General

  • The staff of Toho Kingdom sound off their top Toho film picks. For these lists, each staff member is selecting their top six Toho movies. Why six? Because five is too short and ten feels way too long. In terms of criteria, this is strictly based on which films the staff member would consider their favorite. It doesn’t necessarily tie into the merits of the production itself, so for example don’t be surprised to see more Godzilla movies than Akira Kurosawa films here.

    Each list is separated by the staff member who submitted it. As part of the hiring process, the top six films are asked of the incoming staff member. An odd, but consistent ritual from the early days. As a result, some of these will discuss the movies and why they were selected while others will just be a raw list of the six films.

    Also note that this article is currently a work in progress with more picks and descriptions forth coming.

    Anthony Romero’s Picks

    1. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

    This isn’t just my favorite Toho film, but my favorite movie of all time. I watched it at just the right period in my adolescence, particularly as it hit during the “eXtreme” period of the 1990’s when X-Force was turning heads. The swearing, violence and other elements convinced a young me that this was a more “grown up” Godzilla movie. While that might have been the initial lure, what kept me coming back for more  were the special effects, pacing, music and the great representation of the title monsters. For me this was a near perfect Godzilla film and while I have grown to recognize its numerous faults, its pound for pound my favorite movie and the one I have watched way more than any others.

    2. Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

    Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro

    I never expected to fall in love with this film when I first saw it on DVD. While I know this is an extreme dark horse pick as one’s favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie, I adore this late 1970’s production. Rain or shine, it’s a great piece of escapism to turn on and get swept up in the adventure the characters are having. Although there is some tension to be had, it’s primarily a very fun movie with excellent pacing that keeps the viewer’s interest from the casino break-in to the end credits.

    3. Yojimbo (1961)

    I often flip-flop between this and the next film, but usually side with this 1961 entry for how approachable it is. It’s incredibly easy to turn it on and enjoy it as the pacing is incredible, a reoccurring theme for my list actually. The character development is fantastic, but the way it juggles dark comedy, action and even tension is all phenomenal. The plot is also fantastic, the idea of pitting two gangs against each other, even if it has been remade over and over again.

    4. Seven Samurai (1954)

    Generally regarded as the best Japanese movie and who is to argue? The concept of a group of initially mismatched samurai coming together to defend a village is simple yet executed so well. It’s often been emulated, but the magic of the original has never been replicated. The characters are so well fleshed out that none feel disposable, and as the events of the movie unfold the emotions it triggers only increase. The only reason this movie isn’t higher on my list is the run time. It’s over three hours, so you really gotta dedicate yourself to it for each viewing.

    5. Matango (1963)

    This movie feels slightly overrated these days …although I would like to say I loved it before it became cliché to love it. Or at least would like to make that claim, although have seen publications from before my time confessing their admiration for the movie. While the 1963 film isn’t ground breaking, it’s just well made and sticks with you for the unique portrayal of how society norms can break down in some situations while the Matango mushroom species is thrown into the mix to engage those with a tendency for science fiction.

    6. The Return of Godzilla (1984)

    My sixth choice tends to rotate I find. For a time it was Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) and then the incredible documentary Tokyo Olympiad (1964). However, if I ask myself the question: if I was stuck somewhere for years and could only bring six Toho films, which would make the cut? Well with a question like that I have to side with the first 1980’s Godzilla film. The darker atmosphere of the movie stands out for me, as does the menacing portrayal of Godzilla. One element that really keeps me coming back, though, is the incredible score by Reijiro Koroku.

    Joshua Sudomerski’s picks

    1. Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)

    2. The Cat Returns (2002)

    3. Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)

    4. Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

    5. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

    6. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

     

    Chris Mirjahangir’s picks

    1. Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

    2. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

    3. Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

    4. Godzilla (1954)

    5. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

    6. Destroy All Monsters (1968)

     

    Tyler Trieschock’s picks

    1. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

    For me, my favorite movies are the ones that can put a smile on my face and Tokyo S.O.S. does this by bringing the best parts of a Godzilla film in one action-packed premise. Godzilla returns, with my favorite design to this day, and all hands are on deck to best the nuclear leviathan. Kiryu, Mothra, even the JSDF, bring about some stellar effects driven sequences trying to halt the King of the Mon… Huh. Déjà vu. Throughout the entire film, Godzilla feels like a threat, blowing through every obstacle in his way until his final battle with Kiryu ends his reign of terror in a satisfying conclusion. Couple this action with a stellar send off for Kiryu, and the cheesy dialogue or weaker story can’t help myself from calling this my favorite Toho film.

    2. Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996)

    Gamera 2: Advent of Legion

    If I could sum up this movie in one word it would be: Blockbuster. And I mean that in every meaning of the word. The plot is pretty bare and the human characters are at their weakest in the trilogy, excluding Ayako Fujitani and Toshiyuki Nagashima as Asagi Kusanagi and Colonel Watarase respectively, but wow does everything else appear in style. Once the action begins, the stakes consistently raise with fantastic camera work, effects, choreography and more ending with an over the top finale which will finally give you a chance to take a breath. I love all three of the Gamera movies, but the cheesiness of the first and the slower pace of the third don’t make them too rewatchable. Gamera 2 though is where I think director Shusuke Kaneko struck the perfect balance and it’s my 2nd favorite due to this.

    3. Godzilla (2014)

    Gareth Edwards came the closest to a perfect Godzilla film for me and rewatching the film recently, after watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), I have to say I have more appreciation for it. Yes, there is less action, and Aaron Taylor Johnson is bit reserved in his acting, but these gripes aside, excluding the original, I believe this movie has some of the most memorable acting, cinematography, editing, sound, and action in the series. I’ll never forget watching this on the big screen with my best friend, tearing up at Cranston’s monologue, shaking in my seat from Godzilla’s arrival at the airport or feeling pure awe upon watching the atomic ray decapitate a monster. I’ve heard many say this film is awful and while people have every right to their opinion, in this case I would tend to agree as this film leaves me in awe every time I happily watch it.

    4. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

    Shusuke Kaneko made a Godzilla movie. After the Gamera Trilogy, was there any real doubt this movie wouldn’t be at least great? No… thought so.

    5. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

    I recently rewatched Godzilla vs. Biollante and if director Kazuki Omori did one thing to make me really enjoy this film, it would be that he made it unique to all that came before and after. Godzilla returns, with my favorite design of the Heisei era, and all hands are on deck to best the nuclear leviathan. The Super X II, Biollante, even the JSDF, bring about some stellar effects driven sequences trying to halt the

    King of the Monsters. Biollante especially is breath taking in its execution and while the Kaiju action is relatively brief, it is memorable. While not every concept lands, and there are a ton thrown at you throughout the movie, its darker tone and solid characters make it a far more memorable movie than I gave it credit for and it earns a place in my favorite Toho films of all time because of this

    6. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

    The first Godzilla movie I watched and it holds a special place ever since. Yes, the human plot is insane, but that insanity is a fun guide through a monster filled brawl of a movie. From Godzilla’s constant battles with Rodan, to the fun character moments of the humans and Kaiju alike, to the final battle with Ghidorah, make this movie my favorite Showa era Godzilla film.

     

    Patrick Galvan’s picks

    1. Seven Samurai (1954)

    Seven Samurai

    One of the landmarks of 20th century art, Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece about poor villagers hiring seven ronin to help defend their home from a gang of bandits accomplishes so much within its 207-minute runtime. No time is wasted fleshing out a large cast of instantly memorable characters—all while developing the tension, drama, humor, and searing humanity of which Kurosawa was a master. The many imitators of Seven Samurai often mimic its premise as an excuse for showing off action set pieces, but this most remarkable film goes a step further and is worthy of its status as one of the greatest films of all time.

    2. The Return of Godzilla (1984)

    When asked to name my favorite Godzilla movie—not necessarily the best but the one that reaches me the most on a personal level—this is the one that always turns up. Directed by Koji Hashimoto, one of Ishiro Honda’s former assistants (and someone who got the job based on a recommendation from his senior), The Return of Godzilla successfully brings Godzilla into a new generation while answering the question of why, aside from monetary reasons, the monster should have been resurrected in the first place. It is also one of the few Heisei pictures to really show off its budget: in addition to Teruyoshi Nakano’s dynamic special effects, the picture has an overwhelming sense of scale, gigantic interior and exterior sets, and a lush audio track that, played with a good sound system in the film’s original stereo release, allows for one of the most immersive experiences the Godzilla series has to offer.

