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A note from staff
A complete translation of Shogo Tomiyama‘s pitch for Godzilla vs. Ghost Godzilla, as seen in the Japanese publication Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Perfection (ISBN: 4798615811). There isn’t as much to see here compared to the draft penned by Kazuki Omori, but I always found the basic idea extremely enticing, and I really wanted to share the text in full even if most of it was already covered in the movie’s cutting room bio. A very special thanks to Noah Oskow for his incredibly proficient translation of this proposal!
~ Joshua S.
“Godzilla vs. Ghost Godzilla” Proposal ― Shogo Tomiyama
※What do we mean by “Ghost,” and just what is “Ghost Godzilla?”
Godzilla, who first made his way into our history in 1954 in Tokyo Bay, was defeated by the underwater-oxygen destroying power of the Oxygen Destroyer. However, the real truth is that as a result of the time powers (powers that can alter the length of time) that came into being at the moment of the destruction of the oxygen, in that single moment 10,000 years passed by, annihilating Godzilla’s body and bones alike. In this way, Godzilla was destroyed physically and corporally, and yet the life-force stored in that gigantic body remained on the seafloor of Tokyo Bay as residual living energy.
40 years onwards, that residual living energy that had been scattered along the seafloor slowly began to bind back together. And at the moment when the energy became one, that aggregation of energy, invisible to the eye, begins to move with the goal of obtaining a body and consciousness.
The mysterious phenomena that have been terrifying the citizens of Tokyo (bridges suddenly collapsing, buildings crumbling, the ground caving in, rivers reversing course, the sky darkening, etc.) are all being brought about by this invisible, wandering aggregate of residual living energy (Ghost) of the original Godzilla.
※Ghost – An ethereal body created by the concentration of the agony and rage of the original Godzilla at the moment of his annihilation. He cannot be seen by the eyes of men, and yet he is an intelligent and demonic being.
This ghost has found its ultimate opponent: Little Godzilla. The ghost, sensing that inside of this young 30-meter tall monster are a body and consciousness that resemble its own, takes ahold of him in an instant, taking over Little as if by possession.
※Ghost Godzilla – The body of Little Godzilla that has been taken over by the specter of the original Godzilla. Its consciousness is that of Ghost, violent and malevolent. A paranormal (viper-real) monster the likes of which we have never yet seen.
※Ghost Godzilla’s special abilities and characteristics
Because Ghost Godzilla is an amalgamation of the life-force energy Ghost and the monster Little, it possesses paranormal powers.
1. Special abilities that go beyond the physical laws of the universe.
c. Phasing through matter.
d. Changing its form.
2. Methods of attack
a. Can spray forth the original Godzilla’s atomic heat beam, melting its target.
b. By spitting ectoplasm from its mouth, it can create duplicates of itself.
c. Based on that life-force energy, it can alter its environment at will (temperature, wind, light, etc.).
d. Penetrate its opponent’s body, taking over their mind.
a. Similar to that of the original Godzilla, but its ferociousness shows in its appearance. Its talons and fangs are long, large, and demonic.
b. Height, 80 meters (original Godzilla + Little).
c. When in danger it takes on Little’s form, weakening Godzilla’s attacks.
a. Hates daylight.
b. Speedy, moving instantaneously.
c. Can only move within the range of the area in which the original Godzilla moved.
a. Strong sense of resentment. The objects of his destructive actions are not limited to buildings, as he persistently targets humans as well.
b. Little’s kind heart may appear momentarily. The demon and the pure heart of this child are in conflict.
※Why do Godzilla and Ghost Godzilla come to fight?
In order to save Little, Godzilla must defeat Ghost Godzilla and expel him from Little’s body. This will be a battle using the magical technique of “exorcism.”
The ghost, having stolen Little’s body and having re-emerged into reality, has developed a taste for this powerful existence, and with that goal fights Godzilla. By defeating Godzilla and stealing his body he can become an invincible god of destruction.General // February 18, 2019
I recently asked my colleagues at Toho Kingdom for their recommendations for romantic Toho films to watch on or around Valentine’s Day. Now I realize that here at Toho Kingdom we don’t really focus a lot on the Toho romance films, of which there are many—and even when we do review them, sometimes they are pretty awful (I am looking at you, Clover and Blue Spring Ride). Still, for lovey-dovey movie fans, there are many Toho movies worth watching that will tickle the old heart strings—and maybe a few that have monsters in them, too!
Nicholas Driscoll’s Picks
Recommended Animated Romance—Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Okay, the title is majorly cheesy (the English title, anyway—the Japanese title actually translates to something like “If you listen closely”), but this Ghibli movie is one of my favorite Japanese films of all time. Based on a fairly obscure shojo manga and a script by Hayao Miyazaki, Whisper of the Heart tells the story of a junior high girl named Shizuku who loves creative writing and challenges herself to write an original fantasy novel telling the adventures of “the Baron,” a cat statuette at a local antique shop. In the process, she makes a lot of friends and falls in love with a local boy who has big dreams of his own. I don’t want to go into the plot details too much, but suffice to say there is a lot to love as the characters are well-drawn and exceedingly loveable, the romance bits are very sweet, and I just love a good story about creative expression and the sacrifices that have to be made to do it well. Plus it’s a Ghibli movie, so it has beautiful animation! This is also the only Ghibli movie with a movie-length spin-off sequel, The Cat Returns. I can’t recommend the sequel as much, but the original is an excellent movie, whether you like romance or not. (And for those looking for more animated Ghibli romance after finishing Whisper of the Heart, I also can recommend From Up On Poppy Hill
Recommended Dance Romance—Shall We Dance? (1996)
Many romance films also feature dancing in the plot, which is a big plus for me since I love a good turn on the dance floor. This particular dance flick even spawned a Hollywood remake, which is pretty rare for Japanese romance films. The story, about a repressed Japanese family man and office worker Shohei struggling in the doldrums who glimpses a hot babe Mai in a dance studio window and takes up ballroom dancing as a means to chase her and gets more than he bargained for, has many whimsical moments and some big laughs. The romance elements I think are understated and a bit lacking to be honest, though, as our “hero” sort of makes things right with his wife, but their relationship is pretty much sidelined for the Shohei/Mai one. For those looking for a more romantic take, the Hollywood version I think is a decent replacement. However, THIS film inspired a real romance between the director and the Tamiyo Kusakari, the ballet dancer playing Mai, which ended in marriage!
Recommended Supernatural Romance—My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday
I almost gave this spot to The Girl in the Sunny Place, but I already wrote a review of that movie (which I do recommend, as it is a pretty and surprisingly engrossing little film), so I want to give a little attention to another film by the same director, Miki Takahiro: My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday. I will be giving some spoilers to the film here, though those spoilers are kind of given away by the title itself. The movie is about college student Takatoshi, who falls in love with Emi upon noticing her on a train. He works up the guts to tell her his feelings, and soon after they start going out. But Emi has a huge secret, which, when it comes out, hugely complicates their love—she is from the future, in a sense. It’s a bit hard to explain, but basically she lives her life backwards in time and already has memories of their romance together when she first meets Takatoshi. While upon even short reflection the story doesn’t make a lot of sense, it is interesting to see how it all plays out in the highly imaginative universe of the film.
Recommended Live-Action Adaptation of a Manga—Your Lie in April
I have reviewed a number of live-action manga romance films, including the aforementioned howlers Clover (2014) and Blue Spring Ride, but also some pretty good flicks like the two Nana films. I am a sucker for these live-action adaptations, and often watch them even though they are often bad. One of the best I have seen (and which I had intended to review) was Your Lie in April. I had first watched the anime version of this story and enjoyed it very much, so then I became curious about the movie version, not least of all because it featured Suzu Hirose (probably my favorite current young female actress in Japan) in a lead role. I think the movie version works pretty well because the story is not really so complicated, but still deals with some heavy themes and has great music. The story centers on Kosei Arima, a teenager who is a virtuoso on the piano—but who has absolutely sworn off playing because of his awful relationship with his domineering mother. However, Kosei soon meets a free-spirited violinist named Kaori who bullies him into performing with her on stage and facing his demons, and he begins to fall in love with her. Of course things can’t go so simply, and Your Lie in April does suffer from several common romance tropes that occur frequently in Japanese chick flicks, but again the story is well-paced, the actors are good, and the music is beautiful.
Patrick Galvan’s Picks
My recommendation is not likely to surprise anyone even remotely familiar with my tastes in classic Toho movies. I’ve written at length about the great director Mikio Naruse over the last couple of years, devoting reviews and whole articles to his work, so I guess it’s only expected that I would salute one of his movies in today’s Valentine’s Day article. 1967’s Two in the Shadow, better known as Scattered Clouds (the literal translation of its Japanese title), was the last movie Naruse shot before his death in 1969; it was the second or third film of his I saw but the first which really impressed me; and to this day, I tend to pick this film above all others in naming my personal favorite from his oeuvre.
It’s also one of the most beautiful movies about tragic love I’ve ever seen. The premise is one that might sound like setup for forced contrivances (a man falls in love with the woman whose husband he accidentally killed) but Naruse and scenarist Nobuo Yamada treat it in the smartest possible manner, allowing the relationship between the characters to develop slowly, naturally, and believably—and they never allow them, or the audience, to forget the tragedy that binds them together. Yuzo Kayama and Yoko Tsukasa are perfectly cast as the leads, and the location photography of Aomori Prefecture renders this one of the most gorgeous-looking movies in Toho’s catalogue. Naruse was notorious for despising color in film, declaring it a needless distraction (the dream project he never got to realize was a black-and-white movie in which all the drama unfolded before a blank curtain) but he and cinematographer Yuzuru Aizawa use color and their settings to their advantage here.
Seeing Two in the Shadow has been a bit problematic as, like many Naruse films, it’s never been given a bona fide disc release in the Region 1 market. Criterion has a streaming-only print which has switched platforms a couple of times, and access to it disappeared completely with the demise of Filmstruck last November. Thankfully, the film is destined to return on April 8 through Criterion’s new, forthcoming streaming service. And I remain hopeful that, one day, the company will consider giving this quiet little gem a physical release of some capacity. A bonus feature-packed Blu-ray might be hard to justify given Naruse’s obscurity, but Two in the Shadow would make an ideal entry in one of their Eclipse boxsets.
Say, Late Naruse, with titles such as Lonely Lane (1962), A Woman’s Life (1963), Yearning (1964), and The Stranger Within a Woman (1966) serving as companion pieces.
Marcus Gwin’s Picks
I cannot say that I watch a lot of romantic films, as I find many of the films built around such a narrative to be try-hard corporate hack fests that try to manipulate one’s emotions to get positive reception rather than genuinely creating a well crafted tale of two people coming together. Besides, how can one even build an entire film around such a thing? People always have more going on in their lives than just a romantic relationship, so I find it more realistic to include such themes as a sub plot in part of larger narrative. That’s just my opinion though. But from my views, it’s obviously a very hard sell to invest me in any kind of romance. So if I actually recommend something, that means that I hold it to a very high regard. That being said though, I definitely don’t know enough romance films to make any kind of full list, so I’ll be partaking in some genre hoping mischief… even with my free Kaiju pick.
Most Romantic Kaiju Film: This one is a pretty easy pick. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), has an excellent unlikely romance between a down on his luck extremely average single dad trying to impress a military pilot in the Kiryu program that is obviously WAY out of his league. I absolutely LOVE the awkward confidence shown by scientist (INSERT NAME) which absolutely comes off as creepy, but through persistence and actually trying to understand Akane, he eventually gets a date. The two have great chemistry, and their interactions serve as a very important way to flesh out the characters throughout the plot. Easily the best use of romance in a Kaiju film in my opinion.
#2 Densha Otoko: Okay, this is pretty much the only actual ROMANCE I’ve seen from Toho… I was forced to watch it in a class I was taking at the time. Apparently, it became something of a cultural icon at the time of its release… I don’t really care about that, and I wouldn’t even say its a particularly great movie. HOWEVER. I don’t think it’s a bad movie either. The plot follows a forever-alone shut-in that winds up protecting a woman on a train from a drunken bum, and ends up getting her number. He then proceeds to get romantic advice from two-chan degenerates. Yeah, this film is rather dated. Anyway, despite the fact that I don’t especially care for the film, I can definitely see why many people do. There definiteky WERE a couple moments I genuinely liked in the film. (None of which were during the climax…). This is the sort of film where I can say, “I didn’t like it, but you might.” That’s how I would recommend it.
#1 Sweet Home: It strikes again! I can use this movie for EVERY article, haha! In all seriousness though, one of the things in this movie that absolutely warms my heart is how it handles romance. I really don’t want to spoil this one, so all I’ll say is that all of the performances are spot-on, and the chemestry between each character enhances the plot, and greatly increases the tension to a boiling point. Past relationships are already a key theme in this film, and as I’ve mentioned many times, the ending is SATISFYING.
With warm regards, have a happy Valentines Day.
Tyler Trieschock’s Recommendations
Recommended Anime Romance – Your Name
For an engaging, comedic, emotional journey to enjoy this Valentine’s Day with your significant other look no further than Japanese classic from Makota Shinkai known as Your Name.
Starting off the film with two characters set in distinctly foreign environments, the film grabs your attention immediately with its introduction of the main leads, Mitsuha and Taki. Each long for more than they find in their rural and urban lives respectively, wanting nothing more than to break free of the challenges their routinely faced with. Fate not only gives them a chance to do just this, but at something I dare not spoil in my recommendation. What I can definitely say is you and your significant other may shed a collective tear at the film’s conclusion, and to cleanse your respective film pallet look no further than my second recommendation.
Recommended Kaiju Romance – Rodan (1956)
Tyler, you speak aloud as you read this article, Rodan (1956) isn’t a romance. How does it relate to Valentines Day? Well to you avid reader, I would say that in all relationships, being able to subvert your significant other’s expectations is a worthwhile aspiration and this movie is the perfect choice to achieve such a goal.
Easily one of Toho’s greatest early Kaiju films, Rodan holds aspects of every genre within its hour and a half run time for you and your significant other to enjoy. Hold your other close as the monstrous insect’s shadow distorts across the eerie, dimly lit mineshaft. Laugh in unison as the Meganulon makes its presence known and runs like a looney toons character onto and then down the nearby mountain. Shake in suspense as Shigeru recalls the horrifying creature he watched come to life within the mountain before the aerial monster, and its mate, embark on a destructive rampage across Japan until their untimely deaths by nature’s fury.
As was mentioned earlier, Rodan isn’t a love story, but its conclusion is one of tragedy formed from the connection of the two aerial terrors. It’s a silent, gripping scene that reinforces how far love in all of our lives can take us and it alone justifies the film’s recommendation this holiday. Just please avoid taking your significant other to any volcanos this Valentine’s Day!General // February 14, 2019
The opening of Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth (1946) is set in 1933—two years after the Manchurian Incident, the event which hastened the invasion of northern China by the Imperial Japanese Army—and depicts a love triangle between the daughter of a well-off bourgeois family and a pair of university student suitors. The two men are diametric opposites in terms of their personalities and agendas. One is an outspoken antimilitarist determined to save Japan from its own expansionist policies. The other’s a weak-willed law student perfectly content to live in accordance with the system rather than take a stand or even voice a word against it. Both can see the wrong in their country’s recent actions—especially when one of their professors loses his job for liberalism—but only one sees fit to do anything about it. As for Yukie Yagihara, the young woman caught between them, her choosing between these two embodies a struggle which runs much deeper than the mere selection of a marital partner. Life with one would provide total economic security at the cost of free speech; marriage with the other would “blaze so brightly” with passion reminiscent of that which the man carries in his struggles for academic freedom in Japan and peace for the world.
