Bin Furuya talks about the original Ultraman series and the creation of some of the iconic poses.
The original Ultraman has finally made it to the S.H. Figurarts Shinkocchou Seihou (refers to body accurate sculptures of figures) line. This time, Bin Furuya, the original suit actor for the very first Ultraman, was invited to bring this figure to life.
What’s it like seeing your Shinkocchou Seihou figure in front of you?
It is super cool. I looked at my legs and thought “hmm, were my legs always that long?” Then I looked at my body and said, “yep, I’m cool.” Seeing something made to this extent makes me feel like it’s one more step closer to my actual body. It’s also great that the poses are movable and can be struck in cool poses, unlike those vinyl toys with fixed posed.
How’s your body type compared to how it was back then?
It’s the same. That’s because I lost 9 kilos in order to get closer to what my body was for the body scan. I asked them to give me a month in order to get that body. It was a real struggle.
You really worked on getting into shape. Is this the first time you’ve ever done a body scan?
I’ve actually done body scans before, but not a full-body one like this. I was actually blown away by the giant scanner. It is a tiny bit of a tough memory for me, but after seeing this, It was worth it.
You did great.
We powered through with no breaks (laughs). And compared to filming the show back then, this is nothing. No different from being bitten by a bug. Filming for Ultraman was tough. The Bandai Spirits studio was very kempt. It’s so much more different now (laughs).
Please tell us about the poses you were most particular about in the scan.
The Specium Ray for sure. People often compliment the curvature of my hands in the pose. It’s the one thing I pride myself on as only I can do it. It’s the only thing I have confidence in pulling off so I keep my hands clean for it. I have the most pride in this pose so if I can’t do the “bend,” I’m done (laughs).
How was the Specium Ray pose created?
Since it was the very first series, there was no precedent to look at. So we had to come up with something from scratch. I did remember that my senior at Toho, Haruo Nakajima, went to Ueno Zoo to study the animals, when he became a suit actor for Godzilla. Since Ultraman’s not an animal, there’d be nothing to study if I went to Ueno (laughs). I talked to many people back then. He’s practically naked like Godzilla and has no weapons. So how would he defeat a kaiju… I eventually took a hint from Rikidōzan’s “Karate Chop.”
So it was modeled after a Showa Era Professional wrestler’s special move.
Basically, he was my childhood hero. He defeated so many foreign wrestlers with a single move. It truly is just like Mito Kumon’s inro. I created the pose with the Karate Chop as the base, while consulting the Director Toshihiro Iijima and the Optic Photographer Minoru Nakano. I also thought about having the Color Timer be visible in the shot. The Director or Cameraman didn’t tell me to do this, I just thought it’d be cool if it were visible in the pose. I practiced in front of the three-sided mirror at least 300 times a day, thinking about how it would look on camera.
I hear that showing the Color Timer, regardless of what pose is taken, is a current Tsuburaya Productions regulation that is inherited by all Ultraman.
It makes me happy to know what. It makes our effort all the worth while.
Speaking of poses, the hunchback-like forward leaning fighting style is also very iconic, and the figure really captures that even through a body scan.
I’m very obsessed about the stance that I’d even call it my own special patent. No one else can pull it off. In the movie, Rebel Without a Cause, I saw James Dean’s fight scene and knew I wanted to do that scene if I ever became a lead. So when I was chosen to play the lead role of Ultraman, I decided to do it. I incorporated the pose of James Dean fighting, holding the knife, into my performance.
The kaiju come in a variety of shapes, including quadrupedal and bipedal humanoid forms. Were you attentive to the difference in your stance depending on the enemy?
You’re right, I was. If I didn’t make that stance, I wouldn’t be able to spring upon the enemy. There’s no telling how strong or weak an enemy is. To see how strong they were, I’d take that pose. It was part of my acting.
What poses would you like to recreate with with the Shinkocchou figure?
The Specium Ray for sure. I was able to recreate it. The scan is amazing. The lines are so clean.
Tohl Narita created the design of Ultraman. Tell us your first impression of the suit?
I thought it was so cool. Like, it’s a very complete design. There were so many steps that had to be taken before Ultraman was born. At the beginning, it wasn’t in the form of Ultraman as we know it. Because it was just a flat costume you know. I couldn’t imagine what it would look like when I entered and moved. But Narita knew. He is a sculptor after all. He already knew what it would look like when I put on the costume.
