Friday, April 9, 2010

In The Absence Of Godzilla, Japan Has Had A Real Giant Monster Boom!

Written By: Ken Hulsey

When the Japanese movie giant, Toho Studios, put their number one international film star, Godzilla, on a ten year hiatus following the movie, "Godzilla: Final Wars" in 2004, it was assumed, by many, that the nation's long-lasting love affair with giant monsters was over.

They were wrong.

After all, it was Toho's assertion that the giant monster genre had run it's course in Japan, and that the constant decline in box office dollars for their prized Godzilla movies was a direct indication that fans no longer found the constant destruction at the hands of over-sized creatures entertaining. So they put Godzilla on a ten-year vacation to rethink the genre and how to approach it, hopefully to come out afterword with fresh ideas to recapture the hearts of monster movie fans again and return their product to the top of the heap.

What they didn't realise was that with Godzilla out of the way, other Japanese film makers would seize the moment to produce their own giant monster films, and bring about a new renaissance of the films that Toho thought nobody wanted to see anymore.

Since 2004, the boom in monster movies began rather slowly, but gained momentum over the past couple of years, and not only in Japan, but worldwide. Indeed independent film makers world-wide, who grew up watching Toho's Godzilla, and other monster movies, became inspired to create their own city smashing titans.

The greatest number of these have been produced right here in the United States, but film makers in Europe and numerous other Asian countries, have gone into the giant monster movie business as well. The most notable of these is South Korea, who have produced a number of very good films over the past five years, including Bong Joon-Ho's acclaimed monster movie "The Host". In the eyes of many fans, Korea seems ready to take the giant monster movie crown away from Japan.

So far, due to the renewed interest in monster films in 'the land of the rising sun', Japanese film makers have been able to hold off the pressure from Korea, and remain the genre's top dog.

Here are some of Japan's giant monster films, post Godzilla, that fans here in the United States, may, or may not be familiar with:

Negadon The Monster From Mars (2005)

Directed by Jun Awazu from his original script and rendered in staggeringly realistic computer graphics, Negadon: The Monster From Mars pays homage to a wide variety of 1950's and 60's Japanese monster movies such as Godzilla, Mothra, and other classics which first brought global attention to Japan's then-emerging post-war feature film industry.Negadon is the world's first completely computer-generated monster movie. The film was in production for over three years and required the invention of special rendering algorithms to reproduce a 1950's style look. Unleashed in Japan in October 2005, Negadon won the Outstanding Production Award at the 20th Digital Contents Grand Prix and was named a Jury Recommended Work at the 9th Japan Media Arts Festival.

In the year 2025, the world population explodes to over 10 billion. In search for a new place to live, mankind initiates the space exploration project entitled “The Mars Terraforming Project.” Step by step, mankind successfully transforms Mars into a habitable planet.But when a Japanese freight spaceship returning from Mars crashes on the streets of Tokyo unleashing a giant and vicious monster from underneath the surface of Mars, only Dr. Narasaki and his long-abandoned robot Miroku can save Earth and mankind.

Long-Haired Giant Monster: Gehara (2009)

Writer Jun Miura teamed up with renowned effects man Shinji Higuchi to produce "Long-Haired Giant Monster: Gehara", a 15-minute long spoof of Japan's famous monster films, like Godzilla and Gamera.

The short film aired on Japanese late-night television, as part of the series, "Play TV Perform!", along with several other small scale films.

The film featured a newspaper reporter who tries to follow the monster Gehara as he rampages through a Japanese city.

Of course, with this being a satire, the reporter gets into all kinds of trouble, and humorous situations in his quest to get the scoop of a life-time.
Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit! (2008)

This time around director Minoru Kawasaki decided to not only lampoon Japan's giant monster films, but Japan's government in his remake of the 1967 film , "Uchuu Daikaijuu Girara" (The X From Outer Space).

In the summer of 2008, the G8 summit is being held at Lake Toya, a beautiful resort near the volcano in Hokkaido. At the same time, the Chinese rocket falls into Japan, causing the monster to be born from the spore attached to the rocket. The monster, Guilala, moves toward the summit conference site for the pursuit of volcanic energy. Now the world leaders have to terminate Guilala to show their country's prestige. First mission is missile attack by Japan, then Italy, Germany and... Deadly combat between human beings and the monster from outer space continues, but just when everyone starts to give up, two journalists finds a strange group worshiping the traditional "idol" at the lakeside.

