Great news for daikaiju fans! It has been confirmed that Japanese SFX wizard Shinji Higuchi (best known as the man behind the excellent effects for Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera re-boot trilogy, which set the standard for daikaiju eiga imagery in the 1990s) announced that he is making a new giant-monster TV series that’s due to begin broadcasting from 7 July 2010 in Japan. The series is called MM9 (Monster Magnitude 9) and features a stellar line-up of Japanese stars.
Conceptually, MM9 reads like early Ultraman, sans the titular giant hero, as it features a Science Patrol-type team of scientific experts who form the special “living creatures” division of the Japan Meteorological Agency, helping to deal with the giant monsters continually attacking Japan, using knowledge rather than weapons — given that the military solutions of the Japan Defense Force fail to make much of an impact on the rampaging mega-beasts. The team of monster specialists (called “Kitokutai”) are tasked with using their knowledge and experience to forecast imminent events, to help protect lives and property — and , no doubt, to come up with some kind of permanent solution. Once an attack occurs they head for the front-line, whether the military is available or not.
Overall, available information suggests that the show will be a drama about the members of the special forces team as much as a SFX extravaganza. To me the tagline (“You can live as if nothing is a miracle, or everything is a miracle”) indicates that the team will be at least partially motivated by wonder as they study the creatures, which may in turn lead to the sort of conflict with military and political authorities that sometimes cropped up in the Ultraman Cosmos series.
The main cast includes Anna Ishibashi (Threads of Destiny, The Shikisoku Generation, Time Traveller) and Machiko Ono (The Forest of Mogari, The Sparking Amber). Ishibashi plays Sakura Fujisawa, a rookie member of the team, and Ono plays Mikazuki, the member responsible for Fujisawa’s training. Other members of the cast include Issei Takahashi (Kill Bill Vol. 1, Ultra-Q: Dark Fantasy, Detroit Metal City), Yasuhi Nakamura (Ju-on 2, One Missed Call), Satoru Matsuo (SP), Sarutoki Minagawa (Kamen Rider 555), Takako Kato (Audition), and Yutaka Matsushige (Godzilla 2000 Millenium, Ringu, One Missed Call, Rasen: The Spiral, Princess Blade).
The screenplay was written by Kazunori Ito (Patlabor, Gamera) and some of the directors include Tomoyuki Furumaya (Bushido Sixteen), Kiyotaka Taguchi (Gehara), and Ataru Oikawa (Tomie). Besides the Gamera Trilogy, Shinji Higuchi has been involved — as storyboard artist or in FX capacities — in such productions as Princess Blade, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Sakuya: Slayer of Demons, Godzilla: 1985 and the many incarnations of Neon Genesis Evangelion, including the current “upgrades”.
MM9 is based on a series of stories by award-winning Japanese science fiction author Yamamoto Hiroshi, which may give it the sort of consistently thought-out narrative structure that is often lacking in the genre.
Not to say it will lack spectacle. Check out the cover of Hiroshi’s book on the right.
All in all, MM9 boasts quite a resumé. Let’s hope it turns out to be as good as its potential suggests — and that we get to see it in the West before too long.
Note: Shinji Higuchi first suggested that he was making a new series on 1 April, when he introduced a bogus poster for a show called XX9. The poster featured the stars of MM9, only in a guns-blazing futuristic setting. It turned out that this was simply a ruse to get fans to link to his Twitter feed.