Latest Blog - News Articles

  • I’ve never experienced a day when there are two Godzilla movies running simultaneously in normal, run-of-the-mill theaters at the same time. If you live in Japan, that miracle recently happened with both Godzilla Minus One (2023) and Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024) featured in many theaters simultaneously. That’s right, as of this writing, Godzilla Minus One is still in theaters here six months after it was released as it got a boost back in March when it won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects, and this past week it still has been getting two showings a day in my small-town movie theater—both in Screen X. Godzilla X Kong, meanwhile, opened in Japan on April 26, so it’s still getting the kingly treatment with many showings, Dolby Atmos sound, big screens, etc. This past week was Golden Week here in Japan—a week of holidays for the hardworking denizens of the Land of the Rising Sun. I ended up going to the 1:55 showing of Godzilla x Kong on Friday, May 3rd, and the 18:05 showing of Godzilla Minus One—and both showings had their little surprises for me.

    (more…)

    General // May 20, 2024
  • Mike Bogue is a long-time kaiju scholar who has written for G-Fan, Movie Milestones, Mad Scientist, Wonder, and other venues, including a ten-year-plus stint composing the Kaiju Korner column for Scary Monsters Magazine. He also wrote Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema:1951-1967 (which I reviewed, and for which we did an interview several years ago), a science-fiction short story collection, and a recent sci-fi novel. Following up his Apocalypse Then book, Bogue wrote the impressive Watching the World Die: Nuclear Threat Films of the 1980s, a non-fiction examination of worldwide films dealing with nuclear fears during a particularly hot period of the Cold War. In this interview, we will be discussing many of his works, with a focus on Watching the World Die, his work on the Kaiju Korner, and a few notes on his recent science fiction novel.

    (more…)

    Interviews // March 27, 2024
  • Some years ago, I did an extensive review of Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-1958, and while I was really surprised at the content of some of the manga and adaptations therein, by far the little nugget that captured my imagination the most was a tiny sideways mention in an essay tucked in the back of the volume. That essay mentioned a title called Beastman Gorion which was to be made into a Toho film back in 1955 but which never came to fruition… but which was written by Godzilla scribe Shigeru Kayama, and which was serialized in Shonen Club magazine with illustrations by Tetsu Shirai (I can confirm now that that is indeed the reading of the artist’s name). At the time I was able to dig up a bit more information about the title, though not much. I knew that the title was originally Beastman Gorion and eventually that was changed to King Gorion (or rather Ruler of the Jungle Gorion) and was one of any number of illustrated monster tales from Kayama. However, I couldn’t find any information about how far along the production of the film ever progressed, nor if an name (such as a possible director or actors) had ever been attached to the lost film. I also couldn’t find any synopses, nor any reprints of the tale, despite the existence of a set of volumes that ostensibly collected all of Kayama’s written works (when I scoured the books’ table of contents, I couldn’t find the title listed). When I asked other scholars about the title, no one seemed to know anything, and while I could find a few images online, the details were extremely scarce. (more…)

    General // January 24, 2024
  • I recently had a chance to sit down with Patrick Kelley, long time Godzilla fan and author of the recently published Godzilla: the Monster Fight Records Volume I (1954-1975) and Volume II (1984-2021). Kelley has been an enthusiastic Godzilla and kaiju hobbyist for many years, and published his chronicle of Godzilla’s cinematic fisticuffs in two volumes back in August. In this interview, we discuss the project’s origins, the iterations through which the book went through, specific challenges, and unique attributes of his work–plus some fun diversions and a glimpse into the future of this promising writer. Enjoy! (more…)

