Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis

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Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis
Theatrical poster
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Screenplay by Kaizo Hayashi
Based on Teito Monogatari
by Hiroshi Aramata
Produced byTakashige Ichise
Akio Jissoji
Starring Shintaro Katsu
Kyūsaku Shimada
Mieko Harada
Junichi Ishida
Cinematography Masao Nakabori
Edited byKeniichi Uraoka
Music by Maki Ishii
Distributed by Toho
Release date
  • January 30, 1988 (1988-01-30)
Running time
135 minutes
Budget ¥1,000,000,000
Box office¥1,790,000,000

Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (Japanese: 帝都物語, Hepburn: Teito Monogatari) is a 1988 Japanese epic tokusatsu historical dark fantasy/science fiction 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. The film stars Kyūsaku Shimada, Shintaro Katsu, Kōji Takahashi, Jo Shishido, Junichi Ishida, Mieko Harada, Kō Nishimura, and Shirō 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 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 went on to become a notable success in Japan. It was one of the top ten highest grossing domestic motion pictures of 1988. [2] It continues to be regarded in the country as a respected cult film. [3] A sequel, Tokyo: The Last War , was released the following year.


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).[ citation needed ]

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 vengeful spirit of Taira no Masakado, an ancient villain, must not be disturbed, as its spirit is powerful enough to destroy the city. In response to this heeding, Shibusawa allows the Tsuchimikado sect (土御門一門) 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 by Koda Rohan. Hirai and his followers lock Yukari inside the Tsuchimikado temple and perform the monoimi (物忌) 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. His act divines the year of Tokyo's destruction; 1923, the Year of the Pig.

The narrative moves to 1923, Tokyo. Kato retreats to Dairen, and he and his followers use magic to cause artificial seismic waves under Dairen that echo through the Earth to Japan. Kato returns to Tokyo to awaken Masakado's spirit by himself, but is interrupted by Koda Rohan and Junichi Narutaki, who use the Chart of Eight Directions (八陣圖), a form of Kimon Tonko sorcery, in an attempt to trap him. Kato escapes, but fails to awaken Masakado. The seismic waves generated in Dairen reach Japan, and the Great Kanto Earthquake is stimulated.

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 a Goho doji from the Shigisan-engi. Swiss artist H. R. Giger contributed a unique design of the creature for the film. Shigisan Engi Emaki - Bishamonten messager (detail).jpg
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.

The film began being produced around early 1987. Swiss artist H. R. Giger was commissioned to design creatures for the movie. [8] 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. [9]

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 a 150 meter long life sized facsimile of the early Showa era district featuring several electric cable cars [10] and 3000 fully costumed extras.

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.[ citation needed ]


When Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis was released in Japanese theaters, it quickly became a commercial success and received critical acclaim. Peer Magazine, a prominent cinema publication in Japan, even hailed it as the "best Japanese science fiction production of all time." The film earned an impressive annual revenue of 1.79 billion yen, making it the third highest grossing Japanese-produced film of that year, and the eighth highest-grossing film in Japan overall.

However, the subtitled version of the film received mixed reception in the West. Anthony Romero of Toho Kingdom praised the high production values of the film but criticized it for attempting to cover too much ground in too short a time. GenjiPress, a Japanese enthusiast website, deemed the film "absolutely ridiculous from beginning to end" and criticized its confusing plot.

On the other hand, Ian Shutter of gave the film a high rating of 8/10, describing it as a "surreal yet always fascinating gothic urban nightmare" with a blend of urban history and fantasy horror centered on the great disaster of 1923. Lee Broughton of DVD Savant rated it as "Excellent" and commended its highly original mystical epic storyline and great characters. The film's ambition was even compared to Terry Gilliam's Brazil., a French website, found the film's narrative too compressed and dense, but praised its visually elegant production, rich history, and superb scenery and acting. Sarudama, another website, called it an incredibly ambitious and well-cast movie.

