of Kensho Yamashita's GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA (1994). With that being said, let's just hope it isn't a colossal bore in terms of human drama, and no sappy romantic subplot, please (yeah, I have enough aggravation).


"On wrongs, swift vengeance awaits." — Alexander Pope

GODZILLA RESURGENCE, produced by Akihiro Yamauchi, will open nationwide in Japan on July 29th and will be presented in these formats: IMAX®, 4DX®, and MX4D® giving moviegoers the ultimate sight, sound, and motion fx experience. The film's new tagline being, "Reality (Japan) vs. Fiction (Godzilla)".


GODZILLA RESURGENCE Teaser Trailer 2: 1080p (30 seconds)


GODZILLA RESURGENCE Advance Trailer: 1080p (90 seconds)

(WARNING: Be cautioned that in regards to the trailers, these are not the final visual effects shots, as the film is still in post-production. Remember that the movie is over three months away from release. Remain calm. Do not panic.)

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

Here are my previous reports on GODZILLA RESURGENCE:
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, February 23, 2016

RONDO HORROR AWARDS SEASON IS HERE AGAIN
And here I am... Begging for more votes. Sorry.

第14回「ロンド • ハットン クラシックホラー賞」始まる!


Kerry Gammill's awesome statuette of the late Rondo Hatton.

Here comes the Rondo Awards! Forget the inanity of the Academy Awards® and those flaccid Oscars© — it's time to vote for this year's nominees in 14th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards! Over the last year, I've been working with Shout Factory TV on several online marathons of Kaiju movies and Super Sentai teleseries, which pretty much qualifies me as a de-facto "Horror Host" — we're also planning more for this year, so stay tuned.

While I have not been nominated in that said category ("20. FAVORITE HORROR HOST OF 2015"), you can write me in on your ballots (which is not compulsory to complete; just vote for what or whom you want to). So, as for this "Favorite Horror Host" category, I suggest writing in: "August Ragone (San Francisco, Shout Factory TV's 'Kaiju Movie Marathon')".

Meanwhile, my blog has been officially nominated for the seventh consecutive year under "16. BEST WEBSITE OR BLOG OF 2015", which I also would love and appreciate your support. With that being said, I don't think I'll win — it's wonderful to keep receiving that "Honorable Mention" every year — it's just great being considered (perhaps I need to step my work on the blog?).

Another write-ins that should probably be recognized is our MONSTER ZERO/WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS double-feature, which I hosted last September at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver (write-in under "19. BEST FAN EVENT"). While you're at it, feel free to write me in under these, "26. MONSTER KID OF THE YEAR" and "27. THE MONSTER KID HALL OF FAME". I mean, why not? I've put in a lot of years into this game.

Putting myself aside, there are a great number of very talented folks who are up for nominations this year, so please (if you have the time) please give them your support for their amazing efforts. This is not mandatory, but it certainly would be kind of you — especially if you appreciate their fang-tastic work.

In order to submit your votes, simply copy the ballot after the jump and make your picks by highlighting your selection, or by putting an X by your selections, or by typing out your picks separately. Whatever is easiest. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO VOTE IN EVERY CATEGORY. Please e-mail your picks by April 10, 2016.

Cheers and thanks — here's the ballot for 14th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"ULTRAMAN GAIA" UNLEASHED UPON EARTH!
Full Series Now Streaming from Crunchyroll

後に『ウルトラマンガイア』は世界中のストリーミング!


Finally, ULTRAMAN GAIA is now available streaming worldwide!

Yesterday, when I broke the news about Crunchyroll's latest addition to their streaming service of on-going "Ultra Series" titles, ULTRAMAN NEXUS (2004), I stated a wish that there would be more coming soon, including one of my all-time favorites in the 1990s run, ULTRAMAN GAIA (1998). Today, the folks at Crunchyroll, gave me the heads up that the complete series of ULTRAMAN GAIA begins streaming today at 5:00 pm (Pacific) — and it's about damned time!


