2006: The Year in Review
By the staff of SciFi Japan, compiled by Aaron Cooper.
2006 was a year that saw great changes in the landscape of Japanese science fiction and fantasy films, whether it was the serious evolution in tokusatsu television programming, to a return to roots for a particular kaiju eiga; a continuing court battle over classic characters, or the unfortunate passing of far too many industry greats. The staff of SciFi Japan took a moment to ponder over the events of the past year (which included the inception of this very site), and attempted to come up with the most defining moments of the year. You may agree or disagree but regardless, 2006 held moments for everyone.
10. Music fans finally get the fourth GODZILLA SOUNDTRACK PERFECT COLLECTION after a long delay. Now the wait for box sets 5 and 6 are on!
9. The lack of a new Godzilla film didn’t stop the release of merchandise. Nostalgic fans got a taste of the Hanna-Barbera GODZILLA: THE ORIGINAL ANIMATED SERIES cartoon (with Godzooky!) in a DVD release from Classic Media.
8. Takeshi Miike’s GREAT YOKAI WAR (Yokai Daisensou) gets a solid DVD release through Media Blasters after critical acclaim in Japanese theaters and limited U.S. theatrical release.
7. Shusuke Kaneko releases not one, but two DEATH NOTE films in Japanese theaters to resounding success, proving there are still lots of life, art and even commercial viability to be found in the genre. It would be the first number one films for the director.
6. Keita Amemiya’s GARO finishes its run on TV Tokyo. Marketed as “Hyper Midnight Action Drama” geared toward adults and older teenagers, GARO took tokusatsu programming in an evolutionary direction with violence, nudity and other mature themes while still keeping in spirit with what makes the genre fun.
5. The original 1966 ULTRAMAN television show finally hits the U.S. DVD market amidst a flurry of legal controversy surrounding ownership and marketing of the character.
4. Celebrating 40 years of the giant turtle, GAMERA THE BRAVE makes the rounds in Japanese theaters and home video, and even shows up in a few U.S. avenues. Taking the character back to its roots as a “friend of all children”, kaiju eiga fans got their much needed giant monster fix.
3. Classic Media finally gives U.S. fans the definitive DVD edition of the original 1954 GOJIRA, not only including the original Japanese version but the Americanized GODZILLA KING ON THE MONSTERS on top of that with oodles of extras!
2. Toei Productions has not just one, but two major anniversaries: KAMEN RIDER THE FIRST marks the 35th anniversary of the Kamen Rider franchise, on top of the Super Sentai series reaching an astounding 30 years of programming!
Last but definitely not least:
1. Tsuburaya Productions celebrates 40 years of Ultraman! Festivities include the all-new ULTRAMAN MEBIUS television series and the film ULTRAMAN MEBIUS AND ULTRAMAN BROTHERS, both of which tie in to the Ultra characters long and rich history.
There’s already lots of buzz over what 2007 has to offer. You can bet SciFi Japan will be there to cover it and discern what the best of 2007 will be!
IN MEMORIUM: Unfortunately, 2006 saw the passing of far too many assets in this field we’ve all come to love and respect. SciFi Japan was built by fans for fans and we would be remiss to not mention the passing of two great fan contributors: Aaron Smith, founder of the Monster Zero website and Guy Mariner Tucker, author of Age of the Gods. ULTRA Q/ULTRAMAN composer Kunio Miyauchi also passed away in 2006. His contributions included scores for films such as GODZILLA’S REVENGE and HUMAN VAPOR, shows such as SPECTREMAN and even American programming such as HERCULOIDS. Tsuburaya Productions and the world would also lose ULTRAMAN director Akio Jissoji. His hand could be seen in a variety of Ultra programming for decades and his final contribution to the film TEN NIGHTS OF DREAMS will be seen in 2007. Composer Hiroshi Miyagawa also passed. His scores and compositions for one of the most famous anime in the world, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, would help put that series in the annals of Japanese film history. Finally, Akira Ifukube, definitive composer of the Godzilla series and many other awesome Japanese works passed away at the age of 91. His astounding body of work continues to reverberate throughout the franchise.
These great men will be missed. At least we have their contributions for us to continue to appreciate.