Remembering Akio Jissoji
ULTRAMAN actress Hiroko Sakurai offers a tribute to her longtime friend and director
Author: Hiroko Sakurai
Intro: Keith Aiken
Translation: Oki Miyano
Special Thanks to Miki Mochizuki of Tsuburaya Productions
A SciFi JAPAN EXCLUSIVE
Actress Hiroko Sakurai is known to fans around the world as Science Patrol member Akiko Fuji in the original ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966). She first worked with Akio Jissoji when the director helmed several episodes of that classic series. The next year, Ms. Sakurai returned as a guest star when Jissoji directed episode #12 of the follow-up series ULTRA SEVEN (Urutora Sebun), “From Another Planet With Love” (Yusei Yori Ai-o Komete, US title “Crystalized Corpuscles”).
Akio Jissoji and Hiroko Sakurai would often work together in the years following ULTRAMAN. In the 1970s, Jissoji created a handful of acclaimed experimental films, and Ms. Sakurai starred in in the director’s MANDARA (1971) and had a key supporting role in UTAMARO’S WORLD (Utamaro Yume to Shiriseba, 1977). In recent years, both were involved in the radio drama THE ULTRA Q CLUB (Urutora Kyu Club, 2004), ULTRAMAN MAX (Urutoraman Makkusu, 2006), and the feature film DIE SILBERMASKE (Shiruba Kamen, 2006). The new movie, which opened in Japan this past December 23, is loosely based on Jissoji’s SILVER MASK television series.
Akio Jissoji would often use odd camera angles, fish eye lenses, freeze-frames, negative space, wide-angle photography, and other techniques to create bizarre and unique images so Hiroko Sakurai would tease the director that he was more interested in being weird than making his actors look good. This good-natured ribbing exemplified their close friendship, which also included a great deal of mutual respect. When several of Jissoji’s films were released on DVD in 2003, Hiroko Sakurai took part in a special theatrical screening of THIS TRANSIENT LIFE (Mujo, 1970), MANDARA, and POEM (Uta, 1972) in Tokyo. She introduced the films and shared stories about her friend.
On November 29, Akio Jissoji died from complications related to stomach cancer. Ms. Sakurai has kindly offered to share her thoughts and feelings on his passing with SciFi Japan, and we are honored to present her message to an English-speaking audience…
About Jissoji san
Jissoji san passed away.
I cannot believe it, but Jissoji san passed away…
His last film was SILVER MASK.
I joined this project as an associate planner.
You made it into a great film. That’s what I expected from you, Jissoji san!
Now, I’m so lonely because I lost my (old and great) opponent, but I would never forget your countless great films and memories. Jissoji san, thank you for shooting my “beautiful” images so far, including “fish-eye Akiko Fuji”. Thank you.
* The Japanese word ‘gassho’ describes placing the palms together in prayer, a gesture frequently used in Buddhist ceremonies. Gassho implies recognition of the oneness of all beings and is used to express respect.