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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Japan Edition! Godzilla Promo books & Film Reviews

The following four reads are promotional books lavishly illustrated with gobs and gobs of glossy color photos. These are the ultimate guides into the behind the scenes shots of the films and they all contain some choice photos of the monsters in action. All four of these books alternate between the making of the films, roll call of characters and actual shots from the finished movies. Text is all in Japanese, but damn if the photos don't do all the explaining! I picked these up at a Chiller Con a few years ago in New Jersey.

Since there's really nothing to review in terms of its contents, I will just briefly review the film itself below the screencaps of the front covers of the books, which are on the reverse side of where we would normally begin reading.


58 glossy color pages

A young female officer, Kiriko Fujimori, has a vendetta against the gigantic behemoth, Godzilla, after her senior commander is killed by the beast in 1996. Five years later, Kiriko has her chance with the use of the awesome weapon called The Dimension Tide, a devastating creation that creates a black hole that sucks anything into it within its proximity. During a demonstration of the weapons power, a rift is opened allowing a bizarre creature to enter our world. Called a Meganula, the dragonfly like creature feasts on humans and lays thousands of eggs beneath the streets of Tokyo. Meanwhile, the Dimension Tide is prepped for its use against Godzilla, but then the city is soon flooded by the massive influx of meganulan eggs below the streets. With their being one queen named the Megaguirus, the organization known as the G-Graspers now have two titans to fight. Both beasts soon meet and while the battle rages, the anti Godzilla unit use the hi-tech flight craft, the Griffon, to lure Godzilla into the path of the Dimension Tide.

This Godzilla movie, the second of the Millennium series, was the first to be directed by Maasaki Tezuka and the least moneymaking entry in said series. It has quite the mother lode of interesting ideas that were lacking in all the Heisei movies and the previous picture helmed by Takao Okawara. Tezuka brought along a freshness to the monster sequences that reminded me so much of the G films of old. Some of these ideas were just plain original. Such is the scene where Kiriko actually rides on the back of Godzilla while out in the ocean.

The costumes of the G-Graspers and the Griffon ship bring ULTRAMAN and the Science Patrol to mind. The big tussel at the end is also very creative in its design and is successful in humanizing the two monsters even if it's sometimes in a comedic fashion. The Meganulan monsters are the ones seen in Toho's classic, RODAN from 1956. Michiru Oshima shows that a woman is capable of orchestrating a big, opulent score that can sit proudly alongside Ifukube's monumental work. One of the single most controversial G film of the Millennium series in how it divides fans, it is easily a favorite of mine and a breath of fresh air when I finally was able to see it.


58 glossy color pages

The looming threat of a return attack from Godzilla prompts the Japan Self Defense Force to always be ready for an impending, or immediate threat. A young woman, Yuri Tachibana, a reporter for a television program on paranormal activity finds a bizarre scoop on an ancient prophecy. It tells that three Earth guardians, giant creatures of varying strength and powers, will one day battle Godzilla. It is also surmized by a wisened old man that Godzilla is not only a product of nuclear fallout, but is strengthened by the forgotten and vengeful souls of those killed in the atomic blasts of WW2. Godzilla does indeed appear and battles the three Earth guardians as well as the Japanese military might. A combined effort of man and monster bring the towering inferno of destruction to an end.

Shuseke Kaneko put his own spin on Toho's famed series with this decidedly darker Millennium entry. There was an all new approach to the material. It went into a direction that should have been embraced by the last and worst Godzilla film in decades, GODZILLA FINAL WARS. Kaneko's vision is a favorite of many, but I dislike certain aspects of it.

King Ghidorah was a big wimp here and had to brought back to life several times. The picture was also rather repetitive; he's in the water, he's out of the water, he's dead, now he's alive, oh, he's dead again...and so on. There are some ace effects scenes and memorable moments, though. Mothra rising like a burning phoenix only to be completely obliterated was a moment of shocking brilliance. A couple of shots of Godzilla amidst a mass of smoldering rubble and the first appearance of the stronger Ghidorah are also notable. The score is a vast departure from what has come before. Some of the cues are interesting, but the soundtrack is another way in which the last G film attempted to differ. GMK is a monster flick that caters to a little more than the average creature feature fan.


