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