Weekly news recap: “Saraba, Hibiya Godzilla!”

Just a small batch of neat stuff for this week’s recap. As always, please leave a comment if there’s something we missed!

Godzilla news:

  • The Godzilla statue in Hibiya has been taken down, to be moved to the basement of a nearby building. The buzz is that it’ll be replaced by a bigger statue, but since the current one has been there for two decades it feels like the end of an era. Of course, you could always buy your own

  • There’s a new collaboration between Godzilla and Sanrio, as a series of adorable illustrations. If you don’t want to see Godzilla wearing a hair bow, you might not like these, but we want to collect them all.

Mecha news:

  • Speaking of replacing statues, the Unicorn Gundam that replaces the classic one at Gundam Front is a transforming one, due to go on full display at the end of the month:

Other news:

  • More information has come out about Vanishing Line, including basic plot and characters. We already knew that this was a TFC/Mappa production, but looking at the main character’s belt, along with hints about his quest to find a certain golden “El Dorado” is certainly raising some questions in the Garo fan community.

  • The new No More Heroes game will see Travis traveling between different video game world including Hotline Miami and Shovel Knight. It’ll be interesting to see how the disparate gameplay styles mesh between them!

That’s a wrap for now; seeya next time!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Late news recap

It hasn’t been a terribly inspiring week news-wise, and the weekend was otherwise a little busy, hence this recap being a smidge behind schedule. So, what was up?

  1. I didn’t make it out to Japan World Heroes, so Geek Kon was a consolation prize. Robert Axelrod was there, and he may have revealed an interesting tidbit when he mentioned that he was working on dubbing an “old Ultraman anime” with William Winckler. It’s possible that he meant the Ultra Galaxy movie (we know he voiced Ultraman King in that), but since Toku has teased The☆Ultraman and they did do a new dub for Ultraman Max, I wonder…
  2. Adam Wingard’s Death Note is out. It has some problems and a few odd decisions (L’s unexplained Blade Runner gun may go down with ventriloquist dummy Mello, the Ebola-flu terror detective, and Light’s secret murder baby on the list of most WTF franchise adaptation aspects), but there’s enough to keep it entertaining for a very brief runtime, and most will agree that the end practically begs for more. We might give more thoughts on this down the road, or we might not.

On to other stuff:

  • Kaiju Girls is getting a second season! The announcement also reveals that a girl based on Guts-seijin will be included, so it’s possible that may be the only new character this time around.

Along those lines, Agira is getting her own mini merchandise push, with Acro and Surprise Next releasing figures, 5400 and 7884 yen respectively. Both seem a little on the pricey side, but it’s possible the face on the Acro one might just not photograph well.

  • X-plus is doing a new Gunhed sofubi. Hopefully it won’t be $900 like the last one.

  • A Metal Hero Kaijin Design Encyclopedia is hitting next month, celebrating the franchise’s 35th anniversary with bad guy design work for everything from Space Sheriff Gavan to, well, Gavan vs. Dekaranger.

  • An ad for the Inuyashiki anime, starting October 12. The manga is quite good, and with Mappa animating, this has high hopes.

  • Speaking of Mappa, while we have no idea what Vanishing Line actually is story-wise, it sure looks good.

  • Toku added a handful of Thai movies recently, including Hanuman: The Monkey Warrior. It’s not quite like getting the Chaiyo movies stateside, but adjacent.

  • Funny or Die has a new Power Rangers parody show, Mystic Cosmic Patrol. My verdict so far is 25% funny, 75% die.
  • The Gintama movie is getting some theatrical screenings in America. It’s a bit of a surprise, since Gintama‘s never been that big of a franchise here, but it’s nice seeing Yuichi Fukuda getting some more international distribution nonetheless. The movie’s doing huge numbers in Asia, which might have something to do with it getting announced worldwide before more obvious franchises, such as Tokyo Ghoul and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

That’s a wrap for this week! As always, please leave a comment if a major story got skipped over.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Happy 30th to Dark Horse’s Godzilla series!

As of this writing, it appears that IDW’s rights to print Godzilla comics have lapsed. While a lot of great things came out of the IDW run, there were always two things that I really hoped they’d do that never came to pass:

  1. Put out an omnibus or two with color reprints of older Godzilla comics
  2. Reunite the team from the Dark Horse Godzilla era for a miniseries

With those as handy context clues, it should become quickly apparent which of the myriad Godzilla comics publishers out there is my favorite. Perhaps it’s because they feel so integrated with the contemporary films of the Heisei movies: the Marvel Godzilla didn’t match the Showa continuity in either design or universe, while the IDW comics spend lots of time reintroducing characters already familiar from the films. The Dark Horse comics, on the other hand, essentially come across as a sort of Heisei-era gaiden, even with occasional nods to a greater Dark Horse universe via Hero Zero and Monkeyman & O’Brien.

