By Norman England
Joining the ranks of MACHINE GIRL and TOKYO GORE POLICE is DEATH KAPPA, the latest Japan-lensed production from the New York-based Fever Dreams company. At the helm is Tomoo Haraguchi, a veteran special FX artist and monster-suit maker whose previous directing credits include SAKUYA: SLAYER OF DEMONS and KIBAKICHI. Fango logged several days observing the filming of the recently wrapped DEATH KAPPA, and has photos from the set to share; see them after the jump.
Often on Japanese genre features, live-action and special FX sets operate under separate directors, but with years of experience overseeing FX, Haraguchi commands both on DEATH KAPPA. For the giant-monster scenes, he is working closely with Isao Takahashi, an art director who began his career on GODZILLA 1985 and continued his association with Japan’s iconic city-smasher until the end of the Millennium Godzilla series in 2004. Together, they oversee a small, but dedicated crew.
Fango’s day on the oversized-creature set sees several large explosions and the collapse of strategically placed miniature buildings, as well as a comical volley with a spherical oil-storage tank between the giant Death Kappa and Hangyoras. “That’s right,” Haraguchi admits when queried about a particular past influence, “This scene is very reminiscent of the boulder fight between Godzilla and Ebirah in GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER. I guess you could say that this kind of thing is a staple of giant-monster battles.”
A longtime fan of both kaiju and yokai, Haraguchi is incorporating two of his favorite genres within a single production here. The storyline revolves around failed pop star Kanako, who returns to her hometown to live with her beloved grandmother. Yet no sooner does she return home than a pair of crazed couples out on a drinking binge run over and kill her grandma. With the old woman gone, Kanako takes to running the family shrine, but to make matters worse, the drunken killers managed to disturb that structure—which is the keeper of kappa, one of Japan’s many yokai creatures, in this case a benevolent, humanlike turtle. Resurrected, the kappa is welcomed into town by the villagers.
Meanwhile, unknown to anyone in town, Yuriko, the granddaughter of a long-dead mad scientist, has chosen to continue her ancestor’s twisted experiments. Funded by Japanese nationalists seeking to bring the country back to military prominence, Yuriko works to complete his quest to develop a half-human/half-fish supersoldier. All hell breaks loose when Yuriko’s plans are thwarted, and she detonates an atomic weapon that causes both the kappa and one of the gill men to grow to monster-sized proportions. It is at this point that the showdown begins between the enlarged gill man, known now as Hangyoras, and Death Kappa.
Starring as Kanako is Misato Hirata, best known for her recurring part in TV’s ULTRAMAN MOEBIUS TV series and picked personally for the role by Haraguchi after he worked with the former gravure idol on the series. Performing opposite Hirata as the evil Yuriko is Mika, an actress whose background consists of extensive training in action and martial arts. In addition, DEATH KAPPA features several guest cameos by well-known Japanese filmmakers.
DEATH KAPPA is expected to be completed late this coming spring; look for a detailed set report with exclusive interviews in a future issue of FANGORIA magazine.