Production Designer Katsuya Imai lives childhood dream making Power Rangers film
Katsuya Imai understands what it takes to make something beautiful. He is a true artist, with an appreciation for what he does. Creating has always been a part of him, even as a child. Growing up in Japan, art was a passion, and watching movies was a favorite past time. Now, he has found a way to combine these two things he has always loved so much, and he is a celebrated Art Director and Production Designer, one of Japan’s best.
Imai’s reputation has been earned, with several high-achieving projects throughout his career, Imai’s work has been appreciated by international audiences. Working on television shows like The Next Generation: Patlabor and the second season of Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger, his talents are evident. His work on the films The Next Generation Patlabor: Tokyo War and the award-winning Pecoross’ Mother and Her Days shows his versatility.
“I unify the visual image of the director, and pull out the creativity and talent from the crew,” said Imai.
He did just that when working as Production Designer on the film Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger: 10 Years After. The original television series Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger is hugely popular in Japan, and was an inspiration for the American hit show Power Rangers. Imai was always a fan of the show, and when the opportunity came up to work on the film, it was a dream come true.
“Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger is loved by not only kids, but also adults in Japan. I loved it when I was kid and have watched it every week and had toys of the rangers. They were also my heroes. I could not say no when I got an offer to be production designer of this,” said Imai.
The film follows a space ninja group who investigate mysterious bombings around the world — from Paris, to Egypt, China, and many others. Nanami and Kouta follow the series of incidents, but are surprised to see a familiar figure appearing before them. It was mentioned that a mistake was made from a battle 10 years ago.
“All the crews love this franchise and worked on it for a long time. It was like a family. They knew each other well. I was so happy that I could be a part of the family that I used to watch when I was kid,” said Imai.
As production designer, Imai was in charge of creating interesting and captivating sets to match the script. Working with the director and producer to overcome budget restrictions, Imai’s creativity and resourcefulness shone through. He designed a kind of hell in the sound stage that almost all black. He built a huge crucifixion cross symbolically.
“That worked very well and looked very cool,” Imai described. “The shooting was very smooth and quick. Everyone was so professional and knew how to do everything in a short time. One season of the TV show is one year project and has 50 episodes and they are shooting almost every day, and this was not the case for us.”
When Imai was working on another film at Toei studios where Power Rangers was born, he heard that a line producer was looking for a production designer to help make the film, looking for someone with a lot of experience and talent. Imai, with his experience working on the Power Ranger franchise as an Art Director and Set Director, was the best choice for the film’s success.
“Katsuya is one of the best I have worked with in my career and he impressed me with his artistic eye. He was responsible for making key creative decisions to guide the storyline in Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger: 10 Years After and he gave continuity to the previously released television series, which was a rather difficult process,” said Line Producer Masahiro Taniguchi.
Imai had years of experience working with Toei studios, and therefore knew art departments heads and had a good relationship with them. He says this ended up being essential when making the film, as he needed to rent props and help with the film. Because of Imai’s stellar reputation, they were happy to do whatever was needed.
“They have been making this franchise for over 30 years. They are a kind of family, as I mentioned. They are closed production and it’s hard to join them for a new guy. However, once I became a family, they wanted me to be a part of it,” said Imai.
Working on Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger: 10 Years After was an amazing experience for Imai, helping bring the story of his childhood heroes to life. Fans of all ages were immersed in the story thanks to his contributions, and with talent like this, there is no doubt he will continue to do this for years to come.