Noriaki Yuasa Interview

by David Milner

Translation by Yoshihiko Shibata

Noriaki Yuasa

(Conducted in July 1996)

Noriaki Yuasa directed both the standard footage and the special effects footage for GAMERA (1965), GAMERA VS. GAOS (1967), DESTROY ALL PLANETS (1968), GAMERA VS. GUIRON (1969), GAMERA VS. MONSTER X (1970), GAMERA VS. ZIGRA (1971), and SUPER MONSTER - GAMERA (1980). In addition, he directed the special effects footage for GAMERA VS. BARUGON (1966).

David Milner: You began acting when you were a child. Was that because your father was an actor?

Noriaki Yuasa: My father, Hikaru Hoshi, and one of my grandmothers were actors, but I began acting only because I happened to live in housing for members of the film industry. I and my friends would occasionally be asked to appear as extras. That's why I worked on some stage productions during the end of World War II. I eventually was given a leading role in a play, but because of the air raids, the opening of the show was postponed and then cancelled.

I was not very interested in acting because I was raised amidst actors and actresses who had illicit love affairs all the time. I was very bothered by their behavior. That's why I never directed a movie featuring a romance.

DM: Did you ever work with your father or grandmother?

NY: I saw both of them on the stage, but never worked with either one.

DM: You worked in radio. What was that like?

NY: I worked in radio only once. I played a South Pacific native boy and some other parts in a drama that was intended to boost the moral of the soldiers. The drama was broadcast from the Kamushika Theater back when I was called Noriaki Hoshi.

By the way, as the air raids gradually got worse, more and more children were evacuated from cities to rural areas. Eventually, roles that would have been given to children had to be given to teenagers.

DM: How old were you when you appeared in your first film?

NY: I appeared in only one movie, TWELVE HOURS BEFORE RECRUITMENT (1943). It was directed by Koji Shima, who was my uncle. It was about medical students who had been recruited into the army. The entire story took place in the twelve hours before the students had to report to boot camp. I played the younger brother of one of the students. (Mr. Shima also directed WARNING FROM SPACE (1956).)

By the way, during the war, the government ordered several film studios to unite. That's how Masaichi Nagata founded Daiei. (The Daiei Motion Picture Company Ltd. produced all of the Gamera movies. Mr. Nagata was the studio's president.)

DM: If you were so disenchanted by the behavior of people in the film industry, why did you pursue a career in it?

NY: Although my own father had a mistress, I didn't dislike movies themselves.

I became an assistant director shortly after the Nikkatsu Corp. was founded. Many of Daiei's employees went to work for it, and I helped fill the void. (Nikkatsu produced MONSTER FROM A PREHISTORIC PLANET (1967).)

My father was the one who told me that Daiei needed people. He suggested that I take the examination you had to pass in order to become an assistant director. I was in my second year of law school, but decided to take the test. I passed, and then was asked to quit school before beginning my work. I didn't want to quit, so I just said that I would. I ended up working full-time and going to school for two years.

At that time, Daiei's directors reported to the studio chief instead of a board. That's how I got away with remaining in school. Whenever I had a test I had to take, I'd ask the chief assistant director to fill in for me. Right after the test was over, I'd take a taxi to the location of the shooting. I managed to graduate before Daiei's executives discovered that I hadn't quit school.

DM: What kind of questions were on the test to become an assistant director?

NY: There were three parts: a written test, an interview and a physical examination. The written test involved giving your impressions of the film you found most impressive. If there was no particular movie, you were supposed to describe the film you would most want to make after becoming a director. The interview was about movies in general.

The person who interviewed me noticed that I was the son of Hikaru Hoshi, and suggested that I become an actor rather than an assistant director. However, I refused. I told him that I wouldn't make a good actor.

DM: What film did you first work on as an assistant director?

NY: I don't remember the name of the movie, but I can tell you that it was about judo. The director was Koji Saeki.

DM: Did you then begin working with Mr. Shima?

NY: Yes. I worked as a third assistant director under him for about five years. I spent most of my time running around with a duster. There was little opportunity for me to learn the art of filmmaking.

