Kaiju Transmissions Interview: Michiru Oshima

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!
-Kevin

G-Fest 2017: Michiru Oshima Interview
for the Kaiju Transmissions Podcast

Kyle Byrd: We are here at G-Fest 2017 and we are interviewing some of the special guests.  And right now for the podcast we have Michiru Oshima, who you know as the composer of many Godzilla films as well as various soundtracks, anime such as Full Metal Alchemist, and she has been generous enough to give us some of her time today.

Matt Parmley:  So thank you very much for being here.

Michiru Oshima: Thank you.

MP: And we also have our esteemed interpreter and I will let you introduce yourself…

Keiko:  Keiko.

KB:  What got you interested in film music and how did you break into that industry?

MO:  When I finished music school, I started composing for commercials.  After that, I got offers for TV dramas, then movies.

KB:  Was doing Godzilla music something that you wanted to do or was it something that was just offered?  Were Akira Ifukube’s scores an influence at all?

MO:  The director offered me the job.  I’m a woman, so I didn’t really know about Godzilla before getting the job, including the previous music.

MP:  How did you come up with your Godzilla theme?  His theme is very big and booming.  What inspired your Godzilla theme?

MO:  The director, Mr. Tezuka wanted Godzilla to be very strong and sound very powerful.  I wanted to make Godzilla seem big.

KB:  As far as film scores go, are there any movie composers that you listened to growing up that may have influenced your work?

MO:  I love Kurosawa’s movies, and I always wanted to work with him before he died.  I really love Masaru Sato’s music for those films.  I also really love Jerry Goldsmith, who is a very famous composer in America.  I love him.

KB: Ah, yes!  Alien, Gremlins, Planet of the Apes!  His work is great.

MO: Yes, yes.  The Omen, etc.

MP: There’s an animated American fan project called Godzilla Total Destruction.  Are you familiar with the project?

MO:  Yes, yes.  About two years ago, I visited America and I met the director [Chris Mirjahangir], who asked me to do the music and I started working on it.

Godzilla: Total Destruction

KB:  Ok, so he just asked?  That’s very cool.  I’m looking forward to hearing more kaiju music from you!

MP:  So we’ll be hearing music for this particular project?

MO:  Yes, maybe.

KB: What is your general process for having to score a film?  Do you have to see the movie first or some of the footage or do you just get a script?

MO:  For TV dramas, all I really see is the script.  But for movies, I see footage and I get to see a lot more of the movie.

Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) is one of Ms. Oshima’s many popular TV show soundtracks.

KB:  How is scoring for animation any different than scoring live action film?

MO:  Well, animation has a lot of action and quick movements and editing, so you have to score around that.  Animated characters also can’t physically express their feelings as much as real actors, so it takes extra effort to convey those things sometimes.

MP: Do you have a favorite score that you’ve composed or one that you’re especially proud of?

MO:  I always try my best and work really hard, so I always say my most recent work is my best work.

KB:  Did you watch any of the old Godzilla movies when you started writing for Tezuka’s Godzilla films?

MO:  I didn’t.  I didn’t want to get any influence from the old movies.  I wanted to have my own fresh approach.  So I tried not to watch the old movies.

KB: Do you have a favorite movie from the Godzilla movies you scored?

MO:  Probably Godzilla x MechaGodzilla.

MP:  When you compose music do you typically work from piano or do you use digital mock-ups?

MO:  I use keyboards, but I also use a lot of computer software.

KB:  You’ve done a lot of video game music also.  How is that different from doing television or movie music?

MO:  When I do game music, the games aren’t done yet.  It is very difficult to get what the directors want.  It is very hard to imagine how everything will move and look.  It is hard to know how it should feel since games are interactive.   I also don’t play games (laughs).

KB:  One particular film I want to ask you about is Princess Raccoon from 2005 directed by Seijun Suzuki.  Were you familiar with his work prior to working on that?  And what was it like working with him on the film?

MO:  Yes, of course.  So is Seijun Suzuki famous in America?

KB:  He has a strong fan base here.  He isn’t as famous as Kurosawa or anything, but there are a lot of people here who really love his films and know the difficulty he had making films as well.

