Sometime around the middle of this year, well known Toho Kingdom Staff Member and friend, Chris Mirjahangir, casually asked me in conversation if I would have interest in attending the United States premiere of Godzilla Minus One, should such an event occur? Without hesitation I responded with an enthusiastic “YES!”
Flash forward to the rainy morning of November 9th, and I found myself waiting in line at my local airport of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for a flight bond for Los Angeles California, where the very next day I would be attending the official Hollywood hosted, U.S. Premiere of Toho’s newest Godzilla film, Godzilla Minus One. To say I was in a state of shock would be an understatement. That sense of shock and excitement still hasn’t quite left me yet and if I’m honest, I hope they never do.
I discovered Toho Kingdom back in 2004 while dipping my toes into the internet and the greater Godzilla community. At the time I discovered Toho Kingdom, most of the fandom’s excitement was focused on the highly anticipated video game Godzilla Save The Earth for the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. The original game Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Melee had been smash hit not just with the Godzilla fandom but with gamers and newcomers alike and it was this site’s extensive coverage of the game leading up to its release and the incredibly detailed and insightful work Chris created by interviewing Pipeworks Developer Simon Strange about the development of these games, which caused me to save Toho Kingdom in my browser and my mind as a site worth remembering.
Within the following 10 years, I had not only begun to interact with fellow fans on the Toho Kingdom forums, but had begun to make genuine friends with multiple other fans such as Dillon Fisher, Nic Anstett, Tyler Trieschock, Hayes A. Jones, and Jacob Haas. It was with these friends that we started the Toho Kingdom Podcast and I officially began to create content for this site. It was also doing this show that led me to meet Chris and begin another friendship. In the following years I’ve been able to cover so many events and meet so many people from the films we all know and love so much. Every opportunity I’ve worked on for Toho Kingdom was a blessing, and as much as they have meant to me, never in a million years would I have guessed that I would go from reading articles on the site back in 2004, to standing in line at the Red Carpet event for Godzilla Minus One at the Directors Guild of America, waiting to see what was perhaps the most anticipated Godzilla film in quite some time. In fact, I felt as if I had been waiting for this film way back since 2007. Director Takashi Yamazaki’s 2007 film entitled “Always: Sunset on Third Street 2” was the 2nd in a live action trilogy adaptation of an ongoing manga series of the same name which is a nostalgic look back at Japan during the post war period of the 1950s. Each film in the Always trilogy was directed by Takashi Yamazaki and are held in high regard by many, however Always 2 became a sensation on the internet back in 2007 as the movie opens with an imaginary scene that featured a fully CGI realized Godzilla destroying a 1950s era Tokyo. Although only a few minutes long, the sequence features wonderful cinematography, fantastic effects, and a truly memorable Godzilla design. This scene was so impactful that it went on to become a constant reference point for many fans online when discussing how they would like to see Godzilla return should we ever be fortunate enough to see such a film.
2021 saw the addition of a brand-new attraction to the Japanese theme park Seibuen Amusement Park in Tokorozawa, Godzilla The Ride, which was a 4D movie and ride all in one, which not only featured a new “mini” Godzilla film where the King of the Monsters and his fellow kaiju star Rodan take on the iconic villain King Ghidorah, but was also set in a similar time as Always 2’s Godzilla sequence. What’s more, the entire sequence was also directed by Takashi Yamazaki and features a Godzilla design nearly identical to his appearance in Always 2, only far more detailed and realized with modern CGI technology. Soon after the ride opened in Japan, rumors began to circulate amongst the fandom about an upcoming film being produced by Toho. All that was known about the film was that it would be directed by Takashi Yamazaki, it would be a period piece, and it would be a kaiju film of some sort. The inevitable conclusion drawn to by the fandom was that the 2007 Always 2 Godzilla sequence would finally be getting the full-length theatrical treatment that so many fans had been dreaming of ever since first seeing the opening sequence of Always 2. I remember being blown away by that scene when I first saw it back in 2007 on YouTube and I became incredibly excited at the prospect of a new Toho Godzilla film which was also a period piece. While I have enjoyed all the newest Godzilla films and animated series we have gotten since 2014, once Godzilla Minus One was fully revealed to the public I began to feel a renewed sense of anticipation and wonder. I began to believe that we were about to receive a film which could be one of the greatest Godzilla films ever made.
