Monday, December 07, 2009

Ultra Galaxy Premiere

Yesterday was the premiere of the new Ultraman movie MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY. The premiere was held at the Lazona Plaza in Kawasaki, a city located between Tokyo and Yokohama.

I was invited to attend by Warner Bros. in order to cover the event for (some of my photos and a short write-up of the event are now online:

After several days of intense cold and heavy rain, yesterday saw bright blue skies without a cloud in sight, and while the air was still quite cool, the sun provided enough warmth that I decided to leave my jacket at home (in December. Crazy!)

Prior to the screening, a live stage show was held outside in the central plaza from 2:00pm. I arrived around 1:30pm and managed to somehow walk straight past the press reception that was right in front of me. After making one of the poor Warner guys lead me there, I was given some papers with the schedule for the day, a copy of the press book, Mike Verta's soundtrack CD, MISIA's single CD, and another disc with some promotional photos.

Soon after I grabbed my spot in front of the stage. I was stuck in the far left corner, which hampered my ability to capture some of the more important moments, but think I still managed to get some pretty good shots in. I just had to make the best of the situation. The show lasted around half an hour, during which time I believe the circulation in my left leg ceased completely from all the kneeling. It was actually quite painful for the remainder of the day.

The premiere screening itself took place from 4:00pm in the 109 CINEMAS on the 5th floor of the Lazona. This was again proceeded by a half-hour introduction from the cast, this time joined by director Koichi Sakamoto. My otherwise lovely day was ruined around this point, as I somehow managed to lose my favourite camera lens, which cost me around $300.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ultraseven X Live Talk/Party

Last night Yagi invited me to a live panel discussion about 2007's ULTRASEVEN X entitled "Ultra SFX Night Vol.2: Ultraseven X" (Urutora Tokusatsu Naito Vol.2 Ultraseven X) held at Loft A in Asagaya.

This was the first chance I've had to see Yagi since I came to Japan almost two months ago. I arrived at Loft just after 6.00pm, and as the show wasn't due to start until 7.00 I went down the road with Yagi and some of the other guests for some drinks.

This was the first time I had really met Anri Ban, who played Agent S on the show. Even though she walks right past me in my small scene, I never got around to speaking to her on that day. She's a very sweet girl and stunningly beautiful. I ended up winning her autograph in the raffle at the end of the show, which was kind of funny.

It was also nice to catch up with Eriku, who played Jin/Seven X. I hadn't seen him since the shoot in 2007. I almost didn't recognise him at first as he's had all his long hair cut off now (looks a lot better now, I think).

During the show itself I was mainly acting as a photographer for Yagi's website. Considering how dark it was, I was pretty happy with the shots I was able to get. Especially as I was using my telephoto lens for a lot of them, which has no image stabiliser, so I was expecting all my shots to come out as a blurred mess. It was kind of a challenge trying to focus past the heads of the audience as well. I uploaded my photos from the night onto Yagi's website this morning:

I stayed on for the after party with the guests, which was a lot of fun, and gave me the chance to get to know some new people.

I had a good chat with Yuji Kobayashi, who was the main writer on SEVEN X, and who also co-wrote the new ULTRA GALAXY movie. It turns out we had already met quite briefly on the set of SEVEN X which I had completely forgotten. I gave him my thoughts on ULTRA GALAXY and he seemed quite pleased. He also gave me a signed copy of his new book, "The Way of Life as a Screenwriter" (Kyakuhonka toiu ikikata), which he will be expecting my thoughts on as soon as I actually learn how to read.

I was also happy to meet Kengo Kaji for the first time, who is a very cool and laid-back kind of guy. His English is also pretty good, which is always good news for me! He directed two episodes of SEVEN X, but is probably best known as the series organizer, director and writer for the 2005 series GARO.

Tom Wakizaki (Agent K) also turned up which I hadn't been expecting. I haven't seen him since last September. He's a pretty goofy guy and I always like hanging out with him. Last night he kept obsessing over my "natural perm" and kept taking my hat off. I think it's time I just got my hair cut...

As the party ran on until 2.00am I missed the train home, and as I live in Chiba-ken a taxi would probably cost me $1,000, so I spent the rest of the evening moving between coffee shops and noodle bars until I could get the train at 4.40am.