DM: Were Mr. Saeki and Mr. Shima Daiei employees?

NY: They were independent contractors. They had to direct a specific number of movies per year.

DM: Did Daiei, like Toho, force its assistant directors to quit and become independent contractors after being promoted to director? (The Toho Company Ltd. produced all twenty-two of the Godzilla films. It also produced RODAN (1956), MOTHRA (1961), and many other science fiction movies.)

NY: Daiei allowed directors to remain employees for several years after being promoted. So, they would receive payment for being an employee and directing. It was very nice. However, the studio chief would eventually come up to them and say, "You are making even more than me!"

By the way, I was allowed to remain an employee until I began working on GAMERA VS. ZIGRA.

DM: What other films did you work on as an assistant director?

NY: I worked on about ninety movies over a ten year period while I was an assistant director. I really can't remember any of them very well.

I mainly worked with four directors. They were my uncle, Umeji Inoue, Yarunori Kinamasa, and Yuzo Kawashima. I worked with my uncle more than any of the others.

I learned a lot from the four because they were all very different. I learned what films are really like from my uncle, what literature is really like from Mr. Kawashima, how to produce hits from Mr. Inoue, and craftsmanship from Mr. Kinamasa.

DM: Which of the four influenced you the most?

NY: I wouldn't say that any one of them influenced me more than the others. I really was influenced by my father more than any other member of the movie industry.

DM: Were you promoted to director before you worked on your first film, CLAP YOUR HANDS IF YOU'RE HAPPY (1964)?

NY: I was credited as the director, but I hadn't been officially promoted.

DM: Who came up with the idea of a flying turtle?

NY: Nisan Takahashi. (Mr. Takahashi wrote all of the Gamera movies except GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995) and GAMERA 2 - LEGION ATTACK (1996).)

Gamera's spinning was modeled after the kind of fireworks that spins. Frankly, the spinning of the newer Gamera comes closer to the original concept than that of the one we created. We did our best, but did not have computers at our disposal. (GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and GAMERA 2 - LEGION ATTACK both feature computer graphics.)

Making Gamera spin while he flew was very difficult. That's why we eventually stopped trying to make him spin. If all four of the jets did not light properly, the shot would be ruined.

DM: Who designed Gamera?

NY: Noriyoshi Inoue drew about 500 pre-production sketches, but his original design ended up being used.

DM: Who named Gamera?

NY: Mr. Takahashi probably came up with the name. Many of the monsters Toho had created had "ra" and/or a "g" in their name. By the way, by the time I began working on GAMERA, Gamera had already been named.

I remember that the first planning meeting I attended ended around 10 A.M., and Mr. Takahashi had a synopsis written by noon. His original title for GAMERA was FIRE-EATING TURTLE ATTACKS TOKYO.

Films produced by Daiei were divided into two classes: Class A and Class B. Class A movies would be given a sizeable production budget, and class B films would be given a production budget two-thirds smaller. GAMERA was a Class B movie. That's why it was shot in black and white.

DM: Was GAMERA VS. BARUGON a Class A or Class B film?

NY: GAMERA proved to be very successful, so GAMERA VS. BARUGON was made a Class A movie.

Daiei's executives were concerned about trusting a large production budget to an inexperienced director like me. So, they assigned Shigeo Tanaka to direct the film and me to direct the special effects.

DM: Did you edit the special effects footage?

NY: Yes. Mr. Tanaka and I had a very good relationship.

DM: Why was GAMERA VS. BARUGON released on a double bill with MAJIN (1966)? (MAJIN, THE RETURN OF THE GIANT MAJIN (1966), and GIANT MAJIN COUNTERATTACK (1966) feature a giant statue of a samurai that comes to life.)

NY: Double bills bring in more customers.

DM: I've heard that American International Pictures (AIP) asked you to include Americans in the cast of DESTROY ALL PLANETS. Is this true? (The movie, which is also known as GAMERA VS. VIRAS, was not released in theaters in the United States. However, it was distributed to American television stations by American International Television (AIP-TV).)

