Greetings from beyond The Veil, O Worthy Friends!
Today marks the passing of a Japanese actor, famous in his homeland for multitudes of films and roles, but best known here in the West for his roles in Japanese Monster & Science-Fiction films. Perhaps his most famous role is that of the tormented Dr. Serizawa, creator of the Oxygen Destroyer that defeated the first incarnation of Godzilla, in Ishiro Honda’s GOJIRA (1954). I speak, of course, of Akihiko Hirata who passed away on this day in the year 1984, after a long bout with cancer. What made his passing sadder, is that he was actually going to portray the scientist in Koji Hashimoto’s GOJIRA (1984) aka THE RETURN OF GODZILLA, even helping to announce the start of the film’s production, but was then unable to. Yosuke Natsuki, who played Shindo in Ishiro Honda’s GHIDRAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964), took on the role. Hirata played numerous parts in the Toho Effects films, such as the Chief of Detectives in both GHIDRAH and Honda’s H-MAN (1958), an agent of the Mu Empire in Honda’s ATRAGON (1963) and a commander of the Red Bamboo Army in Jun Fukuda’s GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER (1966) wearing an eye patch on the OTHER eye, this time). Almost fittingly, Hirata’s final role in a Godzilla film came in the final film of the Showa Era, in Honda’s TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), once more playing a tragic scientist, thus book-ending the first Godzilla film series.