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  • Of the many stories which have been said about Akira Ifukube, one of the most widespread and admittedly endearing examples concerns the manner in which the composer supposedly rejected the opportunity to score 1984’s The Return of Godzilla. As the tale goes, Ifukube, after receiving Toho’s offer to write music for the aforementioned 30th anniversary reboot, expressed displeasure with some of the changes being made to the titular character, namely the decision to increase Godzilla’s height from 50 to 80 meters; and in refusing the assignment, he’s reported to have said: “I do not write music for 80-meter monsters.”

    A wonderful anecdote, one that’s been reiterated in numerous books, magazines, web articles, forums, etc. over the last thirty-some years—and one I seriously question in terms of its validity. Now, I personally love stories about artists turning down work via snark-laden comments (I’m rather fond of Noël Coward allegedly refusing the eponymous part in Dr. No with, “Dr. No? No! No! No!”), but this putative statement of Ifukube’s strikes me as little more than an urban legend, something fun to share in jest, but not to be taken serious. It’s been my stance for a long time now that if Ifukube uttered these words at all, he used them ironically; and my guts compel me to believe he never used them in the first place. I cannot claim expertise on Ifukube’s life and career, but I have read/watched a sizable number of post-1984 interviews featuring him—not one of which contain quibbles on his part with Godzilla’s stature here or in the later Heisei movies, in which Godzilla became even bigger. Also: having never come across the supposed quotation in any Japanese source, I’ve been inclined to believe its propagation occurred predominately here in the west. And considering it was believed for many decades on this side of the Pacific that Godzilla emerged victorious in the Japanese ending of King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), my willingness to accept yet another unsubstantiated rumor regarding this franchise resides about three notches beneath the tier labeled “dubious.”

    And so, in the interest of research, I thought it would be fun to get to the bottom of this “I do not write music for 80-meter monsters!” yarn: pinpoint its origins, consult with people with more knowledge on the matter than I possess, and try and figure out what’s what.

    In carrying out my detective work, I first amassed every English language book, magazine, etc. in my collection that contains the infamous Akira Ifukube “quote,” going through each of them for reference. I also scoured the world wide web for additional clues. From there, it was a matter of locating mentions that came with citations and bibliographies, and searching through my archives for what I hoped would end up being the very first instance of this quote appearing in the English-speaking world. Following a session of backtracking citations, I arrived at Issue #7 of Ed Godziszewski’s magazine Japanese Giants.

    And now, I would also like to make clear something else: Godziszewski’s magazine may have been the first time this anecdote was shared stateside, but it was not the avenue through which the story in question came to be passed off as “the truth.” Please pay close attention to the exact verbiage in which this ostensible collection of words was initially reported. In detailing preproduction of the 1984 Godzilla movie, Godziszewski specified that Ifukube was offered the chance to score the film but turned it down and that (again, please read this verbatim) “upon learning that changes were being made to the Godzilla legend such as increasing Godzilla’s height from 50 to 80 meters, Ifukube was rumored to have said, ‘I do not write music for 80 meter monsters.’”

    Notice that key word. “…rumored to have said…”

    And it doesn’t end there. When I started planning this Urban Legends article, I reached out to Godziszewski for further details as to where he heard the story and what he’s gathered on it in the thirty-some years since. His response:

    “[The quote] was something that I had heard from a couple of friends in Japan during my visit there in January 1985, to see the new Godzilla film. This was well before I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Ifukube, so it was not something I got first-hand. When I used it, I qualified it as something he was rumored to have said. It was certainly an amusing way to explain his absence from this film. Not having met him at the time, I couldn’t say if he had a wry sense of humor and said this as a way to dismiss the endless badgering from Toho’s people who were asking him to work on Godzilla again. It seemed believable in that vein, but I never took that statement terribly seriously. By chance, during a recent trip to Japan, I happened to run into one of the people who I heard this from, and he told me that “it was just a joke.” Given the way this rumor has sort of morphed into something quoted as fact in some circles, I now regret that I used it at all in the article.”

    For even though Ed Godziszewski clarified the status of “I do not write music for 80-meter monsters!” as a rumor in Issue #7 of Japanese Giants, some of us who’ve passed it along in the decades since have forgotten to repeat his use of that wonderful word “rumored” (or at least utilize members of its kin, such as “alleged”). Alas, the subsequent circulation of this infamous quote merely exemplifies what sometimes happens in distributing the research of others, especially when the finding in question sounds so juicy: a rumor initially clarified as a rumor, eventually repeated and repeated and repeated until it began transmuting into a “fact.” A mistake on our part since the “fact” ended up being “just a joke.”

    As for Ifukube’s not taking part in the 1984 film: that, too, can be explained with postulations far more plausible than an upsurge in Godzilla’s height. To gain insight into what Ifukube was up to at the time of this film, I consulted Erik Homenick, webmaster of akiraifukube.org, who explicated with the following:

    “I supposed that the refusal comment attributed to Ifukube had to be false because, in the 1980s, he did not compose any film music at all—not for Godzilla, not for anything. Ifukube had retired from the world of film music and at the time was focused on his career as a professor of composition at the Tokyo College of Music. Even his concert output in the 1980s was comparatively meager; his overriding priorities were in education. Long story short, Akira Ifukube did not compose music for The Return of Godzilla not because of any objection to Godzilla’s size, but because he was funneling his energies elsewhere.”

    As history demonstrates, Akira Ifukube eventually returned to the franchise, scoring 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, a film in which the radioactive behemoth’s height was increased further still, to a whopping—and utterly ridiculous—100 meters. In his 1996 interview with Steve Ryfle, Ifukube cited familial persuasion and Toho’s use of his music in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) as the factors behind his return. “I did not accept the assignment for Godzilla vs. Biollante, but after the film was released, my daughter pointed out they had used some of my music in the film. Also, they had made some of my music into a rock theme, and I did not like that! So, my daughter encouraged me to accept the next Godzilla movie so I would have some control over how my music was used.”

    When all’s said and done, the claim of Ifukube commenting “I do not write music for 80-meter monsters!” certainly makes for a humorous conversation piece, but it doesn’t appear to be true at all. And with that, another dubious story bites the dust.

    General // September 30, 2018
  • SDCC 2018 Hall H Audience Audio Reaction

    Hey Everyone!

    Normally whenever I do any filming for Toho Kingdom, I always have my handy audio recorder with me which I use as a backup. When I covered the Godzilla: King of the Monsters panel in Hall H at SDCC this year, I let it run during the trailer. I thought it might be cool to sync up the Hall H trailer reaction audio to the trailer so people can hear the crowd reaction-the guy next to me was really enjoying what he was seeing!

    I will point out that there’s an abundance of bass in parts of the trailer. That’s actually how it was in the hall and it was LOUD.

    I hope you enjoy this small, fun video which takes you into Hall H the moment the trailer made its debut!

    General // August 31, 2018
  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Wafers Review

    Sometimes I buy something related to Godzilla, and it is so boring that I just don’t have the energy to write anything about it. That was the case with the recent release of the Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Wafers (GODZILLA 怪獣惑星 ウエハース) from Bandai, a promotional item that went on the market in November of 2017 to push ticket sales to Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) movie (which I saw, and gave some impressions of, last year). Well, I also saw, and purchased, and consumed the Godzilla wafers. I was not extremely impressed with the movie—and I was extremely unimpressed by the wafers.

    Just to be fair, though, I will give a rundown of what to expect from these munchie little nothings. Each package comes with one wafer and one metallic plastic card. There are 27 of these metallic plastic cards, included at random to maximize sales. According to the description on the back of the packaging, three of the cards are “visual cards” (see the red Godzilla card pictured for an example), fifteen are story cards, five are character cards, and four are Godzilla cards. Of the wafers I have bought so far, I have only gotten visual cards and story cards, so I can’t offer comment on the other varieties. The wafers, on the other hand, are all chocolate flavored—no different kinds. Curiously, the art for the packaging comes in two varieties which have no impact (so far as I can tell) on the contents: One is a shot of the human cast looking stressed out, and the other is a shot of Godzilla holding a chocolate wafer (if this is canon to the story, then I guess we now know that ani-goji likes chocolate).

    Let’s start with a review of the wafer. …It looks like and tastes like a standard chocolate wafer.

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Wafers - Inside

    Moving on to the cards, they are shiny and metallic and plastic as promised, so they feel durable enough—they won’t just melt away if dropped in the sink, or get stained by a spill of orange juice or something. However, the design of the cards, beyond being kind of shiny, evoked a major mental yawn from me. One side has Godzilla lettered out in the familiar font on a black background, albeit with an inverted red triangle (ala the ones often featured on the windows of buildings in Japan indicating that you are not on the first floor) replacing the subtitle of the film. On the other side of the visual card I have is a shadowy silhouette of Godzilla on a red background with kind of a tin-foil shimmery look and the number of the card. On the story cards I have, basically we are given a screenshot with sparkles on the front and some kind of cool techno framing with the ubiquitous “Godzilla” written out in one corner, and the number of the card featured again. Same back of Godzilla on black. No story explanations or text of any sort. For those who like sparkly plastic, or have always thought that Godzilla needed more glitter, then your dream, my friend, has come to collectible card reality. But for me, given that I don’t really like the look of the CGI Godzilla anime that much in the first place, it’s like putting ugly art on a card, shaking sparkles on it, and selling it as something special. Excited I am not.

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Wafers Review - Cards

    Over Christmas I went back to visit my family and friends in the United States and shared some Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters wafers with my loved ones. Their reactions to the chocolate wafers was about the same as mine: “Well, that was a chocolate wafer.” (To me, I find the wafer a little bit dry, and the flavor inspires me to drink water and give away my extra wafers that I bought.) There is no Godzilla design on it—it’s just a block of chocolate cream and wafery wafers.

    Still, my friend Sam seemed to like the cards (he got another of the red Godzilla visual cards), so after I hope to donate the rest of my cards that I have collected so far to him when I get the chance. While I had very mixed feelings about Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, rewatching on Netflix gave me a better appreciation for the story. Re-eating the chocolate wafers after returning to Japan gave me a new appreciation for how bland they are, and a new appreciation for how uninteresting the cards are. I actually like the “speed lottery” Kamen Rider cards I got recently at Lawson’s more. At least those, while not plastic and not shiny, have cool shots of various Kamen Rider characters and you get a chance to win some stuff (I won some chocolate and soup curry).

    As far as Godzilla snacks go, bring back the Godzilla Gaufrette.