Deep Sea Monster Raiga (2009)

Shinpei Hayashiya didn't waste any time in making a sequel to "Deep Sea Monster Reigo", which began production in 2003, was filmed in 2005, and released in August of 2008.

The film entitled, "Deep Sea Monster Raiga", is set 60 years after the events in "Reigo", which took place during WWII.

This time, Global Warming is the catalyst for unleashing giant monsters on Japan. The melting of the southern polar ice causes a disruption in Earth's ecosystem that causes the migration of the monsters, four in total, to the island nation.

Interestingly enough, in the weeks prior to the films release, director Shinpei Hayashiya seemed more interested in turning the three young female actresses from his movie, Enosawa Manami, Urata Mao and Oriyama Miyu, into Japanese pop stars than promoting his movie.

The trailer for "Deep Sea Monster Raiga" was more music video, than promotional movie clip, and the singles "Round Punch of Love" and "I Slip Tears" by the trio were heavily promoted by Hayashiya who paraded them onto every Japanese TV show he could.

The Foghorn (2007)

This little known Japanese film was created by Godzilla and Gamera suite maker Daisuke Sato, who's inspiration came directly from Ray Bradbury's Saturday Evening Post story.

As most of you already know, Bradbury's "Foghorn" was the inspiration for the 1953 film "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", which was the inspiration for the original Godzilla film in 1954.

Johnny has been working with McDunn at the old lighthouse for the past three months. The lighthouse is situated on a rock 2 miles out to sea, and Johnny is looking forward to “shore leave” the following day. That night, McDunn tells him about a huge sea creature that comes to the lighthouse every year to cry out at the fog horn [mistaking it for the cry of its own kind]… and tonight is that night! The two make their way to the top of the tower and watch as the monster ascends and begins its yearly ritual. Very fascinating indeed, but when McDunn turns off the fog horn the monster shows its true, primitive nature!

Originally "The Foghorn" was to get a theatrical, and possibly a DVD release, but legal issues stood in the way.

Assault Girls (2009)

Director Mamoru Oshii decided to capitalise on the Japanese public obsession with giant monsters and beautiful young women for his action-packed, special effects heavy film, "Assault Girls".

In "Assault Girls" the three sexy hunters, Gray, Lucifer and Colonel, land on a remote desert planet that has been destroyed by giant worms called Suna Kujira (sand whales). Their quest is to kill the largest, and most deadly of the species, the dreaded Madara Suna Kujira (spotted sand whale). With an arsenal of various weapons at their disposal the three intergalactic big game hunters enter into a game of hunter vs hunted.

"Assault Girls" looks like a real special effects bonanza, with great CGI work, but not in a typical "Hollywood" way, like "Transformers".

It is a real joy to see how the Japanese sci fi film industry, and other Asian film industries honestly, have made major strides in movie making over the past decade. Their use of creative story-telling, and computer generated effects, have created some top-notch fantasy films.

Are they as good as Hollywood's sci fi and fantasy blockbusters? Well, maybe not yet, but they are catching up fast for certain.

In fact, Hollywood took notice of Oshii's visualy exciting film, and an unnamed studio snatched up the rights to make an American remake before it was even finished.

Death Kappa (2010)

Japanese monsters have always been able to hang some of their popularity on charisma. Godzilla, Gamera and all of their kin, are some pretty charming, and good looking monsters. Sure they rise out of the sea, or fall from space, and do a little urban renewal every once and a while, it's just what they do. But, you have admit, though they may have killed thousands of innocent people, they are lovable critters.....aren't they?

Well as cuddly as Godzilla and Gigan are, Tomoo Haraguchi's latest creation "Death Kappa", is well.....ugly.

Granted, maybe monsters really shouldn't be 'sexy', but you really have to admit that DK is one homely looking mofo.

Film synopsis by Norman England:

The storyline revolves around failed pop star Kanako, who returns to her hometown to live with her beloved grandmother. Yet no sooner does she return home than a pair of crazed couples out on a drinking binge run over and kill her grandma. With the old woman gone, Kanako takes to running the family shrine, but to make matters worse, the drunken killers managed to disturb that structure—which is the keeper of kappa, one of Japan’s many yokai creatures, in this case a benevolent, human-like turtle. Resurrected, the kappa is welcomed into town by the villagers.

