What Happened at the TsubuCon Opening Ceremony?
Tsuburaya Convention, or TsubuCon, the largest fan festival hosted by Tsuburaya Productions, began November 25th at Tokyo Dome City, continuing into the 26th. 2023 marked the first time in 4 years that TsubuCon was held in person, as the TsubuCon 2021 was held online due to the Covid pandemic. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Tsuburaya Productions, TsubuCon 2023’s theme is “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION”, complete with various events for the fans to enjoy the past, present and future works of Tsuburaya Productions.
The Opening Ceremony kicked off TsubuCon 2023 with a line-up full of announcements of new titles and projects, inviting many guests from various titles, making it the biggest ceremony yet.
Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION
Appearances: Takayuki Tsukagoshi (Chairman and CEO of Tsuburaya Productions)
The main theme of Tsuburaya Convention 2023 is “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION”.
Tsuburaya Productions celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2023.
The works of Tsuburaya Productions, starting with Ultra Q, were all born from “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION” of the people involved in every aspect of the productions, be it tokusatsu as a visual technique, story, character design and art, direction, or performances, as long as humanity enjoys “imagination,” Tsuburaya Productions will continue to believe in “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION” and create many works. The hometown of Eiji Tsuburaya, the founder of Tsuburaya Productions, is Sukagawa City in Fukushima Prefecture, and it is a sister city to the M78 Nebula, the Land of Light. Tsuburaya Productions and Sukagawa City have entered into an agreement to promote town development that nurtures “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION,” and will continue to disseminate this concept throughout Japan and the world.
The Tsubucon 2023 Opening Ceremony kicked off in spectacular fashion with the appearance of the iconic Ultra 6 Brothers: Ultraman, Ultraseven, Zoffy, Ultraman Jack, Ultraman Ace, and Ultraman Taro. Takayuki Tsukagoshi, Chairman and CEO of Tsuburaya Productions, then took the stage. In his words, “The array of works from Tsuburaya Productions, beginning with Ultra Q, encompasses not only tokusatsu and storytelling but also character design, art, direction, and performance. All of it is born from the imaginative power of the people involved in the productions. As long as humanity enjoys imagination, we want to believe in the power of imagination and continue creating works.” His thesis reiterated his passionate feelings about the theme of “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION,” the core theme for Tsuburaya Convention 2023.
Ultraseven 55th Anniversary Project
Appearance: Kohji Moritsugu (as Moroboshi Dan / Jiro Satsuma)
55 years after its debut in 1967, Ultraseven continues to be cherished. Building from the message, “55 years ago, there was a future,” various initiatives have been undertaken across multiple forms of media. At this event, which serves as the “Grand Finale” to the 55th Anniversary, the completed version of the new conceptual movie, “Ultraseven IF STORY: ‘The Future 55 Years Ago,'” was unveiled.
The completed version of the Ultraseven 55th anniversary concept movie, part of which was revealed in May of this year, was finally shown to fans for the first time. The audience erupted in thunderous applause as the movie showcased the appearance of the “Miracle Man,” transcending time, and presented an innovative visual world. After the short film ended, Kohji Moritsugu, who portrayed the protagonist Moroboshi Dan in Ultraseven, made an appearance.
With a spirited “Deuwa!!”, the familiar catchphrase during Ultraseven’s transformation, Moritsugu promptly delighted nostalgic Ultraman fans young and old alike, showcasing his commitment to providing a joyful experience. Observing the gathered Ultraman fans in the venue, he expressed a deep sense of nostalgia, stating, “The excitement here in Korakuen (where the Tokyo Dome City Hall is located) reminds me of the atmosphere during the Ultraseven filming days.” Reflecting on the shooting of the concept movie, he humorously remarked, “It was very cold. While Ultraseven could handle ‘minus 140 degrees,’ I couldn’t,” a clever reference to Ultraseven Episode 25, “Showdown at 140 Degrees Below Zero.” “The visuals are fantastic,” he continued, “and when I see the Moroboshi Dan who appears, it feels like I’m looking at my younger self. It’s really a sensation of seeing myself from my younger days,” an enthusiastic endorsement of the completed conceptual movie.