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Wafers Review - Package

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Wafers Review - Card

    Kaiju Kuisine // August 31, 2018
  • Shinobu Hashimoto

    On September 6, 1998, veteran screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto was visiting his daughter at a lodge in Kita-Karuizawa when he received some dismaying news: one of his colleagues—someone whose name he will forever be associated with—had just passed away. That colleague being none other than the internationally acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa. Hashimoto had collaborated with Kurosawa (always one to participate in the writing of his films’ scripts) a total of eight times, their combined efforts leading to classics such as Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), and Throne of Blood (1957). And upon learning of his associate’s death, Hashimoto realized he was the sole surviving member of a once-prominent team of storytellers. All the other writers who’d participated in crafting Kurosawa’s movies—Hideo Oguni, Ryuzo Kikushima, etc.—had already passed on. Hashimoto, then a physically decrepit man of 80, was unable to attend the farewell gathering due to poor health, so he sent the following in a condolence telegram: “I want to ask a favor of our leader, Mr. Kurosawa. Tell everyone ‘Hashimoto’ll be here soon.’ Leave some space for me to sit with my legs crossed. It will probably be only a little while, so until then, Mr. Kurosawa, from Kita-Karuizawa […] goodbye.”

    Hashimoto ended up waiting nearly twenty years to join his senior: pneumonia claimed his life on July 19, 2018, three months after his 100th birthday. An incredibly long time to be alive—especially for someone who’d suffered through an assortment of grueling health issues from a relatively young age. He was a twenty-year-old soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army when tuberculosis landed him in a sanitarium, where he remained for four years. In his early thirties, a herniated disc left him temporarily bedridden and proved so painful that mere vibrations generated by another person walking across the floor racked him with agony. A skiing accident in 1957 injured his neck and cost him a scriptwriting assignment. He went in and out of hospitals throughout much of his later life, and his 2006 memoir Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I contains a passage near the end in which the screenwriter once again predicted his days were running out. And yet, he endured: twelve years past that book’s publication and two decades after his previous self-determined prognosis that he was close to dying. That, in and of itself, is remarkable.

    And that’s to speak nothing of his incredible body of work, both for and apart from Kurosawa.

    Hashimoto’s attachment to writing began in the late 1930s, when he was a patient in the Okayama Disabled Veteran’s Rehabilitation Facility. Bored and restless, he spent many hours of many days staring at the ceiling until a fellow patient offered to loan him a copy of a film magazine. In it, Hashimoto happened upon a published film script, of which he proclaimed: “I’m surprised it’s so simple. [E]ven I could do better.” Confident in his abilities, he wrote a scenario of his own and mailed it to Mansaku Itami, the most celebrated Japanese screenwriter of his age. Much to his surprise, Itami wrote back with suggestions on how to improve and subsequently became his mentor. Hashimoto recovered from his illness and took a job in a munitions company, continuing to write until Daiei greenlit his adaptation of a Ryunosuke Akutagawa short story called In a Grove. When Kurosawa joined the project, they beefed up the script together, integrating a second Akutagawa story to increase the picture’s length; from that, Kurosawa proceeded to revise the amalgamation on his own (due to Hashimoto becoming bedridden) and created the world-renowned masterpiece Rashomon (1950).

    Over the next twenty years, the duo collaborated on seven other projects, their working methods constantly evolving. Hashimoto’s health had improved to where he could now remain active throughout the entire screenwriting process; and to enhance what was already a sensational team, Kurosawa recruited a third man, Hideo Oguni, to serve as their “navigator”: to tell them when an idea was no good or when the story was straying off course. (As noted by the late film historian Donald Richie, the great artistic success of the 50s-60s films stemmed from the virtues of teamwork: of multiple artists playing to each other’s strengths.) In writing Ikiru and Seven Samurai, Hashimoto penned the initial draft himself and then extensively rewrote it with Kurosawa; the more experienced Oguni, meanwhile, sat off to the side and merely looked over their progress, handing back anything in need of further revisions.

    Beginning with I Live in Fear (1955), Kurosawa introduced the “straight to final draft” technique, in which everyone simultaneously wrote their own version of an individual scene and critiqued each other’s work to get the best results. Hashimoto’s involvement during this particular phase wavered—he joined the production of The Bad Sleep Well (1960) late in the game and claimed never to have watched the finished product, for instance—always with a certitude that the previous method had been better.

    After a brief return to partnership with 1970’s Dodes’kaden, Hashimoto ceased writing for Kurosawa; though he did remain, in two fleeting instances, present in the director’s later life. He helped shop around the script for Kagemusha (1980), personally convening with producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to help secure partial funding for the picture, before 20th Century Fox supplied the balance; and his final encounter with the director occurred in 1990, at the premiere of Dreams, a picture Hashimoto described in his memoir as the Kurosawa film he liked best. Even though Kurosawa made two more features before his passing, Hashimoto deliberately avoided seeing them, holding to his conviction that Dreams embodied a perfect and most personal closure for his associate’s career. And he forever held onto his last memory of them together, at the premiere: “He seemed honestly happy. It had been more than forty years since Mr. Kurosawa and I had met, but this was the first time I’d ever seen him with such an untroubled, happy smile.”

    Of course, those eight assignments with Kurosawa made up only a small portion of Shinobu Hashimoto’s career, not to mention his ideas on the cinematic medium. In discussing his screenplay for Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri (1962), Hashimoto stated “those of us who make movies feel differently than those who watch them” and asserted the anti-feudalism themes of the aforementioned picture had been applied by filmgoers and critics and was not his intent as the writer. He might’ve been onto something: history’s full of artists who scoffed at interpretations of their work. On the other hand, one cannot help but recognize a certain (perhaps subconscious) leeriness toward authority figures as well as militarist traditions that imbues some of Hashimoto’s scripts. His other Kobayashi-directed project, the outstanding Samurai Rebellion (1959), shows members of a family standing against cruel demands imposed by their superiors. And I recently saw a picture he co-wrote for Tadashi Imai called Broken Drum (1958), about a samurai who discovers his wife slept with another man during one of his journeys—at a time when adultery was punishable by death. It was only because of his (regular) long absences, demanded by the shogun, that his wife, under tremendous pressure as revealed in a series of flashbacks, did what she did; he knows this, and yet he morosely insists she take her own life for the sake of an unfair tradition—especially since others in their village, including men in authority, are aware of it. The characters don’t rebel as in Kobayashi’s pictures, but their abhorrence for the dark side of Japan’s feudalistic social structure and reluctance to follow codes of “duty” and “honor” comes through nonetheless.

    Other notable credits in Hashimoto’s résumé. Three of Kihachi Okamoto’s most popular films: Sword of Doom (1966), Samurai Assassin (1965), and Japan’s Longest Day (1967). Miki Hirate (1951), the second script of his to be produced, based on a historical figure who, like Hashimoto, suffered from tuberculosis. Mikio Naruse’s first color picture, Summer Clouds (1958). For Shiro Moritani, he penned the original Submersion of Japan (1973), likely the most intelligent and thoughtful disaster movie ever made.

    And, in discussing Hashimoto’s career, it would be remiss to overlook I Want to Be a Shellfish, a Tetsutaro Kato novel he adapted first as a teleplay in 1958 and then again, for the big screen, the following year, for which he also assumed directorial responsibilities. (Of the two, the fleshed out theatrical version is the superior effort.)

    I Want to Be a Shellfish’s narrative is set during and immediately after the events of World War II. It begins with a civilian barber named Toyomatsu Shimizu (played in both versions by Frankie Sakai) radiantly voicing support for the war, happily asking customers to wait while he steps outside to wish luck to disembarking troops…until he receives a conscription notice with his name on it, at which point his mood swiftly changes to the dejected. The tendency to read anti-authority themes in Hashimoto’s work becomes somewhat justified at this point. In the Imperial Army, Shimizu’s verbally admonished by his superiors, chastised for taking too long to report to his bunker after doing officers’ laundry, instructed to pop the blisters on his feet by walking long patrols at night (during an air raid). Worse still, after two American planes are shot down over Japanese soil, our protagonist and one of his comrades are ordered by a bloodthirsty captain to stab the pilots (who are already dead and strapped to trees) for the sake of boosting morale. Years later, Shimizu’s arrested and tried by the Americans for the “crime,” at which point he explains his actions and why he had no choice in the matter. In the Imperial Army, disobedience to a superior officer was equivalent to disobedience to Emperor Hirohito himself and, thus, punishable by death. Here we have a man whose rapturous love for the military has already been proven naïve, who was berated and disrespected by his higher-ups, who wanted nothing to do with the barbaric act he’s on trial for, and who only did so because of the consequences of failing to follow orders. And though he was one of two soldiers convicted for the dual “executions” of that day, only Shimizu receives the death sentence (his former comrade gets twenty-five years’ imprisonment). The implication is the Americans are looking for someone to take the fall, especially since the captain who gave the order in the first place committed suicide.

    Given that the film channels a negative connotation in its portrayal of both Japanese wartime figures and postwar western authorities, it’s perhaps not unreasonable to suspect an anti-authority undercurrent in common with what’s been perceived in some of Hashimoto’s other work. I imagine the screenwriter would’ve dismissed such an allegation; he probably viewed I Want to Be a Shellfish as nothing more than the story of an ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary circumstance under the universally despised canopy of war. But, intended or not, it’s fun to speculate in context with the rest of his career, and it’s certainly food for thought. If it exists at all, however, it plays second fiddle to the picture’s blatantly stated, domineering antiwar theme, which sounds unambiguously in the conclusion. Shimizu, hours away from his execution, pens his wish that, should he be reincarnated, he return not as a person or an ox or a horse but, rather, as a shellfish at the bottom of the sea, away from war and poverty and the other miseries of human existence. Hashimoto would return to this narrative a third time, writing the script for Katsuo Fuzukawa’s 2008 adaptation. It also marked the closing film assignment in his long, prodigious career.

    When film historian Stuart Galbraith IV interviewed Hashimoto in 1999, the screenwriter’s health was, in a word, ghastly. “He was so frail then,” Galbraith recalled. “Drool kept running down the sides of his mouth, his black shoe polish-dyed hair was stringy and half grown back to white, and he was wrapped in about five blankets. My interpreter, Yukari Fujii, and I kept trying to cut it short, given his condition, but he insisted we do the full interview, which lasted maybe four hours.” For Hashimoto, the stories of his experiences working with Kurosawa were worth telling, health and comfort be damned. “On the cab ride back to the station,” Galbraith continued, “I told Yukari how glad I was that we caught him in time, that he surely wouldn’t last another month. Instead, he outlived virtually all of his contemporaries, nearly twenty years after that interview, and was productive during some of that time.” If that isn’t an account of an admirable person, I don’t know what is. An intelligent storyteller as well as a man with an interesting (if somewhat unenviable) life, Shinobu Hashimoto was one of the truly great film artists of his day; and when he passed away at age 100 last month, what little remains of the Golden Age of Japanese cinema suffered yet another crushing loss.

