"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, August 26, 2015

LEGENDARY MONSTER MAKER: KEIZO MURASE
All-New Photobook On His Monstrous Career!

新発売!洋泉社の「怪獣秘蔵写真集 造形師 村瀬継蔵」


Cover for this must-own photobook on classic Japanese monsters!

One of the most prolific publishing houses of genre subjects in Japan today, Yonsensha, has formally announced the impending release of their third, monstrous "Treasured Photobook" related to great figures who worked during the golden age of Japanese visual effects films at Toho Studios. Previous volumes featured the living legend, monster suit actor Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima, and the late visual effects director, Koichi Kawakita.

Now, while starting out as an upstart in the late 1950s, working in the fabrication department under visual effects wizard, Eiji Tsuburaya, Keizo Murase's legacy started as a part-timer at Toho, with his prolific career exceeding beyond his work for the great Tsuburaya, and which continues even today. As with the previous volumes, this is a photo-filled book, with page-after-page of photographs, but very minimal text (not counting a lengthy interview with the monster maker), most taken by Murase himself.

Here's the hyperbole from the book's obi (paper book band):

"King Kong and Godzilla Armatures, a Blue King Ghidorah, and the Inside Baragon's Head. Never-Before-Published Photographs Have Been Collected for This Wondrous Monster Photobook."

"An assistant fabricator at Toho who helped create Mothra, King Kong, King Ghidorah, Baragon, etc. Sculptor Keizo Murase eye-witnessed the very moment of many monsters were born. As a camera hobbyist during his youth, the tremendous amount of photographs Murase personally captured of the monster-making process are revealed for the very first time. A breakthrough discovery that turns the history of fabrication onto its head!!"

"Matango, Titanosaurus, Takora, Greenman. Gyaos, Viras, Daimajin. Booska, Belocron, Vaxim, Yongary to the Mighty Peking Man... They're all here in this shocking photo collection!!"

"Plus, Keizo Murase's life as a fabricator is documented in an exclusive 16,000-character interview!"

While that sums up no further need for details, this publication is likely to exceed the roughly 400 pages for the previous volumes on Nakajima and the late Kawakita, since the MSRP is just over ¥1,000 ($8.31) higher than the latter. Hitting Japanese bookshelves this September 9th, "Treasured Kaiju Photobook: Keizo Murase, Monster-Maker", was supervised by modern kaiju-builder, Shinichi Wakasa (Godzilla 2000), and famed collector and toy-maker, Yuji Nishimura (the founder of M-Ichigo).

It goes without saying that this is a must-own, even if you don't read Japanese, because based on the previous volumes, "Keizo Murase, Monster-Maker", should measure up to over 95% photos over text — and will surely be the book hardcore fans will be talking about for years to come. I mean, aren't your curious why the original King Ghidorah was blue and not gold?

Click on the link below to pre-order:
TREASURED KAIJU PHOTOBOOK: KEIZO MURASE, MONSTER-MAKER
Format: 8.2 x 5.9 inches
ISBN-10: 4800307562
ISBN-13: 978-4800307569
Release Date: September 9, 2015
MSRP: ¥5184 ($43.10 USD)

Special thanks to Shinichi Wakasa and Yasushi Shiroi for info, and a big shout-out to Takao Yoshiba for providing the cover image.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

HAS “GODZILLA 2016” BEGUN PRODUCTION?
And Did These Men Design Toho's New Big G?

Rumors are trickling out of Japan: Which of them will ring true?


Rumors are hinting details on Toho's next Godzilla and his design.

UPDATE: On December 7, 2014, I posted a breaking story concerning Toho's announcement on an all-new Japanese Godzilla film (title to be announced) to begin production the following summer, helmed by celebrated genre filmmakers Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (Attack On Titan), with Anno turning in the final draft of his screenplay this past March. With pre-production starting sometime last year, and with a call for extras this September, the film should start rolling within the month. 

New Godzilla design rumored to be more classic than Legendary's.

