"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, December 12, 2014

Two-Parter Stomps Into Theaters Next Summer


Just-revealed advance poster art's tagline, "The world is cruel."

Director Shinji Higuchi's highly anticipated live action adaptation of Hajime Isayama's manga and anime series will hit Japanese cinemas nationwide next summer, with not one, but two consecutive feature films bowing in August and September 2015. Today, Toho Company Ltd., which is producing and distributing the film, has revealed the advance movie poster on their official movie website.

Written by Yusuke Watanabe (20th Century Boys) and critic Tomohiro Machiyama (working with Isayama), both films will feature visual effects directed by veteran Katsuro Onoue (Sinking of Japan), and not Director Higuchi, who is supervising the entire project. Earlier this year, Higuchi teased the film with a viral car commercial featuring a tie-in promotion with the franchise, which led people to believe that he was also directing the visual effects.

Toho's PR department also unveiled the tagline, "Its magnitude is... beyond ultra-grade GODZILLA!", capitalizing on the successful Gareth Edwards film adaptation of the Big G, which did impressively at the domestic box office in Japan. And this hyperbole isn't all hype: The film's titular titans tower at 120-meters (390 feet), twice as tall manga and anime counterparts, while Godzilla is 350-feet high.

Not to be confused with the second anime feature to be released June 26, 2015, ATTACK ON TITAN 2: WINGS OF FREEDOM, audiences will have to see how this colossal conflict between these naked gargantua and the last bastion of humanity plays out next year — will the live action films be a monstrous success or a titanic failure? My money is on Director Higuchi.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Man Who Redefined Godzilla for the 1990s
December 5, 1942 - December 5, 2014

訃報 川北紘一特撮監督

UPDATED 12/11: Toho's visual effects director who forged and shaped Godzilla's look for the 1990s, Koichi Kawakita, passed away from liver failure on December 5, 2014, with the family releasing the news today in Japan. Only next of kin are allowed at the funeral (chief mourner is his widow, Shigeko). There will be public a memorial service announced for a later date.

Kawakita graduated Nakano Broadcasting High School in 1960 and began his higher education at Kokusai Junior College. Intensely interested in movies, since seeing THE MYSTERIANS (1957), he began working a part-time position at Toho Studios that same year. Offered a full-time position at Toho, he dropped out of college in 1962.

Although headhunted for an Executive position, Kawakita expressed his desire to become a member of the Visual Effects Department, and was taken under the wing of Eiji Tsuburaya, the head of that division and the father of Tokusatsu (Japanese Visual Effects). Later, that same year, Kawakita became an assistant visual effects cameraman on GORATH (1962).

He was transferred to the flagging optical effects department in 1963, and became engaged in rendering the beams and other optical animation for Tsuburaya's films. In 1965, he assisted in the creation of composites and optical effects for Episode 12 of ULTRA Q, "I Saw a Bird!", which was his first work for a television production.

In 1966, he served as an assistant visual effects cinematographer for GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966). After Tsuburaya's death, he was transferred to Toho's new "Visual Planning Department" in 1971. For GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH, both production units were consolidated into one, and Kawakita served as director Yoshimitsu Banno's 1st Assistant Director and on Optical Effects.

Kawakita served as Chief Assistant Visual Effects Director on all of the 1970s Godzilla films, save for GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972) and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), while he worked on the television series ULTRAMAN ACE (1972), ZONE FIGHTER (1973), and JAPAN SINKS (1974). In 1976, he made his impressive film debut as Visual Effects Director on SAMURAI IN THE SKY.

While Tsuburaya's 1st AD, Teruyoshi Nakano, was the head honcho, Kawakita was placed in charge of developing and directing the monumental miniature and visual effects for SAYONARA JUPITER (1983) and GUNHED (1989), both rivaling some US-produced effects techniques, before changing the way the world saw the Big G with GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989).

Kawakita's re-imagining of the monster, a fiercer, more toothsome creature, which set a standard that sits to this day, remains Toho's de facto design of choice. During the 1990s, as head of Toho's Visual Effects Department, his tenure yielded a number of films, television productions, non-film projects and events before he retired from Toho in 2002.

One of his dreams was to produce a remake of his favorite Toho visual effects film, THE MYSTERIANS, proposed in 1990, which never came to fruition. As a free agent, Kawakita formed the independent Tokusatsu and VFX company, Dream Planet Japan in 2003. His last production was the miniseries GUNBOT: THE ARMORED ROBOT (2014), which began broadcast in November.

Director Kawakita was 72 years old.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Toho to Produce a New "Godzilla" in 2015

元祖「ゴジラ」12年ぶり復活 東宝、2016年公開 !

Monster Missing: Last seen in GODZILLA FINAL WARS, 2004.

SCOOP: It's big and it's terrible, and this incredible news broke just two hours ago in Japan and is spreading like wildfire across the world. And while I didn’t see this one coming, and some may think it could be a hoax, the announcement was published in the Japanese equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, Nikkei, the respected movie news website, Eiga.com, and Toho's official Godzilla website (can't get more official than that) — I've combined elements from several stories and the translations are my own:

Toho Company Ltd. will be producing an all-new Godzilla film to be released in 2016. This will be the first “Domestic Godzilla” in 12 years since GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004). In a press release issued today, Toho announced they’ve launched the “Godzilla Conference” as an organization to discuss and decide a wide range of strategies for promoting the Big G, including, but not limited to motion pictures. The group has also been officially nicknamed, “Godzi-con” (or “Gojikon” in Japanese parlance).

Toho vice president and general manager, Satoshi Senda, announced the launch of Godzi-con. Senda was hired by Toho in 1974, working in the film sales and marketing department, and most recently, was in charge of the foreign sales department. With his fellow board of directors, two younger members of the company, having both worked with visual effects-heavy films, Minami Ichikawa (producer of 13 Assassins) will serve as Production Manager, and Taiji Ueda (producer of Trick: The Movie ~ Last Stage), who will oversee the group as Project Leader, the Big G’s future may be bright, indeed.

"With the success of the Hollywood version of GODZILLA, we decided on a new [domestic] production," said Mr. Ueda in today’s press statement. The new production will be handled by Toho, in-house. "The screenplay is currently in development and we plan to start shooting next summer. We cannot announce cast or staff selections at this time. And we’re still deliberating whether to bring Godzilla to life via CGI or man-in-suit,” said Mr. Ueda. "This resurrection will be the centerpiece for ’16, and this is the force of our words."

"The passionate voices of the fans clamored for a resurrection [of the Japanese Godzilla]. We will bring the monster back to Japan, with the high-quality we've given films like [Takashi Yamazaki's] PARASYTE (Kiseiju, 2014). By bringing together our collective know-how, which we’ve been striving for [over the last 12 years], we mustn't lose to Hollywood," he said with confidence.

The Godzi-con also announced that the Big G will also be looming over Tokyo's Kabukicho district. At the former site of the Shinjuku Koma Theater, demolished in 2009, a 12-meter (39-foot) high "Godzilla Head," made of fiberglass and concrete in his likeness from Takao Okawara’s GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992), will be erected on the 8th floor terrance of the new Shinjuku Toho Building, a 31-floor business and theater complex currently under construction, to be unveiled on April 15th.

The head will weigh 80 tonnes and from the top of its crown to the street, from the 8th-floor terrance will be 52 meters (170-feet, around the height of the first Godzilla from 1954), thus becoming a new landmark in the Shinjuku Ward, visible from Shinjuku-Yasukuni Street. Adjacent to the Shinjuku Toho Building, will be the brand-new Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, opening on April 25th, which will be offering a pair of specially-designed "Godzilla Rooms" for its' guests.

Mr. Ueda noted that these are just the "first steps" in their new promotion of the Big G, so I guess we can revel in the fact that Godzilla's 60th Anniversary isn't over, it's just beginning!

Stay tuned for more news as it breaks… Titanic thanks to master kaiju illustrator par excellence, Yuji Kaida, for tipping me off to the news!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


ああ「宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 星巡る方舟」本編冒頭映像 !

Click over to YouTube to watch this video full screen and in 1080p!

The Shochiku Motion Picture Company has just uploaded the first nine minutes and thirty-three seconds of the highly-anticipated animated feature-length film, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 ~ ARK OF THE STARS, opening nationwide in Japan on December 6th. This all-new adventure takes place between Episodes 24 & 25 of the hit remake of the 1974 space opera, in which the Yamato, returning from Iscandar, encounter a vanguard of Imperial Gatlantis (known in the US as the Comet Empire)! Meanwhile, a rouge force of the Gamilas Empire are pursuing her for revenge... Just watch it, already!

One of the spectacular theatrical images heralding the new film!

For the film, composer Akira Miyagawa has penned an instrumental arrangement of the famous theme song, collaborating with world-renown violinist, Taro Hakase, best known outside of Japan for the Celine Dion's song, "To Love You More" (off the album, "Let's Talk About Love"). On December 3rd & 4th (Japan Time), the full feature was previewed for 4,000 lucky Japanese fans over the Bandai Channel streaming service — three full days before the theatrical premiere — but thankfully, Shochiku has kindly allowed fans outside of Japan the chance to preview this first reel of ARK OF THE STARS, so enjoy! Japanese-language only.