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Posts Tagged ‘31 Japanese Monsters’

31 (Japanese) Monsters #31: Godzilla

October 31st, 2010 No comments

As with yesterday’s post about Mothra, I don’t know that I have much more to say about the subject of today’s final entry in my Japanese monster retrospective. But none of the creatures that have flown, swam and stomped their way across the Japanese isles would’ve existed if not for…

Godzilla!

Monster Island Nickname Your Majesty
Hails From The Unknown Depths of the Ocean
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
28 (plus Hollywood Boulevard, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Always – Sunset on Third Street)
Hobbies Being Awesome
Quote “Hey, Angilas! C’mon! There’s a lot of trouble ahead!*”

As I mentioned in my entry on King Ghidorah, I am a chronic doodler. So here are some actual doodles of Godzilla from actual meetings I have attended.

I hope that you have enjoyed this month of monsters. Every time I embark on one of these month-long series, I tell myself that I’m going to keep it short and simple. Well, that didn’t happen.

If this has encouraged you to put on a rubber suit and trash some cardboard buildings, then my work here is done. Happy Halloween!

*I am not making this up. In Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla and Angilas (aka Anguirus) actually have themselves a little conversation. In English. With speech bubbles. See for yourself.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #30: Mothra

October 30th, 2010 No comments

Okay, okay, this is a repeat from last year’s 31 Monsters, but I don’t see how I could do a month of kaiju without including the queen of them all…

Mothra!

Monster Island Nickname Ma’am
Hails From Infant Island
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
12 (!)
Hobbies Needlepoint
Quote “Squeeek! Skwick!”

In lieu of anything new to say about Mothra, please enjoy her song.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #29: Orga

October 29th, 2010 No comments

After TriStar’s disappointing remake–which “flopped” in that it only made $379 million worldwide–Toho decided it was time to get back on the radioactive lizard and ride. Their response was Godzilla 2000, which has the distinction of being the last of the Big G’s films to receive a wide theatrical release in America.

Tapping into both Millennial fears and the 1996 movie Independence Day, it involves an ancient UFO dredged from the ocean that comes to life and seeks out Godzilla in hopes of harvesting his DNA. Sure, okay.

The result is the mutable monstrosity known as…

Orga!

Monster Island Nickname Seriously…Dude…Get Away From Me
Hails From Outer Space (via an oceanic trench)
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Being All Creepy
Quote “Grrr-rooofff!”

It’s one thing to take after Godzilla, another thing entirely to become Godzilla. But that’s exactly what Orga is attempting. In one hella freaky scene, Orga’s mouth distends into an enormous, pink membrane as he tries to swallow his foe.

Ick. Am I right here, folks?

As you may imagine, Godzilla does not take this well, and uses his atomic breath inside Orga’s mouth. There’s no coming back from that.

While no one has ever ‘fessed up, some kaiju fans (including me) have wondered whether Orga’s vague resemblance to the American Godzilla was a deliberate choice on the part of the filmmakers. I mean, here you’ve got this outsider that starts out as a poor imitation of the original and then attempts to supplant him.

Fortunately for all of us, Godzilla ain’t taking that lying down.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #28: Destoroyah

October 28th, 2010 No comments

In the mid ’90s, Toho decided that it was time for them to take a break from Godzilla. Saying, “It’s not you, it’s us,” they grimly prepped the final film of their ’80s/’90s run.

What’s more, it was decreed that Godzilla would die. Okay, so it wasn’t the first time; the original Godzilla was dissolved by Dr. Serizawa’s Oxygen Destroyer all the back in 1954. But since the first sequel onward, Godzilla always swam away to fight another day.

What kaiju was nasty enough to do the deed? King Ghidorah? Mechagodzilla? The Giant Devilfish? No, it would take a brand new fiend to put an end to the Big G. It would take…

Destoroyah!

Monster Island Nickname Beelzebub
Hails From Mad Science
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Beadwork
Quote “Ah-ha-ha-ha-eeerrraaah!”

In a clever callback to the first Godzilla film, Destoroyah is created by the lingering effects of the Oxygen Destroyer upon a colony of microscopic crustaceans. These prehistoric mutants first form into a gestalt of man-sized crab monsters, and ultimately into a colossal winged demon.

Meanwhile, Godzilla is having a very bad day. Having absorbed too much radiation, he is in imminent danger of melting down and taking all of Japan with him. It’s really rather nasty: he spends the entire movie sizzling and steaming from red-hot fissures across his body.

In the end, it’s not so much Destoroyah that takes him down, though the final battle accelerates the meltdown. The Japanese Self Defense Forces use freeze cannons to retard the process just enough to save Japan, but not Godzilla.

He would, of course, return…

31 (Japanese) Monsters #27: Mecha King Ghidorah

October 27th, 2010 No comments

Honestly, it was pretty much inevitable. We’ve had Mechani-Kong as well as various flavors of Mechagodzilla*, so it was only a matter of time before we met…

Mecha King Ghidorah!