Meanwhile, a connected source contacted “The Good, the Bad, and Godzilla” to share some information — which has yet to be officially released or verified — about the design of the Toho’s new Godzilla. Or rather, the men who may be responsible for the new design, which has yet to be unveiled; and the rumor is not only good — if it's true — it’s gigantic. In fact, it would be explosive:

Is this Godzilla's new designer? Famed illustrator Mahiro Maeda.

Word has it that celebrated animator and designer, Mahiro Maeda, has visualized the new Godzilla. Maeda’s long and distinguished career started by working with Anno in 1982 on SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS, followed in 1983 by the famous Daicon IV opening anime film, a mecha designer on ROBOT CARNIVAL (1987), then in 1988 with both Anno and Higuchi on HONEAMISE: THE ROYAL SPACE FORCE and GUNBUSTER: AIM FOR THE TOP, which forged the creation of Gainax.

Maeada's concept for Immortan Joe for a proposed anime series.

In 1992, Meada and Higuchi went on to form the design house, Gonzo, and has also worked with Quentin Tarantino, creating the animated sequence for KILL BILL (2004), and more recently as a designer for George Miller on MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015). He also has animator credits on several films directed by Hayao Miyazaki, NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984), LAPUTA, CASTLE IN THE SKY (1986), and PORCO ROSSO (1992).

Bandai's original promotional poster art for ULTRAMAN POWERED.

But, why is Maeda exciting for kaiju fans? In 1993, he re-imagined over a dozen of the classic Ultra Monsters, and executed the mecha design, for ULTRAMAN: THE ULTIMATE HERO (aka “Ultraman Great”), then went on to design the monsters for Shusuke Kaneko’s GAMERA trilogy (1995-1999). I don’t believe that there is anyone who will argue that Maeda’s re-imaging of Gamera, as he evolves through each film, was not brilliant and set the bar for future Japanese monster movies.

Visual Effects Museum event poster featuring the Giant God Warrior.

Among Maeda’s voluminous and impressive design credits are Angels 6 & 7 for Anno’s EVANGELION (1995), as well as ESCAFLOWNE (1996), TURN-A GUNDAM (1999), and SAMURAI CHAMPLOO (2004). But, if that’s not impressive enough, he also designed the titular creature for Anno and Higuchi’s short film, GIANT GOD WARRIOR APPEARS IN TOKYO (2013), which was brought to three-dimensional life by the incredible sculpting talents of Takayuki Takeya.

Has prolific sculpture Takayuki Takeya created the new maquette?

If you don’t know who Takayuki Takeya is, you’ve been sleeping under a rock since the 1980s — a powerhouse designer and sculpture, who’s work has influenced a generation, and can be seen in everything from toys and garage kits (Bandai’s Super Imaginative Chogokin line), the films and television (Kamen Rider Drive), anime series (Gilgamesh), and video games (Final Fantasy VII). He’s also visualized characters for the films of Keita Amemiya from FUTURE NINJA (1988), ZEIRAM (1991), and MIKAZUKI (2000).

Takeda's "Predator Riding A Horse" for Sideshow Collectables.

Well, if that doesn’t jog your memory, perhaps you might remember that statue of a Predator riding a mounted Xenomorph? Yeah, that’s Takayuki Takeya. If you’ve collected Devilman toys over the last two years, yeah, that’s Takayuki Takeya, again. Even if you’re not that deep into Japanese fantasy films, but you’re into STAR WARS, and his work looks familiar, that’s because he was also responsible for the Tamashii Nation’s “Samurai Star Wars” line. Impressed yet?

Takeya's "Samurai Star Wars" Darth Vader for Tamashii Nations.

Takeya’s fans number an impressive roster including writer Michael Moorcock (Elric of Melniboné), Simon Lee (Pacific Rim), Shiflett Brothers, and (reportedly), Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker. More recently, Takeya served as character designer for the nightmarish colossi in Shinji Higuchi’s two-feature film epic, ATTACK ON TITAN and ATTACK ON TITAN: END OF THE WORLD (2015). It’s no surprise to believe that Higuchi would hire Takeya to bring a new Godzilla design by Mahiro Maeda to life as a production maquette. But, is any of this true?