    3. Godzilla (1954)

    What is there to say about the original Godzilla that hasn’t been said before? It’s one of the best monster movies in history, because it is so much more than a monster movie.

    4. Two in the Shadow (1967)

    Two in the Shadow was the third film directed by Mikio Naruse I ever saw, but the first to make me realize I had stumbled upon one of the great unsung masters of Japanese cinema. In the final picture he made before his passing in 1969, Naruse takes a plot that, on the surface, might sound like cheap melodrama (a woman falls in love with the man who accidentally killed her husband, and he with her) and slowly develops a believable relationship between two people who want to be together but are forever haunted by the tragedy which binds them. Some critics have argued that Naruse hit a slump in the 1960s. I would argue otherwise: that many of the films he made in the last few years of his life were quite wonderful, with Two in the Shadow closing off his career on a note of near-perfection.

    5. Matango (1963)

    Ishiro Honda’s strengths as a director stemmed from his natural talent for coercing strong performances from his cast and his interest in social commentary, and when these strengths joined forces in service of a good script, the results were often mesmerizing. All of which is on full display in Matango, a picture employing minimal action set pieces in favor of suspense, tension, and intricate character study.

    6. High and Low (1963)

    High and Low

    This may seem to be a recurring theme with my choices by now, but it is always admirable when a director takes what could’ve been simple escapism and goes the extra mile to produce something of genuine depth, something which engages the minds of the audience and pushes them to think while they are being entertained. High and Low might’ve been a fine police procedural under the care of most directors; and in Kurosawa’s hands, it becomes infused with unflattering and sometimes terrifying portraits of social conditions in postwar Japan. As the director Takashi Miike recently told interviewers from the Criterion Collection, “If you study Kurosawa’s filmmaking, you see […] [h]e was exploring the idea of the truth and what the real answers were while he was making the film.” And let it be said the closing shot of this picture ranks as one of the most haunting and hauntingly perfect pieces of celluloid this reviewer has ever come across.

     

    Mathew Webber’s picks

    1. Shin Godzilla (2016)

    2. Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

    3. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

    4. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

    5. Matango (1963)

    6. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

     

    Nicholas Driscoll’s picks

    1. Spirited Away (2001)

    2. Swing Girls (2004)

    3. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

    4. Rodan (1956)

    5. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

    6. Whisper of the Heart (1995)

     

    Thomas Fairchild’s picks

    1. The Return of Godzilla (1984)

    2. Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)

    3. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

    4. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

    5. Godzilla (1954)

    6. Rodan (1956)

     

    Andrew Sudomerski’s picks

    1. Godzilla (1954)

    2. Throne of Blood (1957)

    3. Akira (1988)

    4. Kong: Skull Island (2017)

    5. Virus (1980)

    6. Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)

     

    François Coulombe’s picks

    1. Samurai Saga (1959)

    2. Godzilla (1954)

    3. A Whistle in My Heart (1959)

    4. Ikiru (1952)

    5. The Legend of the White Serpent (1956)

    6. Sandakan No. 8 (1974)

     


    Feeling like mentioning your own top Toho film picks? Feel free to list them in the comments below.

    General // January 26, 2020
  • Have you ever wanted to experience firsthand what it would be like to try to escape from Godzilla? As fans, I think there are a lot of folks who would love to experience (safely!) an encounter with Godzilla beyond just another video game or even yet another VR experience. People wish they could feel the experience, not just get dizzy with a heavy electronic headset blocking your vision. And that experience was sort of what was promised by Tokyo Mystery Circus in 2018 in their Godzilla-themed escape room.

    Tokyo Mystery Circus is a sort of escape-room indoor theme park in Shinjuku, and opened just in 2017 by escape room pioneers SCRAP. They feature both English-language and Japanese-language escape rooms, as well as “stealth games” and projection map games. As of this writing, some of the escape rooms that are currently running include a Yu-Gi-Oh themed room, a Lupin the 3rd themed game, a Hunter X Hunter themed game, and many more… including an attraction with an English-language option called “Escape from the Toilet of Despair” (I think I have to sign up for that one… it just sounds too wonderfully stupid).

    The Tokyo Mystery Circus building
    The Tokyo Mystery Circus building

    Now I don’t have much experience with escape rooms, but I was always curious about them because growing up I loved solving what my family called “note trails” wherein first my mother would create elaborate puzzles that I had to solve, following a series of clues until I found a gift somewhere around the house or the nearby area. These puzzles were often ciphers or word puzzles and etc, and eventually I started making my own, trying to get more and more creative each time. The fact that folks are now creating their own puzzles on a grander scale within “escape room” puzzles makes me kind of excited. I love it when people use their creativity in such interesting ways to bring regular folks a new and exciting experience, and the fact that here in Japan we got an escape room experience about Godzilla was even better!

    The escape room, called “Shin Godzilla kara no Dashutsu” (Escape from Shin Godzilla), was available for anyone to experience from April of 2018 and continued for a just a few months unfortunately. It was also only available in Japanese, so most kaiju-loving tourists were kind of outta luck.

    The poster of the Godzilla escape room
    The poster of the Godzilla escape room

    I have some Japanese ability, though, and I wanted to give the experience a shot. So I wrangled a friend into going with me, and one weekend we wandered on over to Shinjuku to have the experience. I went with an American friend who, though his Japanese is far better than mine, still does not really possess native-level Japanese, and thus we were in for a pretty big challenge. We arrived and were ushered into a basement area with a series of tables and a décor predominated by red. We then were given booklets similar in shape and size to restaurant menus. These booklets sort of gave background details about the story—Godzilla appears and we have to stop him, basically. The staff were friendly, and they even said they would try to keep things simple so we could understand.

    They also paired us up with a Japanese player. I felt sorry for him immediately.

    Along with our “menu,” we received documents we weren’t allowed to open yet, as well as a big booklet of laminated cheat-sheets if we needed hints to overcome the puzzles, and a box attached to the table had some props inside. We dumb foreigners were not the only ones who got those cheatbooks—every table got them. I guess the idea is that they don’t want you to feel cheated in your experience. They don’t want you to just get stymied and miss out on the experience of half the game or something.

    The packets given to participants of the Godzilla escape room
    The packets given to participants of the Godzilla escape room

    And it’s quite an experience. The staff running the game basically double (or triple) as actors playing various parts in the drama to fight against Godzilla. One lady, for example, seemed to be the daughter of Dr. Serizawa and she was also the commander that we would later report to as we solved puzzles and learned things about Godzilla and his approach.

    That experience started with a narrative/lecture delivered by some of the actors, as well as footage of Godzilla approaching Tokyo. The Godzilla footage featured the Godzilla design from Godzilla Resurgence (2016), albeit I think some of the shots were original—I didn’t recognize some water shots of the fully-formed Godzilla wading towards the shore.

    And then we had to open our envelopes and start doing the puzzles. There were often multiple puzzles to complete at any one time, and so I can’t comment on all of them—I didn’t do all of them. I can’t even clearly remember all of the ones that I did—the process was chaotic as we struggled to blaze through each puzzle as fast as possible (our Japanese partner immediately referred to the cheat sheets over and over again). So I will just give a few highlights to the madness.

    One of the screens showing information about Godzilla's approach
    One of the screens showing information about Godzilla’s approach

    One of the early memorable puzzles was about tracking where Godzilla would be moving across the landscape—his predicted path. We had a big color map, and on separate paper we had images from the map minus key details (such as landmarks and building names) that we had to match to the actual map and then, after finding the matching images, paste transparent stickers with lines embedded in them to indicate the monster’s path, matching the lines together across the map. My explanation kind of sucks, but it was memorable, and after completing the puzzle and getting a check from the staff to make sure we didn’t bungle it, we went into another room to announce to the press (a bunch of staff with cameras and flashing lights) where Godzilla would be attacking.

    And there were a lot of great moments like that. Breaking a code about some part of the nature of Godzilla and reporting it to the female Serizawa (who graciously acted impressed every time), or delivering a bottle of water to a thirsty staff member (who graciously pretended to drink the water every time), or just receiving updates about the monster from the staff and from videos—it was a totally unique experience. The game included some fan-service such as a clue featuring the number “1954.” As I recall, at one point the lights flickered as Godzilla came close to the building. The realization of the situation was excellent and really, really fun… even though I was often really lost as to what was happening.

