Howl from Beyond the Fog
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. Bowing out of kaiju cinema by the 1990s, Murase made a return in 2017 when a new project was announced on Kicktarter. Howl from Beyond the Fog, written and directed by special effects artist Daisuke Sato (Ultraman Max, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack), is a short film that looks to the past for a fresh take on kaiju films. Released in late 2019, Howl eschewed live actors in favor of Bunraku style puppets. Howl’s giant monster, Nebula, was designed by Murase and is a truly ancient creature that wears the passage of time on his cracked hide. Loosely based on the story The Foghorn by Ray Bradbury (which itself was the partial basis for The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms), Howl is set in Japan during the turn of the 20th century, as a young man returns to his home village to discover more than one secret. A far cry from the raucous blockbusters such as Godzilla King of the Monsters or the more kid oriented fare such as Ultraman Z, Howl stands on its own as a unique work on a narrative level as well as through its craftsmanship.
Now Murase is returning once again to lend his talents to the recently announced Brush of the God. Currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, Brush of the God is based on a story concept Murase came up with in the late 1970s during the production of The Mighty Peking Man, and follows a group of children that use a magic paintbrush that is being sought after by dark forces that wish to revive the legendary dragon, Yamata no Orochi. The project is assembling a veritable who’s-who of kaiju and tokusatsu pros with character and creature designs by Shinji Nishikawa (SSSS Gridman, Godzilla Vs Biollante), poster art by Yuji Kaida, script by Takeshi Nakazawa (Hatsukoi Geinin). Whereas Howl had a more dark and melancholic tone, Brush of the God is going for a fanciful adventure setting, evocative of the kid friendly kaiju works of old. Here’s hoping Brush of the God meets its goal.
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.