MO:  Ok.  Well I enjoyed working with Suzuki a lot.  He made very special movies and he was a very special director.  One time I asked him what a scene was going to look like and he just said “a dock in the fall time.”  Then when I saw the movie, the scene didn’t even have a dock!  So what I’m trying to say is that he had a very special and unique way of doing things and thinking of things.

Princess Raccoon (2005)

MP:  Were you familiar with his visual style before you worked with him?

MO:  He’s very well known in Japan, so I was familiar with his work already.

KBPrincess Raccoon was a musical.  Was the music for that movie composed to the lyrics and dialogue?

MO:  Yes, well I made the music that they are actually singing to!  So it was all my music, then the lyrics and singing came after.

KB:  You mentioned Masaru Sato earlier.  Were you familiar with the music he did for several Godzilla films as well?

MO:  I never heard his Godzilla music.  I was more interested in his Kurosawa scores.  Sanjuro made a big impression on me.

KB:  Is Sanjuro your favorite Kurosawa film?

MO:  Yes!

KB:  After you did the Godzilla films, did you go back and listen to the music for any of the older movies at all?

MO:  Toho sent me a box of all the movies, so sometimes I’ll watch some of the movies.  So I’m more familiar with the music for them now.

KB: So between animation, live action, and video games, does she have a favorite medium to write music for?  And why?

MO:  I enjoy doing all of them for different reasons.  Everything is different.  But I definitely like doing live action the most.

MP:  What is the most difficult kind of scene to compose for?

MO:  Probably scenes where there isn’t much going on.  No action or anything.  Scenes that are kind of just people sitting and doing nothing (laughs).

MP:  (laughs) Oh, ok.  That makes a lot of sense actually.  Well we have some other people waiting to talk to you, so thank you very much for everything.  Thank you for being on our show and we’re big fans of your music.

KB:  Yes, thank you for coming!  And thank you talking with us and for coming out here.  Are you enjoying G-Fest so far?

MO:  Yes, of course!

KB:  Well hopefully you’ll come back one day.  We’d love to have you back some day.

MP:  Your Godzilla theme is awesome, by the way.

KB:  Yes!  One of my favorite Godzilla themes!

MO: Thank you for that!

KB:  Yes, thank you again for talking with us.

MO: Thank you very much.

Matt Parmley, Michiru Oshima, Kyle Byrd, and Keiko

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Kaiju Transmissions Interview: Kazuhiro Nakagawa

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!
-Kevin

G-Fest 2017: Kazuhiro Nakagawa Interview
for the Kaiju Transmissions Podcast

Kyle Byrd:  We’ve been interviewing some of the guests who have been very generous in giving us some of their time.  Today joining us is Kazuhiro Nakagawa, who is an assistant director.  Kaiju fans may know him as being Shinji Higuchi’s assistant director on the Attack on Titan films and Shin Godzilla.  He is also the director of the short film Day of the Kaiju as well.  So first off, thank you for sitting down with us today.

Kazuhiro Nakagawa:  Nice to meet you.  I’m Kazuhiro Nakagawa (laughs).

Matt Parmley:  With us as well interpreting for us is Mike Field.  So thank you for doing that for us Mike, we appreciate it.

Mike Field:  You’re welcome, thank you for having me.

KB: So how did you get involved in working on tokusatsu films, especially since it seems like there are less and less of them?  How did you break into that industry?

KN: I worked originally on TV dramas that didn’t have any effects and weren’t tokusatsu related.  I got into the tokusatsu world because of Shinji Higuchi, so that’s how I got involved with Attack on Titan and Shin Godzilla.

KB:  How did you first meet Higuchi and get on board with those projects?

KN: I first met Higuchi-san in 2006 on Sinking of Japan.  I really loved the 90s Gamera series and when I met him, I was so stars truck, I was thinking “Higuchi!  He really exists!”  I was blown away!

KB:  So I want to talk about your short film Day of the Kaiju.  What gave you the idea to make that film?

KN:  When I made it, I was thinking about the effects of the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima disaster.  I wanted to make a movie that would incorporate that type of disaster.   I wanted to make a movie where the kaiju was a metaphor for things you couldn’t see.  The disaster with the nuclear power plant, you couldn’t see that danger.  It was something you couldn’t grasp, so the kaiju is the metaphor for those dangers you couldn’t see to understand.