This sense of anticipation and excitement only grew, and on the afternoon of November the 10th, it had grown to Godzilla sized proportions as I found myself arriving at the Directors Guild of America alongside Chris and fellow G-Fan and friend Giovanni Ramirez.
It goes without saying that I have never experienced an event like this one before, particularly an industry event like this one. I found myself waiting in the line for the media guests, which was a smaller line, behind the red carpet where the general audience guests were queued up. Chris was able to take multiple photos of the various stars who arrived at the event, none more exciting than Godzilla Minus One Director Takashi Yamazaki and lead actor Ryunosuke Kamiki, who played the central character of the film, Koichi Shikishima.
While waiting for the show to start and witnessing all the guests posing for photographs or to give interviews, I found myself doing exactly what brought me here in the first place. Finding new friends and bonding over our shared love for Godzilla. It will never cease to amaze me how unifying Godzilla is. I interacted with so many new people who I had never even known before, but with whom I felt united with thanks to our shared love for Godzilla. While there were multiple people attending the event first and foremost as industry professionals, it was clear that so many of the guests that night were brought there by their passion for the character. The line between fan and professional was not always so clear cut, however, as I was surprised to see several guests arrive who were both fan and professional. Director Michael Dougherty had attended the event in an awesome surprise! Of the MonsterVerse incarnation of Godzilla, his 2019 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters is unquestionably my favorite and one of my favorite Godzilla films of any of the character’s eras. I was able to shake his hand and while doing so, I thanked him for making that film and told him it was my favorite of the MonsterVerse because he knew that Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Rodan are not merely “Monsters”, but fully realized characters with personalities and goals of their own, as equally distinct as any human character. Although the interaction was brief, Mr. Dougherty’s smile grew after I thanked him, and his response asserted that he felt the same. However, brief this moment was, it meant the world to me to be able to thank someone like him who has contributed in any capacity to this franchise, and it was only one of multiple such encounters that night!
Also attending the premiere was T.J. Storm, the Performance Capture Artist who portrayed Godzilla in the same 2019 film directed by Michael Dougherty! His performance in that film as Godzilla added so much heart and humanity to the character that instantly reminded me of the dearly missed Haruo Nakajima and showed that the same energy and emotions that he conveyed in his multiple iconic turns in the Godzilla suits, could also be captured by current CGI methods. Preserving the spirits of suit actors across time and mediums. As with Michael Dougherty, I was able to get a handshake with him and express my gratitude and love for his performance in that film! He too was pleased to hear that I enjoyed his work and even agreed to pose for a photo with me!
One of the greatest events I have covered for Toho Kingdom was Fan Expo Dallas in 2015, where I was fortunate enough to meet with Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa. I will always be thankful to God for that opportunity to meet all three gentlemen who I owe so much to, especially Haruo Nakajima who would pass away with in the next couple of years. Being able to meet and shake hands with the man who has not only followed in these icon’s gigantic footsteps, but preserved and nourished their passion and spirit into the modern era was an honor and yet another moment I will never forget.
Shortly after these interactions, we were ushered into 1 of 2 theaters which were screening the film at the same time. I was blessed to end up in the same theater where Takashi Yamazaki and Ryunosuke Kamiki were seated as well! Both men were called up onto the stage to provide a brief introduction and who then thanked the crowd for attending this screening. Shortly after that, the lights were turned off, the room fell into darkness, and the screen began to cast its silver light across an eager audience.
I would prefer to save my full thoughts on Godzilla Minus One for a more detailed and traditional movie review, however I would like to say that my initial thoughts that I was about to see something special were correct and I was blown away by the absolute triumph that Godzilla Minus One is! Godzilla has been a near constant presence in my life, ever since I was 6 years old. He is in some ways an old and dear friend of mine. I say this because Godzilla Minus One showed me Godzilla in a way I had seen glimpses of but never fully experienced before. In short, Godzilla terrified me. The horror the characters felt on screen were perfectly portrayed and resonated with me in a way I hadn’t felt before. That was my biggest takeaway from my initial viewing of this film and what won me over completely.