    General // August 31, 2018
  • Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    My worst fear is being lost. It’s like having your mind broken down to your most vulnerable, primitive state. As your will to live is stretched to its limits, your hope threatens to become the first casualty. Making matters worse, your paranoia leads a vicious mutiny against reason and logic. The truth is you’re trapped, and you might not know it until it’s too late.

    In nature, moths have a peculiar fondness for bright lights, which usually ends in disaster for the curious insect. ‘Like a moth to a flame,’ is a phrase that poignantly warns one from pursuing a destructive path. It’s a nice saying. Unlike the poor moth that doesn’t know any better, a human being is quite capable of discerning right from wrong and, in doing so, can avert disaster. But what if a person can’t? What if they’re lost and the fire is burning closer? What if, like a moth, we’re the ones instinctively drawn to the fire?

    Unless someone—or something—intervenes.

    Mothra is a character I’ve come to appreciate the more I grow as a person. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the character, because Mothra represents growth. Unlike her more destructive kaiju brethren, Mothra holds a unique place in the kaiju mythos by being a divinely inspired monster. She embodies light, rebirth, wisdom, and forgiveness. What I especially like about Mothra is how she defies conventionalism. She’s a monster that is loved—not feared—by her followers. How can that be? Doesn’t that challenge what a monster is? Yes, and that is what makes Mothra unique.

    Ishiro Honda, who helped pioneer the kaiju genre as we know it, once said, “Monsters are tragic beings. They are born too tall, too strong, too heavy. They are not evil by choice.”

    For decades, we’ve empathized with creatures who have, for better or ill, been demonized for the crime of not being human. This stems from a long-standing belief that humans have are the sole arbiters of morality. Mothra challenges this notion. And in doing so, she becomes a messenger, one that lights a path in the dark.

    I’ve always been a sucker for behind-the-scenes content. So, if you’ve seen my film, Monster Sightings: Mothra Video, and you were wondering how I made it read on. If you have any questions, send me an email or drop me a comment on the video’s YouTube page.

    Making this film was fun and challenging. I wanted to do this legendary character justice, and I hope I didn’t disappoint. As a filmmaker, I have one rule when I begin every new project: do something new. My first Monster Sightings video was one big scene. For this film, I wanted to film multiple scenes in a more natural environment. Since Mothra is a good monster, I thought I’d make Mother Nature the antagonist. With the air unbreathable and a wall of burning death closing in, my protagonist could use all the help he could get. While they don’t exactly make an appearance, the presence of the Shobijin are felt through Akira Ifukube’s classic melody Sacred Springs.

    I filmed everything on my iPhone X, using the ProCam app, which allowed me to record in higher resolutions. This was crucial because not everything was shot as a video. Several key scenes were initially still images. With the higher resolution in play, I could revise the image in post-production to my liking. It’s easier to do visual effects on a still photograph than a moving picture. But what if you don’t want an entire movie full of still shots and images? Not to worry! Just add ‘camera movement’ in post-production. Red Giant has many nifty tools to help you do this.

    Let’s take a look at some before-and-after screen comparisons.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    For the opening scene, I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. I tried striking a colorful balance between something dreadful (e.g., forest fire) and something hopeful (e.g., Mothra’s symbol). Speaking of Mothra’s symbol, during the making of this scene, I joked to my wife, “Think of it as the monster equivalent to Batman’s signal. Only instead of calling Batman for help, you’re calling for a giant moth. I don’t know which is better.”

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    The beautiful flame effects are compliments of ActionVFX. Highly recommended!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    Cool fact: Mothra’s cocoon here is a prop. It’s an additional accessory to Revoltech’s Mothra release. All I did was carefully ‘cut’ its edges out in Adobe After Effects and then composited it into my scene. Add in a series of nifty effects to sell it and presto!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Initially, Mothra’s fairy moths had a more extended role. That didn’t turn out so well. Regardless, I liked how this turned out. I love how they served as guides for our protagonist to follow out of harm’s way. For those wondering, yes, this is the Revoltech Mothra.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    During pre-production, this was the first scene I imagined doing. I was excited to do it! This is how I made it work: I flipped up the wing of my S.H. MonsterArts Mothra action figure while recording in front of my green screen studio. Then in post-production, I erased the green screen—using Red Giant’s fantastic software—and, well, see for yourself!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    For this shot, I moved my S.H. MonsterArts Mothra in front of a green screen. I composited it over a still image of the footage and then, when the time was right, switched it to the live-action footage just in time for it to pan over after her.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    This was a blink-and-you-will-totally-miss-it moment. So, here you go. And yes, Mothra would make a great firefighter.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Here’s my secret: the second image is a still of Mothra resting in front of my green screen. After removing the green screen, I made three duplicates: 1 of Mothra’s wingless body (I cut those out), 1 of Mothra’s left wing, and 1 of Mothra’s right wing. I combined them together and then added motion to the wings to simulate flight.

    Be on the lookout for the next Monster Sightings video! Who do you want to see next? Help decide by sounding off in the comments section.

    General // August 31, 2018
  • Miki Saegusa: The Confines of Lost Potential

    At her interview at this year’s G-Fest, actress Megumi Odaka was presented with a question which always seems to turn up whenever a former kaiju eiga performer speaks before a live audience: Would you ever want to be in another Godzilla movie? And, in what also seems to be tradition with such Q&As, Odaka answered by turning toward the audience and exclaiming—in English—two words: “Of course!” The response throughout the ballroom was unanimous applause, and I was right there with the audience, pounding the palms of my hands together with great vigor. Though I get the feeling my enthusiasm was unlike most everyone else’s in that it was tinted with bittersweet hope. Hope this formerly omnipresent actress would one day be blessed with an opportunity to show fans what she can really do. An opportunity she never had working in the Godzilla series.

    As a Godzilla fan growing up in the early 2000s, Megumi Odaka and her character of the psychic girl Miki Saegusa were ubiquitous elements in my movie-going youth; and to this day, she remains one of the faces I immediately think of when contemplating post-Showa talent in this long-running franchise. I’m certainly more inclined to salute her over the vast majority of her contemporaries. Looking back on the problematic Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), Odaka is pretty much the only cast member under the age of 40 in that film who leaves any impression on me whatsoever. While her early performances tended to be nondescript and even wooden at times, she became increasingly expressive as she neared the end of her film career, more comfortable and natural before the camera; and by the time we reached her 1995 swan song, she was genuinely good. (Here was an actress who grew as she went.)

    On the other hand, good performances frequently appear in movies unworthy of them. And just as my feelings for most of the Heisei movies have taken a severe plunge over the years, so has my enthusiasm for the character this actress is associated with. I like Megumi Odaka, but with all due respect, it’s probably not unfair to speculate the reason she remains a name with fans all these years later is simply because she played the same character six times in a row—and not because of anything said character accomplished in any of those movies. In describing Miki Saegusa, I’m tempted to conjure up two words: missed potential.

     

    Thinning Simplicity

    After introducing Miki Saegusa in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), writer/director Kazuki Omori charged his new character with the task of alerting everyone (including the audience) when something eerie was afoot: when a spiritual voice was in the “air,” when a voracious plant-monster hybrid was in the process of materializing, when Godzilla was about to poke his head out of the ocean.

    Though it would develop into a problem later on, this simplistic approach wasn’t a major issue in the beginning. By initially presenting limited insight into Miki and what she’s capable of, Omori adds an extra layer of mystery and unpredictability to his film—which is fine, as the narrative’s told primarily from the perspective of the non-psychic characters who, very often, have to try and guess what the young woman might be thinking and, more importantly, what she might be sensing. This comes through especially well in scenes such as: Miki stepping out into the night after a heavy rainstorm, clearly troubled by something beyond our perception, not uttering a word as she races toward the coast; the other characters, completely unaware of what’s about to happen, follow; Miki comes to a stop in a grassy field, glances upward, and the audience joins the cast in watching Biollante’s particles come down from the heavens. There are other captivating bits heavy on visuals, such as Miki using her ESP in an attempt to delay Godzilla’s next attack, only to collapse from exhaustion, the monster’s advance unhalted. Little moments like these go a long way, and though Miki never alters the film’s outcome, she contributes to the eerie atmosphere imbuing this picture. Omori certainly could’ve gone the distance and rendered a more three-dimensional person, but his use of the psychic girl works well enough the first time around and does not detract from the experience of watching the movie.

    In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), also written and directed by Omori, the mystery element is deemphasized, and Miki becomes a loquacious, communicable team member. It is here where the issues regarding use of her character begin. In bringing back a person whose initial appeal revolved around behavior and ability, it’s pretty much essential on the part of the filmmakers to take the next step: regardless of whether Miki remains abstruse or becomes more “sociable,” provide her with new challenges, expand on what she’s capable of…and thereby make her more interesting. That is not what happens in this film. Omori instead focuses his energy on his jarring mess of a plot and a set of colorful new characters, all the while relegating Miki to her previous assignment of simply voicing an alarm now and then. Even though she joins the mission to remove Godzilla from history, her participation amounts to merely going along for the ride—her ESP, her one distinguishing quality, doesn’t come into play outside of a throwaway line confirming the Lagos Island dinosaur will one day become Godzilla. (As if anyone needed her to deduce that….)

    Omori abdicated the director’s chair for Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), staying on only as screenwriter, and proceeded to render his original creation even more superfluous. Minus a tiny iota of a scene of Miki helping locate the Cosmos in Tokyo, the character maintains her status as a one-trick pony. “Godzilla’s coming.” Cut to Godzilla stomping out of Mt. Fuji. Of all Miki Saegusa’s appearances, this is the most vapid and unimpressionable.

     

    The Not-So-Dramatic Turn

    Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993), penned by new screenwriter Wataru Mimura, marks a transition point and a brief moment where Miki seemed to be destined for better things. The first half of the picture showcases nothing new in terms of behavior: a look of concern crosses her face, the camera gets up close, she announces Godzilla’s arrival. The second half, however, presents Miki experiencing a change of heart on whether man should continue waging war with Godzilla. A pivotal conversion that ensues in the remaining few films. The reason for her change of heart we are told—rather than shown—is Baby Godzilla: an herbivorous relative of the King of the Monsters. Baby’s egg was discovered on the remote Adonoa Island and flown back to Japan, where it hatches, the fledgling dinosaur mistaking the first creature it comes in contact with for its mother. (In this case, a human.) From this the filmmakers nobly strive to erect an interesting relationship between a monster and a person.

    Also to Mimura’s credit, he incorporates Miki into the plot in a more proactive way than anything Omori had ever done. This time, Miki’s presence actually has some moderate influence on the story. Her psychic powers allow G-Force to enact its objective in destroying Godzilla’s second brain and without Miki, Baby Godzilla wouldn’t have gone into the sea with Godzilla after the final battle.

