Around this time last year I was very blessed to meet the awesome Akira Takarada while visiting Dallas Comic Con a local comic book convention, and cover that event for Toho Kingdom by writing an article detailing the convention for my fellow Godzilla fans. In concluding that article I wrote that I hopped to see them follow up their success with Mr. Takarada by adding more Godzilla or Kaiju related guests. My expectations were blown away when this year’s convention, (renamed to Fan Expo Dallas 2015) added the most impressive lineup of Godzilla related celebrities I’ve ever been blessed to see invade my home town with the lineup of Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa!
Haruo Nakajima is the man who created the icon that is Godzilla. He portrayed the character from its inception in 1954 to 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan. He also portrayed many of Toho’s classic kaiju beyond Godzilla, such as Rodan, Gaira, and Varan. Kenpachiro Satsuma began his suit acting career by performing as Hedorah against Haruo Nakajima’s Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) and would go on to embody Godzilla for the entire Heisei series from The Return of Godzilla (1984) to the concluding Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Tsutomu Kitagawa portrayed King Ghidorah in Rebirth of Mothra III (1998) before he inherited the title of Godzilla from Kenpachiro Satsuma in Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999). Tsutomu Kitagawa would play Godzilla through the whole course of the Millennium series up to its concluding chapter of Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Shinji Nishikawa is a manga artist whose incredible artistic prowess lead to him becoming Toho’s monster designer for several of their Godzilla films including Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).
Obviously being a big G-Fan I was ecstatic when I learned of these legends coming to my home town! I immediately made plans to attend the convention and cover it as best as I can for you readers.
The convention was held in the Dallas Convention Center from May 29th to May 31th 2015. As you can see the Dallas Convention Center was a great location for this event. There was a very large number of people attending but never did the center feel overcrowded or claustrophobic.
Easily one of the best draws of any convention is the exhibition hall where dealers and artists are set up. Usually the vendors tend to carry a lot of merchandise related to the celebrity guests and this year was no exception.
Finding Godzilla related merchandise has always been a bit of a challenge in my home town of Dallas. Fortunately conventions such as these tend to be gold mines for Texan Godzilla fans.
From the pictures above you can tell that a lot of the current American mainstays in Godzilla products such as NECA’s various Godzilla and Pacific Rim figures were available for purchase as were a couple of Japanese produced collectables such as Bandai Japan’s figures.
As you can see there was a lot of great Godzilla related goods that fans could buy from the vendors and if you’re a local Texan who collects Godzilla goods I’d highly recommend visiting Fan Expo Dallas.
Set up right next to all these dealers was the Artist Ally and this year there was an added bonus for Godzilla fans! The fan favorite artist of IDW’s excellent Godzilla: Rulers of Earth series Matt Frank was there!
(Photo provided by Matt Frank)
I was able to hang out with and help Matt with his table and I have to say it was a blast! Not only is Matt a awesome guy to hang out with but working at his table also offered a great venue for getting to meet with other fellow Godzilla fans. The best part of any convention is getting to meet with likeminded people and for someone like me who was fairly isolated in my Godzilla fandom growing up, I can’t express just how much fun it is to meet other Godzilla fans both local and those who came from out of state or town. I would recommend any Godzilla fan attend Fan Expo Dallas simply for this experience alone.
(Photo provided by Matt Frank)
As you can see in the above photo Matt Frank was a big hit with the Godzilla fans at the convention and spent the weekend drawing commissions, signing copies of Rulers of Earth and even hosting his own panel!
(Photo provided by Matt Frank)
Matt was also fortunate enough to eat dinner with Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa! Matt was also very kind in sending over this photo he took at the dinner with these legends for this article!
I wanted to be sure to mention every possible aspect of the convention that could appeal to any Godzilla fan from collectables to fellow fans and now that I’ve done that I’m ready to write about meeting the icons that I know you’re all here to read about!
I attended the convention all three days and I decided to meet Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa on Friday evening. I waited in line with other Godzilla fans for our chance to meet our heroes.
The guests were lined up in the order of Shinji Nishikawa, Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa. They had a lot of great items for purchase that you could get signed. From posters to photos of the actors wearing their iconic suits. Shinji Nishikawa was taking commissions and had some incredible art books and manga of his own work available for purchase. Here you can see Haruo Nakajima signing a book I bought filled with photos of his entire suit acting career.
I really can’t describe how incredible it was to meet these legends. I’ve grown up watching their work, reading about their struggles to produce terrific performances under incredibly dangerous circumstances, and seeing photos of them. Getting to meet them and shake their hands is an experience that I cannot describe in words. Every Godzilla fan owes it to themselves to have this incredible experience wither it be at Fan Expo Dallas or G-Fest in Chicago. Whatever the time and place if you have the opportunity to meet these icons I cannot recommend it enough.
The photo above was taken on Saturday and as you can see Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa continued to be a huge hit throughout the entire weekend of the convention. On Sunday Nakajima, Satsuma, Kitagawa, and Nishikawa hosted Q&A panels. I attended both of them and I recorded them for your viewing pleasure. I have been to a lot of Q&A panels over the course of many conventions but I have never enjoyed a panel as much as I did the two I attended on Sunday. Since I filmed both of them I won’t spend too much time writing about them because that would not be doing them justice. I encourage you to watch both of these panels which I will provide the links for at the end of this article.
Nishikawa’s panel was the first of the two panels. Throughout the panel Nishikawa drew a series of chibi renditions of the Showa Godzilla and his kaiju brethren. Watching Nishikawa at work was amazing. He is an incredible artist and as soon as you watch his panel you’ll know what I’m talking about! Words simply cannot do his drawing skills justice.
The Q&A panel for Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa was just as incredible as meeting them on Friday night was! Hearing these three legends talk and describe their work and experiences was simply amazing. Their friendly exchange between the audience and themselves was tremendous and everyone present had an incredible time.
Following the Q&A panel Nakajima, Satsuma, and Kitagawa posed for pictures with a terrific Godzilla cosplayer! This was big hit with the crowd and lots of photos were taken of the actors striking their iconic poses.
Finally the trio returned to their autograph stand to continue to meet with fans as the convention drew to a close. I returned to their autograph stand one last time to pick up a second book and say my goodbyes. As I visited them for the final time I was able to shake their hands and thank them. All of them were incredible kind and gracious. They all seemed genuinely pleased to see me and smiled at me as I shook their hands. I know I’m sounding like a broken record at this point but I cannot describe how incredible this experience was and I’ll be darned if I’m not feeling emotional writing this article. In summary I cannot recommend this enough. Fan Expo Dallas is a yearly event and although the plans for next year’s convention have not been announced I will be stunned if they can top what they accomplished for Godzilla fans this year. I not only want to thank Fan Expo Dallas for a once in a life time experience, but I want to recommend it for all Texan Godzilla fans. Even if you live outside of Texas and these legends return next year I strongly urge you to make the trip down to Dallas. You will not regret it!