Day of the Kaiju (2014)

KB:  Was the movie born out of a particular frustration with how the government was handling those disasters?  Because in the movie, the government very much doesn’t want to listen to the experts and because of that, a lot of people pay with their lives.  Was that something you were feeling a particular frustration with at the time?

KN:  Yes, of course.  I felt like if I do nothing, nothing would change.  So my way of doing something was to make a film.

KB: The actual kaiju we don’t see much of in the movie.  But how did you come up with the design for that monster?

KN:  Well it was based on a whale, but the big tusks were something I took from Gamera!

Day of the Kaiju

MP:  So lets talk about Attack on Titan.  What was your role on that film?

KN: Assistant director.

MP: What did you handle as assistant director?

KN:  I was in charge of the props.

MP: Did you work with the big Colossal Titan puppet?

KN:  Yes.  (Mr. Nakagawa pulls out his phone and starts looking through his pictures).

KB:  He’s got his phone out.  It looks like he’s going to share an image with us, which we will describe.

KN:  Keep talking (laughs).

MP:  As far as the props go, what other props were you working with besides the Colossal Titan?  Oh, he might be showing us!

KN: (Shows photo on his phone)

KB: So we’re looking at a behind the scenes photo.  We have the Armored Titan, the Colossal Titan, and Ehren.  That was great work on those puppets and suits.

KN:  As far as other props, I was mainly working on the solider props, so their costumes and their weapons and those things.

KB: Were there any scenes in particular that you had a heavy hand in?

KN:  I feel like the scene I remember the most and that I had the biggest part of was the first big Titan attack in Part One.

MP:  Ah, that’s my favorite scene in the movie!

KN: I remember working on the timing of blowing up all the figures and models and those things.  I really liked that.

MP:  Was there difficulty filming those scenes?  Are there any stories you could share about any hardships you had while filming?

KN:  There weren’t any real Titans in that scene, they were added later.  So when we were filming without having them there, that was very difficult.  So we had to have a long pole for the actors to look at to act out the scene.  That was pretty difficult.

KB:  Shifting to Shin Godzilla, what was your general job on the set there?

KN:  I was the assistant director on that too.  For that one, one of my big jobs was researching and looking up information about politics and politicians and what they do.

MP:  That’s a very difficult job (laughs).

KN: (laughs).  So with the screenplay, I kept thinking about becoming a politician and how difficult it is.

MP:  So you got to work on the actual screenplay itself?

KN:  I worked on editing and re-wording the screenplay.

KB: With Shin Godzilla, did you get to work with Anno directly at all?

KN:  Yes, but Anno wasn’t very direct, so I kind of had to work around the bush and go to different people to get a better understanding of what Anno wanted.

KB:  Was Higuchi kind of your middle man for those things?

KN: (laughs).  Well Anno-san would say something and I would go to Higuchi-san and try to explain to him what Anno was trying to say or what type of scene to film.  The most frustrating part would be when Anno and Higuchi would be talking to each other and I would just be standing there on the side, not saying anything, just waiting for them to work things out.  So I was actually kind of a middle-man sometimes!

MP: Going back to the politics portion, the movie talks about Article 9 a lot.  Was that something else you were in charge of researching?

KN:   Right, I did some research on Article 9, which involves the use of military force.  A lot of people don’t know if that would be good or not, so that was very difficult.  It is something that is argued about a lot in real life.

MP:  Would you say that was the theme of the movie itself?

KN:  It wasn’t really the main focus of the film even though it’s a part of it.  The thing was, it isn’t really about the article itself.  It is more how Japan would react, that was the focus.

Shin Godzilla (2016)

KB:  Foreigners are not as up to speed with what goes on in the Japanese government.  Would you say the movie says anything about international affairs?

KN:  I personally never really thought about it on a global or international perspective.  We really made it for a Japanese perspective.

MP:  So this is unrelated to that.  But at the end of the movie, everyone wants to know what those things coming out of the tail are.  Did they have a specific purpose?  Are they the next part of Godzilla’s evolution, or are they just there for imagery?

KN:  Um.  Only Anno knows!    (all laughing)

MP:  That’s the best answer!

