|Native name||本多 猪四郎|
May 7, 1911|
Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
|Died||February 28, 1993
|Cause of death||Respiratory failure|
|Occupation||Director, producer, screenwriter, editor|
|Spouse(s)||Kimi Honda (1937 – February 28, 1993) (his death)|
Ishirō Honda (本多猪四郎 Honda Ishirō, May 7, 1911 – February 28, 1993), sometimes miscredited in foreign releases as "Inoshiro Honda", was a Japanese film director. He is best known for his kaiju and tokusatsu films, including several entries in the Godzilla series, but also worked extensively in the documentary and war genres earlier in his career. Honda was also a lifelong friend and collaborator of Akira Kurosawa, and worked with Kurosawa extensively during the 1980s and 1990s.
Honda was born in Asahi, Yamagata (now part of the city of Tsuruoka) and was the fifth and youngest child of Hokan and Miho Honda. He had three brothers: Takamoto, Ryokichi, Ryuzo, and one sister: Tomi, who passed away during her childhood.
Honda's father and grandfather were both Buddhist monks at Churen-ji, a temple in Mount Yudono, where the Honda's lived in a dwelling on the temple's property. The Honda's grew rice, potatoes, daikon radishes, and carrots. They also made and sold Miso and soy sauce. The family also received income from a silk moth farm managed by one of Honda's brothers. Honda's father earned income during the summers by selling devotions in Iwate Prefecture, Akita Prefecture, and Hokkaido and would return home before the winter.
While Honda's brothers were given religious tutoring at sixteen, Honda was learning about science. Takamoto, who became a military doctor, encouraged Honda to study and sent him scientific magazines to help, which started Honda's love for reading and scientific curiosity.
In 1912, the Honda's moved to Tokyo where they settled in the Takaido neighborhood of the Suginami ward and where Hokan became the chief priest at a Buddhist temple. Though being an honors student back home, Honda's grades declined in Tokyo and in middle school, struggled with subjects involving equations such as chemistry, biology, and algebra.
After his father transferred to another temple, Honda enrolled in the Tachibana Elementary school in Kawasaki and later in Kogyokusha Junior High where Honda studied kendo, archery, and athletic swimming but quit after tearing his Achilles tendon.
In 1937, Honda met Kimi Yamasaki and proposed to her in 1939, to which she said "yes". Though Honda's parents and Kimi's mother were supportive, Kimi's father was opposed to the sudden engagement. Though Kimi's father never approved of her marriage, he nonetheless sent her a checkbook of ¥1,000 upon learning of her pregnancy. Rather than having a traditional wedding ceremony, the two simply signed papers at city hall, paid their respects at Meiji Shrine, and went home.
Honda became interested in films when he and his classmates were assembled to watch one of the Universal Bluebird photoplays. Honda would have often sneaked to a movie theater without his parents' permission. For silent films in Japan at that time, onscreen texts were replaced with "benshi", narrators who stood beside the screen and provided live commentary, which Honda found more fascinating than the films themselves.
Honda's brother, Takamoto, had hoped for Honda to become a dentist and join his clinic in Tokyo but instead, Honda applied at Nihon University for their art department's film major program and was accepted in 1931. The film department was a pilot program, which resulted in disorganized poor conditions for the class and cancelations from the teacher every so often. While this forced other students to quit, Honda instead used the cancelled periods to watch films at theaters, where he took personal notes.
Honda and four of his classmates rented a room in Shinbashi, a few kilometers from their university, where they would hang after school to discuss films. Honda had hoped for the group to collaborate on a screenplay but they mainly just socialized and drank. Honda participated in a salon of film critics and student but hardly participated, rather preferred to listen.
While in school, Honda met Iwao Mori, an executive in charge of production for Photographic Chemical Laboratories (PCL). In August 1933, Mori offered entry level jobs at PCL to a few students, including Honda. Honda eventually completed his studies while working at the studio and became an assistant director, which required him to be a scripter in the editing department. Honda eventually became a third assistant director on Sotoji Kimura's The Elderly Commoner's Life Study (1934). However, Honda then received a draft notice from the military.