    Interviews // December 10, 2023
  • Taiwan is one of my favorite countries, and every time I visit, it’s such a pleasure—made even more so because I can meet a nearly life-size Godzilla there! If you travel to the Zhongzheng District (not far from the Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station, exit 1 on the MRT—and you should definitely take the MRT), it won’t take long to find the Hotel Gracery Taipei… and a gargantuan Godzilla mural plastered across the building’s west side. Godzilla fans will be aware of the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku and its elaborate Godzilla head and famous Godzilla room—many kaiju pilgrims travel out specifically to check out the statue and dine on Godzilla goodies at the restaurant within. Much less well known, however, is that Gracery—a line of luxury hotels centered in Japan—has a sister hotel out in Taipei, featuring its own art installations celebrating a certain famous Japan-born kaiju. The “life-size” kaiju image, depicting Millenium Godzilla and stretching across the 5th to 14th floors, was installed to celebrate the first year anniversary of the hotel in 2021—apparently in response to a questionnaire distributed to determine the best or most popular version of the king of the monsters for a Taiwanese audience. The sight of the big guy towering over the Taiwanese skyline is pretty impressive, and for fans, it’s worth a hop, skip, and a jump to catch a gander of the megabeast.

    (more…)

    General // December 6, 2023
  • So, they really missed an opportunity by failing to call this a Godzilla Bath Bomb. The Godzilla Bath Ball (ゴジラ バスボール) from Deruma Rabo, which I purchased at Nijigen no Mori back in 2021 for 500 yen, is an awkward way to feel closer to your favorite kaiju. I have been a big fan of bath balls for several years now, ever since I purchased some of the higher end ones from Lush (pro tip: You can use some of their bath balls for multiple baths just by shaving off a bit each time—don’t waste the whole thing on one go, dang it!), but more recently in Japan you can get all sorts of cheaper ones for sale in novelty shops like Village Vanguard or at souvenir stores. These cheaper bath balls usually have some kind of branding with a secret tiny figure inside—one of several inserted at random, to encourage customers to buy multiple balls in hopes of collecting all of them ala the gacha gacha lottery. I have also purchased a Detective Butt bath bomb and a Gremlins bath bomb (a butt character seems appropriate for a bath, but don’t put Gizmo in the water!). You can even get bath bombs with no-name toys inside at the hundred yen shops these days. Even if the character-branded bath bombs pale in comparison to the glory of a Lush bath ball, you can still have a good time with the Godzilla Bath Ball. Let’s walk through the details.

    (more…)

    General // December 5, 2023
  • Finally, after years of rumors and teases arguably stretching all the way back to when Takashi Yamazaki snuck a version of Godzilla into Always: Sunset on Third Street 2 (2007), and certainly with greater credibility and excitement after Yamazaki further produced the epic Godzilla the RideGodzilla Minus One is in theaters, and is garnering firework-level praise all around. I have seen multiple remarks online about fans breaking out into tears for the first time at a Godzilla movie, others (including Godzilla [2014] director Gareth Edwards—who seemed to sneak a snide reference to G14 in his recent astonishing The Creator) hailing the movie as a contender for best Godzilla film of all time. Naturally, as a long-standing fan of Yamazaki’s (having greatly enjoyed the Always films, the Parasyte films, his adaptation of Ghost Book/Yokaipedia and generally appreciating his Destiny: A Tale of Kamakura, among others), I was excited to bomp down in my seat opening night at a local theater in Kokura (unwilling to shell out the extra cash for a plane ticket and hotel in the Tokyo area for the Godzilla Day festivities). And the movie… (more…)

    General // November 8, 2023
  • Recently I had a chance to interview J.D. Lees, one of the biggest voices in the fan community. Lees is best known for creating the massive G-Con/G-Fest–a yearly convention celebrating Godzilla and tokusatsu–as well as the longest running fanzine of all time, G-Fan (note that I have written a few small articles for that publication, too–including a column called Kaiju Comics Corner… shameless plug). Lees has a long history with the convention circuit, with bringing Japanese celebrities to the USA, with helping to organize theatrical showings of giant monster films, even with putting together tours for fans around Japan. In this interview, we cover all of these topics and more, including his work on The Official Godzilla Compendium book with author Mark Cerasini, his time living in Japan, and his upcoming plans. Please take a read, and I hope you enjoy what you see. (more…)

    Interviews // September 26, 2023
  • What makes someone a monster? Is it their actions, something intrinsic inside them, or because they break away from social convention? Maybe it’s just because of the false impressions that others take away with them from unfortunate chance encounters? Monster, the latest film from celebrated director Hirokazu Kore’eda (Nobody Knows [2004], Still Walking [2008]) takes these themes and stitches them into a moving, aching, multi-faceted exploration of the dangerous power of broken perceptions, the searing pain of alienation, and the simple and brittle beauty of friendship and family in the midst of tragedy. Monster affected me emotionally more than any other film in 2023 so far, and it is well worth your time if you are willing for those willing to take the emotional ride. (more…)