KB:  Of course, of course (laughs).  On Shin Godzilla, were there any scenes you liked the most in the movie or any you enjoyed working on the most?

KN:  I really enjoyed the scene where the helicopters are flying through the building and approaching Godzilla.

MP: Ok, that is a cool scene.

KB:  Like us here, you have a passion for miniature effects and tokusatsu.  Recently, we’ve had a lot of major kaiju movies using all CG.  Shin Godzilla was one of those.  I understand there was a giant Godzilla puppet built that was never used in the film.  I understand there was some difficulty with it.  Can you maybe be more specific as to why that puppet didn’t make it into the movie?

KN:  This answer is pretty on the nose.  Anno would know better than anyone, but from what I can tell, I feel that the puppet and the way the CGI Godzilla looked were just too different, so they just stuck with the CGI instead.

MP:  So was the puppet in the movie or not?  I can’t really tell and from what Higuchi was saying earlier, it sounds like it may not have been.  Were there any shots you know it was in the film at all or was it all CG?

KN:  All CG.  Actually, except for one.  The last shot of the tail, that was a miniature tail, not CGI.

MP:  The things coming out of the tail, yeah, did they make a full prop of that?  I saw some pictures in the Making Of book.  It looks kind of like the Giant God Warrior.

KN:  Yes, they made that, but we just used the tail part for the last scene.

Shin Godzilla

KB:  Going back to CGI, here we are doing the Godzilla and Kong films with CG.  What did you think of the 2014 Godzilla film and the recent Kong: Skull Island film?

KN:  I love them!  I really think they are very Toho-like, they have a very “kaiju pro wrestling” vibe.  They feel like they are the classic Showa films, but made with larger Hollywood budgets.  Hollywood Showa.

KB:  So going back a bit, I really like Day of the Kaiju.  Do you have any plans to do any other short films or anything else at this point?  Maybe another indie film?

KN:   Yes, I do.  Right now I am putting together a plan to submit it to the Japanese government, and if they like it, they will give me funding.

KB: Ok, well good luck, that’s something we’d all like to see.  Are you trying or do you have any aspirations to direct a full feature film of your own?

KN:  Yes, for sure.  And if the Japanese government fund what I’m working for now, I’ll be directing that.  So I’d love to make it and come back here and show it to everyone at another G-Fest!

KB: That would be awesome.

MP:  That would be great.

MP:  So I think we’re about out of time, so thanks again for doing this with us.

KB: Yeah, thank you again.  And we look forward to whatever you do.  Hopefully the government will let you make your film and you can show it to us!

KN:  So you’ve seen Day of the Kaiju?

KB:  Yes, I’m a big fan.  I like it a lot.

KN: Oh, that makes me so happy! (laughs)  Thank you.

KB:  Yeah, that’s why I want you to do more!

MP: Thanks again for joining us.

KN: Thank you!

Left to right: Matt Parmley, Kazuhiro Nakagawa, Kyle Byrd, and Mike Field

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Quick news recap

The last podcast sucked up a lot of time this week, so this weekend news recap is a little late. On the other hand, there’s not that much to report!

  • Discotek license rescued the 2001 version of Cyborg 009. Despite being excellent, the show bombed stateside, only getting half released on TV and only a few episodes ever made it to DVD. With a new version incoming, I eagerly anticipate being able to throw my Hong Kong bootleg set into the garbage.

  • A PV for Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory. Yep, it looks like FMP.

  • We have a creepy teaser image for the anime anthology based on Junji Ito stories:

  • A dub trailer for Space Patrol Luluco:

  • With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters out this November, it seems like a good time for Kong on the Planet of the Apes. I guess that’s what Boom is thinking, because otherwise this (like any PotA crossover) is sort of weird.

That’s a wrap, I think. Let us know what all may be missing!

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 33D: Cthulhu Mythos in Japan (Part 4)

With the first of of Gou Tanabe’s HP Lovecraft manga adaptations, The Hound & Other Stories, fresh on US bookstore shelves, it seems like a good time to get a crash course on the impact of Lovecraft on Japanese genre fiction, and, of course, kaiju. Justin previously wrote the articles “The Cthulhu Mythos in Japan” and “Robot Lords of Tokyo: Lovecraftian Anime” for the Lovecraft ezine, so we sat down for a chat… which wound up taking eight hours! It sounds like folks prefer bite-sized recordings, so that’s been split up into four chapters for convenience.

