Manga: Eiji Tsuburaya: The Movie Director Who Created Ultraman


Eiji Tsuburaya

Japanese Comic Title

[Tsuburaya Eiji]


Hiroshi Yanagisawa


Kou Sakamoto
Kou Sakamoto
Kou Sakamoto


Kou Sakamoto



By: Nicholas Driscoll

A few years ago I wrote up a review of the 1996 biographical manga Eiji Tsuburaya: the Movie Director who Created Ultraman, which I really enjoyed. In that review, I mentioned two other biographical manga that also look at the life of Eiji Tsuburaya, and I want to take a look at a second biography this time—simply titled Eiji Tsuburaya, and featured as the 22nd book in the Komikkuban Sekai no Denki (World Biography Comics) series.

Eiji Tsuburaya is a somewhat larger book than Eiji Tsuburaya: the Movie Director who Created Ultraman, at least in dimensions, but it is quite a bit shorter, cutting in at over thirty fewer pages than the aforementioned title. Plus the comic actually ends on page 104 of 125 total—the rest is essays and a timeline, etc. So by necessity the World Biography Comics version must be less detailed in the comic than Shogakukan’s version. We don’t get nearly as many stories from behind the scenes as in the other book, even though the material is quite similar.

This time we start with scenes of an audience watching The Mysterians with awe and wonder, then cut to Eiji Tsuburaya making movies and looking cool before going back in time to Eiji’s childhood, where we learn his real name was Eiichi Tsumuraya. Up to page 16 are in color. We see Eiji yearn to become a pilot, we see him take lessons, his teacher dies, he makes toys while studying at an electronics college (apparently he designed something similar to a Razor scooter, if you remember those). We don’t see his fateful encounter with Yoshio Edamasa this time, but we do get an exciting scene where Eiji proves his mettle as a cameraman by filming while riding in the back of an airplane—he nearly falls out! We see him pulled into WWI as a recruit, the destruction of the Great Kanto Earthquake, the return to live with his parents, his return to making movies, his inspiration watching King Kong (1933), his process making propaganda films and recreating a warship based off of one image from a newspaper, the end of the WWII, and the American censors banning him from making movies because of his involvement with propaganda filmmaking (this time we don’t see anything about Eiji’s regret about making those films).

Manga: Eiji Tsuburaya
Check out those beautiful monsters.

Eventually we see him join Toho, and a conversation with Tomoyuki Tanaka, and then the rooftop scene wherein Eiji and Honda discuss burning down the city and are mistaken as terrorists. This time, while not following Honda’s recollections (the cop still stops them on the roof, not as they try to leave the building), this book recreates the scene with more seriousness. Unfortunately, unlike the previous manga, we don’t really get to meet Haruo Nakajima, and the “making of” scenes are much shorter, though still with depictions of things like the difficulties of making Godzilla costumes, using rear projection, the melting electric towers, etc.

The sequences depicting the making of Ultra Q and Ultraman focus more on interpersonal relationships and how Eiji encouraged people to solve their own problems and his own work ethic rather than individual anecdotes, like the influence of the Olympics that was mentioned in the 1996 manga.

The comic section, just like the previous volume, ends with Eiji working on his dream project, and this time dying in his sleep and being escorted into the afterworld by Godzilla and Ultraman.

The story is slimmer and has fewer details, but I really enjoyed reading it nevertheless. The Japanese is relatively easy, the art is really good (the monsters especially are lovingly rendered, but the people are certainly appealing as well). If I must complain about the art, I could point out that sometimes it was really clear what images Kou Sakamoto was using for his references, as occasionally a behind the scenes shot in the comic is a straight up illustration of a famous behind-the-scenes photo (almost looking traced), and at least one shot of Final Godzilla looks a little off-model. But really, the art is strong, and a highlight of the book.

The last few essays in the book are each several pages long, and don’t offer a great deal of insight, but are still fun to read. The first is about the creation of movies and the creation of airplanes, then we have a longer article with short biographies of Eiji’s family members (many of whom died far too young), then an article about the people he worked with and helped train up, an article about the Godzilla series, an article about Tsuburaya Productions, an article about the Ultraman series, and then a timeline of Tsuburaya’s life. The articles are very short and accompanied by pictures—they are easy to breeze through. The timeline really puts things in perspective and helps me to feel encouraged about this crazy life—Eiji didn’t work on Godzilla until he was 53, and didn’t make Ultraman until he was 65!

I will just cut things a bit short here. This is another really good comic biography of Eiji Tsuburaya and is well-worth picking up. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, the art is very appealing and fun to look at. Shogakukan’s book may be the better of the two, but either one is great, and both make learning fun. Not to be missed for comics fans interested in biographical materials about making monster movies.