65 glossy color & B/W pages

During a typhoon, Godzilla attacks and the Anti Mega Loss Force is called into action. Akane Yashiro loses control of her maser tank shoving a jeep driven by a friend into the oncoming path of the gigantic lizard. Overcome with grief, Akane makes it a life ambition to combat Godzilla. The military devises a new robot battle droid built around the bones of the original Godzilla which destroyed Tokyo back in 1954. This new robotic weapon, dubbed Kiryu, is remote controlled to cut down on human casualties. Akane trains to be the pilot of the Shiragasi, the control mechanism for Kiryu. Armed with a devastating weapon, the Absolute Zero Cannon, which will instantly freeze anything within its range, the two monsters soon collide. After a failed first battle when Godzilla's roar triggers an embedded memory within Kiryu's skeletal structure, causing the robot to destroy miles of city blocks, the Kiryu project comes into question. But when Godzilla appears to destroy Japanese cities once more, the battle bot is put back in action for a final showdown.

Masaaki Tezuka returns to the Millennium series and directs one of the most popular and biggest hits of recent memory. Action is the name of the game and Tezuka's movie moves along at a rapid clip. The special effects are spot on, the mecha designs are all slick and imposing creations. Tezuka imports and improves on so many aspects that were introduced in his maiden Toho voyage, GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS (2000).

There are a lot of similarities throughout, yet it all seems so fresh and vibrant. One area that this picture never lets you down is in the monster action. It's what you go to a G film for. The battle sequences are extremely creative and Mechagodzilla is the best design of its last three incarnations. The city rampage with an out of control Kiryu is one of the best moments out of the whole series. Mankind is hopeless to stop the robot till its batteries run out. Michiru Oshima encores with yet another impressive soundtrack, Kumi Mizuno has a guest appearance and all is right in the Godzilla universe. Very much recommended for any and all G fans.


59 glossy color & B/W pages

A year after the titanic battle between Godzilla and his mechanical opponent, damages to Kiryu were massive requiring extensive repairs. Meanwhile, Doctor Shinichi Chujo receives a visit from the Shobijin, the two twin fairy caretakers of Infant Island whom Chujo hat met over 30 years prior. The Shobijin request that the bones used in the Kiryu project be returned to the sea lest mankind feel the wrath of Mothra once more. The military feel differently and decide that Kiryu will be repaired and utilized as the top means of battling the threat of Godzilla. When the giant lizard finally marches on the city, a small boy recreates the distress call for Mothra. The God of Infant Island appears and fights with Godzilla. With repairs unfinished, the Prime Minister decides to send the mighty robot into battle to aid in the fight. With Mothra's strength depleting, two larva hatch and make their way to the city. Kiryu is also severely damaged and its up to the baby Mothra larvae to stop Godzilla. In a final moment of desperation, Kiryu is brought back on line to send Godzilla to a watery grave.

Tezuka's last Godzilla movie has the best effects sequences thus far and tons of action and moves at an even swifter pace, only it seems more like an expansion pack for the last movie. It's as if they split it into two parts and released them separately. It doesn't break any new ground, but does introduce some new additions to Mechagodzilla. It also is the first Millenium production to be a direct sequel to one of the previous films. TOKYO S.O.S. is also very much in the vein of the Honda directed productions of the 1960's.

Interestingly, this behind the scenes book has some awesome storyboards showing multiple Kiryu robots as well as other hi tech machinery. There is a direct connection to MOTHRA (1961) with the inclusion of the Chujo character played by the same actor. There's also a connection to Honda's YOG, MONSTER FROM SPACE (1970) when a dead Kameba (a giant turtle in that film along with several other monsters) washes up on shore with a nasty bite in its neck. Michiru Oshima also returns to deliver a fitfully exciting score that adds a whole other level of excitement to the lengthy battle between the three monsters culminating in a strong finish. It's a shame the series had to end on a low point with FINAL WARS. Tezuka then went on to direct a lively and action packed remake of the Sonny Chiba hit, TIME SLIP (1979).

