If only 'Ultraman' was here to stop the wrecking ball
BY ATSUSHI OHARA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
A movie studio and the offices of the company that produced the popular "Ultraman" TV series, facilities considered sacred by the superhero's fans, are to be torn down.
For many, the decision to close the former headquarters of Tsuburaya Productions Co., a TV and film production company founded in 1963, and a studio affiliated with Toho Co. is the end of an era.
Ultraman first appeared on TV screens here in 1966 as a sort of Japanese version of the superhero characterized by Superman, much like "Godzilla" resembled "King Kong."
The two facilities, located in the Kinuta and Okura districts, respectively, in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, will close this month.
Ultraman, basically someone running around in a rubber suit, enthralled young viewers as the character fought off enemies and other monsters, often zapping each other with beams. For its time, the long-running series was noted for its special effects.
Ultraman, like the character in Superman, came from outer space and had extraordinary powers. As a member of a special squad to protect Earth, a fixture of the series was seeing Ultraman do battle with various evil monsters each week.
Ultraman occasionally got hurt, but never mortally. The character always ended up saving the day.
Even after the functions of the Tsuburaya Productions head office moved in 2005 to another part of Setagaya Ward, the Kinuta facilities continued to be used for editing and production of computer graphic images.
But Tsuburaya Productions decided to consolidate because its functions were so widely dispersed. The former headquarters, therefore, will be demolished and the land sold off.
Dubbed "monster warehouse," the building's second floor was used as storage for masks and monster suits used in the series.
It has often been featured in magazines and TV programs.
The studio, a subsidiary of major film production company Toho, has also been used to film famed works such as the late director Akira Kurosawa's "Akahige" (Red Beard, 1965), as well as dramas and commercials.
The facilities, now rundown, are also inconvenient for filming because they are located in a residential area.
No decision has been made on use of the studio's land.
Hiroko Sakurai, an employee of Tsuburaya Productions, who co-starred in the original 1966 "Ultraman" series as a member of the special squad protecting Earth, recalled that film director Eiji Tsuburaya, the company's founder, would walk in his slippers between the studio and the main building to check on the film rushes.
"The studio was like an old shack in the olden days," Sakurai said. "But it was a place where films were made that still remain today. That's because of the energy and power (of those involved at the time).
"I hope new and long lasting ones (movies) can be created even when times have changed and when the old buildings are gone," she said.(IHT/Asahi: February 8,2008)
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