NY: I was introduced to AIP's representative by a member of Daiei's International Division. I don't remember the person's name, but I do remember that his Japanese was very good.

AIP's representative had seen all of the Gamera films, and said that he didn't think much of the performances of the Americans in GAMERA. He also said that if we wanted to have success distributing Gamera movies in foreign markets, we should put American boys in them. So, a member of the International Division went to the American military bases in Japan and interviewed some of the children of the soldiers. I then conducted final interviews, and made a selection.

DM: I can understand why AIP would request that you have American children in the films, but they always seemed out of place to me. So, I enjoyed the movies less because American kids were in them. (AIP-TV also distributed GAMERA VS. GUIRON and GAMERA VS. MONSTER X.)

NY: We asked the children to act the way we imagined American kids would act. Since you're an American, you could tell that they sometimes were not acting the way they really would.

DM: Why did you have Gamera spin on a bar in GAMERA VS. GUIRON?

NY: I did that because the production budget was so limited. We couldn't build a large miniature set, so we were forced to make the most of what we had. Besides, the Olympics were being held at the time, and I thought that children would enjoy seeing Gamera act like an Olympic athlete.

Films featuring special effects require a production budget two to three times larger than a standard one, but the budget for DESTROY ALL PLANETS was only slightly larger. So, we could not construct as many miniature buildings as we had for GAMERA, GAMERA VS. BARUGON, and GAMERA VS. GAOS.

By the way, the budgets for GAMERA VS. GUIRON, GAMERA VS. MONSTER X, and GAMERA VS. ZIGRA were larger than the one for DESTROY ALL PLANETS, but not by much.

DM: I've heard that Guiron's name comes from the French word "guillotine." Is this true?

NY: That's right.

DM: How much work had been done on GAMERA VS. GARASHARP when it was canceled?

NY: Right after GAMERA VS. ZIGRA was completed, I went to talk with the members of Daiei's Planning Department about the next Gamera movie. I remember that the next monster was going to be a twin-headed one. The monster costume had been made, but Mr. Takahashi had not yet written the script, when Daiei declared bankruptcy.

Mr. Takahashi always wanted to create a monster film that did not have people in it. I think that might be possible with computer graphics, but it would be very difficult.

DM: Why did Daiei declare bankruptcy?

NY: Hidemasa Nagata was too much of an artist to run a movie studio. (Mr. Nagata is the son of Masaichi Nagata.)

DM: Why did you decide to kill Gamera in SUPER MONSTER - GAMERA?

NY: I was asked to combine footage from all of the Gamera films into one movie shortly after the Tokuma Publishing Company resurrected Daiei. I remember that when I met with Yasuyoshi Tokuma and asked him how large the production budget would be, he told me that it would be very small because he didn't want to risk a large amount of money. (Mr. Tokuma produced GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and GAMERA 2 - LEGION ATTACK.)

I was given four months to do the editing. It was a very painstaking job.

Mr. Takahashi and I never imagined that there would be a new Gamera series. That's why we decided to go ahead and kill Gamera.

DM: You worked on some television series. What was that like?

NY: One of the series on which I worked, 18-YEAR-OLD WIFE, was very popular. So, I am very proud of it.

During the 1950's, there were many television series produced by television studios, but they were not very enjoyable because the studios did not know how to create good dramas. It wasn't until the late 1960's that the film studios began producing television series.

DM: What was working on ULTRAMAN 80 like?

NY: Tsuburaya Productions wanted to just remake the original Ultraman television series, but the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) wanted to produce something a little different. That's why Ultraman was made a school teacher. That presented him with the problem of not being able to turn into Ultraman in front of his students. (Tsuburaya Productions produced all of the Ultraman series. It was founded by Eiji Tsuburaya, who directed the special effects for almost all of the science fiction and war movies produced by Toho before 1970.)

After the first season, a key member of the staff was assigned to work on a radio program. That's why the series became more like the original series, and why it was not very successful.

DM: Were you involved in the production of either of the recent Gamera films?

