"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)

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