Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis

This article is about the live action tokusatsu adaptation. For general information on the original novel and franchise it created, see Teito Monogatari.
Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis

Theatrical poster
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Produced by Takashige Ichise
Akio Jissoji
Written by Kaizo Hayashi
Hiroshi Aramata (Novel)
Starring Shintaro Katsu
Kyūsaku Shimada
Mieko Harada
Junichi Ishida
Music by Maki Ishii
Cinematography Masao Nakabori
Edited by Keniichi Uraoka
Distributed by Toho
Release dates
  • January 30, 1988 (1988-01-30)
Running time
135 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥800,000,000
Box office ¥1,790,000,000

Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (Japanese: 帝都物語 Hepburn: Teito Monogatari) is a tokusatsu historical dark fantasy/science fiction epic film [1] directed by Akio Jissoji, produced by "Exe" studios and distributed by Toho Studios. It is the first cinematic adaptation of the award winning historical fantasy novel Teito Monogatari by Hiroshi Aramata. It stars Kyusaku Shimada, Shintaro Katsu, Koji Takahashi, Jo Shishido, Junichi Ishida, Mieko Harada, Ko Nishimura, and Shiro Sano among others. With a budget of around 1 billion yen (roughly $8 million), the movie was one of the most expensive live action Japanese special effects films to have ever been produced during that decade (by contrast, the internationally released 1984 film The Return of Godzilla was only budgeted at $6.25 million). The movie received a great deal of publicity with the media highlighting the grand recreation of circa 1927 Ginza district being made just for use in the film. The open set, which cost around 300 million yen by itself, was an 150 meter long life sized facsimile of the early Showa era district featuring several electric cable cars [2] and 3000 fully costumed extras.

The movie went on to become a notable success in Japan. Initial reception, and it went on to become the third highest grossing Japanese produced movie of 1988.[3] The film helped propel the careers of some important figures in the contemporary Japanese film industry and aided in kicking off a new wave of similarly themed fantasy occult media (see "Legacy" below).


The live-action film is an adaptation of the first 1/3rd of the original novel or the first four volumes (out of a total of 12).

The movie begins in 1912 with Yasumasa Hirai explaining to Baron Eiichi Shibusawa Tokyo's long history as one of the most haunted cities in all of Japan. He specifically warns Shibusawa that the onryo Taira no Masakado must not be disturbed, as its spirit is powerful enough to destroy the city. In response to this heeding, Shibusawa allows the Tsuchimikado Family to advise him on how to make Tokyo a blessed city. However, both Hirai's and Shibusawa's efforts are opposed by the oni Yasunori Kato, a former lieutenant in the Imperial Army, who wants to destroy Tokyo by awakening Masakado's spirit. To do this, he attempts to kidnap Yukari Tatsumiya, the descendant of Masakado, to use as a medium to communicate with the spirit. However, his plans are brought to attention to the Tsuchimikado Family by Koda Rohan. Hirai and his followers lock Yukari inside the Tsuchimikado temple and perform the monoimi ceremony to defend her. Kato and his followers launch a frontal assault against the temple with shikigami. Kato escapes with Yukari and uses her as a medium, but Masakado rejects his offer. Ogai Mori diagnoses Yukari as pregnant with Kato's child. Emperor Meiji passes away, marking the end of the Meiji Era. In a dramatic display of devotion to the Meiji Emperor, Hirai commits seppuku. However his act divines the year of Tokyo's destruction; 1923, the Year of the Pig.

The narrative moves to 1923, Tokyo. Kato retreats to Dalian, China and he and his followers use magic to cause artificial earthquake waves that are amplified to Japan. Kato returns to Tokyo to awaken Masakado's spirit by himself, but is interrupted by Koda Rohan and Junichi Narutaki, who use Kimon Tonkou magic against him. Kato fails to awaken Masakado, but manages to stimulate the Great Kanto Earthquake.