    Some of the inside of the booklets, plus I think some fake business cards given to us
    Some of the inside of the booklets, plus I think some fake business cards given to us

    But frankly I was pretty dang lost, and there is little chance I could have finished the puzzles without the hapless Japanese guy. The puzzles were sometimes just nigh impossible for my friend and I with our inferior Japanese. If we had been given ample time (that is to say, all day) to complete the puzzles, maybe we would have been fine… but with the tight time frame, it was really freaking hard. Some of the puzzles were language based, such as a kana chart with missing bits you had to put together to find some specific words, or a couple dozen copies of a report and we had to find the mistakes in each copy to spell out a clue (which sounds much harder than it was). There were a few times when, even with the help of our Japanese partner, we just took too long and the staff of Tokyo Mystery Circus dropped by to help us out. This particular game must be completed all the way through, and you don’t know if you lost until the very end.

    The conclusion of the game dealt with placing a bomb and chemicals to take out Godzilla around Shinjuku as a trap. We had to consider the best places to position the equipment to get the electricity where it needed and the bomb where it could do the most damage to Godzilla by placing overlays on a map of Shinjuku—kind of similar to the previous map activity. It was really tricky, though, working through all the vague hints and placing the equipment for the final trap. Only ONE of the tables actually guessed everything right, and I am not sure how they did. To actually win, not only did you have to put the overlays on the right places for the trap to go off, but the bomb had to be placed in an area not clearly marked on the map—as I recall it had to be placed in an elevator in the very room where we were playing the game.

    I would be lying if I said I knew why.

    I don’t know why.

    Neither do I know how the one team knew the answer. I wondered if they had played the game several times previously.

    Anyway, our team utterly failed. Personally, though I was really confused, I had a good time. And after the event was over, there was yet more to experience in the café and goods area. The café had several Godzilla-themed foods. I was tempted to try all of them, though it would be too much on my poor stomach probably and my friend wasn’t interested so I didn’t want to force him to stick around all afternoon. So I picked the most ridiculous Godzilla treat I could find at the café—a big flavored ice treat (chocolate) with big googly eyes that was apparently supposed to look kind of Godzilla-ish. It tasted pretty good, but I felt pressure to eat it quickly.

    My friend and I posing after we failed. The sign says "Escape Failed" in Japanese.
    My friend and I posing after we failed. The sign says “Escape Failed” in Japanese.

    Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to avoid one of the most embarrassing incidents that has happened to me in Japan. To give context, you have to picture this café with lots of small tables and chairs jam-packed together. It was difficult to find a place to sit or stand because there were too many chairs and such, and they were too close together. Also, you have to understand in Japan very frequently Japanese people will reserve a chair or a table by putting something on those tables and chairs—even sometimes very valuable things, such as their bags. Then they go and purchase something and have a seat to return to.

    Some lady had reserved a seat at one of the tables with her purse. I was awkwardly standing nearby, trying to eat the Godzilla ice and feeling crammed in. Suddenly the ice of the Godzilla treat collapsed a bit and parts of the flavored ice splattered across the woman’s purse and on the table.

    And I just stood there mortified.

    I didn’t know what to do. Run? Clean up the table and purse? Just wait and apologize? I couldn’t just leave—my conscience wouldn’t allow it. And I didn’t want to clean up her purse for fear she might thing I was trying to steal from her. So I waited for her to return so I could apologize to her.

    Those few minutes were truly agonizing. I felt so bad. The woman was gracious, but my friend was convinced she was really ticked off. She didn’t stay at her table that she had reserved, if that is any evidence!

    Also while I was at Tokyo Mystery Circus, I also bought three sets of Godzilla puzzles which, together, apparently complete something, like maybe a secret message. I am not sure, I haven’t done the puzzles yet, but I am curious to play with them in the near future.

    The Godzilla escape room experience was very memorable and fun. I love the space was developed by people passionate about Godzilla and about customer service, and the puzzles were top notch and fun. The main downside was the cramped and uncomfortable café. And I wish the escape room was open year round! Definitely one of the more unique experiences I have had in Japan!

    The Godzilla snack... before it collapsed onto a stranger's purse.
    The Godzilla snack… before it collapsed onto a stranger’s purse.

    General // December 7, 2019
  • In 1947, a blossoming filmmaker at Toho named Senkichi Taniguchi started production on the crime thriller Snow Trail, his second directorial effort. Having previously helmed the star-studded musical Toho Show Boat (1946), he was ready to expand his creative spectrum, channeling his energy into a straight-forward caper about three criminals who rob a bank and then flee into the mountains with their loot. In what marked another significant difference from his first movie, Taniguchi was forced to fill his cast with lesser-known or even completely unknown actors—as the studio had recently lost most of its established “box office” talent during a labor union strike and, per the speculations of one actor, wasn’t keen on their remaining “big name” stars shooting on location in the rugged mountain wilderness*. Among the newcomers appearing in Taniguchi’s film was a vibrant young actress by the name of Setsuko Wakayama, whom the director married two years after the film’s release and divorced seven years after that.

    Around the time his marriage to Wakayama ended, Taniguchi took charge of the rousing period piece The Maiden Courtesan (1956), during which he collaborated with Kaoru Yachigusa, who had been appearing in films for half a decade and had recently been subject to an attempt on Toho’s part to be rendered into the next international film star. History seemed to repeat itself a year after The Maiden Courtesan’s release, when Taniguchi and Yachigusa married (the second time the former wed an actress from one of his movies). This union, however, would not end in divorce: the couple remained together for the rest of Taniguchi’s life, Yachigusa supporting her husband as his career disintegrated in the 1960s, dedicatedly looking after him when ill health plagued him some decades later. As for Yachigusa’s career: Toho’s ambition to make a globally recognized name out of her never exactly came to fruition, but she nonetheless continued to enjoy domestic popularity in film and television—all while remaining at her husband’s side until he passed away in 2007.

    Kaoru Yachigusa in The Human Vapour

    Kaoru Yachigusa in The Human Vapour

    In thinking back on the film career of Kaoru Yachigusa (who died on October 24th this year, age 88), the dominant image that again and again comes to mind is one not identical but somewhat akin to what one imagines through recalling her marriage to Taniguchi: one chiefly remembers the many times she played passionate—sometimes even self-sacrificing—women unrelentingly supportive and caring (or as film historian Stuart Galbraith IV once wrote, “willing to forfeit everything up to and including her own identity”) for the men they loved. This is not to say that Yachigusa’s acting and performances were confined to the parameters of such roles; her career, after all, lasted almost seven decades, proffering a variety of characters to play; and I have been told that, through her work in television in the 1970s and onward, she found a new screen image as an “ideal” housewife and mother (though I have not seen any such shows of hers and thus cannot comment on the matter). But again, what I remember first and foremost is her embodying romantic perseverance and how she played different variants of this sort of character—beginning with what is unquestionably her most famous role.

    Produced three years after Yachigusa’s screen debut in 1951, Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954) on the surface might’ve seemed to have been merely the latest of countless movies based on the life and lore of the samurai/author of the title (director Hiroshi Inagaki himself made a few films about Miyamoto prior to this one). But the 1954 Toho spectacle in question was concocted and presented as something much grander, featuring huge sets, hundreds of fully costumed actors and horsemen, and touting a budget of roughly $500,000, the second largest ever afforded to a Japanese film at that time**. Appearing in such an enterprise—and opposite a huge star like Toshiro Mifune, no less—granted Yachigusa more visibility than ever and arguably started establishing the persona still associated with her today. “It was my first adult role,” Yachigusa recalled decades later, “so I didn’t know what to expect. Musashi and Otsu are shy and awkward with each other, but I think there’s great love between them.”

    Toshiro Mifune and Kaoru Yachigusa in Samurai I

    Toshiro Mifune and Kaoru Yachigusa in Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

    The film takes its foundation from part of Eiji Yoshikawa’s serialized novel about Miyamoto and places heavy emphasis on the relationship between the burgeoning samurai and the immaculately beautiful Otsu, whom Yachigusa portrays. And in contrast to the film’s two sequels—Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955) and Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956), which generally charged Otsu with following Musashi around, to the point where another recurring character played by Mariko Okada became the more interesting love interest—Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto presents Otsu as a fully drawn person with contextualized struggles extending well beyond those in her romantic tenacity.