Based on this inaugurating plot thread, one might assume No Regrets for Our Youth to be a politically charged movie with our heroine’s choice representing a stance favored by the people behind the camera. That was certainly my impression when I reviewed the film in June of 2014: “It’s all the more surprising (and impressive) that here, [director Kurosawa] should have chosen to project some of his country’s postwar feelings through a female protagonist.” I felt pretty confident in this verdict at the time, and I more or less stuck by it when I wrote about the movie again in my career retrospective article on Kurosawa a year later: “By using a love triangle—with a strong female character at the center—Kurosawa could represent Japan’s divided pre-war attitude and ultimately, via the heroine’s decision, stand for the ideology he personally supported.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with either of these statements today. As a matter of fact, the record would support them, as part of the filmmakers’ intent was to demand justice for people who’d lost their jobs—and even their lives—to Japan’s prewar/wartime authoritarian government. On the other hand, it wasn’t until my most recent viewing that I came to discover my earlier interpretations of this picture were, in fact, merely scratching the surface of its true depth and humanity. Seeing the film again—and having done more extensive research into its background and pre-production—I realize now: No Regrets for Our Youth is not a hardcore political movie, nor is it really about any political theory in general. Sure, there are politics in the film, but the film is ultimately not about the politics; the character roster features a few activists, but the story’s not about activism; the plot opens with academic persecution, but the struggle for academic freedom does not become the center of the narrative. The subjects I mentioned are all relevant, of course, but they predominately serve as structural framework before which the real theme of the movie unfolds—a theme Kurosawa had touched on in earlier films and would return to again and again throughout his career.
Before we continue, it is perhaps worth noting that No Regrets for Our Youth was initially going to be a film teeming with much heavier political content. The screenplay was written by Eijiro Hisaita, a man noted for his resentment of Japanese militarism* (an image of the scriptwriter can be seen to the right), and modeled in part after two real-life controversies: the persecution of liberal university professor Yukitoki Takigawa; and the imprisonment/execution of Asahi Shimbun journalist/accused spy Hotsumi Ozaki. These two men were well-known political victims of the 1930s-40s, and their struggles are recreated, albeit in fictionalized form, in the movie. According to the testimonies of both Kurosawa and producer Keiji Matsuzaki, Hisaita’s script (penned over a course of twenty days) was meant to be a through-and-through fictionalized account of Takigawa’s persecution and Ozaki’s murder and was to take a few well-aimed swipes at the people behind the wrongs done to them. But between completion of the script and actual shooting of the film, interferences sprung up, restraining the political content on a number of grounds.
For example, the opening intertitle, as originally written, was to call out by name Ichiro Hatoyama, Japan’s Minister of Education from 1931-1934, the man responsible for the arrests/terminations of many educators deemed leftist or liberal during the pre-war years (Takigawa included). This intertitle was heavily modified for the finished film, pinning blame for the real-life tragedies on a more generalized culprit: “militarists.” Interviewed decades later on the subject, Kurosawa confirmed suspicions that Hatoyama’s name had been removed at the behest of the studio. “I wanted to demand that these people, such as Hatoyama, take responsibility [for the Takigawa and Ozaki incidents.] However, the Toho company told me to delete [Hatoyama’s name] because it would have been upsetting.” While the western powers governing the Land of the Rising Sun from 1945-1952 would’ve likely had no issue with a film directly attacking a former authority figure, the front office at Toho clearly did not want to go along with the idea—perhaps due to the fact that, at the time, Ichiro Hatoyama was president of the Liberal Party, the most popular government body in the first postwar general election. (The executives who made this decision probably congratulated themselves in hindsight when Hatoyama rose through the ranks and became Japan’s 35th prime minister in 1954.)
Continuing on the subject of internal interference. On March 20, 1946, Toho’s labor union—which consisted of 5,600 members—went on a fifteen-day strike, demanding higher pay and more creative power from their superiors. As Kurosawa recalled in his autobiography, “the Toho employees’ union became very powerful [after the studio relented], and the number of Communist Party members among the employees increased. Their voice in matters of film production became more important than before, and a Scenario Review Committee was formed. This committee decided that the script for No Regrets [for Our Youth] required changes, and the film was shot from a rewrite.”
It was not the political nature of Hisaita’s script that was forging objections from the unionists. Rather, it was the simple fact that another script modeled after Ozaki’s arrest and execution was already set to be produced by Toho. Kurosawa argued in favor of his project, insisting that while both screenplays drew inspiration from the same event, they handled their stories in entirely different ways and thus could be filmed simultaneously without adjustments being made to either. Alas, the committee members refused to concede and even questioned Kurosawa whether adherence to his vision was worth upstaging a fellow director. “After my film was completed, it turned out that the other film [Kiyoshi Kusuda’s As Long as I Live (1946)] was totally uninteresting. Therefore, [the unionists] began to say that they should have let me make my film as I had wanted to. I yelled at them, ‘What are you talking about now?’ The unionists and communists were really lording it over us then. A communist screenplay writer was repatriated, and he insisted on incorporating the device of syllogism into screenplay writing. However, I replied that an uninteresting screenplay is uninteresting despite all such devices. I argued often because I was young.” (This last quote comes from a 1985 interview with Kurosawa conducted by Kyoko Hirano, excerpts of which are printed in her book Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the Occupation.)
The Protagonist and Casting
Despite misgivings between Kurosawa and the studio, the protagonist of No Regrets for Our Youth, Yukie Yagihara, became a textbook example of the sort of role which appealed to (American) film censors in the immediate years of the occupation**. Though not an outwardly political character (as I shall demonstrate shortly), Yukie associates with politically minded people in the first half of the story and is driven by personal needs. She acts according to her own feelings, her own morality, her own impulses, her own agenda. Add to that: depicting an idealistic young woman would’ve been deemed favorable, as movies with strong female leads had been heartily encouraged to Japanese movie studios in the postwar years—deriving from Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur’s mission to “democratize” Japan, which included the political, social, cinematic, etc. emancipation of women***. All of this made Yukie an ideal heroine for an occupation-era movie.
There was also tremendous irony in the casting of Setsuko Hara in the role. Hara had entered the film industry in 1935 and rose to (historically fascinating) prominence two years later when she appeared in the Japan-Nazi Germany co-production The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai (1937), a film which championed, among other things, the Japanese invasion of the Fast East. (In the picture’s denouement, a Japanese man who has given up his German love interest marries a “pure” Japanese woman—played by Hara, who, oddly enough, was speculated throughout her life to have been quarter-European—and they begin wedded life farming on occupied Manchurian soil: the titular New Earth.) As the war went on, Hara’s public image intensified and she began taking on roles in movies promoting national policy, such as Kajiro Yamamoto’s The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya (1942) and Mikio Naruse’s Until Victory Day (1945). In films such as these, she regularly played ordinary women carrying out their part in boosting national spirit as well as promoting the war effort. To give specifics from another example, her character in Kunio Watanabe’s Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky (1943) spends the vast majority of her screen time hosting local military trainees, listening to their cheery training stories, and seeing them off at their Pacific-bound departure with an unabashedly happy smile on her face (her pride further enhanced by the fact that her little brother has started basic training). Here was an actress who’d attained stardom in movies that were either tacitly or explicitly nationalistic or jingoistic; and now, all of a sudden, that same talent had been cast in a film defiant of those same policies. Once a cinematic flag-waver, she was now, on screen, the daughter of a liberal teacher (the film’s Takigawa equivalent), the love interest of a radical (modeled specifically after Ozaki), and a victim—like them—of wartime militarism.
For reasons which have never been made clear, Hara did not wish to star in Kurosawa’s film (however, being under contract to Toho at the time, she would’ve had no choice). But regardless of whatever apathy she might’ve felt toward the film’s script or political stance (or something else entirely), the actress turned out one of her most mesmerizing screen performances, one so rich and engrossing that it leaves one genuinely sad to realize she would only work with Kurosawa once more, on his 1951 adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. And as impressive as their 1946 collaboration turned out, there’ll always be a tantalizing “What If…?” quality imbuing this picture. One cannot help but wonder what sort of performance—and character—Hara might’ve evoked had Kurosawa been allowed to shoot the script he wanted….****
But hypothetical scenarios really don’t amount to much—especially in the face of the exceptionally strong movie that came out of this troubled production. In dialing back on the political content, Akira Kurosawa was able to emphasize an omnipresent and ever-important theme that he’d dealt with before and would continue to dabble in throughout his professional life. The theme of independence and personal growth, which is evoked in No Regrets for Our Youth through its heroine and her unrelenting quest for self-discovery.
An Apolitical Person in an Intensely Political Environment
The movie begins with twenty-year-old Yukie walking amid the gorgeous natural scenery of Arashiyama (one of the major sightseeing destinations just outside of Kyoto). In her company are her parents and seven of her father’s students—two of them being Noge (Susumu Fujita), the freedom fighter, and Itokawa (Akitake Kono), the conformist. The parents stop for a rest on the banks of a river while the young people traverse to Mount Yoshida, where they can see their university. One of the students labels the school the “cradle of freedom.” No sooner has he finished his proclamation when the rattle of machine guns shatters the air. Imperial soldiers are on maneuvers close by, training for action overseas. The politically aware Noge cynically comments, “We can sing about academic freedom all we want, but fascism’s on the rise since the Manchurian Incident.” Yukie glances over her shoulder at him with a look of bemusement. “Back on your favorite subject, I see,” she remarks. After rising to her feet, the young woman starts skipping down the slopes, excited by the sound of distant gunfire, before coming to a halt at the sight of something in the brush. Her companions gather around and Kurosawa’s camera swings downward, revealing the crumpled form of a wounded soldier lying face-down in the dirt.
This opening sequence is a masterclass of great filmmaking on so many levels. In addition to the impeccable camerawork and editing, Kurosawa and screenwriter Hisaita plainly dictate the social environment in which their story takes place (and also show us a sample of the consequences of said social environment; the movie never actually goes overseas to the battlefront, so the filmmakers transpose an image of human carnage home, instead). But more important, they provide us the first glimpses into the intensely political leanings of the character of Noge as well as the genuine lack of political leanings of our heroine. Yukie recognizes and acknowledges Noge’s politicizing in an utterly nonchalant manner, clearly having heard it before; but she neither endorses nor counters it; she merely brushes it off. And her excitement over the sound of machine guns is, as she describes it, due to it being “so clear and rhythmic.” No mention of what it contextually represents in this scene (Japan’s expansionist policies) interesting her in the slightest. The movie’s only a few minutes old and already we have some understanding as to how the characters individually feel about the world around them. And while Yukie, in true Kurosawa fashion, soon undergoes a journey of immense personal change, the path she ends up taking is not what one might expect after this opening. (A quest to prevent war does not become her life mission.)
Like his real-life counterpart, Yukie’s father (Denjiro Okochi) has been expelled from Kyoto Imperial University for holding liberal beliefs, as revealed in a montage of newspaper headlines announcing his termination. Immediately after this, we segue into an argument between the professor’s daughter and Noge. (Itokawa, meantime, sits quietly between them.) Noge goes on about their nation’s recent plundering of Manchuria and how “militarists, backed by industry […] hope to resolve Japan’s internal contradictions through foreign conquest.” Yukie, who’s been staring at her fingers the entire time, scoffs: “All you talk about are Manchuria, militarists, and industrialists. I hate leftists.” (That last sentence clearly intended as an insult to Noge due to his constantly bringing up the subject.) Consistent with behavior seen in Arashiyama, her initial retaliations in this scene stem from disinterest and boredom—boredom of having heard the same thing again and again—with no disagreement with what’s actually being said.
However, as soon as the topic shifts to her father’s expulsion, Yukie begins to exhibit 1) pride-generated obstinacy, and 2) genuine naïveté. She states her father is “a liberal, not a Red,” only to be accurately countered with the fact that the government considers anyone even remotely opposed to overseas aggression a Red. (Unlike Noge, Yukie doesn’t even have basic understanding of the political landscape forming around her.) It’s furthermore not until Noge points out that the plan for mass resignation of university faculty would do nothing to halt the militarists (or restore the professor his job) that Yukie exhibits even an iota of serious concern. (“Then what do you suggest?”) In addition to these revealing bits of dialogue, take note of actress Setsuko Hara’s body language and how it evolves over the course of the scene: distraction-prone in the beginning, fidgety and agitated in the middle, stubborn yet tinged with defeat at the end. Finally, Yukie announces she’s done with the conversation, insisting there’s more to life than “logic,” though she hasn’t a single example to offer in demonstrating her point. And rather than describe what she has in mind, she hurriedly encourages Itokawa to follow her to the piano to listen to some “nice music.” A feeble attempt to scurry away from the argument she has just lost.
As we can see from both the movie’s opening and the subsequent conversation in the Yagihara household, Yukie’s a free spirit more than anything else. Her ideologies, such as they are, consist of extremely basic notions of right and wrong—“My father is in the right, and right will prevail.”—and she’s far more truculent than knowledgeable, not only about politics but about basic human existence. Which is something Noge’s quick to point out. “All you know of life are the pretty scenes outside your window. […] You ridicule logic, but beauty and pleasure not founded on reason are mere bubbles.”
The scene presses on. Yukie, visibly hurt by Noge’s words, starts hammering away on her piano, pretending to play Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for the amusement of Itokawa—continuing to do so even after Noge picks up his hat and leaves. After abruptly putting a stop to her banging on the keys, she crams a cigarette into her mouth, turning to Itokawa for a light…only to pull away at the last second. Then, the young woman, eyes gleaming, begs her remaining companion to kowtow and apologize (for whatever he wants, so long as he gets down on his knees). When he relents, Yukie becomes distraught at the submissiveness on display and admonishes the law student for not being able to tell her the truth about herself as Noge had just done. What might come across as a confusing burst of erratic behavior is actually, upon further examination, a depiction of a naïve, spoiled individual who thought she could live without a thought or a care in the world briefly attempting to regain some sense of control over her environment before coming around to reluctant acceptance of the facts. All her life, she’s led a mindless existence, soaking up the carefree benefits provided by her parents, blissfully and ignorantly disregarding the world and her place within it. The argument with Noge has brought all of this crashing around her.
Flash forward to 1938. Noge was arrested and sent to prison by the militarists five years ago, following a failed student demonstration, and hasn’t been seen since. But his argument with Yukie has remained on the latter’s heart and mind. Having come to realize the vacuity of her life and saddened to see Noge’s cause simmering—the activist’s colleagues decide not to pursue further action against the government following his arrest—Yukie’s suddenly hurled into her newfound void. No longer does she go frolicking through the wilderness with fawning university students. Instead, she passionlessly studies. In one of the movie’s very best scenes—one exhibiting how brilliantly Kurosawa could use imagery to evoke thoughts from the audience—Yukie dismantles one of her projects in a flower arranging class, responding to glowing compliments from her peers. “Our teacher said that in flower arrangement, you should express yourself freely,” she explains. To prove her point, she plucks the heads of three flowers and places them in a triangular formation in a tray of water, exemplifying her state of mind and her psychological relation to her two suitors. (She momentarily considers marrying Itokawa, now a prosecutor, but ultimately decides against the idea, for life with him would be safe but “boring”; on the other hand, life with Noge would “blaze,” making the prospect “terrifying” but “enticing.”)
Notice how most of these situations have remarkably little to do with Japan’s mounting political scenario. Although she is far more acute to her own existence at this point, Yukie has not taken up any particularly strong activist beliefs; indeed, any newfound political notions on her part are, like her ideologies, extremely basic and marginal. For instance, she now recognizes her country’s expansionist agenda as a bad thing—eyeing troops on the street as they voice anticipation for death on the battlefield—but never takes action against it. At best, she’s more aware that government-led actions affect the world in which she lives.
Even the second “twist” in her life is largely divorced from politics. A half-decade after his arrest, Noge, released from prison, pays a visit to the Yagihara household, seemingly a changed man. Once vibrant and full of revisionist passion, the young activist’s been transformed into a passive, soft-spoken wimp; he renounced his leftist beliefs in exchange for early release and, even in private conversation, is very careful not to say anything even remotely abrasive. In short, he’s become another conformist. Seeing Noge like this leaves Yukie in a state of emotional despair.
And it is immediately after this visit that Yukie decides to leave home. She’s bound for Tokyo (having studied typing and foreign languages in college, she can get a job at a trading company). When confronted about her decision by her father, the young woman breaks down before tearfully professing her reasons. “[R]ight now, I feel as if I’m not even living. I want to at least go out into the world and see for myself what it means to be alive.” Her father then encourages her to go, provided she understands “freedom” (notice he doesn’t say “academic freedom” or “political freedom”) comes with a price, for which she must be prepared.