    On the debit side, these ideas, nifty as they seem on paper, nevertheless come up short, failing to manifest in a particularly engaging manner. Context kept in mind, preserving Miki’s stature as a secondary character rather than more logically advancing her to the role of female lead was the big mistake. Considering this is the film where she starts sympathizing with the monsters and considering Baby Godzilla serves as the pivot upon which the story turns, it would’ve only made sense for Miki to assume the dramatic lead. Have Miki travel to Adonoa Island and discover the egg. Write the script so that Miki’s voice is the voice Baby Godzilla hears. Structure it so Miki is present when the egg breaks open. Allow Miki to develop parental feelings for the infant reptile. Show an on-screen bondage developing between Miki and Baby Godzilla, and thus exhibit why she no longer wishes to fight Godzilla. All of this would’ve consequentially led to a more devastating denouement when Miki sends Baby away.

    But, no. Instead, Baby becomes attached to a scientist’s assistant named Azusa (blandly acted by Ryoko Sano), someone who never turns up again in the remainder of the Heisei series. And when Miki uses her telepathy to convince Baby to leave with Godzilla, it’s at the request of Azusa, not her own discretion.

    In a scene deleted from the final cut, Miki visited Baby Godzilla’s pen, the dinosaur playfully using its tail to dishevel her hair. I imagine it was removed for the sake of pacing, but even had it remained, it would’ve been too little too late in making us care about the “relationship” between these two. As with many things in Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II, there’s something wonderful struggling to claw its way out of some rough ideas here, but the character of Miki Saegusa, four movies in, remains clenched in the fists of unrealized potential.

     

    Semi-Advancement

    In 1994’s Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, written by Hiroshi Kashiwabara, Miki’s finally promoted to lead, with mixed results. To begin on a positive note, Kashiwabara starts the film off placing Miki at center stage. As the picture opens, Miki’s approached by members of G-Force who have developed a technique with the potential of controlling Godzilla (implanting a special transmitter into the back of the monster’s neck and feeding him commands via telepathy). None of the other psychics are strong enough to even attempt the mission; Miki’s the only one who might be able to pull it off. She’s leery about doing so. However, most people in Japan still want to see Godzilla dead. Unless the King of the Monsters can be contained, G-Force will continue developing new weapons such as MOGUERA and, just maybe, succeed in killing him. On top of that, if Miki refuses to take part in the telepathy mission, the team will resort to recruiting one of the other psychics, unprepared as they are. If she abstains, someone—human or monster—will suffer. Right from the start, Miki’s placed in a dramatic position, pressed with making a tough choice.

    This thread continues when the Cosmos inform Miki a violent space monster is en route to Earth and that nothing will be able to stop it if Godzilla’s killed. Now the existence of the planet is in jeopardy. Backed into a metaphorical corner, Miki reluctantly decides between the lesser of two evils, agreeing to attempt to control the creature she’s come to respect. For all the awkward things that exist within the screenplay of Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, Kashiwabara scores a right note finding an approach for the lead that 1) makes sense given Miki’s history 2) catapults her to the core of the narrative.

    Until the subplot of telepathically manipulating Godzilla abruptly vanishes halfway through.

    The filmmakers make up for this lapse somewhat by expanding on Miki’s powers. In this case, she discovers how to use telekinesis to levitate objects, which comes in handy when aiding her human companions at two points in the film. (A nice change of pace from simply touching her temple and declaring a monster’s on its way.) Also added is a romance between Miki and a G-Force soldier (Jun Hashizume) which doesn’t so much influence the plot as it feeds into the picture’s peculiar Make Love, Not War theme. But for all the positives implemented here, so much more still could’ve been done to flesh out Miki and her role within the Heisei universe. Dropping her key narrative purpose halfway in also delivers a heavy blow to the story.

    Failing to follow up on that also opens the window for one of the most baffling lines of dialogue in the history of the franchise. After SpaceGodzilla has been defeated (thanks to the efforts of Godzilla and the MOGUERA crew), the Cosmos reappear before Miki and thank her for “saving the planet,” even though her participation in the climax consisted entirely of watching from a distance and using telekinesis to free Yuki (Akira Emoto) from a hatch door closed around his foot. Since she herself faced no peril whatsoever, even the most undiscerning audience member is bound to scratch their head at this line and beg the obvious question: How did she save the planet?

    Swinging back to the positive side of things, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla is a step up in the sense that it features the first truly energized performance Megumi Odaka has given thus far. I know not what changed between movies, but I suspect it might have something to do with her collaborators. Kazuki Omori and Takao Okawara (director of Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II) are respectively hit-and-miss and helpless when it comes to directing actors; so in regards to the 1994 film, it might’ve been that the less experienced Kensho Yamashita was nonetheless more conscious of what it takes to evoke a strong performance from his cast. At the aforementioned G-Fest panel, Odaka revealed that while filming the sunset-staged quarrel in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, she and co-star Jun Hashizume were continually failing to deliver a mood that matched the director’s expectations. To solve the problem, Yamashita brought in a large speaker and played a fight song to rev up the tension until the performers reached an intensity he was satisfied with. Perhaps that cleverness filtered throughout the entire production; some directors know how to work with actors better than others. Perhaps there were other factors involved: Odaka might’ve garnered some tips from co-star Akira Emoto, one of Japan’s finest acting talents. But whatever the reason, Odaka is in much finer form here than she had been previous; and moving forward, she would only get better.

     

    The Disappointing Sendoff

    Odaka cites Godzilla vs. Destoroyah as the film containing her best genre performance, and she is absolutely correct in doing so. Of her six times playing Miki Saegusa, this exhibits the most convincing and well-rounded piece of acting by her. She’s up to the task, even if the people behind the typewriter are not.

    Returning screenwriter Kazuki Omori spits up a number of interesting ideas and does little to nothing with most of them. Godzilla Junior has apparently turned into a killer, slaughtering whales by the dozen and leaving their bloodied carcasses in his wake. The cute plant-eating critter which helped Miki realize humanity can co-exist with monsters is now dangerous. Or so we’re told in a very brief throwaway scene that could’ve easily been axed with no indication it had been there in the first place. One can only imagine how suspenseful the film might’ve been had that scene been extended into a fully developed subplot: scenes of Miki trying to justify keeping Junior alive; scenes of her trying to decipher what turned a gentle infant into a threat. What if the military saw the results of Junior’s handiwork, leapt to the assumption he would target humans next, and set out to kill him? How would Miki dissuade them? How would her personal history with the creature be interwoven into the story?

    Alas, Junior’s mean streak vanishes as quickly as it appeared and the next time we see him, he’s as harmless and peaceful as ever, strolling past a beach full of people, on his way back to Adonoa Island. What could’ve been genuinely intense drama actively utilizing the past history of two recurring characters is swept under the proverbial rug.

    But the criminal mistake—the most egregious bit of missed potential in this character’s six-part spectrum—is, without a doubt: introducing the concept of the psychic girl losing her powers and squandering it on a couple lines of dialogue. Miki’s steadily being deprived of what was, frankly, her only standout trait from the beginning; and the filmmakers, startlingly, infuriatingly, do nothing with it. Did it ever occur to Omori to write a scenario in which we see Miki’s slackening extrasensory abilities? Not just one or two moments where she’s flying in a helicopter, touching her forehead, and Junior fails to appear? How about a scene where she tries to do something with her mind, fails, and realizes, along with the audience, that her gift’s gone forever? (Imagine what Megumi Odaka could’ve done enacting such a revelation!) How about comparing her situation to that of Meru Ozawa (Sayaka Osawa), a fellow psychic who actually wants to lose her powers and lead a normal life? Speaking of which, what has not leading a normal life meant to Miki after all these years? What has she lost? What has she gained? Ever since Miki’s induction, there have been other psychics (adults and children) in the background; what does it mean to them? All of these intriguing ideas present themselves and then vanish into the woodwork mere minutes later, and the film suffers as a result.

    The one dramatically effective element to arise from all this is Miki diverting Junior’s course toward Destoroyah, resulting in the young monster’s demise. The same person who swore to protect the monsters has indirectly caused the death of one. If only this had been the consequence of some lengthy beforehand tension, as expounded on above. Megumi Odaka’s performance is solid from start to finish, but the actress is not helped along to true greatness due to the severe limitations of the script.

    And with that, Miki Saegusa—ever promising, ever tingling with potential—vanishes into the annals of the genre with a well-acted whimper.

     

    Same Concept, Superior Execution

    In examining the Heisei series, I am forced to conclude Miki Saegusa was a prime example of a missed opportunity: an admittedly likable character who was never utilized to a particularly compelling degree. And in comparing her part in the later Heisei movies to something similar from a superior product, I cannot help but salute Shusuke Kaneko’s magnificent Gamera trilogy from 1995-1999. The qualitative difference is astonishing. Each film in this trio featured one or more characters with extrasensory powers as well as the concept of humans linked to monsters—except, unlike the makers of the ‘90s Godzilla movies, Kaneko seized hold of the idea with both hands and ran with it.

    I could examine the whole trilogy in making my point, but for the sake of discussion, let’s dissect just the first film, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995). Early on, we’re introduced to Asagi Kusanagi (wonderfully acted by Ayako Fujitani). First off, Kaneko inaugurates his psychic character in an infinitely more imaginative way than Omori ever did. Rather than introducing her within some kind of established universe (with voiceover narration clarifying who and what she is), the director shows us a seemingly ordinary person with an ordinary life. Things take a turn for the extraordinary when her father investigates a drifting atoll (which later turns out to be Gamera); this leads to her obtaining one of the comma-shaped beads littered on the rock’s surface; this leads to the deduction the beads are made of material produced by a long-gone advanced civilization; this leads to Asagi becoming psychically linked to Gamera. The audience learns, right alongside the character herself, that a seemingly normal teenager is destined for something special. An infinitely more intoxicating chain of events than the Toho method of: This is Miki, she has ESP.

    In a somewhat similar vein to Miki, Asagi follows Gamera around. But her following him amounts to more than determining his destination. (The scenes of her doing so also stand superior entertainment-wise, as she often has to improvise on how to keep up with him; it’s not until the very end that she’s granted one of those JSDF helicopters Miki had at her disposal.) During the Mt. Fuji scene, Gamera’s arm is sliced wide open by Gyaos’ beam—and blood simultaneously pours down Asagi’s arm. Previously, we’d seen signs of wounds on Asagi’s wrists (following Gamera suffering a similar injury), and now we have an explanation. The filmmakers deliver this on a purely visual level, which makes it all the more fun. And to render an already interesting dynamic even more interesting, they introduce Asagi’s ability to channel some of her own energy to Gamera, allowing him to escape. Asagi doesn’t simply stand off to the side during the action; her being there influences the outcome! How many times can such a compliment be paid to Miki? Remove Miki Saegusa from her movies and almost none of them change. Remove Asagi Kusanagi from Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and the story turns out drastically different.

