"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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Godzilla Christmas Tree in Tokyo. Photo: Let's Enjoy Tokyo.

May you all have a wonderful Christmas Season full of family, friends, food, and lots of kaiju toys!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Complete 25-Episode Series DVD Box Set


Dynamic cover packaging by Erwin Baracao & Billy Ching of JNP.

The colorful and action-packed INAZUMAN (1973) was one of many live-action superhero series produced in the early 1970s, during an unprecedented boom of such programs on Japanese television, lead out of the gate by P-Productions' SPECTREMAN (1971-72), Tsuburaya Productions' RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (1971-72), and Toei's KAMEN RIDER (1971-73). Developed for television by the KAMEN RIDER team of creative producer Tohru Hirayama (JOHNNY SOKKO) and manga author Shotaro Ishimori (CYBORG 009), INAZUMAN featured the key elements of Toei's popular progenitor, but unlike KAMEN RIDER and KIKAIDA, the hero was nether a cyborg nor an android, but rather an metamorphosing mutant with psionic powers. From it's funk-based score by Michiaki "Chumei" Watanabe to its bizarre creatures and non-stop action, INAZUMAN is pure '70s superhero gold!

Bold back cover design for JNP's release of INAZUMAN.

Goro Watari (Daisuke Ban), a seemingly normal university student, saves two youngsters from the clutches of the Neo-Human Empire, a secret society of mutants who plot to subjugate the world with their Fantom Army. The children bring him to the headquarters of the Youth League, a group of pure-hearted young mutants with psionic powers, led by Captain Sarra (Hideo Murota). Goro is awakened to his own extrasensory abilities, allowing him to transform — first into a pupal form, Sanagiman, and then — into the mighty, Inazuman. Drawing from symbolic powers of moth, like the Greek god Pysche, Inazuman wields lightning bolts against his enemies, and with the aid of the amazing flying car with a mind of its own, Raijingo, he challenges the evil minions of Emperor Bamba to liberate mankind.

The fantastic jacket and disc art for INAZUMAN.

Starring Daisuke Ban of KIKAIDA fame, INAZUMAN follows a string of fantastic classic tokusatsu releases on R1 DVD, KIKAIDA (1972-73), KIKAIDA 01 (1973-74) and KAMEN RIDER V3 (1973-74), beautifully produced and released by Honolulu-based JN Productions. Packaged in a glossy four-disc box set, INAZUMAN is digitally remastered (and superior to Toei Video's R2 release), completely unedited and uncut, and fully subtitled in English for the first time. This electrifying set also includes interviews with actor Daisuke Ban and Japanese and Hawaiian fans, Inazuman Karaoke, and more — I provided Character Profiles and Series Factoids, which feature exhaustive details on the guest stars and other behind-the-scenes minutia. With cool animated menus, superior image quality, and wonderfully produced extras, INAZUMAN comes highly recommended.

During its original run, INAZUMAN was an extremely popular series, and remains one of the pillars of the Henshin Hero genre to this day. If that's so, one might ask, why are there only 25 episodes? When INAZUMAN was originally broadcast, the saga was told in two parts, totaling 48 episodes. This DVD release features the first 25-episode "chapter", which then dovetailed into an immediate — and much darker — sequel, INAZUMAN FLASH (1974), for an additional 23 episodes. I'm hoping that — fingers crossed — INAZUMAN FLASH will be scheduled as the next release on the roster from JN Productions & Generation Kikaida for 2009. Meanwhile, the INAZUMAN Complete Series Box Set is available through the Generation Kikaida website for $99.95 (plus $7.00 Shipping & Handling).

Region Code 1 • NTSC • 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio • Japanese with  English Subtitles • Dolby Digital • 10 hours 27 minutes • Unrated

Friday, December 5, 2008

November 24, 1916 - December 4, 2008

The man who coined the word "Sci-Fi" is gone (Houston, 1977).

The mysterious human wellspring known to throngs of Baby Boomers as 4SJ, 4E, Dr. Acula, and other nom de plumes, Forrest J Ackerman, the world's first and foremost fanboy, has left this Mortal Coil. But, he has bestowed upon us an amazing legacy. Not only was he the man who launched Ray Bradbury's career, he was the avatar of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and the father of Vampirella—but he was much, much more to legions of fans around the world. Not only mavens of Horror and Monster films, but to multitudes of Science Fiction fans as well.

We called him "Uncle​ Forry​." He was a tower​ing icon of fando​m,​ who attended the first-ever science fiction convention and wore the first-ever costume to that very same event in 1939. He was the ultimate fan and loved to share with others, unselfishly. As a kid of the 1970s, I knew him best as the face and voice of Famous Monsters, and consi​der mysel​f fortunate that he was forever​ patie​nt with this adolescent fanatic over the phone and at conventions, and allow​ing me to enter​ Ackermansion II for the first time in the mid-​1980s​ (where his massive collection of rare props and ephermia was housed).

Uncle Forry was like that wonde​rfull​y cool, but sligh​tly weird (in a good way​)​, relative​ that you didn'​t see very often​,​ but felt nothi​ng but warmt​h for. If there were more people like him, the world would be a better place. Now, "Mr. Sci-​Fi"​ is gone, but he will be great​ly misse​d.​ Thanks for keeping me out of (too much) trouble, making my youth brighter, and my adulthood more fun!

Farewell, Uncle Forry...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monster of the Month

デストロン怪人 ハサミジャガー 「仮面ライダーV3」より

©Ishimori Productions/Toei Company

Height: 194 cm • Weight: 86 kg • Origin: Atacama Desert, Chile • Original Appearance: KAMEN RIDER V3 (1973-74) Episode 1 "Rider No.3: His Name is V3!" & Episode 2 "The Last Testament of the Double Riders" • Design: Shotaro Ishimori/Akira Takahashi • Fabricator: Ekisu Productions • Suit Actor: Sadao Kobayashi • Voice Actor: Ritsuo Sawa

Surviving the destruction of Gel-Shocker, the fiendish Great Leader reorganized his forces into more powerful Destron organization. Destron’s first "hybrid mutant," fused with mechanical weaponry, was Scissors Jaguar. His mission, under Destron’s “Operation: Tokyo Annihilation”, was to eliminate witnesses of Destron’s movements, including Junko Tama, and the Kazami Family, who gave her shelter. Scissors Jaguar’s second mission was to destroy the headquarters of the Rider Boy Scouts, and its chief, Tobei Tachibana. While the tables are turned when Kamen Rider V3 arrives on the scene, Scissors Jaguar is joined by Turtle Bazooka to fight all three Kamen Riders.

Arguably, the Destron Mutants designed and created for KAMEN RIDER V3 were the pinnacle of the Kamen Rider series of the 1970s, including Scissors Jaguar. The exceptional synergy in the teamwork on this series, from Ishimori's rough sketches, refined by Takahashi, and realized by Ekisu Productions (under the guiding hand of creative producer Tohru Hirayama), rank as some of the finest ever crafted for a tokusatsu series. While there were many well-executed mutants in the series that followed, none of them had the iconic charm and dynamic look of the Destron Mutants. And you know what? They’re just cool as hell, too.