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Today, we are interviewing Peter H. Brothers, author whose work includes Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda and the recent The Sons of Godzilla.
ND: First of all, I just wanted to thank you for agreeing to the interview. Even though I criticized your first book, I also found a lot of good in it, and I really would love to hear more about your books in general and offer up some encouragement because I think writers need it! I know I do. First, I like to ask a few fan-related questions. First Godzilla movie you saw? Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla suit? Favorite monster outside of Godzilla? Favorite Gamera movie? Any recommendations of obscure or overlooked monster films? And to be a little more controversial: Least favorite Godzilla movie?
PB: Well the first Godzilla film I saw was the first Godzilla movie: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! when I was about seven years old; I was stunned. Even though I had a fairly good idea of what a movie was at my young age, I thought I was watching a real-time documentary. I was hooked, and have been hooked ever since! I have seen both the U.S. and Japanese versions hundreds of times, and the original Japanese version remains my favorite all-time movie. The original “suit” – which I insist on calling a “costume” – is also my favorite of the various designs. Outside of Godzilla, I am very fond of the original King Kong, Gorgo, the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Varan (1958) and the first Rodan (1956). I don’t really have a favorite Gamera movie, not too much into him, although I do plan on catching-up to the 90s films soon. As far as recommendations go, the 1981 Dragonslayer is somewhat overlooked. My least favorite Godzilla movie? At this stage I would have to say Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), it’s really a chore for me getting through that one…
ND: How did you get into monster movies?
PB: Watching Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. It started my interest in so many things: dinosaurs, dragons, movies, soundtracks, special effects, and the films of Ishiro Honda. I was also very fortunate to grow-up during the Golden Age of monster movies, fantasy and science-fiction films in the late 50s to early 60s, so many marvelous movies! I saw five of Ishiro Honda‘s films in theatres during their initial U.S. releases: Battle in Outer Space (1959), Atragon (1963), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and Mothra (1961), which I saw in a drive-in on a double-bill with Dr. No. I also saw many George Pal and Ray Harryhausen films and many other wonderful ones as well. I was also very lucky to purchase advertising art from G,KotM! such as posters, lobby cards and stills, and own several kits of the 1954 Godzilla.
ND: I know you’ve written quite a few articles about Toho films and fantasy cinema, especially for G-Fan magazine, including an article on Half Human (1955) that received a Rondo nomination! Could you tell us about how you got into writing articles on movies? How many articles do you think you have written?
PB: Yes, I remember that article: Tom Weaver beat me out on that one; he interviewed Donnie Dunagan who played Peter (“Well, helloooooo!”) in Son of Frankenstein. I started writing articles for fanzines such as Japanese Giants in the mid-Seventies, and J.D. Lees was kind enough to accept my articles in G-Fan; in fact it was due to the publishing of those articles and the feedback I received on them, that motivated me to write a book on the subject. I think I’ve written about a dozen articles for G-Fan (for the record, my treatise on The Mysterians was also nominated for a Rondo).
ND: Some of those articles eventually became the starting point of your first book on Ishiro Honda, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Films of Ishiro Honda, right? How many of your articles were later re-edited as chapters in your books?
PB: I would say about a dozen; it’s funny, some people have criticized me for reprinting them in book form, but I can’t assume everyone reading the book read all the articles. For the Second Edition of my Mushroom book I was able to include additional detail on some of those films.
ND: I remember reading in the introduction to your first book (I think) that you had several of the Japanese books on Honda and on Godzilla translated into English. Could you give a little more information on that? I think probably there are many fans that would be curious about how to get English versions of the Japanese books, and how much it might cost to get them translated!
PB: Since I do not have a Japanese friend or relative to translate material for me, I have to pay either transfer students or others to do it for me; I wish there were English versions of those books! I currently have a friend in England named Kate who has done the majority of the translations of Japanese texts as well as other publications for my more-recent books, and it isn’t cheap: I pay $25 for each single page of text; the material I had translated for The Mysterians alone cost me $180, and I paid nearly $300 for the Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) information on my current book. I figure I may have just made the money back on the Mushroom book by this time (I’ve sold about 900 copies) and maybe – just maybe – on the Godzilla book. Why do I do it? Well, for the love of the genre, and besides, if I spend my money on something, it may as well be on information kaiju eiga fans might be interested in.
ND: What were some of the big changes to the second edition of Mushroom Clouds?
PB: More expanded information on certain films as well as photographs and additional information on Mr. Honda’s life, non-monster movies, and his combat career; I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do that, as I was very unhappy with how the First Edition came out.
ND: How did your book, Atomic Dreams and the Nuclear Nightmare: The Making of Godzilla (1954) come about? Was the second book easier after writing the first?
PB: Basically, I waited 30 years to write a book on Mr. Honda, and when no one else did, I decided to give it a try, and it was the same with the Godzilla book; I just couldn’t believe no one in America had ever written a book about that incredible film. Was it easier the second time around? To a certain degree, since I was a bit more-familiar with the process (for example, I will never do a two-column format again), but writing does not come easy for me; frankly it’s a bit of a struggle, and my self-proofing leaves much to be desired. However, being self-published gives one a certain amount of creative freedom, as well as pride of ownership, since it’s my book and my responsibility.
ND: What were some of the highlights you discovered in making Atomic Dreams?
PB: Just finding out whatever new information I could, such as contemporary reviews of the film which were very interesting. I’m unashamedly obsessed with that film, so it was interesting to evaluate it, but my biggest concern was: okay, after dissecting it, will I still be able to enjoy it as an audience member or not find it as involving, since I know so many of the details (“here’s a tracking shot, here comes a close-up, etc.”), and I’m happy to say that when I recently viewed it (on November 3rd, naturally), I still found it as compelling and awesome as ever. I never get tired of watching it; it really is an incredible film – very moving – and it astounds me how so many people don’t care for it; in many ways it’s still so very underrated.
ND: You recently released a third book on Godzilla films, The Sons of Godzilla: From Destroyer to Defender-from Ridicule to Respect (1955-1995). What was the genesis of this book, and how do you think it differentiates itself from the pack, so to speak?
PB: I’m a big fan of trilogies and thought it might be fun. I’ve always wanted to evaluate films like Son of Godzilla (1967) and Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), but in doing my research, I found that many people are big fans of the 1970s films, so I had to respect that. In many ways it was a frustrating book to write, since so many of those films are frustrating to watch. I guess I’m a purist and still have a 1950s mentality about the series; it’s probably a generational thing. Some people are fans of all of the Godzilla films but I’m not one of them, so I can confidently predict this will be a very controversial book!
ND: Why didn’t you cover the Millennium Godzilla films as well? Are you planning to write another book about them, as well as the latest films such as Godzilla Resurgence and the anime trilogy?
PB: That’s a good question and there are a couple of reasons: one, I would have to purchase more texts and have them translated, and that requires more funds. I suppose I could do a “Go Fund Me” page but feel awkward asking strangers for money. But the main reason is that I have never been able to find an emotional connection with the films after the Heisei Series. Maybe it’s due to the different designs of Godzilla, but those films just don’t reach me as do the earlier ones; basically I got off the bus after 1995. Some of the Millennium Films are interesting and the latter ones are as well, so I guess if Sons of Godzilla is a “best-seller,” I might consider it.
ND: Could you give us a few highlights of some of the things you learned as you put together this latest book, to sort of whet the appetite of possible readers?
PB: Some of the comments from the filmmakers and the challenges and difficulties they faced while making these films, from the low-budgets of Jun Fukuda and Teruyoshi Nakano to the elaborateness of the Kazuki Omori and Koichi Kawakita films. It really was an amazing period for Godzilla, going from being a villain to a hero, a dad, and even becoming friends with monsters it used to fight to the death! The different approaches the filmmakers took in making them, the special effects, the music, and the various changes in the monster itself. The series was really all over the map, as unpredictable as it was entertaining.
ND: Moving on, in an interview with Armand Vaquer, you made some pretty provocative statements about the genesis of the recently-published Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa, intimating that Ryfle stole the idea from you. In the comment section of that interview, film scholar Stuart Galbraith IV called you out on those statements. Do you want to respond to them? Have you read Ryfle and Godziszewski’s Ishiro Honda, and if so, what did you think?
PB: It’s a long story, but what happened was: in 2003, during lunch at the Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant in Hollywood with Brett Homenick and Brant Elliott, they encouraged me to forge ahead with it, and shortly thereafter, I was speaking with Armand on the phone who then got me in touch with Steve, and as soon as I told him I was writing a book on Mr. Honda, his first words to me were: “Well, I hope you don’t think you’re going to make a lot of money on it,” which he followed-up with, “And remember, fans are only interested in new information.” To a certain extent I agree with his “new information” comment, but the fact is that if I know something you don’t, when you learn about it, even if the information is decades old, it is new information to you, and anyway I would rather repeat certain “known” facts to avoid leaving them out. Not everybody knows everything.
But my biggest issue was his comment about “not making a lot of money” as if he suspected this was the only reason I was writing a book on Mr. Honda, as if he thought he knew all about me. First of all (and this is to all those aspiring authors out there) if you want to make a lot of money, don’t be a writer, although some have done quite well with it. Second, why was he being so discouraging? Then I found out some years later that he and Ed were writing a book on Mr. Honda with the “permission” of the family, and that’s when it occurred to me that he was most-likely trying to talk me out of writing a book on Mr. Honda so he could have the field all to himself; what other explanation is there? One should always encourage people, not try to talk them out of doing what they want to do, and although he might say he was only trying to be realistic, I see it differently.
As far as the new book on Mr. Honda is concerned, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but look forward to it, as I’m sure Mr. Honda would be delighted to know that two books have been written about him and his films (incidentally, neither myself or my book are mentioned in the Index as if they wished it had never been written or not important enough to cite; but this sort of thing happens to me all the time. For example, although I haven’t checked in awhile, on the “official” Honda website, my book – which was the first in English on the subject – has never been mentioned. Keith Aiken of Sci-Fi Japan requested a free copy of the First Edition of my Mushroom book – presumably to review it on his site – but never did, and I once lost a key collaborator named Oki Miyano because he believed lies being told about me instead of getting the story from me firsthand; but that, as they say, is another story).
I’m also sorry to hear Mr. Galbraith has “called me out” as the least he could do is check with me and get the details from me personally – after all I was there and he wasn’t – before going public about his dissatisfaction with me.
ND: I understand you have also written some fiction and poetry. Could you tell us a little about those projects?
PB: I have written two horror novels, Devil Bat Diary and Terror in Tinseltown which are both loosely based on the Bela Lugosi film The Devil Bat (Mr. Honda is my hero, but Mr. Lugosi is my idol; I visit his grave every year on his birthday and always leave him a fresh cigar!). Neither of the two novels have done particularly well; in fact the response to Tinseltown has been downright hostile due to its touchy subject matter – some people are soooo sensitive – and I used to write verse many years ago and thought it would be nice to put them all in a book. My next book will be an anthology of three plays I wrote years ago, so I might as well put them in print, you never know!
ND: What further projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
PB: Along with the the plays, I am considering doing a book on the films of Mr. Lugosi.
ND: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
PB: It is I who thanks you for your kind attention!Interviews // December 11, 2018
Okay, so I realize this article is really late—about a month late to be honest. I saw Godzilla: The Planet Eater several weeks ago, but not on opening night, and so I missed my chance to really publish my Godzilla: The Planet Eater impressions in a timely fashion, which really put a damper on my eagerness to write up my thoughts.
That and, to be honest, I have pretty much cooled off on the anime trilogy. I missed the opening because I wanted to eat some turkey with friends—a rare chance in Japan—and I was busy that weekend. But I still didn’t head off to see the movie until a couple weeks later. It just wasn’t a big priority after the last two films really failed to light my fire.
So how was the film? Well, I will keep the spoilers until later, but my brief reaction was that Godzilla: The Planet Eater is probably the best film in the trilogy (if perhaps only because we finally get a proper ending), and by far the weirdest as well. The characters felt somewhat more rounded this time, with slightly more understandable motivations (even if the motivations might just be libido sometimes). The movie also plays with a lot of heavy themes about religion and the like, which might turn off some—it’s not subtle or… particularly sensitive. We finally do get some kaiju-on-kaiju action, though fans will still probably be disappointed in how that plays out (you can’t expect fast and exciting action out of a Godzilla who moves with the speed of a tree creaking in the wind). King Ghidorah is indeed the weirdest incarnation of the monster yet, for better and for worse. On the good side, I sometimes felt KG was honestly scary and intimidating. On the bad side, he, like Godzilla Earth, doesn’t exhibit a lot of personality. There are also a number of surprises and revelations that come out which kind of made the movie feel worth it in the end.