Star Takeshi Yoshioka, visiting the US in 2011 (photo: David Chapple).

Premiering on September 5, 1998, ULTRAMAN GAIA followed the success of ULTRAMAN TIGA (1996) and ULTRAMAN DYNA (1997), but broke from its predecessors' continuity to exist in a universe all its own, and a far more complex storyline, with multiple character and plot arcs that intersect beautifully, dovetailing into an incredible climax. The series is also a bit extra special for me, because I spent a lot of time on the set over the course of a month during the fall of 1998. But, even though I'm biased, it's still a great series.


With actors Maria Theresa Gow (left) and Ai Hashimoto (right).

At the end of the 20th Century, a network of young geniuses known as the Alchemy Stars, develop a supercomputer, CRISIS, predicting that mankind will be annihilated by an "entity of radical destruction". An international concern employs these young men to create cutting edge technology and weaponry for G.U.A.R.D. (Geocentric Universal Alliance against Radical Destruction), a secret worldwide defense network, and their tactical response organization, X.I.G. (eXpanded Interceptive Guardians).


With Brad Warner (right), Tsuburaya's International Sales director.

Several years later, during a quantum physics experiment, Gamu Takayama, a former member of the Alchemy Stars, bonds with the mysterious light of "Ultraman Gaia" in order to stop the oncoming threat to all life on our planet. But, not long after this momentous battle begins, he encounters another mysterious giant, "Ultraman Agul", who believes that protecting the Earth doesn't necessarily mean protecting mankind...

ULTRAMAN GAIA also features fantastic monster designs by Hiroshi Maruyama, a great score by Toshihiko Sahashi, and solid writing by Chiaki Konaka. So, what are you waiting for? You've got 51 episodes to catch up with — get a move on!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"ULTRAMAN NEXUS" DEBUTS 'ROUND THE GLOBE
Crunchyroll Streams a Different Ultraman Show

今『ウルトラマンネクサス』は世界中のストリーミング!


Prepare for a completely different kind of Ultraman series!

Back in December, the anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, stated that their simulcast of Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRAMAN X (2015) was so successful, that they would be adding the 2004 series, ULTRAMAN NEXUS to their on-going Ultra Series line-up (Ultraman Leo, Ultraman 80, Ultraman Max, and Ultraman Mebius) — all licensed directly from Tsuburaya and available worldwide, excluding Asia. These are all presented in the original Japanese with Subtitles available in several languages, including English.

Debuting over the Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting network on October 2, 2004, ULTRAMAN NEXUS was conceived and produced as a darker, adult-oriented science fiction drama, opposed to previous entires, which were more positive or child-oriented. Unfortunately, NEXUS was placed in an early morning timeslot, instead of prime time, and on account of poor ratings, was cut to 37 episodes from the original plan of 50. Home Video releases boasted an all-new "Episode EX" as well as an Director's Cut of Episode 29, each running 45 minutes.

From Crunchyroll's press release: Kazuki Komon, a failed Rescue Squad member, gets recruited by the Terrestrial Liberation Trust (TLT) to join the Night Raiders, a top classified special task force assembled by the TLT to protect Earth from space monsters. After undergoing stringent training, Kazuki gets paired with the cool Night Raider sub-captain Nagi Saijo for active duty — just in time for an insidious invasion of Earth, and the appearance of a "giant of light", whose mission is to protect humanity.

So, if you're looking for something truly different in the Ultra Series, or just like sci-fi series such as Dark Matter, you just might dig the story-and-character-arc-driven plot of ULTRAMAN NEXUS. And let's hope that Crunchyroll continues to bring us more Ultraman goodness in the near future, because there's still some really great stuff to be shared with the world, such as ULTRAMAN GAIA!

All 37 episodes of ULTRAMAN NEXUS launches via Crunchyroll on February 10, 2016 at 5:00 pm (Pacific Standard Time)!

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.