Last month, I got to be a gaijin extra (think a refugee running amidst fire and rubble) on location for the live-action movie adaptation of 1970s anime series Gatchaman, aka Battle of the Planets, or G-Force.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m Australian, but this doesn’t mean too much to me.
The Japanese obsess regarding the 1972 anime Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) created by Tatsuo Yoshida (Casshern, Speed Racer) and most Americans I know are wild about the repackaged and slightly Westernized 1978 version Battle of the Planets.
While I dug the earlier Speed Racer, I was far more into Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam from the same period — which grants me an excuse to stick in a picture here that I took in October of the 115-foot RX-78-2 Gundam statue in Odaiba.
Still, I was acquainted enough with this other series minus Gundam (the storyline goes that G-Force — a fistful of kids dressed up in bird costumes — protects Earth from planet Spectra and other attacks from an international terrorist conglomerate of technologically advanced villains), to think this would be a hoot, and grabbed the chance.
It was being shot outdoors in the evening in the expansive ruins of a huge abandoned paper mill in Takahagi-shi in Ibaraki, about 2 hours from Tokyo — and under 100 km from the leaky Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
This place was wild — a photographer’s dream (if we weren’t otherwise preoccupied).
Sadly the temperature hovered around 0°C, and there were aliens galore (some of them partaking of hot coffee, as in this picture, while others huddled around inadequate heaters with we refugees and their enemy: fake-and-bake Japanese Special Forces extras in their camouflages, wraparound shades, and thermal underwear).
While there were some Japanese refugees, most of ’em were gaijin like me, from far-flung places like Australia, New Zealand, France, Ukraine, Russia, Germany and Bolivia. Really. I think the Russkies were the better imports for this particular scene as the signage on broken poles and fluttering newspapers was in Cyrillic.
Our drawn-out vignette was an action sequence in a desolate battlefield between human Special Forces military and marauding aliens with serrated-edge hand knives as demonstrated by this kind gent — reminiscent of the Cylon Centurions’ nifty shivs in Battlestar Galactica.
The set featured a Christmas tree (alien attacks always add a jolly twist to the yuletide season), so I figured the timeline must be some time in the New Year as Christmas lags in Russia and takes place on January 7.
The aliens have red, light-up cycloptic eyes and these guys reminded me a wee bit of Mamoru Oshii’s heavily armored, fascist Kerberos Panzer Cops, pre-Ghost in the Shell.
This particular extraterrestrial added chains to his alien backpack — possibly to add character to a sea of red-eye conformity.
This film is being directed by Toya Sato, who previously did live-action versions of Studio Ghibli’s wartime tearjerker Grave of the Fireflies (2005) and the gambling manga Kaiji (2009), along with the Yukie Nakama vehicle Gokusen.
The screenplay has been put together by Yusuke Watanabe (20th Century Boys, Gantz) and the stars here are Tori Matsuzaka (Clone Baby), Gō Ayano (Helter Skelter), Tatsuomi Hamada (Yellow Elephant) and Ayame Gōriki (Future Diary) — though they’d gone home and were no doubt tucked up in warm beds by the time we began shooting.
And the movie should be released this year, at this stage slated in Japan for August 24 — find out more at gatchaman-movie.jp.