It’s always good to see another giant monster film arise from the spiritual home of the genre, even if it’s not full-length. The Man Who Summons Kaiju [aka Kaijû wo yobu otoko] (Japan-2010; dir. Daisuke Andô) is a 25-minute television drama produced by NHK and the Saga Film Commission and distributed by NHK BS Hi-Vision. Due to air on Friday 10 December on Japanese TV, the short drama takes a rather self-reflective (and dare I say postmodern) approach to the subject, featuring a filmmaker whose ambitions to make a kaiju eiga take a somewhat unexpected turn.
Kouta Soejima (Gen Hoshino) works for the Saga Film Commission. One day, approached by an old school friend now working in the film industry, Kouta is given the opportunity to make a monster movie and eagerly takes up the challenge. He begins scouting for locations, seeking the perfect shoot location — which turns out to be the hometown he had left years before. As elements of his past start to catch up with him, he finds that something else — something big — is about make an appearance…
When asked whether a daikaiju actually makes an appearance, a spokesperson for NHK gave a definitive “Yes!” Moreover, the film foregoes traditional suitmation techniques — the “rubber” suits and miniature cityscapes of Godzilla, Gamera and his buddies — in order to use computer imaging to create the monster. So the monster below (engaged in examining some of the publicity surrounding the making of the film) isn’t actually what you’ll see on the screen!
This “plush” toy is actually a mascot version of the film’s kaiju star that travelled around with the crew and can be seen sticking his muzzle into many of the location shots appearing on the film’s production blog. Here he is with some friends:
But is this what the monster in The Man Who Summons Kaiju will look like? When Undead Backbrain asked, the spokesperson commented:
As for the daikaiju that is in the film, its appearance is based on a fish known as “Odontamblyopus lacepedii”, which looks a little like H.R. Giger’s Alien design.
Odontamblyopus lacepedii is in fact a species of eel goby found in muddy coastal waters off China, Korea and Japan. It has a long, slender body — and nasty teeth. Apparently it digs elaborate burrows that are tunnel-shaped, vertical, and extend to depths of 50-90 cm into the sea-bed. It grows to a maximum length of 30.3 cms and is considered harmless to humans (reference).
Quite a charmer, eh? It’s not hard to imagine this critter mutated into an upright, bipedal kaiju (with arms), as suggested by the silhouette that appears on publicity.
The film stars Gen Hoshino (as the filmmaker Kouta Soejima), Nao Nagasawa (as Nanae Fukami) and Tetsu Watanabe (as Toshiya soejima — Kouta’s father?).
Tetsu Watanabe is a long-time veteran of film and television, with a CV that includes a voice role in Hayao Miyazaki‘s classic animation Princess Mononoke (1997), Takeshi Kitano‘s violent noir Hana-bi (1997) and Takeshis’ (2005), minor roles in the Godzilla films Gojira tai Mosura [trans Godzilla vs. Motha] (1992; dir. Takao Okawara) [aka Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth] and Gojira tai Mekagojira [aka Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla] (2002, dir. Masaaki Tezuka), and a major role in the TV series Ring: The Final Chapter [aka Ringu: Saishuu-sho] (Japan-1999, dir. Hiroshi Nishitani, Hidetomo Matsuda, Yoshihito Fukumoto) — which was based on the same novel that inspired the influential Ring [aka Ringu] (Japan-1998, dir. Hideo Nakata).
Nao Nagasawa’s main genre credits include the 2010 remake Daimajin Kanon TV series and Geisha vs Ninjas (Japan-2008; dir. Gô Ohara).
Check this cast page for more.
Where Are We Now?
Location seems to be a big aspect of this film, with much of the associated marketing collateral focusing on those parts of Saga Prefecture where it was shot. Here are some of the places visited, including streets, a fishery, a school room, the harbour — and a very surreal underground complex:
The last two rather evocative images are of a flood-control channel — one that is of daikaiju proportions in its own right. It brings to mind a scene from the Ultraman movie Ultraman: The Next (Japan-2004; dir. Kazuya Konaka), where the hero faces off an early incarnation of the lead kaiju, just before it absorbs a swarm of rats and begins to grow larger. I wonder if the same location was used there. Certainly a great place for a daikaiju-sized battle….
As I said above, the film premieres on Japanese TV on 10 December 2010. On 26 November, a “production diary” style documentary on the making of the film aired on NHK General in the Saga region — running 55 minutes 30 seconds, edited from some 50 hours of footage! Maybe that’ll be of the final DVD edition. Who knows when we in the West will get to see the film, but many recent “small” diakaiju eiga have come to DVD/Blu-ray lately, so hopefully it won’t be too long.