"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

Friday, September 25, 2015

ULTRAMAN's Moonlighting Godzilla in Soft Vinyl!


Billiken's first Real Model Kit addition in two years: Jirass!

For more than three decades, the world famous vinyl kit maker, and vintage toy shop, Billiken Shokai, has produced an endless number of high-end figures, tin toys, and affordable vinyl kits, including a huge parade of monsters — both east and west — ranging from Beulah (It Conquered the World) to Lon Chaney's Erik (Phantom of the Opera). Not to mention a swarm of Godzillas and an army of creatures from Toho's kaiju eiga and the Ultraman pantheon.

A face only a mother... Incredible attention to detail, in vinyl!

Jirass is the latest in Billiken's long-running and highly-lauded "Real Model Kit" series, sculpted by master Kiyotaka Sugo. While Billiken's founder, Hayao Hama is renown as an incredible sculptor (handling most the Ultra characters, for example), every iteration of Godzilla he's produced has been a collaboration between them, with Sugo flying solo on such kits as Mechani Kong (King Kong Escapes) and Baragon (Frankenstein Conquers the World).

Does this beast from Episode 10 of ULTRAMAN (1966) look familiar?

So, who is this frilled, man-made dinosaur, anyhow? Jirass, while not described in the original teleplay, is a prehistoric monster created by a mad scientist ('natch), the design was inspired by the frilled lizard, Chlamydosaurus. With people joking, "Who would win: Godzilla or Ultraman?", Executive producer Eiji Tsuburaya, ordered his staff to redress one of the Big G's monster suits. But, it wasn't a simple case of merely sticking new parts any old Godzilla laying around.

A hybrid Godzilla suit, created for a display, would become Jirass...

May 1966, a kaiju event was staged at a department store in Tokyo's Ueno Ward, and a Godzilla was needed for a display. Tsuburaya had his team rescue the suit repurposed for Gomess (seen in the first episode of Ultra Q), last employed in GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (originally created for Mothra vs. Godzilla), and restore it. The head was swapped out with the one built for MONSTER ZERO, and modified. When the episode went into production, they added a giant frill, bright colorways, and... Voilà!

Here's the formidable, frilled, man-made dinosaur... Jirass!

In the episode, "Mystery of the Dinosaur Base" (teleplay by Tetsuo Kinjo and directed by Kazuho Mitsuta), Kinjo's scenario does not outline the details of the fight scenes, which were left up to effects director Koichi Takano, and actors Satoshi "Bin" Furuya (Ultraman) and Haruo Nakajima (Jirass). It was then decided to have the silver and red superhero rip the frill from the monster's neck, allowing for a brief — and "unauthorized" — "Godzilla vs. Ultraman" sequence.

Left quarter view of the prototype pull of Billiken's Jirass.

Over the years, Jirass has gone on to become one of the most iconic of the Ultra Monsters, and a number of great garage kits and over-the-counter toys have been made in his likeness from companies such as Falchion, X-Plus, Fewture, Yamanaya, Bandai, and Bullmark. While I stand partial to the dynamic pose of the 25cm version from X-Plus, I believe the Billiken is going to be the beast to beat, towering over 30cm (12") — although it comes unpainted.

Rear right quarter view of the prototype pull of Billiken's Jirass.

The "Billiken Real Model Kit Series: Jirass" will available for pre-sale to those attending Super Festival 69 in Tokyo on Sunday, September 27th. In-store pre-orders will also be taken that same day, at Billiken Shokai, located in Tokyo's Minato Ward. Over-the-counter sales will be open at Billiken Shokai on Tuesday, September 29th, commencing at Noon (Japan Time). Unassembled and unpainted, and molded in "Billiken Godzilla Blue" vinyl, Jirass retails for ¥6500 ($54.00 USD). The color sample in the top image was painted by Kazuhiko Uchida.

Can't wait to get my hands on one!


Anonymous said...

best description of that monster 's creation.....

August Ragone said...



Unknown said...

Thank you for the preview, Mr.Ragone.

Do you happen to know if the frill is removable, if
one wanted to display just Godzilla?

Great work as always.


August Ragone said...

K. Blockzyk,
To tell you the truth, I'm not sure, but nothing in the Billiken press materials leads me to believe that it is removable.

All the best,