Hiruko the Goblin

This year marks the 30th anniversary for my film “HIRUKO THE GOBLIN”, where I was challenged for the first time to create a commercial film. After being restored and remastered, it looks as good as it did on its first release. I’d like you to experience this summer story.

- Film director, Shinya Tsukamoto


One of the most creative filmmakers in Japan, Shinya Tsukamoto made a huge impact with his debut film, the cyberpunk classic “Tetsuo”. His second feature film, “Hiruko the Goblin”, is now returning in a brand new 2K restoration.

Based on stories from the “Yokai Hunter” series by Daijiro Morohoshi, who is a manga artist with many enthusiastic fans, from creators to researchers in different fields. Starring Kenji Sawada, a performer from the Group Sounds era in the latter half of the 1960s, who delivers a rich expressive.

“HIRUKO THE GOBLIN” was produced using all forms of special effects available in the 1990s, such as miniature work, doll animation, matte paintings, and HD composition.


An archeologist named Hieda, who has virtually been ousted from the archeology academy for his radical ideas, receives a letter from Yabe, a junior high school teacher, who writes that he has discovered an ancient burial mound built by a people who believed in evil spirits. Imagining that working on exploring the mound might reinstate him in the academy, Hieda leaves immediately to visit Yabe, only to find him missing together with a co-ed student called Reiko.

During summer vacation Yabe’s student Masao and his pals scour the empty school buildings in search of Yabe and Tsukishima. Strangely they discover Tsukishima, alone, singing in an otherwise deserted classroom. All the school buildings are shrouded in an eerie atmosphere, and unidentified objects are curiously moving about. Something lunges at Masao, but he is saved by Hieda, who also has been searching the school.

While Masao and Hieda investigate, a series of bizarre and lethal incidents befall them; they find headless corpses sprawling in a sea of gore followed by other frightening events. Then a strange spiderlike goblin with Tsukishima’s head assaults them.

After narrowly escaping the monster’s attack, Hieda and Masao find Yabe’s notebook, where the spell to open the ancient burial mound is written. Research shows that the goblin that assaulted them is called Hiruko, one of many legendary vicious creatures that are clearly more than just myths as they had actually seen them. Apparently Hiruko was trying to release its fellow goblins, which had been sealed in the mound for eons. Hieda finds an old map which shows that the mound is located beneath the school and its entrance is in the tool shed. Having found the way, Hieda and Masao negotiate a dank subterranean labyrinth to the core of the mound. They chant the spell and the door grinds open to reveal a vast cave. In it they behold hundreds – if not thousands – of Hiruko goblins. Emitting grotesque sounds the goblins focus on the two human invaders. Some of them have replaced their own heads with that of a human being; those who have died or been declared missing. One of those heads is Yabe…

[Cast and Crew]

Planned by Koji TSUTSUMI
Producers: Toshiaki NAKAZAWA, Toshiyasu NAKAMURA & Masamichi HIGUCHI Executive Producer: Yasuhiro HASEGAWA Based on "Kuroi Tankyusha / Black Investigator" and "Akai Kuchibiru / Red Lips" from the manga “Yokai Hunter” series by Daijiro MOROHOSHI
Music by Tatsushi UMEGAKI
Cinematographer: Masahiro KISHIMOTO
Lighting Director: Kenjiro KONAKA
Art Director: Satoshi AKAZUKA
Editor: Yoshitami KUROIWA
Special Effect & Make-up: Takashi ODA
Written and directed by Shinya TSUKAMOTO

Kenji SAWADA as Hieda
Masaki KUDO as Masao
Megumi UENO as Tsukishima
Naoto TAKENAKA as Yabe
Hideo MUROTA as the janitor
Ken MITSUISHI as the researcher
Banho CHO as the researcher
Kimiko YO as Reiko’s mother
Production Company: SEDIC
Distribution: MAKOTOYA CO., LTD.

[About the Restoration and Remastering]

This is a note from IMAGICA Entertainment Media Service about their policy and process for the restoring and remastering of the movie.

Working Policy
The aim was to bring back the beauty, the sadness and the scent of the story, the "events of that summer day", by remastering the film in its purest state (i.e. to reproduce the first preview screening).