One of Takeya's colossal nightmares from ATTACK ON TITAN (2015)!

At least, this is the information coming out of our sources connected to the production. If all of this news pans out to be true, we could be in for something not only fresh and original, but also truly scary; which as imposing and impressive the recent Godzilla designs have been, they all lacked the fear that the original invoked. According to one of the people close to the production, who wanted to remain anonymous, “(This new) Godzilla is based on the original (1954 version), but is going to be… frightening.”

Shinobu Matsumura's fantastic Godzilla '54 Garage Kit for Kaiyodo.

Reading that quote, makes me recall an early concept for the Big G, anticipating the production of RETURN OF GODZILLA, illustrated by Hariken “Hurricane” Ryu in the pages of a 1984 issue of Kodansha’s TV Magazine, which was a cross between the ’54 and ’64 Godzilla, infused with an impressive demonic presence — foreshadowing GAMERA 3’s “Nightmare Gamera” — which we ultimately didn’t get.

This time, though, if what these sources have shared with us, we could see the definitive Godzilla many fans, such as myself, have been waiting decades for.

Cross your fingers (and toes) that this is happening and that official news is not long off! Stay tuned for more details as they develop...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

HOSTING SHOUT'S "KAIJU MOVIE MARATHON"
24-Hours of Japanese Monster Movies and Me!

新番組『怪獣映画大会』登場!


The monstrous event starts this Saturday at Midnight, Eastern Time!

Prepare yourselves for something monstrous on July 18th...

Shout! Factory TV has teamed up with the original monster fan magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, to bring you the Kaiju Movie Marathon! Featuring nine classic Showa-era kaiju eiga (Japanese monster movies) from Toho Studios, spotlighting Godzilla, including hand-picked episodes of Tsuburaya Productions' ULTRA Q (1966) and ULTRA SEVEN (1967), streaming live for 24 hours on July 18th (from midnight to midnight Eastern Time). Hosted by Yours Truly!

Back in March, I was approached by a creative team at Shout! Factory to see if I wanted to be involved in this project, and I couldn't say no. Not only because this would be a fantastic opportunity, but because it was a chance to become a full, red-blooded, American Horror Host, just like my childhood hero, Bob Wilkins of "Creature Features" fame (if just for one day). They forwarded a rough script and told me to "make it your own." And that's exactly what I did.

We shot all of my segments in late June and I hope that everyone will enjoy them — I tried to keep it light, have fun with the material, but also be informative, drop some little known facts, and be completely respectful to the films and the genre (why wouldn't I? I love these films). I brought along some of my favorite Bullmark figures, several original movie posters, and some "Creature Features" tributes to decorate the set (shot at Chronicle Books in San Francisco).

Director Brian Blum, Cameraman Michael Bloom, and I had a blast!

This weekend's event will stream at www.shoutfactorytvlive.com. For mobile, tablet and connected TV devices the marathon is accessible via the Pluto TV app. The marathon is also available via Pluto TV (CH 427) in the living room (Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android TV, Chromecast and Apple Airplay), on the go (apps for iOS, Android and Amazon) and at your fingertips on PCs, Macs via the web.

