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30 Sec. Wonders - Tokusatsu CF Land

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Shinesparkers is pleased to present a translation of two articles from issues 62 and 68 of the Japanese magazine Spaceship宇宙船, which went behind the scenes on the production of the Japanese commercials for Metroid II: Return of Samus and Super Metroid. Both commercials were produced by 21 Incorporation, and featured animation by Shirogumi, Inc. (which later worked on Metroid: Other M as well) and live-action segments with a stop-motion figure of Samus, created by Shirogumi. It still exists and is in the possession of filmmaker Takashi Yamazaki, who went on to direct Godzilla Minus One (2023).

Throughout 2023, I (Roy) was looking for actresses who had played Samus in commercials and were never identified, giving rise to my feature In Search of Samus. This includes the actress from the Super Metroid commercial. I discovered these articles when Wata Ridley tweeted a photo of them, and he graciously provided me with pictures of the entire pages. The Super Metroid article mentioned the names of the staff, including the director Yasuo Kanemaki. I spent months looking for a way to contact him, and eventually managed to get in touch, leading to our interview with him. Sadly, he did not remember her name, nor did any of the other people associated with the commercial whom I spoke to.

In addition to the translated articles, I am sharing additional discoveries I made about these commercials. Having seen the ads when I first became a fan of Metroid circa 2009, it was incredibly rewarding to discover these materials and be able to speak to the people who made them. It is my most fervent hope that we will eventually know who portrayed Samus as well.

Samus, Emergency Sortie!

Nintendo’s Super Metroid

As we wrote in the previous issue, due to the recession we’re seeing less and less fantasy TV commercials. It seems the only thing we can expect now are video game commercials… For role-playing games and shooting games, hyper-realism is precisely the selling point, so commercials which put emphasis on the atmosphere will definitely be more appealing to viewers. The two commercials we’ve selected for this issue depict the world of their respective games. In charge of both is our Japanese equivalent of ILM that you know well, Shirogumi.

First up is the Super Famicom version of Metroid. The live-action part in the first half was directed by Yasuo Kanemaki from 21 Incorporation. Makoto Oka was in charge of photography, and Yasushi Kuboki of lighting. Akihiko Shimizu and Masakazu Amaki from Cinq-Art, a company famous for their special make-up and modelling, were involved in the art and the creation of a realistic set. The special effects in the second half were handled by Shirogumi, with the [stop-motion] model animation being done by Hirokazu Minegishi and the CG by Takashi Yamazaki.
Surprisingly, the figure used in the model animation part was actually reused from the commercial for the Famicom [in reality Game Boy] game, and had been sitting in storage since. The transformation scene was made using a Macintosh, and Sony PCL’s ICS was used for composition. Finally, the producers are Yoshiaki Kuratsune and Ken Nagai.

“So this is a Metroid!”

“It’s still an infant…”

“It may be a dangerous lifeform,”

“but its abilities can be useful to humanity.”

An emergency occurs!

Someone is attacking!

A large winged shadow appears on screen…

and captures the baby Metroid!


Emergency sortie, Space Hunter Samus Aran.

Retrieve the stolen Metroid.

Samus jumps into the chamber.

Begin the transformation sequence.

A helmet is formed and the armour and mechanical parts move in from both sides.

The power system is connected and the transformation is complete.

The iron door lifts.

Enter Powered Samus.

The spaceship heading towards enemy territory.

Setting the Metroid’s capsule and life-support system in the studio.

The hyper-realistic set by Cinq-Art.

The Power Suit’s model. In the early planning stages, it was considered to make a costume, but
the body shape made it impossible, so they resorted to figure animation instead.

The Power Suit was photographed in front of a blue screen. This picture was then imported into a
Macintosh and edited to create the transformation sequence.
(The rest of the article is about the commercial for Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei II.)

Shirogumi, Inc.

Shirogumi’s TV Commercial Catalogue

Mr. Hirokazu Minegishi, the super craftsman, in the middle of animating the protagonist of
“Metroid”. He is the one in charge of most of Shirogumi’s model animation.