Yukie’s behavior and decisions make eminent sense upon close examination—and, once again, have remarkably little to do with social beliefs she still has no outward passion for. Seeing her old companion so radically changed was indeed the final turning point for her, but the political nature of Noge’s (seemingly abandoned) cause was incidental: it was his drive and determination that was important to Yukie, because it defined who Noge was; he exemplified living life with reason and purpose (something Yukie’s come to realize she lacks in her own life); and seeing that same man dehumanized, gutted of what he used to be, has left her an emotional wreck. (That she’s fallen in love with him only makes the realization more painful.) And now, the only way she feels she can replenish her belief in the self is to strike out on her own and discover a way to lead life with meaning. She doesn’t know what that might be or what role she should take on, but she believes she’s able—rather, needs—to find it.
All of this is subsequently augmented when Yukie and Noge reunite in Tokyo.
In an intensely claustrophobic scene running seven minutes in length, Yukie and Noge converse in the latter’s deserted office building, drenched in the shadows of night. It is now 1941, three years since their last encounter. Yukie’s lived in Tokyo all that time and has changed jobs three times since moving. “They were never more than a way to put food on the table,” she confesses. “I want something…I can throw myself into…body and soul. That’s the kind of work I want.” Having failed to find a fulfilling occupation on her own and further motivated by her emotional feelings for him, Yukie became determined to find Noge (she’d even considered going to China earlier, having heard he might be there) in hopes that he could set her down the path that was right for her. To emphasize a point I alluded to earlier: in the course of their conversation, the closest Yukie comes to asking about antimilitarism is when she asks Noge if he’s keeping a secret about something “wonderful” (wonderful because it would indicate he’s reverted back to being a radical, back to who he is). Still no enunciated interest in joining the movement herself.
In any event, even though Noge doesn’t have an answer as to what his companion can do on her own, Yukie’s suspicions about him prove correct. Despite prison time and the charade he’d put on at the Yagihara home three years earlier, Noge hasn’t given up his beliefs. He’s merely moonlighting as an office man, continuing his antimilitarist practices behind the scenes. But as the national authorities are steadily pushing themselves into war with the United States (and doubling down on their efforts to silence anyone against it), the police will inevitably catch onto him, and when they do, the consequences will be deadly. Well aware of this and wanting to make the most of their limited time together, the two young people share an apartment in Tokyo. (Yukie professes to have been Noge’s spouse, but all evidence in the film indicates they were simply lovers*****.) Although she studied languages and has skills as a typist (qualities which would surely be helpful in Noge’s professional and personal interests), Yukie merely takes care of him when he comes home, assuming—for all intents and purposes—the role of a housewife. Even when they’re arrested by the police and Noge dies his cell (presumably tortured to death), Yukie never actually follows in his footsteps and becomes an antimilitarist. In fact, the mission she undertakes in the last part of the movie (to be discussed shortly) has virtually nothing to do with her lover’s ambitions and accomplishments.
Based on everything that’s been described thus far, we can plainly see Yukie Yagihara is not an especially political person. In truth, she’s a relatively apolitical person in love with an inspiring man who just happens to be political and living in intensely political times. The fact that she chooses the freedom fighter can be read as a tacit endorsement of his cause—and that is certainly a subtheme in the picture—but the cause itself is not the force motivating her and is ultimately not the core of the movie. Because of this, Yukie’s quite dissimilar from, say, the protagonist of Kenji Mizoguchi’s Flame of My Love (1949), to whom she is often compared. And No Regrets for Our Youth is hardly an ideal companion piece to that particular film. Both movies feature strong female protagonists striving for something in times of great political upheaval, but the way the two films treat their subjects and what their respective heroines actually fight for are drastically different. Kinuyo Tanaka’s lead in the Mizoguchi film was an ardently political person. Her motives, her decisions, even her choice of company were fueled by her activism, her desire to seek emancipation and equality (and respect) for all women in Japan. (At one point, she leaves her insurrectionist boyfriend after discovering he’s been philandering behind her back; they may have enemies in common, but she cannot remain—even associate—with someone who won’t even respect her as a woman.) By contrast, Setsuko Hara in No Regrets for Our Youth is motivated by the need for self-discovery; the person she’s out to save—at least before Noge’s death—is herself. And through her subsequent mission to redeem the man she loved, she ends up redefining herself and finds what she was looking for in the first place.
An interesting footnote before we continue. No Regrets for Our Youth left a very positive impression on contemporary audiences and was even selected by Kinema Jumpo magazine as the second best Japanese movie of the year, but it also drew some considerable ire from critical voices. In a “Short Review” published in Eiga Times, for instance, the complaint was made that: “The film is proud of itself as progressive; however, it is fatal that the film in reality praises the conventional morality.” The jabs made by this reviewer were aimed at some of Yukie’s key decisions: decisions seeming to conform to standard virtues for women in mid-20th century Japan (such as taking on housewife-esque roles and responsibilities). On the one hand, the reviewer’s correct that some of Yukie’s decisions lead to her assuming “standardized” tasks, and it’s certainly possible to contend her not participating in Noge’s cause deprived them of even more time to be in each other’s company. (One could compellingly argue this is a lapse in the film’s screenplay.) But on the other hand, to reiterate something I’ve discussed at length, Yukie’s political outlook is and remains extremely marginal, and certain scenes demonstrate that mere reminders of Noge’s endangerment leave her emotionally frail—such as when she breaks down upon hearing of “good news” in his mission (the fact that Noge’s making progress means the odds of him getting caught are now tenfold). Being around him at work and behind the scenes—receiving much more than hints of his inevitable fate—might’ve exacerbated the emotional ordeal she was going through. Also to reiterate: the reason why Yukie lives with Noge in the first place is due to them acting on their limited time left to be together—as is made clear through dialogue. (It’s not her mission or salvation to become a housewife.) Still, one could quibble a bit with the writing here.
But where the Eiga Times reviewer most egregiously missed the mark was in his criticizing Yukie’s next decision: to move in with Noge’s parents after his death (“The theme that a woman has to stay with her husband’s family even after he dies is very obsolete.”). On the surface, this may seem like a valid observation; but when examined in context, scrutiny does not align with this interpretation. For it is here, in this long, absolutely marvelous final forty minutes of the picture, that Yukie Yagihara’s quest for self-discovery comes to fruition, and in ways that are only superficially “conventional.”
Personal Transformation and Discovery of the Self
Yukie’s motivation for what ultimately brings about the greatest change in her life stems from her final conversation with Noge. Mere hours before his arrest, the seemingly impervious freedom fighter revealed his one true weakness: his estranged relationship with his rice farmer parents, whom he hadn’t seen in ten years (and would never see again). He feared the scolding of his father and the tears of his mother, and despite his belief that fighting for peace in Japan would, in a way, include amending his relationship with them, he still considered them his “weak spot.” In this scene, Yukie realizes Noge, too, had a void in his life, one he was never able to fill.
In the wake of their son’s much-publicized death, Noge’s parents refuse to make the journey to claim his remains—for reasons that are soon made clear and somewhat understandable. In addition to the strained relationship that existed between the deceased and his progenitors, the government-controlled media’s denouncement of Noge as a spy has cast a nationwide bias over his family. The farming community in which the parents reside has completely turned on them, forcing the two elderlies to board up their doors and windows (covered with graffiti spelling out phrases such as “Spies Live Here”) and work their fields only under the cover of night. Indeed, as Yukie learns in delivering Noge’s ashes, the mother (Haruko Sugimura) blames her son for their newfound circumstances, cursing him while she digs his grave. After seeing all of this, Yukie’s determined to remain, at least temporarily, with her in-laws. Not because “conventional morality” insists the daughter-in-law tend to her husband’s family, but because she sees it as her task to mend the “weak spot” Noge could never mend himself. She knows not how she can do it, only that she must. And at no point in this last section do we see her take on especially “conventional” roles: she doesn’t prepare meals, clean the house, etc. (As a matter of fact, she frequently acts against the wishes of her in-laws.) As with the political events in the film, the change of scenery/company merely forms a framework—a situation—through which Yukie undertakes her journey. And in the process, she completely strips herself of her bourgeois background and everything that came with it.
As is demonstrated in what is, unquestionably, the film’s most mesmerizing scene. Having made it clear she will not—cannot—leave, Yukie joins her mother-in-law in the long, taxing process of growing rice. Kurosawa ends the previous scene with a shot of Yukie on her hands and knees and then cross-dissolves to a pair of hoes, the blades of the tools directly matching the position of our protagonist’s hands. The first hoe’s picked up by the mother-in-law, the second by Yukie, who’s already undergoing a change of wardrobe. In the earlier scene, she was clad in a full-fledged middle-class suit; now, she’s without her suit jacket. (The first “layer” of her background, peeled away.) Next, Kurosawa takes us to the fields. The mother-in-law’s hacking apart the hard, grassy terrain with an attitude that can only be described as antagonistic. Yukie stands off to the side in a state of horror. Once again, the mother starts cursing her dead child: “Rotten, ungrateful son!” At the mention of these words—reinforcing why Yukie came here in the first place—the young woman lifts her hoe off the ground and takes a step forward. As she does, one of her shoes comes loose—stripping away yet another layer of her background—and she takes her first strike at the earth, eventually, with some effort, tearing out a large chunk of it. The two women then start working as a team, the mother no longer saying a word, perplexed by her daughter-in-law’s determination. Yukie’s adjustment is not immediate. Her pristine white shirt’s soon caked in mud; she quickly begins to tire; discomforting blisters open on her hands. But she doesn’t stop. To counter the blisters, she forges a couple of makeshift bandages. To prevent her hair from flying around, she pins it back, away from her face. And the harder she works, the more efficient she becomes. She has found it. After much searching, in a way she never imagined—and for a cause she never hoped for—Yukie’s found work into which she can completely throw herself, “body and soul.”
In capping off this remarkable sequence, Kurosawa segues into a series of cross-dissolves, transitioning between four similarly composed wide shots of Yukie hoeing laterally before the camera. With each cross-dissolve, part of the heroine’s former wardrobe disappears, replaced by lower-class work attire. And then, the final dissolve. Our protagonist is completely unrecognizable and in more ways than one. Whereas previously in the scene Yukie would pour herself a cup of water during breaks, she now hefts the entire jug over her head, drinking straight from the spout. Her wardrobe has changed, her etiquette has changed, Yukie herself has changed. (A later image in the film: her hands skillfully whisk over the keys of her piano back home, soon dissolved and replaced by a shot of those same hands—covered with bandages—being rinsed in the countryside river. With that, every iota of who Yukie Yagihara used to be is, figuratively, metaphorically, washed away.)
Through a great deal of physical and mental anguish, Yukie attains the respect of her in-laws and makes strides in improving their way of life. She tears down the boards covering their doors and windows and endures the hostile gazes of the villagers when she strolls through town (Kurosawa does not glamorize lower-class communities—once again, it’s merely a venue). She continues to work right alongside her mother-in-law (in daylight now) until they’ve converted whole acres of grassy fields into rice paddies. And when all of their hard work’s destroyed in a night raid by the villagers—who leave hate-spewing signs in the muddy water—it is Yukie who makes the first move to start planting all over again. The mother-in-law follows suit. And then, at last, the father-in-law (Kokuten Kodo), who has been silent and inactive all this time, takes action, tearing down the signs, shouting defiance of the people (their own neighbors) who’ve done this to them. Noge’s parents finally realize the cruelty inflicted upon them is and always has been the cause of society, not their son. Yukie’s mission is a success.
The story of No Regrets for Our Youth ends twelve years after it began, in 1945. An intertitle proclaims: “The war is lost, but freedom is restored.” Yukie’s father has been restored to his teaching job at Kyoto Imperial University, and Noge’s come to be revered as a martyr. (The late antimilitarist once told Yukie that, in time, the public would appreciate what people like him had done.) Still, there is an air of sadness in the present—reflection over what was lost in the struggle for freedom, academic and otherwise—especially at the reception where Professor Yagihara gives a speech about his former student. All is certainly better, but hardly ideal.
As for Yukie, now thirty-two years old, there’s much left to be done. Her successfully mending Noge’s image in the minds of his parents unintentionally paved her way to a new cause worthy of devotion. Politics is still not her forte; instead, her mission is to ease the hardships inherent in the lives of lower-class people, which she has now experienced first-hand. “Their lives—especially the women’s lives—are brutally hard,” she informs her mother. “If I can improve their lot even a little, my life will be well spent.” Once again: in setting out to redeem the man she loved, Yukie ended up redefining herself and found the very thing she was seeking in the first place.
There is tremendous irony in the last few minutes of No Regrets for Our Youth—both in the writing and in Setsuko Hara’s performance. In playing the scene of Yukie explaining her situation to her mother, Hara beams incessantly, even forcibly, as though putting on a façade of happiness (despite her insistence to the contrary). And if the next scene is any indicator, she just might be. On her way out of town, Yukie stops by beautiful Arashiyama, and this time, she’s all alone (in a place where she used to frolic in naïve innocence). Resting next to a babbling brook, she watches a new generation of students—ones who didn’t have to choose between conformism and individuality—hopping across the stones spanning the stream (just as she and her friends had done; they even sing the same songs). Framed in a long-lasting close-up, Yukie somberly stares after the students, remembering her youth and everything she’s lost. The title of the movie comes from a phrase Noge once said to her and she’s adopted it herself, but it’s only somewhat true. Yukie may have found a meaningful way to lead her life, but it’s come at a terrible price.
For the picture’s ending, Kurosawa added a dialogue-free coda absent in Eijiro Hisaita’s screenplay. Three trucks come barreling past the camera down a gravel road—destination: the farming community—the last one stopping to pick up Yukie, who needs a ride. The farmers in the back of the truck are all smiles as they take her suitcase and help her up. Once aboard, Yukie leans against the chassis, standing before everyone else. An irony-fueled montage ensues with the farmers smiling and bowing (apologetically as well as welcomingly) to the very same woman who, just a few years before, they had all scorned and shunned as the wife of a spy. Perplexed at first, Yukie finally gives a soft smile. Noge’s words have proven true: in time, the Japanese people came to realize the nobility of his cause. Our heroine’s smile is tinged with sadness (she did lose Noge, after all), but at least now she has proof her love’s death wasn’t completely in vain. The final image begins as a group shot of everyone with Yukie framed in the center; the truck then resumes its journey, pulling away from the camera, taking Yukie back to the village where she uncovered not her political beliefs but her independence, her cause, her reason for living, and her sense of self.
In a 1956 issue of Eiga Junkan magazine, Kurosawa was quoted saying: “I believed [at the time of No Regrets for Our Youth] that it was necessary to respect the ‘self’ for Japan to be reborn. I still believe it. I depicted a woman who maintained such a sense of ‘self.’” And following a very careful and thorough analysis of the picture under discussion, I am convinced, now more than ever, that this is the core of his movie. The film’s social backdrop certainly influences key narrative events but only takes center stage on occasion; much more attention is instead zeroed in on Yukie and her journey.
Themes of individual growth had been of interest to Kurosawa ever since his directorial debut in 1943; but his ability to flex this notion had been greatly restricted by the confines of wartime censorship. His earliest movies showed characters growing only within government-approved subjects (such as mastering judo—Japan’s national sport) and women were, for the most part, meek, inspiring only in their spiritual purity. The closest Kurosawa had come to a Yukie Yagihara before was in 1944’s The Most Beautiful, his one wartime film with a determined, self-regulating female lead. Despite the propaganda-infested context of this film, there were some aching bits of humanity evoked through its main character: the heroine relentlessly searching for an unchecked rifle lens through all hours of the night, for fear one of her countrymen would die a needless death due to having a faulty weapon in battle; the same person breaking down in tears upon realizing her ceaseless devotion at work cost her the chance to say goodbye to her terminally ill mother. A discussion on the humanity of The Most Beautiful in and of itself is an interesting topic (perhaps one for another day); but it wasn’t until No Regrets for Our Youth that Kurosawa was able to present individuals and individual achievement in a way that was truly special.
