The Return of OPERATION: MYSTERY
In a 2003 interview with NewType: The Live, then-Tsuburaya Productions vice president Akira Tsuburaya revealed that the company was planning new versions of many of their classic television shows. The following year, the legendary 1966 series ULTRA Q (Urutora Q) was revived as the radio drama THE ULTRA Q CLUB (Urutora Kyu Club) and the 26 episode late-night program ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY (Urutora Kyu: Dakku Fuantaji). In 2006, the three-part video series MIRROR MAN: REFLEX (Miraaman Reflex) updated the super-hero show MIRROR MAN (Miraaman, 1971). Now Tsuburaya Pro has announced that OPERATION: MYSTERY (Kaiki Daisakusen, 1968) will return as the HDTV series OPERATION: MYSTERY- SECOND FILE.
The original OPERATION: MYSTERY (also advertised with the English title THE MYSTERY FOE) was co-produced by Tsuburaya and the Tokyo Broadcasting System. The series focused on the members of SRI (Science Research Institute) who each week would solve a new phenomenon or mystery caused by some misuse of science. The main cast included Akiji Kobayashi— best known as Captain Muramatsu in the original ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966) — and Shin Kishida from Toho’s LAKE OF DRACULA (Noroi no Yakata: Chi o su Me, 1971) and GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1974). Twenty-six episodes aired on TBS from September 15, 1968 to March 9, 1969 with a high average viewer rating of 22%.
In the nearly 40 years since OPERATION: MYSTERY went off the air, the series has maintained a loyal fan following. Chief among those fans was Akio Jissoji, the popular filmmaker who had directed a few episodes of the original show. Jissoji had long dreamed of reviving OPERATION: MYSTERY, and before passing away in November 2006, his efforts were instrumental in bringing the series back to television.
The new OPERATION: MYSTERY- SECOND FILE is a co-production between Tsuburaya and the Japanese public television system corporation NHK, and will be shown on NHK’s high definition satellite service BSHi. The series premieres on April 2, and will run for three consecutive Mondays from 10- 10:45pm.
The series will take the basic concept of the first OPERATION: MYSTERY, but with a modern twist to appeal to today’s audiences. Each episode will be a self-contained story, with two of the three shows directed by a pair of Japan’s most popular horror filmmakers.
Episode 1 is directed by Takashi Shimizu. Shimizu created and directed the Ju-On film series, which began with two straight-to-video movies in 2000, followed by the theatrical features JU-ON: THE GRUDGE and JU-ON: THE GRUDGE 2 in 2003, plus the US remake THE GRUDGE (2004) and THE GRUDGE 2 (2006). His other credits include MAREBITO (2004), REINCARNATION (Rinne, 2005), and a segment of TEN NIGHTS OF DREAMS (Yume Ju-ya, 2007), with JU-ON 3 and THE GRUDGE 3 in the planning stages.
Episode 3 director Hideo Nakata came to international attention with the smash hit RING (Ringu, 1998), and followed that film with RING 2 (Ringu 2, 1999), DARK WATER (Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara, 2005), the US sequel THE RING TWO (2005), and the upcoming KAIDAN (2007).
Rounding out the director list is Tsugumi Kitaura, whose credits include episodes of Tsuburaya’s ULTRAMAN TIGA (Urutoraman Tiga, 1996) and ULTRAMAN NEXUS (Urutoraman Nekusasu, 2004), and the feature film ULTRAMAN COSMOS 2: THE BLUE PLANET (Urutoraman Kosumosu Buru Puranetto, 2002). He recently directed a portion of DIE SILBERMASKE (Shiruba Kamen, 2006), the super-hero film supervised by Akio Jissoji.
The cast includes Ittoku Kishibe (SÉANCE, ONMYOJI, THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI, AEGIS), Sota Aoyama (ULTRAMAN MAX, DEATH NOTE, DEATH NOTE: THE LAST NAME), Hidenori Nishijima, Naoki Tanaka (SUITE DREAMS, SIREN) and Minori Terada (DRAGONHEAD, THE MAN BEHIND THE SCISSORS, RAMPO NOIR).
Episode 1 “The Iron Claw of Zeus”
Director: Takashi Shimizu
April 2, 2007
A woman is burned to death but strangely enough, the clothes and personal items she was wearing at the time were undamaged. As SRI investigates the scene of the crime, a second woman meets the same fate as the first victim.
Episode 2 “Showa Lantern Street”
Director: Tsugumi Kitaura
April 9, 2007
157 people vanish during a bizarre disturbance in Tokyo. While investigating the case, members of the SRI team stumble into a mysterious area where the past and present are mixed together. SRI soon discovers a previously unknown radio wave that visually recreates nostalgia.
Episode 3 “The Man-Eating Tree”
Director: Hideo Nakata
April 16, 2007
A friend of one of the SRI crew is killed at a Tokyo hot spring. All the red blood cells are missing from the victim’s body, and the blood vessels have mutated into plantlike roots.