Rough Outline of the Work Involved
The restoration was created from the original 35mm negative film stored in the IMAGICA laboratory warehouse, and using the print adjustment values (= timing data) that were kept at the time the film was completed, the colors were digitally reproduced.

The film was mastered in the purest way possible, without the addition of any external elements or influences. The original film was in very good condition and the restoration has been limited to removing some of the dust and scratches that have adhered to the negatives due to age and past use. The grain of the film is now clearly visible at high resolution. The film's grain, which is a random texture caused by variations in film density, is intentionally left at the same level as in the original presentation.

What is timing data? In the original film, which is made by physically cutting and splicing the film, the colors vary from cut to cut depending on the shooting environment and weather conditions. Whenever a film is shot and developed to make a positive film for screening, light levels and filters are used to adjust the color, lightness and darkness of each cut in order to correct and standardize the tone. By referring to the stored timing data, it is possible to recreate the "the first issue". The word 'timing' is said to have originated from the degree of burning of the film and the time it was immersed in the developing solution. The sound was recorded digitally on an SD master (Digital Betacam) and was in excellent condition (35mm cine tape or digital copy of DAT), so we did not re-approach the material as it would have deteriorated over time.

Detailed Description of the Process

1. Film preparation
End of November - beginning of December 2020

The original 35mm negative film was manually inspected and some weak editing points (joints) were repaired.

2. Film scanning
Mid-December 2020

The film was scanned frame by frame at 2K resolution. Since the film contains a lot of color information, it was scanned in uncompressed Log format with a wide range of image contours, including those of the perforations.
By using a method that captures a lot of light and dark tones, and by scanning over a wide area including perforations, as much information as possible was preserved, and symptoms of the film's age were observed so that they could be repaired digitally.

3. Restoration

Late December 2020 (preliminary) + January 2009 (final)

The scanned data was digitally restored removing fine dust, scratches and splice marks (splice marks at the editing points of the film).
The film is spliced in the negative editing room with a splicer, but when the film is spliced to the nearest millimeter, some of the glue inevitably sticks out. As time goes on, this glue will become white and visible in the frame (and on screen). This part cannot be removed by physical cleaning, so it was removed digitally after scanning, using the method of transplanting the front and rear pieces. In addition, the film was adjusted to simulate a positive film look on screen. Film negative film is very fine and at the same time has a very rough feel to it.
In this restoration and remastering, the film is scanned directly from the negative, which makes the grain appear more intense (i.e. coarser). Based on Imagica's accumulated experience and research, we have reduced the grain to the level of the coarseness seen in the first prints.

4. Grading
December 2020 *Meeting with Cinematographer Masahiro KISHIMOTO on 24th

Grading (adjustment of color, lightness and darkness) was carried out for each cut of the entire film. The standard was the D65 setting (TV cinema mode value) on PC monitors, smartphone screens and display screens. Digital parameters converted from the timing data stored by Imagica at the time of completion (1990) were used, and the values were reflected for each cut. In addition to reproducing the color of the original film in numerical form, we compared the values with those of the SD master (a master tape for DVD made in 2000 from low-contrast positive film in the presence of Cinematographer Masahiro KISHIMOTO) to check for any deviations from our policy.

At the end of 2020, the entire film was checked in the presence of the Cinematographer Masahiro KISHIMOTO. With the increase in resolution, details became clearer and we made minor adjustments to areas that looked strange or out of place. We avoided the use of masks and compositing, as in digital grading (using digital tools to fine-tune a single image), and limited ourselves to the whole image, light and dark areas. Imagica's view is that the original was in a state of balanced perfection.

Due to the large amount of information in the negative film, we were concerned about the subtle changes in the texture of some of the high-definition composites, but this was resolved through delicate fine-tuning and correction under the supervision of Cinematographer Masahiro KISHIMOTO.

5. Mastering
Mid-January 2021

The uncompressed data after grading and the digitized audio data were synchronized to create the DSM (Digital Source Master). The entire process is carried out in uncompressed form, and the uncompressed data is recorded on storage media to complete the remastering process.

6. First preview Screening of DCP and data check in the first screening room. 22 February 2021

Thank you for the collaboration of
Andrew Kirkham, Jacopo Bortolussi, Masaki Daibo and Mami Furukawa.