Another fun night in Tokyo! It brought back a lot of fun memories of SEVEN X. I'm amazed it was already two years ago! Here's the original trailer for the show:

(Photo #1: One of my shots of Anri and Eriku
Photo #2: Kobayashi's book and Anri's autograph
Photo #3: The guests at the after-party. Spot the stupid gaijin in the red shirt)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ultra Galaxy

Winter approaches! The last few days have been getting much colder, not to mention wetter. The wet streets provided me with my greatest ever Baka Gaijin moment this morning as I came flying off my bike.

Monday evening I went out with a group of friends from school to a Korean restaurant near Ueno. Between the octopus tentacles and things that looked like they came from some kind of jellyfish creature, I'm not really sure what I was eating, and most questions were just answered with "it's fish", "it's meat" or "it's vegetable". But it was a good meal and a great time.

This evening I went to Warner Brothers to see the new Ultraman movie MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY, which comes to theatres December 12th here in Japan.

I wasn't a fan of the ULTRA GALAXY TV series on which this movie is based, so when I first heard about the project early in the year I wasn't very enthusiastic. But the trailers and other promotional materials released in the last few months looked quite impressive, so I was feeling quite optimistic that I would enjoy this movie.

I think I can quite safely say that the scope and scale of this movie is far greater than anything seen before in this genre. My gut reaction was that this movie was GODZILLA: FINAL WARS done correctly. Both FINAL WARS and ULTRA GALAXY received much larger budgets, brought in foreign talent, attempted to put a modern spin on classic characters and threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Yet while FINAL WARS came away looking like a completely nonsensical and dishonest TV movie, ULTRA GALAXY actually fulfils its promises and delivers something that is fun, fresh, action-packed, and absolutely first class from start to finish. A wonderful movie which I'm really looking forward to seeing again in December!

(Picture: Ultra Galaxy press book)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yuke, Zone!

This has been kind of a lazy weekend, not helped by the fact that I've completely destroyed one of my toes and am finding it hard to walk. This is probably one of the first times since I've been here that I've just spent time by myself at home, and it's given me a chance to catch up on some various things.

One thing I'm really happy to have completed this weekend is my series guide for ZONE FIGHTER (Ryuusei Ningen Zoon), the short-lived 1973 TV series produced by Toho featuring Godzilla, Gigan and King Ghidorah, which is now live on SciFi Japan:

I began writing this sometime back in November 2008, so I've been working on this for over a year now. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, and think I managed to dig up a lot of interesting information and present something that I don't think has ever really been seen in English before, at least not to this degree.

Of course, there is always more I wish I could have done (including an interview with the lead actor Aoyama that I would have liked to have translated), but for me it was really a question of "How much longer is this going to take, and how much is it really going to add to the piece?" If you wait until something is perfect it will never be finished. Even as I read it now I can see lots of phrasing that I don't like, but for me it's reached the point where I just have to say "It's done", because I've already been working on it for a year.

Now I will force myself to leave home for the first time this weekend!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A New Home

November is here already!

I have been living in Japan for little over a month now, having arrived the tail-end of September, and have already adjusted to my new home. It's nothing fantastic; a small gaijin house about 40 minutes out from the centre of Tokyo, sharing communal kitchen and washrooms. But at just 50,000 yen a month it's hard to complain.

I began studying full-time at a Japanese language school in Akihabara in October. It's quite intensive, and as the lessons are taught entirely in Japanese I found it somewhat confusing to begin with. However, I got into the swing on things quite quickly and am finding my language skills improving quite dramatically. Of course, being immersed in the language all day every day makes a huge difference.

I'm currently in the midst of some serious financial/legal problems. To cut a long story short, a company has essentially stolen a lot of money from me and I'm trying to get it back. Without it I could face having to return to England. I feel I have a strong case and everything will likely work out in my favour (luckily I have kept all my documents), but it's been a very draining experience and has adversely affected my sleep and study. Today I've been attempting to catch up with four lessons at school I've missed as a result of these problems.

I've been lucky enough to have the support of some really great friends - namely Hiro, JR and Norman - who have given me great advice, assisted me when dealing with confusing Japanese bureaucratic stuff, and generally kept me sane throughout this whole ordeal. They are all very busy people, and I really owe a lot to them for going out of their way to help me with this.