Tomo Hyakutake is a master of the pretty terrifying. For years this makeup and mask artist’s beautiful creations have been scaring the bejesus out of fans of Japan’s venerable kaiju (monster) movie genre.
With masks from films including Michel Gondry’s short Tokyo!: Interior Design, manga adaptation 20th Century Boys and 2016 horror pastiche Sadako vs. Kayako staring ominously from the walls of his Asagaya atelier, Hyakutake tells us how he was drawn to the business after being brought up on a diet of Godzilla and Ultraman.
Having grown up in an age when the now mighty Japanese figurine industry was in its infancy, young Tomo decided to make his own mini-kaiju – and some of the remarkably detailed models he came up with in his teens are still on display as we talk.
‘I’ve learned most of what I know by doing,’ says the man who trained under the legendary Joji Tani, aka Screaming Mad George, who worked on Hollywood blockbusters including Ghostbusters and Predator.
Hyakutake’s big break came with 2004 superhero flick Casshern, for which his team created all the characters and makeup. ‘Every special effects artist specialises in some genre – it just happened to be fantasy and comic book characters for me,’ he says.
The coming months will see a number of Tomo Hyakutake’s creations on the screen. First up is Wilderness: Part One (in cinemas now), a boxing drama based on avant-garde icon Shuji Terayama’s 1966 novel ‘Aa, Koya’ and set in a vaguely dystopian Tokyo, and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Hardcore, which is set for a 2018 release.
But Hyakutake’s work is not limited to the silver screen. ‘You can’t be picky,’ he confesses. ‘Besides movies, I also work on music videos, commercials, even haunted houses. It’s all great fun.’