NY: I was shown the script and storyboards for both.

I went to the test screening of GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE. The monsters' rays had not yet been added.

DM: Was there a conscious effort made to make the Gamera movies different from the Godzilla films?

NY: Yes. We tried to make the movies different right from the start.

DM: How much time did Mr. Takahashi spend writing each of the scripts?

NY: I don't know. However, I can tell you that once he got started, he worked very quickly. It took him much longer to come up with ideas for a screenplay than to actually write one.

Once Mr. Takahashi finished a script, he would leave it completely in my hands. He never did any editing during production.

DM: How many drafts would Mr. Takahashi usually submit?

NY: Three.

DM: Were the final drafts usually very different from the first ones?

NY: There were always some changes.

I never requested any changes, but the studio sometimes did in order to save money. For example, the opening sequence of GAMERA VS. ZIGRA was originally going to be a very long one showing disasters occurring on Zigra's home planet, but Mr. Nagata insisted that the sequence be deleted because it would have cost too much to shoot.

DM: Were you in any way involved in writing the screenplays?

NY: Mr. Takahashi was very imaginative, so he didn't need any help from me. However, I would sometimes get an idea during shooting and ask him about it. For example, I came up with the idea to have Gaos slice a car in two with his sound beam in GAMERA VS. GAOS.

DM: Did anyone other than Mr. Takahashi take part in writing the scripts?

NY: No.

Mr. Nagata didn't know much about science fiction. His son liked monster films very much, so he would sometimes offer ideas. Unfortunately, they usually weren't very good ones.

DM: How much time did you spend drawing the storyboards for each of the movies?

NY: About a month.

DM: Did you select the cast members?

NY: Yes.

DM: Did you allow them to do any improvisation during filming?

NY: I allowed them improvise as long as what they did was appropriate for the scene.

Many actors who were under contract to work on a specific number of movies per year would ask me for a role, so I would try to find one for them. The Gamera series made it possible for a large number of actors to fulfill their contractual obligations, so the Acting Division was very grateful for it.

DM: Who played Gamera?

NY: We used a different actor for each film.

DM: Was a new Gamera costume constructed for each of the movies?

NY: We made three or four for each one. If one of the costumes happened not to be damaged during shooting, we would usually reuse either the upper or lower half of it.

DM: Who choreographed the monster battles?

NY: I did.

DM: How much time did you spend shooting footage for each of the films?

NY: About four months.

DM: Did you usually stick to the storyboards very closely?

NY: Yes.

DM: Did Mr. Nagata ever come to visit the set?

NY: Never.

DM: Did he ever offer any advice?

NY: No.

DM: How much time did you usually spend in post-production?

NY: One month.

DM: Did you offer any advice to the people who composed the scores?

NY: Shunsuke Kikuchi and I knew each other very well, so there was no need for me to give him any advice.

We showed rushes to the musicians during the recording sessions for GAMERA, GAMERA VS. BARUGON, and GAMERA VS. GAOS, but could not do so afterward because of budgetary constraints. So, I'd ask Mr. Kikuchi to compose one-minute-long musical phrases, and then work them into the movies as best as I could. (Mr. Kikuchi scored GAMERA VS. GUIRON, GAMERA VS. MONSTER X, GAMERA VS. ZIGRA, and SUPER MONSTER - GAMERA.)

By the way, I used to play trombone. I was self-taught. I played in a brass band while I was in school.

DM: Who came up with the idea to give Gamera his own theme song?

NY: Daiei's Music Division asked us to do that. The lyrics to the song were written by Hidemasa Nagata.

DM: How large were the production budgets for the Gamera films in comparison to those for the Godzilla movies?

NY: The studios all did their accounting differently, so it's difficult to know for sure. However, I think they were about the same. I do know that the amount of money spent on the monster costumes gradually got smaller.

DM: How successful were the Gamera films in comparison to the Godzilla movies?

NY: They were at least as successful in the beginning, and then became even more successful. The Gamera series had an advantage in that it appealed to children more.

