Kaiju in AKAKAGE (part 1)

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 4

Seems Japan has been beset by giant monsters forever, and luckily for us today heroes like Ultraman are around to fend them off. But in the fuedal era, centuries before any space-faring monster fighters, laser-weilding science patrols or little kids with watches that summoned giant robots were around, it was up to a select few NINJA to do these monsters in.

Enter multi-media shinobi superhero Red Shadow, the coifed creature killer of Kamen no Ninja Akakage.

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This government-charged agent of justice (played by Sakaguchi Yûzaburô) could fly, shoot eye beams, summon a magic twister, and all sorts of other jazz. He and partners Aokakge (Blue Shadow, the requisite snot-nosed-brat, played by Yoshinobu Kaneko) and the veteran Shirokage (White Shadow, another one of Maki Fuyukichi‘s several ninja franchise roles) also loved throwing really potent hand grenades at monsters until everything in sight exploded.

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With this flashy ninja vs. giant monster format, prolific shinobi creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama‘s “Masked Ninja Akakage” jumped from hit manga in ’66 to Toei’s first color tokustatsu series in ’67, and has since seen revivals in anime and live action cinema. It is the often goofy but eminently lovable kid’s show that is highest regarded in that chain… Looking at these images, it’s not hard to see why:

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Know what I love most about this shot of the main baddie of the series? It allows me to use a term like "Harryhausen-esque!"
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These optical printer composites were still pretty new territory, especially in color and on a television budget. Sometimes they're rather good, other times not so much, but they are never a deal breaker.
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The tried-and-true model stomping session is always good, though...
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Good use of rear projection. The color exposure differences sometimes hinder these shots, but again, the color format was new.
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Miniature figures and modestly-budgeted modelscapes were often complemented by fire or smoke spitting critters that lent increased dynamics to otherwise cheesy-looking scenes.
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This familiar giant toad is probably the very suit from MAGIC SERPENT, or at least poured from the same foam rubber molds - note the indent on the nose where in the previous movie the glowing horn would have been.

TOMORROW – a whole pile of sponge-suit monsters!


KAGEMARU manga covers

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 2

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Mitsuteru Yokoyama is probably the second most prolific creator of crossover ninja properties next to Shirato Sanpei. Both Kagemaru of Iga and Masked Ninja Akakage expanded from their pulp roots to multiple incarnations in anime and live action film/television.

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I’m sure every kid in 1960’s Japan wanted to be Kagemaru – the whirlwind-summoning teen of Iga. But for me, it’s Yokoyama’s rogues gallery of villains that shows the true originality of character design. For what it’s worth, I actually dislike the unhooded Kagemaru as a design… But I do love that angular hood when he masks up!

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LOTS more of these coming, stay tuned…

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KAGEMARU vinyl figure

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Going back ot the early 60’s, Mitsuteru Yokoyama‘s Iga no Kagemaru property spanned manga, a great live action movie, toys, trading cards and board games, and anything else that could  bear a licensed image. You’ll see this shinobi superhero in just about every category on this site.

Here’s a 2004 retro-collectible from Japan’s Furuta capsule and blind-box toy manufacturer. There’s not nearly enough nostalgic toy licensing in Japan – there should be a whole line of figures of this character, his allies and the amazing rogues gallery of villains. Movie likenesses too. This piece is a representation of the manga version, complete with diorama base depicting his signature whirlwind leaf defense. He also came with a variant un-hooded head, of which I promptly lost track.

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And check out this illo from an early 60’s 2-color pulp manga – clearly the sculptor’s guide for the above figure.

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Lots of Yokoyama’s manga cover art just added to Books and Manga, too!