Article and photos by David Namba
The DNA of Tokusatsu Ultraman Genealogy exhibition on Ultraman, the reigning king of Japan heroes and the history of Tsuburaya Productions safely lands with COVID-19 prevention measures at Gallery AaMo in Tokyo Dome City. From the first program in 1966 to today, no Tsuburaya hero or program is left out at this game multimedia exhibition that additionally highlights Reiwa era hitters like Ultraman Z, now running Saturday mornings on TV Tokyo and the Ultraman Tsuburaya YouTube channel.
Ultraman and Satoshi "Bin" Furuya
From the beginning, Tsuburaya Productions, founded by Eiji Tsuburaya, the God of Special Effects stepped into unchartered worlds during his humble beginnings in Sukagawa, Fukushima. Such is the case for DNA of Tokusatsu and “Ultraman Genealogy,” an attraction that combines rare props and entertaining displays for devotees raised on Tsuburaya heroes and today’s generation of new fans. The Gallery AaMo event thus far has attracted over two-hundred thousand healthy fans since opening on September 6.
UGM Ultraman 80 Crew Gear
The hybrid exhibition of heroes and props begins with a virus health check station by courteous staff and separate prepaid private talk shows were offered with beloved stars like Hiroko Sakurai from Ultra Q and Ultraman and Satoshi “Bin” Furuya from Ultraman and Ultraseven.
Ultraman Ultraseven Ultraman Jack original art by Tatsuji Kajita from Yuji Nishimura collection.
At the pre-opening contributor, Yuji Nishimura of M1GO said, “I have ten times more treasures to show to the public and this is our first time presenting a dark-themed (lighting) concept,” which added to the mystique of countless pieces of art by painter, Tatsuji Kajita and original screen used items.
Garamon soft vinyl GID figure by M1GO using a vintage Marusan mold.
This DNA exhibition with their advertising company partnerships features an extensive gift shop with more high-end and mid-priced souvenirs than previous outings. Hopefully, their co-venture will lead to greater accessibility for fans nationwide and overseas as new productions are underway. DNA curator, Takao Sasai discussed the growing clientele saying, “The fans who watched the characters when they were kids still retain these heroes into their adulthood today.”
Miniature of Ultraman Jack from Return of Ultraman
Grownups and children can view the artistry from multiple angles, getting up closer than ever before. Patrons are able to see applications of paint and brush strokes on priceless artifacts, some being displayed for the very first time. Miniatures, masks, shooting uniforms, weapons, and illustrations some dating five decades old await you. Also, on display are the 90s entries from Australia and US collaborative series, Ultraman the Great/Ultraman Towards the Future and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero/Ultraman Powered.
Satoshi "Bin" Furuya (L) and Hiroko Sakurai (R)
Though it appears slightly smaller than recent shows, the exorbitant wealth of special effects history on site entices you to make a second visit to cherish precious items from such treasured productions. One monochrome highlight is a collection of photographs, taken by Stars and Stripes photographer, Hideyuki Mihashi during Ultraman 1966 press day, negotiated by contributor, Michi Nishimura and tokusatsu historian (and Phantasmic contributor - Ed.), Edward L. Holland. Famed Ultraman artist Yuji Kaida commented during the preopening, “Those photos were excellent, I’ve never seen them before and I really like them!”
(Left to right) Mirrorman, Gridman, and Andros Melos join the show.
From the autographed entrance hall to the center stage adorned by the stoic Ultra Family accompanied by mesmerizing lights, sound effects and theme music, there is definitely something to fascinate everyone at the Ultraman Genealogy exhibition.
Ultraman Z and Ultraman Zero
Before the coronavirus broke out, DNA was planning to branch out to additional cities in Japan, America and parts of Asia, but the focus was blurred by the world pandemic. Interestingly enough during the event the governmental “Go To” campaign which encourages tourism within the country allowed some restrictions to be eased up. This led to ticket sales at the event on Saturdays and Sundays, while weekday purchases were restricted to online sales via smartphone registration with the DNA site.
Ultra King, Booska, and other artifacts.
The staff in their daily meetings are developing plans for wider audiences throughout the nation and abroad when conditions normalize. Safely pulling off the scheduled launch during coronavirus is a testament to DNA’s strident dedication to not let public enthusiasm wane towards hero and monster entertainment from Tsuburaya Productions. As the world approaches next year’s summer release of Shin Ultraman(2021) directed by Shinji Higuchi, please check the official DNA site for updates on future exhibitions at: http://www.tokusatsu-dna.com/
All photos by D. Namba
© Tsuburaya Pro.
© Tsuburaya Pro. © Ultraman Z Production Committee, TV Tokyo
© Tsuburaya Pro. © 2018 Trigger / Tetsu Amemiya / Gridman Production Committee
© Tsuburaya Pro. © Eiichi Shimizu, Tomohiro Shimoguchi © Ultraman Prod. Committee
Special thanks to the DNA of Tokusatsu, David Namba and T. Kubota for this report and photographs during current travel restrictions.
Somewhere between science and myth, the unknowable and probing curiosity, giant monsters lingers in our minds. Colossal and crawling, Varan haunted the forests of rural Japan in the 1958 film Daikaiju Varan (aka Varan the Unbelievable). Varan, with a craggly carapace (modeled after peanut shells) adorned by semi-translucent thorns, and the countenance of a demon was crafted by one Keizo Murase. Born in 1933, Murase has had an illustrious career crafting the various giant monsters of the Showa era, including Mothra, Gamera, Godzilla, and more.