Monster Island Nickname Mecha King Fanwank
Hails From The Year 2204
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Confusing Historians
Quote “Ayaaa-ayaugh!”

The story of how Mecha King Ghidorah came to be is a complicated and confusing one. In 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, a UFO piloted by 23rd Century Westerners arrive to warn Japan of its impending destruction by Godzilla. Their solution: to travel further back to 1944, when a group of Japanese soldiers on a Pacific island were saved from U.S. forces by the intervention of a dinosaur, the same dinosaur that was later irradiated by nuclear tests and subsequently mutated into Godzilla. They intend to remove the Godzillasaurus from the island and therefore prevent Godzilla’s creation. (The first of many questions raised by this story is just why the “Futurians” need to involve the people of 1991 in the first place.)

The Futurians teleport the dinosaur to the bottom of the ocean, but surreptitiously leave behind three genetically-engineered creatures called “Dorats.” Upon returning to 1991, our heroes discover a terrible truth: the golden, bird-like Dorats were fused together by the atomic tests and transformed into King Ghidorah, now fully under the control of the future Westerners**.

It turns out that the tale of Godzilla being responsible for the total destruction of Japan is a lie. In actuality, 23rd Century Japan economically dominates the world, and the Futurians intend to use King Ghidorah to change that. (The second thing that makes no sense is that the people native to 1991 still remember Godzilla, despite his now having been never existed***.)

Fortunately, a wrecked Russian sub disgorges enough radiation to recreate Godzilla in the present day. This bigger, more powerful version kills Ghidorah and dumps the corpse into the ocean. He then sets to work on Japan itself.

Suddenly, a new creature arrives in a huge burst of light. The people of the future–presumably different future people–recovered Ghidorah’s shattered body and rebuilt it into a partially-mechanical beast. (Whereas Mechani-Kong and Mechagodzilla were robots, Mecha King Ghidorah is a cyborg, and a zombie to boot.)

Mecha King Ghidorah uses its grapples to tow Godzilla out to sea, but not before being destroyed a second time. And in a really confusing bit of chronology, the next Godzilla film finds this second dead Ghidorah recovered by present-day Japan and its future technology incorporated into the second Mechagodzilla.

*However, to this day we have not yet encountered Mecha Mothra.

**This movie was criticized for its anti-Western slant. First, there’s the matter of the proto-Godzilla saving Japanese soldiers from the Americans. In addition, the two villainous Futurians are notably Caucasian. The third member of their party is a Japanese woman whose complicity in the plot to destroy her homeland is never explored. No matter, she switches sides and winds up piloting Mecha King Ghidorah to save the day.

***Pardon the poor time-travel grammar.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #26: King Seesar

October 26th, 2010 No comments

Spiritual monsters are surprisingly rare in the Toho kaiju canon. Of course, there’s Mothra the island goddess. And Baragon and King Ghidorah were recast as guardians of Japan in the awkwardly named 2001 flick Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.

But for an out-and-out mystical beast, you have to take a sea jaunt and say a prayer to…

King Seesar!

Monster Island Nickname Fido
Hails From Okinawa
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
2
Hobbies Fetch
Quote “Raggh! Ragghhgghh!”

The protector of Okinawa is King Seesar, more properly known as King Shisa (though he’s also been referred to as King Caesar and even King Seesaw). A shisa is a lion/dog combination said to fend off evil spirits, but the enemy in this case is Mechagodzilla, the robot slave of the Black Hole aliens.

King Seesar is a scrappy fighter with a secret weapon: the ability to absorb energy beams through one eye and return them through the other. That proves handy against Mechagodzilla, who is pretty much a walking ray gun.

Despite faithfully helping Godzilla to defeat his robot double, it took Seesar thirty years to make another appearance, and then it was as one of the many monsters controlled by the forces of Planet X in Godzilla Final Wars.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #25: Green Gargantua

October 25th, 2010 No comments

When I set out to chronicle a month’s worth of giant Japanese monsters, I didn’t realize just how many times I’d have cause to refer to the semi-obscure Toho Studios flick Frankenstein Conquers the World. For those of you who came in late, that’s the one where the immortal heart of Frankenstein’s Monster is irradiated by the Hiroshima bomb and regenerates into a flat-headed kid who fights a dinosaur and doesn’t fight an octopus.

Even stranger than that film itself is the fact that it has a sequel, and that you may have actually heard of it. It’s the cult classic War of the Gargantuas.

It’s a bit more obvious in the Japanese version–which went out under the title Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira–than in the American re-edit, but one of the titular creatures is meant to have grown from the severed hand of the radioactive kid from the earlier film. Never mind that it was the heart that was supposed to have been undying; here we learn that every cell has the capacity of growing into a new monster.

So it is that we are introduced to Sanda the Brown Gargantua (“Gargantua” was the name given to the creatures in the U.S. release) and his “offspring” Gaira, the…

Green Gargantua!

Monster Island Nickname Booger
Hails From The Sea
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Laser Tag
Quote “Shewaaaawaaa!”