In August of 1987, Dark Horse printed their first Godzilla story, the Godzilla: King of the Monsters special. The story, by Randy Stradley and Steve Bissette (right off his Swamp Thing run), is weird as a standalone: Dr. Yoshiwara reminisces about how during her childhood an ancient beacon was unearthed in Tokyo, attracting numerous monsters to it, Godzilla included. While the original plan was to include other Toho creatures, Toho insisted on licensing each monster separately, and I believe this is a great case of art from adversity: by having these imitation disaster monsters Soran (“sora” is “sky” in Japanese), Inagos (inago=locust), and Kamerus (kame=turtle), you get to expand the mythology without taking away from the prior material: one could believe these other creatures awakened in 1954 just off-screen, much like how Steve Martin could feasibly be lurking just off camera. This is certainly a boon to the story, but it was still pretty neat to see the “what could have been” sketches for the Toho roster that was unused:

But anyway, the special is all just a chilling flashback, ending with Yoshiwara threatening how she’ll be ready if Godzilla ever returns. This very much feels like a lead-in to a series, but plans fell through, so the Yoshiwara character doesn’t actually show up again until Dark Horse Comics #10 in 1993. Godzilla himself was back in the interim, though, first in the Godzilla Color Special (the only issue to have a color version available in trade), and then in a short in Urban Legends about the dual endings to King Kong vs Godzilla. (That isn’t counting the English translations of Kazushi Iwata’s manga that gave Bob Eggleton his first kaiju gig, btw.)

The Color Special, by Stradley and Art Adams, hit in 1992, and it’s a gorgeous piece of work. The story retains the somber tone established in the prior piece, but establishes the hero characters who would become the protagonists of the entire comics run: G-Force (evidently Toho liked the name, since it was later incorporated into Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, and copies of art from this comic even graced one copy of the Godzilla vs Destroyah script). The comics’ G-Force is absolutely a powerless Fantastic Four, with Dr. Kagaku (“Dr. Science”?), his wife, brother-in-law, and a muscley friend. The comic has Godzilla being driven away from a fictional island by its giant stone protector, Gekidojin (“Rage God”, as opposed to a certain giant demon god from a rival studio). As the title denotes, this is all in color, and the use of color really stands out for the time, with 90s technology allowing a greater palette, shading, and gradients previously uncommon in American comics.

I suppose we should also reflect on the infamous 1993 Godzilla vs. Barkley one-shot comic (the only issue not reprinted in any form), since it’s become a bit of a meme in the internet era. For a goofy commercial, it did a decent job at being fun and expanding the story from the TV spot; we know the Bulls player gained his super size from a magic coin, and that Godzilla gets to keep his oversized Nikes.

The series started in earnest with that two-parter in Dark Horse Comics, though, which would eventually be reprinted as Godzilla: King of the Monsters #0. The following arc would have both G-Force and Yoshiwara return as she poisons Godzilla. What I love is how one piece of the story logically flows into the next:

  1. The poison causes Godzilla to bleed profusely, contaminating the environment.
  2. Godzilla is incapacitated fighting Dark Horse’s golden Mechagodzilla expy Cybersaur.
  3. Godzilla’s death throws are loud enough to attract a bat-like predator named Bagorah from outer space.
  4. Bagorah takes out Cybersaur.
  5. Out of concern for the environmental impact, Yoshiwara gives Godzilla an antitoxin.
  6. Godzilla revives and defeats Bagorah.
  7. The military ambiguously executes executes Yoshiwara for healing Godzilla. By the way, I’ve always hated how the black-and-white trade paperbacks essentially wipe out an important sound effect here.

The continuity keeps on rolling, though. There were aliens who were making a sport out of hunting Bagorah (which they have their own name for, which is a nice touch), and the military has constructed a new robot spider for Godzilla to fight. The aliens (each with their own design, gimmicks, and personalities) decide they’ll hunt Godzilla instead, and though the “All Terraintula” has nerfed Godzilla much like the Super X did, there are a lot of fun sequences demonstrating all the ways the King of the Monsters can wipe the floor with an enemy without having to use his breath.

The greatest revelation of the second storyline, though, is the reveal that the military has been infiltrated by Black Hole aliens, explaining why they’re so good at building giant robots all of a sudden, and naturally they’re also at war with the hunter aliens (the Dianii). This might have all been too 70s for some readers, especially after the much more serious start for the comic, but it was a delight for yours truly: new Godzilla adventures each month, with a variety of colorful and interesting adversaries!

That same to a brief pause with issue nine, with Alex Cox’s “Lost in Time” storyline, running the next four issues. The concept is that a mad scientist (Elmer Mason) takes Godzilla across time, causing disasters like the sinking of the Titanic and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, so he can loot the timeline with minimal ramifications. While the throughline is more coherent than IDW’s later Godzilla: Rage Across Time miniseries, it was a little disappointing to lose out on enemy monster action for that time, even if the scifi antics of the final issue (set in 2299) do pick things up a fair bit.