    Again, one could discuss the subsequent two chapters in the trilogy, but that first movie, by itself, even when examining one particular element, perfectly demonstrates how much better the Gamera pictures of the 1990s were compared to their Toho counterparts. Shusuke Kaneko and screenwriter Kazunori Ito took the same idea—a psychic person who can feel the monsters—and went much further with it in one movie than Toho managed six times out.

     

    The moment in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah that made me realize just how much Megumi Odaka had grown as an actress was her reaction to being told Junior’s course would be changed with or without her assistance. In one of their better visual choices, Takao Okawara and cinematographer Yoshinori Sekiguchi maintain a long shot on Miki as Meru vanishes through a door in the background. The shot remains locked down as Miki silently decides what to do, the wheels in her head visibly turning, making another “lesser of two evils” decisions, before quickly wheeling around and following her companion. Her expression reads a consummate blend of frustration and regret. This was the final film in Odaka’s acting career (though she did continue to perform on the stage, later transitioning into an assortment of other jobs in other industries) and it’s somewhat saddening to think her time in movies stopped just when she seemed to be getting a firm grip on her craft. I hope someone involved in the Godzilla franchise is at least aware of her willingness to participate in future entries. With good fortune, should her return to the silver screen manifest into reality, the studio will uphold their end of the bargain by providing her with a script worthy of her talent.

    Despite all the dramatic shortcomings and missed opportunities, would I be interested in seeing the return of Miki Saegusa?

    To quote Miss Odaka: “Of course!”

    General // August 31, 2018
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters Trailer Reactions

    Excited about the latest Godzilla trailer? Maybe curious how the staff of Toho Kingdom felt as well? If so, read on for the staff’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer reactions, both from those at Comic Con where it was unveiled and those of us who saw it for the first time at home.

    Also, be sure to leave your own reactions to the trailer in the comments section.

     

    Chris Mirjahangir

    On July 21st, I was fortunate to be invited to Warner Bros. Hall H panel at San Diego Comic Con with the goal of covering the panel and checking out the new trailer. When the time came and the lights went low, the energy in the room went up and the room was filled with cheers and applause (the guy next to me was going crazy with every reveal) and when the trailer finished, it left everyone in the room hyped up for the film.

    The trailer for me was more of a slow burn for me. I had to watch it a few times later to really appreciate how great it was. My initial reaction to Claude Debussy’s Clair De Lune was one of a small groan-not because there’s anything wrong with the piece, it’s just that it’s the “save game” music from games “Evil Within” parts 1 and 2. I heard that music so much when I played the games (which was a lot) that it would just pop into my head at random times when I wasn’t playing.

    What I did really enjoy is how the music goes off into majestic epicness which really gets the goosebumps going. It’s pretty cool.

    Incidentally, this is NOT the first time the piece has been used in an official capacity. It was also used in a café scene in Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975). Skip to 41:14 to hear it in the film. Here it is by itself (Thank you Spacehunter M!)

    I don’t think it was intentional on the part of the marketing dept. Just a happy accident.

    Further impressions of the trailer show the movie to be very colorful. Quite a bit of blue in this one and it looks great cinematography wise. Outside of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are mostly shown either obscured by water/shadows or in quick flashes to great effect. The film seems to be aimed at the younger fans while keeping a more epic visual style that both current Godzilla fans and future Godzilla fans will greatly enjoy which I feel is the way for this film to go. For any franchise to continue its life, it’s always the younger fan that gets the torch passed to them to carry on and to pass down to future generations.

    If there’s one nitpick for the trailer, it’s this mysterious guy with glasses at 1:21 and upon a glance, would look like he was smiling. But, it’s not a “smile” that a living person can do. He even moves a little weird and it’s a little distracting once you notice him. He almost seems like he’s placed in there as an Easter Egg or something. Hopefully I’ll get my answer in the film.

    All in all, it’s a great trailer and I’ve seen quite a bit of positiveness and excitement about the film. Awesome job to everyone at Legendary and Warner Bros. and I can’t wait to see the final film!

     

     

     

    Andrew Sudomerski

    For me, this trailer couldn’t have come at a better time. Off the heels of the newly released Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) via Netflix, which I had an initially strong mixed reaction on, this SDCC trailer felt like a much needed adrenaline shot in the arm. A reminder that we may have potentially some of the best Godzilla material waiting for us after the release of the last anime movie and that there will be a healthy and diverse future for the King of the Monsters. Needless to say, I’m psyched. The trailer shows just enough, but also leaves a lot open as what exactly will happen, as any good trailer should. The footage shown, the dialogue choice, the music piece… All finely brewed into what I personally consider to be the best (Godzilla) trailer ever made. It’ll be a very interesting beast once it’s released in theaters, and hoping the story is more fleshed out compared to (rumored) initial screenings. I recall hearing back when Legendary had acquired the rights for Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah… I had my worries that putting those three into one movie would be too much of a gamble or too stuffed with plotlines only serving as a means of setting up future entries in the MonsterVerse (worst case examples I can think off of the top of my head are Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the infamous 2017 reboot of The Mummy). But after seeing the trailer, many of those qualms have been put to rest. I now personally have faith in Dougherty that he and his crew will be able to create a balanced movie that offers both the explosive monster action and emotional human drama that ties things together. It’s ambitious, daring even. It’s no easy feat to pull something like that off, so we’ll see what the results will yield come 2019.

    Naturally, with the trailers comes what’s shown; and that obviously means monster talk. Already satisfied with the design seen in Godzilla (2014), I was happy to see that most of Godzilla’s base characteristics remained relatively untouched (and any alterations helped improve the design, even if minuscule). I will say, the elongated dorsal spikes really help evoke something seen in a classic Godzilla while still maintaining a fresh look at the same time. The additional blue light around his neck and eyes when charging / firing his atomic breath are also very much welcomed changes.

    Rodan, from what can be seen, almost reminds me of his Heisei-era counterpart in a lot of ways, all while being nowhere nearly as stiff and a lot more fleshed out in terms of mobility and ferocity. The glowing embers tattered across his wings are also a superb touch that harks to the volcanic-dwelling nature from the original Showa-era Rodan (maybe even a call-back to Fire Rodan?). But from what’s demonstrated in the trailer, we’re easily looking at a Rodan with the same sense of fear-instilling dread that’s gone unseen since the original Rodan (1956), so it’s incredibly exciting to see Rodan come back, full force in a way that hasn’t been quite seen in any of the Godzilla movies.

    Mothra and Ghidorah, admittedly, are harder to comment on in terms of design (as most of their shots have them obscured by a waterfall, mist, or storm clouds), but the silhouettes very much promise a faithful yet Americanized interpretation of these two. Even so, the trailer promises the two are going to see a nice bit of action; for me personally, I’m really curious to see how well Mothra competes with the other three and see if the Larva (seen in the bit where Millie Bobbie Brown’s character, Madison, is about to touch her) gets any significant screen time or not (I personally have doubts, but one can never know for sure).The rest… I already said it. The song choice of Claire de Lune fits perfectly (and an interesting continuation of using classical pieces for the MonsterVerse Godzilla movies, much like how 2014 used Requiem for Soprano famously used in 1968 space epic 2001: A Space Odyssey), the actors are stellar, the imagery is both beautiful and apocalyptic… I’ve already sung my praises for this trailer enough already. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to watch the trailer until the next anime movie comes along!

     

     

     

    Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer reactions

    Nicholas Driscoll

    My initial viewing of the new Godzilla King of the Monsters trailer was actually negative. I was not a big fan of the 2014 Godzilla and given that the new film will be written by the same screenwriter, I immediately felt skeptical when I heard the lines about “rightful rulers” and humans as an infection and so on. Vera Farmiga’s speech just didn’t make any sense. So humans are an infection, and the world has a defense system, and that defense system is the Titans, so we have to wake up the Titans to save everyone? Didn’t you just say that the Titans were going to KILL everyone? Listening to her rant, I was getting flashbacks to the equally nonsensical stuff about Godzilla trying to establish balance in the first movie, and the terrible writing in the Godzilla Awakening graphic novel.

    Still, I think it is dangerous to judge the story too hastily from a teaser trailer. Furthermore, as some have pointed out, Vera Farmiga’s character seems to be given a villainous depiction. Perhaps she even wants to destroy all of humankind. I frankly don’t want to guess too much–I would prefer to watch the final film and judge from that.

    Perhaps more important than narrative nuggets are the appearances of the monsters. I thought the monster scenes were surprisingly gorgeous. Not just impressive special effects, but truly gorgeous in composition and lighting and angle. The ghostly hues, shimmering lights, sweeping wings, and bursting blasts of energy are fantastic! I remember being impressed by Rodan’s stylish entrance in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), but this new burning Rodan takes the style and ratchets it up with his stunning shot astride an active volcano. Each of the shots of Rodan as well seem to be referencing the classics, from the jet fight to the volcano home. Mothra’s entrance, if anything, seems even more beautiful, and King Ghidorah remains mostly shrouded in shadow and mystery–as he should be this early in the game.

    Based on the trailer, Godzilla and Mothra seem to be situated as the hero monsters, with King Ghidorah and Rodan situated as the evil ones (just from the color-coded scenes alone these alliances seem apparent). Personally, I am happy to see Godzilla taking a more direct hero role, and if he is actually using something like Morse code with his backfins–hey, I approve. I love that stuff.

    The human characters seem a bit cliched still, as Millie Bobby Brown seems to be playing a special girl who can maybe communicate with Mothra hedging her a bit close to Eleven territory again. I really like Kyle Chandler, but I sure hope his character is more interesting than the one he played in King Kong (2005). I’ve been a minor fan of Chandler’s ever since Early Edition, and while I don’t expect he will be receiving any magical newspapers in this movie (though I would love to see that), I hope to see some likable heroics from him. And I do hope Zhang Ziyi has more than just a glorified cameo and a few awkward scenes to bring in the Chinese audience.

    As for the music, at first I hated it. It seemed to contrast too much with the action going on and I just wanted to roll my eyes. Now I can kind of appreciate the music a bit more as it underscores the sense of wonder the monsters create, but the song is not very memorable. The final score, which I hear will incorporate some Ifukube, I trust will be much better..

    So far, so good. I can see that Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are all three really appearing in the movie, which is more than I can say for a particular monster film I won’t name here. I am still worried about the story, but the movie looks really beautiful, and I am hoping for the best. The trailer, I think, puts a pretty good food forward.

    Though… am I the only one who kind of wishes the main character from the first movie should make some kind of reappearance here?  Ford may have been kind of bland in the first film, but having a bit of human continuity would add interest to the movie I think. Maybe Milly Bobby Brown can add that if she becomes the new Miki Saegusa or something!

    Overall, positive, but with my usual set of caveats!

