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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RIP Haruo Nakajima (1929-2017)

Celebrity Icons reported the passing of Haruo Nakajima this morning. It’s not entirely unexpected; he was 88 and had been ill for some time, and lost his wife in January of this year. However, in our minds he will always remain a totem of strength and exuberance.

For lack of a better term, Nakajima was a badass. Monster costumes are hundreds of pounds of wire and latex, suffocating under regular circumstances, but under hot studio lights, with dust and smoke all around, they’re veritable death traps. The tone with which Nakajima would cheerfully reminisce about when he plummeted to the floor after the wires snapped during Rodan, the scars he took to the stomach from pyrotechnics during Varan the Unbelievable, and all the times he nearly drowned in a waterlogged kaiju suit would chill even the hardest stunt men. Bin Furuya recalls being terrified of him, and Hurricane Ryu went so far as to make him the antagonist in his suit acting manga.

He’s always been quite forthcoming about his roles, and thus has taken on a celebrity role unparalleled among suit actors. He did photo ops throughout his 20-year career, had multiple figures made of him, and even played a pastiche of himself on an episode of the 1967 show He of the Sun. In recent years, in spite of declining health, he made a concerted effort to travel the world and meet fans across it, and we as enthusiasts of his work truly appreciate it.

Nakajima was one of the last lynchpins remaining from the creation of the 1954 Godzilla, and continued playing the monster for 12 movies. He defined the role and played it more than anyone else; he was Godzilla. He was also Rodan, Gaira, Baragon (Pagos, Gabora, and Neronga included), Kiyla, King Kong, Mogera, Matango, Gezora, Ganimes, Kroiga, U-tom, the Invisible Man, the H-man, Magma, larval Mothra, the Meganuron, the Kemur alien, bat men, giant rats, and, of course, Jirass and Gomess. That’s on top of other bit parts and regular stunt work, where you can see him pop up in everything from Submersion of Japan to The Seven Samurai. For playing so many wonderful roles and serving to establish an entire medium of suit acting, we thank him, and his boundless energy and joy that he brought to every interaction with his fans will be sorely missed.

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Weekly news recap: Netflix whets our appetite

With a new batch of Voltron: Legendary Defender episodes hitting this weekend and a Death Note film in three weeks, it’s a good time for otaku to pay attention to Netflix. Evidently they concur, since a lot of new projects were announced last Wednesday:

  • A new trailer for Devilman crybaby, giving us a first glimpse at how the human characters will be rendered.

  • Just when we all assumed it had been quietly cancelled, Sword Gai has been confirmed for spring, simulcast via Netflix. Anything Keita Amemiya is a cause for excitement, and I hope this also prompts Viz to release the manga stateside.

  • A 12-episode CG series based on Saint Seiya is also on the way. The Legend of Sanctuary movie was alright, so there’s some potential here, but I also sort of think they should just show the original.

  • Netflix also picked up Cannon Busters (thankfully that’s getting a full series), and the new Baki adaptation. This is going to keep us busy!

Other news:

That’s really it for this week; it’s been a short one!

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News recap for 7/30

It’s a relatively short-&-sweet news recap this week!

  • Congratulations to Shin Godzilla for winning best presentation at the Seiun Awards! This is the first time anything Godzilla has won (though Gamera movies won back-to-back in 1996 and 1997). Another pleasant surprise, Yasumi Kobayashi’s Ultraman F won for best novel, the second Seiun win for the Ultraman franchise (after Ultraman Tiga won in 1998), hopefully this raises interest in getting it localized!

  • Toku has picked up three more Ultra shows for streaming in August: Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle, and Neo Ultra Q, and Ultraman Zero: The Chronicles. It’s great that they’re bringing this stuff out, but I am a little concerned about lack of QA: Notice how they call Gomora “Gamora” in the trailer? Also, I’ve seen no less than three outlets refer to Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle as “Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster”, which says to me that they screwed up the press release. The shows themselves are great, though, and this will probably beat HK bootleg subs, if nothing else.

