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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Ultraman creator Kazuho Mitsuta


Mitsuta, aged 70, is one of the creators of the Ultraman series, a science-fiction TV show that was a pioneer of the genre with its wildly imaginative mix of special effects with live action that brought to life hundreds of one-of-a-kind kaijus (monsters). Having produced and directed Ultraman for 44 years, Mitsuta still feels connected with his mentor, the late Eiji Tsuburaya, the father of tokusatsu (special-effects) entertainment who created the visuals for "Godzilla" in 1954 and produced Ultra Q, the predecessor of the Ultraman Series. Huge hits among children and adults for over four decades, the stories for the series depict overpowered humans fighting undefatigable monsters until the 40-meter tall outer-space hero Ultraman comes to save the day. The newest Ultraman movie, "Daikessen! Cho Urutora 8 Kyodai (Superior 8 Ultraman Brothers)" will hit Japanese theaters this September.

News photo
Kazuho Mitsuta JUDIT KAWAGUCHI PHOTO

I have nothing to teach to anyone. All I know is that the key to a good life is to never lie to oneself, never do anything one doesn't feel like doing and never work for money. That sums up my life and so far, it has been a great one.

There is no need to make children's shows easy to understand. Just the opposite: If it's difficult, it gives the family a chance to gather around the TV set or go to the movies together. Ultraman is science fiction, so naturally it has many difficult concepts -- but we never tried to simplify it for kids. Instead, our goal was always to have the whole family sit together, watch it and then talk about it. Parents could explain things, and, frankly speaking, fathers who normally have no chance to shine in front of their kids had their chance to show they knew something other than how to put on their clothes and go to work. Ultraman is a hero: he made parents look cool and restored their dignity. Now most children's shows are made exclusively for kids, so the intellectual level is very low -- it seems even lower than the target audience's age.

TV is necessarily not the enemy of the family. TV design has made a full circle. Today's big-screen TVs perform the same function as what TV sets did when broadcasting first began: They bring the family together. I remember how in the 1960s we all huddled around the TV, but later on as the price went down, each family member had its own set in their rooms and watched whatever he or she wanted, in private. Now again we are sitting in the living room as a group.

Having to struggle against limitations inspires more ideas. I joined Tsuburaya Productions in 1964 when our budget was tight so we had to come up with great innovations to make the shows exciting. For example, we would film a fight with one monster, stop filming and quickly added new features such as horns, fangs or wings and spray paint it to turn it into the next monster. It only took a short time to decide what do even though everyone was contributing ideas together. We must have made over 1,000 different beasts. It's true, life is stranger than fiction. During World War II, I wanted to be a soldier, then a doctor, and later on I thought I wanted to be a certified accountant -- and yet I ended up working with aliens. Figure that!

UFOs exist -- at least they do for me. Though imagination is the key to seeing them, they are around. I was taking a taxi home around 2 a.m. some night in 1972 when I saw something in the sky that resembled a helicopter. I asked the driver to stop, and when we both got out of the car, we saw what we both believed to be something from outer space.

One child is as cute as any other. I have three kids and love them all equally. Same for my work: I might not be 100 percent satisfied with each production, but I love them all nonetheless.

TV shows are fun because we don't need to concentrate too hard to enjoy them. I set the timer on my set and fall asleep to them. They are great lullabies.

A successful person is the one who does what he wants to do. I always feel that I am the happiest and most successful person I could ever hope to be because I made a life out of having fun.

Nomikai (drinking parties) are a chance to come up with brilliant ideas. We often go out to clubs, and as we get tipsy, we write our wild thoughts on coasters. Then we drink more and write more, but by the end of the night, we always end up leaving the coasters all behind. Too bad, since that way most of our brilliant plans end up in smoke!

Show you care about others -- even in the toilet. I have been married for 42 years, and my wife and I always set the toilet seat for each other. After I use it, I close the cover for her, and she always puts it up for me.

Ideas cost nothing. Even with the lowest budget you can make a masterpiece.

If you make an effort, someone will always help you out. But don't expect help quickly: Just as the humans in the series struggle with the monsters until they are almost defeated, we also should fight for what we want. Of course, Ultraman might end up saving you! You may never acquire the sense needed to judge people's characters. I was always bad at that and never improved. Maybe it's for the best as I think everyone is nice. I also never got good at golf. Not sure why that's good, though. If you are happy with who you are, you'll never change. I was always clumsy, still am. I was never into money, still am not. I always loved sci-fi and imaging cool stories and still do. I have been in the same company for 44 years and never thought of leaving. I like what I do -- both how and where -- so why should I change?

Love people and give them more credit. People are not as stupid as they might look. For example, we don't need to worry about a third world war. People know war is bad and will not kill each other. The earth itself might die naturally, but humans will not be the cause of it.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Out & About." Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/



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