DM: Did you enjoy working in theater when you were a child?

NY: I appeared in a production about a famous doctor. I played one of the doctor's childhood friends. One time, when my character's name was called, I was supposed to respond by saying, "No answer," but I couldn't remember my line. So, a girl standing behind me had to whisper my line to me.

I remember the smell of the paint. I also remember the sound of the bell that was used to indicate that the play was about to begin. Those are my most vivid memories, so I couldn't have been all that interested in the productions themselves.

In one episode of MRS. COMET, a television series I worked on that featured a character very similar to Mary Poppins, there was a bed-ridden ex-actress who would begin performing ROMEO AND JULIET whenever she heard a bell. I used a bell because of the experience I had when I was a child.

DM: Did you enjoy working on CLAP YOUR HANDS IF YOU'RE HAPPY?

NY: I enjoyed it very much. However, the film was not very successful. The only positive review it received was published in a Communist party newspaper. So, I was made a member of Daiei's Television Division.

I was convinced that I had no future as a movie director, but one year later, I was assigned to direct GAMERA. It had been turned down by many other directors. Fortunately, it was a big hit.

DM: Why was GAMERA turned down by other directors?

NY: GIANT GROUP BEAST NEZURA. The rats carried parasites. So, many directors got the impression that special effects films were very expensive and difficult to produce.

DM: Who was going to direct GIANT GROUP BEAST NEZURA?

NY: Mitsuo Murayama. He'd directed THE TRANSPARENT MAN VS. THE FLY MAN (1957) and a number of war movies.

DM: At what point during production was the film canceled?

NY: The screenplay had been completed and a few scenes shot.

I was assigned to create a trailer for the movie. I asked Yonesaburo Tsukiji, the special effects director, to show me the footage he'd shot, but he, like Mr. Tsuburaya, never allowed anyone to see his rushes. So, I had to ask one of Daiei's top executives to show me the footage. I didn't think it was very convincing.

I once saw the top of the Nezura costume. Daiei's executives often asked me to use it in one of the Gamera films, but I just couldn't do it.

Mr. Tsukiji worked on GAMERA, but then left to work for another studio. Daiei's only other special effects expert was Tetsuro Matoba, and he had no staff. So, it was impossible for Daiei to produce several science fiction movies per year the way Toho did.

DM: How did you react when you were asked to direct GAMERA?

NY: I didn't know what to do. So, I asked many other directors for their advice. Some of them said that I'd be ruining my career. Others said that I should play Gamera because I didn't need a costume to do it!

I was somewhat familiar with special effects, but knew nothing about making monster films.

DM: Did you find working on GAMERA frustrating since it was a Class B production?

NY: Even though the movie had a big budget for a black and white film - about eighty million yen - I felt frustrated while working on it and the other movies in the series. I quickly learned to save as much money and time as I could for the special effects.

Unlike Toho, Daiei had no in-house film developing laboratory. It also had no optical laboratory. So, I'd have to calculate the exact cost of development and optical work. I remember that each time Gaos used his sound beam in GAMERA VS. GAOS, it cost Y3,500.

After GAMERA was made, many of Daiei's younger employees asked if they could work with me because of their resentment toward the older staff members. I remember that one of the older cinematographers would regularly criticize the younger ones who were members of the special effects staff. I eventually had to go to one of the studio's top executives and ask him to put a stop to it.

GAMERA was produced solely by Daiei's Tokyo staff, but the studio's Kyoto staff was involved in the production of MAJIN along with the Tokyo staff. The miniature set was constructed by the art staff instead of the special effects staff because of its scale. The Majin costume was made by an independent company.

DM: Were you surprised by the great success of GAMERA?

NY: Yes. I'm not sure why it was so successful. It reflected the spirit of the mid-1960's. Maybe that's why.

The people who took part in the production of the Godzilla movies had been involved in World War II, so I can understand why they made GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954) the way they did, but to me, showing casualties was outrageous. I had a very strong reaction against it. It was not an accurate portrayal of the aftermath of war.