    Yachigusa portrays Otsu as a fragile person emotionally battered by those around her (betrayed by her fiancé; cornered and tormented by her betrothed’s family). She initially blames Musashi for pulling her fiancé toward the path of war—and thus away from her—but later comes to identify with him once society rears its ugly head; both of them have been betrayed by the people in their lives (Otsu realizes her fiancé was not worthy of devotion after he marries another woman; everyone in Musashi’s village compliantly joins forces with the warmongers seeking his death) and feel completely and utterly alone, with no one to seek consolation from besides each other. Otsu’s empathy culminates with an initiative to save Musashi after he’s captured, followed by a beautifully romantic scene of the two characters reconciling on the banks of a stream. And then there’s the heartbreaking finale in which Otsu’s left behind as the man she loves wanders off to begin his journey as a samurai, promising to return one day.

    Otsu and Musashi in Samurai III

    Otsu and Musashi in Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

    Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto pivots on Mifune’s transformation from a glory-seeking ruffian into a cultured swordsman, but it is the relationship between him and Yachigusa that makes up the picture’s emotional core. And while I do take issue with how Otsu became a tad too sidelined as the trilogy went along, the character’s lasting commitment to Musashi nonetheless embodies Yachigusa’s screen image as self-sacrificing woman who only wants to be loved. Moreover, she did have some powerful moments emphasizing the pain her character was going through: watching Musashi change before her eyes, losing her strength (both physical and emotional), finally reaching the point where, at the end of Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, she can barely go on. And even when at long last she is able to be with the man she loves, she cannot escape the realization that, due to their experiences, things will never be the same. As she laments, “I wish you were still the [man] I used to know.” I have many reservations with the finale of this trilogy, but there are jabs of touching melancholy stemming from Yachigusa’s character, and the actress delivers them faultlessly.

    To reiterate, Kaoru Yachigusa by no means only played quietly hurting women like Otsu, for she did at times break away from her screen image or, more interestingly, perform variants of it. During Toho’s trial run efforts to create a name for her overseas, Yachigusa was often cast in lavish international productions such as The Legend of the White Serpent (1956), co-financed by Hong Kong’s the Shaw Brothers and based on a popular Chinese legend, for which she acted as a voice of reason amid a doomed relationship between two others. Before that, she’d played the titular role in the 1954 Madame Butterfly (joint-produced between Toho, Rizzoli Films, and Gallone Productions), which came from a stage adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera—in essence allowing her to enact a western rendition, if you will, of her usual part of a Japanese woman suffering from heartbreak.

    Kaoru YachigusaOn Yachigusa’s home turf, the 1957 adaptation of Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country again placed the actress within the framework of a woman devoted to the man she loves, but this time she’s characterized as fiery and passionate, outspoken and protective, pouring her heart into caring for someone too ill to care for himself. (And let it be said her performance is by far the best thing about this production: she captures the exact image I had of the character when I read the novel.)

    On occasion, Yachigusa played objects of romantic obsession, as in Ishiro Honda’s science fiction thriller The Human Vapour (1960), itself, as many have described, something like a Japanese variant of The Phantom of the Opera. Another example was her appearance in the long-running Tora-san series, where she captured the interest of Kiyoshi Atsumi’s beloved ne’er-do-well.

    And for an example of Yachigusa enacting a spin on a different kind of superficially familiar material (in this case the role of a dutiful housewife), I would like to salute a film which I saw just a few months ago. In Yoshimitsu Morita’s family comedy Like Asura (2003), Yachigusa was once again paired up with Tatsuya Nakadai (they’d previously played husband and wife in the 1987 tearjerker Hachiko) in a story revolving around an extra-marital affair on the husband’s part which is found out by the married couple’s four adult daughters.

    Yachigusa plays the mother with what appears to be sweet naïveté, seemingly oblivious not only to her husband’s trysts but also to the true nature of the comedic scrambling that occurs when his “activities” are reported in a local paper. (There’s a great scene where Nakadai’s trimming his toenails and Yachigusa spreads out newsprint beneath his feet to catch the clippings, “coincidentally” opening it to the page broadcasting his secret. One of their daughters stops by to steal their copy of the morning edition—so that her mother doesn’t read it—and fearfully waits until both parents leave the room. She snatches the paper and, when Yachigusa re-enters, lamely pretends to swat a cockroach to explain her having crumpled it. Yachigusa remarks she hasn’t read the paper yet and reaches for it, resulting in a tug of war between the two women, the daughter sweating bullets, the mother perplexed.)

    In the picture’s finale (I am about to give away the ending, so read this last paragraph at your own discretion), the mother has succumbed to a sudden illness and the daughters discover that she in fact had been the one who leaked news of their father’s philandering to the press—to which they enjoy a tearful laugh. At this point, the audience is prompted to look back on Kaoru Yachigusa’s character and performance and put the dots together: now we realize she’d laid out the paper at her husband’s feet with the intention of him inadvertently reading the story in question; now we realize her sweet and out of it persona wasn’t so sweet and out of it after all; there were hints in her behavior the whole time, but they were hints one does not notice without the benefit of hindsight. A fine script enhanced by subtly comedic acting from a marvelous film actress whose range and natural grace will be missed.

    Kaoru Yachigusa in Like Asura

    Rest In Peace, Kaoru Yachigusa (image from Like Asura)

     


     

    * The actor who made this speculation was none other than Toshiro Mifune, who made his acting debut in Snow Trail, directed by Kaoru Yachigusa’s future husband, Senkichi Taniguchi. Mifune later recalled: “I think the reason I got the part was because of the physical risks involved. Because the big stars had left Toho from the strike, I was chosen to co-star in Snow Trail. […] It called for a great deal of mountain climbing, and I believe the studio felt an unknown actor was more expendable.”

    ** The budget of Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto was pretty close to that of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), which was released earlier that same year and cost somewhere between $560,000-580,000.

    General // November 18, 2019
  • To celebrate Godzilla’s 65th birthday a celebration was held at HUMAX Cinemas in Ikebukuro Tokyo called “Godzilla Night” on November 2nd, from 7:30 pm to 5:00am the following day. The event consisted of a showing of Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Giant Monsters All Out Attack, Mothra 3, and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: The Greatest Battle on Earth (the edited down Champion Film Festival Version of Ghidorah: the Three Headed Monster). In addition to the movies, many people involved in the franchise, such as Shusuke Kaneko made appearances and talked about their experiences and involvement with the series.

    As a long time Godzilla fan living in Japan, Godzilla Night felt like one of the most important nights of my life. It felt like an ultimate achievement as a Godzilla fan, seeing the films in theater, and getting to interact with the people that were directly involved. When I approached the ticket counter to the HUMAX Cinemas the cashier was a little taken aback, and surprised that someone such as myself had traveled all the way from Yamanashi (an area near Mt. Fuji) in order to see Godzilla films, especially because I was not fluent in Japanese. Most of the seats were sold out, impressive for an all-night endeavor. Taking my tickets and walking towards the elevator, the first thing I noticed was an older woman with a Shin-Godzilla plush in her bag, and a high quality jacket with Burning Godzilla embodied on the back. When the doors opened, I was greeted by the faces of more Godzilla fans, some donned in cosplay of obscure characters, such as a Digital Q reporter from GMK, and a man dressed as Terasawa from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. I realized that for once, I did not to feel weird, or ostracized for liking Godzilla so openly and publicly.

    Godzilla Night Event

    Next, we were all put into a long line, in a small cramped staircase. Everyone was sweating, and most people were decked out in Godzilla shirts and other Godzilla related swag. After about thirty minutes of waiting in anticipation, we were all ushered into a small lobby, filled with special Godzilla merchandise, such as a Gabara T-shirt, and highly sought after CAST figures. After a bit of spending, everyone rushed into the theater and sat down. A presenter came on and introduced the night’s schedule, Funnily enough, the man was my age, and had seen GMK casually as a small child. Evidently, like myself and others in the theater, Godzilla had had a profound impact on his life. Suddenly, the theater lights dimmed, and GMK began. I realized right then and there how special this occasion was.

