Takao Okawara

Takao Okawara (釈由美子)

Director / Writer / Special Effects Director
Date of birth

December 20th, 1949
Tokyo, Japan



Director Filmography - Assistant Director Filmography - Writing Filmography - Special Effects Director Filmography


Despite his lifelong passion for the medium, Takao Okawara did not initially set out to work in movies. After completing his studies (and shooting a few 8mm films in his spare time), he set his sights on landing a white-collar job, only to be met with a slew of rejections. A few unsuccessful interviews later, he applied for a position at Toho and was hired as an assistant director in 1972. Okawara remained an assistant for a long time, working on several big-budget films—including Akira Kurosawa's samurai epic Kagemusha (1980) and Koji Hashimoto's The Return of Godzilla (1984)—before the impulse to direct proved too much. Determined to impress the studio executives, he penned a scenario for an ESP fantasy film and submitted it to the Kido Awards. And much to his delight, he was rewarded with the second-place ranking and an offer to direct the feature film adaptation.

Taking charge of both the live-action and special effects crews, Okawara completed his debut, Reiko the Psyche Resurrected (1991), only to see it flop at the box office. His career hadn't ended, though. In spite of the dismal returns, Toho producer Shogo Tomiyama was greatly impressed by Reiko, championing Okawara to the executives and recommending him as the director of the next Godzilla film. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) proved to be a gigantic success—the first truly big hit the series had had since the 1960s. This was followed by the action-packed Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993), also profitable. With these two films, Okawara assumed a much more lighthearted approach than some of his predecessors. "I think that the tone of many Japanese films is too serious. I regard Godzilla films purely as entertainment," he explained.

Looking to try his hand at another genre, Okawara impulsively agreed to direct the fantasy Yamato Takeru (1994). The film was planned as the first in a trilogy about the mythological birth of Japan and presented Okawara an opportunity to return to directing special effects scenes: he presided over the scene where the film's heroes encounter the molten god Kumasogami. Yamato Takeru underperformed at the box office, and the sequels went unmade. Following this letdown, Okawara returned to the Godzilla franchise, helming the fan-favorite Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) and bringing an end to the Heisei series.

Okawara directed the thriller Abduction (1997), his personal favorite of his movies, before the King of the Monsters summoned him once more. Toho was rebooting the franchise sooner than expected, the new movie to be viewed as a response to the 1998 Hollywood adaptation. Okawara signed on and the film, Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), marked both the end of his association with the character and, as of present, the end of his career as a film director.

Director Toho Filmography

Date Title Type
1991 Reiko, the Psyche Resurrected Produced
1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra Produced
1993 Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II Produced
1994 Yamato Takeru Produced
1995 Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Produced
1997 Abduction Produced
1999 Godzilla 2000: Millennium Produced

Assistant Director Toho Filmography

Date Title Type
1980 Kagemusha Produced
1984 The Return of Godzilla Produced
1987 "Sayonara" die Fräulein Produced
1989 Buddies Produced

Writer Toho Filmography

Date Title Type
1991 Reiko, the Psyche Resurrected Produced

Special Effects Director Toho Filmography

Date Title Type
1991 Reiko, the Psyche Resurrected Produced
1994 Yamato Takeru Produced