"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, March 31, 2015

Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi Revive the King!

2016年新作『ゴジラ』脚本・総監督 庵野秀明&監督 樋口真嗣 !

First promotional icon for upcoming film to be released next year!

The news only broke a short time ago in Japan as I begin to type (2:00 PDT), but according to the regarded film site, Oricon, not only has the author of the screenplay for Toho's upcoming, yet untitled, domestic Godzilla movie been announced (of which I first reported outside of Japan, here), but that the film boasts two directors; one credited as the "Supervising Director" and "Screenwriter," while the other has the "Director" and "Visual Effects Director" credits.

The new Godzilla will start shooting this fall and is slated for release in Japan next summer. Both of these exceptional filmmakers are life-long friends, and are very well-known outside of Japan, mostly for their work with the Gainax animation house on such hit anime series as NADIA, SECRET OF THE BLUE WATER (1990) and NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (1995), but they are also no strangers to the world of Tokusatsu (visual effects films): Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi.

Perhaps you don't realize what this means. It is momentous.

Higuchi at Tokusatsu Exhibit conference in 2012. Photo: C/Net Japan

Director Higuchi (b. 1965), who posted photos of an empty Toho Studios conference room this past weekend, is no stranger to the realm of the giant monster movie, supervising and directing the visual effects for highly-lauded "Gamera Trilogy" of the 1990s. His revolutionary vision of miniature effects stunned audiences and turned the industry upon its head. Higuchi has helmed such films as THE SINKING OF JAPAN (2006) and upcoming two-parter ATTACK ON TITAN (2015).

And before you ask, Higuchi's association with the Big G goes back to his serving as an effects assistant on RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984). But, since he was swept up with Gainax, drawing storyboards for Hiroyuki Yamaga's WINGS OF HONNEAMISE (1987) and then NADIA, it wasn't until 1995 that he returned to visual effects, with the ground-breaking "Gamera Trilogy" directed by Shusuke Kaneko. This time, Higuchi's getting his own Godzilla.

Anno at Tokusatsu Exhibit conference in 2012. Photo: C/Net Japan

Coming into the field as a loyal fan of Eiji Tsuburaya's visual effects films, Director Anno (b. 1960), was one of many Tokusatsu Maniacs who was captivated by the Anime Boom of the '70s and '80s, being a hardcore fanatic of the seminal Space Battleship Yamato franchise, Anno would channel most of his energies into that field, creating the singular anime series of the last 20 years. And now, Hideaki Anno is making a Godzilla film. Let that sink in.

On Toho's official Godzilla website, the directors were asked to give a message to fans concerning this latest resurrection, some of which details Anno's conflict in having to delay proceeding on the next (and final) EVANGELION film in order to take up the Big G's reigns, while Higuchi expressed his passionate "Love of Godzilla." But, while both men are determined in their solidarity, what is their state on mind going into this production with so much at stake?

Read the messages from Hideaki Anno & Shinji Highuchi, here!

50th Anniversary Brings All-New Adventures


Preview art for the third anime series based on the famous manga.

The late mangaka Shotaro Ishimori's team of cybernetic warriors will return this year in an all-new animated series this year, with director Jun Kawagoe at the helm, to celebrate the heroes' 50th Anniversary. "Cyborg 009" first appeared in the pages of Shonen King magazine in 1964, which Ishimori never finished, but was completed by his son, Joe Onodera, and Ishimori Productions stable artists Masato Hayase and Sugar Sato, as "God's War" in 2014.

Recent DVD reissue of the original 1968 Toei Animation series.

There have been three anime series based on the characters (1968, 1979 and 2001; the latter having its own three-apart adaptation of the conclusion, "God's War," which was then-unfinished), as well as four theatrical films in 1966, 1967, 1980, and 2012 (Kenji Kamiyama's CG animated 009 RE: CYBORG was a failure of sorts, while Ghost In the Shell's Mamoru Oshii directed a 3D short for Panasonic in 2010). This new adaptation, reportedly, is aiming to develop the further adventures of the Cyborg 009 team.

DVD art for the popular 1979 series produced with Nippon Sunrise.

Transcending decades, fans have passed the torch from generation to generation, as new adaptations have found followers who've fallen in love with Ishimori's bionic avengers, so the chances for success with a new series, as opposed to a reboot feature, are far greater. The staff will have to meet this challenge by staying faithful to the origins of the characters and the dilemmas that have made "Cyborg 009" the classic that is has remained for half a century.

Jun Kawagoe's 2001 series was broadcast on the Cartoon Network.

This challenge is being met by the return of veteran Jun Kawagoe (Mazin Kaiser SKL), who directed the critical and ratings hit, CYBORG 009: THE CYBORG SOLDIER, which ran for 51 episodes from 2001-02. Kawagoe's first go was a very faithful to the original, keeping in spirit with the original look and storyline, but updating it for a modern generation, without selling out the spirit and soul of what Ishimori created in 1964.

Kenji Kamiyama's reimagined CG feature 009 RE: CYBORG (2012).

After 13 years, Kawagoe has come back to give new life to Ishimori's creation — the first to be produced after the completion of "God's War." So, naturally, fans may have concerns about every aspect of story, the designs, and how they are integrated into this completely fresh production. While no date has been set, fans are awaiting the return of their favorite cyborg guardians, which they expect to be true and faithful to the original, although steering them towards a new horizon.

Can lightning strike a second time with Kawagoe? We'll find out later this year...

Cyborg 009 Official Site

Saturday, March 28, 2015

VOTE FOR ME: IT'S RONDO AWARDS TIME AGAIN! Well, You Don't Have to. But, It Would Be Nice.

第13回「ロンド • ハットン クラシックホラー賞」始まる!

Yes, it's true. Love means never having to say you're ugly.

Actually, I'm a bit late to the party on announcing this, since the Nominees and Ballot went online at the beginning of the month; I've been nominated in two categories Best Article (Category 13: ‘The Complete Godzilla Chronology, 1954-2004,’ "Famous Monsters" #274) and Best Blog (Category 19: "The Good, the Bad and the Godzilla"). I'm flattered once again for my blog, which has received it's 6th nomination, and garnering five welcomed "Honorable Mentions"; especially, when it's just something I goof with (maybe I should take it more seriously?).

With that being said, I can't assume full credit in the nomination for ‘The Complete Godzilla Chronology, 1954-2004' (FM #274), because while I did put together and edit each of the annual "Kaiju Issues," I didn't author every entry in this issue (and all the writers are credited on their respective pieces). If, for some bizarre, irrational reason we win this particular award, it will be accepted in the name of all the writers who worked hard on this issue and the champion FM staff: David Chapple, David Eric Dopko, Bob Eggleton, Matt Frank, Mark Jaramillo, David McRobie, Jason Varney, Ed Blair, Holly Interlandi, Dominie Lee, Jennifer Gerritsen, and publisher Philip Kim.

As an optimist, I don't think we're going to win because of the ton of amazing colleagues on the ballot, but its heartwarming and humbling to be nominated amongst so many deserving writers, artists, thinkers, producers and creative folk — truly a monstrous list of superstars. I just like Japanese movies and television shows featuring monsters, mutants and superheroes, and to have whatever work I out there, mostly done for the love of it (because you're not going to make much money from it), well, it's a nice to be recognized for it — and just that simple recognition by your peers is reward enough.

But, if you're family, a friend, or a fan (or fiend) who'd like to see me win a second statue from The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (never did I believe that I'd win even one), please follow the link below for the official rules and ballot. Now, if you're unfamiliar with any of the categories, you are not required to vote for everyone and everything. You can simply vote in the categories you wish you, and copy and paste them into an e-mail and send them off to the address included in the instructions — and thank you!

(Tim Lucas already has enough of them, already.)

