Noriaki Yuasa

Noriaki Yuasa

Noriaki Yuasa, known internationally as "the father of Gamera," died in Japan June 14 of a stroke. He was 70.

Yuasa was born into a show business family--his father and grandmothers were a stage performers. Young Noriaki grew up in housing populated by actors, and he soon began to be cast in small roles. The arrival of World War II curtailed his acting opportunities. When the war ended, he again had some chances to work as an actor, but by this time his years living among actors and actresses has soured him on the profession: Reportedly Yuasa disapproved of the loose morality many in the profession displayed. Upon graduation from college, he sought work behind the camera, joining Daiei Studios in 1955.

In 1964 he got to direct his first film, a musical comedy. His next project was "Daikaiju Gamera" (1965; the exported version of which was featured in episodes K05 and 302). The tale of a giant mutated flying turtle was a surprise hit, and was the first box-office challenger to rival Toho Studio's already-successful Gojira (Godzilla) series.

After working on just the special effects for the first sequel, "Gamera tai Barugon" (1966; featured in episodes K04 and 304), he assumed the role of director for the next six sequels, including: "Gamera tai Gyaosu" (1967; featured in episodes K06 and 308), "Gamera tai daikaijû Giron" (1969; featured in episodes K08 and 312), and "Gamera tai Shinkai kaijû Jigura" (1971; featured in episodes K07 and 316).

As with the competing Godzilla films, the early works were intended as gripping adult fare, but the later iterations grew increasingly juvenile as the studios discovered that these films were more popular with children. Yuasa was reportedly delighted to learn this, and is said to have been happier making films for children than for adults.

In 1971 the Daiei studio went bankrupt, and Yuasa turned to television work, directing many episodes of the TV series "Ultraman 80" before he retired.

In 1980 he directed "Gamera, Super Monster," but it was largely composed of footage of the previous films.