"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, January 30, 2014

Jiro is Born Again in KIKAIDER: REBOOT!

『キカイダー REBOOT』、40年を経て新作映画で復活!

Teaser image of the new Kikaider! ©Kikaider Production Committee

At a press conference on January 30th at Toei Studios in Tokyo, announcements were made for their 2014 line up, including the return of the 1970s TV series, KIKAIDER (which became a hit in Hawaii under the title "Kikaida"), created by the legendary mangaka Shotaro Ishimori. The final title for this remake was declared to be KIKAIDER: REBOOT.

The English version of Ishimori's original manga is available, here.

The original live action series was broadcast on NET (now TV Asahi) between 1972 and 1973 and was a hit, spawning a spin-off, KIKAIDER 01. The android Kikaider (whose human form is called Jiro), was created by Dr. Komyoji, a world authority on robotics, wages a fierce battle with a secret society led by the mad scientist, Professor Gill. During its initial television broadcast, Ishimori also produced a serialized manga in the pages of Shonen Sunday magazine.

Things to come? Keisuke Matsuoka's novel (Kadokawa, 2013).

Separating Kikaider from the other henshin heroes of the time, was his unusual red and blue/left and right asymmetrical color scheme. Another unique aspect was that within Jiro's mechanical body was an incomplete "Conscience Circuit," which could sway the android to become dangerous through the cataleptic effect of Professor Gill's flute. This image of a hero with a "heart" embedded with a capacity for evil and justice, became extremely popular.

20-year old actor Jingi Irie plays Jiro, the human form of Kikaider.

While the series was a success at the time, along with KAMEN RIDER, the first return of the character was in an animated mini-series based on Ishimori's original manga, but there has yet to be a live action remake of the original series. Until now. Toei producer Shinichiro Shirakura explained, "Not only was the basic premise very difficult [to recreate in a new live action version], but the themes presented by Ishimori Sensei were very deep, and could not be easily produced. This is why, over the years, a number of remakes were rejected during their planning stages. Despite Toei's limited resources, the revival of Ishimori's masterpiece was finally realized through the cooperation of Kadokawa Pictures.

Aimi Satsukawa plays Mitsuko Komyoji, who falls in love with Jiro.

The setting of the new film is a near-future Japan. Kikaider (also known as Jiro) was created by robotics authority Nobuhiko Komyoji for the "Ark Project," an organization central to resolving the problems of building automatons to tackle tasks too dangerous for humans (in the original series, the antagonists were an organization known as "Dark"). After the mysterious death of Komoyoji, his rivals Dr. Kanzaki and Defense Minister Tsubakitani accuse Jiro, who becomes a fugitive challenged by the robotic terrors of the Ark Project. Only Dr. Komyoji's daughter, Mitsuko, believes in him.

Will former Baseball star Kazuhige Nagashima play Dr. Komyoji?

Picking up the mantle from actor Daisuke Ban who originated the role of Jiro, the "ideal son," is Jingi Irie (Werewolf Game). The heroine of the story is Komoyoji's daughter, Mitsuko, who falls in love with Jiro, played by Aimi Satsukawa (Karate-Robo Zaborgar). The supporting cast includes Kazushige Nagashima (The Men of the Yamato), Hirotaro Honda (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe), and Ryuji Harada (Partners). Directed by Ten Shimoyama, who helmed SHINOBI, the screenplay for KIKAIDER: REBOOT was in development for over two years before production began, "In the time it's taken to bring this to the screen, we've done four PRETTY CURE and six KAMEN RIDER films."

KIKAIDER: REBOOT will be open nationwide in Japan on May 24th.

(Sections excerpted from a Cinema Today article by Koichi Irikura)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

3 Classics Being Readied for the Big G's 60th!


Toho International poster for GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.

Houston-based Section23 Films is on a roll... the aggressive company formed out of the ashes of ADV Films, with its various niche labels, including Sentai Filmworks (tackling classic anime titles such as GATCHAMAN and CASSHAN), are moving into the realm of live action films and tokusatsu eiga (Japanese Visual Effects films) with their newest label, Kraken Releasing — focusing on titles for mainstream audiences. Their first target: Godzilla. Just in time for the 60th Anniversary, Kraken has announced that they have licensed three very disparate Godzilla titles for DVD and BD (Blu-ray) release — their press release (dated January 21, 2014) only discusses the titles acquired: EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and GODZILLA VS. GIGAN. No further details — print sources, special features, street dates, MSRP, etc. — were made available.