Toho cooperated with the military during the war. For example, special effects footage that it created showing American planes being shot down was passed off as real footage. I think Toho's executives felt guilty about that.

Hydrogen bombs were part of GAMERA, but only provided the explanation for Gamera's appearance. They were not used to symbolize man's malevolence. I think that may be another reason for GAMERA's success.

To me and the other people who worked in the Japanese film industry during its Golden Age, successful movies were no surprise. They seemed natural. However, Japanese filmmakers react very differently nowadays. If they have a hit, they feel like they've conquered the world. (The Japanese movie industry reached its peak of popularity during the 1950's and early 1960's.)

DM: The Gamera films are generally more childish than GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965), GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966), and so on, but also are more violent. Why is this?

GAMERA was intended to show a giant monster on the rampage, and little else. Daiei's executives requested that some human drama be included in GAMERA VS. BARUGON, but discovered that children went to get some food or just ran through the corridors of the theater during the movie.

Before production on DESTROY ALL PLANETS got underway, I and the other members of the production staff decided to make the Gamera films children's movies. That's why we started focusing on the relationship between Gamera and children.

I did not want to portray the monsters anthropomorphically, and showing bloodshed was one way of avoiding that. I knew that it was shocking at times, but it helped make the monsters seem like animals instead of people.

One day, I ran into a girl in a park who had a message for me from Mr. Tsuburaya. He said that I shouldn't show bloodshed in the Gamera films. I didn't respond because I had not received the message directly from Mr. Tsuburaya.

DM: Did you do anything else to make the monsters seem like animals instead of people?

NY: I tried to avoid showing their hind legs. They made it obvious that the monsters were really men in a costume.

DM: What was your professional relationship with Mr. Nagata like?

NY: He was a dictator. Whenever there was a screening of a new production for the studio's top executives, everyone would wait for him to comment before saying anything. If Mr. Nagata liked the movie, everything would be okay, but if he didn't, the director would never work for Daiei again.

After we showed GAMERA to the top executives, the studio chief whispered to Mr. Nagata, "Well, that's the way it is sometimes." I heard the comment, and then began waiting for my sentence to be pronounced. To my great surprise, Mr. Nagata asked, "Isn't the film good?" All of the other executives then immediately said, "Yes, it is! It's fantastic!"

DM: What was working with Kojiro Hongo like? (Mr. Hongo plays Kasuke, one of the fortune hunters in GAMERA VS. BARUGON, Shiro Tsutsumi, the engineer in GAMERA VS. GAOS, and Nobuhiko Shimada, the scoutmaster in DESTROY ALL PLANETS.)

NY: Mr. Hongo started out by working on period movies shot in Kyoto, but ended up in Tokyo working on films set in the present. He was the most dedicated of the actors who took part in the production of the Gamera series. He took all of his roles seriously. (Mr. Hongo appears in THE RETURN OF THE GIANT MAJIN.) Of course, an actor does have to exaggerate a little when he is working on a monster movie. I remember that Kichijiro Ueda, who played the village mayor in GAMERA VS. GAOS, came up to me at one point during shooting and said, "I will defeat Gamera in performance!"

DM: Did you find working with child actors difficult?

NY: I love children, and am a little childish myself. If you focus on having them perform for one scene at a time, you can work with them.

My feelings regarding children come from my childhood experiences. During World War II, most of the adults I knew, including many of my teachers, continually stressed the importance of nationalism. However, after Japan was defeated and many political parties were formed, a teacher of mine switched from being a nationalist to a Communist and then started openly advocating Communism. This was very traumatic for me. So, I made Gamera a guardian whom children could rely on and trust.

DM: That must have been very gratifying for you.

NY: Many people in their 30's were very strongly influenced by the Gamera series, but I really don't know what kind of influence it had on them.

DM: What was your professional relationship with Mr. Takahashi like?

NY: We were just like father and son or master and apprentice.

The script for CLAP YOUR HANDS IF YOU'RE HAPPY was originally written by another screenwriter, but Daiei's executives thought that it was not very exciting. So, they had Mr. Takahashi revise it.

