Herotaku Archives: Interview – Michi Yamato of Fujiyama Ichiban Part II
Hello Herotaku, today is the continuation of our interview with Michi Yamato. For those who have yet to read, or have missed Part One; Mr. Yamato is a stunt actor from Japan who moved to America. Since immigrating to America, Mr. Yamato has worked for Saban Entertainment during the 90s, as well as started his own stunt team, Samurai Action Team which currently produces the indie-American Tokusatsu, Fujiyama Ichiban. As stated previously, this interview has been split into segments with the original recording listed on Herotaku’s Official YouTube Channel at a later date. Today’s segment will feature the start of Mr. Yamato’s stage team, and the series at hand, Fujiyama Ichiban.
What actually led to you creating Samurai Action Team?
Mr. Yamato: Basically the Japanese Samurai Style, stage combat is completely different from martial arts. In [the] case of martial arts we have to protect ourselves and also beat up your opponent, but in stage combat for the film and stage [is different]. That’s why I lead more of the entertainment side to show our movement to the audience. My specialty which is like a Rider Kick, the final technique, is one of the personalities/traits I have to establish to sell myself to Hollywood. Which means my specialty, my personality is Japanese style sword fighting, which is the samurai, ninja and kabuki style. That’s our origin. So I would like to introduce Japanese style to the American entertainment [industry].
Is that what also helped with the creation of Fujiyama Ichiban, is that what all led into the show?
Mr. Yamato: That’s completely correct. [When] I finished working for Saban and also another project, some of my friends [kept] asking me, [at the time] I was focused on school management maybe [for] 5 years, and [so] one of my friends was asking me, “Hey Michi, you want to do a superhero again?” and I was thinking I did it a lot, so maybe it’d okay. So I agreed but then he said, “Michi since you’re staying still in Hollywood, do something new.” And when he told me that I realized that if I was going to do a superhero, I have to make the personality specific to bring something new as a hero and also present my stage combat and martial arts to American people. I knew the American people respect the martial arts because in California [there are] lots of martial arts studios. That’s why, if I’m going to make/produce a superhero, I need something, the element, martial arts or stage combat stuff. That’s why I choose a ninja, samurai and also the cherry-blossom Sakura heroine, plus basic martial arts and Mount Fuji stuff. That would be the personality of Fujiyama Ichiban.
So from what I am able to understand, you are making the characters’ personalities off elements and styles that you teach through specific characters; one will do this style, one will do another style and they’ll all be a part of the same, in a sense, according genre to your stage show?
Mr. Yamato: Stage show and also culture because the ninja, samurai and sakura is Japanese Culture. That’s why I need an element like the Japanese culture in the hero, as I do not seek to copy Power Rangers and Masked Rider because they have been established already. So I needed something new to create a new hero. So that’s why I chose the culture side into the superhero.
With the heroes for Fujiyama Ichiban, what did it actually take to design and create the actual suits? Because from what I can already see, they are very nice suits and that’s probably one of the most standout things from what I seen from the production right now, as there’s a lot of detail within them.
Mr. Yamato: Thank you! Basically we established a concept, which is the ninja, the Japanese culture martial arts hero which is [a] samurai, ninja and also the double sword of the heroine. I designed the basic designs, this was a first. I then asked this Japanese designer, working for the Japanese Tokusatsu film [industry], and they polished it as suits for the hero, I mean as a design of the suits. So the basic idea is mine and I drew the first sketch, first design and I showed it to the Japanese designer working for the Japanese Tokusatsu TV program and they made it. That’s the step 2 to create a costume.
Oh so, you’re saying a lot of the suits were made in Japan?
Mr. Yamato: Correct.
That is actually interesting. I’m pretty sure that will be a huge feature for many in your audience that still don’t know yet. I’m guessing a lot of people believed that it was all made in America.