At 23 years old, Honda was drafted in the fall of 1934. Despite receiving a passing grade on his physical examination, he was not required to report for immediate duty. While waiting for his call up, Honda continued working at PCL. Honda was then called to duty in January 1935 and was enlisted into the First Division, First Infantry Regiment in Tokyo. At the time, Honda began his training at the entry-level rank of Ippeisotsu, the equivalent of Petty Officer First Class.
In 1936, Honda's former commanding officer, Yasuhide Kurihara, launched a coup against the civilian government, what would be called the February 26 Incident. Though Honda had no involvement with the coup, everyone associated with Kurihara were considered dangerous and the brass wanted them gone and as a result, Honda and his regiment were sent to Manchukuo in 1936, under questionable pretense. Honda would have completed his 18 remaining months of service had it not been for the coup and would be recalled to service again and again for the remainder of the war.
Honda was recalled to service in mid-December 1939, a week before his daughter, Takako, was due to be born. Having already risen in rank, Honda was able to visit his wife and daughter in the hospital but had to leave afterwards immediately to China.
Between 1940 to 1941, Honda was assigned to manage a "comfort station", a euphemism for brothels established in occupied areas. Honda would later write an essay titled Reflections of an Officer in Charge of Comfort Women published in Movie Art Magazine in April 1966, detailing his experiences and other comfort women's experiences working in comfort stations.
Honda would then return home in December 1942, only to find that PCL (now rebranded as Toho by that point) were forced to produce propaganda to support the war effort. The government took control of the Japanese film industry in 1939, modeling the passage of motion picture laws after Nazi policies where scripts and films were reviewed so they supported the war effort and filmmakers noncompliant were punished or worse.
Honda's son, Ryuji, was born on January 31, 1944, however, Honda received another draft notice in March 1944. He was assigned to head for the Philippines but his unit missed the boat and were sent back to China instead. To Honda's fortune, the conflict in China was less intense than it was in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Honda became a sergeant and was in charge of trading and communicating with civilians. Honda never ordered the Chinese as a soldier and was respectful to them as much as possible.
Honda was eventually captured by the Chinese National Revolutionary Army and relocated to an area between Beijing and Shanghai for a year before the war ended. During his imprisonment, Honda stated to have been treated well and was even befriended by the locals and temple monks, who offered him to stay permanently but Honda respectfully refused in favor of finding his wife and children. As a parting gift, the locals gave Honda rubbings of Chinese proverbs, imprinted from stone carvings of sacred temples. Honda would later write these verses in the back of his screenplays.
During his final tour, Honda escaped death near Hankou when a mortar shell landed before him but did not detonate. When the battle ended, Honda later returned to retrieve the shell and took it back home to Japan where he placed it on top of his desk in his private study until his death.
During his entire military service, Honda served three tours, with a total of six years serving at the front.
Honda returned to work at Toho as an assistant director. In 1946, he worked on two films: Motoyoshi Oda's Eleven Girl Students and Kunio Watanabe's Declaration of Love. In 1947, he worked on three films, 24 Hours in an Underground Market (jointly directed by Tadashi Imai, Hideo Sekigawa, and Kiyoshi Kusuda) and The New Age of Fools Parts One and Two, directed by Kajirō Yamamoto.
Due to issues with trade unions and employees at Toho, many left to form Shintoho. Kunio Watanabe tried to convince Honda to join Shintoho, with the promise of Honda becoming a director quicker, however, Honda chose to remain neutral and stayed at Toho. Despite struggling at Toho, Honda worked on a handful of films produced by Film Arts Associates Productions.
Between September and October 1948, Honda was on location in Noto Peninsula working on Kajirō Yamamoto's Child of the Wind, the first release from Film Arts. From January to March 1949, Honda worked with Yamamoto again on Flirtation in Spring.
He directed the original Godzilla along with King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Destroy All Monsters (1968), and many others until 1975. He also directed such tokusatsu films such as Rodan, Mothra and The War of the Gargantuas. His last feature film was Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). The following years were spent directing various science fiction TV shows. The superhero shows Return of Ultraman, Mirrorman, and Zone Fighter were also his. In addition, he directed the cult film Matango.
After retiring as a director, Honda returned more than 30 years later to work again for his old friend and former mentor Akira Kurosawa as a directorial advisor, production coordinator and creative consultant on his last five films. Allegedly one segment of the Kurosawa film Dreams was actually directed by Honda following Kurosawa's detailed storyboards.