Nintendo’s “Metroid”
(The rest of the article focuses on Shirogumi’s history and is unrelated to Metroid)

The Staff

  • Akihiko Shimizu 清水明彦 – Sculptor (set designer)
  • Masakazu Amaki 天木雅和 – Sculptor
  • Yasushi Kuboki 久保木安 – Lighting artist
  • Makoto Oka 岡誠 – Filming
  • Hirokazu Minegishi 峰岸裕和 – Model Animator
  • Takashi Yamazaki 山崎貴 – CG Artist
  • Yasuo Kanemaki 金巻康郎 – Director

During my investigation, I spoke to some of the people listed here, working with Vectrex28 as Japanese translator. I messaged Yamazaki-san on Twitter, and was floored when he shared a picture of the stop-motion Samus figure (below) with me. He explained that he animated the segment of the commercial with the Samus figure, and therefore did not know much about the live-action production scenes, which were filmed at Daiei Studio.

Amaki-san told me that he didn’t remember anything at all about the commercial. While Minegishi-san was credited in the article for the Super Metroid commercial, I learned, through his superior, that he actually animated the Metroid II commercial while at Shirogumi. I was unable to reach the remaining staff. Lastly, as I stated, Kanemaki-san gave us an interview.

Supplemental Materials

There was a wide-ranging interview about live-action Nintendo commercials published on (still available here) with Yoshiaki Kuratsune, now an Executive Officer at Nintendo. Below is a translation of part of the interview, discussing a fire that broke out on the set of the Super Metroid commercial, which led to a ban on the use of pyrotechnics for future Nintendo productions.

Here’s why I can’t use fire.

Famicom Wars, Fire Emblem and The Legend of Zelda [: A Link to the Past] make up the “Song Trilogy” [All three commercials featured songs, as discussed earlier in the interview], but of course I worked on plenty of other commercials. One of them was a commercial for a game called Super Metroid. Watching it now, it took quite a bit of effort to make at the time. It used many different techniques and special effects, like CG, stop motion, cel animation, or multilayer compositing, that can easily be achieved with today’s technology.

This commercial… You know, it’s actually connected to the new Fire Emblem on GBA [Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, the topic of the interview]. The connection is that this commercial (Note: you can watch it here) uses fire! Well, truth be told, it’s just compositing. I actually wanted to have real fire arrows fired. What changed my mind was that the fire arrows in the film Gladiator also looked like a mix of compositing and photography.

So that decision was made thanks to technological advancements, but in truth, it was also because there was a directive stating “Do not let Kuratsune use fire” (laughs). In the Super Metroid commercial, which used a variety of techniques between photography, computer graphics, animation and so on, there was a scene with an explosion. In that scene, there are sparks flying and smoke. There was also the shadow of the villain, Ridley. He was made of plywood, and it actually caught on fire and started a small fire… (sarcastic laugh) And, well, since I was the person in charge there… I’ve been forbidden from using fire ever since. That’s the other reason why the GBA Fire Emblem commercial featured synthetic fire!

Additional Discoveries

I asked Kanemaki-san about the fire in the interview. He said that only Ridley’s leg was made for the commercial for budget reasons, out of plywood, with the rest of his body projected as a silhouette. Powder was used as an effect in the scene of Ceres’ destruction, and the particles caught fire from absorbing oxygen, catching Ridley’s hand. It was quickly put out.

Additional footage filmed for the Super Metroid commercial was included in the promotional video shown in game stores across Japan in 1994. That video was narrated by Keiko Toda, as we discovered through online comments from people who recognized her voice. I have since received direct confirmation of Ms. Toda’s role through her staff. She did not remember much about the recording, however.

The name of the actress who portrayed Samus in the Super Metroid commercial remains unknown, despite my best efforts. Kanemaki told me that she was his second choice for the ad; his first choice ended up dropping out due to a scheduling conflict. He liked the actress’ style and appearance as though she were a tough athlete. All he remembered about her is that she was an English-speaking model.

In May 2024, I found an image of a model resembling the actress, on the website of Brazilian cinematographer Fabio Cabral. He told me she was an American and it was shot for a Brazilian magazine 30 years ago (at the time of writing). He did not remember her name and estimated she would be 60 years old or older now. Assuming it’s the same woman, this means that the actress was an international model in 1994. Will we ever learn who she is or was? Time will tell.


Written by Roy
Translated by Darts
Articles and translation support provided by Wata Ridley
Articles recreated by Naner
Header image by TorvusBolt
Special thanks to Vectrex28, Carwyn Sugar, Takashi Yamazaki, Yasuo Kanemaki, Masakazu Amaki, Hirokazu Minegishi, Tomoko Kitazaki and Fabio Cabral