Ayako Takagi’s Ultra Uamou

For our newest video review, we are joined by Peter Kato, who brought Ayako Takagi‘s Ultra Uamou (2013) along to focus on. The reason for this, as the debut of our irregular Artist Choice Video Review series, is to allow our special guest to select a work that is not only worthy of general discussion but that will also illuminate their own personal history and journey in one form or another.

A brief history of Ayako Takagi’s Uamou

Tokyo-born artist Ayako Takagi moved to England in 2002, initially majoring in graphics at the London College of Communication before focusing on illustration at the Camberwell College of Arts. During this time, she started making and selling products based on her Uamou character, including her Uamou from Another Planet comics. Kato explains that Takagi “created this character when she was like 14 years old”, her long-standing passion to the concept evidenced by how “she would draw different versions of it, like, almost every day”. Beginning in 2006, she began creating renditions of the character in plush, polystone, and resin, but its most commonly recognized form — the vinyl version — didn’t debut until 2009.

Having evolved to encompass five signature facial expressions — Classic, Dazed, Happy, Ouch!, and Sad — this rendition is, as Kato proclaims, “one of my favorite pieces”. Moreover, he explains that this figure is a source of inspiration for him, one that “a lot of my own personal ideas [are] based on”, especially regarding a figure’s silhouette. “If it’s close to strong geometric shapes”, like the Uamou piece, then Kato believes “it will have a strong presence”. And its presence is surely a factor in the quick rise this design’s popularity experienced.
Located in her hometown of Tokyo, Studio Uamou is a dedicated shop space for Takagi’s creation in its myriad of produced varieties. Though listed as having been officially established in the beginning of 2011, Studio Uamou’s grand opening was actually held in December of 2010. And while the focus would appear to be on her cute, little alien that gleefully explores the galaxy, much of the shelf space is shared by the ghost he befriends, Boo.
The Boo vinyl companion piece regularly accompanies Uamou, the pair making a modular set as the ghost character can be placed onto either of the larger figure’s horns. These two are intrinsically linked, as Kato states, “to the point that the cafe that’s attached to Studio Uamou, the shop, is Cafe Boo.” And, sincerely, Kato refers to as “one of the most exciting places to visit when in Tokyo.”

Peter Kato’s Connection to Studio Uamou

In December of 2011, as a fledgling artist, Kato was given the opportunity to exhibit his works at Studio Uamou. “This was literally the first time I was really selling my pieces”, Kato admits, referring to the I Love Pocket Powers event, whose title was stylized as I ♥ Pocket Powers. Taking its name from the mini figure line Kato had created and was displaying, this opportunity arose in the simplest of ways. “I had just gone on Facebook, I had contacted her there, and I just wanted to send my figures to her,” Kato recalls of his initial communication with Takagi. “And she wrote back”, he continues, “‘Oh, these are so cute, would you be interested in doing an exhibition?’ I was like, ‘Oh my… Yes!'” And this mutual interest in one another’s work continued, the duo eventually working together on the Uamou Mogu Tank (2014) collaboration. And while this could be seen as the sole reason Kato selected to focus on the Ultra Uamou, there is another aspect to this piece’s backstory.

A brief history of Ultraman

The “Ultra” part of Ultra Uamou‘s title references Ultraman, a Tsuburaya Productions TV series that originally aired from July 17th, 1966 until April 9th, 1967 and was the first Ultra Series title to feature an Ultra-Crusader, the “celestial titans that basically protect Earth from giant Godzilla-like monsters” that “keep attacking Tokyo for some reason”, as Kato explains it. The show primarily focused on the Japanese branch of the Science Special Search Party, or SSSP, which was tasked to seek out bizarre anomalies and protect the public from attacks by strange, gigantic creatures. But, when the SSSP wasn’t capable of defending the Earth, one of their members — Shin Hayata — was able to transform himself into Ultraman, an alien being who had merged essences with the human to resurrect him after an accident claimed Hayata’s life. With Kato fondly remembering this series as well as the ones that followed it from his childhood, it’s no wonder that the Ultra Uamou has an extra-special place in his heart.

Our Impressions of Ultra Uamou

To celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, Tsuburaya Productions invited several artists and product designers to create a collection of specially designed goods for the occasion, all of which were displayed and sold as part of the Tsuburaya Creative Jam 50 event in August of 2013. For Ayako Takagi’s contribution, she placed the patterning of Ultraman, arguably Tsuburaya Productions’ best-known character, onto her own Uamou form, thus creating the Ultra Uamou.
One of the standout elements unique to the Ultra Uamou was the inclusion of the Color Timer, or Warning Light, on its chest. Found on almost every Ultra-Crusader, usually on its chest, this organ serves to measure the being’s solar energy level. Typically blue in color when at full strength, it starts to flash and turns red as the Ultra becomes depleted, alerting the being that it is approaching its three-minute maximum time on Earth. And while the patterning alone on the Ultra Uamou would’ve harkened significantly enough to the Ultraman appearance, this added touch solidified the design and made these pieces feel truly special.
And much like how a massive variety of Ultra-Crusaders appeared throughout the franchise, Takagi introduced new editions of her Ultra Uamou in a variety of color schemes, many for the further Tsuburaya Creative Jam 50 events that were organized throughout Japan.

For more information on Ayako Takagi:
website | twitter | instagram | facebook

For more information on Peter Kato:
website | shop | facebook | instagram | twitter | pinterest

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