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Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters Hardcover – 1 Dec 2007
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"In "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters," San Francisco based writer August Ragone has produced a fond, generously illustrated biography of the tokusatsu (special effects) genius " "Time magazine," December 13, 2007 "The difference between this book and other coffee table volumes that have covered daikaiju before, though, is the staggeringly researched detail that Ragone has put into the text itself. This is not just a picture book to flip through, nod approvingly at and stick on the shelf; this is a record easily in scale with the monsters Tsuburaya created a critical and historical look at the creation and output of an industry that spanned (and has continued to span) the decades. "Tooth and Dagger," October 2007 "Anyone with a taste for reading about frantic production schedules and creative jury-rigging solutions will find much to enjoy in Ragone's text." -"Powell's Books.com," November 2007"
About the Author
August Ragone has written and commented on Japanese film and pop culture for more than twenty years. He lives in San Francisco.
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This book is not just about a guy who made rubber monster suits. It's about a man and the team of loyal and dedicated artisans he assembled that, collectively, with their "sensei's" guidance, expertise, vision and instinct created some of the most impressive cinema visual effects ever. Inventing many and perfecting most of their techniques, often with skeletal production budgets--certainly not with the avalanches of money equivalent Hollywood productions get for their SFX--you can begin to understand the sheer skill and talent these craftsmen had to fool the eye and immerse the viewer in their worlds. Not always; on occasion there might be a scene in a Tsuburaya film which appears rough around the edges or a bit stretched in quality. This can virtually always be attributed to the Tsuburaya production team being pushed or rushed for time, and/or simply not having the budget they were expecting or promised. August Ragone's book conveys these insights well, not just for kaiju films but for everything production Eiji Tsuburaya was involved in: historical pieces, documentaries, dramas, etc. This a focused history book, not just a text and photoplay layout of monster movies.
The book is filled with what must be archival photographs of Tsuburaya filmmaking, both pre-production and actual on-set shooting. It's surely true that most of these images have never been seen in the USA, or even anywhere else outside of Japan before August's book gave them to us. They will let you see a view of the painstaking work that went into the detailed miniature sets these Japanese artists created from scratch. And you will get a feeling for the absolute hell it was and still can be for a stunt actor to be inside one of those cumbersome rubber monster costumes. For hours each day of filming. My take-away impression after reading about it was that they did it out of a dedication to their craft and art form, not giant paydays. All of this and more can be learned from the pages of "Eiji Tsubuyara: Master of Monsters" by August Ragone. And be assured, if you love kaiju or tokusatsu movies of any kind, or just are interested in fantasy filmmaking, your first time read-through won't be your last.
But I have a confession to make: as time goes by my love becomes more directed to those films made in the '50s and '60s. Not just Godzilla, but the dozens of other Toho films (Mothra, H-Man, Gargantuas - and everything in between), and not just Toho, I also really enjoy those made by other studios as response to Toho's success in that era (the Daimajin films being a particular favorite) as well as the TV shows (like Ultraman). In that era the genre had an energy and spirit that has rarely been duplicated since. I feel that, aside from some exceptions, most Japanese kaiju films made in the last few decades have been analogues to reheated leftovers.
Which is what makes this book the best of all the books and magazines on the subject I've come across. In covering Tsuburaya's life and career August Ragone covers the era that interests me most. Eiji was truly the heart of Japanese science fiction and fantasy films in the '50s and '60s. He was the father of special effects in Japan, and the success and iconic stature of these films owes more to him than any other one person. Along the way we learn about his influences, the various personalities he collaborated with to create the movies and shows, like director Ishiro Honda, and we even get some insight into those movies from other companies with which Eiji had no involvement (addressed because the people who did the effects were often former members of Tsuburaya's crew!).
... but that is not all! You see, along with all that good stuff I've covered, this tome is basically an art book! Hardly a page goes by without some amazing images. There are many posters and promo stills, but most are behind the scenes shots of the monsters and miniatures being built or incredible behind-the-scenes images showing the monsters and miniatures in the process of filming. It's quite a trip to see so many photo's of Godzilla patiently taking direction from Tsuburaya!
Unfortunately, Tsuburaya didn't live past the decade where he did his greatest works, but his legacy lives on in every thudding footstep.
Buy this book. You won't regret it!