    I saw all three films on a large screen without subtitles. As a result, my viewing experience radically changed. While many newer and modern Godzilla fans have seen films like Shin-Godzilla and Godzilla 2014 on big screens, it’s easy to forget the backlog of Toho films that are on Blu-ray and DVD were originally intended to see in a theater.

    I had seen GMK dozens of times, yet this time was special. Because I was not busy trying to follow along with subtitles for GMK, I realized how excellent the sound design of the film is. A lot of more subtle, and ominous music cues in the film, really popped. For example, the soft ominous music when Yuki is researching the Guardian Monsters was way more audible. The entire atmosphere of the film became more mystical.

    Monsters, on the other hand, became legitimately terrifying, especially any shot where monsters were presented side by side with humans. For example, in the scene where the business man falls into the cave where King Ghidorah is, the up-close shot of Ghidorah, even frozen in ice, became threatening. When looking at Ghidorah’s head, it is almost as though you the viewer were the man staring at this creature that could break out at any moment. More examples include shots where Baragon fights Godzilla in the background, with humans running around in the foreground. It established a great sense of scale; as if you were viewing the battle from a ground level. The monsters, projected on the screen, become gigantic.

    Shunsuke Kaneko and Ryudo Uzaki

    Mothra 3, surprisingly really benefited from being on a large screen. A lot of shots in the film, that look “fake” or “bad” on home viewing looked more realistic on a theater screen. A good example would be any shots of the Elias on Fairy flying above Japan. On a small screen, the contrast of the blurred background and the Elias looks like a really poor green-screen effect. However, on a large screen, the contrast between the blurry background, and the clear shots of the Elias, made the film look realistic, as a true sense of distance is established.

    Similar to GMK, the experience of seeing Mothra 3 on a big screen enhances the terror factor. Shots of Ghidorah’s feet, from the ground up, have an overwhelming sense of dread to them. As Ghidorah’s feet advance towards the screen, with the aid of some great stomping sound effects, the viewer is left with the feeling that they too should be fleeing. When Ghidorah dives foot first into Mothra Leo, there is now a tremendous amount of weight behind the action. But terror is not the only advantage the theater screen brings. Seeing Mothra Leo’s furry and colorful body up close, and the individual strands of hair that make up the monster’s suit was one of the most breath-taking experiences ever.

    Godzilla, Mothra, and Ghidorah; The Greatest Battle on Earth, was also a treat. I had never seen the “Champion Film Festival version” and it was exciting to see a new cut of the film. I realized that in a way, this event was a continuation of the old Toho Champion Film Festivals. All of the fans were gathered together for a marathon of Godzilla and Toho films.

    Additionally, seeing the films without subtitles was a new experience. While I speak Japanese, and had seen the films enough times to understand everything, I was surprised how much I gained for not having to stare at subs. Whether people want to admit it or not, following along subtitles in movies is really distracting, and a lot of the beautiful cinematography is altered by the placement of texts over the images. Due to the lack of subtitles, I was able to watch and notice many more details in each of the individual films.

    Between each of the three films were substantial breaks, supplemented by appearances by people who were involved with the Godzilla franchise. Similar to seeing the films on the big screen, seeing the actors and directors talking about the films they were in changed my perspective about the films.

    One of the biggest surprises, was that Ryudo Uzaki (Admiral Tachibana in GMK) was a comedic delight. He continually made jokes, and laughed. It was a big contrast to his character’s no-nonsense attitude in GMK. During one of the intermissions, him and Mr. Kaneko re-enacted the final scene of GMK, with Mr. Uzaki (and the crowd as well) looking out towards the projected oceans and saluting the valiant efforts of the Guardian/Yamamoto Monsters.

    Additionally, Akira Ohashi, the suit actor for the Heisei Gamera and GMK King Ghidorah, and Mizuho Yoshida, the suit actor for Godzilla in GMK, were both full of energy and excitement. The two went into lengthy detail about the difficulties and challenges of being a suit actor. Despite this they both overwhelmingly optimistic. At one point, Mr. Ohashi shared a story about how the Ghidorah suit took an incredible strain on his body, especially towards the end when Ghidorah slams into Godzilla from above. Maneuvering the three heads, and legs, all at once, with Ghidorah’s more slouched over body, was a monumental task. They also shared some details about the Baragon’s actress having difficulty walking at one point, due to how angled Baragon’s feet are. Yet, despite all this, the two were jovial, making jokes, monster noises and posing for the fans.

    The highlight of all this, was when “Godzilla vs. Gamera” happened. Given that Mr. Kaneko directed both the Heisei Gamera trilogy and GMK, as well as the fact that both Godzilla and Gamera’s suit actors were present, the inevitable occurred. At one point, Mr. Ohashi and Mr. Yoshida, stood up, and “fought” as Godzilla and Gamera respectively. While Mr. Kaneko stated that the creation of such a film was highly unlikely it was fun seeing the two suit actors do what they do and have fun.

    The surprise guest of the night, Robert Scott Field, the actor who played M-11 in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, stole the show. The announcer called him up from the crowd, and he quickly ran up and joined the likes of Shusuke Kaneko and the others. There was a sort of surrealism of seeing M-11 from the Heisei Series, stand next to Admiral Tachibana from the Millennium Series.

    Mr. Field was not only impressive because of his fluency in Japanese, but also his incredible energy. Even at 3am! As someone who has studied Japanese for years and is still only at an intermediate level, I could not help being taken aback by his grasp of the language. One of the more interesting segments, was when he gave “Godzilla English Lessons to the audience”. During which, Mr. Field read lines of dialogue from Godzilla movies throughout the ages, that were originally in English in their Japanese versions and doing impersonations. These ranged from impersonations of Dr. Shinigami from Godzilla vs. Biollante, to Joseph Brody from Godzilla 2014. Following that, he explained the meaning behind some of the Godzilla film’s English titles, such as Godzilla on Monster Island and Godzilla’s Revenge, both of which confused the audience.

    Between all these events, in the lobby, a bunch of special items were on sale. Through a lottery ticket system, I was able to secure a few rare CAST figures, including a small ANEB missile from Godzilla vs. Biollante and the broken statues from GMK. To my dismay, I was unable to get the Vampire Plant or the Millennian UO CAST figure. Thankfully, I felt better after Mr. Field walked out and said hello to me.

    While a lot of the other casts members seemed to be a bit apprehensive about taking many photos with fans (understandably so due to how many people there were), Mr. Field went out of his way to talk to many people and pose with them. I can’t stress how friendly he was, and he complemented me for coming all the way out. I was a bit dumbly star-struck and awkward, but it was still an awesome experience! On a personal note, he’s motivated me to keep studying Japanese and one day be fluent like him. As a high-school English teacher in Japan, I was also inspired by how animated and enthusiastic he was explaining things in English to a large crowd.

    Robert Scott Field

    But perhaps, the most important part of the night, was the actual celebration of Godzilla’s Birthday. A minute before midnight, we began a gigantic countdown. This was truly the greatest part of the night. While everyone had indeed come to see the films, and meet the cast, everyone was also here to celebrate Godzilla’s birthday, including the cast members and directors who had made the films. At that moment, it became abundantly clear, that people like Mr. Kaneko, were also huge Godzilla fans, and the entire moment of counting down was a large euphoric communal experience. The entire night made me understand how much fun people involved making Godzilla films had and how much they themselves loved Godzilla.

    I realized at this moment how much of an impact Godzilla had had on my life. I had originally seen GMK when I was 6 years old on American Television, and now here I was, living in Japan, watching GMK on a big screen and counting down Godzilla’s birthday. I had had one of the ultimate fan experiences, one that I will never forget.

    To anyone a bit envious, fear not, there will be another Godzilla Night next year. Because these events are centered on Godzilla’s birthday, they will always take place around the first week of November. Even if you can’t come all the way to Japan, should you ever have the opportunity to see a Godzilla film on a big screen, please do so. Watching the films on a big screen, like they were intended to be viewed, with other Godzilla fans, is such an important experience.

    General // November 17, 2019
  • Just in time for Halloween, the staff of Toho Kingdom sound off the scariest Godzilla series and Toho kaiju to ever grace the screen. We aren’t discriminating based on size, so any monster focused in a Toho film can count. Furthermore, the MonsterVerse is fair game here as well.

    For this article, several staff members were asked to list who they feel is the scariest among the plethora of Toho monsters. The criteria for each staff member is there own, so expect a wide range.

    Space Amoeba

    At first I wanted to just choose the recent Shin Godzilla because of his gruesome mutations, or Hedorah because of his ability to melt the flesh off of other characters. But upon circumspection, to me it seems like the scariest Toho kaiju is actually the Space Amoeba that produces Gezora, Kamoebas, and Ganimes in the often overlooked Space Amoeba (1970). The trio of monsters that appear in that movie are not very scary, I will admit. Their designs are more goofy than scary–especially the galumphing Gezora. But the idea behind the monster (aside from his ridiculous weakness) is pure nightmare fuel.

    While most giant monsters are scary along the lines of a natural disaster, Space Amoeba takes things a step further. For one thing, the creature can invade any living organism and make it into a monster–either growing it to an incredible size, or just remote-controlling it to attack you where you are, unawares. In other words, it could change your closest pets into bloodthirsty beasts. Fido eats your face, your hamster stuffs you into his furry cheek. Even worse, the Space Amoeba’s powers are not limited to transforming and manipulating mere beasts. The creature can also take over human hosts… and if you should become the host for this space demon, you remain conscious the whole time. Even while you cannot move your body, you are stuck watching the monster use your own hands and voice and body to carry out his devilish deeds. It’s scary to imagine losing one’s mind in the first place, but to hold on to your mind while a monstrous creature uses your body to commit crimes and take lives–maybe even strangling your best friend, or murdering your family–is absolutely horrific. That’s a real nightmare, and I can’t think of any other Toho kaiju that can compete for sheer terror.

    – Nicholas Driscoll

     

    Matango

    The greatest threats sometimes come in the smallest of packages. While there are plenty of giant monsters that would be terrifying to bear witness to, I still cannot shake the feeling of dread whenever I see the Matango. Eating one seemingly harmless mushroom has life-changing results, as it kick-starts your nonnegotiable initiation into becoming part of the fungi collective. Slowly losing everything that made you an individual – from your personality to eventually your physical form – and transforming into a grotesque, faceless puppet that obsesses over one goal: to add more members to your possessed mushroom family. There are no cures, and nothing to bargain for as you begin your transformation. All that will remain is the unceasing hunger for more Matango.

    –  Joshua Sudomerski

     

    Hedorah

    I loved Godzilla from a young age. Pretty much from the moment I saw Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) I was hooked. I then spent many a weekend going to rental stores and movie outlets trying to get as many of the films as I could. Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Rodan (1956), Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) and many others entered my collection. In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing how fast I saw many of them considering this was before online shopping was a thing. Throughout I enjoyed the movies to varying degrees, but never found them scary. Even the Shockirus scene in The Return of Godzilla (1984) didn’t phase my childhood self.

    Then came the day I rented Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) from the store. I was excited, as at this point it felt like it had been awhile since saw a new Godzilla film (in reality it was probably only three months, but time moves differently at a young age). As the movie progressed I was enjoying myself and had gotten to the point where Hedorah first came on land and was battling Godzilla. Then came the scene where Hedorah was tossed around and a piece of him flew through a window, instantly killing a group of Mahjong players. This scared me. The way they were killed so quickly in what appeared to be a gruesome fashion… but I was still holding strong. Then came the infamous scene with Hedorah’s flying form as he passed over a group of people trying to escape, their flesh then melting away on film. Now I was terrified and hit the point of no return. I stopped the movie and did not watch the rest of it before it was returned to the store.

    Hedorah

    Nightmare fuel in sulfuric acid mist form

    I remained scared of Hedorah for quite some time as a kid. For me, it was the idea of how effortlessly it killed people and how remote the chance of escape was. As an adult, you realize most of the kaiju are capable of the same thing. However, there is a degree of fantasy to it. Rarely do the films focus on the casualties when a building is destroyed, as it’s played more for spectacle than horror like a disaster film would do it. So as a child it’s easy to register this as just “cool”. Even when it does focus on the human level of these attacks, it rarely felt so absolute. Like when Rodan flew over cities in his debate film you saw soldiers being blown away. While many likely died, as a kid you could still see a route for escape, in fact earlier in the film they discovered that just by laying flat on the ground would avoid them from being lifted away.

    Hedorah though? If he flies over you that’s it. There is no escape and you were going to die in a horrific way. So the idea of suddenly seeing Hedorah flying toward you, appearing over a mountain that could obscure him, was a haunting concept as there was nothing you could do. As a kid, it took years for me to build up the courage to try and watch the film again. When I did I really enjoyed it, and ended up really liking the Hedorah character in the end, but I’ll still always recall vividly how much he scared me as a child.

    – Anthony Romero

     

    Dogora

    There are some very solid monsters in the kaiju eiga that compete for being most terrifying. Destoroyah, Hedorah, Matango, Godzilla and Anguirus in their early appearances… But of all of them, the more I think about it, I find myself most unnerved by Dogora. The rhythmic heartbeat indicating its presence, the idea of a gargantuan jellyfish floating in the air as if it was water, being incredibly unflinching even at death’s door, and vacuuming carbon minerals from off the ground and potentially being caught in its vortex… While the movie Dogora appears in is a far cry from anything horror-related, the titular creature has really strong horror potential. Feels like something out of Lovecraft, and something I hope is emphasized if Toho ever decides to bring the character back properly.

    –  Andrew Sudomerski

     

    Grand King Ghidorah

    From the ancient, voids of space derives my choice for most terrifying Kaiju in the Toho Library. While I must give the Matango a shout-out as my close second, the ideas behind Grand King Ghidorah I believe make him deserve the title, King of Terror, if only barely. Why? Well it’s honestly down to what is left unsaid in his film more so than his actual appearance.

    Grand King Ghidorah

    Grand King Ghidorah causing a wave of destruction

    Unlike previous forms of the character, this Ghidorah is spoken to be as old as the stars, routinely visiting planets, removing all life, and leaving with little trace of his arrival. This idea isn’t new for a Ghidorah, but his new mystic abilities, showcased by teleporting the youth of Japan into his acidic prison, grant a new, almost personal tool for the draconic terror. The idea of be having your family shattered and being utterly helpless against the cause is a great new angle for the Kaiju, who up to this point is known solely for his nigh, unstoppable power. From the perspective of the youth, being gripped by terror as you’re eventually exposed to an agonizing death that holds no escape, with your last thoughts the sight of your tormentor, is frightening to think about.

    While these concepts are great, the film Grand King Ghidorah stars in explores little or downplays much of this which is saddening upon realization of the potential at play. This is why I list Matango as the second choice, as while less spirit shattering in its terror, I do believe the execution was far superior. If a comic were to explore this character, and showcase the effects taken upon humanity as his draconic wrath was unleashed upon the Earth, with no guardian to miraculously stop his reign, I have no doubt that Grand King Ghidorah would be the most terrifying Kaiju in Toho’s library. An unequal King of Terror.

    – Tyler Trieschock


    Feel another kaiju should be highlighted, or agree with one that’s listed here? Sound off in the comments below to add your input.

    General // October 28, 2019
  • Weathering with You (2019)

    Superstar director Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to the enormously popular Your Name from 2016 (which beat out Godzilla Resurgence as the highest-grossing film in Japan that year), Weathering With You has been finally released three years later to much hype and considerable financial success. Much like Your NameWeathering With You also has music by RADWIMPS, a band I have enjoyed for years—though they have far fewer singing tracks this time. The movie itself follows the story of a young man who has recently moved to the big city and is trying to figure out his life, working various jobs and ending up at a sort of tabloid magazine, reporting on weird phenomenon. He meets a mysterious young woman who turns out to be a “sunny girl”—a girl that can change the weather and make it sunny. This is really important since, in the world of the story, for some reason it is raining almost constantly. Various dramas unfold as our protagonists fall in love, a gun is involved, and other shenanigans. As with any Shinkai film, the movie is absolutely gorgeous. Except for a few scenes (a helicopter flying over the city looked cheesy to me), the movie is almost breathtakingly beautiful, with incredible use of color and composition. The story, though, I felt was far less engaging than the one in Your Name; so much is driven by sheer coincidence and “movie logic,” and I just didn’t care about the characters very much.

