As Takeshi Minami in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN ©Tsuburaya Productions
I received the sad news very early this morning, even before the sun rose in San Francisco, that beloved actor Shunsuke Ikeda, best remembered for his roles in the superhero series KIKAIDA 01 (1973) and RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971), had passed away on June 11 (Japan Time) due to stomach cancer. Complaining of abdominal pains in January 2009, Ikeda was diagnosed with cancer in February. While undergoing treatment, but wanting to get "right back to work", he attended the press conference to publicize the new "Kikaida 01" Pachinko game in April. But, the cancer had spread by October. Ikeda leaves behind his wife, Toshie, and their daughter, Miri. Ikeda was only 69 years old.
Shunsuke Ikeda, born as Norio Ikeda, was best known to tokusastsu fans for starring as the android "Ichiro" in the superhero series KIKAIDA 01 (1973-74). His early interest in motion pictures was instilled by his father, respected swordfight choreographer, Tatsuo Ouchi (the Sensei of Ono Ken Yukai founder, Kotaro Ono). After studying with the Bunka-za Theater, he was accepted in Toei’s "New Faces" competition in 1961. Ikeda's first on-screen appearance was in Kiyoshi Saeki's HIBARI'S GUITAR OF MOTHERLY LOVE (1962).
In 1963, under his real name, he was given his first featured role in Koji Ota's SPECIAL MOBILE INVESTIGATION UNIT as Akanuma. That same year, under his stage name of Shunsuke Ikeda, he appeared as professional baseball player Shinohara in Saeki’s FASTBALL. And while Ikeda only made a handfull of films, he found his niche on television. He played Airman Hajime Fujimura in COMRADES (1963), Michio Kawashima in STORY OF COMING WIND (1963), Detective Minamimura in ABOARD WITH 27 PEOPLE (1964), and Yamada in ONIHEI HANKACHO (1969-70).
While expanding his acting chops, Ikeda continued with his aspirations for a higher education, and went on to graduate from Hosei University’s Department of Economics in 1967. During this time, he also guest starred in the television series ZERO FIGHTERS: BLACK CLOUD SQUADRON (1964), MR. DETECTIVE (1966-68) and LONE WOLF (1967-68). He went on to appear in numerous series including SANTARO FUJI (1965-91), TOKYO BYPASS COMMAND (1968-79), MITO KOMON (1969- ), MY DAD IS A FRESHMAN (1969), HEARTLESS LICENSE (1973-77), RUN, SECRET SAMURAI! (1973), ZATOCIHI (1974-79), FIGHT! DRAGON (1974), THE GORILLA 7 (1975).
Ikeda's tokusatsu appearances include OPERATION: MYSTERY (1968-69), SILVER MASK (1971-72), SECRET TASK FORCE: GORANGER (1975-77), PRO WRESTLING STAR: AZTEKAIZER (1976-77), VIGILANTE ZUBAT (1977) and STARWOLF (1978). Ikeda is best remembered as the regular supporting characters in four notable tokusatsu roles: Monster Attack Team officer Takeshi Minami in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971-72), Radio Investigation Team officer Ippei Hanagata in EMERGENCY COMMAND: 10-4/10-10 (1972), Hiroshi Akiyama in SILVER MASK (1971-72), and Kensuke Mitsuya in CONDORMAN: SYMBOL OF JUSTICE (1975).
His biggest and best tokusatsu role was that of Ichiro, the human form of the titular combat android in KIKAIDA 01 (1973-74). In his later years, Ikeda became a fashion model with the SOS Modeling Agency, a commercial spokesman for Toshiba, and also appeared in several notable stage productions. In 2001, Ikeda and KIKAIDA star Daisuke Ban made a personal appearance in Hawaii at the All-Hawaii Collectors Show, to meet with fans who grew up watching the Honolulu broadcasts of KIKAIDA and KIKAIDA 01.
This led to the return of both series and their release on DVD by JN Productions and Generation Kikaida. This was followed by many more live appearances, special events, and autograph sessions over the last decade, in both Japan and Hawaii, and Ikeda was held in high regard by those who met him. Before his passing, Clips of Ikeda as Takeshi Minami were incorporated into Kazuya Konaka’s theatrical feature ULTRAMAN MOEBIUS & THE ULTRA BROTHERS (2006), and his final role was a special featured appearance in Hitoshi Matsumura's horror film, THE ONI-GARA (2009).
Shunsuke Ikeda, both the man and the actor, will be greatly missed.