[Interview] Actor Seikoh Senoo, Star of Chojinki Metalder

“Ikaru!” (Anger!)

Today, is a historical event for this site’s legacy, as we have our first interview with a former tokusatsu actor. We have been lucky enough to get in contact with the star of Chojinki Metalder, Mr. Seikoh Senoo. For those unaware, Chojinki Metalder is the sixth installment in Toei’s Metal Hero series, which aired from March 1987 to January 1988. The series ran for a total of 39-episodes, and one feature film before being succeeded by Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya. However in 1994, the series would go onto being adapted into Saban’s VR Troopers, alongside Space Sheriff Shaider and Jikuu Senshi Spielban.

 

Now, the premise for Chojinki Metalder features Dr. Ryūichirō Koga awakening his never deployed World War II secret weapon, Metalder, to combat the growing threat of the Neros Empire. Metalder, himself, is a superhuman-android based off Dr. Koga’s son Tatsuo, but given the human alias of Ryusei Tsurugi to avoid confusion. In addition, Ryusei Tsurugi must learn what it means to human, if he is to living among the people he must protect, and learn the identity of God Neros!

 

Anyways, Mr. Seikoh Senoo who portrayed Ryusei Tsurugi/ Metalder is very approachable, and even with our language barrier, he graciously accepted our questionnaire over social media. Yet, this interview may not be too in-depth as fans would like, but we do try to pull back the curtain on the series. In addition, our interview will allow Mr. Senoo to present his personal thoughts on the show in retrospect, and how it has been received internationally. Nevertheless, let us jump right into this interview with Mr. Seikoh Senoo!

 

BTS of Episode 13

Question 1: Mr. Senoo, what was the inspiration for you to pursue a career in acting?

Mr. Senoo: I’ve always loved watching dramas and movies since I was a kid, and I felt that being moved by the performances was a very pleasant sensation. Seeing those productions made me want to perform plays and skits in school, specifically comedies; maybe it was because I always enjoyed seeing the reactions of the audience. Yet, I wasn’t entirely motivated to become an actor until I was 18 years old. I had gotten into a traffic accident, and came face-to-face with a near death experience. It then became my motivation to be an actor, as I felt like a ‘higher power’ was guiding me. It told me to not live for myself, but to do something for others. So, I realized what I enjoyed was acting, and how it affected others. Following that I entered into an actor training school to properly hone my craft.

 

Question 2: How did you come to learn about auditions for Metalder, and what was the audition process like?

Mr. Senoo: The training staff from my school who I mentioned in the first question asked me. I was good at sports and I was practicing martial arts, so I think the conditions were right. When I auditioned, I didn’t have a clue as to what the show was!

 

Question 3: It must have been hard to portray an emotionless android/ super-weapon that is meant to learn about humanity and defend it. So, what were early issues you encountered with the role when filming began?

Mr. Senoo: It was fun to play an emotionless android. I imagined I was supposed to move more mechanically with fewer facial expressions, but it was pointed out that it would not be the case. The movie Robo Cop was just released in Japan, so I used it as a reference. Furthermore, I thought that the protagonist could act as if he was growing up with the children watching Metalder.

 

Film Still from Opening Credits

However, the first problem I encountered while filming was with the opening credit sequence. It’s a scene where I am running down to the sea while swinging down a Japanese sword. That beach consisted of shells, coarse sand, and rocks, so the soles of my feet were cut and bleeding. Yet, since I was a new actor, I put up with it without saying anything. Good memories!

 

Question 4: How often were you required to do your own stunts, and which were the most difficult to perform?

Mr. Senoo: Unless I felt that a stunt was too dangerous, such as jumping out/ off of a high place, I would perform most of the stunts myself. I did all the car stunts, like driving during explosion scenes. A complicated example was when gunpowder was used a lot in the explosive scenes, so the studio often uses quarries, where dynamite is allowed. However, if you are filming an action scene in such a place, sometimes you may injure your hand or forehead slightly. Then the director shouts “No Good/ Cut! The robot can’t shed blood!” So, I had no choice but to re-shoot the scene.

 

Question 5: You got to work with other amazing actors known internationally for their contributions to the tokusatsu genre like Mr. Ohba and Mr. Watari; what was it like getting to work with them on Metalder or on other productions?

Mr. Senoo: Everyone was very cheerful and joyous, we often fooled around a lot. Kenji Ohba in particular had a lot of fun trying to make me laugh. When I would say a line directly to the camera, he would often make a funny face at me and always made me laugh. He would also whisper some nonsensical words and sometimes wink at me. Ohba would often laugh a lot, and once the director sent us the bloopers. They were truly wonderful mentors.

 

Mr. Senoo with his Saxophone (Ep. 17)

Question 6: Something I noticed during the series’ progression was Ryusei’s unexpected transition from playing the violin due to Tatsuo’s memories to the saxophone. I understand the saxophone is one of your personal hobbies, so did you suggest the change to happen or was it an idea from a producer?

