"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, August 14, 2012

There's a New Sheriff in Town on October 20th!

『宇宙刑事ギャバンTHE MOVIE』にシャリバンとシャイダー参戦決定!

Toei's latest poster featuring Space Sheriffs Sharivan and Shaider!

When it comes to currents in Japanese Superhero productions, I’m usually just a little let down, as I’m far more accustomed to the productions of the ‘60s-’80s, which was — as far as I’m concerned — the best period in the history of the genre, due to the high-level of writing, sheer imagination, unparalleled music, rugged leads, break-neck fight choreography, stupefying stunts, and unbridiled violence. It was a Golden Age. For over a decade, Toei has been trying to revive their “Space Sheriff” franchise (the first of which was simply redressed as KAMEN RIDER RYUKI), and with the upcoming second appearance of the original Gavan, this is a production that just might be worth anticipating.

There's a new Space Sheriff in town: Yuma Ishigaki is Gavan Type-G!

With 2012 heralding the 30th Anniversary of the original SPACE SHERIFF GAVAN, it came as no surprise that Toei Studios announced a new movie featuring the character, especially after his hit return in GOKAIGER VS. GAVAN: THE MOVIE, back in January. In the new film, SPACE SHERIFF GAVAN: THE MOVIE, Kenji Ohba (Kill Bill Vol. 1) returns to Earth as “Ichijoji Retsu”, to stop a new threat from original nemeses of the Makku Cosmic Crime Syndicate. While on Earth, Retsu will hand over his mantle as “Space Sheriff Gavan” to his young replacement, “Geki Jumonji”, played by Yuma Ishigaki (13 Assassins) — this Gavan II (designated "Type G") features blue eyes, as the original has red. While story of this film has been circulating for several weeks, even bigger news broke just hours ago in Japan: Gavan will be joined by his fellow Space Sheriffs, Sharivan and Shaider, from their respective series — and I've got some of the first detailed information in English, right here — long time fans are sure to be awaiting this new adventure.

The inspiration for Robocop: Space Sheriff Gavan!

During the original 1982-85 run of “Metal Hero” series, tokusatsu (visual effects) productions were enjoying renewed popularity in the despite the Anime Boom, and fueling that popularity were the mind-blowing stunt scenes by Sonny Chiba’s Japan Action Club; JAC also being at the height of their fame as well with protégés such as Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai), one of Japan’s biggest stars at the time. Another JAC alumni, Hiroshi Watari (Zebraman) went on to appear as “Den Iga” in the follow-up to GAVAN, SPACE SHERIFF SHARIVAN (1983-84), and appeared in several other series, including DIMENSION WARRIOR: SPEILBAN (1986-87). Hiroshi Tsuburaya (Ultraman Gaia), the grandson of the legendary effects wizard, was cast as “Dai Sawamura”, aka SPACE SHERIFF SHAIDER (1984-85). While the “Metal Hero” genre continued with MONSTER HUNTER: JUSPION (1985-86), the “Space Sheriff” series came to an end. Interestingly, Gavan influenced Rob Bottin’s design of the original ROBOCOP. I kid you not (but that's another story for another time).

Yukari Taki plays the new Gavan's love interest, Itsuki Kawai.

In this new production, younger actors, complimenting Ishigaki’s new Gavan, will wield the Laser Blades of Sharivan and Shaider. And Toei’s casting seems to be “deliberate”, according to the Japanese website, Cinema Today: Donning Sharivan’s crimson armor as “Kai Hyoga” will be Riki Miura, better known as Go Fukami/Geki Violet in GEKIRANGER (2007-08), while the blue armor of Shaider will be worn by “Shu Karasuma”, played by Hiroaki Iwanaga, who appeared as Akira Date/Kamen Rider Birth in KAMEN RIDER OOO (2010-11). Also joining the cast: Takuya Nagaoka (Brass Knuckle Boys) as "Toya Okuma", Jumonji’s childhood friend. Yukari Taki (Norwegian Wood) plays another childhood friend, and love interest, "Itsuki Kawai", a member of the Space Astrophysics Research and Development organization (SARD).

Ex-AV actress, Honoka, plays Commander Com's Secretary, Elena.

Former AV actress, Honoka (Akibaranger) is playing “Secretary Elena”, while Suzuka Morita (Shinkenger) plays the new Gavan’s partner, “Sherry”. One of the new members of Makku will be the witch, “Kiru”, played by Japan Action Enterprises’ star stunt actress, Sanae Hitomi (Wild 7). Obligatory comic relief will be provided by funnyman, Ijiri Okada (The World Sinks Except Japan) as "Iwamoto", Section Chief of SARD. Surprisingly, one of the roles being reprised from the original GAVAN series will be that of “Commander Kom”, played by Toshiaki Nishizawa — better known to American fans as “Secretary-General Kubota” from GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972). While I’m sure that there will be some other familiar faces popping up in this new film, it’s unknown at this time whether Hiroshi Watari will appear — we can only hope — or if they’re will be any tribute to the late Hiroshi Tsuburaya.

Suzuka Morita as the new female Space Sheriff, Sherry!

Helming SPACE SHERIFF GAVAN: THE MOVIE will be long time stunt actor and stunt choreographer, Osamu Kaneda (KIKAIDA), who began directing with the 1993 series, SPECIAL INVESTIGATION ROBO: JANPERSON. Kaneda has been responsible for all of the recent KAMEN RIDER movies, including KAMEN RIDER X SUPER SENTAI: SUPERHERO WARS (2012). Author and writer, Yuji Kobayashi, whose credits include GARO (2005-06) and ULTRAMAN MOEBIUS (2006-07), is providing the screenplay. Composer Kosuke Yamashita (Linda, Linda, Linda), whose tokusatsu credits include MAGIRANGER (2004-05) and GOKAIGER (2011-12), is penning the score, which will feature signature GAVAN music from the legendary Michiaki “Chumei” Watanabe. Rumor has it that the famed vocalist, Akira Kushida, will be recording a new version of the original theme song — that should be amazing.  

Sanae Hitomi of Japan Action Enterprises plays the evil Kiru!

Hiroshi Butsuda (The Men of the Yamato) will be handling the Visual Effects, which bodes well for this production. And last, but not least, action choreography is being supervised by Toshihiro Okura, a former suit actor with a resume a mile long, that not only includes Super Sentai and Kamen Rider credits, but playing Anguirus, Ebirah, and Keizer Ghidorah in GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004). This is Okura's first film as an Action Director. There is also another rumor is brewing that, if successful, this may launch a whole new series of "Space Sheriff" movies and television series. SPACE SHERIFF GAVAN: THE MOVIE opens in Japanese cinemas nationwide on October 20, 2012 — I’m crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath. To quote the new poster's tagline: "When danger threatens the galaxy, a Space Sheriff shall rise!"

C’mon, Gavan! Don’t let us down!

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