     

     

     

    Marcus Gwin

    During the build-up to this trailer’s release, there was a lot speculation and rumor. Probably the most interesting information that was found during this time was when people began looking into the official website for Godzilla King of the Monsters, and found a thumbnail for a “redband trailer.” This idea, to me, didn’t seem too far fetched, given Michael Dougherty’s history in the horror genre, and the possibilities of a new R-rated Godzilla had me excited.

    Suffice to say though, that isn’t what we got. In fact, I’d say we got the opposite…

    This trailer sucks. It opens upon weirdly apocalyptic imagery as a woman rants about how the “Titans” are earth’s rightful rulers. Personally, I find this very tonally clashing, as I felt Godzilla 2014 and Kong Skull Island did a very good job establishing a mysterious, conspiratory tone for the monsters in the Monsterverse. For me personally, that tone was one of the things I liked in those movies.

    But hey, this is a different movie that needs to stand on it’s own, right? Right, however any hopes that this film could be interesting are soon thrown out the window with the rest of the trailer… in particular when the little girl says presumably to Vera Farmiga’s character, “you’re a monster!” Implying that the humans were the real monsters all along. Not like we’ve been hearing that moral since the early 1900’s!

    One thing that particularly stands out to me is the god awful color palette. Say what you will about Godzilla 2014’s awful DVD transfer, but one of the things that movie did well was its color palette. As I stated above, the film presents the monsters in a very cryptozoological way, and the palette reflects this. Most of the time, we see the monsters at night with a lot of black, and day sequences are usually gray, and very rainy. In addition to being associated with mystery or intrigue, these are very neutral colors that don’t distract from something colorful happening on screen like guns or flares being fired. This film on the other hand? When Godzilla’s on screen EVERYTHING’S BLUE. When Rodan is on screen, EVERYTHING’S RED. Any of the monster shots are monotone, because GODZILLA’S COLOR IS BLUE, DO YOU GET IT? It looks stupid, and actively distracts from something like Godzilla’s atomic ray, which simply blends in with its surroundings. Personally, I think one of the things that makes Godzilla’s ray so cool is how visually exciting it is. It’s sudden burst of neon blue against a mundane city or forestscape. Heck, seeing the tracking shot of blue rising through the darkness as Godzilla unleashed it was what made it so exciting in Godzilla 2014!

    I suppose that leads us to the monsters themselves. As far as special effects are concerned, I feel the CGI is average. Nothing bad, but nothing good either. It will probably look dated in a few years. In terms of designs, I can’t say I’m a fan of Godzilla’s beer belly. Mothra looks fine, though I don’t think we see enough of her to judge too concretely. Rodan looks like the Fire Bird from Hanna-Barbera’s which I’m okay with, as I think the Fire Bird is easily the coolest monster from that series.

    The music is probably my least favorite thing about the trailer. The trailer is all about how humanity’s at the brink of extinction, and monsters being earth’s rightful rulers, but the music sounds like it’s about the wonder of discovering something bigger than you. To say it clashes is an understatement! Even if taken completely out of context from the film, it just sounds like a sappy soundtrack trying way too hard to be John Williams. It’s composition is uninteresting, and the chorus doesn’t even sound real. Very sad, as I felt Alexandre Desplat’s score was easily a highlight of Godzilla (2014), with an excellent main theme, and eerie foreboding chorus work.

    Also, gotta love the Marvel-esque one liner of “Long live the king,” in case you forgot those movies were successful. Shame too, as with better execution that could be an excellent line in a Godzilla film.

    Overall, this is just a trailer which doesn’t always represent the final film, and I will not judge the film until I see it. However, as a trailer it has dumb dialogue, awful music, and overall looks far less professional than Godzilla 2014. Couple this with an editing error in a teaser released on twitter where a camera was visible in the background of one shot, and my expectations for this film have plummeted immensely.

     

     

    Godzilla: King of the Monsters Trailer Reactions

    Joshua Sudomerski

    After months of anticipation, the trailer for the next Godzilla movie has arrived – and it delivered a visual feast I’ve found myself indulging in over and over again. The haunting tune in the background sets the mood wonderfully as I find myself becoming wholly engrossed in this brief but very effective preview. Seeing familiar actors and actresses alongside their monstrous co-stars put a smile on my face, particularly Millie Bobby Brown and Ken Watanabe, but the monsters themselves easily steal the show. From Godzilla firing his atomic ray skyward, to Mothra spreading her vivid wings, to the giant silhouette of King Ghidorah – I just can’t get enough of it all. Rodan easily stood out among the crowd for me, its fiery wings and teased aerial battles with the military mesmerizing me every time. I feel like I spot something new with every rewatch of this trailer, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what Mike Dougherty and company have in store!

     

     

     

    Thomas Fairchild

    I thought Godzilla (2014) was excellent and I liked Kong: Skull Island (2017) even more. So, when I heard the news that Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus) signed on to direct the next installment in the cinematic MonsterVerse, I thought Godzilla was in good hands. I was spending time with my family when this monster-of-a-trailer hit the internet and, no joke, I kept my cool. Seriously. I was perfectly calm and subdued the whole time. I mean, it’s just Godzilla. No big deal, right?

    OK, so I made loud, chaotic noises that sounded like one of King Ghidorah’s mad cackles. I have no regrets because what I saw was fantastic.

    Where to begin? Let’s start with the implementation of Claude Debussy’s Clair De Lune. It single-handedly elevated the trailer for me. It’s one of those melodies that you never thought would describe the kaiju eiga, yet it does and it’s beautiful. It showed mainstream audiences that there’s more to these giant creatures than being instruments of mindless destruction; it artfully demonstrated that they, like their human counterparts, are important characters, too.

    Speaking of Godzilla, he looks fantastic. That part where he lit up the sky with his signature Atomic Breath? Epic. I’m looking forward to seeing my childhood hero show the world what we’ve known most of our lives: Godzilla is awesome.

    But he isn’t alone! Godzilla brought friends (and an arch-nemesis). Rodan and Mothra might have stolen the show for me; Rodan, having been described by the film’s director as a “winged A-bomb,” might prove to be more destructive than the King of the Monsters himself. Having been treated to only a few quick cuts of the giant pterodactyl, I have a good feeling about this Rodan. As for Mothra, who has the distinction of being a divine monster, she is treated very well here. Like Rodan, we don’t see as much of her as we’d like, but there’s no question that Mothra will play a unique role in this film.

    Then there’s King Ghidorah. His obscured appearance deliberately invoked a feeling of wonder and dread. Though we didn’t see much of him, we could most certainly see the apocalyptic effect he was having on the world.

    I’m excited to see the monsters in all their glory; they are the main reason why I’ll be in theaters opening night (and every night, I imagine). But you know what? The human characters are a vital component to the storytelling process. We need them to be play a vital role and, as far as I can tell, they won’t disappoint. I’m thankful to have such a talented group of people share the screen with the King of the Monsters.

     

     

     

    Jack Jordan

    As a dinosaur loving child (and later adult), I often searched long and hard for movies about them and their prehistoric ilk. There was just something entrancing about that lost world; there  was something new and mysterious to discover each time, some new wonder to bear witness to. And that is what the trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters fills me with: Wonder. The very premise fills me with it! The world has changed, the titans have risen up from the depths and the world is put in danger. Ancient ruins are uncovered, revealing remnants of prehistoric civilizations that worshiped these massive beasts. Worse yet, there are others who are awakening. Fantastical kaiju like Mothra, Rodan, and dreaded Monster Zero… Before this announcement of Kong and Godzilla having a rematch in 2020, this would have been my pick for the culmination of Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Scenes of apocalyptic destruction abound, showing a world reeling from the attacks of Rodan and King Ghidorah, a powerful looking Godzilla advancing into battle followed by human forces.I found it visually stunning, especially thanks to what will surely soon be iconic images (Godzilla firing his atomic breath skyward, Mothra behind the waterfall, etc). I was speechless and teary eyed following the trailer, even after multiple viewings.

    In short, the trailer was breathtaking. It cultivated a sense of mystery with its various teases and the spectacular choice of music, feeding into the expanding scope of the MonsterVerse. I am again filled with that same sense of childlike wonder the first Godzilla gave me so long ago. I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here!

     

     

     

    Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer reactions

    Anthony Romero

    After a middling reaction to the latest Anime features with the character, I was ready to get excited for something Godzilla related again… and the trailer delivered. While I wasn’t overly thrilled with the human component, this trailer played to what many stated as a weakness with the 2014 movie by doubling down on the monster action. …and boy did we get monsters. One of my fears is that, with four Toho heavyweights in the same film, some would get treated as minor characters. While that still could be the case, the trailer gave no impression of that. Mothra, King Ghidorah, Godzilla and, most pleasantly for me, Rodan were all highlighted well.

    I make it no secret that I love Rodan, one of my all time favorite characters and one who hasn’t been in the limelight in a truly great role since the 1960’s. That’s perhaps what made the trailer all the more memorable, as he got amble screen time here, while it was also great to see his shockwave brought to life in the manner it was.

    While there are certain things I didn’t care for, the use of color filters gave me flashbacks to Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), I can say I’m the most excited I have been for something Godzilla related in a long, long time… and that’s a very welcome feeling.

     

     

     

    Tyler Trieschock

    As a member of Tohokingdom, I couldn’t help but take notice of the rumors swirling around a possible Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer. Speculation on what may be teased passed from member to member, but I felt a sense of worry abound as Comic Con neared. Would this movie ruin the classic designs of Ghidorah, Mothra & Rodan? Could the story be compelling? And my biggest fear probably to the shock of many, what overblown action score would surely accompany the trailer? I felt all these worries and more vanish as I watched the trailer.

    The biggest take away from this trailer, compared to others, is the sense of beauty and scale associated with every new monster to the Legendary franchise. Each has its own element, figuratively and literally, with a dazzling color scheme to match. Mothra’s mystifying blues contrast the sharp golden flashes of Ghidorah or the fierce fires that linger off of Rodan’s form. While not fully revealing every monster, these flashes help establish the essence of each creature and showcase a relatively new but satisfying modern design. While Ghidorah, Mothra & Rodan steal the show in their own respect, I felt Godzilla was lacking his own unique element. His larger spines and more powerful breath did make me form a grin, but I will admit my excitement for the new trio do far exceed the King of the Monsters himself.

    While the monsters and the shots used were overall fantastic, there were plenty of other great aspects across the trailer. The piano, choir and drums used to uplift the action was far from what I expected in regards to score, but in my mind were used fantastically. The suspected plot, one of worshiping the monsters and of the results that follow, looks interesting and the minor dialogue of the characters displayed sounded solid though definitely below Bryan Cranston’s “Stone Age” speech of the first trailer.