    Movie Reviews // September 12, 2023
  • An important aspect of the special effects for Godzilla films has always been the use of puppets, sometimes for close ups, sometimes for longshots, even back in the original Godzilla (1954). While these puppet shots have been the object of derision (as particularly in the Showa films, the appearance of the monsters often differed from the suits, and the movements tended to be janky), they were an integral part in bringing kaiju action to life—and some kaiju were achieved on film solely through clever puppetry, such as Kumonga and the Kamacuras (from Son of Godzilla [1967]), and the giant condor (from Ebirah, Terror of the Deep [1966]). It’s fitting, then, that Godzilla’s first official web series, Monster Puppet Show Godziban (generally shortened to just Godziban), achieves its monster effects through delightful handmade puppets. The program, created by a long-running puppet theater group named Studio Koganemushi, has been running for three seasons, to great success. A recent book has been published on the series, and a variety of Godziban-branded goods are also available—from soft vinyl action figures, to t-shirts, to stickers, and more. The program itself skews for younger viewers using absurd humor filled with references to the films, utilizing a style not so far removed from educational kid’s programming like Sesame Street in the West or Pythagoras Switch in the East (minus anything remotely educational). As with preschool morning kid TV, several recurring segments are edited together to create ongoing, sketch-comedy programming. Today I want to take a look at the first season particularly, which laid the groundwork for far greater creative strides taken in the later seasons.

    (more…)

    General // August 26, 2023
  • After I received a positive reaction to the review I pieced together for episode 1, I decided to continue reviewing the Guyferd series, as a means manhandling a bit more attention onto this largely overlooked henshin hero of yesteryear. Today I have a pair of episode reviews that continue Go’s march forward as he learns more of his powers and faces off against an evolving enemy force with more Mutians and upgraded Guyborgs surfacing to challenge our hero. These two episodes, as well, were both penned by Kazuhiro Inaba early in his career. Inaba would go on to write episodes for three more Toho tokusatsu television programs (The Gransazers, The Justirisers, and Super Fleet Sazer X), as well as numerous other projects. On Guyferd alone, Inaba would write more than half of the episodes, and so would become the most prominent voice of the series. We should get a good taste of what his storytelling flair is like from this double-helping of monster-punching madness below.
    (more…)

    General // August 21, 2023
  • Every country has their eras of peculiar nostalgia; the USA has recently been squeezing all the nostalgia bucks they can get from the widespread affection for the 80s, but certainly retro fads have also existed for the 50s, 60s, and 70s in America. In Japan, though, Showa nostalgia is king—though not the ENTIRE Showa period. Technically, “Showa” refers to the time in which Emperor Hirohito was on the throne in Japan, which would entail a period from 1920s to the 1980s. However, when most people in Japan think of Showa retro style and the ache for those old times, they are yearning for the post-war period—generally the 1950s to the early 1970s. Living in Japan, I have seen this enduring fad crop up in old-timey candy shops, kamishibai entertainers at festivals, a very popular sandwich shop in Kokura, retro TV show revivals, and—in the world of movies—particularly the work of Takashi Yamazaki and his Always: Sunset on Third Street trilogy—the most infamous of which is the middle film from 2007, to be discussed today. (more…)

    Movie Reviews // July 2, 2023
  • As with the other recent films I have reviewed, I saw this film in raw Japanese, so even with my pretty decent Japanese, there were some bits of the plot that I am sure escaped me. You can take the following review with some salty aftertaste as a result.

    While South Korea and Japan have had a long and troubled political relationship, in recent years their entertainment cross pollination has become quite intense, with considerable mutual interest in media properties operating in both countries. One of the earliest film remakes that crossed the seas from Japan to South Korea was The Ring Virus (1999), a remake of Japan’s extremely popular Ring (1998)—co-funded by Japan’s Kadokawa and South Korea’s AFDF, which also teamed up on Takashi Miike’s Audition in the same calendar year. For some time South Korean cinema seemed to be following Japan’s lead, with various adaptations of manga ranging from 200 Pounds Beauty (2006) to Antique (2008)—and of course the Cannes Grand Jury Prize winning Old Boy (2003), the latter of which was a gritty adaptation which has so eclipsed the source material that the film’s famously shocking twist has become its most famous element, and it wasn’t even in the original manga. But these days the floodgates have turned, with South Korean media becoming overwhelmingly popular amongst the youth in Japan. Japan has enthusiastically embraced Korean pop media, importing K-dramas by the boatload, ratcheting up a passion for learning Korean, and K-pop stars becoming fashion and culture icons in the Land of the Rising Sun. All throughout my second life in Japan, from 2015 to today, I have had just oodles of students obsessed with K-pop and the idol culture from the land of kimchi and bulgogi, and the trend shows little signs of waning. (more…)

    Movie Reviews // June 20, 2023
  • Some time ago I wrote up a review of The Legend of Godzilla: Godzilla Toilet Paper, because as with so many things related to Godzilla and kaiju, I figured if I didn’t do it, nobody would, and that would be a huge loss for humankind. Well, as it turns out, there was another Godzilla toilet paper from the same company (Benjoy) and released at the same time (2018)—Four Seasons of Godzilla toilet paper! Obviously, this stuff ALSO needs a full review, and baby, I am here for that today! (more…)

    General // June 19, 2023
  • For some years now I have been aware that Toho made quite a few tokusatsu television shows in addition to their (now legendary) suite of kaiju and special-effects films. Of course the most famous of their toku TV must be Zone Fighter from back in 1973—a program that featured a family of alien heroes, a flying car, a size-changing hero—and an occasional visit by Godzilla and some of his kaiju compatriots. However, even Zone Fighter garners relatively little attention, even with the Godzilla connections—so other Toho tokusatsu TV shows such as Warrior of Love Rainbowman, Megaloman and The Gransazers (2003) tend to get even less. Today I want to look at one of these programs a bit, with a review of the first episode—Guyferd. (more…)

    General // June 7, 2023
  • Over the years, I have written many, many reviews of Godzilla snacks and goodies available in Japan, to the point I got really tired of writing them. Yet, because I was always looking for something unique and silly to write about, and figuring (with that adage I adopted) “no one will write about these if I don’t,” I kept buying more cookies, more snacks, drinks, curries, hot sauces, candies, and more—always thinking I would write more reviews of all of them. However, over the years, I probably skipped writing complete reviews of just as many Godzilla-related snacks as I bothered to write full articles on. There were just SO MANY of these snacks, and I even wasted a number of boxes of Godzilla goodies without eating them because I didn’t have the energy to write a review at the time, and they expired! How ridiculous is that? Just as bad, I have these empty boxes and junk sitting around my apartment, waiting for me to write up something, ANYTHING, about them, and I don’t want to throw them away until I grace the products with some kind of article. (more…)

    Kaiju Kuisine // June 1, 2023
  • I’ve been to the hospital via ambulance a few times in Japan because of my wonky heart, and I like to have a little chit-chat with the paramedic once he or she has called around and found an open hospital and we are on our way (apparently sometimes there aren’t any takers, and so people can die waiting for the emergency worker to find an open room). So anyway, one time, there I was, concerned I might be dying or whatever in the back of an ambulance, and we are zipping along with the siren screaming away above, and I asked the guy, “Why did you become a paramedic? It seems like it would be a really stressful job with lots of pressure!” (more…)

    Movie Reviews // May 25, 2023
  • Note: I watched Shin Kamen Rider in raw Japanese with no subtitles, and given that this is an Anno film, I had some difficulty following some of the high-speed dialogue and technical language. I understood a lot, and I checked a summary afterwards to affirm the basics, but I definitely didn’t understand everything, so take my review with an additional shake of salt or two.

    Edited to add: It has come to my attention that some readers have taken the above disclaimer to mean I don’t understand Japanese, and that I shouldn’t have written a review of Shin Kamen Rider as a result. Honestly, I am very sympathetic to such concerns, which is why I issued the above disclaimer in the first place–but for what it’s worth, I have put a lot of effort into my Japanese studies. I have lived in Japan for over ten years, have read scads and scads of manga in Japanese, read multiple novels and short story collections in Japanese (some of which I have reviewed here on Toho Kingdom), interviewed Japanese in the manga and tokusatsu industries in Japanese, and I regularly meet with my students to talk with them in Japanese as well. It’s true there were parts of this movie I didn’t understand, but I did understand a lot of it, and it doesn’t really have a deeply complicated plot, so I decided to go ahead and write this review. If you as a reader are uncomfortable with this and prefer to wait for reviewers who had access to the film in their native language, I totally get it–I may come back and edit this review later when I can watch the film with Japanese subtitles so I can double check the individual lines. And despite my deeply negative review below, I do hope you enjoy the movie for what it is–whenever I go to a movie, I hope to enjoy it and get something good out of it, but this one just didn’t work for me. I certainly do not wish Hideaki Anno ill-will either, despite my disappointment in hearing of his alleged on-set conduct–I think he is a fantastic artist, and I wish him the best in his future projects. Thank you for reading.

    Feisty hyper-successful otaku god Hideaki Anno returns with the fourth installment of the “Shin” series, this time reimagining Toei tokusatsu juggernaut Kamen Rider with his signature gloom, long-winded speeches, and anime-aesthetics—and Anno fans will know he is fulfilling a childhood dream with this movie. As a teen, Anno made amateur Rider short films which have survived, several of which were shown at the recent Hideaki Anno Exhibit in 2022. In these films, Anno donned a homemade suit and battled through parody episodes of daring and do. But where those films had youthful ardor and humorous enthusiasm, Anno’s official foray into Kamen Rider mythos with Toei’s enthusiastic blessing feels cold, crammed, stuffy, and downright messy—and doesn’t seem nearly as new or interesting as the average annual Rider drama incarnation. (more…)

    Movie Reviews // May 8, 2023
  • I’ve never been a huge fan of the Detective Conan franchise—known in the west as Case Closed due to title copyright issues in the USA (perhaps too many folks would have thought the program was about a barbarian sleuth…). The wildly popular series has been going strong in Japan since 1994, starting as a manga, then blossoming into a multi-media empire. The anime has over 1000 episodes, and the movie series (with a new entry released like clockwork every year) is up to 26 entries with the subject of today’s film review. It’s comfort food for mystery lovers, but I’ve always been a bit blasé about the property. I don’t really like the simplistic and weirdly angular art style of manga artist Gosho Aoyama, nor the way the main character is both a know-it-all and a do-it-all; he can just do everything. And yet, as I watched director Yuzuru Tachikawa’s Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine, my perspective began to change by degrees. The charms of the series shined through a bit more clearly for me, and it clicked together in my mind: people love this movie in much the same way I have long enjoyed James Bond. It’s just a good time seeing a familiar hero with an expected bag of tricks handling a new and crazy situation with his associates, facing dramatic twists and turns, and (in the case of Conan more than Bond) the usual amusement of nosing out the perp through strained clue-noodling and a flair for grandstanding. Somehow, Black Iron Submarine manages some legit thrills and intrigue in a nigh-parodic amped up spy-thriller-mystery setting with decent animation and a workable and interesting plot.

    (more…)

    Movie Reviews // May 4, 2023
  • Perhaps everyone has a different idea of what a perfect world might look like, but I think most people would have in view a few core concepts such as a lack of suffering, availability of goods and foods for all, meaningful work, and a population of genuinely good and decent people who are treated fairly and equally under the law. How that surfeit of happy circumstances might be brought about is the more difficult quandary, and these issues are explored in Doraemon: Nobita’s Sky Utopia directed by Takumi Doyama (who also directed Chibi Maruko-Chan: A Boy from Italy [2015]). As part of the incredible cash-cow Doraemon franchise, Nobita’s Sky Utopia has already netted Toho and the other studios behind the film a significant pile of yen—but for moviegoers, it also provides a decent night out of skillfully-crafted, undemanding kid sci-fi adventure. (more…)

    Movie Reviews // April 22, 2023