AKIO JISSOJI 1937-2006

Akio Jissoji died on Wednesday night. Akio Jissoji was a Japanese TV and film director. He got his first big break directing episodes of Ultraman. The episodes he directed were weird and wonderful things to behold. In fact, if it weren’t for his contributions, I doubt Ultraman would have become the cultural icon it did. Granted, a lot of other factors were involved. But the shows Jissoji directed were so incredible they helped the show transcend the normal confines of a kids’ superhero program to become something wholy other.

Probably his best known episode was called “The Graveyard of Monsters.” In this episode, the Science Patrol, the group of stalwart defenders of planet Earth whose job it is to rid the world of pesky skyscraper sized iguanas and invading alien chicken-men, finds a graveyard of monsters in outer space. It is here that Ultraman has placed the bodies of all the monsters he and the Science Patrol have killed. The members of the patrol wax philosophical about how these creatures have now found peace. They decide to hold a Buddhist funeral ceremony for the monsters. Agent Fuji weeps for the dead beasts as a group of monks chant the Heart Sutra. Just then, a rocket launched by the Japanese Space Agency accidentally hits one of the monsters in the graveyard and it plummets back to Earth. The monster, looking something like the skeleton of an Allosaurus, wants only to get back to his resting place. But, in trying to do so, he creates havoc in Tokyo. The Science Patrol attacks, but the monster cannot be stopped. Finally Ultraman is able to transport the creature to the graveyard.

Another one of his was called “The Fearful Cosmic Rays,” about a child’s drawing of a monster that comes to life. Check this one out kids. Whoever put this up on You Tube used the opening credits for the wrong episode, but this really is by Jissoji. It switches to English after the first few minutes. We have the complete English version in our company vaults, but whoever put this together apparently didn’t have access to those.


After Ultraman, Jissoji floudered a bit. He obviously had talent. But his films tended to go over audiences heads. In the 90’s he started directing Ultraman episodes again and produced some more truly unbelievable stuff. One of his episodes of Ultraman Max (2005) has a guy who writes Ultraman Max episodes for a living finding himself trapped in one of his own shows. Very surreal stuff for the 6 year olds who form the main audience.

I never really knew Jissoji personally. But his long-time assistant Shogase is a friend of mine. Jissoji was a great talent and I’ll miss him.

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11 Responses

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  1. dave
    dave December 2, 2006 at 10:25 am |

    One of the english dubbed childrens voices in episode 15 part 1 sounds like the same voice of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 2, 2006 at 1:31 pm |

    Offtopic, but I’ve just received a copy of shobogenzo book 1 (I have only recently started doing zazen)

    I fully expected the “old” book (dogen wrote in 11th century?) to be more “magical,” and you basically paraphrasing what he’s saying to make it more “modern” (not sure how to call it), or ignoring parts, that you don’t like. that is he’d write something crazy about dharma realization, and you’d be like “well, he obviously meant blah blah”

    But the books itself is honest and straightforward (again, I am not sure how to call that). It reads like a modern manual to zazen practice. He’s not saying anything that might make me cringe or roll eyes, and he’s making sense. Pretty awesome.

  3. Andrew S.
    Andrew S. December 2, 2006 at 4:21 pm |

    Pretty sweet vids. Haha, the english dubbing was a hoot too.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 3, 2006 at 5:51 pm |

    Good ears, dave!

    It might indeed be Rudolph — uncredited
    though. Check out this Henshin!Online archive.

    Also, it appears that Akio Jissoji
    may have been influenced by
    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    — virtual reality for kids.

  5. PhilBob-SquareHead
    PhilBob-SquareHead December 3, 2006 at 6:26 pm |

    Hey Anonymous, why are you afraid to post a comment under your blogger name? We’ve all been honest with our thoughts here on Brad’s blog since its inception two years ago. No one is going to hurt you!

    Brad, I know it hurts when you lose your heroes. You have my condolences.

  6. Jules
    Jules December 3, 2006 at 10:32 pm |

    I’d love to see the sound effects lab. The sounds were great, especially the monster in his first form.

    RAARRRRR squeek-e squeek-e RAAAAAAAARRRRR squeek-e squeek-e squeek-e RAAARRRR squeek-e

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 4, 2006 at 8:40 pm |

    Hello PhilBob-SquareHead,

    Let me answer your question with
    another question:

    “Does a dog have Buddha Nature?”

    If I divulged my identity, you’d
    find out that I have a red nose
    (I really gotta stop drinking so
    much), and then you wouldn’t let
    me join in any reindeer games.

    (Also, when I’m anonymous, I’m not
    afraid of making a donkey’s ass
    of myself 😉

    Plus, don’t those Buddhists say
    that ‘self’ is an illusion anyways?

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    I saw some of his productions and he's very good really for that kind of movies and shows, thanks for the post it's really nice.

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