Kenpachiro Satsuma Obituary; Godzilla Suit Actor Passed Away At 76

Interstitial pneumonia killed Japanese actor Kenpachiro Satsuma today, according to Matomedane’s translated article. The 76-year-old actor is best renowned for playing Godzilla’s Heisei era monsters, including the protagonist.

As Yasuaki Maeda, Satsuma was born May 27, 1947. The 1960s saw him in small roles in films like Incident at Blood Pass. He played Hedorah in Godzilla vs. Hedorah in 1971, his monster movie debut. He played Gigan in Godzilla vs. Gigan the next year, as well as Godzilla vs. Megalon and Zone Fighter.

Godzilla’s original actor Haruo Nakajima retired in 1972. After two years of replacements, Satsuma got the part in 1984’s The Return of Godzilla. This film was a straight sequel to the 1954 original and a reboot, discarding the Shōwa era’s 30 years of sequels.

Return, like the original Godzilla, was darker and cast him as a foe rather than a protector of humanity and monsters. Satsuma played Godzilla from 1989’s Godzilla vs. Biollante to 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah, often fainting in the costume owing to oxygen deprivation. He said he “could see the gates of Hell several times!” in the late 1990s, blaming vs. Destroyah.

Besides Godzilla, Satsuma appeared in Hong Kil-dong and Japanese Hell. Pulgasari (1985), based on the lost 1962 film Bulgasari (the first Korean kaiju film), is one of the most notorious. Shin Sang-ok, who was kidnapped by Kim Jong Il in 1978 alongside his wife Choi Eun-hee to make fantasy/propaganda films for North Korea, directed the new picture.

Kim flew the Japanese SFX team for the Godzilla films, including Satsuma, into production. The actor (who would later play Pulgasari) and the others thought they were being hired for a Chinese picture. Years later, Satsuma said he liked Pulgasari to Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla.

Satsuma’s last films were Blind Beast vs. Dwarf and Kawana Mariko: Sakuragi no amai mizu, according to IMDB. Our thoughts are with his family.