Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Beasts of the Past
September 2, 2013 11:52 AM   Subscribe

“One day, we looked around and realized that almost no one is making tokusatsu anymore,” said Shinji Higuchi, one of a handful of Japanese directors who still have experience in the genre, having directed three movies in the 1990s featuring the giant fire-breathing turtle Gamera. “We don’t want this technique to just quietly disappear without at least recognizing how indebted we are to it.” - The last days of the rubber-suit monsters.
posted by Artw (41 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obligatory
posted by Anoplura at 12:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also Obligatory
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Breaded and fried monster is delicious.
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know- I find it a bit rubbery.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Calamari.
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's so sad, but it seems like an inevitable change. CG is cheaper and more "realistic." (Depending upon your definition of realism.) And maybe most importantly, there's nobody willing to spend their career building miniature cities anymore. The craftsmen making Ultraman are in their 50s and 60s, and came up in a different time.

If tokusatsu ever disappears completely it will be a real loss to the world of of film. There's something wonderful and childlike about the best giant monster films, where you get a bird's eye view of toy cities and forests from above. Then there's the giant, anthropomorphic kaiju, who interact with the toys much as a child would, smashing and crashing things down. It's a genre that often involves the (offscreen) death of thousands of innocent people, but somehow it feels innocent itself.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Believe it or not, we naively hoped that Godzilla's death in the film was going to coincide with the end of nuclear testing
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:36 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know- I find it a bit rubbery.

But... he is filled with turtle meat.
posted by JHarris at 1:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


“This is one effect that you don’t get from C.G.,” said Mr. Terai afterward, rubbing his shoulder. “Real pain.”

Mr. Terai clearly never saw transformers III. pain and horror, in great abundance.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just saw Pacific Rim last night - it was fun and all, and had infinitely more physicality than the Transformers franchise, but it still lacked the genre fun of tokusatsu.
posted by Think_Long at 1:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Q: As something that’s seems so dated after 20 years, how does Power Rangers hold up as a superhero show?
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on September 2, 2013


I went to a Daikaiju themed birthday party yesterday (yes, we're all in our 40's, why?) and had a blast. My costume was Hedorah, aka The Smog Monster, and I have to say, after about 10 minutes in that costume, I had nothing but mad respect for the guys who had to wrestle and fight under movie lights for hours every day.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


In ChurchHatesTucker's link, it says the actors playing the original Gojira could only perform for two or three minutes at a time, or they'd pass out from heat stroke. They had to film the monster sequences at high speed, to make the crumbling and smashing look more realistic. But that meant the set lights needed to be twice as bright as normal. So these guys had to wear a 220 pound rubber suit in what was basically an oven, with only a few small airholes at eye level. That's dedication!
posted by Kevin Street at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


While carrying a car battery between their legs.

The first person to wear the Gojira suit said that when he got the job, it was down to who could walk the farthest in it. He got 11 paces, and the other guy who was up for the part only made 10.




Also, I find it mildly humorous that someone named Shinji now laments the scarcity of giant monsters rampaging across the Japanese countryside.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:16 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Q: As something that’s seems so dated after 20 years, how does Power Rangers hold up as a superhero show?

Maybe it's because I was already an adult, but Power Rangers seemed dated at the time.
posted by DU at 2:36 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


A buddy of mine directed a film called Men in Suits that traces the cinematic history of monster costumes. It features an extended interview with Nakajima-san. Highly recommended.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Men In Suits

Seems to be sold out at the moment.

YouTube trailer
posted by Kevin Street at 2:56 PM on September 2, 2013


Time to break out my favourite paragraph from David Kalat’s A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series (1997):

'Tim Burton once said that he wanted to grow up to be the actor inside the Godzilla suit. It is not a glamorous job, though. Kenpachiro Satsuma has suffered oxygen deprivation, nearly drowned, concussed his head during one stunt fall, almost burned his eyes, and endured painful electric shocks. The costumes are so heavy that he grinds his teeth while moving about in them, causing dental problems. Years of wearing the suit, however, have desensitised Satsuma to painkillers, so he must undergo dental treatment largely without anaesthetic. The steel wire reinforcements in the Godzilla suit once wore through the rubber and tore into his legs, leaving them lacerated and bloody. The pyrotechnic staff once neglected to remove the staples used to adhere explosive charges to the costume, and the staples fell inside, where they penetrated Satsuma’s knees. Nevertheless, Satsuma endures, survives and continues. His indomitable qualities make him the perfect choice for the role of a character [who] has lived for millions of years, surviving volcanoes, nuclear explosions, all weapons known to humankind, and quite a few completely fictional ones … Godzilla has withstood every attack alone and friendless, yet he survives.'
posted by Mocata at 3:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm kinda vaguely excited for next year's Godzilla "reboot" because Frank Darabont is one of the writers and Gareth Edwards - even though I still haven't seen Monsters - is the director, and I'm hoping for something more interesting than American military might/plucky orphans saving the day, because Godzilla is amazing and I was legitimately angry at her getting killed in that awful movie from '98.