  • A trailer for Takashi Yamazaki’s Destiny: Kamakura Story. It’s based on Ryohei Saigan’s manga from 2000, basically a yokai mystery. I guess Yamazaki had such a good time with Sunset on Third Street that he decided to keep the Saigan adaptation train rolling.

  • A PV for the upcoming Thunderbolt Fantasy: Shoshi Ikken side story. No release date, yet, but we can’t wait.

  • After years of radio silence, a crude poster was posted for the final Evangelion rebuild movie. Moyocco Anno also provided story for a video explaining the ten-year history of Studio Khara leading up to the present, which is a pretty amusing watch.

  • Wonder Festival was this weekend. Plenty of figure prototypes were on display, but the highlights that really stuck out to us were the Nendoroid Lina Inverse, X-Plus King Kong, Max Gokin manga version of Zeorymer, and a whole line of kyodai hero toys.

  • The Digimon Adventure tri stage play has a new form of Vamdemon. I sort of hope they don’t have him return in the actual show; he’s a great mid-level villain who suffers from constant later attempts to make him the ultimate antagonist.

  • Remember that Kamata-kun cell phone case that was an April Fools’ prank? This one is real.

  • Toyota’s M78x86 has an appropriate spokesman:

  • Apparently BraveStorm is still in need of funding, with only a couple months before its theatrical run. Crowdfunding is going now; donate if you want your name in the credits!

That’s a wrap for now! Back to watching silly shark movies on Syfy….

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Thoughts on Monster Attack Team #12 (1st Edition)

Monster Attack Team is the best English-language magazine on the subject of tokusatsu, so it’s always an event when a new issue comes out. Thus, as soon as I heard about the twelfth installment hitting at a release party earlier in the month, I was on a mission to procure it.

It turns out, the version printed for said party is a preliminary edition, and changes are still being made to the final version. Nevertheless, being the impatient soul that I am, I reached out to Ed Holland and got him to send me his very last copy (so, sorry to anyone else who wants it immediately!). As this is a preliminary version, I don’t know what may change with the updated edition that goes to mass distribution, but one can guess. For example, this issue has completely clean cover art, while previous ones tend to have more text about the content of the issue splashing the cover:

Now, about the contents!

  • Kevin Grays has an article about Triple Fighter, a show that’s long stuck in the Goldilocks zone of obscurity by being better than Redman but worse than Ultraman. This may be the most ever written about the show in English.
  • Ed Holland wrote about Katokutai, who are, of course, awesome. It’s not a long article, but the full-page photos of the band in concert are gorgeous.
  • Roger Snider wrote about artistic customization of trucks in Japan, a subject that I likely would not have heard about elsewhere.
  • Mark Jaramillo wrote a piece about Katto Pro’s Atragon 2 fanfilm with lots of great images and background. One of the highlights of the issue, that’s the sort of stuff you won’t find anywhere else!
  • A look at some of the female-targeted kaiju crafts that Adrian’s Attic is concocting.
  • J.L. Carrozza’s review of the woefully-banned Prophecies of Nostradamus, complete with a rundown of every incarnation ever made officially available.
  • A photo set from the Yokohama Broadcast Museum’s Ultraman exhibition. Photography was prohibited when I went, so I’m betting these photos in MAT are one of the best looks at what all was inside!
  • A similar photo set for Kaiju Sakaba. This issue is certainly heavy on the full-page photographs!
  • Marc Walkow gives blurbs about Wolf Guy and Doberman Cop, since Arrow is releasing both this year on Blu-ray.
  • Montse Avila gives a brief review of Shin Godzilla from the perspective of someone who has never seen a Godzilla movie before. It’s an interesting choice for an editorial, but an important reminder for those of us so immersed in the fandom: this is the most successful Godzilla movie in five decades, therefore for a lot of people this likely is their first exposure to the franchise.
  • David McRobie gives a lengthy review of Kamen Rider Hibiki. Likely the most this show has been discussed in an English-language magazine as well.
  • A photo tour of Toho. I imagine these may be moved around a little for the final version, since in this edition it’s all one photo per page.
  • A look at the Big Godzilla Special Effects Kingdom exhibit in Yokohama. It looks pretty similar to the Hiroshima one.
  • Beautiful artwork from Hiroshi Kanatani and Ellis Luu. I want them to publish art books!