The comics were initially intended to end with issue 12, but thankfully things were extended for an additional four (plus one short in A Decade of Dark Horse). These are a mixed bag of stand-alones. #13 has a new monster, which is welcome after the time travel arc, #14 has the G-Force team climbing Godzilla (this concept was also later used in IDW’s Godzilla Legends), and Bob Eggleton finally got to do a full issue with number 16, in a story where Godzilla travels back to the dinosaur times to battle an extraterrestrial that’s eating them (which no doubt inspired Mothra 3). I skipped issue 15, since it deserves special discussion.

“The Yamazaki Endowment” introduces a fantastic new villain, a mad lady scientist who’s brewing up new monsters off of Lord Howe Island. Her story continues through the short in A Decade of Dark Horse (in which we discover the reason why we didn’t see her hands in the first story is that she’s still gripping her dead mother’s!), where she matches wits with Dr. Kagaku. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends, setting up what seems like it could be a very exciting new story line.

Where this was going is hard to say. I reached out to Randy Stradley about this cliffhanger and he does not recall exactly what they had in mind, which is fair considering the comic was printed over two decades ago; at least it doesn’t appear that there was a single great concept that they’ve been burning to do for all this time. I suspect the arc may have culminated in some sort of Godzilla clone, as Yamazaki spends her last appearance debating Godzilla’s origins, and Kevin Maguire (who had written the first four issues) previously submitted a pitch for a four-issue “Godzilla vs. Anti-Godzilla” to take place immediately after the “Lost in Time” arc. There are also rumors of Dark Horse getting the rights to King Ghidorah, but honestly, I don’t think they ever needed to.

Other concepts thrown around at Dark Horse were crossovers, a popular concept with their Alien vs. Predator franchise. Godzilla did meet (and effectively end) Dark Horse’s own Ultraman-ish Hero Zero to some success, so the studio toyed with a crossover with Gamera (whose comics picked up as soon as Godzilla’s ended), with Justice League, and with Terminator. Presumably Toho was hesitant about this, and they did reportedly shoot down one such pitch pitting Godzilla against Superman, which is weird since they did just have Godzilla fight an NBA player. They also somehow approved Ed Brubaker’s short “Godzilla’s Day” in Dark Horse Presents #106, which has got to be sillier than anything the crossovers would have done.

The last hurrah for Dark Horse Godzilla came in 1998, with a batch of reprints to ride the wave of the TriStar picture. These had new cover art from the likes of Art Adams and Bob Eggleton, and the original 1987 special was colorized, so they’re worth picking up for that reason. The Iwata manga was also colorized for this release (confusingly titles Terror of Godzilla), but two pages were removed, presumably for their graphic violence, which shakes up the story flow just a little.

On a personal note, the Dark Horse run was a formative experience for my fandom, and, quite possibly as much as the contemporary Heisei movies, they are responsible for my “default” mental image of Godzilla being the 1990s incarnation. It was a joy revisiting them for their 30th anniversary, and I suggest anyone unfamiliar do likewise. Now if only color TPBs were available!

Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

Weekend news recap: Godzilla veges out.

Time for the regular weekend round-up of Japanese genre media! To kick things off, we have a brand new trailer for Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, and Godzilla has finally been revealed in full:

There are a couple of interesting revelations: Godzilla is described as “plant-based”, which is causing a lot of controversy among the fanbase already, with comparisons to Groot, Swamp Thing, King of Thorn, and Biollante abounding . Also, the new aliens that we were previously calling Exifs (エクシフ) are called Xiliens in the English press notes… if the aliens weren’t guaranteed as duplicitous simply by being authority figures in a Gen Urobuchi work, this pretty much cements it.

We also got a bunch of images of Godzilla from merchandise:

And finally, a new promotional statue is on display:

Other news:

  • This look at the new Mazinger Z movie inspires a little more confidence than the last one.

  • Reviews of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure movie concur that it’s pretty good, but it hasn’t exactly been doing great at the Japanese box office. I bet that’s why WB’s put the first 13 minutes online as a preview.

  • Madman is bringing Tokyo Ghoul to Australian theaters in September. It also has a thumbs-up from our team member in Japan.

  • Dragonball Super appears to be giving Goku a barely-perceptible new power up. Is it weird that I miss Super Saiyan 4?

That’s a wrap for this week; as always please leave a comment if we missed something!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Kaiju Transmissions Interview: Kiyotaka Taguchi

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.

Gehara (2009)

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?

KT: Baltan-Seijin.

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

Posted in Articles | 1 Comment

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!

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

Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

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!

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

Posted in Articles | Leave a comment