    Kaguya-Sama: Love is War (2019)

    Directed by Hayato Kawai (director of a number of live-action manga adaptations, including Nisekoi and Ore Monogatari) comes… another live-action manga adaptation, this time of the hilarious Kaguya-Sama: Love is War anime and manga franchise. My little brother introduced me to the anime some time ago, and I found it a real knee-slapper. Thus I was excited to see this live-action adaptation. The basic premise follows Miyuki and Kaguya, two elite and seemingly perfect students who are in a condition of mutual romantic affection, but both are too proud to actually express their feelings. The story follows their increasingly elaborate ploys to force the other to confess. And the story starts out strong with a really funny sequence in the beginning, with each student’s internal monologue being portrayed during their ludicrous love stand-off. However, for me at least, the joke works better in short-form and it’s hard to sustain over the course of an entire movie. Soon I just got tired of watching, and there is only so much I can watch the two young leads smirk and sneer on the big screen.

    Hit Me Anyone One More Time (2019)

    The newest comedy movie from acclaimed director Koki Mitani (who also did Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (1997), All About Our House (2001), Suite Dreams (2006), and Galaxy Turnpike (2015), all of which I have reviewed—though he has made many other films besides), Hit Me Anyone One More Time might just be the worst English title for a movie I have ever seen. The original Japanese title, Kioku ni Gozaimasen!, is much better, meaning “I don’t remember,” which is a reference to a common excuse politicians in Japan give when confronted with their corruption. The story follows a much-hated prime minister in Japan who, when giving a speech, is hit by a rock and loses his memories of his adult life, returning him to a more idealized, child-like state. This state of affairs leads to a huge change. He works with several close members of his staff to hide the fact that he has lost his memory, which leads to great hijinks (especially as he must host politicians from abroad, including a female President of the USA seemingly modeled after Hilary Clinton). But things turn ugly when his wife’s adulterous relations with his adviser are revealed, and his rivals are closing in. Hit Me Anyone One More Time was actually a relief to me. I am not the biggest fan of Mitani, but I enjoyed some of his older films, so when I suffered through the abysmal Galaxy Turnpike, I was gravely disappointed. While certainly not a perfect comedy, and many jokes still don’t quite land, Hit Me Anyone One More Time is so much better, and I hope for more quality comedies in the near future from this comedy powerhouse director.

    General // October 19, 2019
  • In terms of its reputation here in the United States, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) is widely considered one of the weaker entries in the Godzilla franchise; and while I cannot bring myself to outright loathe the film, I don’t necessarily disagree with most of the points brought up by its detractors. On the surface, the movie seems to have all the right components for a colorful, lightweight piece of entertainment (futuristic world-building; imaginative new weapons and gadgets with which to combat Godzilla; a finale that doesn’t consist solely of the protagonists watching the monsters fight) but is ultimately undone by weak characters and largely inept direction courtesy of Masaaki Tezuka. Especially in its first hour, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus comes across as turgid and aimless, flat and unfocused, dragging its feet from one mediocre scene to the next as the audience exhaustedly waits for the monsters to show up. (What this film really needed, more than anything else, was a more experienced director: someone who could charge the narrative with real energy, bring out the best of his actors, stylize the visuals, and zero in on the script’s finer qualities for maximum entertainment value.)

    However—and this is why my stance on the film is not overly hostile—whenever the focus shifts to the monsters, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus comes to genuine life, thanks in great part to the efforts of special effects director Kenji Suzuki. A clever technician whose tenure on the Godzilla series ended much too soon, Suzuki took over as Toho’s go-to effects man after the retirement of his mentor, Koichi Kawakita, and from the start exhibited an uneven but undeniably ambitious style. His two preceding genre efforts, Rebirth of Mothra III (1998) and Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), did away with his forerunner’s preference for dousing the screen with animated beams in favor of balancing projectile-based attacks with physical combat, all complemented by exciting camerawork and daring—if not always successful—moving composite shots. And while his work in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is certainly in need of further polish, it still conveys the same visual wit and resourcefulness which has made him one of the more interesting Toho effects directors since Eiji Tsuburaya’s time.

    Great shot of Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus

    Suzuki’s keen eye for perspective, composition, and lighting more than make up for lack of technical polish in the film’s riveting opening.

    The first major set piece vividly exhibits Suzuki’s strengths. Godzilla makes an entrance plowing through a large building, continuing his march forward as Suzuki’s camera cuts to a close-up of his face drenched in shadow, the sky behind him a deep, haunting red. The scene continues to build as a platoon of soldiers position to ambush the creature and we see their point of view down an alleyway: a thunderous footstep sends trashcans jumbling into the air; a car comes sailing down the street on fire and explodes; and then, after much beforehand tension, Godzilla’s foot wanders into frame and hits the pavement with a concrete-shattering thud.

    Despite the nonsensical premise of foot soldiers taking on Godzilla with bazookas, the scene prevails through imaginative visual storytelling, colorful monster action, and marvelous choice of camera angles (extreme low shots, vistas of Godzilla silhouetted against the earlier mentioned glowing sky, etc.). Tezuka’s direction here is more interesting than elsewhere in the film, and the editing of the human footage with the special effects no doubt benefits from Suzuki’s widely praised willingness to cooperate with his directors. “While I love effects and always want to see as many of them as I can, I think the most important thing is drama,” Suzuki explained to Norman England in a 2000 issue of Fangoria. “I constantly search for the smoothest integration between my work and that of the live-action crew.”*

    The robotic Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus

    The robotic Godzilla used for water scenes.

    In Godzilla 2000: Millennium, the monster was portrayed as ponderous and majestic, a slow-moving object of wonder. When confronted by man’s arsenal, he casually walked through every shot, merely advancing even as the bombardment started to annoy him, waiting until he started suffering actual damage before preparing to use his atomic breath. By contrast, the Godzilla in the second Millennium film is quick to act and react, temperamental and easily angered, much like a wild animal. This Godzilla responds immediately and violently to even the slightest bit of offense, and he’s rather cunning. When the foot soldiers retreat into the alleys, he tears apart the buildings around them, crushing his enemies within their own hiding spots. When the Meganula swarm him, he crashes his body against a nearby cliff to flatten those clinging to his side (using his surroundings to his advantage) and employs his tail as a lure before swatting others away. When the Dimension Tide’s launched at him for the second and final time, he remembers his first encounter with the weapon and, rather than stand and wait for the impact to come, sends his atomic breath to explode it in midair.

    Suit actor Tsutomu Kitagawa, under Suzuki’s direction, enhances this personae by injecting various nuances into Godzilla’s movements: crouching as he bellows at Megaguirus; swinging his body this way and that in search of his opponent. Shinichi Wakasa, the suit maker, recalled, “Having made Godzilla once, rather than having to worry over a new look, I could concentrate on making the suit more flexible, lighter and easier for the actor inside to give a better and more polished performance.” His efforts paid off, as the touched up costume in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is capable of more expressive movement than its predecessor; and Kitagawa makes the most of it, delivering a far better performance than the stiff, robotic one he would give for Yuichi Kikuchi in Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla two years later.

    Megaguirus

    Megaguirus

    “There is nothing harder than dealing with airborne kaiju,” Suzuki said in regards to Godzilla’s aerial opponent. “Regular scenes of Megaguirus flying don’t pose too much of a problem, but putting it in a fight is demanding.” Alas, Megaguirus doesn’t fare nearly as well as Godzilla: the main prop for the monster is too stiff and repeats many of the same blunders Kawakita’s flying monsters were prone to—with more than a few shots of Megaguirus levitating in place, her wings flapping at a rate of (perhaps) once every three seconds.

    On the other hand, Suzuki must be commended for creating a menacing creature in spite of these limitations. Compared to, say, Battra from Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), who had six hulking appendages that never budged an inch on-screen, Megaguirus uses her massive claws in close-quarters combat against Godzilla, grappling and battering him (some shots utilize suitmation to achieve more violent motion). Most notably, though, she can swing her long, stinger-equipped abdomen under her body and impale Godzilla through the stomach, cutting off his atomic breath and absorbing the energy for use against him later. In what’s also a nice change of pace from the last few flying monsters in the series, Megaguirus is capable of sudden, darting motions, evading attacks, whisking out of sight and reappearing when—and where—least expected. “One thing I’m after is that quick, jarring motion dragonflies have,” Suzuki explained. “My idea is to make Megaguirus like a ninja.”

