Japan’s Crucial Role in Turning “Mad Max” into a Global Aussie Icon

The Japanese movie poster for “Mad Max”

Turning the clock back 40 years, Japan played a crucial role in giving Australia a leg-up toward becoming a player in the global movie industry.
In late 1977, a couple of fledgling Australian filmmakers pooled their meager funds and shot a movie starring mostly unknown young actors and actual motorcycle gang members serving as extras.
Almost two years later, Mad Max opened Australian theaters and became a steady, but controversial hit. The car action movie was immediately banned in New Zealand as some of its motorcycle gang violence resembled actual events in the market most closely resembling Australia’s.
Australia’s movie industry was in the middle of a growing renaissance, backed by a generous government funding program and the emergence of a large number of talented directors and actors. Mad Max was made for a mere pittance in movie terms, costing just $350,000. Backed by the steady performance at the Australian box office, the movie’s first overseas sale was made to Japan, then a country where bosozoku motorcycle gangs were having their heyday.
Mad Max became a massive hit in the world’s second-largest movie market. This Big in Japan success made overseas sales a much easier task and the movie was sold widely across the globe. It would be a slow burner that flared following the phenomenal success of its first sequel, Mad Max 2, released in 1981. The box office for Mad Max would eventually surpass $100 million and for more than two decades it would hold the world record for the greatest ratio between production cost and box office.

“Fist of the North Star”

These sales led to a sequel and opened the door for the actor in the title role,Mel Gibson, to become a global superstar (until he destroyed his career a quarter of a century later in a drunken rant about Jews followed by enraged verbal and allegedly physical attacks on the mother of his youngest child). Further sequels, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which came out in 1985, and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road with Briton Tom Hardy playing the titular character.
Mad Max created an enormous legacy that went much further than the sequels and Gibson turning into a Hollywood superstar. The effects were particularly strong in terms of Australia-Japan collaborations. The movie itself benefited greatly from Kawasaki, which donated all the motorcycles used in the film. But there was much more.
Drawing heavily from the Mad Max saga, the enduring Fist of the North Star would become one of Japan’s most successful manga in the 1980s and made stars of its writer, Buronsanand illustrator, Tetsuo Hara.
Akira Kushida would get one of his early hits with Rollin’ into the Night, which played over the end credits of the Japanese version of the movie.
As noted in the accompanying newspaper article from the May 10, 1982, edition of the Melbourne Age, the success of the early editions in the series would spark joint movie production efforts between Japan and Australia.
The article mentions a movie under production and entitled “The Southern Cross.” The first-ever joint Australia-Japan feature film collaboration would eventually come out later in 1982 with the new English title of The Highest Honor (it would remain under its original title in Japanese). That movie was quickly forgotten, but it is notable for being the debut movie of Hitomi Kuroki, still one of Japan’s most successful actresses to this day.

An Aussie Touch to a Landmark Japanese TV Show

Australia provided an (admittedly unacknowledged) touch to Monster Prince (怪獣王子), one of Japan’s most popular TV shows in the late 1960s.
Monster Prince told the story of Takeru Ibuki, a boy left stranded on a tropical island while a baby when his family is caught in a volcanic eruption and subsequently raised by dinosaurs living there.
Together with his brontosaurus friend, Nessie, Takeru defends the island, and by extension the Earth, from invading aliens.
And that’s where the Australian touch comes in…Takeru’s weapon of choice is a boomerang!
The show ran for two series and was made by Nihon Tokusatsu Kabukikaisha.
The role of Takeru was shared by twins, Yoshinori and Mitsunori Nomura, both of who were prominent child actors at the time, but for who this would be their final role before they both left showbiz.
Monster Prince was plagued by troubles throughout its duration, though its merchandise did brisk sales.
Confectionary giant, Lotte, the program’s sponsor, wanted to pull the plug after the first series, but agreed to extend its backing when the show was sold to the United States.
In-fighting also plagued the program, which was shot in Kyoto but by a crew from Tokyo, and rivalries between those from the ancient and modern capitals were apparently fierce.
Nihon Tokusatsu Kabukikaisha wound up following the end of this series, which came as the tokusatsu boom that had encompassed Japan through much of the 1960s slowly declined from its zenith.