The setting moves to 1927. Torahiko Terada has been appointed by Noritsugu Hayakawa as manager of the construction of Japan's first Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. Hayakawa's construction workers run into Kato's shikigami provoking Terada to seek out the aid of Dr. Makoto Nishimura to use his creation Gakutensoku to finish construction for them. Masakado summons Keiko Mekata, a miko, to defend his grave from Kato. Keiko joins forces with feng shui master Shigemaru Kuroda, who discovers the location of Kato's hideout. While Kuroda fights an Asura statue guarding the place, Keiko rushes to stop Kato, but Kato summons his gohō dōji to fend her off. Kato attempts to awaken Masakado through Yukari's child, Yukiko, but even this is unsuccessful. Keiko explains to Kato that Yukiko is not his child, but rather the result of an incestuous union between Yukari and her brother Yoichiro making her uncontrollable by Kato. Gakutensoku self-destructs, cutting off the spiritual energy veins connected to Kato's temple. Kato tries to use onmyodo magic one last time to stimulate an earthquake, but this is insufficient and he is severely wounded from the effort. Though his plans are foiled, Kato kidnaps Keiko and takes her with him to Manchuria. The film ends amidst another annual district wide festival celebrating the birth of the capital. The Tatsumiya Family hopes for Keiko's return while Kyoka Izumi predicts Kato's return.


Other cast members include Seiko Ito as Wajiro Kon, Hideji Ōtaki as Oda Kanno, Hisashi Igawa as Ryokichi Tagami and Ai Yasunaga as Azusa Nishimura. Hiroshi Aramata does a cameo as a brasserie client.


A classic illustration of the warlord Taira no Masakado, the great warrior, sorcerer and eventual onryo who's legacy plays a central role in the story
The "evil shikigami" Kato summons in the film were influenced from classic depictions of oni, such as the prints of Katsushika Hokusai
The scene where Koda Rohan dismembers Kato's hand was inspired from the kabuki play "Modoribashi", about Watanabe no Tsuna and his encounter with the oni Ibaraki[8]
A classic illustration of a Gohō dōji from the Shigisan-engi. Swiss artist H. R. Giger contributed a unique design of the creature for the film.[9]

The film began being produced around early 1987. Swiss artist H. R. Giger was commissioned to design creatures for the movie.[9] Originally, he showed interest in working directly on set, however his schedule would not permit it. His main contribution was the conceptual art for the gohō dōji.

The movie was also one of the first Japanese productions to employ Sony HDVS equipment for filming. Approximately six minutes of the final movie was filmed using this technology.[10]

The production was plagued by many mysterious accidents, which some attributed to the influence of Taira no Masakado's real life spirit. It is now common practice for Japanese filmmakers and TV crews to pay respect to the burial site of Masakado before bringing him to the screen.


In addition to an original score, composer Maki Ishii remixed a few pieces of classical music for use in the film. These include:


When first released theatrically in Japan, the film went on to become both a critical and commercial success.[11][12] Peer Magazine, one of Japan's leading cinema publications, went so far as to praise the movie as the "best Japanese science fiction production of all time".[13] The movie had an annual revenue of 1.79 billion yen making it the third highest grossing Japanese produced film of that year,[3] and the eighth highest grossing film in Japan overall.[14]

Despite success in its native country, Western reception of the subtitled version of the work has been mixed. In the UK and Europe, initial critical reception of the VHS and DVD release was generally positive. Ian Shutter of the website gave the film an 8/10 describing it as a "surreal yet always fascinating gothic urban nightmare" with "a blend of urban historical and fantasy horror centered on the great disaster of 1923, which plays like Capra meets Argento, with an oriental twist.".[15] Lee Broughton of the website DVD Savant rated the film as "Excellent", claiming it was "a highly original mystical epic" containing "great characters that we really come to care about and take an interest in as they weave in and out of each others lives.", and even compared its ambition to Terry Gilliam's Brazil.[1] French website however pointed out that the film's narrative, being incredibly dense and compressed, is simply "indigestable" for the average viewer, meaning the film could only be enjoyed as a supplement to the original novel and/or Doomed Megalopolis (an animated adaptation of the same section of the novel). However the overall review was also positive, describing the production as "visually elegant" containing a "rich history", with Kyusaku Shimada "incredible" in his role as Yasunori Kato.[16]

