As you likely know, Kaiju Transmissions is a remarkable podcast that regularly brings us detailed discussions of frequently under-represented topics related to kaiju and tokusatsu filmmaking (and if if you didn’t know, check it out; you’re about to have a new favorite show). Hosts Matt and Byrd got to interview a number of guests at last month’s G-Fest XXIV, but due to technical difficulties, the audio came out sounding not quite up to broadcast standards. Rather than just chuck the interviews, they figured folks would get a kick out of reading the transcriptions, and offered to let me post them here. Kudos to their efforts, and enjoy the interviews!
G-Fest 2017: Kiyotaka Taguchi Interview
for the Kaiju Transmissions Podcast
Kyle Byrd: We are here interviewing some of the guests and first up, we have Mr. Kiyotaka Taguchi, who has done many things. He has been assistant SPFX director of the Godzilla series, has produced and directed a lot of the recent Ultraman shows, and has done a lot of really cool independent short films. First of all, Mr. Taguchi, thank you for joining us today.
Matt Parmley: We also have our honored interpreter. Could you please introduce yourself.
Keiko: Hello, my name is Keiko.
MP: Keiko, thank you for joining us.
KB: So we have some questions we’re going to ask. First off, how did you break into the SPFX industry and go into Toho and the Godzilla films as an assistant? Obviously you loved this stuff as a kid. How did you take it to the next level and do it for a living?
Kiyotaka Taguchi: I went to a special school after high school. I went after I saw an ad that said if I went to this school, I could get into the tokusatsu industry.
MP: What was your first project after school?
KT: That was a film called Whiteout that starred Yuji Oda, who is a famous actor in Japan. Makoto Kamiya was the special effects director for that film, and he brought me into GMK.
MP: My son is three and a half and I just showed him Ultraman X. He’s a huge fan. How did you get involved in the Ultraman franchise at Tsuburaya?
KT: I was a staff member on the Godzilla films and I met Shinji Higuchi and made some connections. After doing several movies, I was asked by Tsuburaya Productions.
KB: What would you say are the biggest differences between working on a TV show on a movie?
KT: The biggest difference is the budget. So in a movie, we can use more CGI and do more with the miniatures because there’s more money. In a TV series, we can’t do as much.
MP: How long does it take to do a single Ultraman episode?
KT: A normal TV drama will usually take about five days to complete. An Ultraman episode usually takes closer to five days for the dramatic scenes and six days for SPFX scenes. There is a lot of work, especially with all the effects. With Ultraman X, we had about six days for drama and six for SPFX. On Ultraman Orb, we did about five days and five days, so it was even smaller.
KB: With the recent Ultraman shows, I know they are produced in partnership with Bandai, so I know you have the ideas of things like the cards and Spark Dolls. Are those ideas that Bandai presents to you to incorporate into the show, or those ideas you came up with to incorporate into the programs?
KT: First I have to consider what Bandai wants. Their business strategy and everything. Bandai will decide on the weapons and Henshin devices and how they look and transform.
MP: So they have a lot of influence over design?
KT: Yeah, they tell me what they want with the transformation items. After that, I can provide more input.
MP: Do you have any specific moments in any of your Ultra shows that you are particularly proud of?
KT: I think Ultraman X episodes 5 and 15.
Ultraman X episode 15
KB: So the episode of X that you just showed us, was that one of those episodes?
KT: Yes, that was episode 15. I directed that episode and did the effects and props.
MP: I love Gehara. How did you come up with the creature design for Gehara?
KT: For that, NHK television held a kaiju character contest and asked people which one was their favorite design. Gehara was the one that won.
MP: Oh, ok, that’s really awesome.
KB: One of my favorite directors is Shion Sono. How did you get involved working with him on the film Love and Peace?
KT: One of the producers was someone I knew. He also worked on Evangelion. He introduced me to Mr. Sono, who loves tokusatsu movies. He said Sono wanted to make a tokusatsu movie and he introduced us.
Love & Peace (2015)
MP: Going back to Godzilla for a minute, what was the first Godzilla film you worked on and what was your role on that film? And what other Godzilla films did you work on?
