"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, October 8, 2015

Director Announced, Trailer Screened at NYCC!


Advance promotional art for Kadokawa Daiei's upcoming GAMERA.

Today, at the New York Comic-Con, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Senior Managing Director, and Shinichiro Inoue, Planning and Producer, from Kadokawa Daiei Studios traveled to Fun City to introduce their trailer — noted as a "pilot film" (read, "Proof of Concept") for this Golden Anniversary feature film, rebooting the studio's Gamera series, at this juncture, simply titled "Gamera". Their purpose was to unveil the trailer and announce the upcoming film to the world at one of the biggest pop culture and media events in the world.

Kikuchi and Inoue (center) at NYCC. Photo by Edwin De La Cruz.

This trailer is also noteworthy in that all of the visual effects were created and rendered completely via CG, whereas the previous film, Ryuta Tasaki's GAMERA: THE BRAVE (2006), used traditional practical effects — miniature sets and man-in-suit monsters — with some CGI effects, primarily employed as a compositing tool. It appears that Daiei Kadokawa wishes to push the envelope even further to produce all of the visual effects in digital and leave the traditional behind.

Director Ishii during the Yubari Int'l Fantastic Film Festival 2015. 

In all of the English-language publicity material handed out today at NYCC, including the live stage event — simulcast by Twitch — the director was announced as Katsuhito Ishii. While the internationally-known director, who made his feature debut with SHARK SKIN MAN AND PEACH HIP GIRL (1999), has never worked in the genre before, he has considerable chops, garnered a number of awards, and worked with powerhouse actors such as Tadanobu Asano.

Frames from the "pilot film" trailer, Gyaos Attacks! Enter Gamera!

After the success of PARTY 7 (2000), Ishii was tapped to supervise the animated O-Ren flashback sequence by Quentin Tarantino for KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003), and in the following year, scored another hit with THE TASTE OF TEA (winning "Best Feature" at the Hawaii Int'l Film Festival). In 2006, he co-directed the lauded FUNKY FOREST (2006) with his old school chums, Shunichiro Miki and Hajime Ishimine (aka Aniki), and formed the production company, Nice Rainbow.

Frames from the "pilot film" trailer, Manafu rescued by Gamera!

Ishii was cast in small part by director Hideaki Anno for the beguiling 2003 live action film, CUTEY HONEY (of course, Anno is coincidentally directing the next Japanese-made Big G film, Shin Godzilla), and also voiced the titular character Hal in the 2007 animated series HAL & BONS. Extensively working in animation, he penned the screenplay for RED LINE (2010) and served as Creative Advisor on LUPIN III: JIGEN'S GRAVESTONE (2014) for director Takeshi Koike.

2-sided handbills distributed at NYCC. Photo courtesy of Mike Russo.

According to the handbills distributed at NYCC today, featuring the kanji characters「帰還」(kikan or returns), the story of this all-new GAMERA is thus summed up (paraphrased for colloquial English): "In a near-future Tokyo, giant monsters, known as 'kaiju', are thriving and terrorizing the populace. Manafu, a young boy, whose father is killed when the Gyaos strike the metropolis, is the only one who is saved by Gamera. What will Manafu's destiny be...?"

Writer-Actor-Musician, Kankuro Kudo, plays Manafu's doomed father.

Appearing in the trailer as Manafu is seven year-old child actor Rui Takahashi, who has worked steadily since 2013 in ten commercials, fifteen television shows, and five feature films under his young belt, so far. His father was played by Japanese Academy Award-winning writer/director/actor/musician, Kankuro Kudo. Among Kudo's lengthy credits are screenplays for GO (2001), PING PONG (2002), ZEBRAMAN 2 (2010), and he was recently cast in PIECE OF CAKE (2015).

The official "Gamera 50th" website launched in tandem with NYCC.

While kaiju fans across the globe will be waiting to see what the next move by Kadokawa Daiei Studios in the production of the upcoming film will be (release date was not announced), they're hosting a 50th Anniversary event at the Tokyo International Film Festival on October 22nd. The longer proof-of-concept trailer will be run with a digital restoration of GAMERA VS. GYAOS (1967), as well as new 4K Scans of Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera Trilogy of the 1990s.

And without further ado... Here's the full-length proof-of-concept trailer for GAMERA (view on YouTube and adjust quality to 720p):

Stay tuned to this blog for further information on Katsuhito Ishii's GAMERA as production readies and more details develop! Also, check out my previous stories, here, and here.

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