Mr. Senoo: One of the characteristics for Ryusei was “being capable of playing various musical instruments.” First I played the violin in the series because it was specified in the script, but I had never touched a violin before. Then a later script had the next instrument I played be a saxophone. Now, that choice was probably because the scriptwriter knew I could actually play the instrument, I didn’t ask for the change to occur. Also, the saxophone seen in the series is actually my own, I really played it and it wasn’t pre-recorded.

 

Question 7: Rumors surfaced online regarding the production that say, at times filming was rough and the series had budget/ episode cuts. Now, are any of those comments true? And if so, what were the cause of those problems?

Mr. Senoo: I don’t know at all and I’ve never heard the actual confirmation on it. I’ve heard stories from fans after the show finished, but I never heard it from the staff during filming nor afterwards. At the various filming locations, the cast and staff took a risk while producing the show. If such rumors had reached the set during production, everyone’s motivation would have dropped, and it could have led to possible injuries. Maybe its’ cancellation is a true story, but I don’t know myself.

 

Images from Mr. Senoo’s Album

Question 8: My staff and I read online that the character of Hakko (played by Kazuoki Takahashi) was intended to be a part of the show from the beginning. However, when the time came to introduce the character, the concept/ background had changed. Was that all thanks to issues addressed in the previous question?

Mr. Senoo: It’s similar to the answer as seen above, I don’t know anything. Metalder was lonely, he had no friends to fight with, and only had his dog, Springer as a companion. So, I remember I was happy to see Hakko (Mr. Kazuoki Takahashi), both as a new character to interactive with and as a new member of the cast.

 

Question 9: What are your opinions on the show’s finale; did Metalder truly die or did his human-disguise just merely vanish?

Mr. Senoo: I personally loved the finale. I was asked by the staff, “Senoo, what kind of story ending would you like?” And my response was, “If my wish could come true, I would want to disappear at the end, because I can remain forever in the hearts of the children.” That’s because all the programs I remember watching when I was a kid were particularly well remembered for the hero leaving forever; shows like Ultraseven, Giant Robo, etc. I wanted to express the sacrificial spirit of wanting to protect someone and then disappearing forever. I don’t think my wish came true entirely when the script was written, but I was happy with that last scene. I want to think that I wasn’t dead, just that I couldn’t transform anymore.

 

Question 10: What are your favorite memories about the show itself, or about its filming?

Mr. Senoo: I would say the episode when the Android Girl Yume appeared. The actress was very cute, and we would often spend time together when we weren’t shooting. However, another fond memory I have was of a dog. The dog’s real name was “German”, but in reality the dog was an old female dog. She became very emotionally attached to me, so much so that when the animal trainer’s signals couldn’t call her, she would always take my directions. The trainer regardless was pleased by that, and it also ended up shortening our shooting schedule. The dog was so cute that I would often feed her some of my bread, but I’m afraid that’s supposed to be a secret! (I got scolded for it.)

 

Question 11: Since the show’s finale how often do you stay in contact with your co-stars, or other tokusatsu actors? And what fan events or conventions do you attend?

Mr. Senoo: I try to participate in fan events whenever my schedule allows it. I still talk to most of the actors from the various hero programs if I see them. I personally associate with Takumi Tsutsui (Toha Yamaji/ Jiraiya) from Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya, Megumi Mori (Megumi Misaki/ Blue Dolphin) from Choju Sentai Liveman, Shohei Kusaka (Naoto Tamura/ Jiban) from Kidou Keiji Jiban, and Juri Miyazawa (Saya/ Ginga Pink) from Seijuu Sentai Gingaman.

Image courtesy of Xavier Ferrandez (Lescargotographe) & France’s Comics Games Festival

Question 12: Would you one day like to reprise the role of Ryusei/ Metalder? And has Toei ever approached you with the idea of a return?

Mr. Senoo: If asked, I would love to revisit my character. However, Toei has not contacted me about it. Perhaps because of how the show ended, it may be hard to revive Ryusei/ Metalder.

 

Question 13: How much do you know of Metalder’s American adaptation as part of Saban’s VR Troopers, and do you have any opinions on it?

Mr. Senoo: I’m sorry, I don’t know much about that. I’ve heard rumors that it’s not being called Metalder during re-broadcasts and I heard stories about it airing in Brazil and France from time to time. However, to hear there were people who knew of it in the United States was a great pleasure to learn as well!

 

Question 14: Finally, what are your opinions on tokusatsu’s expanding reach into other countries, and what do you have to say to your international fans?

