I’ve had a great time reading Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters by August Ragone. I bought it along with David Kalat’s book to help me get a better understanding of Japan’s live-action science-fiction/fantasy movies. My curiosity was richly rewarded and I recommend August Ragone’s book. Although the book might look a little pricey it is worth it for the wealth of rare photographs and appealing graphical design.
I’ve been thinking for some time about how anime has never existed in a vacuum. By the time science-fiction anime was starting in Japan the live-action science-fiction/fantasy movies had already been coming out for years. Tetsujin 28, the very first mecha anime, came out in 1963 when Toho Studios had been making science-fiction movies for nearly ten years. Anime has always been influenced by live-action movies and TV shows. It’s easy to spot the many homages and references made to live-action films in anime. In order to better understand anime a fan has to pay some attention to Japan’s live-action offerings.
For years I’ve been a fan of the Godzilla movies but it’s only recently that I’ve watched Ultraman and sampled some of Toho’s science-fiction stories from the 50’s and 60’s. Eiji Tsuburaya, the subject of August Ragone’s book, was a founding figure in Japan’s movie industry. Tsuburaya created a great many of the characters from live-action films that are still popular today all over the world. He’s best remembered for his two most famous creations: Godzilla and Ultraman. The book reports on how Godzilla and Ultraman started. Not only that but the book delves deeper and offers a wealth of information on how science-fiction and fantasy got their start on the screen in Japan.
Eiji Tsuburaya was a true genius. From the 30’s through the 60’s he was not only creating Japan’s special effects industry but he also created many filming, lighting and editing techniques. He invented equipment that allowed the film industry to move forward. Without Tsuburaya the movie and television industries in Japan would have suffered severely.
Tsuburaya’s genius was matched by his creativity. He was always coming up with ideas not only for new techniques and equipment but also new stories. He contributed greatly to every project on which he worked. Ultraman was one of the first projects created by the company he founded, Tsuburaya Productions. Tsuburaya always wanted to entertain children and was mindful of keeping excessive violence and gore out of his projects. Although he didn’t intend it, this is probably one of the main things that helped his work get the mainstream appeal it enjoyed.
If you have the time for some reading, you can’t go wrong with Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters by August Ragone.