And speaking of the ending, it’s… kind of touching. It felt good to get to the end after three rather disappointing movies. This one still has a post-credits sequence, though, so be sure to watch to the very end.
Okay, let me give just a few actual SPOILERS for those who really want to know, though bear in mind that I saw this movie in raw Japanese and there was plenty I didn’t understand.
Spoilers on the human action: As interesting as the Exif machinations are in the movie, the most surprising “human action” for a lot of fans will probably be that Haruo has not one, but BOTH of the twins come on to him in separate scenes. They just drop their clothes and practically beg our hero to have sex with them, to which he eventually complies (at least with one of them). This at least explains to me why the theater pamphlet of the previous film featured naked pics of both girls. In this movie, they are both seen naked, although the camera angles mostly hide their naughty bits.
Oh, and yeah, the Exif are evil.
How about the monster action? Some happens. KG appears as three glittery snakes that glom onto Godzilla Earth and suck his energy while carrying him into the air. Godzilla can’t touch the three heads (which never actually combine into the more traditional form except in dream sequences), and so he blasts at them and bats at them and nothing happens. The eventual conclusion to their fight is exceedingly lame, but at least we had some monster madness.
Oh yes, and Mothra makes a very brief, very weird appearance, though only in a dream sequence really. The natives pray and stuff, and Mothra appears as a giant moth inside Haruo’s dreams, disrupting the Exifs’ plans. It’s kind of exciting to see the giant moth, but everyone’s favorite bug-god is on screen less than ten seconds I think—barely enough time for us to say “Gah!” (This is a really dumb joke—“ga” is “moth” in Japanese. Thank you, I’ll be here all night.)
I don’t want to give away anything else, though. It’s worth watching to experience yourself. While I don’t think the film holds up as one of the best in the series, it certainly is memorable and worth watching for fans. Just don’t get your hopes up that it will be something that will appeal to what you traditionally expect from films like this.General // December 10, 2018
Mike Bogue is a frequent author of monster movie reviews and articles, and has contributed to many magazines such as Wonder, Scary Monsters, and G-Fan. He has also written a commendable and thoroughly readable book on movies related to the nuclear fears so prominent in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly focusing on the USA and Japan–including many radioactive-flavored monster films! Bogue has also written fiction, including a collection of short stories, and much of his work can be found on the American Kaiju website. Recently I asked him to do an interview for Toho Kingdom, and he graciously agreed!
ND: Thanks a lot for agreeing to the interview, Mr. Bogue! I would like to start off with some of the standard fan questions if that’s all right! Favorite monster? Favorite Godzilla movie? First Godzilla movie? Favorite Gamera movie? Favorite Godzilla costume?
MB: My favorite monster is Bob Newhart. Seriously, my favorite monster is – who else? – Godzilla. My favorite Big G movie is a hard one, but if I could only choose one Godzilla movie to take with me to a desert island, it would be a subtitled edition of the original 1954 Gojira.
My first Godzilla movie was 1964’s Godzilla vs. The Thing (aka Mothra vs. Godzilla), which I saw at an indoor movie theater when I was nine years old.
Favorite Gamera movie would be Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996), with the Americanized Gammera the Invincible (I have a strong sentimental attachment to this one) a close second.
My favorite Godzilla costume? That’s a toughie. But I’d have to choose the Mosu-Goji from Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).
ND: How did you first become a fan of giant monster movies, and especially the Toho films?
MB: I must have a kaiju gene, because from a very young age, I loved giant monsters. For example, the first giant monster film I remember seeing is Rodan, which I saw on local TV on a Friday night before I even started grade school. I was enthralled, to say the least, and to my delight, the channel played the movie several more times over the next few weeks. Also, I remember seeing photos of Varan in the first Castle of Frankenstein.
The next two giant monster films I saw (both on TV) were The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The Giant Behemoth. And the 1963 newspaper movie ad for King Kong vs. Godzilla made me a giant monster fan for life, particularly of the Toho titans, and extra-particularly of Godzilla.
ND: You’ve written quite a few articles and reviews about giant monster films which were originally published in notable magazines and fan magazines such as Scary Monsters, G-Fan, and Castle of Frankenstein. Many of your articles are available on Todd Tennant’s website American Kaiju. How did you get into writing about monsters?
MB: I’d always written reviews of Japanese monster movies, but had never tried to get them published anywhere. However, WONDER magazine, which briefly flourished in the mid 1990’s, accepted my pitch to do a “Confessions of a Japanese Monster Fanatic” article in 1995, and that was my first monster article to see print. After that, I started writing for Scary Monster Magazine, and the next logical step was to become one of G-FAN’s regular scribes.
ND: Are there any articles or reviews you are especially proud of that you can recommend?
MB: Probably my retrospective of Toho’s 1961 The Last War that appeared in G-FAN #56, 2002 issue.
ND: Recently you had a book about monsters and nuclear cinema published—Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967. How did this book come about?
MB: Film-wise, I have always been interested in three genres – atomic holocaust movies; giant monster movies; and 1950’s science fiction movies. I was familiar with many of the books in these categories, particularly the late Bill Warren’s wonderful Keep Watching the Skies! But I realized no one had written a book that telescoped in on only those American and Japanese imagi-movies that dealt solely with the nuclear threat.
To make a long story short, I pitched this idea to McFarland Publishing via a query letter and sample chapters, and they offered me a book contract, which I accepted. This was a thrilling moment, as I’d always loved McFarland books, but had never dreamed I would one day be writing one.
ND: Why 1951-1967 specifically?
MB: Because it is during those years that Cold War anxiety was at its height, and hence atomic cinema flourished, not just in American, but also Japan. The cinematic specter of the nuclear threat started with America’s 1951 Five, and lasted in Japanese films through 1967’s Son of Godzilla. After that, until the 1980s, few American or Japanese films dealt with the nuclear threat.
ND: What were some of the most interesting things you learned or found out about while you were working on this book?
MB: I was fascinated to find out that in the fifties, nuclear hysteria was far more pronounced in America than even I had thought (I was born in 1955, and hence don’t remember much about the fifties, though I remember well the Cold War jitters of the sixties).
In the fifties, the basic attitude was not if there would be a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, but when. I was also surprised to find evidence that some in the American military, such as SAC Commander Curtis LeMay, wanted to goad the Soviets into a nuclear showdown.
Then, of course, there was the reality of above-ground nuclear testing in the U.S., and the scores of American troops ordered to march over areas that had just been nuked. Also, it was interesting to discover the level of Japanese anti-nuke sentiment in the fifties, and the country’s sense of helplessness being caught between the atomic superpowers, an angst well-depicted in Toho’s 1961 production The Last War.
ND: One of the observations in your book (as I recall) was that American monster movies often have more positive depictions of nuclear energy and a more optimistic appraisal of humankind’s abilities and powers as opposed to Japan’s often more cynical or pessimistic outlook. Do you think those general perspectives have persisted in both nations and their cinema past the 60’s and through the years until now?
MB: Fascinating question. Actually, I think in America, the positive attitude suggested in 1950’s atomic monster movies had pretty much dissipated by the mid-sixties, as demonstrated in films such as Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove. Indeed, these films depict almost the same level of pessimism expressed in the Japanese films The Final War (1960) and The Last War (1961).
Speaking of Final War, though it wasn’t legally available when I wrote Apocalypse Then, it is available now on the Internet via a Toei Archive. The film displays a dark, cynical take on nuclear war and human nature. I think the Japanese continue to take a dim view of the nuclear threat, which to some extent can be seen in 2016’s Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence).
By the 1980’s, atomic cinema in America saw a renaissance, but these films were dark and plausible. No more big bugs or revived prehistoric monsters. Instead, Americans got a dose of reality in movies like 1983’s The Day After and Testament. U.S. citizens in the 1980s were not as naively trusting of their government as in the 1950s, and many feared then President Reagan was going to get us into a nuclear war. Indeed, in 1982, an estimated one million anti-nuke protesters gathered in New York City.
ND: One of the things I really enjoyed about your book was that it covered so many movies that I rarely see discussed in fan circles. Do you have any recommendations for monster films or even other related films (like the nuclear-holocaust films you covered) that are often kind of overlooked?
MB: One nuke-related film that immediately comes to mind is 1958’s The Lost Missile. I almost included the movie in my book, and now I wish I had. The film concerns a strange extraterrestrial missile that is orbiting five miles over the earth at a temperature of one million degrees, leaving a swath of destruction as it passes overhead. Though low-budget and rife with stock footage, the movie is worth seeing, and features an unexpectedly grim finale. It is available on DVD from Amazon.
A second nuke-related film worth seeing is 1963’s Ladybug, Ladybug, another movie I almost included in Apocalypse Then. This one concerns a possible nuclear alert in a rural Florida area that causes a school principal to send the children home. As it turns out, the alert was a false alarm (the reason I didn’t include the movie in my book). But the film features fascinating moments, and a horrible albeit non-graphic fate for one of the schoolchildren. It can be seen in its entirety on youtube.
ND: I understand you have also written some fiction. I also love writing short stories and novels. Could you tell us about your fiction writing? Anything that might appeal to the audience of Toho Kingdom?
MB: I had a short story called “Going Back” that appeared in G-FAN #58, a coming-of-age tale concerning two Godzilla fans, that might interest Toho Kingdom’s audience.
Also, the American Kaiju website features two of my kaiju tales of fiction – “Getting Your Wish” and the five-part novella “The G People.”
Finally, there is Atomic Drive-In, a 2013 book self-published through CreateSpace, which features the title novella, as well as five short stories. One of them, “A Calculated Sacrifice,” features a kaiju that rules over a small Japanese community, and another, “Sleeping Dragons,” employs a kaiju-related theme featuring nanotechnology.
ND: Any other projects you are working on now that we can look forward to?
MB: I have considered writing a sequel to Apocalypse Then that would look at the nuclear threat films from 1968 through 2018, though I would broaden the umbrella from America and Japan to Britain and Europe. This would allow me to include 1984’s acclaimed British-made Threads, perhaps the last word in realistic atomic war cinema.
My tentative title for this project is The Days After: Fifty Years of Atomic Cinema, 1968-2018. Of course, this project would also cover the Heisei Godzilla film series, given Godzilla’s renewed atomic significance in them.
Fiction-wise, I am writing a novel called Be Ye Perfect. It blends science fiction, horror, and religion, and features a sort of reverse Invasion of the Body Snatchers theme. I hope to have it finished by next spring.
ND: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Bogue!
MB: Thank you for your questions and for your interest. Take care, and all the best to Toho Kingdom readers!Interviews // November 29, 2018
Todd Tennant is a long-time kaiju artist who has contributed art to G-Fan magazine as well as worked closely together with monster-author Mike Bogue (author of Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967), who wrote the script for Tennant’s unfinished King Kong vs. Godzilla graphic novel, and dinosaur expert Allen Debus, for whom Tennant created book cover artwork, specifically for Dinosaur Memories II: Pop-Cultural Reflections on Dino-Daikaiju & Paleoimagery. Tennant has created a number of his own kaiju creations, perhaps most notably King Komodo, but Godzilla fans might know him as the man behind the graphic novelization of the 1994 unmade Godzilla film. Tennant recently agreed to an interview about the project and its release.
ND: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Mr. Tennant! First I want to get a few standard fan questions out of the way. What are your favorite movie monsters?
TT: You’re very welcome and Godzilla, (of course), King Kong ’33, the Beast from 20,000 fathoms, the Giant Behemoth and Gorgo.
ND: What was your first Godzilla movie?
TT: I saw Godzilla (1954) for the first time on TV one Saturday afternoon in the early sixties.
ND: Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Gamera movie?
TT: Shusuke Kaneko’s Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) and Kaneko’s Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996), though his Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) are also favorites.
ND: Favorite Godzilla suit?
TT: GODZILLA 2000.
ND: Who would win, Jet Jaguar or Red Ronin (the robot from the Marvel Godzilla comics)?