By the time the work was exported to North America, reception was more negative. Some of the negative reception was the result of bad timing as the movie was exported to North America years after the animated adaptation and the fantasy film Onmyoji (which concerns much of the same supernatural subject matter) had already been localized in the West and gained fan followings. Japanese cinema enthusiasts who were able to recognize the subject matter made passing mentions to Onmyoji,[17][18] but found other aspects of the film unfavorable. Some Western reviewers mistakenly dismissed the production as a mediocre live action adaptation of the anime Doomed Megalopolis [19] when in fact the live action film was created first and its success had paved the way for the anime.[12]

Many of the negative reviews targeted the highly convoluted narrative (a consequence of adapting four books into a 2-hour timespan) as the source of the movie's troubles. Anthony Romero of Toho Kingdom described the film as having “production values being noticeably high for a 1980's Japanese film” but “simply tries to cover far too much ground in too short a time”.[17] Japanese enthusiast website GenjiPress chided the film as "absolutely ridiculous from beginning to end" with a plot that was amazingly "confusing".[18] Some reviewers also felt betrayed by the relative lack of horror elements of the production,[19] a consequence of Western distributors trying to market the movie as a pure Horror film ignoring the mythical and science fiction elements.

Positive reviews tended to focus on aspects apart from the narrative, especially noting the detailed sets, costumes, high production values, and dramatic performances as the film's main strengths. The website Sarudama praised the movie calling it "incredibly ambitious and well-cast" with "superb" scenery and acting.[20] Author Patrick Macias in his book Tokyoscope also gave the movie a positive review, describing it as "overcooked", but "far from a bust".[12] Jim Harper in his book Flowers from Hell: The Modern Japanese Horror Film concedes that, had it not been for some pacing problems and a "ponderous plot", the movie could have been a "bona fide cult classic".[11]

In the 2015 Blu-Ray commentary of the movie, the filmmakers compared the film to David Lynch's 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. They observed that like the aforementioned movie, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis was an ambitious, visually lush, large budget adaptation of a dense science fiction work which heavily compressed the source material's narrative to accommodate a 2-hour time slot. Thus they felt the work functioned best as a visual supplement to the source material rather than an independent adaptation in its own right.[21]

In Japan the film continues to be regarded as a respected cult film to this day. [22]




Along with its source material, the novel Teito Monogatari, the film was influential (albeit to a lesser extent) in popularizing new occult topics in Japanese fantasy media, such as onmyodo mysticism. It was the first motion picture to illustrate mythical concepts such as shikigami, kodoku magic, gohō dōji and Kimon Tonkou magic.[24] Some similarly themed works to emerge from this boom include the manga/anime Tokyo Babylon, X by CLAMP,[25] the Shin Megami Tensei franchise,[26] and the film Onmyoji (2001) by Yojiro Takita. The cinematic version of Yasunori Kato himself even has a cameo appearance at the beginning of the first volume of CLAMP's Tokyo Babylon manga.[27]

The movie's box office success paved the way for a film franchise consisting of a direct sequel, an OVA remake; two direct to video spinoff titles Teito Monogatari Gaiden (1995), Sim-Feng Shui (1997), and a theatrical spinoff The Great Yokai War (2005).

The movie was the first big successful project for Takashige Ichise, the producer who would go on to be responsible for the contemporary J-Horror boom by financing such franchises as the Ringu and Ju-On series.[12] He would go on to direct the sequel. The movie was also the most financially successful production for director Akio Jissoji throughout his career, an artist best known in the West for his work on the classic tokusatsu series Ultraman.[28]

Kyūsaku Shimada's performance as Yasunori Kato, the primary antagonist of the film, was extremely popular with audiences and is generally considered the most popular representation of the character. Hiroshi Aramata himself even rewrote physical descriptions of Kato in the novel's various republications to more closely match Shimada's image.[24] Subsequent visual adaptations of Teito Monogatari, such as the manga Babylon Tokyo and the anime Doomed Megalopolis, modeled Kato on Shimada's likeness. In turn, Shimada's portrayal of Yasunori Kato went on to become an influential figure in Japanese popular culture, inspiring a number of homages such as Washizaki from the manga/anime Riki-Oh and M. Bison/Vega of the Street Fighter video game series.[24] The character has been imitated and parodied in many subsequent popular works, such as the anime series Haunted Junction, Brave Police J-Decker, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, the manga/anime Tokyo Babylon, the tokusatsu comedy series Kamen Rider Norida, and the video games Shadow Hearts and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army.[11]

