In part one of this special interview with Kamen Rider Black Sun staff members Kazuya Shiraishi (director), Shinji Higuchi (concept visual artist), and Kiyotaka Taguchi (special effects director), they discuss how they were offered their positions and about establishing the reboot.
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Director Shiraishi, please tell us about how you got the offer.
Kazuya Shiraishi: While I was finishing work on Hitoyo (2019 movie) at the Toei Digital Center, I met producer Taisuke Furuya for the first time and greeted him. He just casually mentioned that he was thinking of doing an adult-targeted Kamen Rider production, and I replied that I’d like to try my hand at that. Well, I was just giving lip service at that time. (laughs)
About a month or two after that, Mr. Furuya contacted me asking to talk to me again. So I went to Toei’s head office and met producer Shinichiro Shirakura. He told me he wanted to do an adult-oriented reboot of Kamen Rider Black Sun, and he wanted me to direct it. And that was the first offer.
What were your thoughts at that time, frankly speaking?
Shiraishi: The first thing I wondered was, “What’s a good way to do an adult-targeted Kamen Rider series?” I asked him, “If you’re offering me this, are you’re okay if I use some harsh depictions?” to which he replied “OK,” and “Please do.”
I thought starting would be difficult, but the more I thought, many ideas came to mind. I haven’t worked on many tokusatsu productions, but I was extremely interested, and this was a big chance full of things I wanted to try, so I accepted the position.
I’m more motivated by the day, and now I probably spend 20 hours of the day thinking about Kamen Rider.
As he supports director Shiraishi, he is in charge of the worldview and characters.
What was it like when you received your offer, Mr. Higuchi?
Shinji Higuchi: I received a call from Producer Shirakura. We’ve occasionally gone out to eat, and we’ve gone out for drinks together many times. My impression of him is that he’s an amazing producer in Toei who has opened tokusatsu productions to new directions and brought in meaningful innovations, so I wondered what it’d be like to be brought on by someone like him.
I’m backtracking a bit, but Hideaki Anno, who I’ve worked with before, was working on Shin Kamen Rider. When he told me that, it got to my head that I probably wouldn’t become involved in Kamen Rider. What I mean is, one can say that Anno’s love for Godzilla and Ultraman is unmatched. However, with Kamen Rider, of course I love Kamen Rider, especially the original Kamen Rider, but it’s no match for Anno’s love for it. When I got these feelings, Mr. Shirakura gave me a call and asked me to come in. I was very cautious going in. What could this be for?
When he mentioned Kamen Rider, I laid out my painful memories towards the series. Whenever I played pretend with friends, I was never Kamen Rider. I was always a monster or a grunt, so I’d be hurt from being kicked or from falling from high places. But he stopped me saying, “This isn’t what I mean. This is about work.” After asking him again, Mr. Shirakura told me that Mr. Shiraishi is working on a reboot of Kamen Rider Black, and Mr. Shirakura wanted me to assist on the project. Mr. Shiraishi was likely still developing the story and may not be able to see what Mr. Shirakura or I could pick up quickly. Alternatively, he could be stuck trying to break away from realism. In that case, Mr. Shirakura wanted someone he liked who shared his point of view, someone on his side who could verbalize and explain things well. He really should have said something sooner! (laughs)
When I took on the project, this being about Kamen Rider Black was a breakthrough and was a point that blew me away. Even in its own series, Kamen Rider Black wasn’t so much “returning to the original Kamen Rider” but more of a challenge to recreate Kamen Rider from scratch. Kamen Rider Black has become a keystone production for Kamen Rider fans of that era, so if I could do the same for this production, I felt that it would be okay for really make my mark.
So is Mr. Higuchi’s role to create the worldview and setting, the characters and so on?
Higuchi: Something like that. As I think how to bring characters or things not of this world to reality, I have to decide if it is something to be sculpted or if it will be made from computer graphics. That reminds me, we first met in France, didn’t we?
Shiraishi: That’s right. It was at Japonisme 2018 in Paris. We were both abroad, and there was so much tension between us. Do you remember how we went drinking with Pierre Taki after we got back to Japan?
Higuchi: That was right before the start of the pandemic, wasn’t it?
Shiraishi: When I got there, you two were already dead drunk. (laughs) But I had also decided to take on Kamen Rider Black Sun at that time. I don’t know if you remember this, Mr. Higuchi, but you asked to help me on my work.
Higuchi: And we never mentioned Kamen Rider Black Sun by name, did we?
Shiraishi: Not at that time. What you said was, “Whatever you’re working on, I’ll do anything you need!”