TT: I’m not familiar enough with them to make a fair assessment on that question for either character.
ND: How did you get into doing kaiju comics?
TT: I’ve been making my own monster comics since the early 60’s. My biggest influence and inspiration for those are from the 1960’s (pre-super-hero) giant monster comics of Jack the King Kirby.
ND: Can you give us a little history of your Godzilla comics?
TT: When the TriStar GODZILLA film was released in 1998, my kids developed an interest in the Toho GODZILLA series, and my childhood love of the 60’s GODZILLA films was rekindled. My first Kaiju-art piece was my version of KING KONG vs. GODZILLA, which went on to be the cover-art for G-FAN #64. I also did artwork for SCARY MONSTERS magazine, where I met writer Mike Bogue. We began a King Kong vs. Godzilla comics series for G-FAN (#58), which lasted for that one and only issue before Toho contacted J.D. Lees & asked him to “cease and desist”.
In 2006, I began the very difficult-but-enjoyable task of illustrating the first 1994 screenplay for what should have been SONY/Tri-Star’s GODZILLA movie, written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott.
ND: So your Godzilla 94 comic is being revamped and will be published on Thanksgiving Day!
TT: Actually, the GODZILLA ’94 graphic novel was fully-completed a few years ago, with the help of fellow Kaiju-artist Elden Ardiente. Yes, the first 10 pages will be released at Kaijuphile.com on November, 22, Thanksgiving Day.
ND: How did you get the official go ahead from the screenwriters for your comic version of their work?
TT: Well, as said, I started out totally on my own. I sent the pages to Kaijuphile webmaster Brandon Waggle, who put the first 78 graphic novel pages up on my American Kaiju website there.
Later on, Terry Rossio contacted me via an email. He asked and commissioned me to finish the GODZILLA ’94 graphic novel.
ND: I understand you have made some changes to the script, right? Can you give us some insight behind that?
TT: From the time I began illustrating the ’94 GODZILLA screenplay onward, I got multiple emails from G-fans, asking if I was aware of the complete destruction of one of the World Trade Center towers, and the half destruction of the second WTC tower that occurs during the NYC battle between Godzilla and his nemesis the Gryphon. They then asked, “how are you going to handle that?”. Because of 9-11, I asked Terry if I could alter this part of the story, feeling that if we destroyed the WTC towers, we would end up “dead in the water” as far as any favorable public sentiments for the G’94 graphic novel. Terry agreed, and I made changes to that part of the story. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, the Twin Towers are damaged, but both stay standing.
ND: Any chance that the King Kong vs. Godzilla comic will get finished?
TT: I think about that from time to time. If Mike Bogue is still interested in that comic story, maybe someday.
ND: Could you tell us about your original kaiju creations, King Komodo and Gigante? Also, any plans to do more with them?
TT: KING KOMODO & GIGANTE are Dai-Kaiju characters I created/designed in the early 2000’s.
Mike Bogue wrote several KK stories back then. We tried but failed to find a publisher for KK. If you go to americankaiju.kaijuphile.com/main.shtml, you can see art for both KK & GIGANTE.
I’m also currently working on an AMERICAN KAIJU graphic novel that includes KING KOMODO, GIGANTE, and much more.
ND: How do you pronounce “Gigante”?
ND: What future projects do we have to look forward to from you?
TT: I’m sticking with the AMERICAN KAIJU graphic novel for now.
ND: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
TT: Thank you for asking me. It was my pleasure:).Interviews // November 19, 2018
For some time there has been some intriguing artwork kind of floating around the Internet portraying a golden, fully-robotic Mecha-Ghidorah that was originally published in a magazine in the early 1980s, a super robot which apparently fought Godzilla in some sort of officially licensed story. I have seen the picture passed around on forums and speculated about repeatedly without much in the form of direct knowledge pertaining to the contents of the article/short-story/whatever the heck it was, except some dismissive remark that the original article amounted to something akin to lousy fan-fiction from someone who may or may not have actually read the material.
So I was really curious when I saw that the article/story was being republished in the Godzilla All-Movie DVD Collector’s Box Vol. 41, which features the Toho Champion Festival cut of Invasion of Astro-Monster, originally shown in 1971 at the Champion Festivals at the time. I initially had not been planning to purchase this volume, but the fact that I could finally put the mystery of the golden Mecha-Ghidorah to rest was enough to tempt me into purchasing the box.
I bought the box, took it home, opened it, and dug out the pages—predictably enough printed on terrible paper. So now I know.
And… what is it? Well, it’s not exactly a story. Let’s start with the basics.
The Yuji Kaida painting of Mecha-Ghidorah in all his glory.
The article was originally published in the March 1981 issue of Terebi Magazine, and the reprint includes several pieces of art. The piece of artwork I most often saw attached on those forums—a beautiful painting featuring a grinning Godzilla busting the right head off of a rampaging Mecha-Ghidorah in the middle of a city while a Japanese couple in an action pose looks on in the corner—was done by Masami Watanabe, who is a frequent illustrator of tokusatsu. Just google the name and feast your eyes on a wide variety of really excellent artwork! I probably just don’t pay enough attention, but I think Watanabe deserves more acclaim in fandom circles. Anyway, on the next page is a full-page, full-body drawing by monster-art legend Yuji Kaida. The publication also includes an enormous two-page dissection illustration, showing the robot’s inner workings and an explanation of the robot’s various powers—and some information about the man who designed the monster, Kunio Okawara, who is famous for basically inventing the “mechanical design” job description in anime with his groundbreaking work on designing the Gundam mecha. There are a few other illustrations of the villains behind Mecha-Ghidorah’s design, though I did not see an attribution for those art pieces.
So now that we have seen the names behind the art, what is the STORY? Well, to be frank, there isn’t much of a story given—just kind of the bare-bones of a scenario suggested for the robot’s background and powers. The first two pages have text that says the following:
The terrible villain Mecha-Ghidorah has appeared. Mecha-Ghidorah goes on a rampage, and Godzilla faces off with him! Can Godzilla’s attack against Mecha-Ghidorah protect the world? Do your best, monster king Godzilla!
Godzilla tries with all of his strength to bite off the head of Mecha-Ghidorah, which is made from space metal.
Each of the three heads of Mecha-Ghidorah emits a different kind of light beam.
Mecha-Ghidorah was built modeled off of that monster King Ghidorah.
And that’s it so far as the battle between Godzilla and Mecha-Ghidorah is described, because the story is mostly left up to the imaginations of the readers. Nevertheless, there are some more specific details about the design of Mecha-Ghidorah and his various powers, and a full page about the secret of Mecha-Ghidorah’s birth… but no real narrative. Which doesn’t mean we don’t have some interesting background details to look into.
It probably makes more sense to reveal the secret of Mecha-Ghidorah’s birth first, because that plays into the robot’s various design features. The creators of this version of Mecha-Ghidorah are a group known as the Dark Mysterious Star Alliance, which has made the robot in order to destroy Godzilla and take over the world. The Dark Mysterious Star Alliance is made up of a whole slew of Toho villainy, including the X-Seijin, the Mysterians, the Natalians, the Kilaaks, the cockroach aliens, the ape aliens, and even the aliens from the planet Yomi of The War in Space (1977) fame. Mecha-Ghidorah was built on a planet that the Dark Mysterious Star Alliance controls, and an image of the construction process is also provided, with a short passage to the side about how giant robots based off of powerful kaiju are very tough just from looking at examples like Mechagodzilla and Mechani-Kong.
The Dark Mysterious Star Alliance hanging out at their evil lair of evilness.
And it’s true–this version of Mecha-Ghidorah is a real powerhouse. Like King Ghidorah, Mecha-Ghidorah sports three heads, and each of these heads houses a massive eye, each with a different color—red on the right, white in the middle, green on the left. Each of these eyes can emit a different kind of ray, with the red eye emitting a heat ray, the white eye emitting a freeze ray, and the green eye emitting the familiar gravity beam that the real King Ghidorah was known for. Interestingly, in the 1991 film, King Ghidorah was originally going to shoot three different rays, which can still be seen on the famous poster by Noriyoshi Ohrai, and also in early shots for the film that were actually completed and can be found on YouTube. The rays, or beams, are modeled after the beam weaponry that had been installed in Mechagodzilla and the Daimakan (the alien ship used by the Messiah 13 aliens from the planet Yomi from The War in Space).
Moving on to Mecha-Ghidorah’s tails, each tail is tipped with a drill fashioned after the Showa Mogera robot’s drill nose built by the Mysterians. The robot’s back features an enormous buzzsaw, based off of Gigan’s massive cutter. The robot’s main energy pack is housed in its crotch area, and anti-gravity plates are installed in the robot’s wings. Various other, smaller features are also pointed out on a sprawling double-page spread, including high efficiency antennae and mechanisms to make the feet move.
And that is about it as far as the magazine article is concerned. We never learn how the Dark Mysterious Star Alliance came together, or what happened when they attacked, or if Godzilla wins or loses. It all seems to be up in the air, and it isn’t really clear why this design was made, although it is possible that it was part of some kind of promotion to try to garner more interest in the Godzilla reboot projects that ultimately failed at the time (my colleague Patrick suggested this explanation to me). The Mecha-Ghidorah design must have been fairly popular with the Japanese fans at the time, because I was able to find pictures on Twitter of a scan from SF Puramo Magazine in which a model of the mech was included as an example of “super modelling,” which was apparently a monthly feature. The best I can understand is that the model was created from scratch (it’s a “full-scratch” model) by amateur (?) modeler Toshikazu Shishizawa, and was made to match the Bandai vinyl scale of 350/1. The Shishizawa model has an original design for the robot’s backside, however, replacing the Gigan buzzsaw with a pair of jets.
Still, to me, the fact that this version of Mecha-Ghidorah exists as this sort of nebulous “what-if?” design is puzzling—but other speculative designs have also appeared in magazines and been the basis of models as well, such as the Kongzilla design made by Matt Frank and also made into a really amazing sculpture, the “Metal Gear” Mechagodzilla, and others. I have seen images of a kind of souped-up Gigan that were also published in a magazine at one point, and there are other examples I am sure as well—the Internet is a treasure trove of confusing bits of artwork and mysteriousness. Nevertheless, as I have uncovered more about this particular Mecha-Ghidorah, I still wish there would have been some kind of short story attached rather than just a mostly empty scenario! Maybe some enterprising fan-fiction writer could take up the challenge and write one…
A pic of the Toshikazu Shishizawa miniature—pic taken from a tweet by Sutenosu.General // November 18, 2018
On my recent periodic trips to the Godzilla Store in Shinjuku, along with the copious amounts of chocolate that I purchased (gosh, I am sick of the stuff), I was also pleased to see there were other fattening foods to help me achieve Godzilla-size weight gain, including ramune-flavored candies, print cookies, the gaufrette cookies which I already reviewed, and today’s subject of review, the Godzilla Popcorn from the Jippu Corporation. This one doesn’t do any tricks except raise your blood sugar, but let’s dive right in.
The packaging itself consists of a clear plastic bag with a big packaging sticker on the front. The plastic bag is resealable, which is great because I didn’t want to eat the whole thing in one sitting. The packaging sticker features the usual Godzilla text, plus the now very familiar cartoon-style Godzilla and Mothra which we also have seen on a number of other kaiju food products, such as the Lotteria vs. Shin Godzilla campaign and the Godzilla vs. Evangelion Box. For what it’s worth, I think this is the largest version of the cartoon Godzilla I have seen, so us fanboys can get a clearer look at the lack of detail in the drawing. I really like that the sticker features a sort of triangular cut-out which both shows the choco popcorn inside and represents Godzilla’s atomic ray.
Strangely, the Godzilla that is shilling for all this snack food actually is much slimmer than the often much fatter Godzillas that appear in the movies.
This raises the all-important question: What does the chocolate popcorn actually represent? Given that it features within the triangle of fire, so to speak, does that mean it is supposed to look like charred rubble? Or could it possible represent the boulders that kaiju sometimes use to play volleyball? Given that the dark black resembles some versions of Godzilla’s flesh tone, could it be representative of chunks of G-cells?
I guess it doesn’t matter much—the more pressing question is, how does the popcorn taste? And it’s pretty good. Kind of a rich chocolate flavor, sweeter and richer than I expected. If you like chocolate-flavored popcorn, the Godzilla Popcorn is pretty decent, though the portions are not exactly voluminous. (Oddly, I cannot find anywhere on the package that expressly states the volume of munchies inside, but suffice it to say it’s less than your average movie bucket.)
