Looking Back on the History of Japan’s World-Class Tokusatsu: “TOKUSATSU-DNA ― ULTRAMAN Genealogy” Report

Born over 50 years ago, Ultraman is a national hero loved for generations through the Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa eras. This ultra-series has leapt out of Japan and is known all over the world with co-production overseas.
“TOKUSATSU-DNA ―ULTRAMAN Genealogy,” an exhibition that traces the ever-evolving and expanding lineage of heroes, is being held at Tokyo Dome City Gallery AaMo until October 18th. This is the latest exhibition in the “DNA of Tokusatsu” series, which focuses on Japan’s unique Tokusatsu culture, technology and successors. This time it looks at the heroic protagonists of the Ultraman series. In addition to past Ultraman masks, props, costumes, mechanics, and even original design drawings used in the show are on display. TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS, Ultraman’s creators, produced other Tokusatsu and displayed materials related to Ultraman.

Successive Ultra Heroes Inheriting the DNA of the First Ultraman

The exhibition starts with a panel of all the ultra-heroes in the order of appearance. Some guests have signed their autographs to commemorate the exhibition, so they may cause you to stop and look. At the end of the panel is a CG model from “Shin Ultraman,” a movie set for release in 2021. The design is based on ideas from Hideaki Anno, the director of planning and writing, to faithfully reproduce the work of Toru Narita, who designed the first Ultraman, and is characterized by the absence of a color timer.
At the end of the panels are several showcases housing many ultra-heroes from across the three periods of Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa. They can be viewed in any order to avoid overcrowding.

Here we look at the exhibits that TOKION focused on. The first work of TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS, the TV program “ULTRA Q,” was the beginning of Japanese Tokusatsu, with original miniatures and props on display. These valuable items give a feel for the production processes of the time.

Next, the original Ultra Hero appeared in “ULTRAMAN,” and the Showa masterpieces “ULTRA SEVEN” and “THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN” have many ardent fans. Ultraman’s costume boots, which are rare and difficult to maintain, and costumes for the Hayata (male) and the helmets of the special research crew are eye-opening to fans. It’s also interesting to see how the Ultraman masks and color timers (Ultra Heroes can only operate for three minutes at a time on Earth) have changed over the years. “ULTRASEVEN” displays the red ultra-guard point, Anne Yuri’s uniform, ultra-gun, capsule monster, Wyndham’s head, etc. “THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN” is lined with props including ultra-bracelets and miniatures used in the flight scenes.

The “ULTRAMAN A (ACE),” “ULTRAMAN LEOTARO” and “ULTRAMAN LEO” ensured the popularity of the Ultra series. Masks and props for flight scenes are on display in showcases, and the walls are also decorated with original designs by Akihiko Iguchi. Learning about the birth of a hero through originals is a fantastic experience. We can see the details of the Ultra father’s mask that appeared in “ULTRAMAN A” and “ULTRAMAN TARO.” Really, the design of the mask is slightly different for each item. Being able to see these difference is valuable.

The steering prop used in one episode of “ULTRAMAN 80,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary, is eye-opening. That was the 47th episode, “The Evil Glove. Be careful what you throw out!” The prop was created for the one-off appearance of the Dynamite Ball, a deathblow used to defeat KAIJU GROBSKU and was never used again.

Heisei Ultra Series from works co-produced overseas

“ULTRAMAN: towards the future,” Australia, “ULTRAMAN THE ULTIMATE HERO,” is also on display in this exhibition, as well as materials from ultra-works created in collaboration between production companies from the United States and other countries and TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS. This is a valuable booth due to the rarity of the material being shown to the public. The design and material of the costumes worn by the actors have changed from the initial productions, and you can enjoy seeing these differences.

This exhibition showcases the Heisei Ultra series, which continues in the current broadcast series. Starting with the early Heisei work, “ULTRAMAN TIGA,” mechanisms, miniatures and props from “ULTRAMAN DYNA,” “ULTRAMAN GAIA,” and “ULTRAMAN MAX” are on display. There are also items from the popular “ULTRAMAN ZERO” which was not mainly broadcast on TV.

TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS works related to the Ultra series

The venue also features other heroes that TSUBAYA PRODUCTIONS worked on, which were the basis for characters fighting together in the “ULTRAMAN ZERO” series. They are “MIRRORMAN,” “JUMBORG A(ACE)” and “MAGMA MAN.” Masks, props, and mecha for each hero are on display for people who saw the original series and children who only know of “ULTRAMAN ZERO” to enjoy.

Get your fill of the world of Tokusatsu

Other exhibits include illustrations for boys’ magazines and record jackets from the Ultra series and promotional posters for movies and TV programs related to TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS drawn by artist, Tatsuji Kajita. There are also items from “KAIJU BOOSKA,” the only monster in this exhibition. You can lose yourself in the wealth of material on display. With contributions from TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS, Japan’s Tokusatsu culture has followed its own evolution. Enjoy the charm of the valuable original material from the Ultra series, which is representative of that evolution. In this time of self-isolation, it is interesting to see how Tokusatsu imagine the future, including the Ultra series.

©TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS Co., Ltd.
©TOKUSATSU-DNA Film Partners
©ULTRMAN Z Film Partners・TV TOKYO Corporation

■“TOKUSATSU-DNA ―ULTRAMAN Genealogy”
Dates:  – October 18
Venue: Tokyo Dome City Gallery AaMo
Address: 1-3-61 Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Hours: 12:00–18:00 (weekdays), 10:00–19:00 (Saturday, Sunday and public holidays)
Admission: ¥2000 for adults, ¥1000 for children, ¥3800 for couples, ¥3400 for tickets with goods

Photography Satoshi Ohmura

author:

TOKION EDITORIAL TEAM

Born in Tokyo in July 2020. With the theme of “The message of Japanese cutting edge culture to the world," We have been working in music, art, photography, in addition to all genres of culture, including fashion, beauty, and food, the social stance to communicate with readers. And digital media, magazines, e-stores and the concept store "TOKiON the STORE" opened at RAYARD MIYASHITA PARK. We will transmit information from Tokyo, the center of Japanese culture to the world.

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