    Overall, I watched the Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer with major reservations and while my expectations were dashed, I can definitely saw I was surprised and excited by the final result. Compared to the animated Godzilla trilogy we’ve been receiving or Shin Godzilla, I’ve overall felt disappointed with the recent fare of Godzilla media. After watching this trailer, I felt an excitement I haven’t felt in a while, so I can do nothing but look with positive anticipation for when the King of the Monsters returns in May 2019.

     

     

     

    Bonus: Jason Liles

    Jason Liles, with other credits including a performance as George from 2018’s Rampage, did motion capture work for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In fact, he did performances for both Rodan and King Ghidorah’s central head. To make this article a little unique, below are his thoughts and reactions to the trailer based on the film he himself worked on.

    Saturday, July 21st, I was walking down the street to meet up with my publicist when I got a text from Alan Maxson and Richard Dorton, the other two King Ghidorah heads. The trailer was online and Hall H had just exploded from seeing it. The only way I’d be able to watch the trailer until I got home to our TV the following night was going to be on my iPhone with earbuds. It would have to do as there was no way I was waiting to watch this. I had no idea how blown away I was about to be.

    I literally had tears in my eyes after seeing it. It was so moving, so beautiful, so epic. I had to watch it again. I was floored. I saw director Mike Dougherty later that night at the EW party. He lovingly gave me crap, “You watched it on your phone?!” But like I said, I wasn’t about to wait 24-48 hours to watch it. I knew once home that I’d watch it dozens of times.

    As soon as my girlfriend Allie and I got home to Glendale, we spent a couple hours watching reaction videos on YouTube. We couldn’t get enough of it. It sent chills down my entire body every single time. It’s an emotional, visual, and musical roller coaster edited together perfectly. We wanted to hop back on and ride it just one more time, again and again. It’s like that one song you love that doesn’t ever get old. And to see fans responding so incredibly well to it through these videos? That’s one of the most enjoyable parts of making a film for me, outside of the process of actually being on set making it. To see fans flip out like we were was just amazing. Allie and I have watched reaction videos to it every single day the last week since we got back home. We’ve probably watched about 50 of them. Basically, if you made a reaction to it and put it on YouTube, there’s a great chance that Allie and I have watched it. Or will soon.

    It’s rare that I get taken by a trailer in such a way how this trailer has taken me. To see fan polls and articles unanimously agreeing that it’s the best trailer to come out of SDCC 2018 is just surreal. To see the excitement fans have to see these creatures that I was lucky enough to help bring to life return to the big screen is a literal dream come true. This is the kind of project that I dreamt of being a part of when I was a kid. I couldn’t be more proud and more honored to be a part of it all. I’m so so thankful to my fried Mike Dougherty for bringing me on and giving me the chance to play such iconic characters in film history. It’s been at least several years since I’ve been this damn excited for a big summer release and we get to all anticipate it and enjoy the hype together. I’ll be there hiding in plain sight with all my fellow fans on opening night next May and probably at least half a dozen times the following week or two. Can’t wait to scream and cheer on this wild ride in the movie theater with you all!

     

     

     

    In case you missed it, you can also check out the highest quality version of the trailer that can be found online below:

    General // August 31, 2018
  • April Fools' Day 2016

    This year has brought a lot of change to the site, and that trend is continuing. I had planned to revamp the forums for a few weeks at this point, removing all of the old code and basically starting from scratch, although of course keeping the database intact (so all threads, users, and more was still there). It wasn’t an easy choice, there were a lot of modifications made to the code over 13 years and many I would not be able to reproduce myself.

    However, it had been a frequent request and after some recent performance issues, I realized it was time to bite the bullet rather than keep it going. To update the forum required about 3 hours of downtime, which would be used to update the database for the forums (this doesn’t factor in the weekend prior I spent working on it in pre-production). While I originally figured this would just be a normal update, it kind of dawned on me that I had nothing planned for April Fools.

    So I decided to merge the two. Throw together an April Fools’ Day 2016 prank that the forums were closing while using the downtime to update to the new forum architecture.Before getting into the prank, though, I would like to bid farewell to the old forums first. They had a lengthy run from 2003 to 2016, although the database was wiped during a site transition… the code on the forums itself remained.

    Forums Farewell

    In saying goodbye, I would like to take a look at the old forum styles, which I had quite an affection toward. These were one of many elements that we simply could not take with us toward the new forum architecture. As some know, I hate throwing things away when it comes to web properties, so below is a bit of an archive of what the old styles looked like, how many used them and my thoughts. I sadly don’t know the exact dates of when they came out, only that the last one was in 2010. Because of that, I will order them based on popularity as of March 29th, 2016. Images can be clicked to expand them.

    Gotengo (Purple) ~ 1,371 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    This theme enjoyed a pretty healthy run as the default theme, which gives it a user base edge. Personally, though? This one was my favorite and the one I used. It shared the most with the original forum design, back before styles were introduced, but updated it for a slightly more modern take. The colors were a bit unique and your eyes gravitated to the orange, which was perfect since that’s where the board title or thread name would be found. The light purple was also the closest to the main site colors of the lot.

     

    Mecha-King Ghidorah (Blue) ~ 626 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    The second most popular style, and with a devoted following. When the new boards were taken down, this was by far the most requested style to return. I do vividly recall struggling to design something around King Ghidorah, and ended up going for one on the mechanized form after realizing how perfectly he fit in the header area. The blue design was also pretty attractive, and I really don’t know why I gravitated toward multiple blue styles when the main site is more of a dark purple.

     

    Godzilla Fire (Dark Black) ~ 510 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    In retrospect, it’s kind of surprising that the forums only had one true dark/black style. Consequently, it’s not too surprising to see this style rise through the ranks, being the only game in town. The inspiration for this style is actually based on the Kirin Fire (“Godzilla Coffee”). The ad campaign featured baseball player Hideki Matsui, who was nicknamed Godzilla and also appeared in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla himself (circa the Kiryu era design). If you have never seen the commercial, take a watch here, you might be surprised how faithful the design for this style was for something so obscure.

     

    Godzilla (Dark Blue) ~ 345 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    I was always shocked when this board, which used to be at the top, started to sink over the years. Even though my favorite was the Gotengo one, I tended to identify the board with this look the most. Because I was pretty pleased with the design, I also set it as the default board when someone wasn’t logged in. Visually, I loved the slow fade of the Heisei Godzilla head in the header. The radioactive icons haven’t aged that well, though, but otherwise an appealing design.

     

    20th Century Boys (Classic) ~ 31 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    There was a small but vocal group that really wanted the original forum style to return, which was abandoned once more colorful styles were added. The group got their wish with a style that harked back to that 2003 design, even with the same Xilien UFO icons. The header image was retooled, though, and the theme based off a nostalgia angle harking to 20th Century Boys (2008). This was my least favorite style, but it did what it set out to do: replicate the original look.

     

    Bloodthirsty (Black) ~ 30 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    God bless the 30 mavericks who choose this theme. I do recall this being the last of the themes I designed, and also being discouraged at the lack of use it got as it can be quite time consuming to create a style. A few switched it on for Halloween, but it never really got much use. The actual theme is based on the 1970’s vampire films in what is called the Bloodthirsty trilogy. The films are: Vampire Doll (1970), Lake of Dracula (1971) and Evil of Dracula (1974). I absolutely love Vampire Doll (1970), and the design had most in common with this film with both the house in the background and the title character with the blade. However, the roses were an element owed to Evil of Dracula (1974).

     

    Pokémon (Orange) ~ 7 users

    Lost Toho Kingdom Styles

    …And at the bottom of the heap we find the site’s only anime style, which was based on the Pokémon films. The actual Pokémon selection was based on the 3rd generation, Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance, which appeared in films such as Pokémon: Jirachi Wish Maker (2003). The actual design kind of reminded me of old school Macs. It was never really popular, although I do remember it for being Miles Imhoff’s style of choice for the forums.

    April Fools’ Day 2016

    So back to the topic at hand, as mentioned I did not plan an April Fools joke for this year. That’s not too shocking, as in years past I would lean on Miles or ask something to come from the K.W.C. crew to see if they could fill the void. However, felt that the K.W.C. angle was tried too recently, so racked my brain to come up with something as a gap filler.

    The eventual resolution was to just say the forums were closing.

    As previously mentioned, it was going to take a bit to update the database to the new architecture, and so the timing was right to take advantage of it. Now my normal mantra for April Fools jokes is that I want them to occur only within the period that falls on April Fools, I told some other members of the staff and they wanted to drum up a minor storm on the forums to sell the idea more. I gave it my okay, and one of the actions was Derzerb’s resignation, as seen below.

    April Fools' Day 2016: Resignation

    With that in place, I crafted a fairly long message to go up on the main site while the boards would be disabled, allowing for the database update to occur in the background. While there was no truth to the message in regards to the forums being closed, there was a degree of real reflection to it. Mostly that the forums are an area where the staff isn’t really given much kudos. However, as said in the message, it’s understandable as it’s user generated content, although it does hurt the ol’ motivation for it at times.

    Anyway, for reference, below is the original message that was posted on the front of the site:

    After a lot of thought, I have decided to close down the forums as sort of a “contingency plan”. This wasn’t an easy choice. The forums have been with us for a long time, since 2003. In many ways, it is part of what defines the website. However, it has been kind of a thankless component of the website as well, and you can’t really blame that mentality. By nature, it’s user generated content. When I updated the monster bios, Baragon’s in particular, I got a lot of praise for that. While I don’t seek praise, it does help drive my motivation around the website.

    The forums have never really offered that. People expect it to work, and again I don’t blame others as I would have the same approach on other forums as well. However, the forums are old. It’s 13 years now and that’s 13 years of code. Code that has accumulated over time and with the departure of Miles Imhoff, it’s something that I’m not familiar enough with to “fix”. So the forums have lamented a bit. My free time is not what it once was and I will attest that nothing bums me out more than working a long day in the office only to check my phone afterwards to read emails calling me out for a lack of involvement in the forum or for current events there that I need to fix.

    It’s hard. It’s draining. I don’t like to close things down, as the site’s blog section will show as that has become a catch all area for abandoned ideas in the past, but the forums are something that I have decided it’s finally time to close this chapter of the site’s history. A recent exodus there as well made this choice somewhat easier too.

    I do deeply want to thank everyone who has participated there over the years and the admins and moderators who have helped as well. It’s all been much appreciated. I’m still deciding what to do with them, leaning toward archiving it all and linking toward it in the blog section, but right now I have just disabled it.

    General // April 30, 2016
  • The Closure of Toho Kingdom Movie Review Submissions

    Every year Toho is involved in numerous films, not to mention a large archive they have created during the “Golden Age” of Japanese cinema. This presents quite a catalog to review, and initially we at the Toho Kingdom opened our doors to user submitted reviews to help fill some of the void. That policy shifted with age, though, and it has been years since Toho Kingdom has accepted submissions from movie reviews. This blog will explain the policy change and also feature an archive of older user submitted reviews.