THE "KAIJU MOVIE MARATHON" SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):

12:00 am — GODZILLA: The Uncut Japanese Original (1954)
01:45 am — ULTRA Q (1966)
05:15 am — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
06:30 am — GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954)
08:15 am — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
09:00 am — RODAN (1956)
10:30 am — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
11:15 am — GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955)
12:45 pm — ULTRA SEVEN (1967)
01:30 pm — GODZILLA VS. THE THING (1964)
03:15 pm — GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)
05:00 pm — MONSTER ZERO (1965)
06:45 pm — GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969)
08:15 pm — TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975)
10:00 pm — Repeat: GODZILLA: The Uncut Japanese Original (1954)
11:45 pm — Repeat: GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969)
01:15 am — Repeat: TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975)

Just a note on the episodes I picked for this special presentation; all of them were not picked as the best of their respective series, but as the best of the kaiju-oriented episodes of each show. So, tune in for the kaiju calamity on July 18th, and live tweet with #godzilla. Shout! Factory TV and Famous Monsters of Filmland will be giving away prizes to fans and viewers of the marathon, including a $100 gift certificate for Shout! Factory merchandize.

In the words of Bob Wilkins, remember to "Watch Horror Films... Keep America Strong!"

(Viewers outside North America can view via Channel 427 on Pluto TV.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

CRITERION #90: KOBAYASHI'S UNCUT "KWAIDAN"
Coming to DVD & Blu-ray on October 20, 2015!

小林正樹のノカット版『怪談』はBlu-ray とDVDに米国に来ます!


New cover art for KWAIDAN designed by Sean Freeman.

For the first time, the uncut, original three-hour version of Masaki Kobayashi's haunting anthology, KWAIDAN (1964), will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States this October 20, 2015 by Janus Films and the Criterion Collection!

From the Criterion press release: After more than a decade of sober political dramas and social-minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted.

This all-new home video release of KWAIDAN will include:

• New 2K digital restoration of director Kobayashi’s original cut
• Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince
• 1993 Kobayashi interview by director Masahiro Shinoda
• New interview with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara
• New piece about author Lafcadio Hearn
• Trailers
• New English subtitle translation
• An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien

Japan
1964
181 minutes
Color
2.35:1
Japanese

The Criterion Collection's page for KWAIDAN

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

RAGONE STOMPS INTO CHI-TOWN FOR G-FEST!
22nd Annual Chicago Kaiju Con July 10th-12th

大怪獣ラゴーニ、シカゴの「Gフェス」に現わる! 


This year's incredible G-Fest Charity print by Chris Scalf!

Yes, it's time to return to the the Windy City, Chicago (it's really in Rosemont at the Crown Plaza O'Hare) for the annual event known as "G-Fest", the longest-running all-kaiju event in North America. I've been asked to return as a convention guest, but this year, I've been given the moniker of "Special Guest Presenter" (sure, I'll take that, thank you).

For the 22nd show, I'll be stationed at my booth in the Dealer's Room (between my pals, Bob Eggleton and Michael Cherkowski's "Vampire Robots"), and will be signing copies of the paperback edition of "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" while supplies last — and yes, you can bring your pre-purchased copies (I'll deface those for free, too).

There's going to be a lot happening, especially with the guests from Japan, autograph signings, fan sessions, presentations, panels, a costume contest, vendors and more (see the convention links for details). Here's a list of my whereabouts for the weekend:


—FRIDAY JULY 10, 2015—

2:00 PM - 4:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

4:30 PM - 5:45 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

6:00 PM - 6:30 PM • Opening Ceremonies (Ballroom 2)

6:45 PM - 7:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)


—SATURDAY JULY 11, 2015—

10:00 AM - 11:45 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM • “50 Years of Gamera” (Ballroom 2)

1:45 PM - 2:45 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM • “Monster Zero” Live!” (Ballroom 2)

5:15 PM - 7:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)


—SUNDAY JULY 12, 2015—

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM • Awards Luncheon (Ballroom 1)

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM • Book Signing (Dealer’s Room)


Hope to see some of you in Chicago for this year's crazy kaiju convention!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EIJI TSUBURAYA!
JULY 10, 1901 - JANUARY 25, 1970

お誕生日おめでとう、円谷英二様!


Goofing around on the set of FRANKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON (1965).

