Los Angeles-based independent tokusatsu, Fujiyama Ichiban, revealed its trailer earlier this past week for its upcoming self-titled YouTube movie. Samurai Action Studio founder and Fujiyama Ichiban creator, Michi Yamato, invited the Tokusatsu Network for a behind-the-scenes look.
On a late Saturday afternoon, the Tokusatsu Network walked on set to the filming of Fujiyama Ichiban: the Movie and happily greeted by its creator, Michi Yamato. Yamato is an actor, stunt coordinator, martial arts teacher, as well as founder of Japanese stage combat team, Samurai Action Studio. Yamato has worked as stunt coordinator for American tokusatsu adaptations, Masked Rider and Big Bad Beetleborgs, as well as being Masked Rider’s suit actor for the American production. Most notably, he was also a suit actor for Choudenshi Biomani, the Super Sentai series that ran from 1984 to 1985.
After spending a few moments on-set and interacting with cast and crew in between filming, it was immediately clear that production of Fujiyama Ichiban was a close, tight-knit, family-like affair. There was always someone quick to lend a hand behind the camera, such as helping to hold a lighting reflector or working the production slate. Yuuki Yamagiwa, who plays Sakura Sugiyama, Sakura Ichiban, even began as the MC for the Fujiyama Ichiban live events before taking up the role as Sakura.
Actor, Adam Forrest, who holds the titular role of Sun Taiyo, Fujiyama Ichiban, stated that he really enjoyed the opportunity to be able to have such a well-rounded, hands-on production experience in addition to acting.
Forrest, who moved to Los Angeles from New York to pursue acting, was a later addition to the Fujiyama Ichiban family along with Haurjie Gunn, who plays Eric, Ninja Ichiban. The two met during auditions for the role of Sun Taiyo. Before getting into acting, Gunn initially pursued a career in stunts and has over 10 years experience in martial arts– 8 years in Shaolin-kempo karate, 2 years in Tae Kwon Do, and 2 years in Japanese Jiu-jitsu.
Watching all three main cast members interact with their fellow castmates and crew, it was also clear Yamato was the inspiration behind its down-to-earth and hardworking atmosphere.
“Michi is awesome! He’s easy to work with [and] a funny guy too. Great director as well,” Gunn states.
Stunt and suit actor, Travis Hall, joined the Samurai Action Studio stunt team in May of 2013 and plays the villains, Rockman Red and Dark Hungry adds:
“Michi is an amazing director. He has taught me and the others so much and giving us this opportunity to be a part of something so great and awesome. The way he directs is so unique, in my opinion, he makes making a movie so much fun. He very energetic and lively [and] he makes everyone feel that way– especially when he says action and does his sound effects. I love that part about him.”
In addition to observing the warm atmosphere between cast and crew, a definite highlight of the Tokusatsu Network’s Fujiyama Ichiban set visit were its suits. The suits for both heroes and villains are arguably the key elements of any tokusatsu and Fujiyama Ichiban does not disappoint. They are incredibly detailed and touch on the environmental aesthetics Fujiyama Ichiban takes its inspiration.
As stated in our initial coverage of Fujiyama Ichiban, its heroes’ suits harness the sun’s energy. Its antagonists are a mysterious alien organization known as the Dark Matter Empire, who captured Sun Taiyo’s father, a scientist developing new solar energy technology. The basic concept and designs were created by Yamato himself and created by a production company in Japan who has also worked on other tokusatsu shows.
The premiere of Fujiyama Ichiban: The Movie is Sunday, June 8th 2014 at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel in Torrance, California. Advanced tickets are now on sale on their official website. There will be cast meet and greets in addition to the screening. As Michi Yamato himself states, “Please enjoy the power of Tokusatsu though Fujiyama Ichiban!”
All photos taken by Paula Gaetos (@angelicnoir) for the Tokusatsu Network. If used elsewhere, please link back to the original article.