And in Yukie, the director cemented traits destined to filter into other characters of his down the road. Besides what Kyoko Hirano has mentioned in her book (that stubbornness and insistence on pushing through life’s struggles would define later Kurosawa women), I would like to note that bits and pieces of Yukie’s characterization sometimes resurfaced through protagonists in Kurosawa’s predominately male-centric filmography—with Takashi Shimura’s civil servant in Ikiru (1952) immediately coming to mind. Like Yukie, Shimura undertakes his journey in that film primarily to satisfy a personal need, to accomplish something meaningful with his life. And while he’s awakened to this need by a very different set of circumstances, the emotions behind his reasoning are quite similar to those of the woman who gave up her carefree bourgeois existence in favor of something she couldn’t even identify but eventually discovered with redefining passion. As both characters admit in key scenes from their respective movies, all either of them wants is to discover what it truly means to live.
All of this renders Yukie Yagihara into an essential figure in Kurosawa cinema, worthy of careful thought and analysis. Passionate, vigorous, and endlessly fascinating—very much like the movie around her.
* No Regrets for Our Youth screenwriter Eijiro Hisaita had been imprisoned by the government before the war for practicing as a leftist writer. Although he was forced to write national policy films during the war years—such as Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Final Struggle (1943)—he returned to his leftist beliefs immediately after the surrender. Most notably, during the same year as his collaboration with Kurosawa, he wrote Keisuke Kinoshita’s antimilitarist drama Morning for the Osone Family (1946), which was chosen by the prestigious Kinema Jumpo magazine as the best Japanese movie of the year (No Regrets for Our Youth was chosen as the second best).
** When the Allied Powers took over Japan after the surrender, they immediately set out to control all Japanese media, including the content of movies. See my article on another Akira Kurosawa film, Those Who Make Tomorrow, for more information.
*** As early as October 11, 1945—mere months after the surrender—General Douglas MacArthur personally recommended that Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara make the emancipation of women the highest of his priorities. The occupation government’s demands led to the formation of the Women’s and Minors’ Bureau in the Japanese Ministry of Labor in September 1947 and opened national universities to women. Furthermore, in the first postwar general election (April 10, 1946), thirty-nine women won seats in the Shugiin (the Japanese House of Representatives).
**** Kurosawa was forever insistent the original script that Hisaita wrote for him was much better than the script he ended up shooting. “[Hisaita’s] first script for my film was such a beautiful piece of work that it still pains me to remember that it was shelved at the hands of such thoughtless people.”
***** The film never shows a wedding ceremony, pictures, etc. But the key piece of evidence is when Yukie is interrogated by the police, in which they ask her how long she and Noge had been (their words) “lovers.”BY: Patrick GalvanGeneral // January 17, 2019
The staff of Toho Kingdom sound off on their hopes for Godzilla and Toho related events for 2019, “Tohopes” if you will and don’t mind a large helping of puns. With a new Godzilla film on the near horizon with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the new year is likely to be big for the franchise star, and we weigh in on what might be in store and what would be great to see in the near future as a result.
2019… the year of Godzilla’s 65th birthday! And for such an auspicious year, we are getting a spectacular showing from him!
We’re finally going to see the long awaited release of the next MonsterVerse film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which is where most of my Tohopes for this year are bound. The two trailers which have been released at the time of this writing have been utterly stunning; the fab four Toho kaiju look amazing, the action looks to be stellar, and I am fully planning on enjoying myself on this film. Simply put, I hope it is as at least as much fun as it seems to be!!
In addition to the movie, I’m very excited on the collectibles side of G:KOTM too. The SH-MonsterArts figures all look pretty good, but I’m hoping we’ll get some new X-plus announcements showcasing the MonsterVerse designs as well. Most of all though, I’d like to see another statue come out in the same vein as the Sideshow Collectables 2014 Godzilla. The first statue in particular is spectacular, but as soon as the updated 2019 Godzilla design was revealed I knew I had to have an updated version! I’m excited just imagining the ways I would display the two of them together.
I’m also getting anxious to hear about Toho’s plans for Godzilla post 2020. I love the MonsterVerse and I’d like to see it continue. My hope is some sort of deal can be brokered that allows the continuation of the MonsterVerse alongside some new Toho offerings. Time will tell on that front though; I’m excited to find out what will happen next!
Beyond that, I’d just like to see more Godzilla material in general! I really can’t get enough of the big guy! I’d really love to see him get back into comics this year. IDW’s Godzilla run was great, and every month I looked forward to those titles. It would be wonderful to see something else come out like that. A new Godzilla video game would be cool as well, or maybe even a re-release of the classic Pipeworks Godzilla trilogy? I know I’d be game for either!!
Past Godzilla though, I’d be very happy to expand my exposure to various other Toho movies. I’ve been dying to see Gorath for some time, and I’d like to make this year the one where I see it! Time will tell though; I just hope it’s a great year for Godzilla, and all the rest of us out here enjoying his resurgence!
1. I think everyone has some high hopes for the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters release. Of course, as with many others, I am hoping for awesome monster action, cameos from favorite Toho monsters and new originals (I love original monsters!), and a compelling story. But can I be frank and just say I really hope the human cast is memorable as well? That might be my biggest hope for the film. From what I have seen of the monsters, I think they look great. But if the human scenes (which, let’s face it, will be the majority of the movie) are a slog, then the movie will be a pain in the butt to sit through. Please, please, PLEASE have interesting and relatable human characters!
2. Comics! I am a big fan of comics, and I would love to see more Godzilla comics released both Stateside and in Japan. Come on, original stories! I would love it if, instead of just getting one Godzilla tie-in graphic novel, we could get some ongoing comic adventures!
3. And as long as I am at it, I wish, wish, wish Toho would just release several big volumes collecting all the old Godzilla and Toho kaiju/sci-fi stories together, including the original side stories. Oh, gosh, that would be AMAZING.
4. Here’s a big stretch, but if I could have my druthers and dream big… I wish we could finally see an official DVD release of Half Human (1955) and Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974) in Japan OR in the States, plus official releases of Invisible Man and The Secret of Telegian (1960) in the States. I know it’s shooting for the moon, but I wish we could see that.
5. An announcement of something new with Gamera. A new movie, a new TV show, a video game, something. I just want more Gamera—especially if we could finally get that crossover with Godzilla. Hey, Godzilla is fighting King Kong again. Why can’t he have a crossover event with Gamera, too?
6. We had our Godzilla anime trilogy. Could we have an actual Godzilla anime TV series now? Pretty please?
7. A new, good Godzilla video game. Or even a sequel to City Shrouded in Shadows! That may not have been a great game, but I really enjoyed it!
8. Can I just say, more than any of these other hopes, that 2019 will be a year in which we have a lot of good health? Yes, for the various beloved creators and actors and celebrities, but also for the fans. We lost a lot of people last year. I hope that 2019 can be a year of good health and fun fan friendships all year long as the Toho kaiju world gets bigger than ever. Time is precious!
It’s been five years since a Godzilla movie hit theaters for a wide release in the United States. That event was the second ever American Godzilla film, and while it didn’t cause the same onslaught of merchandise that GODZILLA (1998) did, fans did get a lot of things to look forward to. This included a number of toys and also a lot of Blu-rays, such as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster! Godzilla vs Hedorah.
So my hope is that we get something similar this year, in particular in the realm of home video releases. If I had to narrow my selection on what I would like to see most, it would probably be Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) from Kraken Releasing and by some miracle a release of Rodan (1956) from Criterion. I also hope that Sony continues with their releases of some of their catalog on Blu-ray. I was pretty happy with the Blu-ray of Battle in Outer Space (1959) last year, and would love if they followed it up with Mothra (1961) and H-Man (1958) this year.
Regardless of what happens though, we are getting a new Godzilla film, a new appearance by Rodan and a new Godzilla soundtrack from Bear McCreary, who has done decent work on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tv series. So even if none of my wishes pan out this year, I know I will have enough to keep me happy as a Godzilla and Toho fan in 2019.
Have a hope of your own for the new year? Sound off in the comments below.General // January 16, 2019
It’s been 16 years since Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee was announced and released. Since then several generations of video game consoles have come, as the industry continues to march on. Despite these advances, though, the original trilogy of games from Atari and Pipeworks are still well remembered today. In fact, one doesn’t have to look further than this petition to re-release them, currently with over 8,000 signatures, to see that.
So, the staff of Toho Kingdom does its retrospect on these titles, diving into what made the Atari and Pipeworks trilogy of Godzilla games particularly memorable. Feeling nostalgic for the titles yourself? Feel free to leave a comment on the article sharing your experience with the titles.
As an avid video game player to this day, I believe that I have never been more excited for any game than I was for Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee! There’s simply nothing else that compares. When I first got wind of it in a quarter page preview in Game Informer, my 11 year old brain went into overdrive. I spent at least 1 hour, every day, looking up screen shots, videos, and articles for the game on my slow dial up internet. It got to the point where I had to limit my searches just to spare myself agonizing over every screenshot. For the first time ever, I had a shot at fulfilling my childhood dream to get to be Godzilla. This game felt like the closest I could get to making that dream come true. So, needless to say, before the game even released I was hooked. I had my Mom take me to KB Toys to pick it up, desperately anxious to play. Waiting for the staff to find it and then bring it to me was agonizing, but at long last it was in my hands! What followed was a blur of elation and pure joy. I unlocked the roster in a matter of two days, played an untold number of hours against AI and friends. And even if it wasn’t perfect, it was an absolute treasure. Godzilla: DAMM was a routine mini-disc in my Game Cube (and later Xbox) tray, and I still keep both versions in my collection today.
Fast forward to the sequel in 2004 and my experience changes only very subtly. I was excited from the first announcement, and the expanded roster of kaiju only further fed my obsession. Thankfully I had learned to dial back my exhaustive researching, so it seemed like no time until the game was released. After that, I started networking my classmates; I hooked everyone I could into playing with me! I brought my PlayStation 2 over to other people’s houses just to get them in on the game, even buying the controller expansion port so I could have 3 other friends play with me. I played the asteroid and submarine levels on my own to get higher scores, staged recreations of Godzilla’s most famous movie bouts, as well as many original set ups as well. Truly, no Godzilla game before this could compare to it. Super Godzilla might be nostalgic, but nothing could come close to this game.
Which leaves Godzilla: Unleashed for our final entry in the trilogy. My relationship with this game is a bit of a rollercoaster. Being on the Wii, I was rather concerned about the controls… but my love of Godzilla overcame me and I bought a Wii just to play it! It just looked so exciting! The roster was even bigger than G:STE, and graphically it was improved (if only slightly). There were rumors and tales of an expanded story mode, which was more than enough to get me to chance it. And then, as I feared, the motion controls nearly killed if for me. It was clunky, not very responsive, and the battlefields just didn’t quite keep my attention. I played through it, unlocked as many kaiju as I could, and put it away… Until I didn’t. Years later, I put my Wii out for a party and Godzilla made it into the lineup! And to my initial surprise, he was a big hit too! Suddenly I was running tournaments with my friends, people were coming over just to play the game! Clearly I had been too harsh on my first play through; like all the games in the Pipeworks/Atari trilogy, this Godzilla game was a ton of fun!
Which is precisely why we need them back now! Godzilla is at the forefront of a kaiju resurgence. With multiple movies out and Godzilla: King of the Monsters on the horizon, now is the best time of all to bring these games back out. Plenty of people have the same dream I did at 12; to be Godzilla. And there are frankly no better nor more fun video games than these three gems to make that dream a reality.
There are three video games that I’ve anticipated more than any others. They are Super Smash Bros. Brawl, to which I would eagerly await the daily updates on Smashbros.com, Pokémon Gold/Silver, to which half the fun was trying to separate fake rumors on the net from actual news, and finally Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee.
I still vividly recall my disbelief that we were getting a Godzilla video game in the United States for the Nintendo Gamecube. Despite its faults, Godzilla: Monster of Monsters remains a very fond memory for me, drenched with Toho lore from every pore. However, it had been a long time since its sequel hit the US and the SNES Super Godzilla just never clicked with me and so felt like a distant memory at the time. Outside of these, it had felt like most Godzilla games were a Japan only affair, and my disappointment about us not getting Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters in the US was still palatable. So to discover we were getting a 3D fighting game based on the King of the Monsters felt like a dream, and I was instantly hooked on gathering as much information as possible.
Some may recall how fixated Toho Kingdom was on covering the game. Any and all news was broadcast on the game, and we had early access to producer Kirby Fong and Pipeworks president Dan Duncalf as well to fuel the excitement. At that time, all eyes were on the roster for the game. Every day felt like a new adventure to see who might be confirmed, looking through new screenshots for any hints. That’s a real testament considering the final roster, for the US Gamecube release, ended up being 11 monsters. Ultimately, the last reveal happened by accident, as the final copyright for the game, due to Toho’s policy, revealed everyone.
Excitement building aside, how did the final game stack up? Well I played the hell out of it, for sure. The title was immensely more engaging than most of the Godzilla games before it, greatly surpassing Godzilla Generations just in being able to feel like you are walking around in a city as the title character. The multiplayer aspect was icing on the cake… and honestly, it’s just a lot of fun to pickup a building and toss it at another monster. In fact, it’s still a Gamecube game I revisit, pretty much the only one at this stage beyond some occasional joy in playing Link in Soul Calibur 2. While I enjoyed the sequels, which I’m not saying aren’t better games, the first Pipeworks title will always hold a special place for me due to the hype leading to its release and the fun I had with it.
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (Gamecube, Xbox)
I never had the Gamecube version of this game, but I remember finding a Gamestop that had a demo version of the game running shortly after its release. I was really excited to try it out, and thought the monsters looked great, which was pretty exciting for a Godzilla geek like me. If I remember correctly, only a few monsters were enabled on the demo—I think Megalon, Anguirus, and Godzilla. I remember smashing things up for a bit, but getting my hinder handed to me by the aggressive computer. Later my brother picked up the Xbox version of the game and we played it via the Xbox360 emulator, but by that time I had played Save the Earth, and the older game felt pretty clunky to me, so I personally didn’t get very far.
Godzilla: Save the Earth (PS2, Xbox)
This was probably my favorite game in the series, but for the life of me, I can’t remember it very well. My strongest memory of playing this game was picking up the Japanese version when I lived in southern Honshu many years ago and being blown away by the gorgeous cover art. I am sure I played through the game several times, but in all honesty, while I remember enjoying the game (especially size-shifting Jet Jaguar), the game didn’t have a huge impact on me.
Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii, PS2)
So… the game that had the biggest impact on me personally out of all three of the Pipeworks Godzilla games was Unleashed, specifically the PS2 version. I have had only very limited playtime with the Wii version, but the PS2 version I played to exhaustion because for a while I was thinking to write a review of the thing, and I was frustrated by the lack of detail in the reviews I had seen online. I remember getting incredibly frustrated with this game, and took many notes for a review which I never finished because I just got sick of the game.
These games for me are a big part of my childhood. Nothing was more satisfying than being able to lay the smackdown on an opposing monster with another giant monster, using whatever tools you had or utilizing the environment to your disposal. These were very solid 3D fighters and play very well, with a roster that only expanded with every new entry. So the thought of having high definition remasters is an incredibly exciting prospect!
Each entry holds a special place for me. Although I enjoyed the GameCube version of Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee fine, the Xbox version became my personal go-to game with its revised graphics and additional content. Playing as Kiryu (Mechagodzilla 3) on the Boxing Ring and Vortaak homeworld was one of the most cathartic experiences for younger me. Even if we didn’t have access to it at the time, being able to demolish the elusive Thrashburg stages still gives the game more to discover of what we’ve been missing on.
While I did wind up sinking most of my time playing Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii), I’d say Godzilla: Save the Earth is probably the best in the trilogy, with its refined combat system being several steps up from where G:DAMM started. Before GU hit the scene, it was definitely GSTE I played at every waking moment I could (with Super Smash Bros. Melee being the other major contender). It was always an intense game, and one I still hold good memories of. An overall better fighter than its predecessor. Even the likes of the game’s cut content–notably Biollante–kept me invested in the game after hearing from an old interview with Simon Strange so many years ago (and having had the chance to play as her, she’s a blast!).
Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii) is a title that understandably gets flack for its wonky motion controls, but it’s also the entry with the most in terms of roster size. It’s unfortunate that the game’s controls is the biggest hurdle of them all, because this is a game that has tons to offer and has memorable set pieces (like the Invasion event in the story mode). As stated, I’ve played the game for hours upon hours, playing through the entire game with absolutely everyone. Here’s to the remastered version being able to amend these faults, if that can be at all changed.
