Final Farewell to Shunsuke Ikeda
On November 11th, family and friends gathered at Diamond Head, Hawaii to bid a final farewell to actor Shunsuke Ikeda, who died this past June after a long battle with stomach cancer. Ikeda had appeared in a number of television dramas and FX shows during the 1960s and 70s and is best remembered for his starring role in the popular superhero series KIKAIDA 01 (1973).
Shunsuke Ikeda was born Norio Ikeda in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture on November 11th, 1940. His father was Tatsuo Ouchi, a renowned tateshi (sword fight choreographer), and Ikeda was trained in martial arts from an early age, earning black belts in both Judo and Karate. In 1962, he joined Toei Movie Company as part of the studio’s “New Face” program alongside actors Nenji Kobayashi (JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT) and Jiro Dan (star of RETURN OF ULTRAMAN). Toei soon put him to work with bit parts in films starting with HIBARI TRAVELING PERFORMER (Hibari no Hahakoi Guitar, 1962). By 1963 Ikeda had moved up to larger films roles, and in 1964 he played Michio Kawashima, one of the leads in the TV drama series TALES OF THE COMING WIND (Fuurai Monogatari). He would continue to work steadily in film and television throughout the Sixties.
In 1968, Shunsuke Ikeda guest starred in Episode 16 of Tsuburaya Productions’ THE MYSTERY FOE (Kaiki-Daisakusen, aka OPERATION: MYSTERY). Three years later, TPC chose him to play Science Officer Takeshi Minami of the Monster Attack Team (MAT) in RETURN OF ULTRAMAN (Kaettekita Urutoraman, 1971). Ikeda would later describe the series as one of the high points of his professional life. RETURN OF ULTRAMAN began a new phase of Ikeda’s career as a main performer in tokusatsu (special effects) productions. He guest starred in Episodes 24 and 26 of the Nippon Gendai Kikaku superhero show SILVER MASK (Shiruba Kamen, 1971), and followed RETURN OF ULTRAMAN with another Tsuburaya Pro series, EMERGENCY 10:4 10:10 (Kinkyu Shirei 10-4.10-10, 1972), which focused on a rescue team that handled cases involving aliens, monsters, and the paranormal. Ikeda was one of the stars of the show, playing Ippei Hanagata of the rescue unit Team Moui.
Ikeda’s next major tokusatsu role would become his most famous. KIKAIDA (Jinzo Ningen Kikaida), a Toei series based on an original story by manga artist and writer Shotaro Ishinomori (Kamen Rider), premiered on the Japanese channel NET (Nihon Educational Television, now TV Asahi) on July 8, 1972 and ran for forty-three episodes. The show starred actor Ban Daisuke as Jiro, a guitar-playing, denim-clad young biker who is actually the human form of the android superhero Kikaida. Toei followed KIKAIDA with the sequel series KIKAIDA 01, which ran for forty-six episodes from 1973-74. 32 year old Shunsuke Kaneko starred as Ichiro/Kikaider 01, the older brother of Jiro, and the two android heroes would often team up against such foes as the fan-favorite anti-hero Hakaida who had been carried over from the first series. Japanese fans would delight in seeing the Kikaida Brothers battle the four Hakaidas (Black, Silver, Blue and Red).
The KIKAIDA shows soon caught the attention of Joanne Ninomiya, general manager of the Japanese-language station KIKU-TV in Hawaii. Ninomiya acquired the rights for the two series, with KIKAIDA premiering on KIKU-TV in in February 1974, and KIKAIDA 01 following in 1975. The station initially translated the characters’ names as “Kikaider” and the two shows were known in Hawaii as KIKAIDER and KIKAIDER 01. The KIKAIDER shows reached beyond the islands’ Japanese community to become a smash hit with schoolchildren statewide.
