As if being king once were not enough for Japan's former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who once serenaded President George W. Bush with Elvis oldies at Graceland the man with the coif and charisma of Japan's most popular postwar leader is back for an encore: this time as Ultraman King.
Koizumi, 67, served five years as Prime Minister, from 2001 to 2006, earning a reputation as a reformist who reinvigorated the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the 2005 election around the issue of privatization of the national postal system. Now lending his voice to the iconic Ultraman King character, the elder of the clan on the television series Ultraman, Koizumi will take his leadership to another level, in film and outer space, with lines like "Rise again, warriors of the Land of Light! For peace and justice!" Such is a rallying cry Koizumi's old party could probably use about now, having suffered a major loss to the Democratic Party of Japan in August's general election.
The new Ultraman film, Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend, The Movie, is part of a long evolution in the Ultra series, which first began with a television show that aired in the 1960s. For decades, the episodes showed extraterrestrial beings fighting to protect Earth from alien and monster invaders with live-action scenes and classic Japanese special effects.
With popularity on par with the Batman character in the U.S., Ultraman is a silver-and-red-clad superhero with buglike eyes and a reputation for countless victories. Actors and comedians not former Prime Ministers usually perform the voices for characters in the series' live-action or animation films. And at first, Koizumi was no exception; he originally turned down the role, in which the Ultraman King delivers a rousing speech to the film's main characters. But Koizumi's 28-year-old son Shinjiro, a first-time Diet legislature member, persuaded his father to do it. Shinjiro, a longtime Ultraman fan who grew up watching the series, reportedly told his father, "[The role] is not related to politics, so it should be O.K."
The Ultraman King, a whopping 300,000 years old, stands 190 ft. (58 m) tall and is able to fly at a top speed of Mach 20. A spokeswoman for the film's producers, Tsuburaya Productions, has said that Koizumi, as a former national leader, is the only person who has the presence to deliver such a pivotal address. With a mandate like that and the encouragement of his son, Koizumi completed his studio time in mid-September. The film will be released by Warner Bros. Japan in Japan on Dec. 12. The production studio declined to comment on whether Koizumi was paid for his vocal services.
Koizumi retired on July 23, ending his 37-year career as a Representative of the Diet, but he missed the last day of the Lower House session because of a traffic jam.