"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, February 23, 2016

And here I am... Begging for more votes. Sorry.

第14回「ロンド • ハットン クラシックホラー賞」始まる!

Kerry Gammill's awesome statuette of the late Rondo Hatton.

Here comes the Rondo Awards! Forget the inanity of the Academy Awards® and those flaccid Oscars© — it's time to vote for this year's nominees in 14th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards! Over the last year, I've been working with Shout Factory TV on several online marathons of Kaiju movies and Super Sentai teleseries, which pretty much qualifies me as a de-facto "Horror Host" — we're also planning more for this year, so stay tuned.

While I have not been nominated in that said category ("20. FAVORITE HORROR HOST OF 2015"), you can write me in on your ballots (which is not compulsory to complete; just vote for what or whom you want to). So, as for this "Favorite Horror Host" category, I suggest writing in: "August Ragone (San Francisco, Shout Factory TV's 'Kaiju Movie Marathon')".

Meanwhile, my blog has been officially nominated for the seventh consecutive year under "16. BEST WEBSITE OR BLOG OF 2015", which I also would love and appreciate your support. With that being said, I don't think I'll win — it's wonderful to keep receiving that "Honorable Mention" every year — it's just great being considered (perhaps I need to step my work on the blog?).

Another write-ins that should probably be recognized is our MONSTER ZERO/WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS double-feature, which I hosted last September at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver (write-in under "19. BEST FAN EVENT"). While you're at it, feel free to write me in under these, "26. MONSTER KID OF THE YEAR" and "27. THE MONSTER KID HALL OF FAME". I mean, why not? I've put in a lot of years into this game.

Putting myself aside, there are a great number of very talented folks who are up for nominations this year, so please (if you have the time) please give them your support for their amazing efforts. This is not mandatory, but it certainly would be kind of you — especially if you appreciate their fang-tastic work.

In order to submit your votes, simply copy the ballot after the jump and make your picks by highlighting your selection, or by putting an X by your selections, or by typing out your picks separately. Whatever is easiest. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO VOTE IN EVERY CATEGORY. Please e-mail your picks by April 10, 2016.

Cheers and thanks — here's the ballot for 14th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Full Series Now Streaming from Crunchyroll


Finally, ULTRAMAN GAIA is now available streaming worldwide!

Yesterday, when I broke the news about Crunchyroll's latest addition to their streaming service of on-going "Ultra Series" titles, ULTRAMAN NEXUS (2004), I stated a wish that there would be more coming soon, including one of my all-time favorites in the 1990s run, ULTRAMAN GAIA (1998). Today, the folks at Crunchyroll, gave me the heads up that the complete series of ULTRAMAN GAIA begins streaming today at 5:00 pm (Pacific) — and it's about damned time!

Star Takeshi Yoshioka, visiting the US in 2011 (photo: David Chapple).

Premiering on September 5, 1998, ULTRAMAN GAIA followed the success of ULTRAMAN TIGA (1996) and ULTRAMAN DYNA (1997), but broke from its predecessors' continuity to exist in a universe all its own, and a far more complex storyline, with multiple character and plot arcs that intersect beautifully, dovetailing into an incredible climax. The series is also a bit extra special for me, because I spent a lot of time on the set over the course of a month during the fall of 1998. But, even though I'm biased, it's still a great series.

With actors Maria Theresa Gow (left) and Ai Hashimoto (right).

At the end of the 20th Century, a network of young geniuses known as the Alchemy Stars, develop a supercomputer, CRISIS, predicting that mankind will be annihilated by an "entity of radical destruction". An international concern employs these young men to create cutting edge technology and weaponry for G.U.A.R.D. (Geocentric Universal Alliance against Radical Destruction), a secret worldwide defense network, and their tactical response organization, X.I.G. (eXpanded Interceptive Guardians).

With Brad Warner (right), Tsuburaya's International Sales director.

Several years later, during a quantum physics experiment, Gamu Takayama, a former member of the Alchemy Stars, bonds with the mysterious light of "Ultraman Gaia" in order to stop the oncoming threat to all life on our planet. But, not long after this momentous battle begins, he encounters another mysterious giant, "Ultraman Agul", who believes that protecting the Earth doesn't necessarily mean protecting mankind...

ULTRAMAN GAIA also features fantastic monster designs by Hiroshi Maruyama, a great score by Toshihiko Sahashi, and solid writing by Chiaki Konaka. So, what are you waiting for? You've got 51 episodes to catch up with — get a move on!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Crunchyroll Streams a Different Ultraman Show


Prepare for a completely different kind of Ultraman series!

Back in December, the anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, stated that their simulcast of Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRAMAN X (2015) was so successful, that they would be adding the 2004 series, ULTRAMAN NEXUS to their on-going Ultra Series line-up (Ultraman Leo, Ultraman 80, Ultraman Max, and Ultraman Mebius) — all licensed directly from Tsuburaya and available worldwide, excluding Asia. These are all presented in the original Japanese with Subtitles available in several languages, including English.

Debuting over the Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting network on October 2, 2004, ULTRAMAN NEXUS was conceived and produced as a darker, adult-oriented science fiction drama, opposed to previous entires, which were more positive or child-oriented. Unfortunately, NEXUS was placed in an early morning timeslot, instead of prime time, and on account of poor ratings, was cut to 37 episodes from the original plan of 50. Home Video releases boasted an all-new "Episode EX" as well as an Director's Cut of Episode 29, each running 45 minutes.

From Crunchyroll's press release: Kazuki Komon, a failed Rescue Squad member, gets recruited by the Terrestrial Liberation Trust (TLT) to join the Night Raiders, a top classified special task force assembled by the TLT to protect Earth from space monsters. After undergoing stringent training, Kazuki gets paired with the cool Night Raider sub-captain Nagi Saijo for active duty — just in time for an insidious invasion of Earth, and the appearance of a "giant of light", whose mission is to protect humanity.

So, if you're looking for something truly different in the Ultra Series, or just like sci-fi series such as Dark Matter, you just might dig the story-and-character-arc-driven plot of ULTRAMAN NEXUS. And let's hope that Crunchyroll continues to bring us more Ultraman goodness in the near future, because there's still some really great stuff to be shared with the world, such as ULTRAMAN GAIA!

All 37 episodes of ULTRAMAN NEXUS launches via Crunchyroll on February 10, 2016 at 5:00 pm (Pacific Standard Time)!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Selection of Kim Hu's Pop Ultra Kaiju Studies


Bemler, the Space Monster from Episode 1.

Baltan, the Space Ninja from Episode 2.

Redking, the Skull Monster from Episode 8.

Dodongo, the Mummy Monster from Episode 12.

Hidrah, the Highland Dragon from Episode 20.

Jamila, the Mutant Monster from Episode 22.

Woo, the Legendary Monster from Episode 30.

These wonderful pieces, only a fraction of his killer kaiju gallery, were created by Kim Hu — a self-described "Artist. Illustrator. Toy designer. Toycollector" — as part of his Inktober 2015 a-kaiju-a-day challenge. The Tokyo resident, and his fantastic kaiju illustrations, can be found on Instagram or follow him on Facebook.