Still, the Godzilla Popcorn only costs 300 yen, it tastes pretty good, and it has pleasing if somewhat unimaginative packaging. This isn’t like the fancy Godzilla chocolates, but it isn’t trying to be, and given that some of the chocolates aren’t that great (I’m looking at you, Noshi), and many of the other Godzilla-related snacks are kind of hit-and-miss, the popcorn is a more sensible and still tasty alternative.
Extreme close-up of Godzilla chocolaty popcorn goodness.Kaiju Kuisine // November 10, 2018
There is no guarantee that holidays celebrated in the west will be celebrated at all in Japan, to say nothing about being celebrated in the same way that, say, Americans would feel familiar with. Christmas in Japan, for example, is considered a romantic holiday, and if someone asks if you have plans for Christmas in Japan, they are often more or less asking if you have a significant other. Valentine’s Day, meanwhile, is not just romantic—it is a day in which the ladies of the island nation are pressured by custom into giving the men in their lives chocolate, with lovers sometimes receiving handmade goodies, and bosses and male coworkers receiving more boring “obligation chocolate” (guys are expected to repay their female counterparts on White Day a month later). Even Easter is, if not entirely celebrated, at least… acknowledged, with stores being decked out in Easter themed posters and paraphernalia every year.
And that brings us to Halloween—a holiday known and celebrated in its way in Japan, but not quite in the same way as in the USA. Japan does not so much have trick or treat night for kids (although some people do the custom, and the Yakuza have a tradition of offering kids snacks on Halloween—no joke), dressing up in elaborate costumes has increasingly become cool in Japan, with monsters, zombies, sexy nurses, and movie characters of all sorts swarming the trains and gathering for special events in places like Disneyland or flashy clubs on Halloween night. In other words, it is an official day of cosplay for adults as much as if not moreso than for children.
The beautiful box-art with the Marui building behind!
Thus perhaps it should come as little surprise that even Godzilla is getting in on the Halloween spirit with his Godzilla Halloween Print Cookie, which I did not discover until Halloween was already over with last year. Similar in style and flavor to the previous Godzilla Print Cookie which I wrote about before, these Halloween Print Cookies are somewhat more elaborate even that the Namja Town edition of the traditional version. Each print cookie (this time produced by Coms instead of Sawarabi STK) comes individually packaged in white plastic packaging with doily-esque designs adding an air of class and sophistication to the Godzilla-goings on. The prints on each of the cookies, too, are more visually impressive than the monochrome red or black prints from the Print Cookies available in 2016, with these Halloween scenes going full, vivid color, and with fairly impressive detail on all four varieties. Although the box itself is less flashy than the previous Print Cookie packaging (no pop-up cardboard monster here), each box comes with one clear sticker randomly inserted depicting one of the Halloween-themed kaiju designs that appear on the cookies—and in this case, the designs are really the point of attraction.
There are four designs, each one featuring a different kaiju—Godzilla, Mothra in her imago form, King Ghidorah, and the 1970s Mechagodzilla. Each round cookie comes with its own cartoonishly rendered giant monster of destruction interacting in some cute way with one or more jack-o-lanterns, random orange stars and bats floating in the background. So thus we have a red-eyed burning Godzilla about ready to take a bite out of a cheerful pumpkin in a wizard hat, Mothra carrying her jack-o-lantern (back to Infant Island?), KG proudly protective of a triple pumpkin tower, and Mechagodzilla dashing with five little pumpkins in his arms—including one mecha-jack-o-lantern with glowing yellow eyes! Each image is rendered nicely on the cookies, but even better on the stickers and on the box art in which the colors really pop (and the background on the box gains a skyline that includes the Marui building—location of the Godzilla Store).
Here we have a cheap cash-grab sticker, but I still love the art!
As to the flavor of the cookies, they are good, with a strong vanilla taste and an especially crisp texture (more so even than the aforementioned Godzilla Print Cookies from 2016). There is only the one flavor, though—the images on the cookies, while they look nice, make no difference as to taste, but the relatively mild, sugar-cookie flavor is pleasant if unremarkable.
Despite the relatively uninteresting flavor of the final cookies, of the three varieties of Godzilla Print Cookie that I have tried so far, these Halloween-themed ones are probably my favorite. I like the extra crunch, I like the adorable art, and, though the “random clear sticker” is obviously a transparent means of tricking kaiju fans with extra cash into buying multiple boxes of cookies, I like the fact that a sticker is included. It’s just really fun, and while these omiyage boxes are definitely unnecessary, that makes them no less enjoyable for the fans. Still, Halloween cookies for omiyage seems like an odd mix given that omiyage is usually bought by travelers for friends and family back home. Do a lot of people travel on Halloween?
Godzilla with heartburn from eating too much Halloween candy.
Mothra on a mission to deliver a pumpkin.
Mechagodzilla has a mech-a-lantern.
King Ghidorah made a Halloween version of a snowman.Kaiju Kuisine // November 4, 2018
While I have really enjoyed all the flashy and ridiculous Godzilla Valentine’s Day chocolates, from the memorable Godzilla Can that can double as a thumb spinner to the Chocolate Blocks which are kind of like kid’s puzzles, I was in some ways most curious about the Noshi Chocolate Godzilla Store Noshi (why does it have such a stupid name?) because it looks so unassuming. I just had to guess that this choco might be something extra special because, on the outside, it looks like it doesn’t have anything to do with Godzilla. Instead, it features a traditional noshi design on the outside, with no Godzilla art, no silver military camouflage, no footprints, no ludicrous brown ribbon. Just that noshi design. Well, okay, it has the Godzilla Store Tokyo logo and a silver Godzilla 2018 sticker on the back. Whoopee.
A noshi, by the way, is a kind of origami design used as a sort of wrapping for gifts, though I think it has also become just the design for an envelope. The gifts are apparently for well-wishing, and the gifts can be stuff like fish. Luckily, the chocolate inside was NOT fish-flavored.
Anyway, in my mind I was imagining something elaborate. A secret Godzilla design carved into the chocolate, like with the Godzilla Milk Chocolate Bar. Given that the manufacturer of the Noshi Chocolate Godzilla Store Noshi is none other than Sawarabi STK, the makers of the pretty decent Godzilla Print Cookie and the quite delicious Godzilla Gaufrette, how could I not have high expectations?
And, oh, how those high expectations can so quickly be dashed to the ground. Inside the noshi wrapping is some cardboard wrapped around another silver wrapper—can’t fault them for not providing enough wrappers. (I can fault them for bulking up the candy bar’s apparent size with that random cardboard, though.) Then, my friends, inside the silver wrapping paper was…
Yeah, okay, so I was complaining a lot before about how the other chocolates were almost universally milk chocolate confections, right? (Okay, there were a few white chocolate masterpieces, such as the Godzilla Disks, and those dark chocolate tanks.) Still, I didn’t really want a STRAWBERRY flavored chocolate bar. What does that even mean? Apparently it doesn’t mean actual chocolate with strawberry filling.
It means a pink candy bar. That tastes like really bad strawberry candy. And leaves an unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth.
Look, I ate a few squares of that candy horror bar. It did not taste good. It did not make me think, Whoo, this is Godzilla! The strawberry flavor did not for me bring forth vivid pictures of giant monsters representing nuclear fears appearing in Tokyo and stomping buildings. Instead, that flavor brought forth vivid desires not to eat the rest of the pink bar!
I saved this chocolate bar for the last! It was supposed to be something special! It’s a Godzilla Store EXCLUSIVE, man!
And what’s more, apparently these Noshi Chocolate Godzilla Store Noshi thingees were a bit of a hit. I went to the Godzilla Store on another day, and I found that they were selling three flavors of noshi choco—the strawberry one that I already unfortunately bought, plus an apple flavored one and a blueberry flavored one. I wasn’t sure which one I had already bought because I hadn’t looked closely at the wrapping, so I didn’t buy the others (and I stupidly did not take a picture to share with this story either), but in retrospect, if the apple and blueberry bars taste anywhere as Not Good as this strawberry bar tastes, I dodged a Maser Blast by not buying those things.
Okay, I am exaggerating a little bit, but I didn’t enjoy the Noshi Chocolate Godzilla Store Noshi—no, sir! Basically what we have here is a big pile of disappointment and an even bigger, “What does THIS have to do with giant monsters portrayed by dudes in costumes?!??!” Maybe the idea is that, like a monster costume, the outside looks cool, but on the inside is a boring pink thing that isn’t good to eat. Pass.Kaiju Kuisine // October 21, 2018
I have never really been a fan of overpriced chocolate. When I happen to visit a Godiva chocolate store (say, for one of their delicious chocolate shakes), the prices on their boxes of chocolate are positively terrifying—almost, but not quite, enough to kill my appetite. So it’s kind of ironic that I plunked down the huge chunk of change required to purchase the Godzilla Poster Collection chocolates—2700 yen?!!?? And, as with most (probably all) of the Valentine’s Day Godzilla chocolates, with the Poster Collection, you are mostly paying for the packaging… but in this case, gosh, the packaging is really flipping cool!
The cool inside front cover!
Once again provided by the fine folks at Hunter Confectionery, the box itself (on the outside) has the now-familiar “Godzilla Chocolate” ribbon and strange silvery military design, but this time the top of the box also features a huge footprint (I believe from the Shin Godzilla promo a few years back), and a list of 29 different years—the release years for the first 29 Godzilla films.
The reason that the box features those release years is simple enough—inside, there are 30 square chocolates, and on those 30 chocolates are individual wrappers that feature the posters for all 30 Godzilla films released up to this point! (Why “2017” is not listed on the box is anyone’s guess—maybe it wouldn’t fit?). The posters often don’t fit very well on the wrappers, and thus the images for the posters wrap around the top and bottom of the chocolates… but once you unwrap the chocolates, the posters can be viewed more effectively, and the hungry chocolate muncher can also read the back of the wrapper, which features the sequential number of the film released, as well as its Japanese title. The unwrapped poster wrapper looks really spiffy, and I am tempted to stick some of them up around my apartment or office so I can happily squint at them all day. If I had a doll house or, say, Castle Grayskull or Krang’s Technodrome playset, these posters would look great plastered to the plastic walls while my action figures fought out their frustrations alongside.
And… wow, look at that square… Godzilla chocolate.
But what about the chocolates themselves? Well, again, we have some—rather high quality—milk chocolate here. This time the chocolate itself bears no Godzilla design at all, but rather a generic pattern running diagonally across the choco-squares that looks more like the impressions of tires than anything. I chowed down on two different Godzilla choco-squares—the original Godzilla (1954) square, and the Ebirah: Terror from the Deep (1966) square. Regardless of how you feel about the quality of those two movies (I happen to like Ebirah a lot), the quality of the chocolate is the same—pretty dang yummy. But still… when I pay beaucoup bucks (or should I say a yuge amount of yen?) on some chocolate, I kind of expect more than just… milk chocolate, no matter how good it is.
But again, what you are paying for in this case is not so much the chocolate and much more the packaging—this time especially the wildly cool wrapping paper on the chocolates! The box is also spifferific, with the inside lid printed with a shimmery promotional still from the original Godzilla film. Still, you should only buy this admittedly impressive box of chocolates if you have a serious jonesing for mini-posters, because otherwise, honey, it just ain’t worth it.
The most expensive—and the coolest—chocolate wrappers ever made!
Flipping cool! The other side has the titles and sequential numbers!Kaiju Kuisine // October 19, 2018
Kevin Derendorf is a huge name in tokusatsu fandom and has been for some time now, with his fantastic blog news site Maser Patrol and deep knowledge of a vast array of kaiju productions including (but certainly not limited to) Godzilla and Toho, which he has also shared in podcasts and in convention talks and, most recently, in a new book, Kaiju for Hipsters, in addition to the aforementioned blog site. I was lucky enough that he agreed to an interview about his activities, which you can read below!
ND: Hi Kevin, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
KD: Thanks for having me! I gotta say, it’s a little intimidating to be the next interview following someone like Daiji Kazumine, so hopefully I’ll be interesting.
ND: First of all, some standard fan-related questions that obviously just need to be asked: First Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla suit? Favorite monster outside of Godzilla?