I'm very proud because Mr. Takahashi always praised my work. He once said that no matter how fantastic his writing, I could create film footage from it. In addition, the Gamera movies were the only ones he worked on that he went to see.

I'm not in touch with Mr. Takahashi anymore. The story is a very complicated one. When Daiei declared bankruptcy, it owed more money to him than to any other person. However, because the studio was in bankruptcy, it could not pay him. In addition, Mr. Takahashi had never joined the screenwriters' union, so he could not receive any money from its fund for uncollected wages. Mr. Takahashi eventually went to see Mr. Nagata, and received all rights to Gamera from him.

Mr. Takahashi consented to the production of the Gamera laserdisc boxed set in 1991, but was not contacted by Daiei when it decided to make GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE. The studio claimed that since it was not the old Daiei, the document granting all rights to Gamera to Mr. Takahashi did not apply to it. He thought the argument was outrageous. So, he cut off all communication with anyone ever associated with the studio, including me.

Daiei's executives simply don't understand people who work in the film industry.

Mr. Takahashi called me about a year ago. Unfortunately, I was not home. I called one of his daughters back since he does not have a telephone, but never heard from him again.

DM: Could Mr. Takahashi sue Daiei?

NY: I think he might be receiving payments from the studio now. Besides, the document granting him all rights to Gamera wouldn't compel a judge to order Daiei to pay. It's not that strong.

DM: Were you and Mr. Takahashi good friends?

NY: Yes. We were very close. After Daiei declared bankruptcy, we worked on several television series together.

Around 1970, Mrs. Takahashi had to have brain surgery. The first operation was successful. However, Mrs. Takahashi died after the second one.

She was Christian, but Mr. Takahashi was born into a very strong Buddhist sect. So, his wife was not accepted by his family. He eventually converted to Christianity.

When Mr. Takahashi and I met to work on the laserdisc boxed set, he told me that he was working on a stage production that would feature elderly and poor people instead of professional actors. That was the last time I saw him.

DM: What was working with Koichi Kawakita like? (Mr. Kawakita directed the special effects for a number of ULTRAMAN 80 episodes. He also directed the special effects for the last six Godzilla movies.)

NY: Mr. Kawakita was very good at what he did. You could always tell exactly what kind of ray you were seeing.

Mr. Kawakita was very competitive. So, I think that he should have directed the standard footage as well.

DM: Which of the films you directed are your favorites?

NY: DESTROY ALL PLANETS. It's a pure children's movie. 18-YEAR-OLD WIFE is my favorite of the television series I directed.

DM: Did you enjoy working on television series any more or less than you enjoyed working on films?

NY: Movies and television series are completely different media. So, you have to approach making them differently. We would shoot sixty or seventy takes per day for an episode of a television series.

DM: What do you think of the Godzilla films?

NY: The newer Godzilla movies are too contrived. I think the finest monster film ever made is JURASSIC PARK (1993).

DM: What do you think of Ishiro Honda's direction? (Mr. Honda directed GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), and many of the other Godzilla movies.)

NY: Mr. Honda was much too modest. Directors are supposed to be egotistical and criticize their peers' work!

Mr. Honda was a prisoner of war in China for a number of years. That experience may have had a lasting affect on him.

DM: How do you like the Majin films?

NY: The stories are very good. However, the premise allows for little variation. TBS once considered having me direct a Majin television series, but after brainstorming for a week and coming up with very little, we gave up on the idea.

DM: What do you think of GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and GAMERA 2 - LEGION ATTACK?

NY: They are movies for older fans of monster films rather than children. I'd prefer them to be children's movies.

The two films are too dramatic. For example, there is no need for Asagi's cheek to be cut in GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE. There's also no need for Gamera to be the guardian of the universe. (Ayako Fujitani plays Asagi Kusanagi, a young woman who has a telepathic link to Gamera, in both GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and GAMERA 2 - LEGION ATTACK.)

They're just Gamera movies. They're not art films.

Noriaki Yuasa Interview © 1998 David Milner