I remember the call like it was yesterday.
"This is Haraguchi. I'm filming 'Death Kappa' and need an extra gaijin for a few scenes. Can you handle it?"
"I was born to play this role, sir. Literally."
"Great. And bring Hiroko, too."
Now that the Death Kappa DVD/Bluray is out, the true story can be told. This wasn't our first shot as extras in a monster movie -- that would be our epic, blink-and-you'll-miss-it roles in a crowd of yokai in Takashi Miike's "Yokai Daisenso" -- but this was the first chance we got to actually react. Emote. Method act. Really express the essential humanity of... of... being in a Japanese monster film.
Our role was to occupy the "command center" set up by the military to deal with the giant, nuclear kappa raging through downtown Tokyo.Things started quietly, with us as little more than human backdrops to the action. The extra ranks were filled with pals of the director. Right to left in the photo below, flanking the "real" actor, you can see Kondo Yutaka (illustrator of Ninja Attack!), Hiroko, me, and the Karasawas (creators of the mind-bendingly awesome "King of Pachimono" magazine.) This was a big step up for both of us but Hiroko in particular, who spent most of her time on the Yokai Daisenso set wearing an enormous frog head.
About halfway through the day, Haraguchi had a flash of inspiration. "I need some freaks. Kappa freaks. You!" he said, pointing at me (big surprise), then Kondo, and then Naoki Karasawa. Our job was to react to news of the kappa defeating the human military forces -- and here's the result:
So. Total time spent on set: eight hours. Total screen time: maybe eight seconds. Compensation: a bento lunch. And the experience? Absolutely priceless... Because now I'm one step closer to that elusive goal of becoming a professional kaiju eiga extra. Maybe I'l really luck out and get to actually be stomped by the giant monster next time.
Huh? How's the actual movie? Also priceless. Death Kappa is the Citizen Kane of radioactive yokai movies. Buy it now! Seriously! It's a lot of fun.