Takeshi Yagi Directs New TV Special On Japanese Actresses From GODZILLA Films
Veteran Ultraman producer/director Takeshi Yagi (ULTRAMAN GAIA, ULTRAMAN NEXUS, ULTRAMAN MAX, ULTRASEVEN X, SUPERIOR 8 ULTRAMAN BROTHERS) has created an all new, 89-minute documentary for the major TV network NHK, titled GODZILLA’S LEADING LADIES (ゴジラとヒロイン, Gojira to Hiroin), focusing on the Japanese actresses who starred in Toho Co. Ltd.’s giant monster films.
For more than 65 years, Toho has produced some of the most iconic monster and science fiction films in motion picture history. Headlining many of these films has been the international pop culture phenomenon, Godzilla. However, as Godzilla wades through cities, toppling buildings and battling to the death with ever more powerful foes, it is the human characters and the actors that portray them that advance the plots and keep the movies going.
Most fans initially latch onto these movies to see the monsters and special effects. But as these fans grow older, their attention often shifts to the talented actors and actresses who star in these movies, many of whom worked under studio contract, being discovered and developed through Toho. Although the Japanese film industry changed and studios got away from contracted players, older actors would continue to resurface in newer roles, along with younger, up and coming faces starring in the later movies.
The leading ladies in the Godzilla and tokusatsu films have garnered a cult following all their own, many rivaling in popularity to their titanic kaiju counterparts. The charm of monsters such as Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, the Human Vapor, and Matango became even more brilliant because of the presence of these beautiful, intelligent and resourceful heroines.
GODZILLA’S LEADING LADIES looks back at the women who made their mark on the history of Toho special effects movies — Momoko Kochi, Yumi Shirakawa, Kaoru Yachigusa, Kyoko Kagawa, Yuriko Hoshi, Kyoko Ai, Keiko Mari, The Peanuts, Megumi Odaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Misato Tanaka — as their characters screamed, loved, worked, schemed, sang, fought, and even managed to communicate with monsters.
GODZILLA’S LEADING LADIES will air throughout Japan on NHK during primetime on Saturday, December 19th, 2020. It features all new interviews with several iconic Toho actresses, including Kumi Mizunom, “The Tokusatsu Heroine” who has appeared in movies such as MATANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE, 1963), INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (aka MONSTER ZERO, 1965), and EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP (GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, 1966); Keiko Mari, the memorable dancer from GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (aka GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER, 1971); Yumiko Shaku, who piloted the Mechagodzilla named Kiryu in GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002); and Megumi Odaka, who starred in an incredible six consecutive Godzilla films including GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989), GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1991), and GODZILLA VS. SPACEGODZILLA (1994), along with film clips, archival gems, visuals, and vintage material on other Toho monster movie heroines.
Director Takeshi Yagi explains, “our legendary actresses interviewed in GODZILLA’S LEADING LADIES, icons of Japanese cinema, reveal many fascinating anecdotes as they each reflect back on their past, happy filmmaking days. For example, fans will be surprised to know that Hollywood star Nick Adams fell madly in love with his co-star Kumi Mizuno, while in Japan making FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD and MONSTER ZERO. Adams was crushed when Mizuno-san had to turn down his marriage proposal, since she had a boyfriend at the time. Nick Adams love for Kumi Mizuno can be clearly seen on screen, especially during dramatic scenes in MONSTER ZERO.”
The program’s entertaining hosts are the fictional characters Dr. Tokusatsu, played by actor and comedian Muga Tsukaji (KAMEN RIDER DRIVE: SURPRISE FUTURE, MURDER AT SHIJINSO), and Handroid Meg, played by the popular voice actress Megumi Han (Anime ULTRAMAN, ULTRA GALAXY FIGHT: THE ABSOLUTE CONSPIRACY). They are joined by the fan-favorite actor Shiro Sano (GODZILLA 2000, GODZILLA, MOTHRA & KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK), here portraying a “Researcher of Tokusatsu Heroines.” The trio take audiences on a captivating trip down memory lane, filled with amazing stories and surprises. The famous WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS starring Russ Tamblyn, MATANGO, MOTHRA, and RODAN are some of the other Toho monster films covered in the special.
As a special bonus, for the first time ever, audiences and fans will be able to watch spectacular super 8mm home movies shot by classic Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka on the sets and locations of THE THREE TREASURES, MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA, EBIRAH: HORROR OF THE DEEP and other Toho films. In addition to this amazing, vintage 1960’s “Behind the Scenes” footage, a new revealing interview with 1990’s/2000’s Godzilla film producer Shogo Tomiyama is also featured.
Special medical precautions were taken during the filming of this TV documentary in Japan due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
An English subtitled version of GODZILLA’S LEADING LADIES has already been prepared in the hopes of licensing the documentary outside Japan.
■ GODZILLA’S LEADING LADIES Details
Broadcasting Station: NHK
Japan Air Date: Saturday, December 19, 2020
Broadcast Time: 7:30-9:00pm
Starring: Kumi Mizuno, Keiko Mari, Megumi Odaka, Yumiko Shaku, Shogo Tomiyama, Shiro Sano
Hosts: Muga Tsukaji, Megumi Han
Writer: Yuji Kobayashi
Director: Takeshi Yagi
Production Company: NHK
NHK BS Premium will broadcast the following classic Toho movies as a tie-in with the documentary…
Monday, December 21 @ 9:00pm — MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (モスラ対ゴジラ, Mosura Tai Gojira, 1964)
Monday, December 28 @ 1:00pm — INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (怪獣大戦争, Kaijū Daisensō, 1965)
■ About the Director
Since 1999, Takeshi Yagi has worked in Japan as director, special effects director, and producer on hundreds of half-hour episodes of various TV series for Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd., including; ULTRAMAN GAIA, ULTRAMAN COSMOS, MOON SPIRAL, BOOSKA! BOOSKA!, ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY, ULTRAMAN NEXUS, ULTRAMAN MAX, ULTRAMAN MEBIUS, and ULTRASEVEN X. Yagi’s 2008 theatrical feature film SUPERIOR 8 ULTRAMAN BROTHERS, which reunited many classic Ultraman stars — Susumu Kurobe (the original Ultraman), Koji Moritsugu (Ultraseven) and Jiro Dan (Ultraman Jack) — remains the most financially successful, highest grossing box office film of Ultraman ever produced. Yagi also directed the special effects for SUPERIOR ULTRAMAN 8 BROTHERS, which included miniature and suitmation fx, as well as practical pyrotechnics and digital/CG work.
Yagi is currently developing new kaiju movie and television projects with his American production partner, writer-producer William Winckler (English version ULTRAMAN X THE MOVIE, ULTRAMAN GINGA S THE MOVIE).
NHK, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), is Japan’s only public broadcaster. As a public broadcaster funded by fees received from TV viewers, NHK delivers a wide range of impartial, high-quality programs, both at home and abroad.