KT: My first was Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, then I also was assistant SPFX director on GMK, Godzilla x MechaGodzilla, Tokyo SOS, Final Wars, and also Gamera the Brave.
KB: Out of those Godzilla films, did you have a particular favorite you liked working on the most?
KT: GMK is my favorite.
KB: Ah, very popular.
KT: There were a lot of accidents on that one, but it was fun. Very memorable.
MP: Did you get to work a lot with Yoshida-san? (note: referring to suit actor Mizuo Yoshida who played Godzilla in GMK)
KT: I was an assistant on the effects shoots, so I was helping him wear the suit. So I was behind Godzilla all the time.
MP: Yeah, that’s a very big suit. Were there any accidents you can tell us about from behind the scenes?
KT: (laughs) Too many! In the fight with Baragon, the helicopter flying around was on a piano wire, so I was constantly having to make it stable since I was the assistant. So I was holding the wire and I cut my finger open and the helicopter started wobbling. So because of this incident, they had to stop the shoot. And I was very sore. (laughs)
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-out Attack (2001)
KB: Earlier I had him sign my DVD of Norman England’s film the iDol. Did you enjoy working on that particular movie?
KT: Ah, I didn’t do any kind of action directing on that. I did digital VFX work. It was a good time.
MP: So this was the first time we got to see Female Weapon 701, which was awesome by the way. Was the title a homage to the film Female Prisoner 701?
KT: Female Prisoner?
KB: I guess not.
MP: That’s a no (laughs)
KB: It was a Japanese crime film from the 70s, Female Prisoner 701.
KT: Ahhh! No, I didn’t take any inspiration from that. I just wanted to make a movie with a sexy, strong woman with weapons.
Female Weapon 701 (2017)
KB: Circling back to Ultraman real quick, are there any classic Ultraman series kaiju that are your favorites?
KB: Of course, yeah, Baltan.
KT: Also, Gabadon. Gabadon’s A form! (laughs)
KB: Oh yeah!
MP: Gabadon is awesome!
KB: Yeah, how he makes that (imitates squeaking sounds) when he walks!
KT: (imitates Gabadon squeak sounds) (laughter)
MP: How do you feel about continuing to work with practical effects and miniatures as opposed to working with just CGI, like Shin Godzilla where it is mostly CG? Do you see the ability to be able to do more with miniature effects like you’re doing currently?
KT: With Shin Godzilla, they wanted to make it very realistic with the CG. But I love the tokusatsu effects. I love CG, but I love tokusatsu and miniatures much more. CGI is more like doing deskwork. Tokusatsu is fieldwork. I prefer fieldwork!
KB: With less and less productions using the tokusatsu methods, do you feel like you’ll ever see those methods come back in theatrical releases or do you think we’re pretty much just going to be seeing it on television?
KT: It is more and more on TV these days, but I want to make tokusatsu features.
Taguchi on the set of Neo Ultra Q (2013).
MP: What kind of kaiju film would you want to make?
KT: I want to make a big Godzilla movie.
MP: Kyle and I were talking and we hope eventually you will make a Godzilla film. I hope that we can see a Godzilla film that goes back to more traditional tokusatsu effects. For us, that’s what we love more than anything.
KB: We want you to do it! (laughter)
KT: With general audiences it’s just that they want the realistic CGI effects. But for me, I just love the miniatures more than anything.
KB: Yeah same here! With that being said, have you been enjoying the CG-based kaiju films, like the Legendary Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island and Shin Godzilla, even though they didn’t use miniature effects?
KT: As movies, I enjoy them! But my favorite thing is still seeing tokusatsu effects and miniature buildings getting destroyed.
KB: Alright, well before we wrap up, I wanna say thank you for showing us your independent short films, I love those. Have you considered making your own original creation or turning your short films into features?
KT: Yeah sure, I’m always making those efforts.
KB: Well we hope that happens! Thank you so much!
KT: Thank you!
Matt Parmley, Kyle Byrd, Kiyotaka Taguchi, and Keiko