Check out KAIJU OUJI: MONSTER PRINCE, which has an awesome write-up on Monster Prince, a program also known outside of Japan by the romanization of its Japanese title,Kaiju Ouji.

See a subtitled version of the first-ever episode of Monster Prince (featuring plenty of boomerang throwing and an awesome scream to kick-off the opening titles!)

Ramen Cake Will Make You Do Your Noodle!

Ramen cake

Nationwide all-you-can-eat sweets franchise Sweets Paradise make amazing cakes decorated to look like main meals but almost indistinguishable from them until tasted.
Sweets Paradise makes an assortment of foods that look like main dishes but are actually cakes, including bowls of noodles, omelets, katsudon and eel.
What’s more, the prices are extremely reasonable, at around 1,200 yen, which is about half what you’d normally pay for a similarly sized cake anywhere in Japan.
Sweets Paradise has outlets throughout Japan, but also sells its wares online.

Ramen cake

Ramen cake

Ramen cake

Ramen cake

Little Girl’s Story Opens Door to Aussie Animal Boom in Japan

Scenes from Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow

Back in the early ’80s Australia did not command a great deal of attention in Japan (to be honest, it still doesn’t command that great a presence to this day…)

Things changed, however, with the launch of Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow.
Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow was an anime by Nippon Animation that aired weekly from January 10 to December 26, 1982.

The cartoon told the story of Lucy-May Popple and her family, who had emigrated from Yorkshire to live in Adelaide, Australia. The story was based on a book called Southern Rainbow by Australian author Phyllis Piddington. The anime would be translated into numerous languages and aired in many countries outside of Japan.

The DVD cover

The cartoon introduced Japanese audiences to all sorts of Australian animals that were then largely unknown. Among the Australian creatures featured on the show were kangaroos, platypuses, wombats, kookaburras and koalas. There were no koalas in Japan when the cartoon aired, but the marsupials would sweep the country of its feet with their cuteness when the first koalas arrived at the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya two years later.

Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow was part of the World Masterpiece Theater, a yearlong series that featured an anime adaptation of a famous book. Among those who worked on the series were Hayao Miyazaki, who had already left Nippon Animation before Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow aired. World Masterpiece Theater aired from 1969 to 1997, then resumed after a 10-year hiatus and continues to air now.

A Toast to Fine Electronics

 

Breville sandwich maker

日本は世界中に素晴らしい家電など電気製品で知られているが、オーストラリアもグローバル存在感が大きな電気製品会社があったのは知った?
 それはブレビル社という会社。
 1932年にメルボルン市で設立されたので歴史がそこそこあるが、家電を中心に展開した。
 日本ではブレビル商品に関してバリスタが使うコーヒーメーカーかジューサーが主な商品だけど世界中に発売されている。日本ではお馴染み薄いが、トースターについて英語圏の一部ではトーストサンドが「ブレビル」と呼ばれているぐらい浸透している。
 チャンスがあったら、オーストラリアのブレビルを使ってみてはいかがでしょうか?

カンガルーの玉袋が不足している!

カンガルーの玉袋おみやげ

 オーストラリアの定番おみやげとなっている「カンガルーの玉袋」が不足している。
 この数年、洪水、間伐その他の気候変動によって行っている現象がカンガルーの数に影響を与え、本体が少なくなってれば玉袋も当然稀となる。
 オーストラリアの有数カンガルー玉袋製造者であるジョン・クルーガー氏によると激しい天気になるとカンガルーがもっと安全である内陸へ逃げ狩りづらくなる。
 気候変動による激しい天気の頻度が高くなっている。

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