General

  • Monarch: Legacy of Monsters roared onto Apple+ as the first live action series set in the MonsterVerse, beat only by a few months for the honor of first series within the universe by Netflix’s Skull Island (2023). Yet, unlike the latter which will more than likely share a tenuous connection to canon like the comic series Godzilla: Awakening and Godzilla: Aftershock, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters proves a breathtaking, character-rich entry. A show that by its exciting conclusion seemingly does the impossible – make the MonsterVerse a cohesive universe, and a world worthy of exploration.

    Set after the cataclysmic events of Godzilla (2014), the series focuses on two seemingly distant perspectives.

    The first is set in 2015 with Cate Randa, played by Anna Sawai, who travels to Japan to uncover the truth behind her late father’s fate, merely to find a half-brother named Kentaro, Ren Watabe. Aided by Kentaro’s friend May, played by Kiersey Clemons, the trio set out to uncover a mysterious legacy dating back to Monarch’s inception.

    Speaking of, this is the other perspective featured prominently with the main cast being U.S. Army Colonel Lee Shaw, a Japanese scientist named Keiko, and cryptozoologist Bill Randa, all played by Wyatt Russell, Mari Yamamoto, and Anders Hold respectively.

    They needed a bigger boat.

    This dual perspective allows for Monarch: Legacy of Monsters to delve into the legacy of Monarch, the Ronda family, and the world coming to grips with a haunting truth – that humanity is not the apex species it once believed itself to be. Yet with this world-shattering revelation and equally grand plans to save the Earth, the show never shies away from pushing its themes of connection, loss, and trauma through the eyes of its human characters, echoing the stylistic flair of Garth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014).

    Mirroring that film as well in regards to pace, the ten-episode series grinds to a remarkably slow lumber roughly half way through. With each episode running a full sixty minutes, you can feel the battle between the show’s monstrous runtime, and the writers attempting to stuff exciting reveals and action whenever possible. Battles are lost. Plot points stretched near breaking; however, by its conclusion, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters should leave viewers at the edge of their seats rather than checking their proverbial watches.

    Now a good mystery is nothing without compelling characters and actors that can bring them to life. So far, the MonsterVerse’s track record has been… spotty, to say the least. Thankfully, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters proves a positive exception. Kurt Russel’s natural charm and charisma may steal the show whenever he’s onscreen, but Anna Sawai, Ren Watabe, Joe Tippett, and Mari Yamamoto all prove capable of elevating their scenes, making Legendary’s world of Titans and all that occurs within it, that much more believable and entertaining.

    Look, I’m not evil. Just incompetent.

    And without getting into spoilers; references, lore, and yes, monsters, do share the collective screentime, but for as grand a narrative as the series may be advertised as, with multiple plotlines hinting at the end of the world, in reality, the show is a small endeavor. Godzilla may loom large, an ever-present force of nature during both time periods, but do not go into this show expecting his screentime to be equally immense.

    Like the varying trauma which plagues a large swath of the cast, his presence can more so be felt than seen.

    We’re going to need a bigger budget.

    However disappointing that may seem, it is the seamless integration of all the creatures, settings, and general digital effects that truly sets Monarch: Legacy of Monsters apart from other televised programming. From Godzilla’s arrival in San Francisco to the emergence of otherworldly Titans, the series boasts a movie-like quality to most of its production. The attention to detail is nothing short of breathtaking, and if anything, considerably raises the bar for Kaiju adaptations on the small screen going forward.

    In conclusion, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters shadow casts long and far over the MonsterVerse. Cracks appear beneath its gargantuan runtime, unable to justify the screentime it devotes to all of its characters. But those who focus upon the imperfections, that scour the landscape for defections left in this monstrous triumph’s wake, will miss the stunning successes. Sown into this series hide lay a plethora of well written characters, breathtaking visuals, and a narrative that blends all four of the MonsterVerse’s separate films seamlessly into one another. If given another season, another chance to stretch its legs and continue to flesh out its world and characters, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters may prove not only a worthwhile entry, but evolve into something far, far grander.

