SHIN ULTRAMAN Update: Filmmakers Reveal Inspiration For Hero’s Design
A SCIFI JAPAN EXCLUSIVE
Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd. has provided SciFi Japan with an update featuring additional information and large high-res images for their upcoming movie SHIN ULTRAMAN (シン・ウルトラマン, Shin Urutoraman).
SHIN ULTRAMAN is an adaption of the original ULTRAMAN (ウルトラマン 空想特撮シリーズ, Urutoraman Kūsō Tokusatsu Shirīzu, 1966-67) television series. Heading the creative team are writer/producer Hideaki Anno (NEON GENESIS EVANGELION) and director Shinji Higuchi (Gamera Trilogy, ATTACK ON TITAN), the co-directors of the award-winning box office smash SHIN GODZILLA (シン・ゴジラ, Shin Gojira, 2016).
While SHIN GODZILLA presented some radical reinterpretations of the classic Godzilla design, Anno and Higuchi have chosen a much more traditional appearance for Shin Ultraman. The pair have based their Ultraman on the conceptual artwork by the late Toru ‘Tohl’ Narita, the artist who shaped the look of the Ultraman Series as the chief character designer for ULTRA Q (ウルトラＱ, Urutora Q, 1966), ULTRAMAN and ULTRASEVEN (ウルトラセブン, Urutora Sebun, 1967-68). Higuchi and Anno were particularly inspired by a 1983 Ultraman oil painting by Narita, entitled “Incarnation of Truth, Justice and Beauty”. The artwork closely resembles Ultraman’s look in the classic shows but lacks the Color Timer on the hero’s chest, a late addition to the Ultraman suit that Narita disliked.
The Shin Ultraman design and logo were unveiled at a special presentation held during the opening ceremonies of TSUBURAYA CONVENTION 2019 on December 14th. Higuchi and lead actor Takumi Saitoh were guests at the event. Tsuburaya Productions also released statements from Hideaki Anno and Tohl Narita’s son, actor Kairi Narita (WHITEOUT, GUN WOMAN).
■ Director Shinji Higuchi Comments
● Memories of Ultraman: “I grew up watching Ultraman from the moment I was conscious of it. It’s part of my heart.”
● Atmosphere while shooting SHIN ULTRAMAN: “We became a good team through Ultraman with the cast members and generations of friends. Shooting is fun and I want to immerse myself in that mood forever, even after filming.”
● Impression of the Ultraman design SHIN ULTRAMAN: “Our job is to materialize the thoughts of Hideaki Anno, who likes Ultraman so much that he once played Ultraman himself [in the 8mm amateur short DAICONFILM’S RETURN OF ULTRAMAN]. Ultraman took this form by thoroughly collecting what Anno wants, what he likes, what he wants to see, and what he wants to make.”
“If you look closely at the reproductions of the sculptures that were first made by Tohl Narita and Akira Sasaki, you’ll see that they’re asymmetrical, and they’re very human, and they say, “This is a wonderful thing made by human hands.’ I want to go back to where it all started.”
● Message to everyone: “There are only a few items that I was able to show you today, and I still have a lot of work to do. I will do my best to complete it for 2021. Please stay tuned.”
■ Actor Takumi Saitoh Comments
● Memories of Ultraman: “Because of my father’s role on ULTRAMAN TARO [Shinya Saitoh played recurring character Kenichi Shiratori], Ultraman and monster dolls were my only playthings.”
● Impressions when you received an offer to star in SHIN ULTRAMAN: “When I was chosen as the man who would become an Ultraman, I had never dreamed of a life where I would really transform, so it was like a dream. I can’t talk about the story yet, but that’s the reason why I’m doing it. I had a strange experience that I felt was written there in the screenplay.”
● Impression of the Ultraman design of Shin Ultraman: “There is a beauty to it that is rarely seen. It really feels like a natural lifeform.”
● Message to everyone: “Not only the children of the Reiwa period, but also the adults are about to create important works. I think that after the Olympics, the time will come when the true value of Tokyo will be questioned. I sincerely hope that the works necessary to answer that will be born. Please look forward to 2021.”
■ Message From Producer/Screenwriter Hideaki Anno
● About the Ultraman in SHIN ULTRAMAN: The moment I saw “Incarnation of Truth, Justice, and Beauty” painted by Mr. Tohl Narita, I felt “Can’t we somehow put this beauty into a video?” That was the starting point of the design concept for this work.