His most memorable quotation: "Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy—that is their tragedy", when he spoke of his film Rodan a decade after his first Godzilla film. This statement alone would give fans the impression that his intent was to give all kaiju a distinct personality instead of just being a monster-on-the-loose. In 2009, the first book in English was published detailing Honda's life and genre films called Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men - The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda written by Peter H. Brothers. "Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa" is a 2017 critical biographical study of Honda's career by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski.
|The Newlyweds (Shinkon san)||January 7, 1967||TBS Television||"The Woman, at That Moment" ("Onna wa sono toki")|||
|February 7, 1967||"Forgive Me Please, Mom" ("Yurushitene okasan")|||
|Husbands, Men, Be Strong (Otto yo otoko yo tsuyokunare)||October 9, 1969||NET Network||"Honey, It's a Presdential Order" ("Anata shacho meirei yo")|||
|October 30, 1969||"We're Going South-Southwest" ("Nan nan sei ni ikuno yo")|||
|Return of Ultraman (Kaettekita Urutoraman)||April 2, 1971||TBS Television||"Charge of the Monsters" ("Kaiju soshingeki")|||
|April 9, 1971||"Takkong's Great Revenge" ("Takkong daigyakushu")|||
|May 14, 1971||"Operation Monster Rainbow" ("Kaiju reinbo sakusen")|||
|May 28, 1971||"SOS Monster Island" ("Kaiju shima SOS")|||
|March 31, 1971||"The Five Ultra Pledges" ("Ututora go-tsu no chikai")|||
|Mirrorman (Miraman)||December 5, 1971||Fuji Television||"Birth of Mirrorman" ("Miraman tanjo")|||
|December 12, 1971||"The Intruder is Here" ("Shinryakusha wa koko ni iru")|||
|Emergency Command 10-4, 10-10 (Kinkyu shirei 10-4, 10-10)||July 31, 1972||NET Network||"Japanese Beetle Murder Incident" ("Kabutomushi satsujin jiken")|||
|August 7, 1972||"Vampire of the Amazon" ("Amazon no kyuketsuki")|||
|November 13, 1972||"Assassin from Outer Space" ("Uchu kara kita ansatsuha")|||
|November 20, 1972||"Attack of Monster Bird Ragon" ("Kaicho Ragon no shugeki!")|||
|Thunder Mask (Sanda masku)||October 3, 1972||Nippon TV||"Look! The Double Transformation of the Akatsuki" ("Miyo! Akatsuki no nidan henshin")|||
|October 10, 1972||"The Boy Who Could Control Monsters" ("Maju wo ayatsuru shonen")|||
|October 21, 1972||"Devil Freezing Strategy" ("Mao reito sakusen")|||
|October 28, 1972||"Merman's Revenge" ("Kyuketsu hankyojin no fukushu")|||
|January 2, 1973||"Monster Summoning Smoke" ("Maju wo yobu kemuri")|||
|January 9, 1973||"Degon H: Death Siren" ("Shi no kiteki da degon H")|||
|Meteor Man Zone (Ryusei ningen Zon)||April 16, 1973||"Defeat Garoga's Subterranean Base!" ("Tatake! Garoga no chitei kichi")|||
|April 23, 1973||"Onslaught! The Garoga Army: Enter Godzilla" ("Raishu! Garoga daiguntai-Gojira toujo")|||
|June 18, 1973||"Terrobeat HQ: Invade the Earth!" ("Kyoju kichi chikyu e shinnyu!")|||
|June 25, 1973||"Absolute Terror: Birthday of Horror!" ("Senritsu! Tanjobi no kyofu")|||
|July 30, 1973||"Mission: Blast the Japan Islands" ("Shirei: Nihon retto bakuha seyo")|||
|August 6, 1973||"Order: Destroy Earth with Comet K" ("Meirei: K susei de chikyu wo kowase")|||
|September 3, 1973||"Secret of Bakugon, the Giant Terro-Beast" ("Daikyouju Bakugon no himitsu")|||
|September 10, 1973||"Smash the Pin-Spitting Needlar" ("Hari fuki Nidora wo taose")|||
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