When asked about the enduring love for the series, Kohji Moritsugu playfully responded, “Perhaps it’s because Kohji Moritsugu played Moroboshi Dan?” which elicited resounding applause from the fans in the venue, who seemed to agree with his sentiment. He continued, expressing his heartfelt thoughts, “I believe everyone who burned their youth to create the series, including the staff and Eiji Tsuburaya, comes to mind. I’m delighted that they are all so loved. I don’t see this ending at the 55th anniversary; I think Ultraseven will continue to be an eternal hero in the future.” Moritsugu conveyed his passionate feelings towards the long-cherished series that has stood the test of time.
Watch Ultraseven If Story: The Future 55 Years Ago now:
The Origin of Ultraman (Tentative)
After celebrating Tsuburaya Productions’ 60th anniversary, in 2024, a new project will take a step forward featuring the origin of the Ultraman series, 1966’s Ultraman. A documentary film with a focus on “Inspiring FANTASY, IMAGINATION, CREATION” is being produced, and during the event, a message from the renowned director Guillermo del Toro, known for works such as Pacific Rim and The Shape of Water, was shown to fans, taken from interview footage currently in production.
Ultraman 4K Discovery (Tentative)
Appearances: Koji Ishizaka
Even after more than half a century, the iconic tokusatsu television series Ultraman continues to be beloved by many fans globally. A new presentation of its charm has been crafted in Ultraman 4K Discovery, examining the series from four perspectives: Stories of Life, Stories of Romance, Stories of Friendship, and Stories of Justice.
Watch the trailer now:
Following the trailer, actor Koji Ishizaka, who not only portrays the theater manager in the film, but was also the narrator of the original Ultraman and Ultra Q, took the stage. Reflecting on the filming, he mentioned, “It was quite a challenging shoot, but we finally completed it.” Ishizaka went on to express, “When you hear ‘4K,’ you might think it just means the images are more detailed and beautiful, but it’s truly 4K in terms of the passion of those who created it at the time. It becomes vivid.” His words conveyed the emotions he felt through his role as the theater manager.
When asked about the appeal of Ultraman, Ishizaka had this to say: “I did the narration for Ultra Q and Ultraman, and I feel that the enthusiasm from the time of production has been passed down to the present day. Even listening to Chairman Tsukagoshi’s talk, you can really feel his love for Ultraman. I think Ultraman will be okay going forward; that’s the feeling I got.” Such a statement voiced his confidence in the staying power and continuing potential of the Ultraman series.
*The titles Ultraman 4K Discovery, Stories of Life, Stories of Romance, Stories of Friendship, and Stories of Justice are subject to change.
A new human drama is in the works, completely centered around a female protagonist and based on the world of the New Generation Ultraman series. The project is currently in active planning, and during the event, a teaser video for this upcoming work was screened.
Marvel Comics Ultraman
Through a collaboration with Marvel Comics in the United States, a new Ultraman story is being woven in the form of comics. Three series, “The Rise of Ultraman,” “The Trials of Ultraman,” and “The Mystery of Ultraseven”, have already been published, and an announcement was made at the event regarding new developments following these series, set to unfold from 2024 onward, accompanied by a trailer.
New works are scheduled for publication in 2024!
Ultraman Blazar the Movie: Tokyo Kaiju Showdown
Appearances: Tomoya Warabino (as Gento Hiruma), Kiyotaka Taguchi (Main Director)
Heralded by his now-familiar entrance sound, Ultraman Blazar made a triumphant appearance on the TsubuCon stage, the venue erupted with excitement. Following a drumroll, the theatrical release of Ultraman Blazar the Movie: Tokyo Kaiju Showdown was announced. As the main visual of the movie was projected onto the screen, the cheers from the audience grew even louder.
During this moment, Tomoya Warabino, who plays the protagonist Gento Hiruma in Ultraman Blazar and director Kiyotaka Taguchi, who also directs the movie, took the stage. Taguchi expressed his joy, saying, “We had already finished filming at the time of the TV broadcast announcement, so I’m delighted to finally make this announcement.” Warabino shared his anticipation, stating, “While the TV series is still ongoing, I’m really looking forward to the release of the movie. I’m excited to see how much our feelings for the work have reached everyone.”