Independent film director Go Shibata has cited Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis as an influence in his work, such as his 2009 film Doman Seman.[29]

Home Releases

In Japan, the film is available in both VHS and DVD editions. In 1995, Manga Live released a VHS edition of the film in the UK which was edited, as well as dubbed. In 1998, ADV Films released a translated VHS copy of the film in the North American market. In 2003, ADV Films released a proper subtitled DVD edition of the film to the North American market.

The film and its sequel were both released in Japan on Blu-Ray on August 8, 2015 in a Special Edition package featuring new cover designs by SPFX artist Shinji Higuchi (who worked on the film) [30]

See also

Onmyoji (2001): An equally successful historical fantasy film dealing with some of the same subject matter. The novels the respective films were based on were released only a few years apart and thus are considered part of the same "boom".[8]


  1. 1 2 Review Lee Broughton, DVD Savant, June 30, 2003
  2. Davis, Julie. "Flesh and Blood" Manga Mania, vol. 23
  3. 1 2 John A. Lent. The Asian Film Industry, pg. 41, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd, February 22, 1990
  4. Koda Rohan: Brittanica
  5. Noriko T. Reider, The Appeal of Kaidan: Tales of the Strange
  6. Torahiko Terada
  7. Kabuki Legend Tamasaburo Bando V to Receive 27th Annual Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in “Arts and Philosophy”
  8. 1 2 Reider, Noriko T. Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present Utah State University Press, 2010. 113. (ISBN 0874217938)
  9. 1 2 H. R. Giger, H. R. Giger's Film Design Morpheus International, November 11, 1996. 59. (ISBN 1883398061)
  10. Yasuda, Hiroshi. Signal Processing of HDTV.: Proceedings of the Fourth International Workshop on HDTV and beyond, Turin, Italy, 4-6 September 1991. 1992. Pg. 633
  11. 1 2 3 Harper, Jim. Flowers from Hell: The Modern Japanese Horror Film Noir Publishing. (ISBN 0953656470)
  12. 1 2 3 4 Patrick Macias. "Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis", Tokyoscope, page 79-80, VIZ Media LLC., November 2001,
  13. Weisser 1998
  14. Page,
  15. Review Ian Shutter,, November 2002
  16. Review Xavier Desbarats, DeVilDead
  17. 1 2 Review Anthony Romero, Toho Kingdom, September 22, 2006
  18. 1 2 Review Serdar, Genji Press, February 2, 2005
  19. 1 2 Review Judge Joel Pierce, DVD Verdict, April 16, 2004
  20. Foutz, Scott; SaruDama, February 16, 2009
  21. Takashige Ichise et. al (2015). Audio Commentary 帝都 Blu-ray COMPLETE BOX (Blu-Ray). Odessa Entertainment.
  22. "今は亡き天才漫画家が「世紀末のおもちゃ箱」と批評!原作者が伝説のカルト映画『帝都物語』の裏話を明か" May, 2015
  23. IMDB Entry on ‘’Teito Monogatari’’ (1988)
  24. 1 2 3 Japanese Review of TEITO MONOGATARI (1988). Retrieved on 2012-8-07.
  25. CLAMP式パッチワーク漫画の作り方2 
  26. Harper 2008, p. 50
  27. Tokyo Babylon book 1, vol. 1. (English translation by TOKYOPOP)
  28. Keith Aiken and Bob Johnson, "The Passing of a Legend", Sci-Fi Japan
  29. 柴田剛監督&主演の石井モタコ登場!狂った世界に立ち向かうバカを描く 映画「堀川中立売」, 2010.11.16
  30. Amazon Page of Blu-Ray release. Retrieved on 2015-9-06.


External links

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