KD: Oh boy, that probably won’t help on the whole “being interesting” front, since all of those are pretty standard answers. I first discovered Godzilla as a wee third-grader, on, as I’ve since deduced through the magic of investigating old TV schedules, February 21, 1994, when TNT did one of their Godzilla-rama events…but the only movie on the roster I actually caught that day was Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). There’s something magical about that picture, so I often call it my favorite, though, depending on capricious whimsy, I could also call my favorite Godzilla flick Son of Godzilla (1967), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) or Godzilla: Final Wars (I know, fight me). Oh, and if we’re allowed to count imaginary movies, I’d probably also say A Space Godzilla.
For favorite suit, I’m going to be super boring and say the BioGodzi version. It’s a common answer, but as they say, it’s “handsome.” The DesGodzi and ShoshingekiGodzisuits are up there too, though.
Would it likewise be pedestrian to say that King Ghidorah is my favorite monster? I mean, he is, but my number two is probably Rhiahn from the Marvel Godzilla series. Maybe I just have a thing for weird-looking yellow alien kaiju.
ND: How and why did you start Maser Patrol, and what did you hope to accomplish with the website?
KD: It was sort of a weird evolution. See, back in the ancient days of ten years ago, Facebook wasn’t really all that it is now, so I was part of a Google group to keep in touch with my high school and undergrad buddies. We’d shoot the breeze about a lot of stuff, but traded a ton of movie recommendations, which I started putting on a public blog (called “Per Diem Cinema”) as they became more and more elaborate. Fast-forward to my last year in grad school, and I’m again separated from my nerdy social group by a long stay at a remote laboratory. The work I was doing required long stretches of down time (if you think waiting for water to boil is tedious, try waiting for melting zirconium), so I sort of reconceived the blogging thing as a news/reviews aggregate that could be a one-stop site for Japanese genre fiction, mostly to pass the idle periods.
Back in those days, western fandoms for Japanese properties were even more siloed than they are now. Anime fans would play video games and read manga, but they wouldn’t watch tokusatsu. Kaiju fans wouldn’t watch henshin heroes and vice versa, and horror movie junkies seemed to also be out there doing their own unrelated thing. Nobody was reading light novels. These media are all interrelated, and I like them all, so I thought I’d like to expose the fandoms to each other a little through putting them together into a single place, and hopefully people can discover neat new properties through recommendations on the blog. I always find it fascinating to do a deep dive into some cultural cornerstone and see how it influences another one, but the scope of Maser Patrol resides in Japanese (and Japanese-inspired) science fiction/fantasy/horror territory, so we pretty much only venture out into stuff like chanbara, idol culture, or pro wrestling when it intersects with that core.
So, long story short, the reason for the blog is that hopefully some Guyver and Fist of the North Star fan will come to the blog and discover Guyferd. And then, maybe if that happens enough, one day we can even get Guyferd released over here…
ND: How did you start your kaiju-related podcasts? How long does it usually take to put those together, and what is the process like?
KD: Remember how I worked long hours in a laboratory? I listen to a lot of podcasts. The thing is, often times, listening like that, you want to interject your own thoughts, so the natural progression is to do one yourself. The podcast format also gives a very different feel from a blog post, with repartee between multiple parties; whereas the articles on the site are a lecture, a podcast can be a discussion. I was blessed with a number of great friends from my college anime club who are passionate and knowledgeable about this stuff, and contribute to Maser Patrol behind the scenes at times, so this gives them a voice as well. There have been a rotating cycle of hosts, depending on the topic, but mostly my pals Josh and Andy, who have a real knack for this sort of thing (Josh was a radio DJ for a while).
While kaiju are a home base for Maser Patrol, the podcasts, as you put it, are “kaiju-related” and not always “kaiju-centric”. For example, we’ve done episodes spotlighting the whole careers of the likes of Hideaki Anno, Gen Urobuchi, Rumiko Takahashi, Keita Amemiya, Mamoru Hosoda, and Nobuhiko Obayashi, and talked at length about Slayers, Garo, and more. But, there’s almost always some thread to tie it into kaiju, however tangential.
The production process can be a bit on the rough side, since we usually pick a topic and talk about it to the point of exhaustion, so the first step is identifying a subject that we’re excited to talk about, and, usually, reviewing a bit about it. Then, for the recording itself, we’ve found that it works best if each person records their own audio and I’ll mix them together at the end, ensuring reasonable volume and the ability to remove some of the background noise, but that can also be pretty tedious. The longest episode was the one where Justin Mullis and I talked about HP Lovecraft in Japan for eight straight hours, and it probably spent twice that in editing. Audacity’s performance drops off a lot with more audio streams, so when five people are recording, it can get dicey to edit. For that reason, it’s a particular joy when Matt and Byrd let me drop by Kaiju Transmissions, since I don’t have to do anything but show up.
ND: How did you come about hosting several panels at G-Fest, and what was the experience like? Any favorite moments?
KD: The first convention panel I ever wound up hosting was a total accident. I was at an anime con and my friend was presenting, but he got a phone call partway through, handed me the mic, and said “be back in a few; tell them about Kimba the White Lion.” But, it was fun. I’ve seen plenty of subpar panels in my day that have me squirming in my seat (I recall one at an anime convention where the presenter proclaimed that that the original Godzilla has “at least two sequels”), and as they say: if you want something done right, you do it yourself. So, I started doing anime cons around St. Louis and Chicago, and even did a couple of university lectures.
G-Fest is something of a whole other level, though. I’ve been attending that convention for two decades now, so it’s got a special place in my heart, and I’ve seen some amazing panels there over the years, panels that inspire one to be a higher caliber of fan. But, from running the blog for a few years and getting a lot of encouragement from my amazing girlfriend Amanda, eventually I decided that I might know enough about certain subjects that I could contribute to the public discourse in that venue. I pitched an idea to Martin Arlt, who gave me an early Friday slot the Kennedy Room, a tradition which has continued for three whole conventions now.I must have done something right, since in subsequent years I’ve gotten Sunday and Saturday slots as well.
It’s a total rush talking to a room of Godzilla fans, and I’m always surprised by how many people actually show up to one of my talks. G-Fest is a place where there are always at least four concurrent interesting things to check out, and I certainly know there have been times when I know I would want to see someone else who’s presenting during my time slot. So, it really means a lot to hear back from folks after the panel, or even (in some cases) during it.
To anyone reading this who thinks they have a great idea for a panel that they’d be good to talk to, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Just remember to run through your presentation beforehand to make sure you’ll be okay for time, have a backup of your slides (because spontaneous updates *will* try to ruin your computer), and keep in mind the audience. G-Fest in particular can have some very little kids in attendance, so sometimes you should choose your wording carefully.
ND: You recently published your first book. Would you like to tell us what it is and what makes your book unique and awesome?
KD: Ah, yes. You must be referring to Kaiju for Hipsters: 101 “Alternative” Giant Monster Movies, available now in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com! (The ebook is free if you buy it in print, btw.) The book is a compilation of reviews of kaiju movies, much like many others on the market. However, what makes it unique, and perhaps wholly inappropriate for discussion at Toho Kingdom, is that it omits the Godzilla series and extended Toho science fiction universe. It assumes that the reader is already sort of familiar with those, and is looking for some more off-the-beaten-path entries in the genre, hence the somewhat facetious title. I really did embrace the “hipster” aspect of the book, deliberately including some relatively obscure and obtuse titles with VHS-only releases and no subtitles available, and include two ratings for every film: a regular movie rating, and a “hipster cred” score, based more or less on the film being in some fashion difficult, artsy, hard-to-find, etc. So, I’m confident that this book covers some movies that you won’t find discussed in print elsewhere, but for the movies that have been discussed I try to elaborate on lesser-known aspects of them. For example, any kaiju fan worth their salt has seen Cloverfield, so I don’t talk about the plot of that movie as much as its twisted franchise development, marketing, and manga tie-in. I figure that way the book can work on a couple of levels, helping to deepen understanding of the movies people are already familiar with while simultaneously encouraging them to track down under-appreciated gems like War God (1976) or Star Virgin (1988).
Also, I got to draw cartoon hipster monsters for the cover, which was a hoot.
ND: How long did it take you to put together your book, and what was the process like?
KD: Almost exactly one year. A number of folks (okay, maybe three) suggested that I write a book at G-Fest 2017, so the goal was to have something ready for the fest in 2018. It was quite fast, especially considering that I had to move across the country during the middle of the year. I’ve made a few minor updates since that initial release (more typographical than content edits), but by and large it was completed in about 11 months.
As for the process, I started with the title idea, deciding on the target number of 101 because it sounded catchy. Next was making a list of movies, which evolved a lot as I was writing. Several films wound up getting lumped into the chapters for other related pictures, getting unnumbered “bonus talk” reviews, or show up in an appendix at the back. My criteria for film qualification are likely controversial:
- A kaiju is, for our purposes, a giant creature of Japanese origins or with an aesthetic demonstrably invoking that of Eiji Tsuburaya.
- A movie is a motion picture or serialized collection of motion pictures longer than 20 minutes (because I wanted to include Geharha: The Dark and Long Hair Monster) but watchable in a single sitting (the longest entry in the book is a TV miniseries totaling just over four hours).
- A “kaiju movie” is a movie in which the monster is a key selling point. It doesn’t need to be in the movie for a significant amount of time or even crucial to the plot (see: Gorath or Atragon), but if it’s prominently featured on a poster, a trailer, or other publicity materials, then we count it.
So, once the list was in place, I started watching the films, writing the chapters, and often tracking down rare entertainment that had up until then evaded even my sizable collection. Some of the movies had previously been written up on the blog, and if my opinions hadn’t changed much, that made them easy to transition to print. Since this is a print project, though, I did try to up the game research-wise, and looked up as much about each movie as I could find, about the filmmakers who produced them, and about the cultural landscape that they’re tied into. It can take one down some interesting rabbit holes at times.
ND: What are some of the most interesting facts you dug up while putting together your book?
KD: Well, for example, on the cultural context Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds got me interested in the Japanese cryptozoological scene in the 1970s, and it turns out there was a whole phenomenon of various lake and sea monster sightings at the time. You can see this idea of undiscovered modern dinosaurs reflected in cinema, from Born Free to The Last Dinosaur (1977) to Toho’s unmade Nessie movie, and suddenly Terror of Mechagodzilla makes a lot more sense because of it. As another example, a deep dive into the history of the petroleum company Idemitsuelucidates just how pervasive the product placement is in Ultraman Zearth; I find the little corporate Easter eggs sprinkled throughout those movies just makes them more amazing. A few of the filmmakers, such as Minoru Kawasaki and Hyung-rae Shim, also wound up having really interesting careers.
But most of the neat factoids were linking entertainment together that one would not have necessarily expected, like how much the Taiwanese fantasy films were influenced by Japanese ninja cinema, or how huge the overlap was between the Daimajin and Zatoichi franchises. And don’t worry, G-fans: while the book is pointedly not about Godzilla, he just keeps popping up in the conversation. The aborted Japanese production of Gorgo raises questions about the manga The Last Godzilla. The dinosaurs in Kenya Boy naturally lead to mention of the theory that Wasuke Abe’s original Godzilla design was inspired by that movie’s source material. And of course, no discussion of Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972) is complete without a Godzilla vs. Redmoon breakdown. The list goes on…
ND: What obscure kaiju films are your top recommendations?
KD: As a top five sort of thing? Okay, here goes.
- The Magic Serpent – for insane ninja action
- Love & Peace – it’s charming, cute, and really funny
- Tekkouki Mikazuki: the Prologue Night – this is a feature-length TV pilot, but it’s awesome, and has the scariest watermelon you can imagine
- Luna Varga– a sword-&-sorcery anime with copious kaiju action and amusingly zany characters
- Jellyfish Eyes –a kids’ movie mashup of Japanese popular culture that touches on legitimate social issues
I go into a lot more details about each of these in their respective chapters, obviously.
ND: What future projects do we have to look forward to from you?
KD: For the time being, I’ll just get back into the regular blogging routine, hoping to get out some regular-sized articles and maybe even a podcast episode or two from Maser Patrol, rather than just guest hosting on other folks’ shows. But, having said that, there are a couple of other book ideas rattling around in my brain, so who knows what the future may bring?