The “Father of Japanese Special Visual Effects” was born on July 10, 1901 as Eiichi Tsuburaya in the town of Sukagawa, Fukushima. As with his life, even his date of birth is steeped in legend — official sources have often listed that Eiji Tsuburaya was born on July 7th — a date of fortune in the celebration of Tanabata (meaning “Seven Evenings”), a Japanese star festival derived from the Obon (a celebration of ancestors). Tanabata is usually celebrated on July 7th or August 7th, to commemorate the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair).

Tanabata originated from the Chinese Festival to Plead for Skills (Oi Xi), which came to Japan in the Heian Period (795-1192), and spread to the public during the Edo Period (1603-1867), where it was then combined with Obon traditions. From the Edo Period, girls wished for better sewing and craftsmanship skills, while boys wished for better calligraphy skills, by writing wishes on strips of tanzaku paper, which were hung on bamboo trees. This tradition is still practiced today in Japan.

Even if Eiji Tsuburaya was not born on July 7th, the myth of being born on the Tanabata certainly was apt, because Tsuburaya would become famous for his multiple artistic and practical skills, which he had in spades — and eventually, the name Tsuburaya would become world-renown with the production of GODZILLA (1954).

Order your copy of "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" (Chronicle Books), today!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SATOSHI "BIN" FURUYA!
JULY 5, 1943

お誕生日おめでとう、古谷敏!ウルトラマンとアマギ隊員よ永遠に!


Alas, poor Ultraman! I knew him, Officer Amagi...

At the age of six, ULTRAMAN came into my life through our living room television set, and my life would never be the same. While I loved dinosaurs, monsters, and the space age, and had already met Godzilla kith and kin, it was the weekday broadcasts of the silver and red superhero, which drove me to obsess over science fiction and fantasy films and teleseries from the land of the rising monsters.

And the actor who brought this savior from the stars to life was Satoshi "Bin" Furuya.

Born in Tokyo's upscale Azabu Ward (now a part of the Minato Ward), Furuya was picked as one of Toho Studio's 15th Annual "New Faces" (along with ULTRAMAN co-star Masanari Nihei), after graduating from the Toho Acting School in 1960. Cast in several small or background parts, in films such as Ishiro Honda's MOTHRA (1961), he garnered his first screen credit in Jun Fukuda's THE HOWLING JAILBREAKERS (1962) as "Ken".

After appearing in a number of kaiju eiga (such as GHIDRAH), Furuya's towering stature and physical proportions did not go unnoticed by Eiji Tsuburaya, who thought he would be a wonderful monster suit actor for the series ULTRA Q (1966). Furuya resisted, at first, but who could refuse working for Japan's visual effects wizard? Then, he soon found himself under the wing of Haruo Nakajima, Godzilla himself. After ULTRA Q, Eiji thought that Furuya would be the perfect choice to portray the titular character of his next series: ULTRAMAN.

The rest, as they say, is history — Furuya was the first and the best Ultraman. Shortly after the conclusion of ULTRAMAN, all of the young actor's efforts and suffering beneath the suffocating suit, was again by Tsuburaya Productions for their next series. Sans masks, this time around, in the main cast of ULTRA SEVEN (1967) as "Officer Amagi" of the Ultra Guard. A character that endeared himself to a generation of Japanese fans to this very day.

But, to me, he will always be the one and only Ultraman!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

SHOUTING KAIJU & STREAMING SUPERHEROES
ULTRA Q & ULTRA SEVEN on Shout! Factory TV!

ストリーミング『ウルトラQ』と『ウルトラセブン』VOD !


Watch episodes of ULTRA Q online anywhere or on your TV via Roku!

Launching this past February, Shout! Factory TV is a free "premiere digital entertainment streaming service that brings timeless and contemporary cult favorites to pop culture fans," with the "highest quality video available for all titles," free-to-consumer ad supported, original videos, special bonus behind-the-scenes featurettes, and live programming (such as the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon).


Watch episodes of ULTRA SEVEN online or on your TV via Roku!