If you're a fan of Toho monster flicks and you happen to see some of these at a convention, or a bookstore, you will not be disappointed. Not understanding Japanese is not a problem as the glossy imagery is the selling point here.


Mark Hodgson said...

I love these kind of books - the layouts are fantastic and the photos make the effects look great.

The main problem is trying to find information about their existence and their contents in English, let alone where to buy them outside of Japan.

We used to have a great Japanese bookstore stock these in north London, but unfortunately it's closed now.

Franco Macabro said...

Dont know why I have never gotten into the whole Godzilla thing.

venoms5 said...

@ Mark: A friend of mine has connections in Japan so I guess that would be an easy way if you know anyone over there. I got these at a Chiller Con so that's one avenue to pursue. They had a bunch more, but these were the only ones I wanted. I think they were either $20 or $25 a piece.

I totally agree about the layouts. Simply outstanding! The Japanese have one helluva great way of promoting their product.

venoms5 said...

@ Francisco: Speaking for myself, I still enjoy the movies because it's part of my childhood that I still hold onto. I would like to think that a lot of people who enjoy things that are labeled "For children only" are attracted to them for that very reason--because they are big kids at heart.

But then, a handful of these movies weren't geared towards kids, anyways. It was only after producers noticed so many small fry were attending that the tone was altered more towards younger sensibilities.

The Japanese have a very fanciful approach to their sci fi movies. They're almost like live action animes would be a way for me to describe it.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Im sure these books look fantastic, if only a single read could provide the awesome glossies in the promo books and the more awesome information in MUSHROOM MEN or JAPAN'S BIGGEST MON-STAR!

Of the films, i am still partial to GMAOA, I absolutely 100% loved the approach and the mythical qualities of the picture, even if Mothra and King G get the beat down way too easily. TERROR OF MECHAG will be the definitive MechaG film in my book V

venoms5 said...

Carl, these promo books are stunning at the amount of pics and the layouts of them throughout are amazing. Especially the behind the scenes stuff. Fantastic! If possible, I may post some pics from them if I can keep from breaking the spines. The pages are rather thick, too.

I Like Horror Movies said...

V do you like the Millenium Series redesign for big G over the other incarnations of the character? What costume is your favorite version throughout the years, and which do you feel is the definitive Godzilla that most people think of when they hear the name?

I Like Horror Movies said...

Addendum: Maybe this discussion is better suited for a full fledged post? =D

venoms5 said...

A couple of them are partial to me. The one seen in the two Mechagodzilla films from the 70's are a favorite. The suit is modified a bit in the second one, but overall, G had this scrappy bulldog look to him which I thought was cool. The Millennium series costumes, minus the elephantine design of GMK, are another favorite. The one used in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964) is a fan favorite overall it seems. In terms of Godzilla's roar, I really loved the deep guttural tone of the big guy in GODZILLA (1984), GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989) and GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1992). It was really imposing and made him sound like a massive beast. The old style roar was fine, it just made him sound more playful.

A good idea, Carl! Maybe you can do the honors since it's your idea? I think it would be a fascinating post.

I Like Horror Movies said...

GvM was the iconic look for me once I went through all of the films in the first round, but I love the original, dig the bulldog look of the Heisei era, and really like the Millenium redesign as well. We may have to team up for a crossover post on both blogs for the costume coverage since you are so much more familiar with all of the films =D

I want to finish Brothers' book and Japans Biggest Mon-Star before making a second run through the series, after which I would love to work on a costume post, lets plan for some sort of collaboration!

venoms5 said...

Sounds good! We'll have to exchange notes on how it will be done.

Speaking of Japanese sci fi, I am finishing up a review on GORATH right now. I think it's something you might be interested in.

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