Mr. Senoo: 33 years have passed since Metalder was broadcast on television, and when my show was airing, I never expected that the word ‘tokusatsu’ would spread throughout the world. I think it is very meaningful and wonderful that it is recognized, and how it gives many children hopes and dreams. Nevertheless, I am very happy to have been in tokusatsu, and I am grateful for the support I have received. I feel the greatest of happiness when people who were children at that time when the show aired, still remember Metalder. I greatly appreciate that. Thank you everyone! …

 

This concludes our interview with the iconic Mr. Seikoh Senoo, and we are honored to have talked with him. Fans can currently follow him on Twitter, and if pleasant enough, Mr. Senoo might respond to tweets. Also, fans should feel free to tell him how the series affected their lives, as it may convince him to seek out more international events to attend. Whereas, if this interview is an introduction to Chojinki Metalader for readers, please go seek the series out! In addition, the series is available in some countries thanks to Toei Tokusatsu World Official on YouTube. Furthermore, a special thanks must go out to our friends and translators: ProtomanV89, Touma Kaito, & SpecialForm12. Finally, the Japanese transcript of this interview with Mr. Senoo is available below:

 

1: Senooさん、俳優になるきっかけを教えて頂けませんか。

Ans. 幼い頃からドラマや映画を観ることが大好きで、笑ったり泣いたり感動することをとても心地よいものと感じていました。学校でコメディや寸劇を披露すると皆が喜んでくれました。喜んでもらえる快感に目覚めたのかもしれません。18歳のとき、交通事故で生死の境をさまよう体験してから、私の仕事は他人に喜んでもらえることにしよう決めました。自分で生きているというよりも「大きな力に生かされている」と感じたからです。喜びをたくさんの人と分かち合えるのはとても素晴らしいことだと思いました。すぐに俳優の仕事を思いつき、スキルをつけるために俳優養成学校に入所しました。

2: Metalderのオーディションはどうやってごの存知ですか?

Ans. 1の質問に答えた俳優養成所のスタッフから声をかけられました。スポーツが得意だったのと、武道もやっていたので条件が合ったのだと思います。オーディションを受けた日、私は何の番組か知りませんでした。

 

3:感情がない人または兵器とうして人類を守る役を演じする時は難しいと思いますが、最初の撮影はどんな問題が起こりましたか?

Ans. 感情の無いアンドロイドを演じるのは楽しかったです。もっと表情をなくして機械的に動くことを想定していましたが、それは違うと指摘されました。 ちょうど日本で映画<Robo Cop>が公開されていて、参考にしました。主人公が、Metalderを観ている子どもたちと一緒に成長していけるように意識しました。撮影における初めての問題…それは、オープニング、タイトルバックの撮影です。海に向かって駆け下りてきて日本刀を振り下ろすシーンですが、砂浜が貝殻や粗い砂、岩で構成されていたために私の足の裏が切れて血だらけになってしまいました。しかし私は新人俳優でしたので何も言わずに我慢しました。良い思い出です!

 

Guest Stars (Ep. 25 & 26)

4:撮影時、よく自分でスタントやりますか?一番難しいのを教えていただけませんか。

Ans. 高所から飛び降りる等、危険を感じることでなければほとんど自分でやりました。火薬の中の車のスタントもすべて私が運転しました。難しかったこと…撮影は爆発シーンで火薬を使うことが多いので、採石場(ダイナマイトの使用が許可されている場所)などがしばしば使われました。そういう場所でアクションシーンを撮影していると、ちょっとしたことで手や額を怪我することがあります。すると監督からNGが出ます。「ロボットは血を流さないぞ!」…仕方ないですがもう一度撮り直します。

5:撮影するとき、他の有名な俳優さんと共演するとき、例えばOhbaさんとWatariさん、一緒に共演するのご感想を聞かせたいください。

Ans. 皆さん、とても明るく楽しい方ばかりです。特に大葉健二さんは私を笑わせることがとても楽しいらしく、私がカメラに向かって台詞を話しているとき、おかしな顔を見せて笑わせようとします。関係ない言葉を小声で話してきたり、ウインクをしてきたり。つい笑ってしまい、監督からNGがだされると大葉さんはとても喜びました。素敵な先輩たちです。

Ryusei Plays the Violin (Ep. 10)

6:シリーズ中に気づいたのはRyuseiはTatsuoさんの思いで、バイオリンのからサックスに変更します。サックスを演奏のはあなたの趣味ですが、それはSenooさんの要求ですか?それともプロデューサーさんが変更したいですか?

Ans. 流星(Ryusei)の設定の一つに、「様々な楽器を演奏することが出来る心優しいアンドロイド」というものがありました。最初にバイオリンを弾いたのはそのように脚本に指定されていたからです。私個人はバイオリンは触ったこともありませんでした。次の楽器がサックスになったのは、おそらく私がサックスを演奏できることを脚本家が知ったからだと思います。劇中で使われているサックスは私の所有物ですし、本当に吹きました。得意な楽器が変更になったのではありませんし、私がサックスを吹く設定をお願いしたわけではありません。

 

More Album Images

7:撮影が難しい、撮影する予算が削減やエピソード削減する噂を見ましたが、それは本当でしょうか?もし本当なら、その時の状況を教えていただけませんか?