It’d be nice to chip in two cents of what we’d want to see, but first we have to wait if such a herculean task will be picked up or what direction it’ll be taken in (and if Toho gives their blessings). So let your voice be known, because I believe they are listening.General // January 14, 2019
Edits, additions and replacements. Toho’s large catalogue of films have sometimes been released untouched for the international markets, and other times have been hacked up almost beyond recognition. This article focuses on the rarely talked about musical component of this process, and looks to cite where music was inserted into a Toho film from an outside source when brought overseas.
- Godzilla Raids Again
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
- The War of the Gargantuas
- Godzilla vs. Hedorah
- The Return of Godzilla
- Godzilla 2000: Millennium
Note that entries are not complete. Meaning just because a film is listed doesn’t mean all overseas film music is represented in that entry at this time. This article is a work in progress. If you have information on a Toho film and the original music not listed here, please feel free to mention it in the comment section. The more details that you can provide, the better it will assist us in getting it added.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
When Paul Schriebman re-edited Godzilla Raids Again as Gigantis the Fire Monster for its US release, much of Masaru Sato‘s score was replaced with music from various American B movies of the 1950’s. Many of these cues originated from the 1957 giant robot film Kronos, and were composed by Paul Sawtell and Ben Shefter. The theme song for the omonimous robot is frequently heard in Gigantis the Fire Monster, underscoring most of the battle between the creatures.
The score for Kronos was released in its entirety in 1984 as an LP (CLP-1001) by Cacophonic. The tracks as they appear in the film are:
#1 The “Main Title” serving this very same function in Gigantis the Fire Monster
#15 “Power Resources”, when Godzilla and Anguirus are first spotted on Iwato Island, and during Dr. Yamane’s lecture about the “Fire monsters”. The cue then fades to:
#16 “Attack on Kronos”, which pops up just as stock footage from Godzilla (1954) does
#19 “The Bomb Part 2”, when Godzilla makes his landing on Osaka
#21 “Kronos on Rampage”, as Godzilla and Anguirus finish their battle
#22 “Kronos Attacked”, for the prologue scenes and later when Kobayashi’s engine goes out of order
The soundtrack for Kronos was later re-released on CD in 2012, as a 2-CD set that also featured The Cosmic Man by Monstrous Movie Music. The set was called Kronos/The Cosmic Man (MMM-1963/1964).
The Kronos/The Cosmic Man set can be purchased here.
Additional information and clarification provided by Ethan
Prepping the movie for its US release under the title Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster, Continental did some fairly substantial editing to the film. This included removing scenes from the movie, about 8 minutes in total, and shifting around the order of events in the film. For example, King Ghidorah shows up fairly late in the American cut.
During this process, Continental also inserted some stock music in the movie. While several themes were inserted, two of the more notable are by composer Trevor Duncan. These tracks are both called “Smouldering Fury”, denoted as (a) and (b). In terms of their use in the US version:
- Smouldering Fury (a): replaces Akira Ifukube‘s “The Kurobe Valley” theme in the film while they are hiking toward the meteor
- Smouldering Fury (b): played when an injured Malmess attempts to assassinate the princess
The War of the Gargantuas (1966)
Readied for its 1970 release in the United States, several changes were made to The War of the Gargantuas. This included the addition of unused footage, filmed as part of the original production and often containing expanded scenes of destruction. The musical score was also altered, including the addition of some of Akira Ifukube‘s themes from Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965).
However, Ifukube’s famous “Operation L March” theme was also removed from the American version of the film, replaced with a combination of reusing Gaira’s theme and also a stock cue. This stock cue, from APM music, is composer Philip Green’s “Terror Hunt”, a popular track in several other monster movies released before and after the US version of The War of the Gargantuas. Other uses include the 1965 The Legend of Blood Mountain, the 1971 Zaat and the TV show SpongeBob SquarePants. One of the earliest uses of the theme was way back in 1957, for the movie The Incredible Petrified World.
Unfortunately, a retail version is unknown to be available at this time.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
When AIP picked up the rights to the 1971 movie Godzilla vs. Hedorah, they opted to produce their own version for the US market. Retitled Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, this version of the movie was more or less faithful to the original with minor changes committed. One of the more glaring alterations, especially compared to the International version, is the addition of a new song: “Save the Earth”. Replacing Mari Keiko’s “Give Back the Sun!”, although using the same background music, the new piece was created by artist Adryan Russ with lyric writing help from Guy Hemric. Much like “Give Back the Sun!”, it is used three times in the film: the introduction, at the nightclub and after Hedorah is defeated. Unlike its Japanese counterpart, there is only one version and no male chorus alternate as was used at the end of the film.
In terms of release, the song can be found as an easter egg on the CD Everyone Has a Story: The Songs of Adryan Russ (LMLCD-133).
Everyone Has a Story: The Songs of Adryan Russ CD can be purchased here.
The Return of Godzilla (1984)
For Godzilla’s return to the big screen, New World Pictures opted to go create a version of the film that harked back to the Americanization of the original Godzilla (1954) as Godzilla King of the Monsters. This new version of The Return of Godzilla, titled Godzilla 1985, also underwent heavy editing. Scenes were added and removed, and to supplement this new music was also added.
For the task of fleshing out the musical score, New World Pictures turned to composer Christopher Young, who in his later years would score productions such as Spider-man 3. Rather than conducting new music, they opted to use Young’s haunting score for the Canadian movie Def-Con 4. This soundtrack was also made available in 1990 on CD by Intrada (MAF-7010D), although is rare to come by today.
In terms of execution, thankfully composer Reijiro Koroku‘s music was left mostly unscathed for the sequences that were left in the movie. The “new” music instead was used to replace the end song, fill in silence, and to accompany new scenes. Below is a complete rundown of these changes, which use the track titles from the CD release:
- During the scene where Steven Martin uncovers his eyes and a small dragon idol is seen the theme “Ghost Planet” is used
- “A Message from Home” is heard when reporter Goro Maki is looking through the Yahata Maru before finding the first victim of the Shockirus
- Leading up to Godzilla’s attack on the Soviet submarine, the “Armageddon” theme is heard
- “I Can’t Go On” is heard during the rigging of Mt. Mihara
- “The Juggernaut” is then used for the evacuation scenes before Godzilla arrives in Tokyo
- After the button is pressed for the nuclear missile, the theme “Defense Condition” is used
- As Hiroshi Okumura attempts to get into the rescue helicopter, a theme from Def-Con 4 is used when Howe runs into a camp of cannibals in the forest [unreleased theme]
- The end credits got a new musical sequence that edits together the High Rise Tension, Super-X and Self Defense Force themes from the film with Young’s “The Liberation of Fort Liswell”
The Def-Con 4 soundtrack can be purchased here.
Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)
When TriStar went to release Godzilla 2000 in theaters, they did a substantial edit to the original movie. This included a bit of trimming and enhancing the audio, giving a more robust surround sound. Beyond just simple dubbing, new sound effects were also utilized, with a lot of emphasis placed on the movie’s sound.
Probably not surprisingly, this extended toward work on the soundtrack as well. Some of composer Takayuki Hattori‘s themes were removed. This included in favor of inserting more of Akira Ifukube‘s music, used for the first appearance of Orga and also an encore performance of the Godzilla theme during the end credits.
The movie also featured original music, though, composed by J.Peter Robinson. This was inserted in numerous points including:
- While Yuji Sinoda is riding his motor bike on the beach
- As the tanks mobilize to attack Godzilla
- While the CCI rockets are lifted
- During the evacuation scenes after the Millennian UFO lands
- For part of the segment involving the Bomb Blasts
- When Yuki Ichinose turns the car around to go back for Sinoda
- Much of the battle music for Godzilla vs. Orga
- When Godzilla is blasting Tokyo before the credits, which features a synthesized version of the Godzilla theme
Some of the original tracks were released on a promotional CD in Europe, pictured above. They were bundled with tracks from GODZILLA (1998).
When Disney released Ponyo in the Western Market, they chose to capitalize on the successes of their pop stars Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers by casting their younger siblings, Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas, in the film. Due to the original version featuring a song sung by the leads, Disney translated the lyrics to English and had their leads sing the song using the same backing, not unlike Godzilla vs. Hedorah‘s “Save the Earth”. Disney also created a remix of the song with some different lyrics, which follows the dubbed version of the song in their version of the film’s end credits. Both Disney’s version and the remix are included in a single available for purchase on iTunes.
For the movie’s Italian release in 2009, this song was also redone by distributor Lucky Red. Like the US version, this song replaces the Japanese lyrics with ones in Italian by the leads for this dubbed version. Also like the one created by Disney, this song was uploaded to iTunes for resale.
The Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas versions of the songs can be purchased here.
Additional information and clarification provided by Daniel Short
This article was first published on September 23, 2010.BY: Anthony RomeroGeneral // January 4, 2019
‘Twas the night of winter solstice when Gamera arrived
In a far-off land where only the strong survived.
The wind was howling like a mad siren,
Only to be drowned out by the roar of a Titan.
From the darkness, a living mountain of flesh emerged;
Stronger than any force on Earth, its atomic power surged.
What Gamera saw coming was truly scary,
He knew of this creature, its battles legendary!
Not wanting to die without putting up a fight,
Gamera unleashed a burning blast of light;
But when the smoke cleared and the flames receded,
Gamera beheld something he didn’t know he needed.
In his claws was a gift that contained a surprise,
A gift Gamera would be playing with ’til the next sunrise;
Gamera was speechless; he didn’t know what to say;
It seemed all Godzilla wanted was a friend on this winter solstice day.BY: Thomas FairchildGeneral // December 22, 2018
Okay, so I realize this article is really late—about a month late to be honest. I saw Godzilla: The Planet Eater several weeks ago, but not on opening night, and so I missed my chance to really publish my Godzilla: The Planet Eater impressions in a timely fashion, which really put a damper on my eagerness to write up my thoughts.
That and, to be honest, I have pretty much cooled off on the anime trilogy. I missed the opening because I wanted to eat some turkey with friends—a rare chance in Japan—and I was busy that weekend. But I still didn’t head off to see the movie until a couple weeks later. It just wasn’t a big priority after the last two films really failed to light my fire.
So how was the film? Well, I will keep the spoilers until later, but my brief reaction was that Godzilla: The Planet Eater is probably the best film in the trilogy (if perhaps only because we finally get a proper ending), and by far the weirdest as well. The characters felt somewhat more rounded this time, with slightly more understandable motivations (even if the motivations might just be libido sometimes). The movie also plays with a lot of heavy themes about religion and the like, which might turn off some—it’s not subtle or… particularly sensitive. We finally do get some kaiju-on-kaiju action, though fans will still probably be disappointed in how that plays out (you can’t expect fast and exciting action out of a Godzilla who moves with the speed of a tree creaking in the wind). King Ghidorah is indeed the weirdest incarnation of the monster yet, for better and for worse. On the good side, I sometimes felt KG was honestly scary and intimidating. On the bad side, he, like Godzilla Earth, doesn’t exhibit a lot of personality. There are also a number of surprises and revelations that come out which kind of made the movie feel worth it in the end.
And speaking of the ending, it’s… kind of touching. It felt good to get to the end after three rather disappointing movies. This one still has a post-credits sequence, though, so be sure to watch to the very end.
Okay, let me give just a few actual SPOILERS for those who really want to know, though bear in mind that I saw this movie in raw Japanese and there was plenty I didn’t understand.
Spoilers on the human action: As interesting as the Exif machinations are in the movie, the most surprising “human action” for a lot of fans will probably be that Haruo has not one, but BOTH of the twins come on to him in separate scenes. They just drop their clothes and practically beg our hero to have sex with them, to which he eventually complies (at least with one of them). This at least explains to me why the theater pamphlet of the previous film featured naked pics of both girls. In this movie, they are both seen naked, although the camera angles mostly hide their naughty bits.
Oh, and yeah, the Exif are evil.
How about the monster action? Some happens. KG appears as three glittery snakes that glom onto Godzilla Earth and suck his energy while carrying him into the air. Godzilla can’t touch the three heads (which never actually combine into the more traditional form except in dream sequences), and so he blasts at them and bats at them and nothing happens. The eventual conclusion to their fight is exceedingly lame, but at least we had some monster madness.
Oh yes, and Mothra makes a very brief, very weird appearance, though only in a dream sequence really. The natives pray and stuff, and Mothra appears as a giant moth inside Haruo’s dreams, disrupting the Exifs’ plans. It’s kind of exciting to see the giant moth, but everyone’s favorite bug-god is on screen less than ten seconds I think—barely enough time for us to say “Gah!” (This is a really dumb joke—“ga” is “moth” in Japanese. Thank you, I’ll be here all night.)
I don’t want to give away anything else, though. It’s worth watching to experience yourself. While I don’t think the film holds up as one of the best in the series, it certainly is memorable and worth watching for fans. Just don’t get your hopes up that it will be something that will appeal to what you traditionally expect from films like this.General // December 10, 2018
Ever since I first learned about Mikio Naruse—I remember very well: during my senior year in college, I happened upon an archived review of 1955’s Floating Clouds, which Vincent Canby of the New York Times described as the work of one of Japan’s best directors—I’ve been disheartened by the general lack of exposure this man’s films have received in the United States and the even scarcer availability of information pertaining to his life and legacy. As of the time of this writing, a mere six films have acquired stateside DVD releases; ten more are available through Criterion, but only in streaming format; and the number of comprehensive, book-length studies published in English on the director can be counted on a single finger. And while my efforts in writing about Naruse over the last couple of years have been primarily out of pleasure, there has always been a certain (perhaps naïve) hope in the back of my mind that my writing about a lesser-known artist might encourage readers of this site to track down a few of his films or, at the very least, explore what Japanese cinema has to offer outside of Godzilla. I know not how successful my efforts have been, but surely to acknowledge these films for even a modicum of interested parties is of greater service than to not acknowledge them at all.
It is similarly for this reason that I took it upon myself to put together a guide on Naruse’s lost movies. (After all, if the extant films struggle to find an audience, how can interest in the non-surviving ones develop without someone shedding light on them?) Naruse directed eighty-nine pictures between 1930 and 1967. Of those eighty-nine, twenty-one have vanished. Nineteen herald from his brisk period of directing silent cinema, and the remaining two preceded what is generally acknowledged as his peak in the 1950s. All were part of a great director’s oeuvre and, as such, are worthy of investigation. This was my sentiment in researching and writing this article. I only hope my efforts will provide, at the very least, a good idea of what the missing films were about and what the experience of watching them might’ve been like. I also took great care to detail historical context—the circumstances under which the films were made and how some of them came to be lost—and hope this will be of interest as well.
And now, to extend my thanks to the authors and film historians whose individual research efforts into the lost films of Mikio Naruse made all of this possible. What you are about to read consists of data collected from various sources published in various countries—amassed and put together into a single document for easy accessibility. Everything is, unless directly quoted, my own words, but let it be known the truly hard work was carried out—decades ago, in most cases—by people far more authoritative than myself. First and foremost, there’s Audie Bock, who, along with Catherine Russell, has done more to share information about Naruse with western audiences than any other American critic; her French language book on the director, simply titled Mikio Naruse, offered not only a guide as to the order and release dates of his films but also presented a window into how Japanese film critics responded to them at the time of their release. Russell’s colossal study on Naruse, The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity, detailed the various career stages in which these films were made and was, in its own way, equally valuable. Another French book, Jean Narboni’s Mikio Naruse: The Uncertain Times, provided the backbone for almost all of the plot descriptions. I’ve praised, on many past occasions, Kyoko Hirano’s excellent Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the Occupation, and I praise it once more, as her findings remained useful in contextualizing the Japanese film industry as it existed in the 1940s. Major credit goes to Peter B. High’s The Imperial Screen: Japanese Film Culture in the Fifteen Years’ War, 1931-1945 for the lush information on 1945’s Until Victory Day, the one Toho film covered here. High’s book was an unexpected treasure in that it was not something I initially intended to use for this article; it just happened to be what I was reading in evenings before bed; and yet, it ended up containing the most information on the one film that, frankly, justifies this article’s presence here on Toho Kingdom in the first place. (A happy coincidence this happened to be my “for-fun” book at the same time I was conducting research.) A smattering of other resources were used to fill in certain details and are noted where applied.