ND: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
Thanks for having me! As you may have surmised, I’m always happy to talk about this stuff.Interviews // October 17, 2018
On June 24, 2018, I went to have a chat with Daiji Kazumine (real name: Kuniharu Terada), a manga artist who has been criminally overlooked by the kaiju fandom of the west. Who is Daiji Kazumine, you ask?
What if I told you that Kazumine is one of the most prolific manga artists who have adapted tokusatsu programs into manga form? That indeed he was one of the original manga artists to adapt the first Ultraman television program into a manga, creating original stories with existing UltraKaiju and also original monsters. The original monsters he created include Yamaton (a battleship monster), Cyborg Dinosaur (the name says it all), Gorudaa (a winged monster worshipped as a god), Uetton (a sort of cross between a balloon, a dinosaur, and an octopus), and Shinkaijin, or “deep-sea-man”—and many of these UltraKaiju were popular enough that later were made into action figures! Furthermore, Kazumine-sensei did manga adaptations of Ultra Seven and Ultraman Leo and Spectreman, as well as Super Giant (AKA Starman in the States), Mirrorman, Fireman, National Kid, Rainbow Mask, Golden Bat, Denjin Zaborger, Kaiketsu Raionmaru, and more. I even did a review of one of Kazumine-sensei’s manga a while back—the manga adaptation of Godzilla vs. Hedorah! And if your interest still hasn’t been piqued, Kazumine-sensei didn’t only adapt Godzilla and Ultraman—he also did manga adaptations of the old King Kong cartoon (which unfortunately have not been officially collected into tankoban form), and a second Godzilla manga (this time a story from his own imagination) in The Godzilla Comic collection from the early 1990s. That isn’t even counting his own original manga characters and creations, which run the gamut from more heroes such as the flying-motorcycle-riding Denjin Arrow (which had an anime pilot produced way back in the 60s) and Senkou Mack to baseball manga, samurai parodies, and insane pro wrestling stories (which were his personal favorite). This man is a massive legend in the world of tokusatsu manga and manga more broadly, and I was extremely honored to meet and talk with him on that quiet afternoon in June.
Daiji Kazumine with original art of Godzilla, Ultraman, and Spectreman.
After some confusion trying to find Kazumine’s assistant at the train station (I had to run around quite a bit to find him—his name is Mr. Atsushi), we went to Kazumine’s actual house! As we were approaching, I told Mr. Sasaki I had been anxious about what to wear to the interview (since I had never interviewed a Japanese person in Japanese like this with no translator). Mr. Atsushi laughed, and then we were inside the house, being ushered to Kazumine’s work room, with Kazumine’s actual art table and bookshelves full of his manga. Mrs. Kazumine served us drinks, and Kazumine came in to talk with us shortly after.
One of the first things he said when he came in the room was that he was going to wear a kimono for the interview, but that he had some trouble with the belt, and just decided to wear something else. So I guess I wasn’t the only one uncertain about what to wear that day!
And really, once Kazumine came in with his massive smile, a lot of my nervousness was washed away. Mr. Atsushi had warned me that manga artists usually treat Kazumine with respect and use polite language, and since my “keigo” (or honorific Japanese) is not so great, I was concerned. However, Kazumine’s friendliness and candor really put me at ease, and we proceeded to have a long, fascinating conversation for the next several hours.
Daiji Kazumine and I, talking at length about his lengthy manga career!
We started by talking about why Kazumine became a manga artist. Kazumine said that he had enjoyed manga as a child and started drawing manga on the sidewalk, his own original stories. Then one day when he was looking out of his window from the second floor he saw that some people had ridden their bikes over the drawings which he had worked so hard on, and the tracks of the wet tires had made a big “X” across his art! Kazumine thought, seeing this sign, that “Ah, maybe I really can’t make manga…”
However, he ultimately ignored the apparent omen and continued drawing manga and art. For example, in elementary school he drew flip art in the margins of his textbooks because he didn’t have much paper. At the age of 18, when he told his father he wanted to become a manga artist, his father threatened to disown him. Kazumine’s siblings helped him out in significant ways after things went sour with his father, and he continued drawing manga. His older brother gave him food, his second oldest brother lent him a room, and his older sister gave him paper from her business of making fake paper flowers for shop fronts. Paper was expensive, so these donations were a huge help for the young Kazumine. His eventual master, the manga artist that he worked under, was a man named Tokihiko Oka, introduced to Kazumine through a customer of his sister’s.
Here is the master of tokusatsu manga himself, Daiji Kazumine, mid-interview.
I was not familiar with Tokihiko Oka, and I was shown some of Oka’s old works, which looked (in my eyes anyway) really cool, with densely detailed drawings and a definite adventure/sci-fi/fantasy vibe. It was through Mr. Oka’s good graces that Mr. Kazumine would land his first big manga job, penning Nazo no Karakuri Yashiki, a sort of fantasy/samurai story the name of which roughly translates as “Mansion of Mysterious Devices.” The manga was first published in July 1956 in a special summer book from Shonen magazine.
For Karakuri Yashiki, Kazumine said he had to fix his manga over and over again over a course of several months. It took over half a year from the point at which he had submitted the manga, with numerous revisions, before the publisher gave him the final okay. At that time he drew by himself, and he had trouble keeping up with deadlines at first because the drawings were so time-consuming! (Mansion of Mysterious Devices was republished recently with the Kazumine’s serial manga Tenryuu Nijitarou, another fantasy-style samurai manga wherein the protagonist lives in a hollowed out tree! Mr. Kazumine has also done several other samurai manga, including the humorous Kazumine original Dongara Ganbou, and Hakuba Douji, based on the television series of the same name.)
It was also through Mr. Oka that Kazumine would meet perhaps his most famous assistant, Jirou Kuwata, the co-creator of 8-Man. Kuwata was famous for doing the Japanese Batman manga, and he drew some of the Ultra Seven manga series. When asked about Kuwata, Kazumine called him his “ani-deshi,” which means something like “older brother assistant” because Kuwata was actually older and more experienced in the manga field when he worked as Kazumine’s assistant. What’s more, Kazumine quickly said that Kuwata’s art was really excellent and superior to Kazumine’s own!
Kazumine is perhaps most famous for his work on the original Ultraman series’ manga adaptation, and so of course I asked him some questions about that. First, I was curious about how he adapted manga from tokusatsu programs and films. Did he read the scripts and develop from there, or actually watch the shows first, or something else? He said that usually he read the scripts first and then did the manga based on the text of the scripts. But in the case of Ultraman, the show was broadcast first, so many of the readers would know the stories already when they picked up the manga volumes. Kazumine didn’t like that, so he made new stories. (Atsushi said that for kids like him, it was great because they were always wondering what was going to happen in the new stories.)
Daiji Kazumine at his art desk, drawing the hero of Dongara Ganbou for me!
I asked Kazumine if Tsuburaya Productions gave him any rules for the original manga that he made, and Kazumine said that they gave him two rules: One, don’t change the depiction of Ultraman, and two, don’t change the depiction of the monsters. However, according to Kazumine, he did not follow these rules!
For example, Kazumine said that he changed Ultraman in some fairly big ways. The original Ultraman design gave Ultraman longer “pants,” but Kazumine’s Ultraman had shorter “pants”. Kazumine said he wanted Ultraman’s legs to look long, like a foreigner’s legs. “Foreigner’s legs are long,” he said. “Foreigners are tall, and many Japanese look up to them—for real!” And so in order to show off Ultraman’s long legs, Kazumine made the pants shorter.
Kazumine was also worried about the fact that Ultraman “had no face”—no facial expressions. “Ultraman couldn’t cry or yell or get happy,” Kazumine said. “He just had those yellow eyes.” So Kazumine gave Ultraman a mouth that moved so he could express emotion, and he also made Ultraman bleed! He said he was very thankful that Mr. Tsuburaya forgave him these transgressions, because it was a big help to him.
I asked Kazumine if he preferred making stories based off of other writers’ stories, or his own. Kazumine replied that “It’s more fun to make my own stories and think about them. I can think about them freely, you know? Thinking about it now, that Gorudaa guy, the flapping guy, he was a monster that wasn’t made by Tsuburaya Pro, but I made him. He has wings, right, and he could flap his wings and create a big wind. It was a wind made by a kaiju so it was a strong wind. The wind was strong enough to make his opponent lose his balance.”
It seemed like Kazumine really loved dreaming up original ideas for monsters and story concepts. He also told me about the creation of Yamaton, the battleship monster. With Yamaton, the design was fairly complicated, since the beast was both monster and ship, and the battleship was covered with many cannons and details which made the monster time-consuming to draw. When Kazumine’s assistants complained at the time, Kazumine simplified the design to make it easier to draw.
Daiji Kazumine with original King Kong art.
Moving on to the manga adaptation of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, one of the things I was most interested in was about the changes to the story. The manga version includes many deviations from the movie version, and I was curious as to whether these deviations were included in the original script, or if they were “Kazumine originals.” When I asked Kazumine about the scene at the beginning with the melting man being escorted by a policeman, as well as the sequence in which the flesh of Godzilla’s hands are burned away by Hedorah’s sludge, Kazumine said with some excitement that he thought he had made those changes—he said he likes scenes where people melt and break apart, and said he especially appreciated scenes like that in the Terminator franchise.
When it came to the scene in which the flesh is melted from Godzilla’s hands, Mr. Kazumine said that he thought that the acid-like aspect in Hedorah’s body melts flesh and so he included that scene, even though it was creepy. (At this point Mr. Sasaki chimed in to say that the manga seemed more real for having those scenes and was also more interesting than the movies, and I had to agree at least in the case of Hedorah. Kazumine said that it’s because it’s easier to achieve scenes like the ghastly ones we had been discussing when drawing pictures as opposed to making movies.
When I asked him about the more overt ESP abilities of Ken featured in the manga version of Hedorah, Kazumine couldn’t remember clearly whether he had come up with those ideas or not.
I was also curious as to how Kazumine went about creating the shortened version of Godzilla vs. Hedorah given that the manga version was far shorter than the original story. Kazumine gave the following answer:
“The page count is decided, and you go through and you cut out everything except the interesting parts. You use that way when creating the manga. I look at the story, choose the parts that are most interesting or which I can imagine and which scenes I want to use, and that’s how we do it.”
The other Godzilla manga that Kazumine created was an original story loosely translated “Godzilla again Battles to Defend the Earth” by “that Daiji Kazumine of Ultraman and space monkeyman Gori”. In this story, Godzilla fights against King Ghidorah and Gigan in the Antarctic. The 32-page comic, featured in the infamous compilation The Godzilla Comic originally published in 1990, was printed towards the back of the book. And apparently Kazumine started to work on a manga project alone, and other manga artists asked to join in.
“Other manga artists asked to draw. Other manga artists wanted to draw, they were gathered together, then they were assigned their parts.”
From left to right: Mitsuru Miura (Kabocha Wine mangaka), Daiji Kazumine, the author, and Sasaki Atsushi (Kazumine’s assistant).
The job of putting together The Godzilla Comic was apparently very difficult. It was difficult, according to Kazumine, because some stories didn’t have enough pages, while others did. Also, “it was kind of like the manga artists had a Godzilla competition to see who could make the most interesting Godzilla manga.” The results speak for themselves, as The Godzilla Comic and its sequel are some of the most gonzo Godzilla manga in existence!
Turning back to the original Godzilla manga that Kazumine created specifically, I asked Kazumine why he chose King Ghidorah and Gigan. He responded by saying that he “liked the shape of King Ghidorah” and that “this monster was the coolest monster made by Tsuburaya Productions.”
As to why Kazumine chose Antarctica as the setting, he said that “the mysteriousness of Antarctica feels similar to the mysterious worlds I made in my head, so I often use it as a setting in my manga.”
Interestingly, in the course of our discussions, I also found out that Kazumine met Stan Lee back when they were both popular comic creators in the 1960s in in Beijing, China. When they met each other, Kazumine had been drawing nothing but Ultraman manga for some time, and so he was wearing an Ultraman necktie. If I understood Kazumine correctly, Stan Lee was wearing a Spider-Man tie! So the two of them took a picture together on the spot, and while they could not understand each other and they did not have a lot of time together, they both smiled really big.