All ballots must be submitted by Midnight, Sunday, April 17, 2015! Fill out your ballot, here:


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Brew, Snacks, and Kaiju Come to Osaka in April

『元祖怪獣酒場』が大阪なんばに登場 ! 2015年4月下旬オープン!

Kanegon welcomes you to Osaka's new "Original Monster Bar" in April!

On the eve of this month's closing of the "Kaiju Sakaba" (The Monster Bar) in Kawasaki, near Tokyo (with a cryptic notice on their website concerning the spot undergoing "relocation"), Tsuburaya Productions has just announced a new pub: "Genso Kaiju Sakaba" (The Original Monster Bar) will be opening in Osaka this coming April for a daily immersive experience of drinks, eats, and monsters, monsters, monsters. If you've been lucky enough to visit the Kawasaki pub, you know how fun it will be!

Crazy Kanegon is cooing koo-koos to open shop this spring in Osaka!

While the Kawasaki pub was "managed" by the nefarious insectoid alien, Baltan (seen in Ultraman), the Osaka spin-off will be similarly "managed" by the whimsical and weird money-munching mutant, Kanegon (from Ultra Q)! The new website (Japanese only) has put a call out soliciting for part time staff at this new location near Nanba Station, Osaka. So, next time you're in town, be sure to stop in and hang out with the Ultra Monsters!

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Tributes Unveiled in Tsuburaya's Hometown

来たぞ我らのウルトラマン像 ! 故・円谷監督の出身地に ...

Mayor Hashimoto with 4-year old Ultra Fan, Kosuke Mastsuzaki.

On March 1st in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, four fiberglass statues were unveiled of Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Gomora and Eleking along the street where the house that Eiji Tsuburaya (1901-1970) was born in once stood — honoring the birthplace of the legendary film-maker who created the traditional Japanese cinema art form of Tokusatsu (special visual effects). Mayor Katsuya Hashimoto, hopes these installations will help attract more tourism to Sukagawa.

Statue of one of the most popular of all the Ultra heroes, Ultra Seven!

Interviewed by the Asashi Shimbun's Naoyuki Takahashi, Hashimoto said, "When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, we had citizens who helped many others rather than dwelling on their own personal disasters. I want our city to be full of such citizens who embody the Ultraman spirit."

The mighty Gomora roars in the night along peaceful Taimatsu-dori!

This is not the first cooperative between the city of Sukagawa and Tsuburaya Productions, the company that Eiji built. As part of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the company, in May of 2013, Sukagawa was officially christened as the Sister City to the "Land of Light," the homeworld of Ultraman in the Nebula — becoming the virtual town of "Sukagawa M78: Town of Light." With the city hall accepting resident registration applications (!).

The eerie Eleking howls during the Full Moon over Sukagawa City!

This was followed by the unveiling of an actual stone, art deco-style edifice of Ultraman in front of Sukagawa's main train station on July 7, 2013 (the fictitious birthdate of Eiji Tsuburaya, which falls on the Tanabata), commemorating the "Sister City" status. Of course, there have been Ultraman statues and a permanent exhibit at Fukushima Airport since 2008, including displays with some original props from the pantheon of the long-running series.

The beautiful art deco-style Ultraman sculpture at Sukagawa Station!

On December 28, 2014, the first of six "Ultraman Mailboxes" was christened at Fukushima Airport, a co-op between Japan Post Co., Ltd., Tsuburaya Productions, and the Fukushima Airport Building Co,, Ltd. Letters and Postcards dropped into these special mailboxes will be postmarked with a special design incorporating Ultraman with Peonies, the official flower of Sukagawa. The others are stationed at various locations around Sukagawa.

Sukagawa's Postmaster drops in the first piece of mail into the box!

Needless to say, Sukagawa has other, and older tributes to the "Old Man" and his children from the Ultra Series — and while there's always the Soshigaya "Ultraman Town" walk in Tokyo, one really just needs to take a side trip to the birthplace of Eiji Tsuburaya to get closer to where it all began.

Only in Japan... (and that's why its awesome.)