Last but most certainly not least, I wish to thank my friend and colleague Erik Homenick, webmaster of akiraifukube.org, whose expertise on the French language provided authoritative translations of the more difficult material in the Bock and Narboni texts regarding the films Hard Times (1930), Until Victory Day (1945), and Delinquent Girl (1949).
Mikio Naruse came to P.C.L. (Photo Chemical Laboratories—the antecedent of Toho) in 1934, after a suffocating fourteen-year stint at rival film studio Shochiku, where he’d received less than stellar treatment. And right away, excitement began to build as people in both the creative and critical fields eagerly awaited his next project. For Naruse, pleasure came in realizing that his joining P.C.L. came with a nice bump in pay and that his producers had taken the liberty of acquiring for him the rights to a novel by esteemed author Yasunari Kawabata (which would serve as the basis for his 1935 film Three Sisters with Maiden Hearts). Also in Naruse’s favor and especially of interest to the critics was the fact that his changing studios also signified his transition from silent cinema to sound cinema. The director had never been given the chance to work with sound during his time at Shochiku, but he would work exclusively in this medium from here on out. He would also remain loyal to this studio, staying with them through their fateful August 1937 merge (in which P.C.L. joined with other filmmaking subsidiaries, the amalgamation christened Toho) and directed almost every single one of his subsequent movies under their banner. Though he occasionally made films for other companies such as Daiei and Shin-Toho, with one very slight exception in 1950*, he would never again return to the production house where his career had started; and in articulating the record, one can easily see why.
Examining the behind-the-scenes narrative of Naruse’s early career is both frustrating and fascinating. On the fascinating side, here was a director who, pretty early on, started leaving notable footprints within his industry. For one thing, he practically made a star out of actress Sumiko Mizukubo, introducing her to audiences with his 1932 film Moth-eaten Spring, itself chosen by Kinema Jumpo magazine as the sixth best Japanese film of the year**. In 1933, two more films—Every-Night Dreams and Apart from You—respectively occupied the #3 and #4 rankings on the same publication’s “Best Ten” list. Critics championed his rhythm and sensitivity. He befriended and was openly supported by colleagues at Shochiku. Later films saw him adapting respected novels; and in time, he was directing young starlets such as Kinuyo Tanaka and Sumiko Kurishima.
And yet—swinging to the frustrating side of the equation—despite all of the above mentioned accolades, he remained coldly regarded by the front office: an attitude which had seemingly and mercilessly been geared at him from the beginning. Naruse came to Shochiku in 1920 at a time when most employees at this particular studio could rise to director’s status within a few years (Yoshinobu Ikeda, for instance, made his first movie after a single year’s employment). But Naruse himself didn’t receive his sought-after promotion for, literally, a full decade. For ten agonizing years, he was confined, first to the prop department and later as an assistant (often to people who had joined the studio long after him), the stress of waiting while his colleagues continually advanced past him proving so unbearable that he came within inches of tendering his resignation. And when, at last, he moved into the director’s chair, it was at the insistence that he film a script written by studio boss Shiro Kido, the man solely responsible for stalling his promotion in the first place.
Ginza Cosmetics (1951) screenwriter Matsuo Kishi once voiced his suspicion that the head of the studio simply disliked Naruse on a personal level and that he may have intentionally made professional life difficult for him on this basis alone. And while no account in my recollection has ever proven genuine hostility, Kido certainly didn’t refrain from dismissing Naruse’s storytelling, labeling him a second-string Yasujiro Ozu (“We don’t need two Ozus,” he famously said). Unsurprisingly, and perhaps because of this, Kido regularly assigned Naruse material for which he was ill-suited; he shelved two completed films for months at a time; and, in what placed the proverbial final straw that broke the camel’s back, the studio boss declined Naruse’s request to adapt a Fumiko Hayashi novel he very much wanted to film. Add to all of this the fact that Naruse spent his entire tenure at Shochiku on a miserable pay grade of less than ¥100 a month*** and one can easily understand his wish to move to a company where his intelligence and talents might be respected. Or, at the very least, where he might be able to earn a decent living.
Having said that, it’s strangely—for lack of a better word—“expected” that the majority of Naruse’s missing films should come from his rather unhappy years directing at Shochiku.
The five silent Naruse movies that Criterion released in 2011 as part of their Eclipse series are the only such films of his which survive; the other nineteen he made fell victim to a cinematic holocaust that wiped out—it is estimated—96% of all Japanese silent films. Between poor preservation systems, catastrophic damage brought down upon the studios during the second world war, and additional factors****, the legacies of vintage Japanese cinema and the people who made it possible suffered irreparable harm. (As Donald Richie so eloquently wrote in The Japan Times in 2000, “Even in a medium where two-thirds of all silent cinema is lost […] the destruction of early Japanese cinema is extraordinary.”) As such, all that remains of the films under discussion are critical reviews, plot details, behind-the-scenes factoids, and the occasional comment from the director himself.
Mr. and Mrs. Swordplay
Release date: January 15, 1930
Running time: 21 min
Chaos momentarily erupts at the home of Hachiro Momogawa (Hisao Yoshitani) when a café waitress named Eiko (Nobuko Wakaba) shows up at the front door and asks to speak with his wife (Mitsuko Yoshikawa). Rash assumptions are forged and the two women engage in an intense scuffle. The trouble ends when Eiko reveals she merely came to collect the debt Hachiro still owes to the café. Hachiro’s wife, suddenly relieved, pays the money, and Hachiro himself settles his nerves by going to the movies. (The movie he sees, incidentally, is The Husband’s Fight, an actual Shochiku movie from the same time period.)
This burlesque comedy, set during the Japanese New Year, comes from a screenplay credited to Haruo Akaho (the penname of studio boss Shiro Kido). Naruse cast the actors immediately after receiving the script, scouted out locations the following day, and then proceeded to shoot the entire thing nonstop over a period of thirty-six hours, after which he promptly collapsed from exhaustion; editing was completed by his friend and mentor, Heinosuke Gosho. In his review for Kinema Jumpo, film critic Akira Okamura expressed reservations with the script but otherwise championed Mr. and Mrs. Swordplay as a very promising directorial debut.
Release date: February 14, 1930
Running time: 45 min
Otsuta Takeda (Mitsuko Takao) spends her days toiling in the fields near the small mountain town where her impoverished family resides. A routine existence…until the day the local teacher comes forward with his belief that Otsuta’s brother Keichi (Shoichi Kofujita) is a very bright student who should continue his studies after primary school. Unfortunately, the Takeda family is in such poor financial shape they cannot afford to pay for tuition. This doesn’t deter Otsuta, who takes it upon herself to move to the capital, where she can get a better job and start saving money for her brother’s schooling; also, she’s been harboring a desire to become a city-dweller like her childhood friend (Hatsuko Tsukioka), so this is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Keichi insists he’s fine with the status quo, but Otsuta’s made up her mind. The film ends with the sister boarding a train destined for Tokyo.
Naruse mentioned in a 1960 interview that this medium-length picture, released on Valentine’s Day thirty years earlier, exhibited a mature style comparable to that of his later work. His colleague, Yasujiro Ozu, was greatly impressed with Pure Love, proclaiming: “Someone who can do that well on only his second film has real directorial strength.”
Release date: May 2, 1930
Running time: 26 min
A man (Tatsuo Saito) and his son (Tomio Aoki) are out for a walk with their dog, Poochie, when the father starts contemplating whether their four-legged friend might be able to help them make some money. During their walk, they stumble upon an advertisement for dogs, and the father comes up with the idea of stealing and reselling other peoples’ pets for gain. They attempt to steal a puppy from an affluent home, only to get caught by the young girl of the family (Hiroko Kawasaki). The girl’s father (Takeshi Sakamoto) arrives on the scene and agrees to give the would-be crooks money if they leave them alone. After being reprimanded by his son, the father returns the cash, and the duo continues their journey down the street, penniless once more.
A Record of Shameless Newlyweds
Release date: August 29, 1930
Running time: 37min
In the late 1920s, a new comedic genre exploded within Japanese film. As Donald Richie and Joseph L. Anderson write in their book The Japanese Film – Art and Industry, “nonsense” comedies featured “little to no sense whatever, amusing happenings, one thing tacked onto the other, something ludicrous—though not often slapstick—for its own sake” and “[t]he characters cavorted and chased each other across the screen with very little regard for plot, characterization, or motive.” The genre instantly gained an audience thanks to “the vast number of naughtily erotic or purposely frivolous novels […] which, if it could not make full-scale tragedy out of the most minute of personal experiences, could at least create a comedy out of nothing at all.” In other words, these films capitalized on a taste already provoked by other forms of media.
Richie and Anderson categorize, in that same book, A Record of Shameless Newlyweds as a “nonsense sex comedy.” The story concerns Sabuko (Hisao Yoshitani), a blue-collar worker in a textile factory who falls in love with a woman named Aiko (Midori Matsuba). Too shy to confess his feelings, he asks his friend Yuji (Teruo Mori) to arrange a double-date with Aiko and one of her friends (Mariko Aoyama). While the group is out together, Yuji finds himself alone with Aiko and reveals to her his friend’s secret longing. But then, Aiko confesses she’s in love, too, but not with Sabuko; the man she loves is, in fact, Yuji. Upon learning the girl of his desires is infatuated with his friend, Sabuko runs away.
A Record of Shameless Newlyweds was actually the third movie Naruse directed—he shot it after Pure Love—but the studio withheld it from release for several months. Naruse himself considered it a failure and took full blame for ruining what he described as a very good script by Tadao Ikeda.
Love is Strength
Release date: August 29, 1930
Running time: 65min
Toshio (Ichiro Yuki), the son of a sensonarikin (a person of affluence who earned their fortune during wartime), is to marry Teruko (Hiroko Kawasaki) of the wealthy Yanagida family, their forthcoming matrimony having been arranged by their kin and not by affection for one another. Toshio leads a reckless and frivolous life, his spare time eaten up by booze, parties, and games. That is, until he happens to visit Café Showa and meets one of its waitresses, a pretty orphan named Chiyoko (Shizue Tatsuta). Smitten, he becomes inspired to take up a job in his father’s business and start leading a responsible life. A happy ending’s achieved when the Yanagida family agrees to adopt Chiyoko. She and Toshio are then permitted to marry, and Teruko weds her true love (Shin’ichiro Izawa).
Released on the same day as A Record of Shameless Newlyweds, this melodrama had also been shelved for some time, though it’s not clear whether Naruse started working on it before or after Hard Times. The picture opened to mixed and negative reviews.
Now, Do Not Get Excited!
Release date: February 7, 1931
Running time: 15min
The title is in reference to one of the main characters: a sailor with a tendency to faint whenever he becomes nervous or excited. One day, when his ship is at port, our agitation-prone hero, Yokoyama (Tomio Yokoo), and his fellow mariner Sano (Eiran Yoshikawa) take leave and disembark into town. During their stopover, they witness a man purloining a woman’s handbag. Yokoyama chases after the thief while Sano stays behind to comfort—and seduce—the victim, quickly winning her over. Having failed to catch the thief, Yokoyama returns to the scene of the crime, whereupon he suddenly becomes agitated—envy to the core over his friend’s way with the ladies—and faints. Sano abandons his friend in favor of accompanying the woman to the bar where she works. Yokoyama regains consciousness and follows, running into the purse-snatcher along the way. After winning a scuffle with the thief, the victorious sailor finds himself surrounded by a plethora of women applauding his heroics…and he faints again. Sano puts his friend in a rickshaw and they return to the port, only to discover they overstayed their leave—the ship is leaving without them! The film ends with the two sailors hopping into a rowboat and frantically paddling after their ship.
Kinema Jumpo’s Jun’ichiro Tomota, who had given a mixed review to Love is Strength, labeled this offering one of the best-made “nonsense” comedies. In his review, Tomota further suggested the filmmakers might’ve been influenced by Hollywood comedies starring Sammy Cohen and Ted McNamara.
Screams from the Second Floor
Release date: May 29, 1931
Running time: 30min
In writing this picture (the first time he was allowed to shoot one of his own scripts*****), Naruse drew from his own experiences. At the time, he was living with a family of sushi proprietors, occupying the second floor over their shop (and, some years down the road, he would return to live with them, after the collapse of his first marriage). The protagonist of this picture is an unemployed man named Yagi (Isamu Yamaguchi), who resides on the second floor of a family somewhat better off than him. Because he has no money, Yagi earns his keep performing mundane chores: shopping, babysitting, etc. Eventually, he finds work and leaves the house but is quickly begged to come back after Mr. Hosokawa (Hisao Yoshitani) receives a letter of dismissal from his company. Much of the story focuses on tension between Yagi and Hosokawa’s wife (Nobuko Wakaba), who doesn’t want a non-paying guest in the house.
Flunky! Work Hard, released August 8, 1931. The earliest surviving Naruse film.
Fickleness Gets on the Train
Release date: August 15, 1931
Running time: 32min
Struggling with creative block and unable to find work, a painter named Murayama (Isamu Yamaguchi) decides to take his wife (Tomoki Naniwa) and their son (Masao Hayama) on a trip. Their destination: the fishing village where his in-laws live. On the train ride over, they run into an office worker and his wife. Engaging in conversation, Murayama and his spouse conjure up a fantasy, bragging about an affluent lifestyle they do not have, trying to impress their fellow passengers. Unbeknownst to them at the time, their companions, in telling their own “story,” are doing the same thing. The couples exchange lies, making one another envious of luxuries that, in reality, none of them possess. By chance, they meet again in the aforementioned fishing village, whereupon everyone realizes the fickleness of everyone’s dishonesty. And then, as though karma’s seeking to rub salt in the wound, Murayama’s turned away by his in-laws as they already have a tenant and cannot accommodate any other guests at the time. Dejected and disappointed, the painter and his family hop on the first train back to Tokyo.
The Strength of a Mustache
Release date: October 16, 1931
Running time: 32min
Naruse’s penultimate film of 1931 bears certain similarities to Ozu’s The Lady and the Beard from the same year in that the narrative comically focuses on facial hair and how it affects one’s social image and relation to others. In this case, Kato (Ken’ichi Miyajima) is a working class father who boasts a very fine mustache—an adornment which draws admiration from his son and envy from his boss (Reiko Tani). After his employer fails to grow comparably chic facial hair, Kato’s ordered to shave or else lose his job—and then he loses his job anyway after his son gets into a fight with the boss’s son. To remedy the situation, Kato strips his upper lip of hair and presents to the boss a “miracle lotion.” With this, the boss succeeds in growing some nice whiskers, and Kato gets his job back—though his son no longer reveres him like he used to.
According to Audie Bock’s book on Naruse, the script originally called for a different ending. As initially penned, the boss was to return the “miracle lotion” to Kato rather than accepting it. No explanation is given as to why the studio opted to change this denouement, though Kinema Jumpo reviewer Shigeru Wadayama felt it lessened the impact of the ending (he otherwise championed the film, comparing it to Flunky! Work Hard).
Under the Neighbor’s Roof
Release date: November 28, 1931
Running time: 34min
Another “nonsense” comedy, this time about mutual assumptions of adultery between a married couple. After catching her husband buying a shawl, Hamako (Tomoko Naniwa) assumes the item being purchased is for her spouse’s pretty secretary (Masako Kiyokawa) and moves out in a huff. In turn, the husband, Aoyama (Shigeru Ogura), suspects his wife’s up to some philandering of her own, as the apartment building she moves into is the same one occupied by his colleague, Machida (Kan Ikki); he even climbs onto the roof of the building to keep an eye on them. In the end, the couple reconciles and Hamako returns home.
Ladies, Be Careful of Your Sleeves
Release date: January 29, 1932
Running time: 28min
An unmarried office worker named Tabe (Kenji Oyama), who’s a little on the hefty side, has a habit of slipping love letters into the sleeves of women he finds attractive. But sometimes the letters end up in the hands of people for whom they were not intended, leading to hysterical results. Tabe’s antics take a turn for the humiliating when one of the letters finds its way into his boss’s daughter’s purse. Immediately fearful of losing his job, he makes a vain effort to get the letter back, crashing into a statue in the process. Giving up, he goes home, only to find a woman waiting for him. But instead of the boss’s pretty daughter, it’s an unsightly typist (Shizue Heito); she, too, accidentally received one of his love letters, and now she’s moved into his apartment. The film ends with Tabe envisioning the years ahead, right up to his funeral.
