Eiji Tsuburaya (円谷 英二) was an influential special effects director considered by many to be the "God of Tokusatsu". Born July 7, 1901 (as Eiichi Tsumuraya) and died January 11, 1970, Tsuburaya is famed in Japan for having effectively created the nation's special effects industry, as well as his involvement in the creation of two of its most iconic pop culture characters — Godzilla and Ultraman.
During his childhood, Tsuburaya was fascinated with aviation, which was a hobby he'd have all his life. In 1919, he took up his first job as a cameraman for Nikkatsu. In 1938 he became special effects director at Toho Studios. During World War II, he worked on several propaganda films, one of which, The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malay, featured a recreation of the Pearl Harbor bombings so well done the American censors during the post-war occupation became frightened and thought it was real footage of Pearl Harbor. This actually got him accused of involvement in espionage, resulting in a brief exile from Toho.
After the war, he formed his own independent effects company until returning to Toho in 1951. In 1954 he was one of the team who made Godzilla (1954), and he was head of the special effects team for all the Godzilla movies up through All Monsters Attack, as well as many other fantasy, science-fiction, and war films of the period. However, due to work on at his own studio mentioned below, he only supervised visual effects for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Son of Godzilla, and Destroy All Monsters, and received credit in All Monsters Attack out of respect for him despite no involvement due to serious illness.
In 1963, Eiji Tsuburaya established his own studio called Tsuburaya Productions to do special effects work for other companies, but in 1966, he and his crew became better known as the creator of another classic tokusatsu series, Ultraman. Alongside the equally acclaimed Ultra Q and Ultraseven, Ultraman would spawn the Ultra Series whose heroes would become as popular in Japan as Godzilla himself and the most beloved of his studio's works.
During his 50-year career, he worked on approximately 250 films in total. Let's just cut down on films he's worked on that you'll recognize.
Films and series he's worked on:
- Half Human
- The Mysterians
- The H-Man
- Varan, the Unbelievable
- The Three Treasures
- Battle in Outer Space
- The Secret of the Telegian
- The Human Vapor
- Frankenstein Conquers the World
- Ultra Series
- Kaiju Booska
- King Kong Escapes
- Mighty Jack
- Latitude Zero
Tropes applying to Eiji Tsuburaya and his work
- Author Appeal:
- Christian Faux Symbolism is common in a number of his works, which is not surprising given his religious background.
- He had a fondness for comedic monster scenes to give his kaiju character and make audiences laugh. The infamous Victory Dance that Godzilla performs in Invasion of Astro-Monster is an excellent example. Apparently, Ishirō Honda and Haruo Nakajima sternly objected to its inclusion, but Tsuburaya's insistence won out.
- Cool Old Guy: He was 54 when he started working on Godzilla movies and 66 by the time Ultraman began, but was deeply respected by his comrades for his tirelessness. His crew often called him "Oyaji", or "The Old Man".
- Friend to All Children: Eiji Tsuburaya was very fond of kids and strongly believed in keeping his work child-friendly. He abhorred Family-Unfriendly Violence (he once became angry at a crewman for suggesting to make Godzilla bleed) and disliked depressing and cynical stories ("Don't destroy the dreams of children", he instructed to the Ultra Q writers).
- People in Rubber Suits: He popularized this trope for Japanese special effects, although he originally wanted to do stop-motion when developing Godzilla (1954), but had to find another method due to the lack of time and resources available for such an undertaking.
- The Perfectionist: Eiji was a stickler for perfection in his work. He would think nothing twice about having his crew completely rebuild a painstakingly constructed miniature that had taken months to make if a single shot went wrong.
- Rule of Fun: His philosophy towards special effects. He wanted audiences to exercise their imaginations and be filled with childlike wonder when watching his work.