    History of Movie Review Submissions

    As some might know, at one time user submitted reviews were a big part of Toho Kingdom. It’s a process that actually led to the hiring of Miles Imhoff, who cut his teeth first on these reviews. Without realizing it, the user submitted reviews turned out to be a good way to vet talent.

    Unfortunately, after years of use, this aspect started to get long in the tooth. The work involved was time consuming: editing reviews and asking for changes if it wasn’t deemed up to standard. This was especially true after a user was discovered plagiarizing reviews from other sources. This added a whole new layer where all submitted work needed to be checked against this.

    Despite the labor involved, the real nail in the coffin was just a change in where I wanted the site to go. If you wanted a quick user review, IMDB has you covered. I wanted the reviews on Toho Kingdom to have a different pedigree. For readers to start to understand how a reviewer works and build a relationship with them. For example, maybe someone is closer in view point to Patrick Galvan’s analysis of films versus my own. Basically, I see value in starting to identify with the reviewer and for this to add a layer of importance to the review. …either that or the reader just might enjoy the humor that Nicholas Driscoll infuses in his work. To that point, the site has some really great reviewers right now as well, with Nicholas, Alexander Smith and, of course, Patrick. It’s a lineup where you have some great analysis of both popular and obscure material. It’s what I envisioned the reviews should be and with that strong backbone I no longer saw the need for the user reviews.

    The Closure of Movie Review Submissions

    Archived Toho Kingdom Movie Review Submissions

    This decision was made years ago, but just yesterday the user submitted reviews were finally removed from the review section. That said, I’m a fan of keeping everything. So even though we no longer accept submitted movie reviews, I’m not deleting any of the old ones. If you want to read any of them, that were submitted between 2005 and 2011, feel free to scroll below for a trip down memory lane:

    Published Movie Reviewer Score
    10-23-2011
     Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster [Continental]
    Destroyer
    4.0
    09-24-2011
     Godzilla: Final Wars
    Destroyer
    4.5
    09-01-2011
     Destroy All Monsters [International]
    Destroyer
    3.5
    09-01-2011
     Invasion of Astro-Monster [Maron Films]
    Destroyer
    4.0
    08-21-2011
     Akira
    Evan Brehany
    4.0
    06-27-2011
     Onmyoji
    Evan Brehany
    4.0
    02-07-2011
     Godzilla vs. Gigan
    King Caesar
    2.5
    12-27-2010
     Godzilla vs. Mothra
    Godzillawolf
    3.5
    12-16-2010
     Ebirah, Horror of the Deep
    Paul Sell
    4.0
    10-26-2010
     Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
    Godzillawolf
    4.5
    09-19-2010
     Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla
    Godzillawolf
    3.0
    05-06-2010  Bye-Bye Jupiter (Sayonara Jupiter) DaikaijuSokogeki! 4.0
    04-14-2010
     Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah [Tristar]
    Godzillawolf
    3.5
    02-14-2010
     Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
    Godzillawolf
    4.5
    11-04-2009
     Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
    Godzillawolf
    4.0
    10-22-2009
     Terror of Mechagodzilla
    Ethan Reed
    3.5
    10-22-2009
     Godzilla, Mothra, & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack
    Godzillawolf
    4.5
    08-13-2009
     Godzilla vs. Biollante
    Godzillawolf
    4.0
    07-23-2009
     Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
    Adam Striker
    4.0
    07-22-2009
     Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
    Ethan Reed
    3.0
    11-29-2008
     One Missed Call 2
    Pat Atwell
    3.0
    07-03-2008
     One Missed Call
    Pat Atwell
    4.0
    12-21-2007
     Terror of Mechagodzilla
    AnguirusGuy
    3.0
    10-24-2006  Pulse (Kairo) Hank Xavier 4.5
    09-18-2006  Rebirth of Mothra Donny Winter 3.5
    08-28-2006  The Spiral (Rasen) Hank Xavier 2.0
    08-25-2006  Ikiru Chaos 5.0
    08-22-2006  Godzilla (Godzilla, King of the Monsters) Cow 4.0
    08-10-2006  The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1985) Hank Xavier 4.5
    08-09-2006  Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla Chaos 1.5
    07-28-2006  Godzilla vs. Megalon Hank Xavier 2.5
    07-16-2006  Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II Hank Xavier 3.5
    05-27-2006  Ring (Ringu) Hank Xavier 4.0
    05-22-2006  Ikiru Athean 4.5
    04-03-2006  Godzilla vs. Megaguirus Tim85 2.5
    03-24-2006  Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack Tim85 4.5
    03-17-2006  Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Godzilla X Mechagodzilla) Tim85 3.5
    03-04-2006  Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. Tim85 3.5
    02-25-2006  Godzilla: Final Wars Tim85 3.0
    02-18-2006  Gamera: Guardian of the Universe Tim85 4.5
    02-11-2006  Rodan [DCA] Tim85 4.0
    02-02-2006  Spirited Away DaikaijuSokogeki! 5.0
    09-13-2005  Son of Godzilla Spinzilla 3.5
    06-06-2005  Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (Gamera vs. Legion) THE GODZILLA 5.0
    05-11-2005  Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris THE GODZILLA 5.0
    05-07-2005  Godzilla Raids Again [Warner Bros.] THE GODZILLA 3.0
    04-25-2005  Godzilla (Godzilla, King of the Monsters) gvsgdude89 4.5

     

    General // February 29, 2016
  • Longtime Toho Kingdom Staff Appreciation

    17 years… that feels like a millennia in “web years”. It’s also how old the site is turning this year. The year was 1999. It was an interesting time in the fandom. Websites on Godzilla were a dime a dozen, many using the same pictures over and over again. The same low-quality roars were also cycled everywhere. It was an age of spinning gifs and website counters. The time period was also a year after GODZILLA (1998) came out and just as Godzilla 2000: Millennium(1999) was almost on our doorstep. So the “GINO” hate was strong, and the interest in a relaunch in Godzilla high.

    It was during this era that Toho Kingdom was born, created by a high school freshman version of myself. I could never picture myself today embarking for the first time on this journey, but my younger self was outgoing (and certainly with ample free time). While the site was maintained solely by myself for three years, it started to expand to a team of people. A project this big, this vast needed a team.

    That team materialized, was shaped and evolved over a decade.

    Now while present day me has been a manager for some years now, college-aged me was new to this whole concept. I was fortunate to be surrounded by a stellar team. Still, at the end of the day, I was a poor boss who never adequately praised efforts.

    Today, I promote based on contributions. This led to Miles Imhoff being our vice president for many years and Chris Mirjahangir as our current executive director. Those types of promotions will continue and the site will also continue to single out at least someone each year to praise, as I have done in the past with Miles and did in 2015 for Tyler Trieschock.

    Those are today’s practices, though, and nothing even remotely similar existed for much of the site’s long history. So today I want to make some amends. This is a longtime Toho Kingdom staff appreciation session to honor those who deserved it but might not have gotten proper kudos. This is both current staff and past staff members. I’m keeping this to just staff who joined before 2008 as well. So you won’t find, for example, Joshua Sudomerski or Patrick Galvan on this list even though they are examples of two rock stars who I admire and feel grateful to have on our team. I’m also skipping past our upper management. I could write essays on the contributions of Miles or Chris, but this piece is aimed toward those who likely never got their deserved praise.

    So, without further ado:

    Longtime Staff Appreciation
    (in order of start date)

    James Webster

    James was one of the very first staff members the site ever had. Unlike many of the staff, James did not have one particular area of expertise. His contributions were diverse and widespread. From bios, to translating, to scanning images, to K.W.C. matches and even Video Games… James contributed a bit of everything.

    While it’s easy to take for granted some aspects of the site, it was really early on that sections like the Video Games materialized. They have always been overly obsessive, dripping with detail that you just won’t find anywhere else on these games. That decision for this detail oriented approach was a collaboration between myself and James that let the section blossom.

    At the time, James was very much a vice president-level role in his contributions to the site. He really helped to form a wealth of content in the early years that we started.

    Thomas Fairchild

    Thomas gets the honor of being our longest running staff member. Having joined back in 2003, this year will mark his 13th on the site staff.

    While Thomas has contributed in several areas, his exemplary work was always due to his incredible writing talents. One doesn’t read the K.W.C. match Bagan vs. Everyone from beginning to end without realizing this is something special. Something epic and different.

    Over the years I have come to depend on Thomas for turning in really memorable work. His skills as a writer are remarkable. One of the highest praises I can give is that Thomas never repeats himself. While you come to depend on a well written piece from him, you never feel like any of his work is repeating the same beats. He is a dynamic writer whose work is never short of compelling.

    Nicholas Driscoll

    Next year will be Nicholas’ 10th on the site staff. Articulate and very well spoken, nothing less can be said other than Nicholas’ work is truly unique. How else could one describe the painstakingly researched, fascinatingly in-depth Many Loves of Godzilla article? While his movie reviews turn heads, from newer to older releases, the most praise I tend to hear and concur with is for his book reviews.

    Now for most, book collecting is a rather obscure hobby for the fandom. Toy collectors? Countless. Movie collectors? Numerous. Comic collectors? A fair share. Soundtrack collectors? A passionate but small group. Book collectors? Now we have gone to a real small niche of the community. Regardless, Nicholas has taken a small sector of the fandom and made it interesting for all.

    I’m not sure how many other children of the 1980’s might be reading this, but Nicholas’ open letter to Ian Thorne in his Godzillareview left me with a flood of emotions. I’m grateful that I’m not alone in my love of Nicholas’ book reviews either, as nothing made me happier then when we recently hired Marcus Gwin who shared similar feelings for Nicholas’ work.

    Christian Salabert

    Christian was the site’s second hire of 2007, a banner year for new employees.

    I have known Christian for many, many years at this stage. At one time, Christian, myself, Thomas, “Z2K”, “Kedzuel” and Matt Frank (of Godzilla: Rulers of Earth fame now) would frequent MSN back in the day. So when Christian joined the site it was a natural fit.

    While Christian had been envisioned to simply contribute to the K.W.C. section, he instead laid the foundation for a total rehaul to that portion of the site. The banners and the diverse pool of writers were something done directly under his leadership over that section. This required an incredible amount of work to coordinate and finalize, setting in place a structure that would not only add banners to new matches but also all previous ones as well.

    While Thomas had already started to contribute to this section, it was Christian who transformed what was once an archaic portion of the site, using static images of the monsters, into something lively; something that has become a flagship portion of the site. Christian worked to create an intital network of writers and created the forums’ K.W.C. section to help best shape these efforts. Without this work, it’s likely the K.W.C. would have lamented as a hidden subsection, like the D20 area did at one point, rather than one of the pinnacles of the site as it is today.

    General // February 29, 2016