Tokosatsu is not something I've spent much time with. In fact I only dimly recall seeing two or three of the "proper" Godzilla movies when I was younger. The sets are incredible, of course.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


.

goes looking for his Final Wars DVD, and licks his lips at the thought of the exploding giant lobster, Ebirah
posted by Samizdata at 3:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's because I was already an adult, but Power Rangers seemed dated at the time.

I was still a kid (okay, 16 years old) when Power Rangers came out in 1993, but I was already ahead of the game thanks to USA Night Flight's wacky DYNAMAN redubs from the '80s.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are almost 800 episodes of Power Rangers out there... giant rubber monsters ain't goin' nowhere. Its got remarkable staying power with kids.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:51 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in high school when the original Power Rangers series came out. A kid my mom babysat was into it. I was unaware until recently that they appear to have come out with a new iteration of it almost every year or two since then. At least that is what it seems like based on the availability of shows on Netflix my sons have binge watched.
posted by ericales at 4:17 PM on September 2, 2013


Linguistic question! Why do most kaiju names seem to end in "ra(h)"? Gojira, Gamera, Ghidorah, Mothra, Ebirah, Hedorah, Dogora...

Is that a meaningful suffix in Japanese? Or just a way to make monster names sound suitably Godzilla-ish? Or what?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:34 PM on September 2, 2013


Now there are two... It goes back to the name Godzilla, or, in Japanese, Gojira. They tried to combine something synonymous with power and something synonymous with size. A gorilla (power) and a whale (size). Gojira was the first 'ra' and everything seemed to come from that.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an aside, there's a place up in Tochigi, pretty close to Nikko, called Tobu World Square which is just a tourist trap filled with scale models of famous buildings. If, say, one could acquire a full on Godzilla costume, the series of absolutely fantastic photos would be one of the best things ever.

Trying to explain those giant security guards, and their giant handcuffs would be sort of difficult. Then again, you'd hope they'd have an Ultraman or Jet Jaguar suit on hand in case of such an emergency. Y'know, so as not to spoil things for the kids.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gojira was the first 'ra' and everything seemed to come from that.

Got it. Eponythankyou!
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 5:05 PM on September 2, 2013


Because RAAAAHHH!
posted by Artw at 5:08 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, my explanation left out a crucial thing: in Japanese, whale = kujira, gorilla = gorira. Go+ jira= Gojira.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:21 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kevin Streets, I have reliable information that the Men in Suits DVD will go for another replication run shortly.

In the meantime, if you live in San Diego, you can see Men in Suits at the Digital Gym on Saturday, September 14 at 9:30 pm. Kid-friendly!
posted by infinitewindow at 5:23 PM on September 2, 2013


I worked in a shop in North Hollywood for a few months in 1996-97, where the specialty was creating suits like these. Other shops specialized in things like makeup appliances (think Klingon foreheads) and casting clay sculpts to make latex components. But in our shop, it was strongly based on cutting sheets of dense but flexible foam to make lightweight, supple-but-rigid costume pieces. Softer, spongier foams were used for things like puppets, or sculpting flexible muscles over a bodysuit. It's amazing, the level of shape complexity you can get from pattern cutting and gluing with angled beveled edges, and then surface sculpting the foam itself with things like soldering irons. I learned a lot of neat stuff working on the suits and props. I'd enjoy messing with foam again, but the adhesives used were pretty toxic.

