“TOKUSATSU” – Special Effects Exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo


Along with the many characters, anime shows and manga series that Japan has introduced to the world, there are few exceptions that defines what the culture is all about or shall we say, selected classics that we often associate with the country and their fascination with heroes clad with sometimes weird costumes and unusual superpowers.

I remember during Saturdays, back when I was in high school, our living room old 14″ television was usually tuned to Ultraman (“Urutoraman”) dubbed in our local language because of my brother obsession with the program. At first I found it corny and odd, but as the years passed by, I found myself looking forward on watching Ultraman and the Science Patrol as they saved the earth from Godzilla (“Gojira”) like monsters.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

To this date, if anyone asks me what or who are my favorite Japanese characters/TV shows, the answer always comes in three- Sailor Moon, Bioman and Ultraman. So, when I found out that the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and Studio Ghibli had joined force this year for one of the kind exhibition, the geek in me couldn’t pass up the chance, rain or shine, crowded or not, I have to see it.

Titled as “Director Hideaki Anno’s “TOKUSATSU” Special Effects Museum-Craftsmanship of Showa & Heisei eras seen through miniatures”, as the exhibition name suggests, visitors are expected to get lost in the fascinating world of Japan’s film animation and visual techniques by admiring the faithful reconstruction miniatures of Tokyo’s known district before and after Godzilla came to destroy it and valued Ultraman used costumes and gadgets.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Though not mentioned on the title of the exhibition, the most fascinating stuff are from the special effect master himself who introduce Godzilla and Ultraman to the world – Eiji Tsurabaya.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

“Tokusatsu” is a term used to describe any live-action film that utilizes an actor suited up as a superhero or a monster, as it navigates around miniature city destroying or defending it.
In simpler term, it is everything that anyone has imagined, seen or expected from a Japanese sci-fi film.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

“Tokusatsu” (Special filming) not only focuses on the superheros and villains clashes but much effort is put into the use of visual effects.
Forget about CGI, “tokusatsu” is an old school type of effects and filming- background wall with blue sky and buildings made up of cardboard box. No computer use but sheer hardwork and creativity.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Let me take you around Tokyo or shall I say “mini-Tokyo” and be amazed to how meticulous the re-construction is, maybe just in case the camera zoom in for a closer shot.

The typical, quiet, unsuspecting(to Godzilla attack) neighborhood of Tokyo.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

The vending machines scattered on the streets.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

A traditional Edo-style house.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Residential building with weekend laundry and cable tv antenna at the balcony.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

A torii gate/shrine in the middle of the neighborhood.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Basement parking for bikes.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Train station entrance gate.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

High rise building and billboards.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Then, here comes destruction. Parts of the city after Godzilla attacked.

Shibuya traffic light destroyed.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Buildings crashed and burned.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Leaning Tokyo Tower? Must be Godzilla’s doing.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

Here comes the army with their tanks. No use at all, just run for your lives.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

If you ever been in Tokyo or Japan, then you can relate when I say that seeing the miniatures is like a reminder of the same streets or neighborhood you walk around or where you reside.

Unfortunately, photography was prohibited on the first part of the exhibit, so I don’t have any photographs of the amazing costumes, gadgets and memorabilia part. The Ultraman photographs are all from the magazine I bought.

Though very crowded as expected, mainly a family affair for many Japanese, over-all it was enjoyable and another “truly Japan” experience for me. I hope that the Museum of Contemporary Art and Studio Ghibli will do another unique and fascinating exhibit next year.
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo
tokusatsu-museum of contemporary art,tokyo

44 thoughts on ““TOKUSATSU” – Special Effects Exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo

  1. at times you wonder how does ultraman manage to avoid hitting those tall buildings while the monsters seem clumsy enough to hit almost anything =X

    1. hi, it was really good!
      i agree with you, i hope they will make it as a permanent exhibition and go for a world tour too..

  2. Great post! Like another persons said, it would be great if this were an exhibit to tour outside of Japan. I would love to see it in person.

  3. I was in Tokyo from Oct 3 to Oct 10 and really wanted to see this exhibition. But unfortunately, the museum was closed that day so I had to take a rain check. I finally got to see it after all. Thanks!

    1. sorry about that!
      i visited the exhibit on it’s last weekend, even though it was raining so hard that day, i was expecting that it will be less crowded but to my surprise, there was a queue on almost everything. but then again, it was worth it.
      thank you 🙂

  4. Incredible imagination and Engineering.Thank you for liking my recent post ( Authentic Responsibility…). Warm regards.jalal

  5. The magic of the film industry.Thank you so much for keeping in touch.Wishing you success and happiness.jalal

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