Eiga Hyoron magazine critic Shun’ichi Sugimoto described this film as one of the best of the “nonsense” genre.
Crying to the Blue Sky
Release date: March 10, 1932
Running time: 53min
Reuniting with the screenwriter of Pure Love (Ayame Mizushima), Naruse once again tells a story about a bond between brother and sister, albeit this one concludes with a tragic finish. Kikue (Mitsuko Takao) and her younger brother Eiichi (Hideo Sugawara) have lived with their uncle (Shoichi Nodera) since the death of their parents. One day, Kikue decides to leave for Tokyo to find work. Eiichi asks his elder sister to bring him back a gift: a toy airplane. She agrees. Some time after his sister’s departure, Eiichi falls into the river while fighting with another boy and comes down with a deadly case of pneumonia. In Tokyo, Kikue receives a telegram that her brother’s prognosis is not good; she quickly buys the model airplane he asked for and hurries home—but it’s too late. With her brother dead and her heart broken, the dejected sister somberly walks to the river, sets the toy upon the water’s surface, and watches as it’s carried away by the current.
Release date: April 15, 1932
Running time: 39min
Yamano (Shigeru Ogura) is a poor office worker who cannot afford to buy his son the toy kite he wants. One day, he and his wife (Tomoko Naniwa) receive an unexpected visit from a couple who’ve invited themselves over for dinner. To get them to leave, they lie, claiming to be in the process of housecleaning—and scramble to cancel the food they’d asked be delivered to their address. Later on, their son, Shin’ichi, is pushed into a puddle by another boy. While cleaning his clothes, the parents think back to much happier times: when they were newlyweds, frolicking on the beach, dragging sand between their fingers. (All they have now is cold ash in the stove—perhaps a crude metaphor for the way poverty has diminished their passion.) The film ends with the couple encouraging their son to become someone important—someone great!—and thereby avoid a life in poverty.
Naruse compared this to his earlier Flunky! Work Hard. Shigeru Wadayama, writing in Kinema Jumpo, showered the film with glowing comments, describing it as a “psychological nonsense film” done to perfection. Less enthusiastic was Eiga Hyoron’s Shun’ichi Sugimoto, who deemed the movie too similar to Ozu’s I Was Born, But… (1932). The box office was in this film’s favor, and Naruse moved on to direct what just might’ve been the first great movie of his career.
Release date: May 27, 1932
Running time: 103min
After the success of Be Great!, Naruse was entrusted to adapt a novel by respected author Kan Kikuchi and, with this promotion, scored a number of career milestones. In addition to being able to adapt something by an esteemed writer, he was permitted for the first time to shoot a picture of feature length (everything he’d made up to this point consisted of shorts and medium-length productions). And the film—in what was also a first for the director—was saluted by Kinema Jumpo in their annual “Best Ten” list, ranking at #6. Printed some months earlier in the same magazine was a review by Fuyuhiko Kitagawa, who applauded Naruse’s success with a “difficult adaptation,” his capturing the psychology of the young bourgeois, the Soviet-influenced editing, and the direction of the actors.
Speaking of which, Moth-eaten Spring also marked the screen debut and essentially made a star of Sumiko Mizukubo, an actress whose career spanned a mere three years but which nonetheless granted her the opportunity to work with a number of Japan’s finest directors. In addition to three more collaborations with Naruse, she acted under the guidance of such people as Hiroshi Shimizu, Yasujiro Shimazu, Heinosuke Gosho, Hiroshi Inagaki, and Yoshinobu Ikeda. She also had a sizable role in Ozu’s excellent Dragnet Girl (1933), as the record store girl of whom the shadier characters are universally enamored. (Image of Mizukubo, in the Ozu film, seen to the left.)
In Moth-eaten Spring, Mizukubo plays the youngest of three sisters in a family saddled with an uncertain future. The father’s poor business practices have wrecked their financial stability, and his attempt to bribe an official results in him becoming incarcerated and, later, committing suicide. The loss of their parent affects the three daughters in different ways. Kazuko (Kinuko Wakamizu), the eldest, calls off her engagement in order to assume responsibility for the entire family. The middle daughter, Kumiko (Yumeko Aizome), sinks into a state of depression when her fiancé hears of the suicide and breaks up with her. As for Kasumi (Sumiko Mizukubo), the youngest, she takes a job to help make ends meet and later becomes engaged to the nephew of a businessman. Learning about her sibling’s engagement exacerbates Kasumi’s state of mind and she attempts to seduce Kazuko’s former lover. But the young man, still in love with Kazuko, rejects her advances.
Release date: August 26, 1932
Running time: 56min
Based on an award-winning novel by Ryuji Nagami (who also penned the screenplay), this project was brought to Naruse’s attention by Kogo Noda, Ozu’s regular co-screenwriter. The director described it as a combination of the various genres he’d worked with and furthermore labeled the finished product his best film up to that point. In terms of a narrative, it certainly shares much in common with Naruse’s best-known movies: divides between upper and lower classes, issues pertaining to money, a denouement in which the main character doesn’t receive the happiness she wanted but tries to endure life all the same, etc.
Sumiko Mizukubo, who’d exploded into popularity after the release of Moth-eaten Spring, is promoted to lead. Here, she plays Mieko, a young woman whose life changes after she’s invited to accompany rich student Mizushima (Koji Kaga) to an upper class party. At the get-together, Mieko proves a rousing success with the boys and a source of jealousy for the other girls. The next day, two of the girls show up at Mieko’s workplace, sneering at her—and on their way out, they leave her a tip (a practice virtually unheard of in Japan, even to this day—and which can be interpreted as an insult). Mieko later learns Mizushima is to wed a girl his father has chosen for him; and when she gets home that night, her mother and uncle announce they’ve arranged a match for her as well. Surrendering to their will and giving up the man she loves, Mieko allows time and society to take their course. The film ends with her boarding a Tokyo-bound train, her hair now arranged in the marumage (the knotted hairstyle identified with married women in Japan).
Kinema Jumpo’s Shigeru Wadayama praised Naruse’s editing and his sympathy for the lower class, though he was turned off by the “excessive sadness” of the picture’s finale.
The second extant silent Naruse film, No Blood Relation, released December 16, 1932.
The Scenery of Tokyo with Cake
Release date: 1932
Running time: Unknown
Little is known about this advertisement film other than it was produced for the still-extant snack food company Meiji Seika. Whether Naruse used crew and equipment from Shochiku or if Meiji Seika provided everything for him remains unknown.
Apart from You (released April 1, 1933) and Every-Night Dreams (June 8, 1933) which placed at #4 and #3, respectively, on Kinema Jumpo’s “Best Ten” list for that year. Naruse collaborated with Sumiko Mizukubo once again on the former and the latter paired him up with Sumiko Kurishima, often described as the first Japanese female movie star. Both of these films survive today.
My Bride’s Hairstyle
Release date: September 21, 1933
Running time: 75min
A light comedy written for Sumiko Mizukubo, My Bride’s Hairstyle was met with approval from studio head Shiro Kido, who deemed it one of Naruse’s “greatest achievements.” A rare compliment, and one perhaps explainable in that this particular movie seemed to possess little in the way of semblance to Naruse’s last few films. The happy ending, for instance, is completely unlike the sad—even tragic—denouements found in Every-Night Dreams and Chocolate Girl. In any case, the studio boss’s affinity was not shared by Naruse himself. To him, My Bride’s Hairstyle was a big wad of mediocrity and not something he looked back on very fondly. Kinema Jumpo’s Tadahisa Murakami reciprocated this sentiment when he panned the film, blaming Kido for relegating a poor subject to such a talented and capable (and proven) director.
Mizukubo plays Toshiko, the love interest of Matsui (Mitsugu Fujii), who has been infatuated with her since they were children and who finds himself close to her again when he becomes employed at her workplace. Unfortunately for him, the boss of the company also has designs on Toshiko. Because their employer has been deliberately making things difficult for Matsui, both he and Toshiko agree to quit the company together. But love and roses ever after has not been ascertained yet: Toshiko’s parents want her to return home and marry a suitor of their choice. While on a picnic, Matsui notices Toshiko’s styled her hair in the marumage: seemingly a sign he’s going to lose her. In the end, though, he lands a good job and is permitted to marry the woman of his dreams. Matsui and Toshiko live happily ever after.
Release date: December 7, 1933
Running time: 107min
Now in the twilight of his Shochiku years, Naruse was granted the chance to work with Kinuyo Tanaka (already one of the major stars of Japanese cinema). Given his feelings that the project was not his kind of film and much closer to the melodramas Yasujiro Ozu and Hiroshi Shimizu specialized in, Naruse tried to make it stand out by employing techniques influenced by veteran craftsman Hotei Nomura. (Shiro Kido labeled Two Eyes a “big film.”)
Yoshiko (Kinuyo Tanaka) and Naeko (Yumeko Aizome), the daughters of political rivals, have maintained their friendship in spite of the bad blood between their fathers—and in spite of the fact that they’re in love with the same man. Both women are infatuated with Sunaga (Joji Oka), but since they don’t want to jeopardize their friendship, they mutually agree not to pursue him. That is, until the day Naeko discovers that Sunaga has romantic feelings for Yoshiko—at which point she conjures up a story that her friend’s already betrothed. Meantime, Yoshiko’s father is ordered to pay a fine for attempted bribery and, lacking the capital, instructs his daughter to marry the son of a rich family. Unwilling to take the fall for her father’s lawbreaking, Yoshiko leaves home, taking a job in sales—at the same company, it so happens, where Sunaga works. Both of them are chosen to model for a pretend wedding at the store and are subsequently spotted by Naeko, who confuses the mock ceremony for the real thing. Yoshiko learns her father has been jailed, and the daughter reluctantly agrees to marry the rich suitor in order to spare her father of prison time. But when she returns home, she discovers Naeko has already married the young man, leaving her and Sunaga free to be together.
The film was based on a novel by Masao Kume, which Kinema Jumpo’s Fuyuhiko Kitagawa deemed well beneath the author’s usual standards and certainly beneath Naruse’s, as he expressed in his vicious, hostility-laden review. The critic wasn’t enthused with Naruse’s Nomura-inspired techniques, either, passing off bits of frantic camera movement intended to emphasize emotion. In the end, Kitagawa only commended the performances by Tanaka and Oka and offered his hope that Naruse would return to filming original scripts and find something closer in quality to Apart from You and Every-Night Dreams.
Happy New Year!
Release date: December 21, 1933
Running time: Unknown
Naruse’s penultimate silent film, of which there seems to be no extant information.
On April 26 of the following year, the director released his last picture for Shochiku, the dull and mediocre Street without End (1934), which survives today (a screen-cap can be seen above). Filmed from a script that no one at the studio dared touch, the project had been accepted by Naruse on the condition that he would be allowed to make whatever he wanted for his next movie. Alas—and not unexpectedly—Shiro Kido didn’t uphold his end of the bargain, denying Naruse the chance to adapt Fumiko Hayashi’s novel Fallen Woman, and the director made his fateful move to P.C.L. that same year. Interviewed decades later on the subject by Audie Bock, Kido denied having ever held any personal grudge against Naruse and even admitted he shouldn’t have let him leave the studio—though he nonetheless claimed he’d never cared much for Naruse’s aesthetic.
Film censorship had played a role in Japan since the early 20th century; although, in the beginning, it was mostly implemented in policing foreign imports (and usually to gauge respect for the Imperial House). The prime example of this practice concerns the French film The Reign of King Louis XVI (1905) and what needed to be done to get it shown in Japanese theaters. When the picture came to Japan in 1908, it was initially banned due to a key scene in which the common people rose up in arms against their king. Even though the sequence depicted French townsfolk rebelling against French monarchs, authorities in Japan did not like the idea of popular entertainment showing rebellion against royalty of any kind; what if such a scene inspired radicals to attempt something similar against the Emperor? In the end, due to pressure from exhibitors to show the film in some capacity, reworked dialogue (read aloud by benshi******) and a new title—The Curious Story of North America: The Cave King—sufficiently changed things up so that the French monarchs became American bandits and the film was passed for distribution. The domineering interest, in these days, was to preserve a very pure image of Japan and avoid provoking subversive thinking. And it was this sort of censorship that was maintained and then expanded when, on April 15, 1939, the government set the Film Law loose on the motion picture industry.
Provoked by the Sino-Japan Incident of 1937 and modeled after the Spitzenorganisation der Filmwirstchaft program of Nazi Germany, the Film Law set out not only to keep the Emperor’s image pure but to also “promote the quality of film and the sound development of the film industry so that films can contribute to the nation’s cultural development.” Essentially outlawed was anything that “might hamper the enlightenment and propaganda basic to the exercise of national policy.”
Conditions intensified with the rise of World War II; and in 1940, the Ministry of Affairs implemented a new set of censorship rules. Slice-of-life films promoting individual happiness were banned, to be replaced by stories embodying feudalistic values (read: absolute loyalty to the government). Movies showcasing industrial productivity fell into favor. Comedians and satirists received instructions to tone down their act. And, most notably, the government sought to advocate the making of “national movies of healthy entertainment value with themes showing persons ready to serve.” From this came a slew of jingoistic national policy films, including Yutaka Abe’s Flaming Sky (1940), Eiichi Koishi’s Soaring Passion (1941), Kajiro Yamamoto’s The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya (1942), and Kunio Watanabe’s Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky (1943). Films which essentially came to represent Japanese populist cinema in the early 1940s due to their sheer quantity and the profits they reaped.*******
Of course, movies on other subjects were still possible, provided they operated within certain parameters. In regards to Naruse, he for the most part managed to avoid making propaganda, though some of his films in the late 1930s and early ‘40s contained little glimpses of Japan’s political climate. His 1939 film Sincerity concludes with one of the characters receiving a draft notice. In A Face from the Past (1941), parents recognize their son as one of the soldiers in a military newsreel. More overt politicization appeared in Shanghai Moon (1941), a film which still exists (albeit in fragmented form) and stars Isuzu Yamada as a terrorist who infiltrates a pro-Japan propaganda radio station, cannot bring herself to kill its occupants, and is done away with by her fellow terrorists.
Yet another case of unambiguous propaganda appeared in Naruse’s Until Victory Day, his last movie before the surrender of Japan to the Allied Powers; the only film in his Toho repertoire which, it seems, has vanished from the face of the earth.
Until Victory Day
Release date: January 25, 1945
Running time: 59min
Well before the release of this film, it had become unmistakably clear Japan would end up on the losing side of the war. A reality that was steadily making itself felt within the entertainment industry. Film stock was running short on supply. Nearly one thousand movie theaters either ceased operation, converted into facilities for other uses, or perished completely in the Allied air raids. Studio structures endured damage, sound stages reduced in number, budgets shrank, and it wasn’t unheard of for editors to drop what they were doing in the sudden arrival of an attack and rush to the shelter with all the footage they could carry. So rather than turn out huge, special effects-laden projects like The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya, the studios, still under the control of the government, opted to make small-scale movies with nationalistic and jingoistic themes. (Akira Kurosawa’s The Most Beautiful, about patriots employed in a war factory, functioned as a replacement project for a fighter pilot movie which had recently fallen through.) In addition, comedians were still welcome to employ restricted doses of their personalities for the screen—especially in feel-good entertainments that supported the military, or movies designed specifically to entertain soldiers. Films of the latter category could sometimes attain funding from the militarists themselves, as was the case with Mikio Naruse’s Until Victory Day.
Described by its director as a project utterly lacking narrative coherency and made for the purpose of amusing troops on the front, this comedy venture had been funded by the Imperial Japanese Navy, allowing Toho to take a breather in terms of expenses. The sheer ridiculousness of the plot was described in Nihon Eiga magazine: “A scientist invents an ‘entertainment bomb.’ When it explodes, various kinds of acts and comedy routines come popping out. The ‘bomb’ is detonated in front of soldiers and sailors on a lonely South Sea island, bringing unexpected joy to their hearts.” Originally, the film was to be directed by Tadashi Imai, but a conscription notice and a summons to the front prevented him from taking the job (one wonders, therefore, if he was among the soldiers who saw this movie while on duty overseas).