Once the suits had been worn, I wouldn't want to touch them. It's a really vigorous job to wear one, they're very hot and quite heavy, and on top of the rubber foam there's sometimes fur, too. You've got to over-accentuate every movement just to have it be visible, and monsters tend to be exuberant. And there tend to be multiple takes. So the suits get pretty ripe. You can't exactly drop them off at the dry cleaner, so they get drenched inside with aerosol anti-bacterial spray, and set up with fans blowing into them to dry out. It's someone's job just to take care of a suit actor, get them put together and where they belong, keep them hydrated and cool as much as possible. The people who act in suits often specialize in that sort of work - it's a physical communication of movement that has to be readable through several inches-thick layers of costume. The actor has to consciously create subtle movements like breathing or shifting weight from one foot to the other, to create the illusion that he's a living creature, not a guy with no field of vision, pouring sweat in 120 degree temps with no fresh air, awkwardly wearing several pounds of floppy rubber, and somehow able to mask the fact that he's performing despite a complete lack of proprioception. One gentleman I met has a background in mime and studied under Marcel Marceau. It's a specialized talent that's surprisingly demanding.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


Wouldn't motion capture suits be the logical next step for rubber monster actors?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:28 PM on September 2, 2013


That's what I thought. Andy Serkis is basically a guy in a rubber suit, a lot of the time. Though, fun tidbit, the Jaegers in Pacific Rim were specifically not mo-capped, because Del Toro didn't think human movement was a good enough fit. I guess he was more or less correct, though I practiced walking and moving like a big robot in front of the bathroom mirror after getting back from the movies and I think I did a pretty good job.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:27 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't help but recommend the great monster mockumentary 'Big Man Japan'
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:56 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


giant rubber monsters ain't goin' nowhere. Its got remarkable staying power with kids.

And yet what I see is what used to be a thriving genre being reduced to two series. They may be popular series, but shows are sometimes cancelled despite popularity.
posted by JHarris at 9:07 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine: "I can't help but recommend the great monster mockumentary 'Big Man Japan'"

Hard to find but worth it. + It has cats!
posted by Samizdata at 11:06 PM on September 2, 2013


When movies like Death Kappa and Pacific Rim exist, and are fantastic, I refuse to believe that we are in the last days of the kaiju genre.
posted by GoingToShopping at 12:07 AM on September 3, 2013


I refuse to believe that we are in the last days of the kaiju genre.

That very well may be, but the issue here is that the "guys in rubber suits" genre is on its way out.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:09 AM on September 3, 2013


I remember watching Big Man Japan thinking it would be some kind of wacky light-hearted parody of monster films and being kind of surprised when it turned out to be a bizarre right-wing militarist allegory.

The "hero" (who represents the fighting spirit of the current generation and the Japanese military) is lazy and underappreciated, spending his time eating ramen and facing off against ridiculous, pointless enemies, in stark contrast to his ageing father (or grandfather? I forget) who was mighty in his youth. His energy is sapped by the debilitating, feminine influences of unfaithful women (his ex-wife), commercialism and greed (his agent) and the sex industry (his "friend" at the hostess club). Ungrateful citizens protest every time he goes to one of the few remaining installations capable of charging him up (I'm not sure, but I bet their locations in the film correspond to real SDF bases).

Eventually Japan is attacked by a horned red demon with grossly caricatured Chinese features and scars from a previous battle - North Korea claims responsibility, but the demon is obviously from China (i.e. China is behind North Korean provocation). When it repeatedly crushes Big Man Japan the film changes from (bad) CGI to enter a tokusatsu-style fantasy sequence where American "super justice" heroes save the day by, among other things, kicking an exploding baby at the demon, while Big Man Japan stands by uselessly. Translation: the Japanese are deluded if they think the US will sacrifice its young people to protect them from China.

Strange film.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:46 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I refuse to believe that we are in the last days of the kaiju genre.

The point of the article, I think, was not that the daikaiju genre was in danger but that the specific "practical effects" tokusatsu version is. No doubt cities will continue to get stomped, but the work will be done on computers rather than in sound stages. And some people think that's sad and something special will be lost in the process.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:19 AM on September 3, 2013


I remember watching Big Man Japan thinking it would be some kind of wacky light-hearted parody of monster films and being kind of surprised when it turned out to be a bizarre right-wing militarist allegory

Not too surprising to me because it seems the natural extension of a post-monster movie Japanese culture. In my mind, the whole tokusatsu genre feels like an expression of a sort of post-WWII loss emasculation angst, and it seems logical that a call to nationalism would be the aftermath.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:27 PM on September 3, 2013


« Older The "Charley" films were produced in 1946 - 1947 a...  |  In 1983, the film Where is Par... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments