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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 1983 issue of Terebi Magazine, and the reprint includes several pieces of art. Note that the reprint from the box set that I own indicates that the piece was originally published in March 1981, but I received a correction from Monster Island Buddies that this is actually a mistake, and he helpfully provided a scan of the cover of the March 1983 magazine so we can see what it looks like. Big thanks to Monster Island Buddies for the correction!
Anyway, back to the article. The piece of artwork I most often saw attached on online 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.
The March 1983 issue of Terebi Magazine
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 // March 2, 2020
Looking Deeper at Overlooked Godzilla Costumes
With Nicholas Driscoll and Marcus Gwin
Over the years, there have been many, many Godzilla costumes created, and while the Godzilla costumes from the actual Toho movies have received a great deal of attention, the Godzilla costumes from other sources, such as movie cameo appearances and commercials, really need more special attention, as their designs and histories are also quite fascinating. This article (which can hopefully be built upon in the future) is an attempt to start that process of taking a deeper look at some of these often overlooked Godzilla costumes.
John Belushi/Interview costume
Background Details: Created by Robert Short, originally appeared in Hollywood Boulevard (1976). Also appeared later in an SNL skit with John Belushi, and the airing of an edited version of Godzilla vs. Megalon.
Date Aired: 1976, Godzilla vs. Megalon broadcast 1977?
Links: Godzilla Hits the Skids: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) – Den of Geeks!
Godzilla Vs. Megalon Bumpers (1978 NBC John Belushi bits) – Lost Media Wiki
12 Strange Non-Japanese Manifestations of Godzilla – Topless Robot
(Grogan-costumed John Candy is kind of interesting)
Robert Short’s Godzilla suit was first used in… – Astounding Beyond Belief
Hollywood Bouldevard (1976) – Trailer (Hollywood Boulevard trailer, suit appears in the trailer)
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure Godzilla Costume
Background details: The suit was created by Cleve Hall, who also performed as the monster in the film and described the experience as “Awesome”. In an interview with B Movie Nation, Hall said he could have died that day and he wouldn’t have cared (given how happy he was to have that opportunity). According to that interview, the Godzilla sequence took six days to shoot.
According to an interview with Ravenous Monster, Hall made a Godzilla costume when he was a junior in high school for a costume contest in Houston, Texas, which garnered the attention of Six Flags Amusement Park. The park hired Hall to create a costume for them, and so began Hall’s lifelong career building monster costumes.
Date aired: July 26, 1985
Links: Five Quick Questions with Cleve Hall – B Movie Nation
Interview with Monster Man Cleve Hall: Chicago Wizard World Satire Edition – Ravenous Monster
Dr. Pepper Godzilla Costume
Background details: Apparently, the advertising campaign had a budget of 10,000,000 dollars. The commercials were originally independent of the Godzilla 1985 film, and product placement was negotiated after New World learned of Dr. Pepper’s deal with Toho. In addition to the commercials, the suit also appears on shirts one could get via mailaway offer. Interestingly, the shirt alters Godzilla’s eyes to being yellow.
Date Aired: Godzilla 1985 (1985)
Links: DR PEPPER BUBBLES UP TO GODZILLA – Los Angeles Times
Diet Dr. Pepper Can with Godzilla T-Shirt Offer (1986) – the sphinx
One Crazy Summer Godzilla Costume
Background details: TBD
Date Aired: August 8, 1986
Charles Barkley vs. Godzilla Nike commercial costume
Background details: Created by ILM, animatronic face. Directed by Michael Owens. Painter Richard Miller worked on the paint job of Godzilla’s teeth. Richard Miller designed the teeth so that they were dirty from breathing flames, but “white on the ends from chewing up a lot of people.”
The tail was twelve feet long. Barkley is supposed to be 160 feet tall. The tape was filmed in slow motion to create a sense of size. Godzilla’s flame was created by tracing on top of the film with a pencil and tracing paper, with 72 drawings needed over the three seconds of animation. Smoke was produced from a vat of boiling mineral oil. The scene in which Barkley is crouched down and then lunges for Godzilla was very awkward and difficult to film effectively, requiring many takes–some of which can be seen in the making-of video.
The tail was sometimes manipulated detached from the body, such as in the scene in which it knocks the basketball skyward.
Four puppeteers worked together to manipulate the Godzilla face.
To capture the right look from Charles Barkley when he elbows Godzilla in the face, the director asked him to make the expression first and do the action in reverse–pulling away from the camera. Then, in the commercial, the scene was played backwards. The thirty second commercial required eight days of filming and four weeks of editing.
Date Aired: 1992
Links: The Making of Nike’s Godzilla vs. Barkley: Scientific American Frontiers 301 – PBS 1992 (Making-of documentary)
Lottery Godzilla Costume
Background details: TBA
Date aired: TBA
Snickers Godzilla Costume
Background details: Douglas Tait, a 6’ 5” experienced monster and suit actor with appearances ranging from Freddy vs. Jason (as the titular Jason Voorhees) to the Long-Faced Bar Alien in J. J. Abrams Star Trek film, played the part of Godzilla. The suit itself took about two weeks to construct, between November 14th and December 2nd, 2013, when filming started, and was built by Legacy FX, the former Stan Winston studios that would have made the Godzilla for the cancelled American film from 1994. The suit was built around a body cast of Tait and made to be nine feet tall in order to tower above the other characters in the commercial. The suit itself, including a combined backpack and animatronic head, weighed over 120 pounds.
During parts of the ATV sequence in the commercial, Tait actually rode the ATV while wearing the Godzilla suit, although he reports that a triangular piece was taken out of the neck so that he could see better, and close ups were accomplished with an empty puppet. The waterskiing sequence was accomplished with a combination of green screen and stuntman Tim Soergel waterskiing with Godzilla feet. Tait was filmed against a green screen wearing the suit and standing on a kind of moving gimbal, and the shots were later combined. The commercial was shot between December 2nd and December 6th in 2013. Apparently a making-of feature was made as well, which may have included sequences of Tait improvising in the Godzilla part that didn’t make it into the final commercial.
According to Tait in another interview with Monster Legacy, the suit was built to resemble the original 1954 Godzilla, and thus used “similar techniques” in its manufacture. Tait stated that corn flakes were mixed into the latex to help create the suit’s skin texture.
Date aired: Online–February 28, 2014; On air March 2, 2014 during the Academy Awards (originally intended to be a Super Bowl commercial)
Links: Snickers Godzilla Suit (Behind the scenes video)
Snickers Satisfies Godzilla – SciFi Japan
From the suit actor, Douglas Tait’s facebook – pininterest.jp
Exclusive: Interview with Douglas Tait! – Monster LegacyGeneral // February 16, 2020
Over the last few years I have seen a BUNCH of Toho films that I never got around to reviewing, which seems like a lost opportunity as Toho still releases a lot of movies each year, and most of them get very little attention—plus a few more famous ones from yesteryear that I watched, but have no plan to write full reviews of. There were quite a few, so let’s get started!
Not being a big fan of the manga, I did not have very high hopes for the live-action adaptation, but being a sucker for fantasy/action movies, I went to see this one anyway… and I had a really good time! Sure, the plot is higgledy-piggledy, and a lot of stuff seems kind of hodge-podge dumped on the screen. However, everything is so good-natured, the fun infected like a fun-gi, and soon I had a smile sprouting like a mushroom and—what on earth am I writing? I had a good time. Are the special effects good? Decidedly not much of the time, but there are purposely poor effects (like rubber animal masks, or bizarre beetle costumes) bashed together for grins, not for gawping, and there are some pretty cool moments, such as an unexpected shout-out to Nausicaa of all things. While there are some real acting duds, the mains are fine. Go with mind open, and you will have a stupid good time.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Distributed by Toho, here we have a new Ghibli movie that isn’t really Ghibli. Really, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director of the excellent Secret World of Arrietty (2010) and Marnie Was There (2014), has made what is essentially a Ghibli movie in all but name, and I think the resultant film is worthy, even if it is not as fantastic as Miyazaki’s best (but what is?). The story, about a young girl who gets yoinked into a magical kingdom after poking about where she doesn’t belong, and then dragged further into rescuing a friend and changing the world, would fit perfectly into early Ghibli, and the animation is absolutely gorgeous. Haunting music, delightful characters, and magical storytelling—this is good stuff. But it is also deliberately derivative. Everything from the character designs, to many story beats, to certain beasts and monsters—even the new logo of the nascent movie Studio Ponoc founded by Yonebayashi screams Ghibli. For that reason, to me the film feels like it doesn’t quite have a life of its own despite the undeniable quality of the picture, and I Just wish Yonebayashi and his team had struck out and created something more uniquely their own.
Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972)
Honestly I can’t remember if it was 2016 or 2017 that I finally got around to watching this spectacle of silly, but this is a kaiju film that I wish could get a bit more attention, so I want to give a quick shout-out here. Daigoro vs. Goliath is unapologetically silly, with monster action so childish that some fans have disowned the work—and there is no doubt that the plot machinations are sometimes downright embarrassing (kaiju sized water closet?). However, for me, the sheer audacity of dumb that this film strives to be makes it even more endearing, like an elaborate crayon messterpiece scribbled with love by your children. If you haven’t seen this bonkers bit of monster history, don’t hesitate to get your copy and plop down for a great old school monster shindig!
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable Chapter 1 (2017)
Being mostly unfamiliar with the source material, my expectations were quite low when I attended this film back in August. This film was also directed by Takashi Miike, and while I have enjoyed some of his films, I tend to find them uneven, and I was no fan of his adaptation of Terra Formars from 2016. However, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure was one of my favorite movie experiences of 2017. I loved, loved, loved the main character and his pompadour hair and rough-guy punk talk, I adored the increasingly off-the-wall powers and plot twists, and I was really impressed by how the entire film just swaggers with style. The story, about a punk kid with super powers fighting a group of delinquents traveling about killing people in hopes of creating an army of supermen, is not particularly new, but everything is delivered with oomph and pizzazz, and the special effects were actually quite good. I really hope Jojo gets the sequel(s) the studios were hoping for.
What if you could not die? If every time your body was killed, you came back to life, feeling the pain, but overcoming it, healing into something new? And what if the world hated you for it? Ajin, a live-action adaptation of the manga of the same name, explores that scenario with dark and frenetic results. The story presented comes through a gimlet lens in which the scientific community, government, and the public at large are depicted as paranoid and flawed if not downright evil. This is a world in which the titular nigh-immortal Ajin are hunted down and viciously experimented upon via neverending torture. The resulting conflicts are the center of the story, as two Ajin take opposite sides and murder each other with crazed abandon. The manga upon which the movie is based is creative and darkly clever, and the movie adopts many of the same tricks and twists—perhaps, as is often the case with movies like this, cramming in too much story for its own good. However, the main characters are acted competently (even if the same cannot be said for some of the more minor characters, particularly a female Ajin), and the action is often visceral and exciting, with the film’s depiction of the Ajin-generated IBMs coming off quite well. Not the best live-action manga adaptation of the year, but far from the worst or most disappointing (here’s looking at you, Full Metal Alchemist).
Ghost Man (1954)
This year I was planning to review the Toho Invisible Man film, and in preparation I watched all the Universal Invisible Man films, the Daiei Invisible Man films, and even the Daiei invisible samurai films (I was shocked they have been so overlooked in the west). Also as part of my preparations, and also with an eye to reviewing it as well, I picked up Ghost Man. Directed by Motoyoshi Oda, I first stumbled on the title while reading David Kalat’s Godzilla book, in which he names the film but seems to think it may have been in the Toho Mutated Man series. Despite the fact that the titular Ghost Man is wrapped up like the Invisible Man traditionally is depicted, the Ghost Man film does not feature any mutated monsters—just a psycho wrapped in gauze. (Interestingly, despite the earlier Daiei film featuring an invisible man clothed in bandages, the Toho Invisible Man film opts for a different sort of camouflage…) Given that the director also made Invisible Man the same year, I was really curious about this film—and it has its highlights, most notably a poster for the same year’s Godzilla release, before that film had its wide release!!! However, for me at least, this movie was quite disturbing. The movie is based on a book in the Detective Kindaichi series, and follows our brilliant detective as he tries to track down a nasty serial killer who strips women naked, murders them, and poses their bare bodies as art objects. The movie features lots and lots of nudity, usually in the form of the abused and murdered women—and I was just not expecting that, and found the proceeds frankly tasteless and awful. The film seems competently made, but the nastiness really put me off.
Invisible Man (1954)
I hope I can go back and give this one a proper review someday, but I will just give my brief impressions here for now. To be honest, I really enjoyed this film! While I think my colleague Patrick’s critique is spot on, nevertheless I really liked the characters and found the story to be quite compelling. The story centers on a former special forces operative from the Japanese army who became invisible as part of a military experiment and is now trying to live a normal life. When the public finds out about the invisible men operatives, though, some criminals take advantage of the public outcry and paranoia, and eventually the real invisible man is cornered into revealing himself and fighting the criminals. There are a number of flaws in the way that the plot plays itself out (again, Patrick does a great job enumerating these), but I still greatly enjoyed the film from start to finish, and wish that the movie had an official release Stateside. It deserves more recognition as the exciting, interesting tokusatsu footnote that it is.
Come Marry Me (1966)
One of the few non-tokusatsu films in Ishiro Honda’s oeuvre that had an official DVD release, Come Marry Me tells the story of… well, I am honestly starting to forget a lot of the main plot details. The film is kind of a lighthearted romantic film with comedic elements, with the plot concerning a young woman caught between her career and two men vying for her romantic affections. After much drama and dating, she makes her fateful decision—and I was honestly surprised by the outcome. While I found the film quite watchable with energetic and sincere performances, obviously the plot has not stuck with me very well. This is a somewhat insubstantial but perfectly inoffensive romance from a legendary director stuck doing monster flicks. As my Japanese improves, I hope to revisit this one for a more complete understanding and hopefully a better appreciation for what it is as well.
Why on earth do they call this movie “Ringu” in America? Leaving the Japanese pronunciation makes the name sound ridiculous in English! Of course, even leaving the name as “Ring” is a confusing title, but I digress. Anyway, I finally sat through the entire legendary “Ringu” film and witnessed the beginning of the long-haired-freaky-people horror boom. And the film has lost some of its impact, at least for me. Unfortunately, watching the film now after the concept of monster women with long unwashed hair has become an overused cliché, the concept of a nasty wet corpse-like woman crawling out of a TV and scaring people so that they have a heart attack and die seems… unconvincing anymore. Still, the film has a great mystery plot going as the protagonists race against time to figure out why the shampoo-impaired Sadako wants to kill everyone, and the mystery drives the story and makes it exciting and engaging for horror fans.
Destiny: Story of Kamakura (2017)
Being a huge fan of the Always films, I was pretty flipping excited when I heard there was going to be a new film from the same team of creators—but this time with yokai monsters! And while the end result does not match up to the highs of the Always series, the film still has gobs of sweetness to share. The main relationship of the story between an author and his much younger, absolutely adorable bride as they learn to get along with each others’ quirks, and the quirks of the spirit world they find themselves entangled within, is very charming—at least through the first half of the film. Towards the end, when the story switches gears into a more action-adventure mode, much of the charm is forsaken for what came across to me as CG-glutted, poorly conceived action set pieces. A large monster appears towards the end which looks pretty cool, but the face-off between the beasty and our heroes is undermined by weak writing and shallow world building. Then again, given the world of CGI yokai adventures such as The Great Yokai War and the live-action Kitaro films, Destiny compares relatively well, and to be honest the tendency of many films in this genre is to be bloated and kind of slipshod in the storytelling department. At least this one has very likable leads and some rather imaginative set pieces.
Let’s Go, Jets! (2017)
When this movie was released last year, I was tempted to go see it in theaters because I have become something of a Suzu Hirose fan (even though almost every role I see her play is pretty similar), and because I love movies about dance. This one is based on a true story apparently, and the real dance groups are even shown briefly in the credits sequence. Let’s Go, Jets! follows the well-worn tropes of underdog sports/competition dramas—completely unknown group of amateurs in a small, largely unremarkable city/area/village (in this case, a small city in Japan) are inspired by a go-get-‘em coach to work hard at a sport/competitive something-or-other (in this case, cheer dance—which is not quite the same as cheerleading), and go after the biggest competition in their area of expertise (with cheer dancing, there is a world competition each year staged in the USA). This movie takes those old tropes and tries to whip some life into them with spunky performances and spunky music, and Suzu is pretty danged lovable in the lead as she bounds through the thoroughly formulaic script while encouraging the usual band of rag-tag wannabes (the scornful dance pro, the socially awkward punk kid, the overweight one, etc). For this kind of movie, it is still pretty fun to watch but… I watch dancing movies to see dancing, and this film teases the dances over and over and over with no pay-off until the very end. In the middle of the film we see our heroines dash out on to the stage to compete… and then the next scene is them running back off having won their latest competition. We see them practice a lot, but never see a real dance routine until the final ten minutes—and even then, it really is not that impressive, and is made worse by a pair of Caucasian pseudo-actors enthusiastically delivering super-cringe lines. I found this one to be pretty mediocre when I watched it on a flight at the end of the year.
My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday (2017)
Another movie I watched on a flight to the USA this year, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday is a sort of supernatural romance type film along the lines of something like The Girl in the Sunny Place or Twilight or Beauty and the Beast. It is difficult to talk about the movie at all without going into spoilers, but in a nutshell (or at least in a train car) our protagonist sees and instantly falls in love with a totally hot babe and, despite being a super shy guy, somehow musters up the chutzpah to chase her down on the platform and confess his impromptu feelings to her face. And instead of being creeped out or offering him a picture of her seven-foot-tall karate-champion boyfriend or otherwise dashing his hopes completely, said girl of extreme hotness is all for the hanging out and the dating. Pretty soon Mr. Suddenly Lucky In Love and Miss Terious Hotness are getting along well, although the lady side of the equation keeps crying all the time for some reason—and when she reveals the reason, the story gets a lot more interesting—or the audience finds the premise so ridiculous that they tune out. (No, she is not a cat or a werewolf or an angel). For me, while the story does not strictly make sense on a logical level, the paradox that is created by the central romance is tenderly and thoughtfully portrayed by the mains, and the conundrum created by their relationship creates a sort of poignant reminder of the transience of human life and the fragility of relationships which nevertheless affect us to the core of our beings. Nana Komatsu, who I felt was so wooden and frankly terrible in Bakuman, is much better here, and I for one am really glad to see the growth.
Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (2017)
I am cheating with this one because I saw it in 2018 on my flight back to Japan, and yet it is hard for me not to categorize it with the films I saw last year since it was part of that round trip journey that sort of wrapped up my 2017 activities. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas has to be one of the strangest names for a film I have ever seen—and I have seen it often. The film and the book upon which it is based have proved quite popular in Japan, with several of my students recommending the film version to me (and others recommending me not to see it). Some friends visited me in August when this film was still playing in theaters, and when I was reading off the titles of the films at a local movie theater we were considering attending, I read this title and received a chorus of hoots and laughter, and one friend declared that I could make up anything I wanted as the translations of the titles and they would have little choice but to believe me. Well, believe me when I say that while this movie does not live up to its title in strangeness, the formula-heavy story is still told well with solid performances all around. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is another story in the “romance with a spunky sick girl” genre which are ubiquitous in Japan. In this one, our stolid, reticent, emotionally stunted loser male protagonist (checking off all the usual lame-o boxes for romantic leads in Japanese fiction) finds himself the object of attention by the most popular girl in school. As she begins spending time with him, she quickly reveals her secret that she is hiding from even her closest friends: terminal pancreatic cancer. The ensuing relationship was enough to keep me awake and interested despite the massive sleep deprivation that comes with international travel and a festering cold assaulting my respiratory system mid-flight (which is more than I can say for Wolf Warrior II and Kung Fu Yoga). The story is not completely predictable either, though all the story beats essentially are—this is Crying Out for Love at the Center of the World 2017 edition pretty much. Yeah, the movie is drenched in sap and dreamy, soft lighting… but for appreciators of this sort of frothy, romantic bilge (such as myself), you can do a lot worse than Pancreas.
And that’s it for 2017! I hope you enjoyed reading, and here’s to another great year of movies!
Kids on the Slope (2018)
One of the pleasant surprises for me recently in my anime-viewing career was the beguiling Kids on the Slope, based on the manga of the same name. The story, centered around an awkward boy moving to Nagasaki and being pulled unwillingly into a friendship with a violent but warm-hearted half-Caucasian classmate, is often surprisingly touching, with endearingly sketched characterizations and a focus on jazz (the aforementioned main characters are both musicians) that adds a lot of emotion to the mix. 2018 saw a decent live-action adaptation of the film… but also a perfectly forgettable adaptation. I say that because for the life of me, even after revisiting a trailer for the film, I can barely remember anything about the film. Nana Komatsu also feels a bit miscast as love interest Ritsuko, as Ritsuko was more of a girl-next-door sort of beautiful in the comics, and Komatsu is so strikingly gorgeous it doesn’t seem to fit. Still, from the fragments of my memory I can’t say the movie was bad… but I can’t altogether recommend it either.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold (2018)
This movie actually made a much bigger impression on me than Kids on the Slope, though the impression was not entirely good. I love the sort of out-there premise the movie has, first of all. The gist is that a magical coffee shop exists, and in that coffee shop there is one particular table at which people who want to talk with the dead can do so, though with a number of conditions. The way it works is that applicant must order coffee and sit at the table, at which point they go back in time to meet the person they want to see who has died. The thing is, that person must have visited the coffee shop in the past—if not, then it’s impossible to meet them again. Also, it’s impossible to change the past. You can have a real conversation, but you can’t change the future. Finally, you have to finish your coffee before it cools—if you forget and talk too long, you become stuck, and your ghost will haunt the coffee shop forever. The ways that the movie plays with the rules of this premise are the source of the movie’s real enjoyment, and there are some clever twists at times, and some emotional moments. That said, some of the applicants’ stories are a bit overdone, while on the other hand a romance between a waitress at the shop and a young man felt underdone and poorly motivated. Still, for fans of high-concept, sort of fantasy Hallmark type movies (are there fans of such a specific genre?), I actually would recommend this.
Gintama 2 (2018)
2017’s Gintama was a big hit in Japan, so one year later an inevitable sequel followed close after, with mixed results. My coworker actually thought that Gintama 2 was far superior to the previous film, but for me I felt it was a step down. While some of the humorous sequences are still quite funny, and the casting was great, with even more amusing cameos and references to other manga, this particular film felt like it was trying too hard. Sometimes the jokes drag on a few steps too far, and the same goes for the action scenes, which, while crazy and stupid, rarely feel like they have stakes. Late in the movie, too, there is a fight so over-the-top melodramatic I just couldn’t. I couldn’t take it. To me, this felt like a lesser live-action remake, and I was once again pretty sad that the Jojo movie did not receive a sequel after the excellent movie last year. I enjoyed both Gintama films, but ultimately I just find them less satisfying as a whole.
I am a big fan of Mamoru Hosoda’s films, especially The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Beast and His Boy, so I was greatly looking forward to this release last year, and even went out of my way to attend the film on the first day of release despite being stressed out with work. Unfortunately, this was easily my least favorite of Hosoda’s films so far, despite it being so personal a film for him. On the plus side, the movie has really pretty animation, which captures so much of a child’s world, but also is so accomplished at depicting the movements of a child, the stumble-walk and general maladroit bumbling. The attention to those sorts of small, mundane details make the movie much better than it would otherwise be. However, the premise of the film never really grabbed my attention very well, and the movie never establishes a real sense of narrative tension—at least it didn’t for me. The conceit of the film is that a bratty young toddler is jealous of his new sister—and then he starts getting visited by that same sister from the future, as well as getting transported through time to visit other family members or go on other adventures. These adventures our “hero” goes on are basically like dreams, and so the little kid never seems to be in real danger, and I never really understood why he was going on these trips since he seemed so young as to be incapable of understanding the important lessons he might otherwise take away from them. Plus, each adventure never felt to me to build up to anything. Even when later the boy has a stressful experience in a dream train station, the supposedly scary sequence had me wondering when the movie would end because I couldn’t get invested. When Mirai was released Stateside, it received mostly positive reviews, so you may well get a lot more out of the film than I did—but still, I cannot in good conscience recommend this one.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes (2018)
When I learned that one of the new heroes that appears in this movie was based on Godzilla, I got pretty excited and used it as an excuse to pick up the entire manga run up to that point in English and read through them—something I had been intending to do anyway as I had so often heard of what high quality the Shonen Jump series supposedly achieved. And while now I can vouch for that quality personally, at least in some respects (great character design and fun characters, great art, exciting battles), the actual MOVIE felt somewhat disappointing, if still a decent time-waster.
The problem with movies like this is that they are inevitably filler. They can’t affect anything in the main story because that is unfolding in the manga, so they always have to be written in such a way as to be exciting WITHOUT making any major revelations or causing any character changes that would reflect on the main story. Plus they have to find ways to shoehorn in all the characters so that the fans can go and see their favorites on the big screen. That’s a lot of constrictions for any story, so it’s no wonder movies like this usually are of middling quality or worse. I think MHA:TH works under those constraints better than many, with an amusing and sometimes exciting story away from Japan and a new (throwaway) villain. But don’t go in expecting anything game-changing.
As for the Godzilla-based here, Godzillo (not to be confused with the offbeat novel Gojiro), he barely shows up and just basically walks by in one scene, letting out a big signature roar before disappearing from the story. Seems like a waste to me!General // February 9, 2020
Shin Godzilla: Battle at Nagaragawa White Water Manjuu vs. Black Steamed Chestnut Youkan
Here is a Godzilla snack I can get behind. Like a good-natured fan-fiction, it imagines what would happen if the second form of Godzilla from Godzilla Resurgence (2016) faced off against the Mothra larva. I think of it as the Godzilla larva vs. the Mothra larva. How fun is that? The actual snacks, too, are traditional Japanese snacks, which, if alien to the Western palate, still seems appropriate for a Japanese monster themed snack.
The image (which seems to be by the same artist who did the packaging art for the Takoyaki snack and the Shin Godzilla Crunch) shows a cheerful and very cute version of Kamata-Kun getting ambushed by the Mothra larva, who has latched onto the former’s long tail. Kamata-Kun looks shocked—actually, he looks like he has a little crown floating above his head, but I think that is actually supposed to be a symbolic representation of Kamata-Kun’s emotional response. The city nearby also seems to be celebrating the match with fireworks. Actually, Nagaragawa in Gifu (the place of origin of Coms) is the site of a huge famous fireworks festival each year in August with hundreds of thousands of attendees each year. In the background we can see the Gifu Castle, and in the foreground an overturned boat and several birds. A burning torch can also be seen in the water near the boat. I am pretty sure these must be cormorants from the cormorant fishing festival, which also takes place throughout summer in the same area, and which features fireworks and fire lanterns. There is some text in Japanese in the corner that states, “With a bite from the Mothra Larva, the curtain is opened on a decisive battle!” And, just like with the War of Takoyaki packaging, we also see in very small text that this battle is just fiction. Which again begs the question… would anyone think this was a true story?!
How about the snacks? Well, Kamata-Kun gets a water manjuu with anko paste inside (the cute packaging showing his grinning maw), and Mothra gets a steamed chestnut shoukan. Now a manjuu, according to my dictionary, is a “steamed yeast bun with filling,” and a youkan is a “jellied dessert made from red bean paste, agar, and sugar.” The packaging says that the manjuu and the youkan taste better chilled in the refrigerator, so I dutifully did so before consuming. These Japanese snacks are a little trickier to consume than some of the previous snacks I ate. The manjuu is sticky and slimy and the youkan is also a bit squishy and gross-looking. However, neither tastes bad. The manjuu slides down the throat easily (sorry, gross imagery) and is mildly sweet with a little punch of red bean, and the youkan of course has a stronger red bean taste with a steamed chestnut inside which makes it quite pleasant. I like red beans, and I like chestnuts, so for me, the youkan (and thus Mothra) wins the fight.
This monster snack doesn’t feature any extras in the box unfortunately, but at least in this case it doesn’t feel like there is an obnoxious ploy to get fans to buy multiple boxes. There is also just something nice here in that Coms is celebrating their home city, with art that references popular places and events that take place there. And, as I said before, it is just appropriate to see Japanese snacks this time, since many of the Kaiju Kuisine I have Konsumed tend to be Western snacks. Recommended for the adventurous kaiju gourmet.
Love that box art!
Cute, individually-wrapped goodness
Kamata-Kun’s slimy water manjuu
Mothra’s tasty youkanKaiju Kuisine // December 14, 2019
Have you ever wanted to experience firsthand what it would be like to try to escape from Godzilla? As fans, I think there are a lot of folks who would love to experience (safely!) an encounter with Godzilla beyond just another video game or even yet another VR experience. People wish they could feel the experience, not just get dizzy with a heavy electronic headset blocking your vision. And that experience was sort of what was promised by Tokyo Mystery Circus in 2018 in their Godzilla-themed escape room.
Tokyo Mystery Circus is a sort of escape-room indoor theme park in Shinjuku, and opened just in 2017 by escape room pioneers SCRAP. They feature both English-language and Japanese-language escape rooms, as well as “stealth games” and projection map games. As of this writing, some of the escape rooms that are currently running include a Yu-Gi-Oh themed room, a Lupin the 3rd themed game, a Hunter X Hunter themed game, and many more… including an attraction with an English-language option called “Escape from the Toilet of Despair” (I think I have to sign up for that one… it just sounds too wonderfully stupid).
The Tokyo Mystery Circus building
Now I don’t have much experience with escape rooms, but I was always curious about them because growing up I loved solving what my family called “note trails” wherein first my mother would create elaborate puzzles that I had to solve, following a series of clues until I found a gift somewhere around the house or the nearby area. These puzzles were often ciphers or word puzzles and etc, and eventually I started making my own, trying to get more and more creative each time. The fact that folks are now creating their own puzzles on a grander scale within “escape room” puzzles makes me kind of excited. I love it when people use their creativity in such interesting ways to bring regular folks a new and exciting experience, and the fact that here in Japan we got an escape room experience about Godzilla was even better!
The escape room, called “Shin Godzilla kara no Dashutsu” (Escape from Shin Godzilla), was available for anyone to experience from April of 2018 and continued for a just a few months unfortunately. It was also only available in Japanese, so most kaiju-loving tourists were kind of outta luck.
The poster of the Godzilla escape room
I have some Japanese ability, though, and I wanted to give the experience a shot. So I wrangled a friend into going with me, and one weekend we wandered on over to Shinjuku to have the experience. I went with an American friend who, though his Japanese is far better than mine, still does not really possess native-level Japanese, and thus we were in for a pretty big challenge. We arrived and were ushered into a basement area with a series of tables and a décor predominated by red. We then were given booklets similar in shape and size to restaurant menus. These booklets sort of gave background details about the story—Godzilla appears and we have to stop him, basically. The staff were friendly, and they even said they would try to keep things simple so we could understand.
They also paired us up with a Japanese player. I felt sorry for him immediately.
Along with our “menu,” we received documents we weren’t allowed to open yet, as well as a big booklet of laminated cheat-sheets if we needed hints to overcome the puzzles, and a box attached to the table had some props inside. We dumb foreigners were not the only ones who got those cheatbooks—every table got them. I guess the idea is that they don’t want you to feel cheated in your experience. They don’t want you to just get stymied and miss out on the experience of half the game or something.
The packets given to participants of the Godzilla escape room
And it’s quite an experience. The staff running the game basically double (or triple) as actors playing various parts in the drama to fight against Godzilla. One lady, for example, seemed to be the daughter of Dr. Serizawa and she was also the commander that we would later report to as we solved puzzles and learned things about Godzilla and his approach.
That experience started with a narrative/lecture delivered by some of the actors, as well as footage of Godzilla approaching Tokyo. The Godzilla footage featured the Godzilla design from Godzilla Resurgence (2016), albeit I think some of the shots were original—I didn’t recognize some water shots of the fully-formed Godzilla wading towards the shore.
And then we had to open our envelopes and start doing the puzzles. There were often multiple puzzles to complete at any one time, and so I can’t comment on all of them—I didn’t do all of them. I can’t even clearly remember all of the ones that I did—the process was chaotic as we struggled to blaze through each puzzle as fast as possible (our Japanese partner immediately referred to the cheat sheets over and over again). So I will just give a few highlights to the madness.
One of the screens showing information about Godzilla’s approach
One of the early memorable puzzles was about tracking where Godzilla would be moving across the landscape—his predicted path. We had a big color map, and on separate paper we had images from the map minus key details (such as landmarks and building names) that we had to match to the actual map and then, after finding the matching images, paste transparent stickers with lines embedded in them to indicate the monster’s path, matching the lines together across the map. My explanation kind of sucks, but it was memorable, and after completing the puzzle and getting a check from the staff to make sure we didn’t bungle it, we went into another room to announce to the press (a bunch of staff with cameras and flashing lights) where Godzilla would be attacking.
And there were a lot of great moments like that. Breaking a code about some part of the nature of Godzilla and reporting it to the female Serizawa (who graciously acted impressed every time), or delivering a bottle of water to a thirsty staff member (who graciously pretended to drink the water every time), or just receiving updates about the monster from the staff and from videos—it was a totally unique experience. The game included some fan-service such as a clue featuring the number “1954.” As I recall, at one point the lights flickered as Godzilla came close to the building. The realization of the situation was excellent and really, really fun… even though I was often really lost as to what was happening.
But frankly I was pretty dang lost, and there is little chance I could have finished the puzzles without the hapless Japanese guy. The puzzles were sometimes just nigh impossible for my friend and I with our inferior Japanese. If we had been given ample time (that is to say, all day) to complete the puzzles, maybe we would have been fine… but with the tight time frame, it was really freaking hard. Some of the puzzles were language based, such as a kana chart with missing bits you had to put together to find some specific words, or a couple dozen copies of a report and we had to find the mistakes in each copy to spell out a clue (which sounds much harder than it was). There were a few times when, even with the help of our Japanese partner, we just took too long and the staff of Tokyo Mystery Circus dropped by to help us out. This particular game must be completed all the way through, and you don’t know if you lost until the very end.
The conclusion of the game dealt with placing a bomb and chemicals to take out Godzilla around Shinjuku as a trap. We had to consider the best places to position the equipment to get the electricity where it needed and the bomb where it could do the most damage to Godzilla by placing overlays on a map of Shinjuku—kind of similar to the previous map activity. It was really tricky, though, working through all the vague hints and placing the equipment for the final trap. Only ONE of the tables actually guessed everything right, and I am not sure how they did. To actually win, not only did you have to put the overlays on the right places for the trap to go off, but the bomb had to be placed in an area not clearly marked on the map—as I recall it had to be placed in an elevator in the very room where we were playing the game.
I would be lying if I said I knew why.
I don’t know why.
Neither do I know how the one team knew the answer. I wondered if they had played the game several times previously.
Anyway, our team utterly failed. Personally, though I was really confused, I had a good time. And after the event was over, there was yet more to experience in the café and goods area. The café had several Godzilla-themed foods. I was tempted to try all of them, though it would be too much on my poor stomach probably and my friend wasn’t interested so I didn’t want to force him to stick around all afternoon. So I picked the most ridiculous Godzilla treat I could find at the café—a big flavored ice treat (chocolate) with big googly eyes that was apparently supposed to look kind of Godzilla-ish. It tasted pretty good, but I felt pressure to eat it quickly.
My friend and I posing after we failed. The sign says “Escape Failed” in Japanese.
Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to avoid one of the most embarrassing incidents that has happened to me in Japan. To give context, you have to picture this café with lots of small tables and chairs jam-packed together. It was difficult to find a place to sit or stand because there were too many chairs and such, and they were too close together. Also, you have to understand in Japan very frequently Japanese people will reserve a chair or a table by putting something on those tables and chairs—even sometimes very valuable things, such as their bags. Then they go and purchase something and have a seat to return to.
Some lady had reserved a seat at one of the tables with her purse. I was awkwardly standing nearby, trying to eat the Godzilla ice and feeling crammed in. Suddenly the ice of the Godzilla treat collapsed a bit and parts of the flavored ice splattered across the woman’s purse and on the table.
And I just stood there mortified.
I didn’t know what to do. Run? Clean up the table and purse? Just wait and apologize? I couldn’t just leave—my conscience wouldn’t allow it. And I didn’t want to clean up her purse for fear she might thing I was trying to steal from her. So I waited for her to return so I could apologize to her.
Those few minutes were truly agonizing. I felt so bad. The woman was gracious, but my friend was convinced she was really ticked off. She didn’t stay at her table that she had reserved, if that is any evidence!
Also while I was at Tokyo Mystery Circus, I also bought three sets of Godzilla puzzles which, together, apparently complete something, like maybe a secret message. I am not sure, I haven’t done the puzzles yet, but I am curious to play with them in the near future.
The Godzilla escape room experience was very memorable and fun. I love the space was developed by people passionate about Godzilla and about customer service, and the puzzles were top notch and fun. The main downside was the cramped and uncomfortable café. And I wish the escape room was open year round! Definitely one of the more unique experiences I have had in Japan!General // December 7, 2019
Earlier this year I happened to go to the Shinjuku Godzilla Store near the time in which Godzilla King of the Monsters was in theaters, and I was thrilled to find—in addition to the Godzilla Store itself—a limited time special store had been put up specifically for the release of the aforementioned MonsterVerse film. While I was not wild about KOTM (much the opposite), it was still really fun to see the wide variety of goods that were for sale at the time—and I was able to pick up a wide variety of Godzilla-themed snacks. Oddly, at that time, the only snacks I found that were themed around the Godzilla King of the Monsters film at the store were these—the Godzilla King of the Monsters Choco in Sables, from Coms (again). Let’s take a look.
The packaging this time I think is a bit less interesting than in the past—though maybe I am just a sucker for the cuter art on Coms other recent Godzilla goodies. Here we have cartoonish, but much more serious renditions of Godzilla (compared to the illustrations on the Coms snacks), King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan from the film. And while the art generally stays faithful to the film versions of those monsters, KG looks a bit different, being more obviously gold instead of the sort of boring brown from the movie. Rodan also looks a bit different, with more prominent claws and smaller wings. With each box, you also get one bromide of four randomly included in the box (of course). The one I got was of King Ghidorah. I actually like how he looks on the card more than how he turned out in the movie!
What about the sables? And what is a sable, anyway? I had to look it up. Apparently it’s a kind of buttery shortbread cookie/biscuit from France. The Godzilla choco in sables reminded me of Nilla wafers with a bit of chocolate cream in them. I tried one, and it was alright—definitely buttery and sweet, but not too sweet. The chocolate didn’t add much, and the overall affair was a bit overly dry, though that may be because I munched mine after the best-if-eaten-by date had passed.
And that’s about it. Only one kind of cookie inside, and you only get eight of them and a big picture of a random monster. A little underwhelming if you ask me, at least in comparison to some of the other recent Godzilla yummies I have tried. I’d give this one a pass.
The front of the box!
The back of the box! Or did I get it backwards?
Snack packaging–hungry yet?
Mmm… dry and with cheap chocolate in the middle. Delish.
KG looks much better when he is all gold.Kaiju Kuisine // December 1, 2019
Shin Godzilla Crunch: Black Crunch vs. White Crunch Snack Review
Along with the amazingly named Shin Godzilla: War of the Takoyaki crackers, snack company Coms also released the Shin Godzilla Crunch: Black Crunch vs. White Crunch. With incredibly cute art of Kamata-Kun appearing in Osaka, and a snack not dissimilar to the excellent Godzilla Ole Crunch Collection, we have another winner on our hands here—plus, another cute Godzilla diorama is included with the box!
Wait. Did I say a diorama was included WITH the box? I meant to say the diorama IS the box!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As usual, let’s start with a brief description of the packaging. Kamata-Kun (or Godzilla Second Form if you must), the startling ugh-dorable proto-Godzilla that appears in Godzilla Resurgence (2016), here appears in Osaka, splashing and having a great time, as we can see from his huge happy face! In the background, replacing the famous Glico running man, we see Jet Jaguar standing tall (a clever visual that was also featured in the recent Godzilla vs. Evangelion movie over at Universal Studios Japan), as well as a huge picture showing Godzilla Fourth Form shooting a purple ray. Now I am not really sure where the white vs. black comes in on the cover image, or why the events are taking place in Osaka (the image on the War of the Takoyaki box also takes place in Osaka, right in front of the Osaka Castle). The Coms company is stationed in Gifu, so no connection there. These snacks were not Universal Studios Japan exclusives either, so I don’t know what the deal is.
Anyway, if you open the box, you will find eight of the titular crunches inside—four whites, four blacks. Pretty stingy if you ask me. Still, the crunches themselves are quite delicious. They are basically the same sort of thing as the Godzilla Ole Collection, though perhaps a little bit larger, and without the connection to Mt. Mihara. They are very crunchy, with the chocolate tasting a bit like dark chocolate, and the white one tasting sweeter. They are both really good.
As mentioned earlier, the box doubles as a diorama. The black box has the background of the image on the cover (of Kamata-Kun playing in the famous Osaka river) emblazoned inside. You can use the box as a diorama with plastic Kamata-Kun cut-out included with the box—again, much like with the War of the Takoyaki crackers set, which featured Godzilla Fourth Form instead (although with that diorama, the background was separate from the box and came with a stand). Since the box doubles as a stand, it’s much sturdier than the War of the Takoyaki one (which tends to fold over with the force of gravity over time if you display it, as I have, on my DVD shelf). One added bonus is that if you have both, you can switch the plastic monsters and their backgrounds… though since Kamata-Kun is splashing, it looks a little weird to have him in front of Osaka Castle like that. I guess you could say he is in the moat.
At any rate, we have a first-rate Godzilla snack and a frivolous but fun diorama that comes with. Just eight pieces of candy seems like a paltry amount, but still, for Godzilla fans, this is a nice munch!Kaiju Kuisine // November 29, 2019
Apparently there was an entire line-up of Mt. Mihara sweets made this year. In addition to the Godzilla Honey Pie, the Godzilla Crunch Ole Collection, and the Izu Oshima Godzilla Curry, we also have the Godzilla Bar Cheese Cookie from the same company, which takes some of the same design aspects of the previous two snacks and creates something new and frankly delicious.
As always, let’s start with the packaging. The box is fairly unique, with a solid base which is actually basically a lid, and an upper section folded together that tapers a little towards the top. The entire shape is supposed to mimic the shape of a volcano (presumably Mt. Mihara), and illustrated red lava flows down across the box lid, matching up with an illustration of an erupting volcano on the side and top. In addition, we get two images of Godzilla—one of Godzilla emerging from Mt. Mihara (which was also featured on the Crunch Collection and curry boxes), and one close-up of his leering visage. Another side to the box feels like a tourism advertisement, featuring a beautiful shot of Mt. Mihara, a close-up of a camellia blossom common to the area, and a shot of hardened lava. One side also lays out the history of Godzilla films (praising the original film to high heaven) and recounting Godzilla’s fraught relationship with Mt. Mihara, before declaring that the cheese cookie was made to create an image of the scene of Godzilla’s resurrection from the mountain. Presumably what recreates the scene is the box, and since each of the cheese cookies bears Godzilla’s image, maybe they symbolize the Big G coming out of the mountain… before getting eaten by you.
I love how the package also unfolds once you open it, spreading out neatly into a serving plate (and perhaps mimicking a really intense volcanic explosion).
That face doesn’t enhance my appetite.
The treats (ten in each box) are individually wrapped, and the wrappers each feature the freaky face from the side of the box. This frankly rather creepy shot of Godzilla’s evil smile is honestly off-putting, but don’t let it dissuade you from opening the snack. The cheese cookies are quite delicious, with a wonderful sweet cheese flavor akin to cheesecake. Though I will say, they are a little bit dry, so a nice tall glass of water or milk is recommended to go with them.
Honestly, I have been a fan of all the Izu Oshima Godzilla snacks so far. The Honey Pie was quite tasty, the Crunch Collection is among my favorite Godzilla sweets of all time, the curry was actually quite good, and I quite enjoyed the cheese cookies, too. As far as I am concerned, the Mt. Mihara series of Godzilla yummies is a real winner as far as licensed monster snacks go. A small hurdle to be sure, but the Mihara series clears it with aplomb.
Box art, Godzilla sides. The kaiju King is pleased you bought his product.
Box art, volcano side. Come visit a volcano!
A cheese cookie, awaiting its doom in my stomach.Kaiju Kuisine // November 24, 2019
It’s been a long time since I wrote a review for a Godzilla curry—the last one was way back in 2016 with my review of the Yokosuka Godzilla Curry. Well, time keeps right on marching along, and along with the Godzilla Crunch Ole Collection, we now have a new curry from Izu Oshima—the Izu Oshima Godzilla Curry! And I have to say, as far as it goes, this one is much better than the Yokosuka Godzilla Curry. I would totally eat this one again.
Starting with the box art, we have what appears to be the same image used in the Godzilla Crunch Ole Collection of Godzilla rising from Mt. Mihara, smoke belching out behind him, fire punching out of his mouth (this time to cook the curry). Text on the side in yellow declares “Godzilla has resurrected from Izu’s Mt. Mihara in Tokyo!” And in red on the left side in a fireball we have “Limited Time Only!” and “Sweetness and spiciness punches you in the chest!” (I hope that doesn’t mean I am going to get heartburn…) The back also has some text boasting that their curry doesn’t use normal togarashi spice, but rather extra spicy island togarashi spice, and that the recipe also includes salt birthed from the seawater off the coast of the islands in the Oshima area (I think).
And, I mean, it does taste good! I had my curry with some peanuts, but even alone the spiciness and flavor is pretty great. This is a delicious Godzilla curry with a really good balance of punchy spice and a touch of mild sweetness that had my tastebuds a-singing. On the other hand, the meat included in the pouch was of low quality (of course) and was a bit too fatty for my tastes, but I would still happily eat another batch of Izu Oshima Godzilla Curry… which is more than I can say for the Yokosuka one.
If you like somewhat spicy curries with decent flavor, and you like Godzilla, this seems like an easy choice for fans. Of course most fans in the west are probably going to have a tough time finding curry packs like this, but if you do, I can recommend trying out this one. It won’t have you spitting fire, but for me that’s a good thing!
The box art, featuring an angry Godzilla cooking up fresh curry goodness just for you!Kaiju Kuisine // November 22, 2019
This… might be the best named Godzilla snack of all time.
The Shin Godzilla: War of the Takoyaki senbei cracker snack from Coms is one of the most hilariously packaged Godzilla snacks I have encountered yet. The image on the package is yet another shot of the now-classic Godzilla 2016 posing with claws outstretched and curving upwards… but this time rendered in an adorable shiny chibi style. This Godzilla is standing in front Osaka Castle (perhaps on one of his trips to Universal Studios Japan?) and is assaulting a bowl of Takoyaki with purple mouth lightning, and zapping eight more airborne Takoyaki treats with his back-blasts. It seems the people of Osaka are bombing the Big G with treats! In the corner reads the text: Takoyaki vs. Godzilla. At the bottom, perhaps most delightfully of all, is the following: “Can the Takoyaki which has been smashed flat into senbei crackers triumph over Godzilla?”
Then next to that imaginative sentence we have “This story is fiction.” I am not sure if that disclaimer is a means to declare this epic duel to be a non-canonical Godzilla story, or just a way to assure customers that the crackers do not actually include real Godzilla toe-jam as an ingredient.
As for the crackers themselves, for senbei crackers, they are pretty small, but reasonably tasty, and they definitely have the Takoyaki flavor, with a strong ginger tang. Normal senbei crackers are often much bigger, sometimes round, sometimes rectangular, but these ones are smaller… probably to mimic the size of real Takoyaki, and create the illusion that Godzilla really did smash them flat. And as I said, they are good if you like Takoyaki and crackers, but they aren’t good enough to go wild over. I basically ate a couple then put them aside and they went bad really fast.
As an added bonus, the box also comes with a little diorama of the image on the box that features Godzilla attacking the Takoyaki. The diorama is composed of a little stand, a plastic PET Godzilla, and a background card of Osaka Castle. It’s small, but terribly fun, and a great way to get extra value out of your treats after the food is gone. Folding the stand for the background card and getting it just right so that it will stand is a bit tricky, and even after you get the castle an Godzilla posed, they basically are barely balanced and can fall any moment. Still, the resulting diorama looks cool (to my eyes), and I hope to find a place for it on my work desk.
While the snack itself is not the most mouth-watering I have tried (I prefer the Godzilla Arare Crackers for sheer flavor), this is by no means an inferior G-snack, and the wonderfully quirky box art and included diorama really put this one over the top for me. If you love the silly side of Godzilla products (like I do), the Shin Godzilla: War of the Takoyaki senbei crackers is a no-brainer.
Shin Godzilla has never looked cuter than when he attacks takoyaki
Pollyzilla wanna cracker?
Diorama perilously balanced, but looking coolKaiju Kuisine // November 10, 2019
Here is one of my favorite Godzilla sweets so far. The Godzilla Crunch Ole Collection is really delicious. I love the crunch flavor, and the design is also on the fun referential side as well, with packaging that isn’t just your usual Shin Godzilla-holding-food design. Let’s jump right in (to the volcano, so to speak).
The gimmick of this product is in reference to Izu Oshima island and Mt. Mihara—the volcano into which Godzilla plummeted in The Return of Godzilla (1984) and from whence he then emerged in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). The image on the cover references Godzilla’s dramatic rebirth from Mt. Mihara with smoke and fire billowing up all around him, and cartoon renditions of the enclosed snack flying up through the air. Text on the box states “Tokyo Island Izu Oshima. From Mt. Mihara’s erupting volcanic maw appears Godzilla!” I love the giant gout of flame bursting from Godzilla’s mouth as well.
Inside each box are twelve snacks, and each snack is made to look like Mt. Mihara, with frosting for snow on top, and the rocky mountainside recreated with a crunchy rice dipped and shaped in a chocolate mixture ala a Nestle Crunch bar. There are three flavors—white chocolate, strawberry, and milk (which is basically just milk chocolate with frosting). They are the perfect size for a satisfying crunch, and all three are delicious—though I am particularly fond of the milk chocolate one. I shared a couple boxes of this treat with one of the classes I teach here in Japan, and my students enthusiastically ate them up—favoring the strawberry and milk flavors. I had a bunch of whites left over, but I actually liked the white choco more than the strawberry.
Really, if you are a fan of crunchy sweet treats, the Godzilla Crunch Ole Collection is a great choice. Unlike some of the Godzilla snacks I’ve purchased, I didn’t have to choke this one down, and it’s also a great snack to share with others. It’s big enough to satisfy, and the Mt. Mihara theme is well-done and nerdy enough for the fans to eat up (in fact, apparently the makers of this sweet are from Oshima, which is even better). Highly recommended.
We three volcanoes—maybe strawberry is about to erupt?
My favorite, milk chocolate
The bombastic box artKaiju Kuisine // November 2, 2019
Weathering with You (2019)
Superstar director Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to the enormously popular Your Name from 2016 (which beat out Godzilla Resurgence as the highest-grossing film in Japan that year), Weathering With You has been finally released three years later to much hype and considerable financial success. Much like Your Name, Weathering With You also has music by RADWIMPS, a band I have enjoyed for years—though they have far fewer singing tracks this time. The movie itself follows the story of a young man who has recently moved to the big city and is trying to figure out his life, working various jobs and ending up at a sort of tabloid magazine, reporting on weird phenomenon. He meets a mysterious young woman who turns out to be a “sunny girl”—a girl that can change the weather and make it sunny. This is really important since, in the world of the story, for some reason it is raining almost constantly. Various dramas unfold as our protagonists fall in love, a gun is involved, and other shenanigans. As with any Shinkai film, the movie is absolutely gorgeous. Except for a few scenes (a helicopter flying over the city looked cheesy to me), the movie is almost breathtakingly beautiful, with incredible use of color and composition. The story, though, I felt was far less engaging than the one in Your Name; so much is driven by sheer coincidence and “movie logic,” and I just didn’t care about the characters very much.
Kaguya-Sama: Love is War (2019)
Directed by Hayato Kawai (director of a number of live-action manga adaptations, including Nisekoi and Ore Monogatari) comes… another live-action manga adaptation, this time of the hilarious Kaguya-Sama: Love is War anime and manga franchise. My little brother introduced me to the anime some time ago, and I found it a real knee-slapper. Thus I was excited to see this live-action adaptation. The basic premise follows Miyuki and Kaguya, two elite and seemingly perfect students who are in a condition of mutual romantic affection, but both are too proud to actually express their feelings. The story follows their increasingly elaborate ploys to force the other to confess. And the story starts out strong with a really funny sequence in the beginning, with each student’s internal monologue being portrayed during their ludicrous love stand-off. However, for me at least, the joke works better in short-form and it’s hard to sustain over the course of an entire movie. Soon I just got tired of watching, and there is only so much I can watch the two young leads smirk and sneer on the big screen.
Hit Me Anyone One More Time (2019)
The newest comedy movie from acclaimed director Koki Mitani (who also did Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (1997), All About Our House (2001), Suite Dreams (2006), and Galaxy Turnpike (2015), all of which I have reviewed—though he has made many other films besides), Hit Me Anyone One More Time might just be the worst English title for a movie I have ever seen. The original Japanese title, Kioku ni Gozaimasen!, is much better, meaning “I don’t remember,” which is a reference to a common excuse politicians in Japan give when confronted with their corruption. The story follows a much-hated prime minister in Japan who, when giving a speech, is hit by a rock and loses his memories of his adult life, returning him to a more idealized, child-like state. This state of affairs leads to a huge change. He works with several close members of his staff to hide the fact that he has lost his memory, which leads to great hijinks (especially as he must host politicians from abroad, including a female President of the USA seemingly modeled after Hilary Clinton). But things turn ugly when his wife’s adulterous relations with his adviser are revealed, and his rivals are closing in. Hit Me Anyone One More Time was actually a relief to me. I am not the biggest fan of Mitani, but I enjoyed some of his older films, so when I suffered through the abysmal Galaxy Turnpike, I was gravely disappointed. While certainly not a perfect comedy, and many jokes still don’t quite land, Hit Me Anyone One More Time is so much better, and I hope for more quality comedies in the near future from this comedy powerhouse director.General // October 19, 2019
Since I started reviewing Kaiju Kuisine, I have consumed a wide variety of ramen-themed monster-snacks and reviewed them here—from Baby Star Dodekai Ramen snacks, to the Godzilla Butamen cup (probably my favorite of all), to the Godzilla vs. Evangelion Box: Garlic Ramen and Spicy Chicken Flavor (second favorite, and most fun due to the play factor). Today I want to review a new release, simply called Godzilla Ramen, created by Hachiroumen and sold Surou Kaabu, with assistance from a company called… river pond (no capitals). Flavor-wise it’s probably the worst, but the gimmick is still clever.
As usual, let’s start with the packaging. We see the now very familiar image of Godzilla from Godzilla Resurgence (2016) looking scary and depicted in all black and red, with the name of the product and a bowl of ramen floating above his claw. The back includes instructions for how to cook the ramen, and the side announces that the box contains one of three rubber Godzilla foot chopstick rests (randomly inserted to prompt collectors to buy more I am sure). The feet styles they chose seem to be the 2016 Godzilla, the 1954 Godzilla, and the ever-popular Heisei/VS. series Godzilla. I got the 2016 one.
Inside we have two packages of pink noodles, and two packages of soy sauce-flavored soup. This is the really clever part. When you cook up the noodles and douse them in the black soup, the resulting ramen concoction looks like creepy pink flesh/veins immersed in a jet-black background that fits the raw, fleshy, charcoal-scorched 2016 design really well. I love the effect.
I didn’t love the taste, though. Granted I didn’t get around to eating my first batch of Godzilla Ramen until after the “best eaten-by” date had expired, and I probably should have cooked them a tad longer for maximum yum, but still the noodles had a nasty tang that lingers in the mouth. I just kind of had an unpleasant experience with the stuff to be honest.
Still, the novelty of eating a soup designed to mimic the flesh-tones of a horrific monster should be enough to get some fans excited, and instant ramen is not really known for its excellence in the taste department (or maybe I am just spoiled by real ramen restaurants in Japan). Nevertheless, unless you’re desperate for some monster noodles, I would pass on this one.
Scary red generic box art.
Box contents with the rubber chopstick holder
The noodles look like ground pork.
The three foot designsKaiju Kuisine // October 12, 2019
The Godzilla Certification Exam—Beginner AND Intermediate
I have done a lot of really nerdy stuff for Toho Kingdom, and it’s kind of difficult to categorize what the “nerdiest” articles or projects might have been. Writing lots of book reviews is arguably really nerdy; writing about Godzilla’s love life is nerdy AND embarrassing; spending over a hundred bucks on Godzilla Valentine’s Day candy just to review them for the site is nerdy, embarrassing, and almost seems emblematic of the stereotype of an obsessed otaku who can’t get a date. I don’t just do embarrassing stuff for my fandom—I spend lots of money, then spend lots of time writing about it, and then post about it WITH MY REAL NAME on the Internet.
But even I kept asking myself why I had spent 9500 yen to take a test on Godzilla knowledge. No, scratch that—two tests. Each an hour long, both on the same day. In Japanese, yet. I mean, who DOES this stuff?
Actually, quite a few people, as I found out.
So I took the first-ever Godzilla Kentei—the Godzilla Certification Exam. I spent the cash, got the papers, got the study book (and even studied it for about a half an hour or so), and went to the Tokyo site (fans in Osaka could go there instead) to see how much Godzilla knowledge I had up in my head. The Tokyo site was at the Takanawa campus of Tokai University. Having experience with the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect… The assigned seat, the assigned number, the rule that we have to put away our stuff during the test, the long explanations, etc. As anticipated, I was the only white guy there, at least that I saw. But there were a lot of things I didn’t really expect.
For one thing… well, lots of people were there. Mostly men, but I saw a few women taking the test. (For once, during the break, the men’s rooms each had a long line, and the women had no wait at all.) I didn’t really think very many people would take the test, since the certification doesn’t really mean much, and people can take Godzilla quizzes online for free. I also expected more kids, but I saw fewer children than I saw women. For many test-takers, maybe it was the merch that lured them—the lines for merch were intense, but I just didn’t really care to buy another T-shirt and “clear file” and pin.
I took both tests, but I thought there would be different crowds taking the beginner’s and the intermediate tests. However, in my room, the test-takers were virtually the same for both tests. I guess everybody else had the same idea as me—they figured this was their one big chance and they wanted to show how much they know. And it’s kind of fun, too.
So how hard were the tests? Well, first of all, they were both in Japanese, obviously. Some questions had a little English (one question was about the acronym for MOGERA used in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla), but the test was designed for native Japanese speakers. I had to fully rely on my Japanese, and usually I could figure out the questions. Even with my somewhat poor Japanese, I had little problem finishing the first test within the time limit, though I had just a few minutes to spare on the intermediate test.
The test questions were all multiple choice—just fill in the correct oval. The questions were not broken up into different question types really—it’s not like the JLPT with its grammar section, listening section, reading section, and so on. The questions of the Godzilla Kentei are sort of mixed together. Some of the questions had pictures in the test booklet, and these questions were usually about putting particular monsters in the order in which they grew or evolved—like the Mothra caterpillar, cocoon, and imago (I know, that one is super easy). However, the exam items with pictures were just mixed at random with the other question types. There didn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to the exam format.
Many, many of the questions (with their exact wordings) were included in the study book, which I bought and studied briefly. I sort of wanted to see how far I could get with my own Godzilla knowledge, though, and was too lazy to study much. That choice would come back to bite me later.
The questions pretty much exclusively focused on the movies—not the comics or shows. In both tests there was a heavy focus on Godzilla Resurgence and the original 1954 film, with Resurgence getting a lot of obnoxious (for me) questions such as where in Tokyo certain events took place (I just couldn’t remember). Nevertheless, both tests included questions about virtually all of the Japan-made Godzilla films… except for the recent anime trilogy. Not one question (out of two hundred) was about the anime films, nor the American films. Some questions in the study book were about the anime and American films, but the actual test did not feature them—the closest the test got to featuring a question about an American film was an image of Zilla from Final Wars in one of the picture items.
A LOT of the questions were quite easy for me. Stuff like which specific monsters appeared in which movies, or the name of the evil organization in Ebirah, or how many films had Mechagodzilla in them, or even how many necks King Ghidorah has. Much more difficult for me were some of the questions about particular actors, many of which were from Resurgence again—and I just don’t know the names of most of the actors in that film. Some questions featured a lot of kanji, too, though usually the test included furigana above any kanji used.
I liked the questions that tended to go a little more obscure, and was really pleased to see a question about Shukra and Mamagon from Godzilla vs. Gigan. The second test had a lot more of the somewhat obscure questions, or questions that just took longer to answer as I was trying to count movies (such as “what was the twentieth movie in the Japanese Godzilla films?”). One question that caught me off guard in the beginner’s test was about the year the original Godzilla was released in Japan—but calculated according to the Japanese calendar. I think I got it by calculating from my birth year (the Showa year for which I have memorized), but at first I was afraid I was a goner on that one. One strategy I used that proved especially helpful was to glance through my booklet at the intermediate level questions before starting the second test and quickly memorizing the right answer. Many of those questions I had quickly memorized were on the test, and so it helped me a lot… That decision probably actually enabled me to pass the test!
And as much as I had second thoughts about paying for and taking the exams, it was kind of exciting to be able to sit down and take a test in Godzilla of all things. So often in school we have to take tests on subjects we aren’t especially excited about, and so it was quite a bit more fun to tackle something that I love—and doing it in Japanese, with a lot of real Japanese fans, and to STILL finish both exams with time to spare without much study prep was pretty satisfying. Hearing the fans chat with each other about questions they thought they got wrong, or lamenting that they just couldn’t remember during the test, was a lot of fun.
I also met a guy at the test spot who was wearing a Godzilla hat made from balloons. He claimed he had made the balloon hat himself. I took a picture of him, and then he offered to let me wear the hat, and he took pictures of me. He was super nice!
Some time later, I received the results. I passed the beginner test with an 87, and the intermediate (the certificate says “advance”) with just a 71. In other words, I almost failed the intermediate one, because the cut-off was at 70 points!
So yes, the Godzilla Certification Exam was arguably a big waste of money really, and was… kind of pointless. The exam doesn’t really test Godzilla knowledge well, since it is so focused on the 2016 film and the test can be aced by just trying to remember the questions in the test prep book. But honestly I had fun, and the experience was quite unique. This year they had a beginner and intermediate test, but the book also had questions for an advanced test, though with the caveat that there may never be one. I kind of hope that there will be one—and that they will give some kind of a prize to those who get a perfect score!General // September 2, 2019
Back in 2017, I was excited for the Godzilla the Real 4-D ride featured in Universal Studios Japan that was being put together as part of their Cool Japan campaign. I really wanted to go and experience the ride myself, in addition to simply enjoying USJ for the first time as well. As is often the case with me, I hesitated and procrastinated and worried about the cost or just couldn’t muster up the gumption to buy my tickets for months. The ride was scheduled to end in June, close to my birthday, and so I decided finally to just get a hotel room and go at the last minute.
I ended up going by myself to USJ, and at first I was worried that I might be bored. However, it was actually incredibly fun to just wander about, doing anything I wanted to do at my own pace, without worrying about what a friend or lover might prefer. I tried to go to Godzilla the Real right away, but found out that there was a schedule for the special theater in which the ride (really a film with fancy seats and added effects) took place. The first showing was an Attack on Titan show, which I tried out first to get a taste of what was to come.
The idea of these shows is really similar to movie theaters that are enhanced with DBOX, 4D, or (I believe) MXD technology. DBOX theaters add lots of movement to the action on the screen, while 4D showings include the moving chairs as well as mists of water, puffs of air, flashing lights, and scents (at least the scent of dust/sand/dirt). The Cool Japan theater experiences also had the mobile seating, puffs of air, mist sprays, and so on. In the Attack on Titan show, the gushes of mist corresponded to arterial spray from the monsters or human characters—pretty gross! Still, it gave me a sense of what to expect from the upcoming Godzilla event. Another fun touch of the Attack on Titan ride was that they had the staff decked out in uniforms from the manga and anime.
After wandering about and trying out some of USJ’s other attractions (which I found honestly really enjoyable—with the exception of the Flying Dinosaur, which gave me a crick in my neck), I came back to Godzilla the Real.
Before going in, I went over to a Godzilla Snack food stand, which apparently at some point offered Godzilla Footprint Buns for 550 yen. These buns, judging from the pic, apparently were filled with sweet beans. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, the Godzilla Snack stand was sold out of buns. I just bought a Coca-Cola from them instead because I felt some compunction to purchase SOMETHING from the friendly purveyors of Godzilla foodstuffs.
I then got in line for the Godzilla the Real 4-D ride. Given that the Attack on Titan ride came with staff in awesome cosplay, I was hoping for something similar when the Godzilla attraction was live. If I remember correctly, the staff was wearing faux military gear, but I didn’t take pictures of them so I am not sure. Also with the Godzilla the Real 4-D ride, fake newspapers were handed out that had an article about Godzilla attacking the Osaka area. The line for the ride was pretty long, and so I was thankful for the reading material. Some folks just used the newspapers as something to sit on while they were waiting—Philistines!
Finally my group was ushered into a sort of antechamber area before the show proper commenced, in which we viewed a screen prepping us for the real deal. The Attack on Titan event had the same thing, presumably used to help with the transition from one group to the next. This time we were told that we would be flying a special aircraft to take on Godzilla, since he had just appeared in Osaka Bay. The plane was a pretty awesome VTOL craft, and we were supposed to shoot something into Godzilla’s mouth to stop him (if I recall correctly). Then we were ushered to our seats after the mission briefing, though the changeover was noticeably less smooth than the one for the Attack on Titan showing—maybe the staff were getting tired.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Attack on Titan movie, but the Godzilla the Real 4-D show was much better in most respects. For one thing, while the Attack on Titan was a sort of awkward 3D animated conversion of the anime, the Godzilla movie was rendered realistically. And I thought it looked great!
The movie was shown from a first-person perspective. As the main character, you jump into your VTOL and blast through the streets of Osaka. The sense of speed was incredible in the theater. Godzilla, too, looked really great—basically it appeared that they used the same computer model that was created for Godzilla Resurgence (2016). The encounters with Godzilla were thrilling, and once the glass on the cockpit gets blasted off, you get added gusts of air and, when the jet flew down low near the water, splashes of water. As the story unfolds, your VTOL is damaged irreparably and you have to make a perilous landing before jumping in another VTOL to finish the mission.
At the climax, in what I felt was a pretty silly decision, Godzilla is actually in USJ and interacts with the USJ globe in gratuitous fashion—at one point the globe basically gets thrown towards the camera. However, you manage to complete your mission successfully and fire the goods used to incapacitate Godzilla right into his gaping maw. Unfortunately, your jet doesn’t come out well from the last encounter, and the conclusion is an ambiguous one. (I remember feeling a bit disappointed, but unsurprised.)
Afterwards I went and picked up a few goodies, including a Godzilla the Real 4-D towel which I now make use at my local gym (though you might not know it from looking at my gut). When I purchased them, the fellow behind the register was wearing an Attack on Titan uniform, and I couldn’t help but make the salute and belt out “Shinzo wo sasageyo!” to him. I was hoping he would enthusiastically return my gesture, but he looked a bit weary, or perhaps wary of the weird foreigner.
I always intended to write up my experiences long before now, but to be honest I sometimes just want to enjoy the various attractions and events without worrying about writing up my experiences later. I often feel like I HAVE to write about every little Toho and Godzilla-related event I go to, and it adds a weight of responsibility to the events that can drain some of the fun out of the proceedings. So for this and other Godzilla events I just never wrote about my experiences, even when I really enjoyed them—which was certainly the case with Godzilla the Real 4-D.
However, with Godzilla’s return to USJ (in which everyone’s favorite irradiated beastie takes on Evangelion FOR REAL this time!), I thought the timing isn’t too bad for revisiting the 2017 ride and what the experience was really like! If you have a chance, I hope you can make the 2019 event for yourself! The Godzilla vs. Evangelion theater attraction will be featured at USJ from May 31st to August 25ththis year, along with Sailor Moon and Attack on Titan attractions—and I absolutely hope to make a return trip!General // August 18, 2019
This is another one of those Godzilla-related snacks that I can’t help but kind of puzzle over a little bit. I picked it up at the Tokusatsu no DNA exhibit back in January (along with the Godzilla Honey Pie and a few other things), and I just have to kind of wonder: Why cola? At least with, say, the arare crackers we have a snack that originates from Japan. At least with the Godzilla curries, we have something spicy that sort of goes along well with Godzilla’s nuclear breath (and, as I love to mention over and again, curry was the source of Godzilla’s fiery breath back in the Japanese version of the Godzilla Game Boy game). At least with pies you can say it’s part of the omiyage/souvenir culture. But cola drops, along with fruit-flavored chocolate bars and chocolate wafers, really puzzles me.
Not saying they are bad. Just puzzling. (Turns out the chocolate wafers sold with collectible cards are pretty common.)
As usual, let’s start with the packaging. Here we have a metal rectangular can (the same style as the candy fruit drops can you may recall from Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies), this time with images of Godzilla Resurgence on the outside. On one side we have the much-overused leering Shin Godzilla with his hands curled and his nasty ribcage and so on, while on the other side we get an extreme close-up of Kamata Kun’s face.
Alright, sure, if you think those images are appetizing, I don’t really agree, but sure.
The worst part of the packaging is the circular lid on top which fits into a hole to close the can up. The problem is that it’s hard to open—the sort of lid that is liable to break your fingernails if you aren’t careful. When I was sharing the drops with friends back home, I really struggled with that lid, and even after bringing the blasted thing back to Japan with me, I try to be careful when I replace the lid lest I push too hard and make it into the Excalibur of candy dispenser lids.
But okay, what about the candy? My friends and I agreed: It’s good. I am not much for cola candies (though over the last few years my fondness of Coca-Cola has unfortunately grown), and I rarely eat hard candies of any kind, but these have a solid flavor which makes the entire process of melting the thing down on my tongue a taste-tacular experience. When I pop one into my mouth, it kind of reminds me of pop rocks, except much milder. This may be just my imagination, but the candy, for me, does have a sort of effervescent taste which adds to the experience.
The Godzilla cola drops are a fine diversion for fans of the giant monster, and yet another rather successful confection from Sawarabi STK (which also made things like the Print Cookies and the Godzilla Pie). While I don’t think this one is going to be available all over given that it was an exhibit exclusive, if you can get your mitts on it, it’s genuinely tasty. Good times.Kaiju Kuisine // August 12, 2019
The massive crowd, many carrying massive bags sporting shiny attractive depictions of female cuteness promoting the very event to which all of us were going, moves in crushing waves, the policemen waving us through and directing the rivers of solid nerdery. I walked at my classic Midwestern stroll speed, and usually that is fast enough to match or even overtake my lollygagging students at school. Here, though, the spurs of anticipation—and perhaps the fear of missing out on favorite publications—stirred the assembly of enthusiasts to pick up speed. I was being passed on all sides by manga fans bedecked in pop-culture overload.
I was at Comiket 2018, Winter 2018.
There was a lot of excitement that New Year’s Eve at Comiket Winter 2018. Hundreds, thousands of fans had gathered together to browse and purchase comics, art books, and mountains of paraphernalia, or just to dress up in sometimes absurd, sometimes incredible, often phantasmagorical costumes and pose for endless pictures as the flow of fans flicked by, cameras flashing.
Comiket is short for Comic Market and has been a regular event, now biannual, which was started by amateur manga artists to sell “doujinshi”—fan-made comics. These comics are often unofficial spin-off work from popular mainstream titles, most notoriously in which familiar characters like Naruto or Luffy are put into new erotic couplings—perhaps even with each other. I had often heard rumours about the event, and while I emphatically do not fancy sexy slash fiction (I didn’t like the Godzilla one sold on Amazon), the idea of amateur artists coming together to sell and share their work appeals to me enormously. This year I had a great excuse to go—I would be in Japan for the event for one thing, and for another, this time I knew some of the manga artists selling their wares due to the connections forged from the interview I had with manga legend Daiji Kazumine.
For fans of Godzilla and kaiju more generally, Comiket definitely holds interest—and not just for folks looking for some monster smut (though there may be some of that available as well, for those who are so inclined). Along with new hero manga from Daiji Kazumine featuring his original character Denjin Arrow (who often fights giant robots or even dinosaurs), a number of Godzilla doujinshi have also been released in Comiket—perhaps most notably from Shinji Nishikawa (MASH), who was selling a Godzilla doujinshi this year as well.
Comiket stretches out over three days of art and indulgence—the Winter 2018 event spanning December 29th to the 31st. Given that this was my first time going, though, unfortunately I made a few false assumptions going in.
- I just had this idea that all the participants would be there all three days.
- I thought I could easily read the catalog online, since the guides I read said you could do so for free.
One, the participants are definitely not there for three days. I found this out from looking at the catalog online for free. But the process of looking at that catalog was far from easy. I kept running in circles on the website, downloaded an unintuitive app, and eventually made my way onto the actual catalog only to discover that users who have not paid can only click a few times before being electronically shunned for a set period of five minutes, after which you can have a few more precious clicks before being shunned once more.
Given that each day of Comiket features hundreds of titles and goods, a pathetic few clicks barely nabs readers a taste of the wares available. And to get the catalog, you have to pay 2000 yen or so—which, on the website, was confusingly presented as a subscription service.
I forwent purchasing the catalog, but I didn’t check the catalog early, and by the time I had browsed even with those paltry pokes of my mouse, the first day of the event was already over, and I had already missed several Godzilla doujinshi.
But luckily I could still get Denjin Arrow and MASH’s latest Godzilla doujinshi on the 31st!
Thus and so on the last day of 2018 I moseyed my way on down to Tokyo Big Sight and was indeed treated to a big sight of seething humanity.
Tip: follow the crowds. If you slip out of the currents of humanity, you can end up unexpectedly walking into a storm of individuals going the opposite way and thus be forced into an increasingly difficult game of dodge-the-otaku (and by this time you, too, are a certified otaku as well).
Jusssssst don’t expect to find piles and piles of kaiju and adventure manga everywhere you turn.
DO expect to find UNENDING rows of manga and art books featuring an infinite number of cute girls, as well as retina-ripping pornography (often with minimally helpful tape over the nipples on the posters, but not in the comics themselves)—including, yes, what sure look like child porn comics with unapologetically graphic art. At first I was wondering if there was really anything but cute girl comics and porn, frankly—and the titles tended to look so generic. I couldn’t tell much about the stories except that they featured cute girls, sex, and/or cute girls and sex—and at first I was scared out of my ever-loving mind to even open up a sample comic, for fear that I would be assaulted by lovingly detailed sequences of debauchery—look, whatever your tastes may be, I just wasn’t there to look at that kind of work.
But maybe the initial porn-fest functions as a gauntlet, weeding out the weak-willed so that they never reach the less erotic stuff. For eventually I did find quite the number of monster manga, humour comics, and more. I got my copy of Daiji Kazumine’s latest Denjin Arrow and snagged Shinji Nishikawa’s Godzilla doujinshi, but also quite a number of original kaiju stories, as well as some four-panel humor titles, some adventure comics, some art books, and a case of sensory overload. What was even more awesome was that I could meet some of the manga artists themselves. While Daiji Kazumine was not there, Shinji Nishikawa was, and so I had the opportunity to gush at him about how much I liked his work and pose for a photo. (I also told him I had contributed to the Toho Kingdom interview we did a while back, which I think really surprised him.) Daiji Kazumine’s assistant, Atsushi Sasaki, was also there, and I picked up his recent magical girl manga, Randoserun Zero-Based. Sasaki-sensei is a huge fan of tokusatsu, so it isn’t surprising that Randoserun Zero-Basedfeatures an enormous kaiju battling it out with the titular heroine! It’s pretty entertaining. Atsushi Sasaki also introduced me to another manga artist, Kouji Kiki, who did Metal K for Shonen Jumpback in the 1980s. He was selling some comics that furthered the adventures of Metal K, and I picked some up. I also got an Ultraman parody book called Loyalty Man, featuring a humorous Ultraman knock-off biding his time in a lousy salaryman position while he waits to fight real monsters (the story turns surprisingly serious by the end of the first volume), as well as a few other books of varying quality.
Attendees can expect to find a huge variety of goods at the event, ranging from the aforementioned manga titles, to art books, clear files, and tons of other goods. Some folks actually give away some samples for free!
Comiket was in some ways an amazing experience. I am not a big fan of erotic books, but in the end I found a lot more there than just the sexy stuff, and it was really fun getting to meet a number of manga artists there! Overwhelming, exciting, exhausting—that was Comiket. Maybe I’ll go again this year!General // July 27, 2019
When I visited the Tokusatsu no DNA exhibit in Tokyo in January, I was happy to find a few more Godzilla snacks about which I could write reviews. The biggest package I picked up was the Godzilla Honey Pie. Let’s have our usual rundown!
The package for this one, as with many Godzilla snacks, is pretty memorable. This time we have Godzilla from The Return of Godzilla (1984) prominently featured in the background, with the English text “Godzilla revives in Oshima Miharayama” (referring to the volcano into which the Big G plunged in that film), plus in romanized Japanese “makka ni utsukushiku sakihokoru izuoshima no Tsubaki ni miserarete godzilla ga miharayama kara fukkatsu!” If I am reading it right, the text roughly translates to something like “Godzilla, having been able to gaze upon the full beauty of the blossoming red camellias, revived from Mt. Mihara”—thus implying that the radioactive beastie was getting power from the flowers themselves. Given that the movie in which Godzilla is revived from Mihara was Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), the flower theme seems at least somewhat appropriate!
Actually, upon inspecting the back of the box, I found out that the pies were apparently made from ingredients sourced from Oshima, where Mt. Mihara resides, so these are real Oshima Godzilla pies—maybe the monster was snacking on them while he rested in the volcano.
What about those snacks and their flavor? Well, the box comes with 24 individually wrapped honey pies, all of them sporting the same glowering Godzilla visage. The word “pie” in this case refers to the same sort of “pie” that was sold in the Godzilla Pie box I reviewed a few years ago. This time, though, the pies are not black, but are rather white with honey flavoring. I actually really like them, as the flavor is pleasantly sweet, but the pie itself is not overly dry and tastes really nice with a flaky and enjoyable texture. The pies do fall apart easily, though, and are rather messy.
Twenty-four pies is a bit much for me, so I shared the snacks with my friends on a recent visit to the USA, and they went over reasonably well. If you have a chance, I think these pies are worth a munch—much more so than some of the Godzilla-themed garbage I have eaten!Kaiju Kuisine // July 19, 2019
A few months ago I had the great honor of interviewing costume-design legend Keizo Murase in the actual studio at which many of the classic Toho monsters were created. We had an amazing two-hour conversation ranging over kaiju history and covering dozens of stories, and I am looking forward to getting the video translated and posted for fans in the West to enjoy. Chris Mirjanhangir set up the interview in conjunction with Daisuke Sato, who was also the mastermind behind Howl from Beyond the Fog, a Kickstarter-funded tokusatsu short film set in ancient Japan and featuring a cast of puppets—and a film which will soon premiere at G-Fest! After interviewing Mr. Murase, I got to talking with Mr. Sato (who we also interviewed here on TK in the past), and he casually mentioned that he was the one who assembled the Godzilla costume in Godzilla Final Wars, which was designed by Shinichi Wakasa. I was flabbergasted and asked if it would be possible to interview Mr. Sato personally as well, and he graciously agreed. That interview took place on June 22, 2019.
For now, I just want to give the highlights of that interview, and also invite any G-Fest attendees to go check out Howl from Beyond the Fog. Daisuke Sato is a super nice guy (and he speaks English!), so I hope his film will get a lot of attention at this year’s G-Fest.
I met Mr. Sato at Burger Mania, one of the best hamburger restaurants in Tokyo (my recommendation) before moving to a nearby café so that I could audio-record more easily, given that Burger Mania was a bit noisy (unfortunately recording in the café may not have been much better, as my mic picked up way too much background noise). Nevertheless, we still had a nice time over tea and/or coffee chatting about Sato’s history of making monster costumes. Our conversation went this way and that way, but Sato was really patient with my multitude of questions.
Here I want to especially focus on Daisuke Sato’s experiences making Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), and Gamera the Brave (2006), though he also worked on the sets for The Great Yokai War (2005), and worked on the TV show Gransazers (for which he made gloves for the human costumes, as well as cannons and legs for some of the robots), plus Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers (2006) and other monster-related projects, as well as Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 (2005), for which he made some of the prop firearms.
Daisuke Sato got his start working on GMK while he was still a student at the now-defunct Tokyo Eizou Geijutsu Gakuin. His role on GMK was relatively small. He made a wall of life-size Godzilla scales which were used for a scene in which Godzilla emerges from the water and can briefly be glimpsed through the rush of liquid (Sato showed me the scene, but it was hard to catch his work). Sato was also the man behind the puppet in one shot in which Godzilla was under water. A puppet was utilized for that scene in particular shots, and Sato was the performer, turning Godzilla’s head threateningly!
The other Godzilla film that Sato worked on was Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), on which he had a much larger role. Comparing the two films, Sato recalled that when shooting for GMK, the crew did about ten shots each day, but for GFW they did 16 shots every day (split into two shooting crews). However, according to Sato, GFW was the less stressful as they got off at six each day, but on GMK they might go much longer into the evening, which was exhausting.
On Godzilla: Final Wars, Sato had an incredible opportunity: he was the man put in charge of assembling the suit designed by Shinichi Wakasa. This windfall did not just plop into his lap, though; Sato personally requested the duty from special make-up man Rikiya Soh, who granted his request. Sato was in charge of assembling three suits, which he did in three months. Those suits included the main suit, a heavier armored suit for scenes in which the monster was taking fire and explosions, and an action suit that was lighter and allowed the actor freer movement for active scenes.
Sato also has memories of eating at the studio café with some of the actors and staff, and recalls that the actors playing the Xiliens would eat in full costume. (Unfortunately, apparently they did not stay in character while at lunch. Still, the image of Xiliens eating lunch together at a café is priceless.)
Soon after GFW, Sato would then work on Gamera the Brave (2006), creating the front carapace of the main suit as well as a cheaper Zedus head created specifically to be destroyed in the climactic fight. The original Zedus head was quite expensive and detailed, and thus the second head was commissioned. Asked whether he felt any regret that his monster head had been destroyed, he said, no, since that was its purpose all along.
Outside of creating parts of the costumes for Gamera and Zedus, Sato was also in charge of costume maintenance, fixing any wear and tear that the costumes might take in the course of filming. However, at least one time damage to one of the suits came not from on-screen monster action, but from an unexpected source: Sato himself! One day, Sato was exhausted after a long day and was trying to load up the costume of the older Gamera that appears in the flashback at the beginning of the movie. Due to his fatigue, Sato accidentally let the costume fall and smash against the floor, damaging the monster. This was before they had shot any of the scenes featuring the beast! Luckily, Sato was skilled enough to fix the costume himself, albeit perhaps with a bit of egg on his face.
Sato also made performance suits of Ultraman for promotional events related to the 2005 film Ultraman in which he built up the musculature first and then added armor over the top. Sato disparaged these suits in our interview, though, claiming that due to his lack of talent they were heavier than they should have been. These would not be the only promotional suits Sato would make, however, as he would go on to create more hero suits for Gotochi Hero.
Sato’s most recent project is the ambitious Howl from Beyond the Fog, which was successfully Kickstarted some time ago in November 2017, and on which he worked beside monster effects legend Keizo Murase, who created so many of the classic Toho monster costumes of old. Howl from Beyond the Fog was partially inspired by Ray Bradbury’s The Fog Horn (upon which Sato also created a fan film years ago, which was later tragically lost due to a hard drive crash). However, unlike The Fog Horn, Howl from Beyond the Fog takes place in ancient Japan. The main characters are a young boy named Izana and a beautiful blind woman named Takiri, who shares a bond with the monster of the film, an equally blind (and in this case, aged) monster called Nebula. (The monster was originally named Amenosagiri, after the Japanese myth, but a child asking about the monster’s name at a convention in France inspired Sato to change the name to something simpler. Nebula has the classic kaiju name aesthetic, ending in “la”, but also sports a double-meaning, since the word “nebula” comes from a Latin term for “fog.)
Howl from Beyond the Fog is a story done completely in puppets so that Sato could have more control over the shoot and was influenced by a puppet TV dramatization of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms made in the early 1980s (when asked, Sato admitted he had never watched the more recent Thunderbolt Fantasy, and thus was not influenced by that series). According to Sato, almost all the shots are composite shots, and when asked what was most difficult in making the movie, he said “everything!” Still, despite all the hardships, it seemed obvious Sato was excited about the movie, and he said his favorite scene was when Nebula destroys the town.
When I asked Sato if he has a message for fans of tokusatsu, he spoke about how while mainstream movies have moved on to CGI, independent films can still do the more traditional suitmation effects, and he hopes that both kinds of films can be made in the future (if I understood him correctly—my recording is hard to hear, with too much background noise).
I was hoping there would be a chance to get my hands on the movie on DVD or Blu-Ray, but as of this time the DVD/Blu-Ray will only be available to Kickstarter backers. In the future there may be more opportunities to see the film, but for now fans will have to be content to watch the movie at conventions such as G-Fest and the Atami Kaiju Movie Festival in November, 2019.
If you are attending either festival, please consider giving the movie a view. The story is a celebration of classic tokusatsu with a unique aesthetic and a fantastic pedigree. I am so envious because I wish I could go to G-Fest and see the film myself!Interviews // July 12, 2019
Recently on a trip to Kyushu (one of the main islands of Japan, this one to the south of Honshu), I stopped over in Oita City to enjoy the local life and noticed there were a number of Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) posters scattered around the local mall attached to the train station—this particular one roughly translated as “Find the Legendary Four Giant Monsters! Monsters Rally Campaign.” After further examination, I realized that they were part of a rally promotion for the movie. These “rallies” are a common form of promotion in Japan, and they are often featured in museum exhibits as well—I saw one at the Yokohama Godzilla exhibit back in 2016 as well. At the Oita mall I visited, there was a concurrent rally going on for the newest Detective Conan movie, and when I visited another mall in Kokura to see Kingdom (2019) with my friend, I saw there was a stamp rally for Avengers: Endgame (2019), complete with standees of some of Marvel’s more popular heroes.
But what is a “rally” in this sense of the word? Here we are dealing with Japanese English, after all. It’s not like a point-to-point race, and it is not a protest or the like. Instead, a rally in Japan used in this way generally means a promotion in which you have to wander about a particular space (such as a museum, train station, or mall) in which a number of stations have been scattered. These stations can amount to just posters with parts of a word on each, and participants have to put the word together by finding all the stations. They can also feature little tables with rubber stamps at each one, and you take a particular paper with spaces for each stamp to each station and, well, stamp the designated areas. At a dinosaur exhibit I attended at a museum in Chiba, these stamps completed a message. At an advertisement museum in Tokyo, the stamps actually overlapped, with each stamp contributing a different color, and once all of the stamps were applied they created a complete image—in this case, a kabuki character. The aforementioned Detective Conan rally challenges participants to complete a crossword puzzle. And sometimes the rallies can also include a further promotion—collect all the parts of the word or put together the phrase or collect the stamps, and then turn in the finished rally to a website to enter a lottery to possibly win some goodies. Even a school I have worked at featured this kind of rally at their yearly festival.
For the Monsters Rally Campaign, there were four monster posters scattered around the mall, and each poster has one hiragana character that, when put together, spells out “kaijuu” (the actual word “kaiju” includes an extended vowel at the end, unlike how we in the West tend to pronounce the word), with the Godzilla poster featuring “ka,” the Mothra poster featuring “i”, the Rodan poster featuring “ju,” and the King Ghidorah poster featuring “u”. After putting together the word, a fifth poster explaining the campaign can be found in an attached movie theater, and on that poster can also be found a QR code at which the contestant can enter the assembled word and hopefully win something.
The goods that participants can win include the following, with ten winners for each: The “A” prize is a Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) tote bag. The “B” prize is a smartphone stand that looks like Godzilla’s tail. The “C” prize is a copy of the recent Ganbare Chibi Godzilla picture book. The “D” prize is a Chibi Godzilla jigsaw puzzle. Presumably the winners are chosen at random.
The rally is taking place between April 26 and June 2, and is presumably only available to folks living in Japan. Obviously the contest is very much aimed at children rather than adults (though perhaps the smart phone tail and the tote bag are aimed more at older participants). Given how easy it is to participate, the chances of actually winning something seem pretty slim.
Now… when I was in Oita, I tried my darnedest to find all four of the posters on my own. I found Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan pretty easily, but for the life of me I could not figure out where King Ghidorah was hiding out. I must have walked around the mall for an hour carrying my rather heavy bag looking for the three-headed dread beast.
Now, looking at the pictures I took for this article, I notice that the fifth poster that explains the terms of the contest also features a small white column that… tells where all the monster posters can be located.
King Ghidorah, as it turns out, was on the roof.
Luckily, when I visited the Riverwalk Mall in Kokura, finding all four monster posters was a snap, with King Ghidorah actually residing right next to the campaign explanation poster in T-Joy Cinema. The posters in Riverwalk, though, were much smaller than the ones I found in Oita.
I haven’t actually entered the contest yet. I feel a bit like if I actually won, I would feel like I was yoinking a gift from an innocent Japanese kid somewhere who was really hoping for that Chibi Godzilla Jigsaw. Still, that tote bag looks pretty tempting, and the Godzilla tail would go well with my Godzilla-themed smartphone cover. I tried to enter the rally at the Yokohama Godzilla exhibit and got nothing. Maybe this time could be my lucky day!General // June 11, 2019