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

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's the Ultimate War of the Colossal Beasts!

何だ? 大魔神たけし対大怪獣ギララ!?

Coming to your galaxy this summer!

While the details surrounding Minoru Kawasaki’s upcoming MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G-8 SUMMIT (Girara-no Gyakushu Toyako Samitto-no Kiki Ippatsu), a spin off of the Shochiku Studio’s one-shot monster movie from 1967, THE X FROM OUTER SPACE (Uchu Daikaiju Girara), keep getting stranger and stranger — it’s also becoming bizarrely sublime in both the casting and the unveiling of a new colossal character to combat the giant space monster. But, is that any surprise coming from a Kawasaki film?

Actor/Singer Kazuki Kato.

Under the radar of most people outside of Japan are the starring roles, filled by two veteran tokusatsu television actors. 24 year-old actor-singer Kazuki Kato plays a photojournalist caught up in covering the onslaught of the monster Guilala. The popular Kato rose in fame playing Keigo Atobe in the stage presentations based on "The Prince of Tennis" manga and his television role as Daisuke Kazama/Kamen Rider Drake in KAMEN RIDER KABUTO (2006-07). He most recently played Shiro Kazami/Kamen Rider V3 in Ryuta Tasaki’s KAMEN RIDER: THE NEXT (2007).

Actress/Model Natsuki Kato.

His love interest in the film is a plucky news reporter played by 22-year old actress (and professed anime fan), Natsuki Kato, who first appeared in BURN! ROBOCON (1999-00) and was prominently featured in Kenta Fukasaku’s BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUIEM (2003). She can also been seen in Naoyuki Tomomatsu's STACY (2001) and Atsushi Muroga's GUN CRAZY 4: REQUIEM FOR A BODYGUARD (2002). Kato is also notable for playing the first official female Kamen Rider, Kamen Rider Femme, in Ryuta Tasaki’s KAMEN RIDER RYUKI: EPISODE FINAL (2002).

Recent photo of actor Susumu Kurobe.

Kawasaki has also sprinkled in a couple of old veterans, who are no strangers to fans around the world — Susumu Kurobe, who is best remembered as Hayata from the original ULTRAMAN series from 1966 has a prominent role as a military official (Kurobe also appeared in similar brief cameos in the recent series of Godzilla films). Kurobe also recently reprised his role as Hayata in the ULTRAMAN MOEBIUS television series and two feature film spin-offs, the latest of which, Takeshi Yagi's DECISIVE BATTLE! THE SUPER 8 ULTRA BROTHERS, opens in Japanese theaters this September. Mr. Kurobe has always been one of my heroes.

Recent photo of actor Yosuke Natsuki.

While his last role in a visual effects film was more than two decades ago, as Professor Hayashida in Koji Hashimoto’s RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984), Yosuke Natsuki has been cast in a featured role in the new film. Under contract with Toho in the late 1950s, Natsuki was a popular young actor whom appeared in everything from comedy programmers to dramatic war films, as well as action potboilers and period dramas, such as Kengo Furusawa’s SIEGE ON FORT BISMARCK (1963) and Hiroshi Inagaki’s CHUSHINGURA (1962). He also appeared in two classic monster movies directed by Ishiro Honda, GHIDRAH: THE THREE-HEADED and MONSTER and DOGORA: THE SPACE MONSTER (both 1964). Natsuki recently played Shibahara, the Karate Master in Shunichi Nagasaki's excellent BLACK BELT (Kuro-obi, 2007).

But wait! There’s more!

Japanese press sources have just announced that world-renown actor and director, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, is appearing in the film as “Takemajin” (pronounced “tah-kay mah-gene”) — a guardian deity who grows to enormous proportions to take on the intergalactic interloper. Loosely based on the deity Fudomuyo-Oh, the new character first appears in the film as a 50 cm edifice (holding an umbrella in one hand and a fire extinguisher in the other). But, when things look their darkest, the statue comes to life as a 50-meter tall, 10,000-ton colossus. Kitano will actually don the suit of Takemajin.

Early design for Takemajin.

Director Kawasaki thought that this would be a perfect role for Kitano, who is no stranger to comedy or elaborate costuming, since he used to play the Ultraman-like character, “Take-chan Man,” on the old “Ultra Quiz” game show, as well as wrote and starred in the “Uchimura Seven” sketches, which were parodies of the old ULTRAMAN television series. Kitano is also known by Japanese audiences for his penchant for dressing up in wacky costumes on the most inconspicuous (or inappropriate) occasions.

Kitano's mug on the statue of Takemajin.

In the story, the mystery surrounding Takemajin — which is also a take-off of Daiei Studio’s beloved DAIMAJIN trilogy from the 1960s — is at the center of the drama, and the avenging deity will make his dramatic appearance at the climax of the film. Kawasaki teased, “This is the culmination of Takeshi-san’s professional career... and in the last scene, there will be a shock similar to [the final duel] in Akira Kurosawa’s SANJURO.”

Who will prevail? Takemajin or Guilala?

MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G-8 SUMMIT goes into nationwide release in Japan this July. Personally, I can’t wait to see this film — it’s either going to be glorious or a glorious mess!


mewsugoi said...


nice to meet you!

I'm mew sugoi!

I'm japanese and Ilive in Hokkaido Japan.

I like minoru kawasaki'movie and takeshi kitano,and Ultraman!

I'm so glad to find your blog.

I will come to read your blog from now on.

thank you.

mewsugoi said...

I made a mistake.

I wrote your name incorrectly

I'm sorry! Mr. August Ragone!