Space Sheriff Spotlight Part 1: Gavan
Interview with Kenji Ohba
Translation by: Tetsuya Shima
The interviewer : 秋田英夫 (Hideo Akita)
From the book : “宇宙刑事大全 -ギャバン・シャリバン・シャイダーの世界- (Uchuu Keiji Taizen -Gavan Sharivan Shaider no Sekai-)” ISBN4-575-29080-7
Publisher : 双葉社 (Futabasha)
Editors : 安藤幹夫＆スタジオハード(Mikio Ando & Studio Hard)
In 2012, Toei Co. will be releasing the latest film based on its popular SUPER SENTAI franchise, called SPACE SHERIFF GYABAN VS GOKAIJA – THE MOVIE. The highlight of this film will be the return of Space Sheriff Gavan (Uchuu Keiji Gyaban), a popular Toei hero series from 1982.
With the help of Tetsuya Shima, SciFi Japan will feature a series of articles we call Space Sheriff Spotlight, taking a look back at the SPACE SHERIFF series (Gavan, Sharivan and Shaider) through a series of interviews with the casts and crews that brought the series to life.
We start off by presenting an interview with SPACE SHERIFF GAVAN star Kenji Ohba.
Kenji Ohba Special Interview
– How were you chosen as a leading character in SPACE SHERIFF GAVAN?
Mr.Yoshikawa, a producer of Toei recommended me as Retsu Ichijouji. He has been supporting me since I appeared on KIKAIDA and BATTLEFEVER J. I received the offer when the filming of DENJIMAN almost completed.
The sponsors said : “We risk our necks.” So I replied : “I’ll do my best even if it costs me my life.” Now I’m proud to have done such hard work.
– Please tell us about your character, Retsu Ichijouji.
Retsu’s jacket was made of leather at first, but it was binding and not comfortable under the summer heat. So I asked the staff to make a cloth jacket, and I wore it till the end of the series.
I created ‘Jouchaku’ posing. I had an image in which I raised my hand toward the sky while transforming. I’m not a tall guy but I tried to make myself look bigger in the transforming scene. So this posing includes ‘rising to your full height’, ‘crouching’, ‘spreading your legs’, etc. Mr.Seo, a camera operator, liked this saying “This posing is so cool”.
– How was the filming?
Jun Murakami portrayed Gavan. He was also a stuntman from JAC (Japan Action Club) like me. He behaved in the same way as me while acting as Gavan.
Super Sentai series has five members, so each member has a specific character individually. But Uchuu Keiji has only one hero. So I tried to portray the various emotions of Retsu. For example, Retsu often behaved comically, but when he fought against enemies his behavior became very serious. Sometimes he behaved as if he had been a very handsome guy. I think those attempts attracted viewers. I always checked my acting as well as others’ and studied hard.
Yoshiaki Kobayashi, one of the directors of Gavan made a strong impression on me. He watched and learned from many, many movies and would always say that he wanted to try something unprecedented.
– What do you think of Gavan’s fight scenes?
What I wanted to do most was that I was surrounded by enemies, and I dodged their blows by jumping here and there. So I talked about my idea with a stunt coordinator, staff and a director, and asked them to let me do such an action scene. The screen writer was very cooperative and he realized my idea in episode 15 titled ‘Maboroshi? Kage? Makkuu Toshi (Illusion? Shadow? Makuu city)’. A lot of staff liked this episode so much that they decided to make a similar episode. That is episode 41 titled ‘Makuu Toshi wa Otoko no Senjo Akai Inochi no Sunadokei (Makuu City is a Battlefield of Men; The Red Hourglass of Life)’
Incidentally I disguised myself as various characters in episode 22. I like disguising myself. In episode 29 I became Pinocchio (laughs).
– How did you feel about co-stars?
For Wakiko Kano (as Mimi), it was her first experience to appear on TV and to act, but she played her role very charmingly and spoke her lines nicely. I thought she was always making efforts to cultivate her gifts. Masayuki Suzuki (as Kojiro Ohyama) was a very enjoyable character to have around. Retsu’s character was similar to him, so I even wanted him to teach me how to act in a comical role well. He spoke with a Northern accent, which made him more attractive. I often went drinking with him and Michiro Iida (as Hunter Killer).
Noboru Mitani (as Kiva), Ken Nishida (as San Dorva) and Toshiaki Nishizawa (as Qom) were the actors whom I admired. Jun Tatara was an actor who I watched on TV since my childhood. With impressive co-stars I got nervous during the filming but I learned much from them.
– Please tell us about the guest stars.
Hiroshi Miyauchi (as Alan) was a seasoned actor as I had expected. He made some ad-libs. His line, “Flash in Go!” at the scene of his attack was created by him. He had a lot of ideas about fighting scenes, and his action was excellent for his age. I bet he is one of the best action stars.
