Category Archives: Kaiju

Podcast #13 – Godzilla vs. Biollante

Godzilla vs Biollante

Download Link – Episode 13: Godzilla vs Biollante

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Show Notes

Intro and News (00:00):

Lamentations on the Winter 2017 anime season, Netflix, and Amazon’s Anime Strike.

Review (34:00):

Two monsters, created by science gone awry, go head to head in the second Godzilla film of the Heisei era: Godzilla vs Biolante.  This follow up to Return of Godzilla or Godzilla 1984, which we reviewed in episode 7, arrived five years after the release of the previous film had under-performed at the box office.  Looking for fresh ideas to revitalize the somewhat moribund franchise, producers at Toho held a public contest in search of a script.  The winning entry, written by a dentist named Shinichiro Kobayashi with a script that largely sidelined the franchise’s typical anti-nuclear bent in favor of a new focus on the emerging threat posed from bio-technology, was heavily rewritten by Director Kazuki Omori to include spies, assassins, and corporate espionage.  The resulting film is a truly a bizarre mishmash of ideas: espionage, deadly assassins, fictional middle eastern countries, mad science, ESPers, military super weapons, and, of course, awesome Kaiju action — it’s a hell of a ride!

 

 

Podcast #8 – Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris

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Download Link – Episode 8: Gamera 3 Revenge of Iris

Drop us an Email.  Check out Grant on twitter.  Subscribe on iTunes.

 Show Notes

Random talk: Ultraman Orb, video game Engrish, wrestling, MacrossPower Rangers 

News (26:10):

Review (56:30)

We watch Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris from 1999, the final film in the Heisei Gamera trilogy.

 

Podcast #7 – Return of Godzilla

Return of Godzilla Poster

Download Link – Episode 7: Return of Godzilla

Drop us an Email.  Check out Grant on twitter.  Subscribe on iTunes.

Show Notes

What we’ve been watching:

  • JoJo’s Bizarre AdventureLegend of Korra, DC Animated Universe, Space Brothers, Southern Cross, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
  • Southern Cross’s “Cosmic Deja Vu  might be the most appropriately titled opening theme song ever.

News (36:15):

Finally, we review (at 1:06:13) Heat’s favorite Godzilla film, Return of Godzilla.  Directed by Koji Hashimoto, the film, released in 1984, was the first in the Heisei Series.

Leave a comment below. Enjoy!

 

Talkin’ Toku

Tokusatsu is an enormous component of worldwide media fandom, and its visibility has increased drastically in recent years. Before I get into some more US-centric news in upcoming posts, I want to lay down a few key terms that run through tokusatsu so that everyone is on the same page.

Tokusatsu – A term that essentially means “special filming,” and roughly refers to anything that involves special effects and would be categorized in the west as science fiction/fantasy. For most people, tokusatsu is “live action things which are exciting and cool.” If you watch an eastern program that has live actors and some things that you want to own a toy or figure of, then it is probably tokusatsu.

Daikaiju – This basically translates to “great monster” or a rough equivalent. This is explicitly referring to film series like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and other giant monster movies. In the west we often simply say kaiju, though in Japanese that term is broad enough to encompass any monster from a werewolf to King Ghidorah.

Sentai – This term means “task force,” and the is part of the title of Toei’s long-running series. This basically refers to the familiar teams of primary colored spandex superheroes.

Henshin – This can mean “transformation” or “metamorphosis” and refers to any hero switching from their normal form into a their hero mode. The ultimate example of this trope is Kamen Rider, who shouts henshin before changing into his heroic self.

With our vocabulary lesson finished, here is a ridiculous video to whet your appetite for more spandex, explosions, and monsters – the glorious train-themed Ressha Sentai ToQger.

 

Podcast #5 – Gamera 2: Attack of Legion

Gamera 2 Attack of Legion Poster

Download Link – Episode 5: Gamera 2 Attack of Legion

Drop us an Email.  Check out Grant on twitter.  Subscribe on iTunes.

Show Notes

  • Brief Ultraman Orb impressions from Grant, which you can watch for free here: http://www.crunchyroll.com/ultraman-orb
  • Shout outs and blog talk.
  • Funimation’s Kickstarter for the Vision of Escaflowne Bluray with new English Dub comes out next month.  Here’s the trailer featuring the new dub cast.  Also, the super swag collector’s edition, which Zen has pre-ordered, is still available at Rightstuf.704400079702_anime-vision-escaflowne-tv-complete-series-movie-collection-altA
  • Super Dimensional Fortress Macross appears on Amazon Prime; Harmony Gold talk follows.
  • Our thoughts on Attack on Titan Season 2, Space Battleship Yamato 2202, and the new Godzilla anime announcements.
  • Finally, the 90s Gamera trilogy continues with our review of Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (starts at 36:31) from 1996.

Leave a comment below. Enjoy!

 

Childrens’ Perspectives and Kaiju Mayhem

It is no secret that Kaiju movies are popular with children. Although many of the early works in the genre have a distinct horror/environmental tone, as these properties entered full-blown franchise mode many of the rubber-suited monsters became more kid-friendly.

