Honda Ishiro (本多猪四郎)

Asahi-mura, Higashitagawa-gun, Yamagata Prefecture (present Tsuruoka City)

Ishiro HONDA (May 7, 1911 - February 28, 1993) was a Japanese movie director. He shot many Toho special effects (Tokusatsu) films.

Many published documents write his name as Inoshiro and he was actually nicknamed 'Ino-san' or 'Inoshiro-san,' the correct reading of his name is Ishiro.


He was originally from Asahi-mura, Higashitagawa-gun, Yamagata Prefecture (present Tsuruoka City). He graduated from the Cinema Department of the College of Art, Nihon University in 1933 and joined PCL (Photo Chemical Laboratory, the predecessor of Toho). He worked as an assistant director for Kajiro YAMAMOTO and Mikio NARUSE. Akira KUROSAWA and Senkichi TANIGUCHI, who were apprentices of YAMAMOTO, were HONDA's close friends. He was drafted three times after joining the company. He initially belonged to the First Regiment Infantry, where the commissioned officers were involved in the February 26th Incident. Therefore, the unit was dispatched to Manchuria after the incident and the ordinary term of two years was prolonged. Soon after he returned to work, he was drafted again to mainland China where he fought the eight years until the end of the war at the mainland front line. Therefore, even through HONDA joined the company before YAMAMOTO's two other apprentices, Kurosawa (who debuted as a movie director with "Sugata Sanshiro" in 1943) and Taniguchi (who debuted as a movie director with "Ginrei no hate" in 1947), his debut as director and promotion to full director was significantly later with "Aoi Shinju" (The Blue Pearl) in 1952. After "The Eagle of the Pacific," he directed many special effects movies in collaboration with Eiji TSUBURAYA. Godzilla in 1954 was a great hit throughout the U.S. He became a world-famous movie director overnight. "The Mysterians" was released in 1957 by MGM, "H-Man" was released in 1959, "Battle in Outer Space" in 1959 and "Mothra" in 1961 by Columbia Pictures Corporation; "King Kong vs. Godzilla" was released in 1962 and "King Kong Escapes" in 1967 by Universal Pictures; and "Invasion of Astro-Monster" was released in 1965 and "The War of the Gargantruas" in 1966 by Paramount Pictures Corporation throughout the U.S. Most of HONDA's movies have been released overseas.

Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975 was the last movie he directed. Later, HONDA supported KUROSAWA's films from "Kagemusha" onwards. A monument stands with the inscription below at his grave.
HONDA was virtuous, sincere and gentle. He worked hard for movies, lived life to the fullest, and his life ended quietly, typical of HONDA. February 28, Heisei 5, Akira KUROSAWA'
HONDA once played a cameo role in "Ijintachi tono natsu", directed by his apprentice, Nobuhiko OBAYASHI.

After his death, his portrait appeared as the portrait of main character boy's grandfather in the following two movies: "Mothra (movie in 1996)" directed by Okihiro YONEDA, who continued a relationship with HONDA since they were in the KUROSAWA group, and an SFX movie dedicated to HONDA, "Mizu no Tabibito: Samurai Kids", directed by Nobuhiko OBAYASHI.

His style

HONDA was a movie director who was consistently involved with cinematography and the use of "special effects" to create image effects and examples start from his frequent use of underwater filming in his debut movie, "Aoi Shinju," and the introduction of Hi-Vision synthesizing in KUROSAWA's movies, "Dreams" and "Rhapsody in August,"which HONDA worked as an assistant producer. On the other hand, he also shot diverse types of movies, ranging from melodramas,business man comedies and movies accompanied by popular songs. Akira KUROSAWA was a typical artist who pursued a subject or an image for his movies without any regard to the budget or time limits. In contrast, HONDA was a typical craftsmen whose work was tailored to the company's plans and kept within the budget and time limit. Godzilla was also one of the plans that the company presented.
The difference between KUROSAWA and HONDA can be expressed in the following words:
If KUROSAWA is asked to prepare a meal, he would make a full course dinner with more food than necessary.. HONDA would prepare a tier of lacquer ware boxes decently packed with foods.

On the whole, HONDA's directing was cool and steady without discontinuity. He showed restraint and did not take the front line when the special effects scenes which were the climax of special effects movies.

According to Yoshio TSUCHIYA, when a scene of a policeman directing evacuees was taken, KUROSAWA voiced, 'In real-life, a policeman would also evacuate instead of directing evacuees.' but HONDA answered 'Ideally, policemen should be like this.'

Director HONDA was careful to unify the performers' eye levels when facing a supernatural phenomenon in a special effects movie. HONDA aimed at achieving perfect realism and said, 'I do not want to work with anyone who does not intend to act earnestly just because it is a children's movie.' when casting. Kenji SAHARA recalled that HONDA tried to have his actors avoid overreactions, which were frequently seen in movies featuring special effects. HONDA insisted on a restrained, natural performance.

HONDA was always friendly to the staff and actors at the film site and was never angry with them. Everyone who knew him agree that he was quite a gentle person. When advising actors on their performance, he often showed them model performances, which put professional actors to shame.