Higuchi: I would have said that even if I was sober. (laughs)
Shiraishi: But really, I took those words to heart and asked Mr. Shirakura to bring you on. When we first met in Paris, of course I had seen many of Mr. Higuchi’s works by then, so I was interested in learning what kind of person he was. And when I asked him, he called himself a “child of movies”. I was so shocked like I’ve never met someone like him before. Mr. Higuchi is someone who is beloved by movies and people involved with movies. I was completely enthralled by his talent and his character. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to work with Mr. Higuchi, but I thought I could keep motivated if he helped me on Kamen Rider Black Sun, so I asked for him through Mr. Shirakura.
Higuchi: When I heard from Mr. Shirakura that Mr. Shiraishi was on this, I knew without a doubt that this’ll be an interesting production. Mr. Shiraishi sets his eyes on what happens in the real world and accurately incorporates it into his works. This is what thrills me every time I watch his movies.
Doing Kamen Rider with this approach is just amazing. My mind is just buzzing with ideas. It’s great that we’re working from Kamen Rider Black. It has a bit of a dark impression on viewers. It’s shocking how many children’s programs from that time recorded at night on film. It’s not that they weren’t thinking of the kids, but I think they might have wanted to break away from that mentality. With that mind, Mr. Shiraishi’s world had surely expanded as I read the script for Kamen Rider Black Sun.
As I thought about what to do about the worldview, I thought about how Kamen Rider Black came to be. I recalled that it came from the intersection of two completely different paths, that of Shotaro Ishinomori and designer Katsushi Murakami (who I deeply respect) and of the toy company Poppy (now known as Bandai). My work here started from asking, “How can we build on this again?”
With this concept of “modified humans and monsters,” how did they come to fight? What would society be like if they existed? I don’t want to just deliver “monsters,” I want to start from scratch and consider why they exist.
Kiyotaka Taguchi on Kamen Rider After Recent Work on the Ultraman series
What was it like when you got your offer?
Kiyotaka Taguchi: Mr. Higuchi contacted me telling me to come in for a talk, so I went to his office. I knew that Mr. Shiraishi was directing Kamen Rider Black Sun and that Mr. Higuchi was also involved. For Mr. Higuchi to call me in… I had my suspicions, and as I thought, he wanted my help on Kamen Rider Black Sun.
Your Acquaintance with Director Shiraishi
Taguchi: I first met Mr. Shiraishi on the set of A Gambler’s Odyssey 2020 (2019 movie). That’s when we met, but I was there helping in the arts department when someone said, “If you go to Toho right now, there’s a miniature set replicating postwar Japan!” And of course I wanted to go to a special effects set. So when I get there, I help make the miniatures, and when I helped out again on the following day, Mr. Shiraishi was there. We were then introduced to each either. Mr. Shiraishi, did you recognize me then?
Shiraishi: I was there to see Gehara: The Long and Dark Haired Monster (2009 movie), and I very much noticed you were also there.
Taguchi: That’s right! You did mention that. Then we had the chance to go to the Yubari Fantastic Film Festival afterward. I had seen many of your works, and I knew that Mr. Higuchi was involved in the production you would be directing, Kamen Rider Black Sun. When you asked me to work with you, I accepted the offer without a second thought.
But at this time (early September 2021), we’re still looking at the situation objectively without deciding on anything. We read the script and are discussing modeling. We’re still in the middle of talks about if we’re using miniatures or CG and if it’ll be life-sized or not, things like that.
In the beginning, I got very excited to start working after seeing Mr. Higuchi’s visual concept designs. At any rate, they were images full of dreams. (laughs) Of course we can’t make every one, so mid-production would be the time to decide what we can or can’t do. However, and it might just be something I got used to from productions I’ve been on, but when I met with Mr. Shiraishi and randomly brought up the budget, he got angry with me and said that it was a topic for later. (laughs) I think I need to open my mind more for dreams. The disarray is a good sign right now, and it’ll take a lot of work pulling everything together. I’m going to dive right in when that time comes, so I’m waiting for that right now.
Shiraishi: That can be the case for movies as well, but for this, it’s simply that it’s on a large scale more so than that there’s a lot of work to do. When I listen to experts’ opinions, I tend to go against it and take the more tedious route.
Taguchi: I believe I also suggested the more troublesome route.
Shiraishi: But if things were easy, it would not be an interesting production at all. It’s so reassuring that there are people who will work with me and guide me.
When Mr. Higuchi came on board, we went out for grilled meat, and he said something that caught me completely off guard. He said, “I want to make good use of you and do new things,” as a cover for “But I have to follow your direction, yeah?” But Mr. Higuchi’s mindset of taking on challenges excites me, and on the other hand, I feel that this is the strongest environment to do things my way while drawing on Mr. Higuchi and Mr. Taguchi’s skills.
Taguchi: That’s when he’s around, but when Mr. Shiraishi is absent, it’s more like, “This is completely okay with us, but what would he say…” (laughs)
Shiraishi: But I’ll have to face a lot of problems and come up with answers to solve them eventually, and that time’s coming soon.
Read part two of this interview here.
Source: Kamen Rider Black Sun Homepage