People say it’s a Furuya-design.
In Ultra Q, I played the parts of the Kemur and Lagon and told myself I didn’t want to do this job anymore. Narita based Ultraman’s body shape from Kemur and said “only Furuya can do this!” And so I didn’t even audition (laughs).
What was your first impressions when you first put on the suit?
The suits and even masks was tailored just for me. I didn’t feel any discomfort. Even the dimensions of the face, including the eyes, nose, and mouth, were made to fit me. However, when I was wearing the Type-C suit, I felt like I had a lot of muscle mass, and I couldn’t really feel the texture or the sensation. When something touched me, it didn’t feel like it was hitting my skin like Type A.
Like it absorbed damage?
That’s right. It didn’t hurt at all, but it was hard for me to act in. Type-A, the first suit, was more direct on the skin. It was easier for me to grasp the movements. Well, it had its good and bad points. As far as shape goes, Type-C might be better shaped but I preferred Type-A.
Incidentally, I heard that Ultraseven was initially designed with you in mind, and you were disappointed that it didn’t come true.
Yeah I wanted to be a part of Seven. I thought he looked so cool when I first saw the design. But I was assigned the role of Captain Amagi so I had to turn down the role. If only I could have played a dual role that is used often today. I’d become Seven and I’d have played Captain Amagi.
I see! Dual roles sound great.
If I could have had a dual role, Seven may have become different. But even just thinking about it, it would have been difficult. It was tough just being Ultraman. But if the director was okay with it, I might have done it (laughs).
Ultraman celebrates 55 years today, and has a long history of production. What is Ultraman to you?
An iconic existence. I breathed life into its soul from within me, and with that breath, we created footage, and being able to bring to life that footage into a blueprint for the future is thanks to the efforts of many. Tsuburaya Productions still carries with them the will of the great Eiji Tsuburaya. Eiji Tsuburaya was the one who spread the culture of tokusatsu to America. We are working in the U.S. to follow up on that, even if only a little. The vocal power of the Us is great. It’s on a global scale. Tokusatsu no longer limited to Japan. However, Japan’s tokusatsu is fading a bit because of CGI (laughs).
What do you think of the fans overseas?
Very amazing. I was in tears thinking, “I can’t believe international fans could shed tears like this!” They’re people who are over 50 years-old. And of course, children all over the world are taken aback by Ultraman. At recent events in Japan, not only the old fans from back then but also young fans in their 20s who don’t know what it was back line up.
I think even now, Ultraman still has an overwhelming presence.
Yeah. I hope it continues to be. In that sense, it depends on the efforts of Tsuburaya Productions (laughs).
While there are many who like the new Ultraman, I hear that there are many kids who like the very first.
Yeah, it’s not just the kids from the past, but the kids of today as well. I overheard kids who were watching the new Ultraman at an event the other day. A 7 year-old and their 10 year-old sibling. They said that even though they watch the new Ultraman, they love the very first Ultraman. There are a lot of Ultraman now that are cooler than the original, right? I think kids find the flashy red and blue ones cooler. It makes me happy. I hope there will be more like them for the rest of eternity.
Back then, did you think you were going to become an eternal hero?
No, I didn’t. None of the staff back then did either. Not even Narita did. Back then, when programs aimed at children finished, there’d be no more. Because children would grow big and graduate. They’d stop watching them. But even after 50 years, Ultraman is still fresh. The design still holds.
60 years is just around the corner.
I hope I stay healthy until the 60th anniversary. I’ll be 83 by then. As for my dream, I still have my Ultraman suit, so I would like to get into it and do the Specium Ray. I’d like to get a picture with new Ultraman and my first Ultraman side by side.
This is a dream that fans would like to see come true.
Ultraman will make your dreams come true. It makes me happy knowing that. Many of the people I worked hard with, and struggled with, to bring the series to life, have gone to the Land of Light, but while I’m still here on Earth, I will tell the world of the good of Ultraman as an evangelist.
Lastly, please share a message to those who are looking forward to this body accurate sculpture.
After seeing this, I feel like there is a figure that is very close to the real thing. And I really mean it. If you’re a fan, I’d like it if you could get one and make it a family heirloom. I want everyone in the world to have one. As a real Ultraman, I highly recommend it.