When asked about highlights of the movie, Warabino let it be known that “…It depicts the growth of SKaRD, and explores the developments in the lives of Gento, Satoko (his wife), and Jun (his child). The bonds of the family are also portrayed.” Addressing the fans supporting Ultraman Blazar, Warabino continued, “Information was released in April, and the broadcast started in July. Today (November 25) is the 19th episode. Honestly, I feel a bit sad. However, we’ve definitely reached a final episode that will move and excite everyone. We’ve all worked very hard, so please look forward to the future, including the theatrical release announced today!”
To cap off the segment, the first teaser trailer received a world premiere, and the joyous applause allowed Warabino and Taguchi to receive the palpable excitement in the room with delight. To conclude their time with the fans, Taguchi stated, “There are many monster movies in the world, but we tried making something like, ‘Isn’t this kind of monster movie good too?’ Please look forward to it!” expressing his confidence in the project.
Watch the teaser trailer now:
Kaiju Haven Project
Appearance: Yoichi Komori
Aiming to become an enduring masterpiece alongside Ultraman for the next 60 years and beyond, this project presented a grand drama titled Kaiju Haven, a story with a Kaiju as the protagonist. The collaborative development of the story is being undertaken by the writer Yoichi Komori.
During his appearance, Komori reflected on his connection to the project, saying, “I’ve been captivated by the charm of kaiju for over half a century. The reason I entered this profession is rooted in my childhood, where I recorded the audio of Ultraman broadcasts onto cassette tapes and wrote them down in a notebook. So, I felt like I had no choice but to accept when I received this offer.”
As of this day, the novelization of this project is set to be released in 2024. Tsukagoshi later revealed that the project is labeled as “Phase 1” and mentioned, “There are up to Episode 9, so please look forward to the future developments of this project.” This announcement heightened expectations for the future trajectory of the project.
Darkness Heels Animation Project
Apperance: Sekai (EXILE / FANTASTICS)
The project Darkness Heels focuses on dark heroes from the Ultraman series and features them as protagonists. These dark heroes are now making an appearance in the new and innovative dance app “Kyara Dan” produced by LDH DIGITAL. The original music and dance are produced by Sekai, of EXILE / FANTASTICS. At the Tsubucon 2023 Opening Ceremony, a dance performance by Evil Tiga was showcased.
Sekai made a stunning entrance, synchronizing his dance performance with the character of Evil Tiga projected on the screen, captivating the audience with an impressive performance set to pop and stylish music.
Tsukagoshi praised the high production quality and Sekai’s profound knowledge of the Ultraman series that led to the realization of the Darkness Heels project. Sekai shared his initial pressure, saying, “Being involved with Ultraman, which I’ve loved since childhood, was initially incredibly pressuring.” Reflecting on the dance performance by Evil Tiga, he added, “Especially today, Evil Tiga’s mysterious coolness, the feeling of being cool without knowing why, is something I can learn a lot from when it comes to expressing it through dance.”
Later in the segment, the announcement of an animation project for the future development of the series was met with loud cheers from the audience, indicating the anticipation and excitement from the fans. Expressing his desire to do voice acting for the anime adaptation, Sekai volunteered, to which Tsukagoshi, also present on stage, surprised everyone with an unexpected “Of course! Let’s do it!” response. With this animation adaptation and Sekai’s involvement, there are high expectations for the future developments and the success of the series.
Netflix Film Ultraman: Rising
Appearances: Shannon Tindle (Director), John Aoshima (Co-director), Yuki Yamada (as Ken Sato for the Japanese Dub)
Tsuburaya Productions and Netflix are collaborating on a CG-animated feature film titled Ultraman: Rising. The everlasting hero Ultraman, who has been beloved worldwide for 56 years since its debut in 1966, is being brought to life by director and screenwriter Shannon Tindle, known for works such as “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016) for the direction and character design. The CG animation is handled by “Industrial Light & Magic (ILM),” renowned for its contributions to classics like “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park.”