On July 1st, the service uploaded all 28-episodes of the classic 1966 kaiju-fantasy series ULTRA Q (click link to start viewing), precursor to ULTRAMAN, and 48-episodes of the 1967 sci-fi superhero series ULTRA SEVEN (click to start viewing), which followed ULTRAMAN, produced by Eiji Tsuburaya's world-renown Tsuburaya Productions, and are fully subtitled in English!

So, for any of those of you in North America who passed on picking up the either or both of these series on DVD from the Shout! Factory label — here's your chance to see both of these classic series and find out what all the fuss is about. So, tune in and kaiju out!

Monday, June 29, 2015

"TITANS" SET TO ATTACK NORTH AMERICA
Hollywood World Premiere on July 14th!

実写版『進撃の巨人』7月15日にアメリカ上陸!


July's World Premiere in Hollywood will supersede Japanese debut.

The first of director Shinji Higuchi's two-part ATTACK ON TITAN live action feature films will be released theatrically throughout North, Central and South America this fall by US-based label, Funimation Entertainment, who is also partnering with Toho to host the World Premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on July 14th (before its Tokyo premiere on July 21st and general public Japanese release on August 1st).


Leading man, Haruma Miura, will attend the Hollywood premiere.

Director Higuchi (SINKING OF JAPAN), the man who's gearing up to shoot Toho's next Godzilla film, will be joined on the red-carpet by the film's stars, Haruma Miura and Kiko Mizuhara. Before the big premiere in Hollywood, Mr. Higuchi will be promoting the film this year's San Diego Comic-Con International by signing autographs at the Funimation Entertainment booth (#4135) on July 12th.


Co-star Kiko Mizuhara will also walk the red carpet on July 14th.

ATTACK ON TITAN will also be hitting Australian cinemas in August via Madman Entertainment, while the second film, END OF THE WORLD, will have its Japanese bow on September 19th. At this time, there has been no word of a release for the second film on this side of the Pacific (although it's a safe bet to say its in the hands of Funimation). Stay tuned for more information and news as it develops!

(Source: Funimation Entertainment)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

LIVE ACTION “GAIKING” STILL MOVING FORWARD
Toei Animation’s Bold Plans for 2015 & Beyond!

ガイキングと東映アニメーション 新たなCGプロジェクト複数企画


DVD jacket for the original GAIKING television series from 1976.

SCOOP: With the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2015, Toei Animation made its full-year announced its financial results, while strategies for the company’s medium-to-long-term plans were revealed on May 19th to the press. Concerning their plans for in-house production, they’re suggesting that CG animation will be the emphasis as the impetuous in the decade to come.


Poster for the robot sci-fi film, EXPELLED FROM PARADISE (2014).



In 2014, the smashing success of Seiji Mizushima's animated sci-fi feature, EXPELLED FROM PARADISE (Rakuen Tsuiho), attracted much attention, and is leading Toei Animation in their current planning of original CG projects to follow. While specific titles and content were not revealed, it was intimated that the studio would like to continue using the success of EXPELLED FROM PARADISE as their model in an ongoing basis. The film was screened in 15 select theaters in the United States by Aniplex USA on December 13, 2014.


Poster for Shinji Aramaki's retelling of CAPTAIN HARLOCK (2013).

Therefore, the expansion of  bigger budgeted theatrical CG animated features is also in progress, developing from the foundation of Shinji Aramaki’s CAPTIAN HARLOCK (Kyaputen Harokku, 2013; also making the rounds in select US theaters and currently available on Netflix) and Keiichi Sato’s SAINT SEIYA: LEGEND OF SANCTUARY (Seinto Seiya Rejendo Obu Sankuchuari, 2014). Currently, Toei Animation has the longest history of domestic production in Japan, and they're making it known that they aim to move towards the future in the planning and execution of CG animation productions.


Poster for Keiichi Sato's SAINT SEIYA: LEGACY OF SANCTUARY (2014).