At the peak of Kikaida’s popularity in the summer of 1975, Ban Daisuke, Shunsuke Ikeda, and suit actors Toshiaki Kikuchi and Yukio Mitsuhashi came to Hawaii for a “Kikaider Brothers Show” at the H.I.C. Exhibition Hall (now the Neal Blaisdell Center) and Hilo Civic Auditorium. The four were treated like rock stars, and Ikeda in particular fell in love with Hawaii. Ikeda was also well known to Hawaiian viewers for his appearances in shows like ONIHEI HANKA CHO, RUTHLESS LICENSE (Hijou no Raisensu, 1974), and THE BODYGUARD (1974) which had also been shown on local television.
Following KIKAIDA 01, Shunsuke Ikeda had the recurring role of journalist Kensuke Mitsuya in the television series CONDORMAN (Seigi no Symbol Kondoruman, 1975). He also frequently guest starred on various TV programs, including a number of tokusatsu productions. Among his many credits from this time are Tsuburaya Productions’ AZTEKIZER (Pro-Wrestle no Hoshi Asutekaizar, 1976) Episodes 13, 25 and 26, and SPACE WOLF (Stah Urufu, 1978) Episode 16; plus Toei’s GO RANGER (Himitsu Sentai Goranger, 1975) Episode 83 and VIGILANTE ZUBAT (Kaiketsu Zubat) Episode 25.
In more recent years, Ikeda worked as a model for the SOS Modeling Agency and continued to act in commercials (Tokyo Disneyland, Toshiba, Kao Corporation, Zebi, etc) and on stage in plays and musicals, including the role of the genie in a 2003 production of THE ADVENTURES OF SINBAD. Onscreen dramatic performances were less frequent, though Ikeda did play the Navigator in an OV (original video) J-Horror film called THE ONI-GARA which was released on DVD in July, 2009.
He often made personal appearances connected to his work on KIKAIDA 01 and RETURN OF ULTRAMAN, promoting the occasional home video release or product tie-in. In 2006, Ikeda attended the 40th anniversary Ultraman party alongside many of the actors from the different Ultra shows. Footage from the event was shown during the end credits of the film ULTRAMAN MEBIUS & ULTRAMAN BROTHERS (Urutoraman Mebiusu & Urutora Kyoudai, 2006).
Beginning in 1997, Shunsuke would frequently vacation in Hawaii with his family. That year he also called Joanne Ninomiya and urged her to bring the KIKAIDA shows back to Hawaii, and Ninomiya began giving the idea some serious consideration. Ikeda and Ban Daisuke did return for the “Kikaida/Kikaida 01 Tour” at the Hawaii All-Collectors Show 2001. The personal appearance of the two stars was a tremendous success, bringing throngs of fans who had enjoyed the KIKAIDA shows as children and were now introducing their heroes to their own kids.
Joanne Ninomiya acquired the re-telecast rights for KIKAIDA in November, 2001. Her company, JN Productions, also released both KIKAIDA and KIKAIDA 01 on DVD, first as series of single discs then reissued in deluxe box sets. The widely acclaimed DVDs were heavily promoted in Hawaii, and also sold on the United States mainland in selected retail outlets and online retailers such as Amazon.com.
Shunsuke Ikeda and Ban Daisuke returned to Hawaii repeatedly for KIKAIDA promotional events over the past decade. Ninomiya invited them again in 2009, but Ikeda had to decline due to poor health. He had been dealing with diabetes, and in early 2009 had been diagnosed with cancer. Shunsuke Ikeda passed away at 3:00pm on June 11th, 2010. He was 69 years old.
Ikeda had loved Hawaii so deeply that he wished to have his ashes scattered there. At 10:30am on November 11th— Ikeda’s 70th birthday— his ashes were scattered at sea off Diamond Head. A memorial service was held that same day at the Blaisdell Center. Ban Daisuke, Joanne Ninomiya, Koji Shiota of Anime Jungle, Steven Fong of Shirokiya Inc., Bert Shibuya of Generation Kikaida Fans, and the Ikeda Family were among the guests who shared their stories and memories of Shunsuke Ikeda. Governor Linda Lingle sent a message to Generation Kikaida and the Ikeda Family, while Mayor Peter Carlisle and Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares designated the date as “Ikeda Shunsuke Day”.
In both his work and personal life, Shunsuke Ikeda clearly touched the hearts of people all over the world. May he rest in peace.