Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters

by August Ragone

Chronicle Books

Think rubber suited monsters, and I betcha think “Godzilla”. Postwar Japan recovered its pride and economic might making monster movies and cheap toys until they were strong enough to bomb us with quality cars, anime, and cool electronic gadgets. Now is a good time to look back on that era, and August Ragone has assembled this glossy coffee table retrospective about Godzilla’s creator, Eiji Tsuburaya. Trained as a pilot and a cameraman, Eiji set the technical standard for excellence in Japanese film making and put the country on the cinematic map. We may regard Godzilla and his companions as charmingly cheesy, but they were the pinnacle of animation for decades.

The book is full of behind the scenes stills, anecdotes, and cultural history. If we regard Japanese monsters as hokey, it’s because of our general unfamiliarity with the Japanese cultural and mythical ethos. Bad editing on this side of the ocean didn’t help, but Ragone pulls us above that with tutorials on the cultural “Why” and detailed specifications on the technical “How.” The result is a long overdue reappraisal of the style, and after a few chapters, you’ll seek out the original uncut versions, even if they’ve been lampooned by MST3K.

While the book explains and instructs, it dotes as well, and that becomes a weakness about half-way through. Good as these films were, they were ultimately disposable children’s fare. While art often exists in the mundane, I think Mr. Tsuburaya would be amused at the fawning attention. He certainly had vision, but his artistic process flows from the financial and technical constraints.

Ragone’s text is dense but readable. The photos are extensive and fascinating, even if the publisher runs captions vertically, requiring you to turn the book like a Playboy magazine to read them. The last few chapters focus on collectibles, including a Tsuburaya action figure. Interviews with his children and associates dot the book, and there’s an extensive cross reference. Reading this book is much nicer than fleeing from radiation-mutated lizards.

Chronicle Books: www.chroniclebooks.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    So It Is (Legacy). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017
    From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017

    For the twelfth year, the South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) in Los Angeles showcased an impressive lineup of new features and shorts. Lily and Generoso Fierro provide a festival wrap up and their picks for the films that you cannot miss.

  • Justin Townes Earle
    Justin Townes Earle

    Kids In The Street (New West Records). Review by James Mann.

  • Christian Scott
    Christian Scott

    Rebel Ruler (Ropeadope / Stretch Music). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Temples

    Supporting their just-released sophomore record, UK synth-pop poster boys, Temples, attracted an SRO crowd to one of Orlando’s premier nightspots.

  • Kivanç Sezer
    Kivanç Sezer

    Turkish director Kivanç Sezer’s powerful debut feature, My Father’s Wings, puts the spotlight on the workplace safety crisis that is currently taking place in his homeland. Lily and Generoso Fierro spoke with Sezer at SEEFest 2017 about his film and his need to draw attention to this issue.

  • Rat Film
    Rat Film

    Baltimore. Rats. A match made in Maryland.

  • Bishop Briggs
    Bishop Briggs

    Bishop Briggs brings a stacked bill of up and comers to Orlando for a sold-out party at The Social. Jen Cray joins in the fun.

  • Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World
    Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World

    There’s more than black music influencing the evolution of Rock and Roll. Native American rhymes and ideas are every bit as significant, once you know to look for them.

  • Keith Morris
    Keith Morris

    Ink 19 slings a few questions to the punk rock pioneer Keith Morris on Trump, Calexit and looking back.

From the Archives