One of the most memorable actors as a guest was Rikako Murakami in episode 33. She was a mere junior high student back then, but now she is an established actress.
I always enjoyed costarring with guest performers.
– Did you have any trouble while filming?
We went to a certain island for the shooting of episode 2. The island was accessible only by ship that had a capacity of 50 or so, and it took an hour to get there. We were supposed to return in a day after filming but the weather worsened and it prevented the ship from leaving port. So we stayed overnight on the island. But the weather was also terrible the next day. We had to return, you know. So we all bought insurance, and set out in the storm. We could see the outside through the window and found five-meter high waves. It was really a nightmare!
– You sang an insert song ‘Chichiyo (Dear Father)’, tell us about the recording?
I hardly go hoarse while dubbing. But when I recorded this song, I sang three times or so, then I almost went hoarse.
Incidentally I had another recording for the narration in Gavan’s LP record. In the narration I explained the mechanism of ‘Jouchaku’ and many things. To tell the truth there were many things about Gavan and Retsu I got to know for the first time then (laugh).
I often listened to the theme song in those days. I liked it, a song with a good beat .
– Sonny Chiba as Voicer appeared in episode 43, titled ‘Saikai (Reunion)’. Please tell us about this episode.
On the day of shooting, Mr.Chiba imitated my hairstyle. We shot Voicer in close-up first. But it took as long as a whole day, so we had almost no time to take all the scenes where Voicer and I were together. So Noriaki Kaneda doubled as Voicer in some scenes where I was with Voicer. Mr.Kaneda didn’t resemble Mr.Chiba. So he put on makeup so that I could empathize with him. But his makeup couldn’t work in the end (laugh). TV station got a lot of phone calls after airing this episode, I heard. The callers said “My son was moved to tears while watching this on TV”, “Please create more episodes like this.” And so on. Getting feedback like this, I was very happy to be able to send our message and it made me think that I should push my self harder.
– In those days you went on a trip with Mr.Chiba. Please tell us about it.
Mr.Chiba was going to take Junichi Haruta for worldwide travel to reward him for his 14 year-long services. But Mr. Haruta wasn’t able to go on the trip due to his schedule, so I went on the trip instead of him. When we were having a meal at a restaurant in France, one Japanese family talked to me, “Excuse me but you are Gavan, aren’t you?” I heard Gavan was aired in France, too. Then Mr.Chiba talked to the kid, “I am Gavan’s father.” in a warm tone. I thought I had to become an attentive and considerate actor like him at that time.
– UCHUU KEIJI was serialized. What do you think of it?
When I read the script for the final episode, I got to know I became a captain so that I would have a chance to make future appearances. I thought this was an excellent idea.
Hiroshi Watari was also a member of JAC, and was working in Kyoto. When he made a guest appearance in episode 42, the staff and I encouraged him by saying, “Ganbareyo (Do your best)”. I was very glad to hear that he was going to play Sharivan, because I thought it ideal that a member of JAC succeed to the role of main character in the UCHUU KEIJI series.
Naomi Morinaga as Annie was in the 14th batch of students at JAC. She joined our hard-training camp in Ohshima island. When I first saw her she was a little chubby, so I was worried that she would give up and quit JAC. But she became a full-fledged action star.
– What is the most memorable thing about GAVAN?
When I met old friends after a long interval, they said “We don’t watch kid’s TV shows, but we watch GAVAN. It’s interesting.”
One of the main reasons I was dying to play a role of Gavan is that its theme was love. I was always thinking about it. You can feel Retsu’s affection for kids, animals and flowers in each episode.
If there is the sequel to GAVAN, and they want me to play Gavan once more, I would accept the offer. I guess Gavan has got married to Mimi and has kids, and protects the peace of our galaxy. Maybe he didn’t get promoted any more (laugh)
– Lastly please tell us about your latest news
I run a management office for action stars, which is affiliated with JAC. The name of the office is ‘LUMME M5’ and we usually do Hero Show, but once a year we do our own stage show. We prepare screenplay, stage set and props by ourselves. We did our 8th stage show in 1999.
My dream is to help young people who want to become action stars. Many people are dreaming about coming to Tokyo to become an action star. But, transforming that into concrete action requires much courage and preparation for hardships. So I want to support them by introducing them to helpful acquaintances of mine in Tokyo and giving them advice. Actually I’ve recommended some members of LUMME M5 to JAC, and they are doing well.
I hope a new Hero comes out among them.
Keep an eye on SciFi Japan for our next installment of Space Sheriff Spotlight, where we will feature an interview with Space Sheriff Sharivan, Hiroshi Watari. Coming soon!