How do we portray Ultraman himself when we present an epoch-like work called ULTRAMAN in modern times? The answer to the problem has already been decided.
It draws on the original form Mr. Tohl Narita aimed for. The aim is to reproduce what Mr. Narita wanted, which can only be done with current CG. Rebuilding that worldview in the present day could be challenging, but we did not feel the need to change that figure. We could find the design concept that we wanted only by returning to the original created by Tohl Narita and Akira Sasaki.
To that end–
● A new line of body structure that was fused and reconstructed from the various images of Ultraman that Mr. Narita had drawn over the years.
● A mask produced by Akira Sasaki, under the supervision of Narita.
● The body that Mr. Narita wanted, based on the physical measurements of [original Ultraman suit actor] Mr. Satoshi Furuya.
● Do not create peepholes in the eye parts; Mr. Narita did not want that.
● Don’t put a zipper on the back of the suit; Mr. Narita did not want that..
● And don’t have a Color Timer; Mr. Narita did not want that.
The end result of that work is this design.
It is a figure born from the desire to get closer to the beauty of Ultraman. I would be happy if I could convey this feeling to the audience, even a little.
■ Message From Kairi Narita
I won’t forget the time when Hideaki Anno visited us in the early spring of last year and said, “I want to make ‘Incarnation of Truth, Justice, and Beauty’.” I was so happy that I couldn’t believe my ears.
My father, Tohru Narita, deeply loved and was proud of the Ultraman he created through trial and error. At the same time, his name, as the creator of Ultraman, was erased from the credits, the design was altered and it continues to be used commercially, creating feelings of deep sorrow and despair. He was misunderstood and slandered for speaking honestly about that.
My father passed away in 2002 without his sorrow being healed. But I was brought up feeling proud of him; sometimes sad but always with respect.
I remember my father’s words: “The real thing remains, so be the real thing.”
“Incarnation of Truth, Justice and Beauty” is an oil painting into which my father poured all of his life as an artist. That painting touched Mr. Anno’s sensibilities, as though he were still watching ULTRAMAN as a child, more than 50 years, ago. I’m excited to see how it will reappear on the screen as SHIN ULTRAMAN.
ULTRAMAN, which danced in the minds of the children of the Showa era, is reborn as SHIN ULTRAMAN for the children of the Reiwa era. We look forward to the birth of an unforgettable movie that will remain in in the hearts of children.
■ Tohl Narita Profile
● Born on September 3, 1929 in Kobe. Moved to Aomori Prefecture shortly after birth, and subsequently moved back and forth between Aomori Prefecture and Hyogo Prefecture.
● In 1954, while studying at the Graduate School of Sculpture at Musashino Art School (currently Musashino Art University), joined the art staff of GODZILLA as a part-time job.
● Taking this opportunity, he was involved in special effects arts for studios such as Daiei, Shochiku, and Toei as well as Toho. In 1960, he became the director of special effects art for Toei.
● In 1965, he contracted with Tsuburaya Productions, going on to work on the company’s ULTRA Q, ULTRAMAN, ULTRASEVEN, MIGHTY JACK, etc. Designed everything from Ultraman and other characters, monsters, mechas, defense team costumes and bases to sets; leaving behind great achievements in building a worldview of the franchise.
● After going freelance in 1968, worked on special effects series such as ASSAULT! HUMAN!! (1972-73) and film art for BULLET TRAIN (1975), CHILDREN OF NAGASAKI (1983), MAHJONG DIRECTOR (1984), etc. In addition to this, he expanded his field of activities to department store displays, expos, and design of exhibition halls.
● On February 26, 2002, he died due to cerebral infarction. He was 72 years old.
● Since 2003 there have been major exhibitions of works, including “Tohl Narita – Art / Special Effects / Monsters” at the Fukuoka Art Museum in 2014-15.
About Tsuburaya Productions
Tsuburaya Productions, creator and copyrights owner of the superhero ULTRAMAN series was founded in 1963 by Eiji Tsuburaya, world-renowned special effects wizard also known for his special effects work on the Godzilla series. With more than fifty years’ experience, it is one of Japan’s oldest and most respected independent film and television production houses. Its popular Ultraman TV and film series which premiered in 1966 has been seen in over 100 territories worldwide and has spawned over 3,000 licensed products. In addition to production, the company also handles character licensing and program distribution and staging live stage shows both domestically and internationally.
For more information on SHIN ULTRAMAN, please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan: