Noriaki Yuasa


The son of a stage actor, Noriaki Yuasa himself became a child actor for some years before attending university. Upon graduation, realizing that he disliked the actor’s life, he sought work on the other side of the camera, joining Daiei Studios in 1955. There he studied under such accomplished directors as Yuzo Kawashima, Koji Shima, and Umeji Inoue. In 1964 Daiei promoted him to director with the musical comedy Shiawasa nara te o tatake (If You’re Happy, Clap Your Hands, 1964). He was tapped next to make Dai gunju Nezura (The Great Rat Swarm), which was to be made with real rats crawling over miniatures of cities. But the rats brought with them fleas, and the resulting epidemic rendered the product impractical. Since the miniatures were already built, however, Daiei had to think of something else to destroy them. Studio chief Masaichi Nagata had had a whimsical idea about a giant flying turtle; screenwriter Nisan Takahashi and director Yuasa fashioned it into Daikaiju Gamera (1965), a surprise smash hit whicch became the first real challenger to the primacy of Toho’s Gojira character. Yuasa went on to direct all but one of the seven Gamera sequels through 1980 (he directed only the special effects for Gamera tai Barugon (1966)). As the series grew more juvenile, Yuasa actually enjoyed it more, as making entertainments for children appealed to him more than making more “serious” monster pictures. His favorite of his own movies was the first most obviously childish of all the sequels, Gamera tai uchu kaiju Bairasu (1968). Except for Uchu Kaiju Gamera (1980), Yuasa has directed only television work since Daiei’s financial collapse in 1971.