Overall, my first impression is that this is a little more image-heavy than prior issues, but that’s not a bad thing; there’s still educational content to be found even for the seasoned tokusatsu veteran. I’m curious to see how the next edition of issue 12 compares, and will keep an eye on the Monster Attack Team Facebook page to see when it’s available!

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Two-week news recap, plus G-Fest and SDCC!

There was no news recap last weekend because of G-Fest, which means we’ve got a doozy for this week, especially with SDCC ongoing. First I want to give a quick recap of some of the G-Fest highlights:

  • My two panels went relatively well, the first one was the better of the two (my laptop started, plus I wasn’t sleep-deprived for that one!). Both are up on YouTube now (check episodes 31 and 32 under the “Podcast” tab of this page), so you can get a decent recreation (apologies for some of the audio getting drowned out while clips play). Of course, there was plenty I intended to say but forgot (like how Shin Godzilla uses imagery from The Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon, or the Nautilus in Nadia looks like the Moonlight SY3), but generally they hit the big notes. Also, thanks to Kyle at Kaijucast and Matt & Byrd at Kaiju Transmissions for the on-air shout-outs, and everyone reposting links the videos!
  • It was great to see Shinji Higuchi’s talk, especially since, for the sake of comparison, he’s giving a talk at the show in Nagoya this weekend that you had to get lottery tickets a month ago for the *chance* to attend. G-Fest makes it much, much easier. Anyway, he talked a lot about his involvement in Return of Godzilla, gave some anecdotes about Orochi’s Counterattack, and then leapt straight into Shin Godzilla (he only had an hour, he probably needed three).
    He started off by talking about how no American military characters were killed in the movie (I guess he’d heard buzz about the movie being interpreted as anti-American?), but the big bombshell (despite him already mentioning this at Famous Monsters Con in Dallas earlier) was that Toho can’t make Godzilla movies while Legendary has one in development, hence Shin Godzilla getting rushed to a summer 2016 release. (Whether the anime movies are a loophole because they are animated, or because Legendary pushed back their sequel a year remains unclear.) Also, Legendary’s rights expire in 2020, which is some interesting inside-baseball.
  • Kiyotaka Taguchi’s panel was great, especially the two Tetsudon: Kaiju Dream Match shorts he debuted there. He did start the show with an entire episode of Ultraman X, which might have been overboard since it really ate into Q-&-A time, presumably because he didn’t know that the show is simulcast here.

  • I didn’t get to see Yuji Kaida present, but he had a booth in the dealers’ room, so it was great to go up and attempt some compliments in my garbage-level Japanese (Amanda wasn’t able to attend this year). Kaida is a hero, and my first exposure to Ultra Q was actually from looking through his art books.
  • Lots of good finds in Artists’ Alley, including Hiroshi Kanatani’s print of the convention getting destroyed and Matt Frank’s Gamera doujinshi!

  • Kaiju Gaiden is always a good time, but this year had some extra-special treats: screenings of Koichi Kawakita’s final projects (including The God of Clay!), and a trailer for the long-awaited Kaiju Gaiden documentary (which may have a different final English title, it sounds like). A slightly different version of the trailer will be shown at SDCC at 1 today!

  • As always, there were lots of other great panels, and one’s primary problem at G-Fest is picking between them. Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle had a great one on their Ishiro Honda biography (learning that Honda’s in-laws were initially hostile makes a lot of sense considering the recurring theme of women going against family in his films), John Lemay gave an excellent rundown of some of the unmade projects covered in his new book, Tony Isabella talked at length about Marvel and Syfy monsters, Joyce Boss did a riveting presentation on yokai in Japanese culture, the Kaiju Transmissions crew did a bang-up job talking about Gamera vs. Gyaos. Matt Greenfield even showed up and did a presentation on Garo, completely unannounced, and I’m super stoked to see that show finally getting some promotion stateside. I’m sure there are others that I’m forgetting, but it’s a whirlwind of a weekend!