    A production able to rival cinematic Titans.

    4 Stars

    General // February 12, 2024
  • Some years ago, I did an extensive review of Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-1958, and while I was really surprised at the content of some of the manga and adaptations therein, by far the little nugget that captured my imagination the most was a tiny sideways mention in an essay tucked in the back of the volume. That essay mentioned a title called Beastman Gorion which was to be made into a Toho film back in 1955 but which never came to fruition… but which was written by Godzilla scribe Shigeru Kayama, and which was serialized in Shonen Club magazine with illustrations by Tetsu Shirai (I can confirm now that that is indeed the reading of the artist’s name). At the time I was able to dig up a bit more information about the title, though not much. I knew that the title was originally Beastman Gorion and eventually that was changed to King Gorion (or rather Ruler of the Jungle Gorion) and was one of any number of illustrated monster tales from Kayama. However, I couldn’t find any information about how far along the production of the film ever progressed, nor if an name (such as a possible director or actors) had ever been attached to the lost film. I also couldn’t find any synopses, nor any reprints of the tale, despite the existence of a set of volumes that ostensibly collected all of Kayama’s written works (when I scoured the books’ table of contents, I couldn’t find the title listed). When I asked other scholars about the title, no one seemed to know anything, and while I could find a few images online, the details were extremely scarce. (more…)

    General // January 24, 2024
  • Special thanks to Jeremy Williams for the submission!

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    General // December 31, 2023
  • Sometime around the middle of this year, well known Toho Kingdom Staff Member and friend, Chris Mirjahangir, casually asked me in conversation if I would have interest in attending the United States premiere of Godzilla Minus One, should such an event occur? Without hesitation I responded with an enthusiastic “YES!”

    Flash forward to the rainy morning of November 9th, and I found myself waiting in line at my local airport of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for a flight bond for Los Angeles California, where the very next day I would be attending the official Hollywood hosted, U.S. Premiere of Toho’s newest Godzilla film, Godzilla Minus One. To say I was in a state of shock would be an understatement. That sense of shock and excitement still hasn’t quite left me yet and if I’m honest, I hope they never do.

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    General // December 16, 2023
  • Special thanks to Jeremy Williams for the submission!

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    General // December 15, 2023
  • Special thanks to Jeremy Williams for the submission!

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    General // December 7, 2023
  • Taiwan is one of my favorite countries, and every time I visit, it’s such a pleasure—made even more so because I can meet a nearly life-size Godzilla there! If you travel to the Zhongzheng District (not far from the Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station, exit 1 on the MRT—and you should definitely take the MRT), it won’t take long to find the Hotel Gracery Taipei… and a gargantuan Godzilla mural plastered across the building’s west side. Godzilla fans will be aware of the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku and its elaborate Godzilla head and famous Godzilla room—many kaiju pilgrims travel out specifically to check out the statue and dine on Godzilla goodies at the restaurant within. Much less well known, however, is that Gracery—a line of luxury hotels centered in Japan—has a sister hotel out in Taipei, featuring its own art installations celebrating a certain famous Japan-born kaiju. The “life-size” kaiju image, depicting Millenium Godzilla and stretching across the 5th to 14th floors, was installed to celebrate the first year anniversary of the hotel in 2021—apparently in response to a questionnaire distributed to determine the best or most popular version of the king of the monsters for a Taiwanese audience. The sight of the big guy towering over the Taiwanese skyline is pretty impressive, and for fans, it’s worth a hop, skip, and a jump to catch a gander of the megabeast.

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

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    General // December 5, 2023
  • Special thanks to Jeremy Williams for the submission!

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    General // November 26, 2023
  • Special thanks to Jeremy Williams for the submission!

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    General // November 19, 2023