Perhaps most exciting of all for me was that Kazumine offered to sign one of the reprint volumes I had of his old manga. I chose Dongara Ganbou, a samurai humor comic with a silly but powerful hero and (of all things) a stretching horse. Instead of just writing his name, Kazumine drew a picture of the main character inside the front cover! I was very moved and recorded some of his work at the drawing board putting together the image and even adding color!
Kazumine had a very long career making manga, so I asked him how the manga industry has changed. He said that when he was a kid, most manga was meant for elementary school kids. But as he got older, “gekiga” and manga for older audiences began to become popular, such as Golgo 13. Because Kazumine strictly made comics only for kids, his job prospects started to dry up and he didn’t have much work to do anymore after the age of 40. He said that he makes comics similar to Superman, and wouldn’t have been able to do the more “mature” and complicated lots starting to come out.
Nevertheless, one of the most impressive stories Kazumine told me was about how he was continuing his work doing manga even at the age of 82. At his birthday party last year (2017), his assistants put together a surprise party. At the surprise party, several of his assistants and friends were telling him, “Do your best! Do your best!” And he wondered what he should be doing his best at. He decided that his friends meant for him to do his best drawing comic books, and so he decided to do a continuation of his original manga, Denjin Arrow. The previous run of the comic left on a kind of cliffhanger, and so Kazumine decided to continue the story over fifty real years later! (Luckily the Kazumines were kind enough to give me a copy of the new manga.)
For me personally, meeting Daiji Kazumine was a great job and honor and I am so glad he took time out of his busy schedule to meet and chat about his comics career. We talked about many other topics, too, such as some of his original creations and where he got some of his ideas, but I wanted to mostly focus this article on the topics most pertinent to Toho Kingdom’s audience. Hopefully if I get a chance I can more properly have the interview transcribed in full at a later date. Thank you so much for reading!
Special thanks to Mr. Atsushi and Chris Mirjahangir for helping put this interview together, and for my Japanese tutor Ayako for helping with the translation. All mistakes in the translation and otherwise are of course my responsibility.Interviews // September 30, 2018
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.
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.
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.Kaiju Kuisine // August 21, 2018
In Japan, if you are Japanese, when you go traveling, especially any significant distance, there is a special burden placed upon the weary traveler in addition to packing, lugging around suitcases, endless hours on the road or in the air, lost sleep, and the other usual headaches of vacation. In Japan there is a strong social expectation that the lucky traveler should bring back local snacks or souvenirs for all their close friends or even sometimes acquaintances, depending on mysterious (to me) social duties and ties. These souvenirs, called omiyage, are big business in Japan, and all the big train stations have ample omiyage stores for last-minute purchases by desperate and busy vacationers.
It turns out that Godzilla also has his own omiyage–actually several. On my recent visit to the a Godzilla exhibit in Yokohama, I picked up four different kinds of Godzilla omiyage, and I saw a fifth at movie theaters when Godzilla Resurgence (2016) was released, though I didn’t buy that one. The particular Godzilla omiyage I will be discussing today is the Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki, which is kind of a standard omiyage snack that comes in one flavor with a Godzilla image stamped on the cake.
Many of the omiyage in Japan are just the same basic treats in different shapes or with different designs stamped on them, but because they are from a different area of Japan it is a special treat to give your friends. Such is the case with this omiyage, which is basically a little round cake filled with sweet bean paste. These little cakes are pretty much standard omiyage fair, and I have had many over the years that have tasted just about exactly the same as the Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki. The cake itself is a sort of mild yellow cake, soft and slightly moist but not overly sweet. The sweet bean paste (or anko) is something of an acquired taste, and many of my Caucasian friends who live abroad in Japan don’t really like sweet beans. I actually like the stuff sometimes (the sweet azuki bean ice cream at Baskin Robbins is delish), but I don’t get excited about sweet-bean filled cakes. They are okay–the beans are lightly sweet with a texture that melts in the mouth, except for the bean skins. It’s not bad, but I much prefer the custard cream filled cakes. Some omiyage boxes include cakes filled with sweet bean as well as custard filled cakes, but the Limited Edition Yaki here are only sweet beans.
The Godzilla stamp on the cakes is a lightly detailed silhouette of the Shin Godzilla design with “Godzilla” written in a familiar font, kind of a riff of the crumbled letter font found on any number of Godzilla-related merchandise. The font immediately reminded me of the Marvel comic series, but upon closer inspection they are not the same. Still, this little silhouette plus the Godzilla name are really the only distinguishing features of the snack. This is what you are paying for, folks.
The box itself is gold and black foil with “Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki” written entirely in kanji and the now-ubiquitous Shin Godzilla head in profile with more cartoony-looking Tokyo buildings in the background. The back has an ingredients list, where to contact the company for any questions, the number of cakes included (ten), and information on how to keep the cakes from spoiling (which I should have read, as my last two cakes grew a bit of mold before I got around to eating them). Curiously, I don’t see any actual name for a company on the back. The closest I could find was an address in Chiba, but no actual name of a company. Oh, well.
So far the Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki is the only Godzilla omiyage I have eaten, and I came away largely unimpressed. The little cakes are no better or worse than hundreds of similar omiyage, and so they come across to me as being a bit boring. Still, these are limited edition cakes (the sales guy in Yokohama was loudly insisting they could only be bought at the Yokohama exhibit), so I guess I feel special for having had the opportunity to munch them.Kaiju Kuisine // September 22, 2016
I really love curry.
Over the last several years, my love of curry has blossomed more and more as I have been exposed to the plurality of flavors of Indian, Thai, and even Singapore curries. My workplace in Japan has a fantastic cafeteria that always has curry, and I often grab me some curry to go with their other often scrumptious dishes. In Japan, curry is a very popular dish, though I am not especially fond of Japanese curries themselves. Nevertheless, Japanese curry packets (pop them in boiling water, then open the packet, empty over rice and add any condiments you like, boom, a meal!) are one of my favorite ways to save time on making dinner. Still, I was not expecting to find that Godzilla had his own curry, the Yokosuka Godzilla Curry (横須賀市 ゴジラカレー) from Dream Planet Japan.
Not to say that Godzilla has no experience with curry, mind you. In fact, super-spicy curry was the fuel for his nuclear breath in the Japanese version of the Game Boy game Godzilla-Kun. Still, I was still surprised to find a real G-curry upon my recent visit to the Big Godzilla Special-Effects Kingdom exhibit in Yokohama. (There is also a King Ghidorah pilaf curry available until September 25 at Namja Town in Ikebukuro.)
This particular curry was apparently made as a sort of souvenir one can buy at the giant Yokosuka Godzilla slide in Kurihama Flower Park, which was installed there because (according to Brian Ashcraft) Godzilla emerged from the sea in that area in the original 1954 Godzilla film. However, the packaging for this Godzilla curry features the Burning Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), probably to underscore that this is one spicy curry. On the back of the packaging is information and a map as to how to get to the giant slide, and a picture of the slide as well. Curiously, Koichi Kawakita is listed as a supervisor for the curry, so this may actually be his recipe!
Similar to the packaging of the Godzilla Butamen from the Oyatsu Company, the text on the front of the curry reads “It’s so spicy it can make you spit fire!” (Rough translation.) However, after eating the relatively mild Godzilla Butamen, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. Is this curry actually going to be spicy?
In this case, yes, it can. For my taste at least, the Yokosuka Godzilla Curry is quite spicy, enough to make me start hiccuping after just a few bites, and I had to refill my water at least once and add extra rice because this is some spicy stuff! Even after I had finished I munched on something to deal with the spice–which isn’t to say that the spiciness is particularly overwhelming or even painful, but it’s sure enough to make you thirsty! The actual flavor is similar to many Japanese beef curries (this one includes beef and vegetables, and even apples according to the ingredients list!), but the predominating flavor is the heat. Overall, not a terrible instant curry, but not one I would want to revisit anytime soon.
Actually, the Yokosuka Godzilla Curry is one of the best novelty curries I have had in Japan–I picked up quite the collection of novelty curries last year, from Dragon Quest Slime curry to Curry of the Dead to Biohazard Curry, and I was pretty much disappointed all around. Godzilla’s curry is kind of tasty, though nowhere near my favorite curry in the world. Beware: if you are sensitive to spice, you may feel like Godzilla on the cover and get a nasty case of heart burn after eating this one!Kaiju Kuisine // September 19, 2016
The Oyatsu Company really capitalized on the release of Godzilla Resurgence in the summer of 2016 and released a number of Godzilla-themed snacks, all of which somehow include ramen for some reason–the Baby Star Dodekai Shin Gojiramen (in two flavors, hot chili and black pepper), the Godzilla vs. Evangelion Baby Star Ramen Box (which includes another couple flavors–garlic and spicy chicken), and the subject of today’s review, Godzilla Butamen (or pork ramen), the flavor of which is “extremely spicy tonkotsu.”
Tonkotsu ramen is one of the most popular kinds of ramen, and the flavorful soup hails from Kagoshima, a prefecture (and city) in southern Japan on the island of Kyushu. The name tonkotsu comes from the kanji for “pig” and “bone,” and is a kind of soup made from pork belly, bones, spices, and other ingredients. I like tonkotsu ramen and sometimes buy a big bowl of the stuff from the local ramen shops, It is definitely not a healthy snack, and the tonkotsu broth can often be quite stinky and oily. If prepared with lower quality ingredients, it can give you a nasty stomach ache, which I have experienced.
At any rate, the Godzilla Butamen (ゴジラ ブタメン) is not tonkotsu at it’s best simply because it is a kind of Cup Noodle type dish–a cheap snack to eat at home. The Butamen here is particularly small–much smaller than the standard Cup Noodle size–so it is not really satisfying as a meal on its own. Nevertheless, I liked it much better than the Shin Gojiramen chips, and I even liked it more than Cup Noodle (which I usually avoid, both because they are unhealthy and also because I just don’t enjoy them much).
The Godzilla Butamen is a very simple snack. The cup includes nothing but the noodles with the spices already dumped in–there is no separate packet like with many instant noodle cups and bowls. You just pour in your boiling water, let sit for three minutes, and then eat with the little plastic fork that comes attached. I was skeptical of the effectiveness of said plastic fork, but it did its job quite well, and I was able to scoop out all but the smallest noodle bits with ease. The noodles themselves were flavorful enough to satisfy me for a product like this, and the spice I felt was not really extreme at all–I would call it more medium spice if that. It definitely has a kick if you drink the soup afterwards, but even that was not overwhelming to my tastes. My stomach was a little unhappy with me afterwards, however.
My favorite part of the dish is the cup itself, which shows the Shin Godzilla design breathing fire and roasting a hapless cartoon pig. It appears that the pig is saying “Godzilla also breaths fire,” which I am guessing means our big mutated monster ate some Butamen and spit fire in response. There is even a “Warning! Spicy! sign on the cup.
Like with the Shin Gojiramen, the Butamen also has a sort of promotional contest of sorts where customers can write in to the Oyatsu Company to try to get a special promotional poster or media packet, with instructions on how to do so written on the inside of the cover flap.
Overall, I enjoyed this cup of Godzilla goodness, even though it is cheap and silly. Sure, this is no great snack, and its gimmicky and may give you a minor tummy upset, but I still liked it. For some reason, though, I have only stumbled on these Butamen cups once, in one particular Seven Eleven near a movie theater. I visit Seven Elevens and other convenience stores very frequently, so I am surprised I have not seen more of them. Still, it’s just as well–I shouldn’t make a pig of myself!Kaiju Kuisine // September 17, 2016
As a promotion for Shin Gojira, aka Godzilla Resurgence (2016), Aeon Cinema has created two varieties of hot dogs for sale at their theaters that they have dubbed “Shin Hot Dogs” (シン・ホットドッグ).
These hot dogs don’t really look like Godzilla, though the creative consumer can try to come up with parallels to the new Godzilla design (Godzilla’s tail is really long in this movie, so maybe the long hot dogs are symbolic of his tail! The tomato and veggies hot dog has a lot of red sauce on it, so maybe that is supposed to symbolize the mysterious red gloop in the movie!) But really, the dogs are just dogs so far as I can tell. No monster symbolism.
Each of the hot dogs is served in a red Shin Gojira paper sleeve for less messy munching, and they come with mini 2016 Shin Gojira calendars, which basically amount to little cards with the new Godzilla’s now familiar dark profile on one side and a six month calendar with Godzilla’s birthday marked on the other side against a black background. It’s pretty underwhelming.