And of course, the real joy of the con is getting to meet and shoot the breeze with fellow fans; hope to see you all next year as well!

And then we get to SDCC, going on right now. Andy’s out at that one, sending a steady feed of info my way!

  • We got a teaser for Pacific Rim: Uprising! It’s certainly a tease; no kaiju in sight.

On that note, the Robot Spirits figures for the film were also on display at the show [pic swiped from Matt Frank]:

  • The third season of Voltron: Legendary Defender is hitting Netflix August 4, but the fourth season is fast to follow in October!

  • Legendary is going out of their way to push Kong: Skull Island, with a large display of Kong bones, among other things. I guess the idea is to keep it fresh in people’s minds, since it’s already out on home video. On a side note, the Monarch Twitter page posted this today:

  • No hints at Leopardon, Kiryu, or Ultraman in this Ready Player One trailer, but it’s promising from what is included. If nothing else, expect an Akira Easter egg…

  • Shout Factory confirmed their release of Gingaman for some time after Megaranger.

  • Hasbro is making an Optimus Prime that the designer says will take 40 minutes to transform. That’s got to test one’s patience, but dang if they’re not putting work into it!
  • Square has a toyline based on Xenogears in the works.

Other news:

  • A full trailer for Albatross’s Red Baron/Silver Mask reimagining BraveStorm has been posted! A teaser went up a few months back and got taken down pretty quickly, but since this one is still up (and it’s due for a fall theatrical run) I guess they sorted out whatever the issue was there. Anyway, it looks awesome; hope it’s made available widely! (On that note, does Mill Creek still have the rights to Silver Mask? If so, they should make that happen.)

  • A Chinese movie title Dragon Force: So Long Ultraman, presumably part of a larger “Dragon Force” franchise that I know nothing about, debuted a trailer recently featuring its own heroes interacting with our favorite red-&-silver icon, and even had an awkward talk show promotion by a dude in body paint. One problem: The producers, Blue Arc, got the rights from Chaiyo, so predictably Tsuburaya was not happy about the whole thing. The trailer has since been removed (it also used some music from Fist of the North Star, so there could be other rights issues there), but the internet will always remember. Sort of a shame that the project got this far along before crashing, but maybe it’ll make a good chapter in a future lost films book.

  • Kamen Rider Build has been revealed from toy catalogs, and it seems to be riffing on a motif from Kamen Rider W: change out one of two components at a time. This time, they seem to be themed as animal+device (see Rabbit Tank below), so I really hope we get Gorilla Guillotine at some point.

  • This poster for Garo: Kami no Kiba has some returning faces that we’ve been anxiously awaiting!

  • Takeshi Obata did art for the American Death Note movie, reviews of which should be materializing soon since it screened at SDCC.

  • The 2017 version of The Mummy has inspired a four-part manga anthology from various artists titled The Mummy: Dark Stories. Being based on a Hollywood property (albeit sort of a flop), it’d be great if it eventually got a US release as well!

  • A French live-action movie of City Hunter is in the works, directed by and starring  Philippe Lacheau. Given what radical departures the Hong Kong and Korean versions were, who knows what France may bring to it?
  • Kotobukiya has a bishoujo statue of Ask from Evil Dead 2 in production. Their other horror character revisionings have been a little hard to swallow, but this one…works really well. When can we get a full series with girl Ash?

Whew! That’s a lot! Anyway, as always leave a comment if something got left out. Otherwise, look forward to some special coverage of something else mentioned in this recap, coming soon….

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 32: “Kaiju Manga Raids Again” at G-Fest XXIV

This is a sequel to last year’s manga presentation at G-Fest; it might be a good idea to watch that one first.

The slides don’t quite match the audio because of some technical difficulties, so this is a reconstruction of sorts.

As for other issues…well, it was the first panel on Sunday morning. I was a little frazzled and mangled some Japanese here and there. I promise the other ones are better. I said to watch the other manga one first, right?

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