Progress is being forged with yet another original animated film, FILE (N): PROJECT PQ, directed by Naoki Miyahara, to be released around Spring 2016. Early promotion has already launched a dedicated page on the “Yahoo! Kids” portal site (in conjunction with Yahoo! Japan), featuring a series of promotion video “dance lessons.” The theme of the film is work through dance, as a “youth dance movie,” in a story of five attractive girls coming of age.


Art for Naoki Miyahara's upcoming FILE (N): PROJECT PQ (2016).

Also equally emphasized by Toei Animation is GAIKING. Announced several years ago as a live action feature film coproduced with Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla Entertainment (producers of “The Walking Dead”) and ANEW (All Nippon Entertainment Works). While progress on development is still actively moving forwards, Toei Animation hinted that in addition to GAIKING, multiple (Super Robot) titles are being planned for production, and it’s very likely that a surprise announcement will be made, regarding this, in the near future.


Toei Animation's mascot from Kimio Yabuki's PUSS 'N BOOTS (1969).

Toei Animation will continue with a call for investment from creators and outside studios to support their future planning and production. Now, Toei Animation’s Oizumi Studio is undergoing renovations, with the completion date set for summer 2017. Meanwhile, the studio's research and development teams are pushing ahead in expansion of rendering technology, including assessing the feasibility in producing an CG animated television series.

In supporting the development of young creators, Toei Animation claims that they are enriching and improving the production process. Specifically, in the creation of pilot films that will improve the chances of becoming hit productions.

(Translated from the May 19, 2015 Anime! Anime! Business story.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THE DIRECTORS OF "GODZILLA 2016" SPEAK:
"I'll Give You the Greatest Worst Nightmare!"

樋口真嗣:「来年、最高で最悪の悪夢を皆様にお届けします」!

These men are planning to destroy Japan next summer. Again.

Yesterday, when Toho released their announcement to the press that Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi were teaming together to co-direct the next domestic Godzilla film to be produced in Japan, jaws could be heard dropping across the Pacific. Yes, the man who pushed the state of miniature visual effects to the next level, and the man who revolutionized storytelling in anime, were to be bringing the Big G back home — in tandem with Legendary's trilogy directed by Gareth Edwards.

I don't think anyone on this side of the Pacific, after more that two decades of whatever Toho threw at fans, realize the gravity of this paring. Visually, they may have a better idea once the first of Higuchi's pair of live action ATTACK ON TITAN films hit Japanese screens this summer. As for Anno, who is also penning the screenplay, all you have to do is look at his body of work to see there's a big change coming. A very big change. Something that we might never thought we'd see.

As the press release related, the film will be shooting this fall and will be released "Summer 2016." More information has been gleaned from the Extras Casting Call that has already gone out from the CineBazar casting agency, which has opened applications for potential extras needed between September and November. This indicates the film's Principal Photography will be completed before December, giving Higuchi and Anno several months to shoot and render the visual effects.

Personally, while I've always looked towards the new productions with a sense of cautious optimism, notably, the Gareth Edwards film, I'm very excited for the potential of this new incarnation, especially as we get closer to production time this fall. Until then, perhaps we can get a sense of what these two hardcore fans of the Showa Godzilla (1954-1975) have in mind, from their two written statements issued by Toho:

HIDEAKI ANNO
WRITER/SUPERVISING DIRECTOR


December 2012. After the production of EVANGELION: 3.0 YOU CAN (NOT) REDO, I was broken. A so-called depression set in. It was the comeuppance for six years that drained my soul. 2013 came and went. That was a year in which negative memories rumbled back, over and over. While I could represent myself, it became impossible for me to even physically go near the studio, even once, because of the burden of the next film [EVAGELION 4]. Early 2014. I was finally able to return to the studio. Then, I gradually got back into working, because of that year of self-rehabilitation.

So, it’s 2015. After 20 years after the premiere of the old EVA; and you've been waiting more than two years since you last bought your tickets, so I’m working towards realizing the completion of the new EVANGELION theatrical features (why am I promoting it, already?). To those who follow me, and all the anime fans, it’s only through your continued support that gives me the motivation to move forward, again, towards the finale. Sincerely, I thank you.