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Always wear a helmet, kids!

There are some pretty obvious components to this. Many Kaiju films are marketed directly at children, so it is no great shock that they are roped into the genre. The scenes of destruction and conflict are exciting and easily understood by children, as opposed to deeper discussions of pollution, war, and human folly. Not to mention the general absurdity of enormous monsters battling is much more easily accepted by children’s less world-weary souls.

 

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Yeah, this stands up to scrutiny. – Billy, age 6

But I think there is another unexplored element to this – a child’s unique perspective.

By that I mean the literal viewpoint of a child in a physical sense. Most children who are somewhere between 5-10 years old are comparatively much shorter than adults. Often times when they encounter adults they must look up to see them quite literally towering overhead. This is especially intimidating when children meet a new adult, and we have all encountered a situation where a child reflexively hides behind a parent’s leg when first meeting a new person.

I think Kaiju tap into this primal fear of people/beings larger than ourselves. When Godzilla, Gigan, King Kong, or any number of other big beasts come stomping through a major metropolitan area in these films they are almost always filmed from a lower perspective or viewpoint. In a practical sense this is a camera trick to make the suit-wearing actors appear to be larger than normal people, but I think it also a psychological impact in that it mirrors the view of a child looking at a fully grown adult. Here we see destructive forces many times our height, laying waste to our world and we know we are powerless to stop them, much like a child would feel.

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In this way children are immediately drawn into the scene because they know what it is like to see the world from this perspective.

It also serves as a great power fantasy for younglings. Not only do they understand what it is like to look upwards at larger people or figures, but they get to see this size used to devastating effect as the monsters stomp, crush, and destroy all opposition. The excitement of watching a kaiju destroy smaller objects gives a sense of raw power that children rarely get to experience. As they project themselves onto these beasts, they see how they might use that power for fun in an imaginative space, unlike the real world where they are often told not to touch/break/mess with things. It is very similar to the construction of sand castles, which is almost inevitably followed by a child stomping through said castles and giggling all the while.

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Behold! I am Childaragon, destroyer of worlds!

This infuses Kaiju films with a sort of common language that I think few other films have, and is part of the reason why they still work even after 60 years of mighty monster mayhem.

Today’s question for the Rogues Gallery – do you think Kaiju movies resonate with children because of how they see the world? Or is there something else at work? Let us know in the comments below, rogues!

Ultraman – Respect the Red and Silver

Ultraman turned 50 years old this year. The brainchild of Godzilla special effects director Eiji Tsubaraya, the original series aired in 1966 on Japanese television and has had the kind of impact one would expect from a spandex-clad giant wrestling lobsters on mainstreet. One of the early tokusatsu works, this show cleverly blended superheroes, spies, kaiju, and a dash of Twilight Zone/Outer Limits style strangeness. It is really no surprise that it was such a smash hit.

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Of course you choose this over the evening news, honestly it’s probably less crazy.

His cultural importance in the eastern hemisphere cannot be understated. With over 25 series in the Ultraman franchise and 8 movies, as well as countless video games and other merchandise, he truly is an endearing cultural icon. Much like Superman and Batman are infused with popular western conceptions of what a superhero is, Ultraman is the mold from which many eastern superheroes are forged.

Why is he such an unknown here in the west, then?

Part of the problem stems from the fact that to many he is “just another superhero.” Essentially viewed as a something of an off-brand Power Ranger, Ultraman seldom gets taken very seriously here in the west.

Another issue is syndication and visibility. In the United States, Ultraman has not been on the air in 20-30 years. While many Latin American countries have a much stronger history of showing Ultraman (and a lot of other things, like Mazinger Z – bless you Latin America), and I am unsure of Europe, there is always something to be said for keeping a property alive in the U.S. market because it will inevitably filter out to others due to the sheer number of viewers and amount of money involved.

Most distressing is the consistently frustrating legal battles that Tsubaraya Productions has had with Chaiyo over licensing issues. The agony here is worth a few blog posts in and of itself (and perhaps I should do that at some point, though far greater men than I have explained it quite thoroughly).

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The mask hides my Ultratears.

Thankfully, the Ultra franchise is in one of the best places it could possibly be in terms of access. The original series is on Hulu, Shout Factory has both the dvds and free streams for a number of Ultra shows (including the magnificent Ultra Seven), and Crunchyroll has a metric ton of Ultra shows ready to be watched. In fact, Ultraman Orb is releasing new episodes every week as of this posting. I love everything about the classic series and many of its successors, either for the strange aliens, awesome kaiju battles, or sometimes outright corny special effects.

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Behold, in episode 11 Ultraman faces down a foe while waiting for the bus.

So Rogues Gallery, I leave you with this. To celebrate 50 years of Ultramannery, have any of you watched or enjoyed the red and silver hero from a distant nebula? Have you tried and not liked it, or completely passed it over? Let me know in the comments below, Rogues! (Or just give me the loudest SHA! you can muster).