In the Japanese dubbed version, actor Yuki Yamada takes on the role of the protagonist Sato Ken, who transforms into Ultraman.
Director Shannon Tindle and co-director John Aoshima came to Japan and took the stage before the ending of the Opening Ceremony. Tindle expressed his excitement, saying, “I’m very thrilled and my emotions are running high. I’m delighted to be able to share this space with so many Ultraman fans.” Aoshima, the co-director, shared his excitement, stating, “I came to TsubuCon with Shannon (Director Tindle) four years ago, but at that time, I was watching from the audience as a spectator. Today, I’m truly excited to be on this stage.”
Tindle revealed that the concept for this project has been in the works for about 20 years. “Through my long-standing connection with Tsuburaya Productions, the desire to depict a story within the Ultraman content that revolves around the bonds of family became stronger. I pitched this idea to Tsuburaya Productions, and the project came to life,” explained Tindle about the genesis of the project. Co-director Aoshima, with ties to Japan himself, continued, “I lived in Japan when I was little, and the feelings I had for Ultraman at that time have been with me ever since. As we worked on the production together, I found out that Shannon, as well as the other production crew, are all fans who admire Ultraman. That passion became the driving force, and it led to the creation of this work,” revealing how their shared admiration for Ultraman from childhood played a significant role in the project.
Director Tindle received high praise from director Guillermo del Toro, who sent a message saying, “The film beautifully portrays the relationships between humans, kaiju, Ultraman, fathers, and sons. It has turned out to be a very colorful and elegant piece.” Tindle, who shares a close friendship with del Toro, expressed his admiration, stating, “He is an idol for me, and he’s one of my favorite filmmakers. Not only is he an incredible artist, but he’s also a warm person. To receive such a wonderful message from him is truly touching.”
Guillermo del Toro’s feedback on Ultraman: Rising adds a significant feeling of recognition to the film.
Yuki Yamada, who is the Japanese voice actor for the protagonist Sato Ken in Ultraman: Rising, took the stage. Yamada expressed his joy, saying, “Becoming a superhero and a professional baseball player were my dreams, and they have come true with this film.” He also mentioned, a bit cheekily, “I made my debut as an actor as a ‘pirate hero,’ and currently, I am fighting in a ‘kaiju movie.’ Being able to become Ultraman in this work is incredibly exciting for me,” touching on his past and present roles, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Continuing, he touched on his background, saying, “My father is a professional baseball player. This work depicts various bonds, such as Ultraman and kaiju, father and son. So, I will portray Sato Ken with the love I received from my father and family. I really want to spread the word about this film! Thank you very much!” and conveyed his passionate feelings to the fans.
Director Tindle, standing confidently with Yamada on stage, remarked, “I thought of making Sato Ken handsome, but the actual Mr. Yamada is even more handsome. Being next to him makes my heart pound,” speaking with affection. Yamada responded, “Even when talking in person, he is a very wonderful and warm person. That’s why I think such a warm film has been created.”
Additionally, co-director Aoshima also expressed his anticipation, saying, “I had the opportunity to watch a drama in which Mr. Yamada appeared, and I think he is a very skilled actor in conveying subtle emotions beneath the surface. That’s why I’m looking forward to his performance!”
During the photo session, the monster Gigantron, which appears in the film, made a surprise appearance, generating significant excitement in the venue. Using Director Tindle’s mobile phone, all the participants took a group selfie, and they posed together in Ultraman’s beam pose, creating a lively and friendly atmosphere throughout the photo session.
As the segment and the opening ceremony as a whole came to a close, Yamada said, “I want to put my feelings into voicing this work with all the people involved who are spreading their wings worldwide, so that this love and emotion can truly reach everyone!” Co-director Aoshima added, “It is filled with the crystallization of love. It has been a long journey, but it’s finally being delivered, and this work was made possible because of everyone involved, so I want to express my gratitude.” Director Tindle concluded, “I thank Chairman Tsukakoshi and everyone involved, as well as the fans. Many people have grown up with Ultraman works, and in every frame, every shot, we have put our respect for everyone. I hope it reaches everyone,” expressing the heartfelt dedication everyone in the staff holds towards the production.