In his book Tokyoscope, author Patrick Macias gave the movie a positive review, describing it as "overcooked" but "far from a bust." Jim Harper, in his book Flowers from Hell: The Modern Japanese Horror Film, conceded that the film could have been a "bona fide cult classic" if not for some pacing problems and a ponderous plot.

In a 2015 Blu-ray commentary, the filmmakers compared Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis to David Lynch's 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, both being ambitious, visually lush, large budget adaptations of dense science fiction works that compressed the source material's narrative to fit a 2-hour time slot.




The movie was notable for being the first to visually portray Chinese and Japanese folklore tropes such as shikigami, kodoku magic, gohō dōji, and Kimon Tonkou magic in Japanese cinema. [12] 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). [13]

The movie was the first major 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 Ring and Ju-On series. [13] It was also the most financially successful production for director Akio Jissoji, best known in the West for his work on the classic tokusatsu series Ultraman . [14]

Kyūsaku Shimada's performance as Yasunori Kato, the primary antagonist of the film, was extremely popular with audiences and is considered the most popular representation of the character. Hiroshi Aramata even rewrote physical descriptions of Kato in the novel's republications to more closely match Shimada's image. Shimada's portrayal of Yasunori Kato has been frequently homaged in Japanese popular culture, such as in the fictional characters Washizaki from the manga/anime Riki-Oh and M. Bison/Vega of the Street Fighter video game series. The character also has a cameo appearance in the opening chapters of CLAMP's Tokyo Babylon manga, and has been parodied in TV animation and video games.

Independent film director Go Shibata has cited Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis as an influence on his work, including his 2009 film Doman Seman . [15]

Home Releases

In Japan, the film is available on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray. In 1995, Manga Live released a VHS edition of the film in the UK which was edited, as well as dubbed. [16] In 1998, ADV Films released a subtitled VHS copy of the film in the North American market. In 2003, ADV Films released a subtitled DVD edition of the film to the North American market. [17]

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). [18]

In 2023, Media Blasters Licensed the Film and Released the film on Blu-Ray under the Title "Doomed Megalopolis: The Last Megalopolis". It features the movie in Japanese with English Subtitles and the English Dub from the Manga UK VHS reconstructed in HD. [19] [20]

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". [21]

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  1. Review Lee Broughton, DVD Savant, June 30, 2003
  2. John A. Lent. The Asian Film Industry, pg. 41, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd, February 22, 1990
  3. "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
  4. Koda Rohan: Britannica
  5. Noriko T. Reider, The Appeal of Kaidan: Tales of the Strange
  6. Torahiko Terada Archived 2013-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Kabuki Legend Tamasaburo Bando V to Receive 27th Annual Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in “Arts and Philosophy”
  8. 1 2 H. R. Giger, H. R. Giger's Film Design Morpheus International, November 11, 1996. 59. ( ISBN   1883398061)
  9. 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
  10. Davis, Julie. "Flesh and Blood" Manga Mania, vol. 23
  11. IMDB Entry on ‘’Teito Monogatari’’ (1988)
  12. Japanese Review of TEITO MONOGATARI (1988). Retrieved on 2012-8-07.
  13. 1 2 Patrick Macias. "Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis", Tokyoscope, page 79-80, VIZ Media LLC., November 2001,
  14. Keith Aiken and Bob Johnson, "The Passing of a Legend", Sci-Fi Japan
  15. 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
  16. Review Ian Shutter,, November 2002
  17. Review Anthony Romero, Toho Kingdom, September 22, 2006
  18. Amazon Page of Blu-ray release. Retrieved on 2015-9-06.
  19. Doomed Megalopolis: The Last Megalopolis Blu-ray , retrieved 2023-10-15
  20. "Doomed Megalopolis: Last Tokyo". Media Blasters Storefront. Retrieved 2023-10-15.
  21. Reider, Noriko T. Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present Utah State University Press, 2010. 113. ( ISBN   0874217938)