I won’t lie, I’m positive the excitement of the entire event no doubt had an impact on me, and I have a bias in this film’s favor because of the circumstances surrounding my first viewing of it. However, I made sure to rewatch the film again on its initial country wide IMAX release day and much to my delight I found myself once again greatly moved by the film. The acting, the writing, the effects, and a beautiful score all work as one to bring to life not only one of the greatest Godzilla films I have ever seen, but one of the greatest films I have ever seen in any genre. Godzilla Minus One is a triumph of filmmaking, one that captures the weight of fear and the light of hope which are both equally bound within our human nature. Just like the original 1954 film which started this all, I would absolutely recommend to anyone I meet that they see Godzilla Minus One. Godzilla fan or not, they won’t regret seeing this film.
From the moment the iconic Toho logo appeared on screen, the entire theater erupted in cheers, applause, and whistles of excitement! I have heard that Japanese audiences are very reserved and quiet while watching films in a theatre, so I imagined that Takashi Yamazaki and Ryunosuke Kamiki would both be surprised at how an American audience would receive their film and I was correct! During the following Q and A session, both men expressed sincere surprise and gratitude to the audience for enjoying the film so much. Takashi Yamazaki went so far as to say he was initially under the impression that we were all Godzilla fans but after witnessing our overwhelmingly positive reactions to the film, we were in fact, worshippers of Godzilla! I was not seated close enough to witness this for myself, however I heard from the surrounding crowd around me after the film and Q and A, that Ryunosuke Kamiki had in fact been moved to tears after witnessing our reception to the film and his performance in it.
The Q and A was full of engaging responses, but as with all good things, it ended too soon. While standing in the theater and waiting for the crowd to filter out, I happened to notice that Takashi Yamazaki was exiting the theater through the walkway right in front of me, posing for pictures with fans and shaking as many hands as he could while exiting. As he walked right up to where I was standing, he saw me, and I offered my hand which he shook. As he did so I told him I loved the movie, and I thanked him for making it. He was smiling when he first shook my hand, but his smile grew after hearing what I said. Once again, I cannot begin to describe how much it meant for me to be able to express my gratitude to Takashi Yamazaki for all his hard work in creating such an incredible movie, and as with so many other events from my time with Toho Kingdom, I will never forget this moment. Later that evening after the crowd had died down and the last stragglers were leaving, I was able to pose for a photo with Takashi Yamazaki and I thank him for his generosity.
As if it were a dream the event ended, and I flew back home to Dallas the following day. In some way, I still haven’t come down from the high of this entire event, and I hope I never do. When I reflect on this event, I must admit I find myself emotionally moved. Even the process of creating this write up of the event has stoked these emotions again. Excitement, anticipation, hope, and sadness at the event’s end. However, the one emotion I feel stronger than any other is gratitude. Gratitude to Toho for not only allowing Takashi Yamazaki to create such a wonderful film, but for finally distributing said film themselves in the United States in a scale unseen since perhaps Godzilla 2000. I hope the tremendous amount of positive reception and box office numbers generated by this film have shown Toho that Godzilla is truly beloved here as he is in Japan, and his fans stand ready and eager to engage directly with the character and Toho in a relationship as strong as the one shared amongst Japanese fans. Gratitude to Toho Kingdom and everyone who has contributed to such an incredible site in any capacity. Gratitude to Chris for not only taking me under his wing and showing me the ropes on covering Godzilla for the site, but for being a true friend beyond our work on the site. Gratitude for all I have met because of Toho Kingdom. Gratitude to my Mother who started me down this road when she handed me a toy at a garage sale and said, “Look this is Godzilla”. Gratitude to my Father for showing me my first Godzilla film with Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero (rented on VHS from Blockbuster). Gratitude to my eternally patient siblings for putting up with me and my obsession for so many years. Gratitude to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for opening these doors of opportunity for me to walk through during my work on the site. I’d say the connections and experiences I’ve had simply because of a website were unbelievable, but I know better than to just believe all this just “happened” to come about and I thank Him for these opportunities and most of all for putting these people into my life. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to you, the reader, for taking the time to read this. I hope I’ve not only been able to entertain you, but even inspire you to pursue a similar adventure. If someone like me can make it this far, then anybody can.