Classic collage still from GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966).

Here's their press release: 1967 may have been the Summer of Love, but 2014 will be the Summer of Godzilla, and Kraken Releasing is spreading the kaiju (giant monster) goodness with the first US Blu-ray release of three classic films featuring the world's most famous giant reptile. Also available on DVD, and including both the English dubbed and original Japanese versions with English subtitles, these are three of the big G's wildest adventures ever and showcase why, sixty years after his atomic birth at Japan's Toho Studios, Godzilla is still one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry!

Original Polish release poster for GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971).

The fun begins as 1971's GODZILLA VS. HEODRAH, released theatrically in the US in 1972 as GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER, pits Godzilla against the forces of pollution in the form of a constantly mutating, acid-spewing behemoth from outer space. With eye-popping 1970's “mod” costumes, hairstyles and psychedelic visuals that include conventional cel animation alongside the special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, GODZILLA VS. HEODRAH director Yoshimitsu Banno's ecologically focused take on the world's greatest monster is easily one of the most unique films in the series and required viewing for any giant monster fan or cult film enthusiast.

Keiko Mari and Toshio Shibamoto in GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971).

What happens when three major movie monsters slam dance in the South Seas? The answer is 1966's EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP  originally released in the US in 1968 under the title GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER. Pairing Godzilla and another of Toho's most popular kaiju, the giant moth Mothra, against a wide variety of adversaries, including the titular sea monster, giant birds and a mysterious terrorist organization, the wet and wild widescreen spectacular was directed by Jun Fukuda.

Original Japanese release poster for GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972).

Finally, 1972's GODZILLA VS. GIGAN ups the giant monster ante once again with a series of tag team battles featuring four classic kaiju. Released theatrically in the United States in 1977 as GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND and again directed by Jun Fukuda with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, the film unites Godzilla and spiny ally Anguirus against two of the series' most popular opponents: the three headed monster King Ghidorah and the new alien cyborg Gigan.

The redoubtable Yuriko Hishimi in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972).

At this time, all we can ascertain from their press release is the order the films will be released, with HEDORAH streeting first — that is, unless all three will street simultaneously. Looking at these titles begs the question, were these conscious picks by Kraken — or were the other films unavailable because they were already licensed? We do know that Classic Media still has all of theirs (and that they sub-licensed GODZILLA and GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS to the Criterion Collection). So, what's in store for the remaining Godzilla titles on DVD/BD during the 60th Anniversary, especially with the obvious opportunity to capitalize on the massive hype surrounding the upcoming Legendary Pictures-Warner Bros epic? For that, true believers, we must escape into the future; into that dimension we have never seen. Join me for more details as they develop!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

MAZIN-GO! "MAZINGER Z" COMES TO U.S. DVD Volume 1 from Discotek Drops April 29, 2014!

マジンゴー!『マジンガーZ』は米国DVD BOX-1発売 2014年4月!

Discotek's package art for the US release of MAZINGER Z!

Created by mangaka Go Nagai, MAZINGER Z (1972-74) was the first anime series to feature a "super robot" — a giant automaton piloted by a human being and not run by remote control — and the dynamic series captured the imagination of an entire generation of Japanese children (as well as children around the world), spawning an entire genre of robot culture in Japan beyond ASTRO-BOY and GIGANTOR — it was not only the most influential robot series of the 1970s, but the most important of the 20th Century. If it weren't for MAZINGER Z, the TRANSFORMERS would simply not exist. It was also highly influential to a young Guillermo del Toro as a foundation in creating PACIFIC RIM, and it's about time to came to the US in its original form!

Panel from Go Nagai's original manga for MAZINGER Z!

Back in October of 2012, I reported that the original MAZINGER Z series had been licensed by Discotek Media for release in the US for a late 2013 drop — which Discotek decided to push back to the first quarter of 2014 and just announced today for a street date of April 29, 2014! Discotek has also announced that another classic Go Nagai series from 1972, DEVILMAN, will also be released under their label before the year is out! The only details we have so far are that Box Set 1 will contain Episodes 1-49 (out of 98) and will feature the original Japanese Audio with English Subtitles. Currently, Discotek has not released any further information on how many discs the first box set will have, how many episodes will be contained on each disc, or the estimated MSRP, so please stay tuned!