And, now, at the same time, I’m also starting work putting together a visual effects fantasy film. This all started at the end of January, 2013. A representative from Toho contacted me directly, saying, “We’d like to direct a new Godzilla film.” At the time, I was still recovering from EVA 3.0, and right on the spot, flatly refused the offer, “It’s impossible. Even to begin work on the next EVA is impossible.” 

Eventually, it was Toho’s sincerity and the enthusiasm of my ally, Director Shinji Higuchi, and I decided to take the job as Director that March. My prayer is that this will not be just a repeat of science fiction visuals of the past, and the wish we put into the Tokusatsu Museum Exhibit, was to embody the idea of giving back to the creators and artists who came before us, which was our intention and our responsibility. And when that epiphany occurred to me, my resolution was to undertake this task.

Now, one does because they can, not because they cannot. I made my decision because this is a new, once-in-a-lifetime chance. This is not EVA. This is not an original creation of my own, and is something I’ve never done before — this is why I decided to do it.

That May, I began my work with pen to paper. And I decided on how I was going to depict the principal subject. And in the following month, June, I submitted my G-Project Memos and Story Proposals to Toho, and then began working on the Plot Outline, etc. 

Godzilla exists in a world of science fiction, not only of dreams and hopes, but he's a caricature of reality, a satire, a mirror image. Recently, Japan has also been careless in the way it has attempted to depict him. In all honesty, Japanese production budgets and schedules are so tight, compared to the world’s capitol [Hollywood], not to mention the constraints imposed on filmmakers in terms of content. Frankly, I’m not sure how far outside the lines we can go.

However, movies have pride, even trifling little films; therefore, just as in the case of the new EVAs, I’m going in full force. When I think about what I’ve accomplished, the twists and turns befitting a screenplay, everything has led to this point. I write this with the hope that the reader might understand at least to some degree that no matter what a creator says, it’s just an excuse, but I’m under pressure to make a visual effects fantasy film representative of modern Japan, with the full awareness of our current situation, which will be subjected to intentions both good and bad.

Finally, to all those of you who have given me support, to all the fans who’ve purchased tickets to my films, to everyone who has given me the will to continue with my works, I’m eternally grateful. Thank you.

SHINJI HIGUCHI
DIRECTOR/VISUAL EFFECTS DIRECTOR


The thought of this resurrection has my chest pounding. Almost three decades have passed since I snuck into this film industry, and had no idea what would transpire before me, because I was so idealistic. The difference between my first, carefree world of amateur filmmaking, compared to the reality of the ups and downs of the industry, I feel as though I’ve been a hero running for 30 years. But, at last, the time has come! 

I’ve come to see those reckless heroes of my high school and college days hit mid-life. It all seems like a dream, but now I must come back to reality. There’s no more room for idle talk. “What you really want to do, what you really need to do, what you should never do, what you may not be able to do,” are the thoughts that’ve fought in my head, and held me back.

It’s a veritable championship over one’s own mind. What now, then? Playtime is over. Nevertheless, with my best friend standing beside me, we will triumph over the pressure that would otherwise make me run far away. I was born in this country which gave life to this great divinity [Godzilla], which destined me to work in visual effects, up until this very moment. I give unending thanks to Fate for this opportunity; so next year, I’ll give you the greatest worst nightmare.

Stay tuned to this blog for more news and updates on production of "Godzilla 2016"!

(Special thanks to the redoubtable Marc Miyake for pinch hitting!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"EVANGELION" CREATOR HELMS NEW "GODZILLA"
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, and another six years before he supervised a sequence for GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001). This time, he'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!

"CYBORG 009" IS RETURNING TO TELEVISION!
50th Anniversary Brings All-New Adventures

石ノ森正太郎の『サイボーグ009』50周年で新作映像化決定!


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:

THE 13TH ANNUAL RONDO HATTON CLASSIC HORROR AWARDS BALLOT