Gaira makes his first appearance by “rescuing” a fishing boat from a giant octopus–the very same octopus from the deleted scene in the earlier Frankenstein film–then wrecking  the boat himself.

Both Gaira and his more peaceable father/brother Sanda like people. Gaira, however, likes their oaky flavor. He proves this in what is arguably the film’s most famous sequence, gobbling down the lounge singer who has just performed the immortal ballad “The Words Get Stuck in My Throat.”

Sanda tries to get along with his irascible clone, but their differences are just too great. This, of course, means war.

Thankfully for Tokyo–and lounge performers of all types–the feuding Gargantuas are wiped out by a convenient volcano before they can spawn another generation of flat-heads.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #24: Maguma

October 24th, 2010 No comments

When all you have is a man in a rubber suit, every problem looks like a building waiting to be crushed.

That was the situation faced by the makers of Toho’s 1962 sci-fi epic Gorath. They had a perfectly serviceable variant of When Worlds Collide about a rogue star poised to smash the Earth. They had spaceships and tidal waves, not to mention a lunatic scheme to shove the entire planet out of harm’s way by installing enormous rockets at the South Pole. But was that enough to put butts in the seats?

No, it was clear what this movie needed: a giant walrus. A giant walrus named…

Maguma!


Monster Island Nickname Wallace
Hails From Antarctica
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Playing “Don’t Break the Ice”
Quote “Bwa-aaaaah! Bwa-aaaaaah!”

And that is why, 67 minutes into an 88-minute movie, the heat from the rocket engines released a prehistoric walrus from the Antarctic ice. Because the utter annihilation of the human race needed a kicker. At least a huge marine mammal buried at the South Pole makes a bit more sense than certain mountain-dwelling octopi I could name.

With only twenty more minutes to save the world, Maguma really didn’t have much of a chance to spread his flippers. In the original Japanese release, he was butchered from the air by a laser-equipped aircraft. In the American edit, he was removed from the film entirely.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #23: Zilla

October 23rd, 2010 No comments

Every once in a while, the fanboys are right.

In 1998, dire reports began to bubble up that the script for Tristar Pictures’ remake of Godzilla did not do justice to the King of the Monsters. Godzilla doesn’t breathe fire, they said. Godzilla runs and hides rather than confronting the military. Godzilla gives birth.

At the time, I thought that all of this was just fans being fans. Surely it was in everyone’s best interests to preserve the basic concepts that separate Godzilla from any other radioactive lizard.

Hoo boy.

The gangly-limbed, thorn-backed creature that slunk its way onto the screen may have been a computer-generated image, but somehow it appeared more like a man in a suit than the Japanese Godzilla.

Born from French nuclear tests–ah, yes, let’s blame it on the French–this Godzilla was literally a mutated iguana. Furthermore, it was asexual, laying thousands of eggs in its hidden nest.

By film’s end, the newfangled Godzilla was struck dead by a pair of conventional air-to-surface missiles. Somewhere, King Kong was laughing.

Toho Studios played ball during the film’s release, praising the new design. But eventually, the American Godzilla was given a new name intended to suggest that it was an inferior model…

Zilla!


Monster Island Nickname GINO
Hails From French Polynesia (yes, French Polynesia)
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
2
Hobbies Running, Hiding
Quote “Hey, I was just doing my job.”

One of the offspring of the tragic beast later starred in a Saturday morning cartoon series based on the Tristar film. To everyone’s surprise, it was actually pretty good. The design looked better in cel animation. The son of Godzilla was more aggressive in its battles with other mutants. It also breathed fire. Yes, that was important.

This Godzilla–or one like it–made its sole appearance in the Japanese film series in 2004’s Godzilla Final Wars. Renamed Zilla, it was one of the monsters controlled by the Planet X aliens. Its fight with the Japanese Godzilla lasted all of 13 seconds.

Amusingly, it’s the only monster in that film that’s entirely computer-generated rather than the traditional man-in-a-suit.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #22: Mechagodzilla

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

The most amazing thing about today’s Japanese monster is that it took Toho Studios twenty years to think of him. After all, fighting your mechanical doppleganger is Superhero 101 stuff. In 1974–seven years after Toho introduced a robot King Kong–it was time, at last, for…

Mechagodzilla!

Monster Island Nickname Rusty
Hails From Planet 3 of the Black Hole and/or a Debasement of Science
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
5
Hobbies Musical Theatre
Quote “Sreeeeee! Sreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Every generation gets the Mechagodzilla it deserves.

The first one is constructed, as you might expect, by ape aliens. Its overwhelming array of built-in weaponry–everything from laser eyes to knee rockets–proves to be highly effective against Godzilla and his foo dog ally King Seesar. Doesn’t save him from having his head ripped off, though.

Later versions of Mechagodzilla are built by humans as part of their anti-Godzilla initiatives. For reasons deemed good ideas by someone, Mechagodzilla Mk 3 is constructed over the bones of the original Godzilla, dredged up from Tokyo Bay. Because–and I cannot stress this enough–Japan. It turns out that nothing pisses off Godzilla more than desecrating the remains of his ancestor.