Direct download

Covered in Part 4:

  • Demonbane
  • Song of Saya
  • Nyaruko: Crawling With Love
  • Project Nemesis
  • Kaijumax
  • Gou Tanabe’s adaptations

Of course, there’s plenty else out there that we neglected to mention.

  • the upcoming Force of Will movie
  • the claymation HP Lovecraft’s Dunwich Horror and Other Stories
  • the hentai Mystery of the Necronomicon
  • the Moe Moe Cthulhu Mythos Dictionary
  • Princess Resurrection, whose opening credits starts with “That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange eons even death may die.”
  • Bungo Stray Dogs, which has a character named after Lovecraft, who can turn into a tentacle monster

The list goes on, but after eight hours it does get a little exhausting! The main point is, there’s quite a lot of influence to have, and like Nyarlathotep, it takes many forms.

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 33C: Cthulhu Mythos in Japan (Part 3)

With the first of of Gou Tanabe’s HP Lovecraft manga adaptations, The Hound & Other Stories, fresh on US bookstore shelves, it seems like a good time to get a crash course on the impact of Lovecraft on Japanese genre fiction, and, of course, kaiju. Justin previously wrote the articles “The Cthulhu Mythos in Japan” and “Robot Lords of Tokyo: Lovecraftian Anime” for the Lovecraft ezine, so we sat down for a chat… which wound up taking eight hours! It sounds like folks prefer bite-sized recordings, so that’s been split up into four chapters for convenience.

Direct download

Covered in Part 3:

  • Necronomicon
  • Godzilla at World’s End
  • Godzilla vs. Cthulhu in Famous Monsters of Filmland
  • Is Pacific Rim a Lovecraftian movie?
  • Archangel Thunderbird
  • Junji Ito – Uzumaki and The Thing that Drifted Ashore
  • Ken Asamatsu
  • Queen of K’n-Yan
  • Lairs of the Hidden Gods
  • Daimajin Adventure

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 33B: Cthulhu Mythos in Japan (Part 2)

With the first of of Gou Tanabe’s HP Lovecraft manga adaptations, The Hound & Other Stories, fresh on US bookstore shelves, it seems like a good time to get a crash course on the impact of Lovecraft on Japanese genre fiction, and, of course, kaiju. Justin previously wrote the articles “The Cthulhu Mythos in Japan” and “Robot Lords of Tokyo: Lovecraftian Anime” for the Lovecraft ezine, so we sat down for a chat… which wound up taking eight hours! It sounds like folks prefer bite-sized recordings, so that’s been split up into four chapters for convenience.

Direct download

Covered in Part 2:

  • Masumune Shirow’s Orion
  • Chiaki J Konaka’s works: Terror RateShadow over Innsmouth, Marebito, Big O, Digimon Tamers, Armitage III
  • Midnight Meat Train
  • Lovecraft in Ultraman

Shinji Nishikawa’s “Cthul Fight” is a parody of Ultra Fight.

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 33A: Cthulhu Mythos in Japan (Part 1)

With the first of of Gou Tanabe’s HP Lovecraft manga adaptations, The Hound & Other Stories, fresh on US bookstore shelves, it seems like a good time to get a crash course on the impact of Lovecraft on Japanese genre fiction, and, of course, kaiju. Justin previously wrote the articles “The Cthulhu Mythos in Japan” and “Robot Lords of Tokyo: Lovecraftian Anime” for the Lovecraft ezine, so we sat down for a chat… which wound up taking eight hours! It sounds like folks prefer bite-sized recordings, so that’s been split up into four chapters for convenience.

Direct download

Covered in Part 1:

  • Who was HP Lovecraft? What is Cthulhu Mythos?
  • When was the mythos introduced to Japan, and why would it resonate?
  • Footsteps of the Underground
  • Matango
  • Yokai Hunter
  • Eko Eko Azarak
  • Iczer 1
  • The Challenger to Great Old Ones
  • Megami Tensei

Check out a whole series of Lovecraft-inspired ukyoe prints here!

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