Meanwhile, unknown to anyone in town, Yuriko, the granddaughter of a long-dead mad scientist, has chosen to continue her ancestor’s twisted experiments. Funded by Japanese nationalists seeking to bring the country back to military prominence, Yuriko works to complete his quest to develop a half-human/half-fish super-soldier. All hell breaks loose when Yuriko’s plans are thwarted, and she detonates an atomic weapon that causes both the kappa and one of the gill men to grow to monster-sized proportions. It is at this point that the showdown begins between the enlarged gill man, known now as Hangyoras, and Death Kappa.

Daimajin Kannon (2010)

In 2009 Kadokawa Pictures began work on a late-night television drama based on their 1960s "Daimajin" film series.

In the original 1966 film, "Daimajin", and ancient statue is brought to life by the prayers of an oppressed village. The Daimajin destroys the armies of the evil feudal boss that ruled the village, then begins destroying the village itself. Only the tears of a young woman stops the carnage and turns the statue to dust.
Producer Shigenori Takatera (Kamen Rider Hibiki) was put in charge of developing a modern-day story based on the original films for adult audiences.

Kadokawa has gone to great lengths to keep many of the series elements secret, but the series 21-year-old star, actress Rikuna Yuka, had this to say about here character, Kannon, "In the dorama (a late-night TV drama aimed at an adult audience) Kanon is able to experience personal growth despite the cold-hearted and painful life in the city. Just like her I was able to learn a lot during the filming and think that I grew up a bit myself."

"This time the heroine will be a college student called Kanon who keeps on singing prayers that awake the giant god of war. Once again Daimajin will have to deal with a lot of bad guys."

Indeed there will be a lot of bad guys. In the series trailer we see the stone god, Daimajin, fighting some giant alien looking monster, a giant ghost, and bugs run amok.

Despite all the films that I have just touched on, there are still more. You have to remember that the "Ultraman" movie franchise has still been going strong for the past six years also. If I were to have included all of those movies, this article would have gone on forever.

Now that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros are producing an American "Godzilla" film it is certain that Toho will make good on their promise and bring back the monster with their own movie in 2014. By that time, however, the studio may be way behind the curve, when it comes to making giant monster movies, as other independent Japanese film makers continue to put their own spin on the genre.

Hopefully in ten years, the monster movie kings, will have been able to put their heads together and come up with a new and fresh take on Godzilla that will usher in a new golden age for the monster against stiff competition at home, and now from an American Godzilla movie franchise.


  1. A NEW DAIMAJIN!!!:)
    "Monster X Strikes Back" was horrible!!
    ...then again, i never liked THAT Monster X....only Ghidorah.;)

  2. Is that pic at the top the new Godzilla?

  3. to the second commentor, no that's not Godzilla, that's Reigo.

  4. y does godzilla look like a bird this is not right

  5. The Japanese need a biologically convincing Godzilla, not another man in a monster suit, people are really sick and tired of a person wearing a rubber suit and pretend to be a 500 meter tall monster stepping on model buildings, it won't work, kids can tell is fake and lame. Just get real, design a monster that looks real, understand the physics of how real buildings collapses and use computer generated graphics.



Burbank, CA – March 29, 2010 – Legendary Pictures announced today that they will develop and produce a new film based on Toho Company’s famed GODZILLA character. Through the terms of the agreement, Legendary Pictures has acquired the rights to produce a movie inspired by Toho’s Godzilla, a franchise the Japanese company created and has nurtured for over fifty years.

Toho’s GODZILLA franchise boasts one of the most widely recognized film creatures worldwide, resulting in a series of books, television programs, video games and more than 25 films worldwide. Legendary intends to approach the film and its characters in the most authentic manner possible. The company will, in the near future, announce a filmmaker to helm the film for an intended 2012 release. The film will fall under the company’s co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Toho will distribute the film in Japan."

"Godzilla" is coming back -- this time, with Legendary Pictures taking the lead, co-producing and co-financing with Warner Bros. for release in 2012.

Legendary announced Monday it had obtained rights to the iconic monster character from Japan's Toho Co., which has overseen more than 25 "Godzilla" films. Toho will release the pic in Japan.

Legendary said it's planning to announce a director shortly.

In addition to Legendary, producers on the new film will be Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Brian Rogers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira and Doug Davison will exec produce.

"Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise," said Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary. "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."

Legendary noted the film will fall under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Legendary's productions with Warners have included "The Dark Knight," "300" and "The Hangover."

Speculation about a new "Godzilla" has been active since last summer. The Bloody Disgusting web site reported in August that the project was in development.