Ans. 全く知りません。聞いたこともありません。撮影が終わってからファンの人にそういう話をされたことがありますが、撮影現場ではプロのスタッフから一度も聞いたことがありません。撮影現場ではすべてのキャストとスタッフが命がけで撮影しています。もしもそんな噂が現場に流れたら、皆さんのモチベーションも下がってしまいます。それは怪我に繋がります。もしかするとそれは本当の話なのかもしれませんが私は知りません。

 

8:私と友達はネットでHakkoを演じるKazuokiTakahashiが番組の最初から登場するつもりですが、登場するとき、コンセプトやキャラの背景も変わりましたが、それは本当でしょうか?もし本当なら、それは前の質問と関連がありますか?

Ans. 7の質問と同じです。何も知りません。Metalderは孤独で、共に闘う仲間もいないし話せる相手が犬(Springer)だけでした。ですから設定としても、私個人としてもHakkoが現れたことは嬉しかったのを覚えています。

 

9:番組の最終回の感想を教えて用意ませんか。Metalderは本当に死んだのか?まては人間の変装を無くなったか?

Ans. 最終回は個人的には大好きです。スタッフに、「妹尾、最終回はどんな話が良いと思ってるか?」と尋ねられたことがあります。「もしも願いが叶うなら、最後は消えて無くなりたいです。なぜならば永久に子どもたちの心に残ることが出来るから。」と答えました。 それは、私が幼いころ観ていた番組で特によく覚えているものはすべてヒーローが永遠に去る…という形式だったからです。ウルトラセブン、ジャイアントロボ…等など。単に消えてしまうのではなく、誰かを守って消えたいという犠牲的精神を表現したかったのです。その願いが叶って脚本が書かれたのかどうかは分かりませんが、私の好きなラストシーンになって嬉しかったです。死んだのではなく変身が出来なくなっただけ、と思いたいです。

 

Ryusei with Yume (Ep. 31)

10:一番思い出すシーンまたは撮影する時の事教えて差しませんか。

Ans. アンドロイドの女の子、Yumeが出てくる回です。本当に可愛くて、撮影していないときもいつも一緒に遊んでいました。それ以外で大きな思いでは犬です。本当の名前は ゲルマンGermanと言うのですが、メスのおばあちゃん犬でした。私にとてもなついてくれて、調教師の人の合図でなくても私の指示で動いてくれました。調教師の方にはとても喜ばれましたし、撮影時間の短縮にもなりました。とても可愛くて、いつも一緒にパンを食べていましたが、それは内緒でした!(叱られます)

11:番組終了後、現在共演者または他の俳優さんとまだ連絡しますか?ファンイベントを参加したことがありますか?

Ans. ファンイベントは時間とスケジュールが合えば参加するようにしています。会うことがあればほとんどのヒーロー番組の俳優と話ができますが、今でも個人的にお付き合いをしているのはジライヤの筒井巧さん、ライブマンの森恵さん、Jibanの日下翔平さん、ギンガマンの宮澤寿梨さんです。

12:いつかRyusei / Metalder役割を再演したいですか?東映からの再演する連絡がありますか?

Ans. 要請があればいつでもやりたいと思っています。夢があって素敵なことですね!東映からのオファーはありません。最終回があのような形だったのでMetalderが復活するのは難しいと思いますが…。

13:アメリカ版のMetalderご存知ですか?それはSabanさんのVR Tropperです。意見があれば、教えていただけませんか。

Ans. すみません、私はそのことを詳しく知りませんでした。Metalderというタイトルで放送されていないという噂は聞いたことがありました。ブラジルやフランスの話は時々聞きましたが、アメリカでも知っている人がいたのですね。素晴らしい喜びです!

14:最後ですが、特撮が海外までの進出をご感想を教えていただけませんか。そして海外で応援するファンのメッセージもお願いします

Ans. 放送当時、<Tokusatsu> という言葉が、まさか世界に広まるとは思ってもいませんでした。現在それが認識されて多くの子どもたちに夢や希望、喜びを感じてもらえているのならとても有意義で素晴らしいことだと思います。私もtokusatsuに参加できてとても嬉しいです。Metalderが放送されてからすでに33年が過ぎようとしています。にもかかわらず、今でも多くの応援をもらえること感謝しています。あの頃子どもだった人たちが成長して大人になり、Metalderを思い出して、そしてウキウキした気持ちになってもらえたら私は最大の幸福を感じます。皆さん、有り難うございます。

Image courtesy of Xavier Ferrandez (Lescargotographe) & France’s Comics Games Festival

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