The two hot dogs are really nothing all that great either, but the cross-promotion is fun. I ate the honey mustard dog first, and it proved the tastier of the two to my tongue. The liberally and artistically applied honey mustard gives the dog a nice tang, and me being a big fan of mustard anyway, I appreciated the vinegary bite. The dog itself is tasty, obviously better than your average supermarket 12-pack in America, but still not amazing. The buns on both dogs were a little tough and hard to bite through.
The second dog is basically called a “tons of tomato and veggies dog.” The veggies don’t have much impact other than giving a slight texture and spice to the tomato mash all over the dog. There is an abundance of tomato stuff all over, which makes the consumption of said frank a messy experience, and I found myself in need of a tissue after chowing down. The second dog was acceptable, but I much prefer my frankfurters with mustard, so the honey mustard won the day for me.
It’s worth noting that Aeon Cinema offers black triangular food holding tray thingees that attach to your arm rest in the theater. I ended up eating my dogs before entering the theater, but I rather like these trays because of how handy they are and would like to see more of them in the States.
Overall, this along with the Lotteria cross promotion has me eating a lot of junk food recently. The Shin Hot Dogs are, in my opinion, rather less satisfying than the Lotteria goods given how underwhelming the buns are and the pretty dang boring calendars (though I am not a fan of Lotteria–especially their chicken nuggets). Nevertheless, for me it’s a kick seeing Anno’s scary new Godzilla shilling sandwiches and fries. It’s almost as good as the Snickers commercial from 2014! And with a little more munching, I am going to have a Kaiju-sized stomach!Kaiju Kuisine // August 11, 2016
These are just some impressions about the new Godzilla movie because, even though I can speak relatively decent Japanese, I couldn’t really understand enough of the story in this case for me to comfortably write a review of the film. Please enjoy—I hope to write a review later after I get a chance to watch the movie in English or perhaps, through repeat viewings, understand enough to warrant a review. These are fairly hastily written reflections, but, again, hopefully I can write more later.
Last night I couldn’t sleep very well. I was really looking forward to seeing Godzilla Resurgence (2016), aka Shin Godzilla (シン・ゴジラ), the very first showing at 9:10 am, and even when I did fall asleep, I found I was dreaming about our favorite nuclear dinosaur. Look, it’s been 12 years since our last Toho Godzilla movie, Godzilla Final Wars (2004), which I also saw in theaters in Japan in 2005. While I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ movie well enough a couple years ago, it didn’t completely scratch my Godzilla itch. Twelve years is the longest gap between Toho Godzilla films yet, and you better believe I was feeling the drought.
Thus I wanted to watch the first film as soon as possible and write up a detailed review for Toho Kingdom. I got up this morning and marched off to the movie theater—I ended up walking because there were huge lines for the busses as the Japanese businessmen and women were off to work. I ended up walking almost an hour on what turned out to be a rather hot and sunny morning. I looked like I had taken a shower in my sweat when I bought my ticket at the counter. I was wearing a Godzilla and Gamera meet Men in Black shirt. The lady at the counter probably thought I was a really gross nerd.
Sitting through the trailers—something which I usually quite enjoy—was nerve-stretching torture, not least of all because one of the trailers was for some sex comedy about old people that treats us to a close-up of an old man’s wrinkly buttocks. When the second video reminding everyone to practice good manners in the theater was shown, I was about ready to scream—which would have broken those same rules.
Then finally the movie started. Boom. Boom. Boom. Classic sound effects. Classic roar. It was like I was watching the original 1954 movie all over again. I think my heart was booming along with the soundtrack. The movie doesn’t play around introducing characters and side plots, either. Immediately there is an investigation of mysterious happenings in Tokyo Bay. People have disappeared from a boat. Geysers of water are shooting out. A horrible mess is spreading out across the water.
Thus starts one of the most unique, surprising, and daring Godzilla films I have seen. The plot is focused squarely on the mysterious appearance of Godzilla and Japan’s reaction thereto from start to finish. The main characters usually are just hustling from one meeting to the next while Godzilla appears and starts smashing things up. Yet despite the fact that the plot sometimes seems like a marathon of meetings interspersed with destruction, for me at least, it wasn’t boring. Directors Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno infuse the proceedings with welcome humor (the Japanese audience around me kind of snortled repeatedly around me) and dynamic, inventive cinematography that make the conversations crackle. Frankly, I couldn’t understand a lot of what was said—Anno and Higuchi keep the dialogue sprinting, with many characters monologuing about political tensions, anti-Godzilla strategies, and pseudo-scientific lunacy with fast cuts and faster lips barreling the story onward. I can’t speak to the quality of the dialogue really, but the tension and excitement is woven into the camerawork and editing with electric and eclectic timing that very frequently reminded me of the cinematic compositions of the Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion series, including sometimes puzzling usages of text overlaid on top of human drama, or scenes wherein the audience seems to be peering out from inside a computer monitor.
A big surprise for me was just how many characters were in the story. The first half or so of the film feels like a constant march of new characters, their names and positions scrawled across the bottom half of the screen in huge white kanji. Honestly, I couldn’t keep all the faces straight, and sometimes it felt like none of the characters had any real life—everything was meetings and strategy and politics, with no time for family or friends or hobbies or anything… and yet Anno has written in playful character moments (a stinky shirt from too much hard work, a bowl of mediocre ramen noodles for an official that leaves him disillusioned) that lend a surprising amount of humanity to what should be pretty staid action.
Which isn’t to say that the human action is great. Again, it felt like an unending stream of meetings and strategizing intercut with destruction, which sometimes left things a little hollow. There are also some so-so English-speaking “actors” (sigh), and some of the Japanese actors try to speak English with varying results (sometimes I couldn’t even understand what they were saying). Stilted English is kind of par for the course, but still disappointing.
As for the monster action, there are a lot of big surprises with Godzilla, but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that this take on Godzilla is one of if not the most unique cinematic spin on the Big G yet and is bound to stir up a lot of controversy among the fans. When I first saw early pictures of the Godzilla design, I was pretty skeptical. I thought G looked like a cross between a zombie and the Colossal Titan plus Godzilla and lots of pointy teeth, but he has grown on me (like a tumor?). In the movie, there are some huge surprises, some of which are just plain crazy and should be experienced without spoilers. Personally I enjoyed the ride, though this is decidedly NOT your daddy’s Godzilla, and the anime influence is pretty obvious. The fact that a Godzilla movie can actually surprise me, too, after dozens of films is pretty exciting. Godzilla is powerful, intimidating, a massive threat. The action, when it comes, is inventive and often exciting and dramatic… and sometimes really disappointing, largely due to inconsistent special effects which sometimes look fantastic, and sometimes look gratingly fake. I was not really satisfied with the conclusion, either, which (in my opinion) doesn’t have the oomph needed to satisfy… although there is a bit of a twist right at the conclusion.
Music and sound effects are fantastic, with suitably epic new themes combined with glorious Akira Ifukube music. The classic Godzilla theme is played at a suitable juncture, as is one of Ifukube’s greatest military marches. All the music played over the credits is classic Ifukube as well. Many of the sound effects, including the sound of Godzilla stomping and many of the explosions, sounded to me like they came out of a classic Godzilla movie. The roar reminded me of the classic roars of the past as well, though fan tastes obviously differ.
Overall, Shin Godzilla is wild, daring, surprising, and fun, and there were multiple points where I was just stunned by some of the choices made in interpreting Godzilla for a new generation. I love it when risks are taken in regards to creating new kaiju films, and while I think some of the risks don’t fully pay off, nevertheless this is a memorable and sometimes breathtaking film, smudged and blunted sometimes by dodgy special effects and terrible English. If I can get a fuller picture of some of the story elements and perhaps watch the film a few more times, I hope I can write a full review. For now, I have to say, Shin Godzilla makes a fantastic first impression, at least for me.General // July 30, 2016
Some few months ago, again, I sat in the stupor that only comes from grading a pile of amateur prose, the old mix of well-intended vague platitudes to the likely lazy quick-crap-it-out blotches of half-digested text. Thus is the life of a writing teacher, and I do wish all my students success and intend to help them forward as they develop their own unique styles. But in the middle of the stack, tired of the stylistic snafus and about to suffer a comma-correcting coma, I wanted respite. I wanted to read something thoughtful, something funny, something with a crisp, fresh snap of writing panache.
I went to Toho Kingdom, because recently Miles Imhoff has been forging a series of finely-tuned movie reviews, and each one has been a delight to me. Miles (I hope I can call him by his given name, even though I have never met him) always injects surprising insights and startling humor into his reviews, and I was hoping to find that he had posted another review that day to allay the torpor of grade-reading.
What I saw instead jerked my heart down into my gloomy gut. Miles Imhoff was leaving Toho Kingdom.
Somehow I thought Miles would never leave. In some ways, Miles had become the quirky, friendly face of TK to me. When I first came on as a movie reviewer in 2007 (was that really seven years ago?), Miles quickly became more than just some dude who would compliment me on my purple prose. He became a friend, and over the next few years we would exchange some of the strangest emails, including quite the volley our weirdest dreams. We called it a dream war, and for a while I was so determined to win that I wrote ludicrously long and obnoxiously detailed descriptions of my sometimes wildly deranged nightmares. Nobody should have to read about all those thunderously stupid dreams I had—but Miles trudged through my silliness, and replied with pleasure and wit. A fellow Christian, too, it has been a real encouragement to me simply to have another brother on board, someone who cares more about God than Godzilla.
I have always been impressed and inspired by much of what Miles has done with the Toho Kingdom website. I absolutely loved his VHS-Art idea, and contributed with an excess of zeal (my art descriptions, like many of my book reviews, are… overly generous with their verbiage). I was astounded to later discover that he had put together an entire series of actual, functioning, funky Toho themed games on the website! One summer, with my little brother, we played through just about every one of those games, bonding over the kaiju craziness of his imagination—an imagination that also spilled over into his hugely ambitious and insanely unpredictable series of “Toons,” which he animated himself, and dubbed, and wrote, and… I seriously don’t know how he did it. (To be honest, though, I frequently also just didn’t understand some of them… but even when the humor went blasting over my head, I was impressed with the obvious care and quirk—and a lot of work!)
I don’t know how he did a lot of things at TK. I understand Miles spent long hours as an admin for the forums, dealing with the darker side of fandom, the inevitable rage and vitriol and utter nonsense that always detonates when extreme fandom meets extreme immaturity in the anonymous sanitarium of the Internet. I have observed some of the supreme levels of lunacy, even psychotic behavior, that can arise from such dens of iniquity second-hand as part of some Facebook groups, and I would never, never want to be an administrator and thus be thrust into such a black hole of madness on a daily basis. I like talking about Godzilla and kaiju and Japanese films… but administrators must struggle with some seriously bent people, even sometimes death threats and harassment. I have watched it crush one of my closest friends. Scars from broken Internet friendships can run very deep.
I wonder if the dark side of the fandom got to Miles. I haven’t asked. I don’t want to pry. I know people sometimes just need to move on, and I know it’s hard to be a part of something like Toho Kingdom and work for dozens, hundreds, thousands of hours without being paid a penny nor a yen. I’ve written over forty movie reviews for the website, and just those reviews represent several hundred hours of research, writing, revising, and more. Miles did much more than I with the games and cartoons, but he has written more movie reviews as well. Truly, Miles has shaped Toho Kingdom, making it into a much brighter, joyful, fun place to be. I regret that we never got to work together on any of those games and cartoons.
That’s what makes me so sad to see him go. Not to say that he is making a poor decision in leaving—I don’t know his motives, and I wish him well wherever he ventures. But I am going to miss seeing his fantastic work, in its multiplicity of forms and flavors. I already miss his reviews, his spark, the energy and fire of his imagination. I really hope, then, wherever he goes, that I will have the chance to see more of him and his kind craziness, that we won’t completely lose touch. I hope God lights his path, guides him to much better places, to achievements even more significant. Thank you, Miles, for sharing so much, for all your exuberant labor, for the light of your dreams. May the warmest, truest, most beautiful of those dreams come true.
Miles Imhoff has created (and will continue to create?) many cartoon shorts in addition to the Toho Kingdom ones. Much of his animated library can be found on YouTube at Totally Kewl Cartoons.General // December 24, 2014