Mr. Yamato: This is the reason why. Again this isn’t [meant to be] insulting, but when I was working for Saban, I wore the costume for Masked Rider. The costume was made in America and that was for close up. The action suits were made in Japan and when I was wearing the close-up American costume it felt different. That’s why the costume making method is also one a part of the Japanese culture. That’s why when I decided to do a superhero made in America I have to order to the Japanese people. That’s the reason why I asked to do that.
That is interesting. I’ve heard from a lot of other stunt actors through interviews from Power Morphicon and such, that they were very displeased with the style of the interior of the scratch build of basic suits like you wore; the difference between the American suit and that worn in Japan. I knew that was one of the differences was that they didn’t have all the right materials or the right type of context to make the suits the same, or the suits were not the best of shape when finally getting them from Japan.
Mr. Yamato: Yeah the material is different and I think that is the culture difference [in creating]. The Japanese people are used to making such a costume, because every year they are making an Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Sentai or another TV series. Hollywood goes to a couple of costume companies. Every single costume company has their own style and I’m talking about their quality and trend, but Japanese costume companies have the same way to create a costume. That’s why Japanese people can make a costume for such a show. They know how to make and they know the method to create such a costume. Of course the Hollywood style like Batman and other superheroes, their costume is very great and also looks completely real. But that needs lots of money and time and I don’t think we cannot manage it. So that’s why I asked the Japanese people to create a costume for this.
What is your target audience, like the age range? And what can fans expect from the series, such as teachings or the regular toku savvy fans?
Mr. Yamato: The target age is 3 to 7. Mainly 3 to 7, the rating I’d consider is Y-7. I would hope that when kids see the show it makes the kids run to protect their families and friends, also the earth and the nature. So that’s the main theme. Also for the Tokusatsu fans, I would like to communicate the Japanese action style, to communicate/teach to the world Japanese culture.
As for the show itself, what are some things that audience should be looking forward to? For example the debut of new characters or some non-spoiler related plots.
Mr. Yamato: Next week will be the birth of Fujiyama Ichiban. After that begins the birth of Sakura Ichiban. And the following episodes are the birth of the Ninja Ichiban. I would like viewers to look forward to the sword action and the relationships going on, because Sun’s father is captured and then we don’t know [if] Fujiyama Ichiban and Fujiyama Ichiban’s friends can save him. Also for the bad guys side the three Rockmen: Rockman Red, Rockman Yellow [and] Rockman Blue will they stick together with Big Boss, Dark Matter or will they go to the human side and also maybe another enemy [is] going to appear to conquer the Earth. So the story is [an] unexpected storyline, so I would like the viewers to enjoy the stories such, as how the Fujiyama Ichiban warriors protect the earth and the relationships and nature.
Now as for the show thus far, is there any incorporation of tropes from other shows you’ve worked on or other tokus from Japan? Because as a fan myself, I have seen some nods in the first 2 to 3 episodes, towards some of the stunts to other works you were in, or you’ve done in the past. Also other fans brought my attention that elements from the series could be compared to Saban’s VR Trooper pertaining to Sun and his lost dad. Did you intending for that to happen, or are they just unexpected ones that even you didn’t realize were happening?
Mr. Yamato: I don’t think so, because basically they are more of a space opera story. I’m talking about VR Troopers. I think it’s just a coincidence with the father story of the son. The story goes to more different things, because on the bad guys’ side it is going to be more comic-like and the Fujiyama side will be serious. Maybe, I’m not sure yet, another warrior or bad warrior will come into the story. I don’t know, but of course I saw most of the Tokusatsu shows because I’m Japanese, I watch everything, most of the show[s] maybe some of the element[s] affected me, I think so. But I try to be original…
This concludes Part Two of our Interview with Mr. Yamato, creator of Fujiyama Ichiban. Check back on Friday, for the conclusion of this interview, where we discuss with Mr. Yamato the future of his series and who he personally thanks for his career. Now to see more of Fujiyama Ichiban, head over to their official YouTube channel and make sure to follow the series on Facebook, as well as Twitter!
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