Perhaps to give the target audience a sense of home, Toho went the distance in cramming Until Victory Day with recognizable faces. In addition to comedians Ken’ichi Enomoto (better known by his stage name, Enoken) and Roppa Furukawa, the entertainers who came out of the rocket included well-known actresses such as Isuzu Yamada, Setsuko Hara, Hideko Takamine, and Yukiko Todokori. Another familiar presence was former benshi Musei Tokugawa, who reflected the general attitude toward the picture in an interview many years later: “[Y]ou could actually feel the approach of [Japan’s] inevitable defeat in the utter imbecility of the storyline. The fact that it had been directly commissioned by the navy made it all the more pathetic.”
The circumstances under which Until Victory Day and many other Japanese national policy films became lost were as diverse as they were devastating. A sizable number vanished in the same poor preservation systems and the same firebombing raids responsible for whittling down Japan’s silent cinema legacy. Others were confiscated and subsequently destroyed by the victorious Allied Forces. Still others were lost when film studios, perhaps anticipating censorship from the Americans, exterminated copies of various films in their possession. Toho, for example, burned every last trace of the 1945 film I Believe I Am Being Followed. Unless a copy was hidden in secret and has yet to turn up, this particular film is gone forever, wiped away by its own creators.
Of course, not every nationalistic film extant in Japan at the time was obliterated. In some cases, the Americans chose to collect certain films rather than destroy them and send them to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for study and preservation. In other cases, studio staffers stowed away copies until such a time when the films could be shown again. (Toho’s studio boss, Iwao Mori, assigned a select few employees to bury prints of eight national policy films until the Americans vacated. The interred reels were never discovered by the occupying forces, and the films survived to be run again.) But it appears such favorable circumstances did not befall Until Victory Day. It remains classified as a lost film. Over the years, I’ve come across scant rumors on the internet claiming about fifteen minutes of the picture still exist today; but these sources, lacking corroboration, don’t offer much in the way of hope or credibility.
The final missing film in Naruse’s oeuvre comes from an era in which Toho was experiencing intense political unrest. In the early years of the occupation, when the Americans first set out to “westernize” and “democratize” the Land of the Rising Sun, organized labor was heartily encouraged to the Japanese (the hope being that encouraging working class people to demand better perks from their employers would help weed out allegiance-oriented sentiments prevalent during the war—see my article on Kurosawa’s Those Who Make Tomorrow for more detail). And seeing as how Toho possessed the strongest labor union among the studios, theirs was naturally the one which took the most noteworthy actions.
Between the years of 1946 and 1948, the unionists at Toho conducted a total of three strikes, resulting in a few positive changes (such as increased wages) and a vast quantity of negative consequences. Over the course of these events, most of the major stars under contact left the studio, alternate unions came into existence, the short-lived and incompetently managed Shin-Toho was formed, fewer Toho movies were produced, and in what constituted the third and final strike, the studio shut down completely for 134 days. For more than a third of the year, unionists occupied the studio grounds, holding off their employers and the police with, among other things, barbed wire and firehoses. In the end, it required the presence of the United States military—a dispatch of troops, three aircraft, and seven tanks—to coerce the unionists to yield.
Naruse’s participation in this tumultuous chapter seems to have been minimal. He did join an “Artist’s Group” demanding the resignation of Toho’s anticommunist executives but apart from that kept a low profile, became an independent director, and took work wherever he could find it. He made no movies in 1948, instead directing for the stage, and the few films he directed shortly thereafter were produced by other production companies. One of those companies was Toyoko Eiga, for whom he made the last movie under discussion.
Studio: Toyoko Eiga
Release date: March 29, 1949
Running time: 72min
The story concerns a pair of schoolgirls, Eiko (Yoshiko Kuga) and Tamie (Michiko Aizome). Tamie, the daughter of an English teacher, passes her exams and takes a job in an insurance company; Eiko, the daughter of a single parent, flunks out and begins the life of a delinquent, hanging around bars with a dubious class of people. Tamie, whose life has become dull and drab, feels a surge of envy for her schoolmate’s newfound lifestyle. Both girls experience an assortment of troubles related to men and money, and by the end, Tamie realizes her “boring” life wasn’t so bad after all.
This was Naruse’s only movie released in 1949. Despite attaining commercial success, the film was panned by film critics. Naruse himself knew from the start that his talents were not suited for this kind of film; he’d taken the job for the money. Audie Bock’s book on the director contains the following remark: “Certainly, nobody would have been able to make a good film based on a vulgar erotic novel like [Tajiro] Tamura’s.”
After Delinquent Girl, Naruse took on the assignment of Conduct Report on Professor Ishinaka (1950), which he made for Shin-Toho, before coming back to Toho that same year with The Angry Street. And despite the occasional future job for another production house, he was more or less back to being a company man. A great many of his best films—Repast (1951), Sound of the Mountain (1954), Floating Clouds (1955), Sudden Rain (1956), When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), Lonely Lane (1962), Yearning (1964), Two in the Shadow (1967), etc.—would be produced by Toho and, thankfully, none of these pictures have been obliterated by forces of any kind. One does not have to settle for plot synopses and reviews in trying to understand these later pictures; each and every one survives to be sought out and analyzed—and enjoyed—today.
** To achieve a ranking on this publication’s annual “Best Ten” list was considered a major accomplishment. Most prestigious was the #1 ranking, also known as the “Best One.” As Donald Richie and Joseph L. Anderson wrote in The Japanese Film – Art and Industry: “There is nothing quite like it in the West. Japanese critics poll to select the ten best films of the year and their choice has the greatest influence, not only in critical circles but also among the public and within the industry itself. It is an award relatively untouched by commercial consideration and is, therefore, highly respected.” During his lifetime, fourteen of Naruse’s films appeared on the magazine’s “Best Ten” list, and two of them—Wife! Be Like a Rose (1935) and Floating Clouds (1955)—garnered the coveted “Best One” prize.
**** Even though Naruse’s directing career began after this event and was not directly affected by it, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 played a major role in the destruction of vintage Japanese cinema.
***** In the ten years prior to becoming a director, Naruse continually wrote and submitted screenplays to the front office, knowing Shiro Kido usually determined promotions according to scriptwriting. Unsurprisingly, none of these early scripts of his were approved. Screenwriter Matsuo Kishi speculated Kido might not have even bothered to read them due to (he suspected) a personal disliking of Naruse.
****** In the days of silent film in Japan, movies—domestic and foreign imports alike—were very often narrated live by performers called benshi. Many of these performers became famous and, in a sense, became the starring attractions, more so than the on-camera actors, the directors, and sometimes even the movies themselves.
******* The prime example is Kajiro Yamamoto’s The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya, which cost a whopping $380,000 to produce, featured an infamous recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbor (with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya), quickly recouped its costs, and was saluted by Kinema Jumpo as the “Best One” in their annual “Best Ten” list. Its success resulted in Yamamoto later directing Colonel Kato’s Falcon Squadron, itself the first big hit of 1944.BY: Patrick GalvanGeneral // December 3, 2018
The fandom is known to seek out the original versions of Toho’s films when at all possible, and for good reason. American distributors sometimes cut scenes, alter music and even add sequences to movies.
The Return of Godzilla (1984) faced a similar treatment when it was brought over to the US as Godzilla 1985 by New World Pictures. However, while fans are quick to turn their nose up at the version for its “young general, evil Soviets, Dr. Pepper vending machine” ways, the American version did a lot of things right. Now I’m not defending Godzilla 1985 as the better version, it’s not. The US version added some awfully pointless scenes, but I feel it should be recognized for the many positive changes that were done.
Many things were altered about the 1984 movie, some more respectful than others, and some did improve the film. Below is a list of some of the greatest alterations New World Pictures did when preparing The Return of Godzilla for the US market, in order of enjoyment.
Less “Foreigner” Dialogue
“This is no time to be discussing PRINCipals…”
Bad acting from non-Japanese actors is a norm for a lot of the Godzilla franchise. The Showa films used to address this by dubbing over most of them, even though the caliber of actors like Nick Adams and Russ Tamblyn was high and their performances great. The Return of Godzilla started a new trend of leaving the original actors’ dialogue in.
While the performances are better in this film than the ones that would follow, there is still cringe worthy moments. Oddly, the US version elects not to dub these over and keeps the original performances. Thankfully, though, Godzilla 1985 instead removes a lot of these lines. This does have a negative by-product though on a few of the scenes that employee them. The best example is the Soviet submarine sequence, which has a lot of the lines cut. This includes axing the cheesy nuclear “conflicto” line. However, the removal gets to the point where the scene feels very brisk, totally removing the tension the sequence was going for.
On the scale of changes, this one does some good along with the bad.
Making Tokyo Actually Seem Evacuated
This is a pet peeve of mine, but in The Return of Godzilla Tokyo never feels like it’s actually evacuated. The film makes an effort to show daytime evacuation scenes as notice is given that Godzilla is heading toward Tokyo… and then night falls and the city still seems packed with people. This includes footage of a bustling shopping district that reacts to Godzilla almost on top of them. In fact, it feels like most of Tokyo kind of ignored the evacuation notification.
New World Pictures addresses this by using the shopping district shot without the crowds below and two other major contributions to make it feel like Tokyo actually made more of an effort to evacuate.
The first is the removal of a crowd scene that happens after Godzilla collapses from fighting the Super-X. This occurs almost immediately after Godzilla falls over, making it feel like there were throngs of people, in running distance, of Godzilla while he was attacking Tokyo’s downtown area. I mean this isn’t just a handful of people who might have struggled to evacuate, this is a regular flash mob that shows up on cue and is held back by police in riot gear who are also immediately on the scene (Godzilla has quite the entourage). All of these scenes were wisely removed.
The next contribution is through the ordering of scenes. When the Japanese government announces that the Russian nuke has been launched at Tokyo, we get shots of them announcing this to crowds and footage of citizens rushing into subways. It gets a smirk: shouldn’t these people already be evacuated? New World instead takes this footage and places it just BEFORE Godzilla arrives. This is much better, making it feel like the final stages of the evacuation rather than a second attempt to evacuate the people who must not have listened the first time.
Cutting Bad Effects
While special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano was at the top of his game for the 1984 film, the production does exhibit the Japanese norm of being uneven in its effects. It’s rare for any Tokusatsu (Japanese special effects films) to not exhibit this, often having at least one below par or cringe worthy effect. This is largely due to the tight schedule that most Japanese productions are created under. The Return of Godzilla has a few, and thankfully these were cut from the US version.
First up is the Shockirus attack, which is much longer in the Japanese version. Godzilla 1985 cuts a little too much here, but it does remove the greatest offending point: the part where the prop jumps onto actor Ken Tanaka’s back. It’s totally unconvincing as it dangles part on the actor, part off, being held by the actor. This segment is not only better left forgotten, but also doesn’t make sense in the story, as Tanaka’s character Goro Maki turns around and the Shockirus that was on his back is suddenly across the room (!?) and then jumps on his chest.
The other offending special effects shots are numerous, but are all related to the “real size” Godzilla foot prop. Sadly, the prop is not only unconvincing but also just doesn’t match how the foot looks in other scenes. Given the budget probably spent on these scenes, one can sympathize with director Nakano wanting to keep them in, but they aren’t particularly exciting on their own and the film benefits from their removal.
Trimmed Super-X vs. Godzilla Battle
In the original version, Godzilla seems very lethargic at some points. The worst offender of this is during his initial battle with the Super-X.
For the battle, Godzilla stands around for long spans of time before and when he is first confronted by the Super-X. This includes standing in place as the ship approaches, before the ship starts to fire its flares, during the flares, and even after being injected by the cadmium missiles. Other than roaring, his only response is a belated atomic ray AFTER Godzilla is having issues breathing from the cadmium… and Godzilla continues to stand, off on a small monitor, while the prime minister and his staff go over the likely scenario of the nuke that the Soviets just launched. FINALLY the movie cuts back and Godzilla collapses into a building, as the cadmium begins to affect him. The editing structure is painful, and oddly de-emphasizes Godzilla during what should be a key sequence.
The US edit is much more concise, with faster pacing that doesn’t make it seem like Godzilla is just sitting there perplexed for what feels like an hour while the Super-X does it’s thing. The editing makes Godzilla feel more appropriately hostile, as his first response is to attempt to blast the craft with his ray, which has no impact thanks to the ship’s shielding. The Super-X then responds in turn with the flares and cadmium missiles, which cause Godzilla to topple over without the needless minutes of him standing in place. It’s an infinitely more engaging turn of events than what happens in the original cut.
The second battle after Godzilla awakes is good in both versions, although even here the US version makes a wise cut of a long scene as Godzilla waits for the Super-X to emerge from behind a building.
While most of the improvements to the film can be chalked up to editing choices, and most of the negatives associated with the added scenes, this alteration does buck that trend. As Godzilla ascends into the volcano, Raymond Burr’s Steve Martin gives a heartfelt speech about the monster:
Nature has a way sometimes of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrible offspring’s of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla, that strangely innocent and tragic monster, has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us… remain…
While much of the dialogue for the new film leaves some to be desired, the overly poetic closure feels on point. Burr’s delivery is also impeccable, giving some new closing meat to the film during a sequence that was otherwise dialogue-less.
The Return of Godzilla features two songs, both of which were removed when New World Pictures edited the film. The first is “Good-bye Sweetheart Godzilla” and the second is the “Godzilla: Theme of Love”. If those song titles sound out of place for the more gothic 1984 film, it’s because they are.
The first song is actually done by the main actress of the film, Yasuko Sawaguchi. It’s heard on the radio during the opening on the small leisure boat before it finds the Yahata Maru. It really cuts through the mood, being way too happy and poppy, as its placed between the fishing ship struggling the night before and the upcoming sequence of the Shockirus. If the original film crew placed the song there as a moment of humor, it missed the mark and feels more like Toho was looking for some place to just cram and promote Sawaguchi’s musical career.
The second song is better, but also unneeded. It’s located during the movie’s credits, as Godzilla is trapped in the volcano. Done by The Star Sisters, the song is actually in English and has the singers saying: “Good-bye now Godzilla, good-bye now Godzilla, until then… take care now Godzilla, take care now Godzilla my old friend… Sayonara ‘til we meet again.” Yes there was a saddened relief felt by the characters as Godzilla was falling into the volcano, but the lyrics of the song feel totally out of place. It would fit much better as a finisher on one of the 1970’s films, as opposed to one where Godzilla returned to his evil roots.
For the record, I don’t dislike either song, but feel neither fits with the 1984 Godzilla film.
Added Music by Christopher Young
*drum roll* …and the greatest achievement from Godzilla 1985 is the added music. Original composer Reijiro Koroku did a phenomenal job on the movie’s score. It’s one of the better in the franchise, and the dark, moody music fits the gothic motif of the production perfectly.
The fault of the music is not in the themes themselves, which are incredible, but rather than the sequences that lack them. Realizing this, New World Pictures tapped the musical work of composer Christopher Young to fill in the blank sequences. While Young is a very prolific composer now, having scored films like Spider-Man 3 and The Rum Diary, he was relatively new to the industry back in the mid-1980’s. The source of the music is actually the score for Def-Con 4, which was released in the US just five months prior.
Young’s score not only fits well with Koroku’s music, but was brilliant in its own right, and likely would have been very obscure if not for its use in the Godzilla film. The added themes from Young greatly improved certain, previously music-less sequences. The best examples include the eerie search through the Yahata Maru, the Soviet Submarine scenes before Godzilla attacks and the high rise evacuation by helicopter. The new end credits also utilized a new suite of music that nicely mixed Koroku’s music with Young’s to great effect.
As a side note, a lot of the musical score for Def-Con 4 can be found on an old 1990 Intrada CD release that we have reviewed on the site.
Agree or disagree with this list? Feel free to list your own things Godzilla 1985 did better than The Return of Godzilla in the comments below.BY: Anthony RomeroGeneral // November 30, 2018