    Marvelous low-angle shot as the monsters charge at one another.

    The premise of the final battle in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is rather clever: Godzilla’s up against an enemy he can physically destroy with a single hit of his atomic breath, but due to Megaguirus’s great speed and agility (and her ability to deactivate his signature weapon), he cannot resort to spitting fire every three seconds—nor does he have a “surprise move” (say, a nuclear pulse, as in the Heisei series) to use at the last minute. This is where Suzuki’s real forte as an effects director comes into play: as was also evident in Godzilla 2000: Millennium, he knows how to dramatize a monster battle, how to give it its own narrative.

    Maintaining this movie’s depiction of a quick-thinking monster, Godzilla depends on strategy. He tricks the giant insect into flying closer and then uses his dorsal spines to slice off one of her pincers. He plunges her stinger into the ground to hold her in place. He allows Megaguirus to creep up behind him so he can coil his tail around her abdomen and slam her into terra firma. As the battle ensues, Godzilla occasionally attempts to charge his atomic breath but refuses to give in when Megaguirus again cuts it short, falling back on strength and intelligence in an effort to prevail. The result is a very engaging monster battle with more than enough switches to make up for the technical gaffes. And the unique setting of the artificial island Odaiba, combined with marvelous use of foreground objects (construction cranes, piles of rubble, skeletons of half-finished buildings), gives the sequence a tantalizing visual flair.

    In the last few minutes of the battle, Megaguirus pulls her surprise move: concentrating all of the energy she’s absorbed from Godzilla and propelling it at him in the form of a huge, crimson sphere. After Godzilla has collapsed, she dives in, striking him again and again, preventing the King of the Monsters from regaining his footing. This continues for a while until Megaguirus, having sufficiently exhausted her opponent, maintains distance. She permits Godzilla enough time to rise and then flies in for the kill, stinger lowered, aiming for the head. In what is easily the film’s very best moment, Suzuki positions his camera behind Godzilla and we see the stinger strike the latter’s head with a sickening wet crack. The image holds, the long pause amplifying the shock, before the camera swings around to reveal Godzilla has, in fact, caught Megaguirus’s stinger between his jaws. He bites, slowly at first, before tearing off the entire appendage. Another long moment of silence ensues before a stunned Megaguirus retreats skyward and Godzilla is at last able to deliver the coup de grâce.

    Godzilla destroys Megaguirus

    Spectacular composition for Godzilla’s moment of victory.

    The first blast of atomic fire sets Megaguirus’s fragile body aflame; Godzilla charges his atomic breath again as she falls. The second ray strikes her mid-descent, and—all presented in a breathtaking extreme wide shot—her obliterated carcass slowly finishes its journey to the ground. The camera toggles in on Godzilla as he lets out a much-justified victory roar, the audience relishing along with him in his moment of triumph. An immensely satisfying finale to one of the more interesting monster battles in the Millennium Godzilla series.

    I could go on about other scenes: the moment where Misato Tanaka rides on Godzilla’s back exemplifies Suzuki’s daring use of moving composites (not to mention the scene it’s in is genuinely fun to watch with great high and low angle shots that never betray the illusion of scale); the robotic Godzilla used for water scenes is an absolute success, far better than Teruyoshi Nakano’s wobbly Cybot from The Return of Godzilla (1984); the Meganula swarm scenes feature some of the less distracting CGI in the Millennium series. But to summarize: whenever I watch Godzilla vs. Megaguirus these days (which isn’t very often), my interest is almost solely in revisiting the effects scenes and admiring what Kenji Suzuki brought to them. He may not have been the series’ most consistent special effects director, but he was certainly one of the more interesting, capable of providing enjoyable monster action and bursts of succulent energy—even into an otherwise inconsequential movie such as this. That he was never again given charge of a Godzilla movie is, indeed, quite sad.

     


     

    * Suzuki’s mentor, Koichi Kawakita, had a reputation among studio personnel for being uncooperative and standoffish with his live-action directors. Takao Okawara, who’d worked with Kawakita on Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993), Yamato Takeru (1994), and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), described their relationship as tenuous. “We spent very little time in discussion even though we were working on the same films. We’d get together, go over storyboards and then go our separate ways. He was very much a ‘Don’t say a thing about my work’ kind of guy.”

    By contrast, Okawara had nothing but great things to say about Suzuki’s work ethic on Godzilla 2000: Millennium. “Suzuki impressed me greatly, because he understands the balance between the effects and human scenes. Suzuki also takes an active part in the story creation, which allowed me to introduce my own ideas into the [effects] process. Out of all my Godzilla films, this one had the best teamwork among the live-action and effects crews.”

    General // September 22, 2019
  • Wondering who the best allies are in the mobile game Godzilla: Defense Force? Looking for a Godzilla: Defense Force ally tier list? We break down the most formidable allies in the game, helping players decide where to spend their Moonstones.

    Introduced in version 2.1.1 of the game, the allies are supporters that can help the player hold off the defending monsters and Xilien forces. The allies themselves are a slice of Toho history, harking from work as diverse as The Mysterians (1957) to Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Now the usefulness of allies is based on circumstance. Some allies will be more useful at other parts of the game than others. Furthermore, while only one ally can be equipped to an area at a time, there is nothing stopping the player from changing allies as needed. In fact, the player will likely use as many as 3-5 different allies during a run. Based on this, we have broken the 14 allies in the game into tiers. This is a total of six tiers in total, from S to F, with the first three tiers being the most important. Without further ado, the list.

    S Tier

    S Tier: Mysterian, Shobijin ’64 and Shobijin ’04

     

    Mysterian/Shobijin ’64

    Attack with DPS x0.5% for the number of cards owned (+0.5% for each additional level)
    Damage 1% of enemy HP every 16 seconds (+1% for each additional level)

    or
    Attack with DPS x2% for the number of artifacts owned (+2% for each additional level)
    Damage 1% of enemy HP every 16 seconds (+1% for each additional level)

    These two allies are similar enough that they are interchangeable. Of the two, the Mysterian is better as he deals more damage due to the current number of cards in the game versus number of artifacts. However, while they both pack a punch in their attacks, it’s their ability to take out a chunk of the target’s total health that allows them to stand out. This can be key in the late game, both for monster waves that would otherwise take too long or dealing with a strong boss. In the case of the latter, they an also help grind out upgrades when progress seems slow. Essentially if you ever find yourself in a place where you’re getting more money from a Weak Point hit than a relief package, this ally can have the same effect and generate a lot of cash from their ability and the flat % it deals.

    Pros

    • Best way to deal with late game monster waves
    • Great source of income on tough bosses
    • Good in all scenarios

    Cons

    • Require reaching level 5 and beyond before they become very useful

     

    Shobijin ’04

    Attack with 20% of DPS (+20% for each additional level)
    Max City G-Cell +1

    Adding an extra G-Cell, the Shobijin ’04 is the most efficient way to lay down three ★★★★ cards at a time. The end game is all about these combos as well due to the way damage stacks. Godzilla ’67 + Keizer Ghidorah + Godzilla ’03 is a favorite card combo of this ally. Through pausing the game, such as clicking city mission menu, the player can regenerate the nine G-Cells and fire again with more ★★★★ cards, such as Godzilla ’00 + Destoroyah (Perfect Type) + Godzilla ’01.

    Pros

    • Optimal method for laying down three ★★★★ cards at a time
    • Best option for the Kaiju Dungeon where you can’t pause the game to regenerate G-Cells
    • Good at level 1 as their ability is not level dependent

    Cons

    • Only useful in scenarios where you need to play a lot of cards
    A Tier

    A Tier: Shobijin ’61 and Shobijin ’66

    Shobijin ’61

    Attack with 20% of DPS (+20% for each additional level)
    City G-Cell Production Speed Increases 10% (+10% each additional level)

    What’s better: playing cards faster or having an extra G-Cell? Arguments could be made for both and there are times when the player will prefer one over the other. So why is there a tier difference between them? A couple of reasons for this. One is that the extra G-Cell is optimal for the Kaiju Dungeon. Second is that even though it’s much faster to use the Shobijin ’61, it’s safer to wait the extra time for Shobijin ’04 and being able to play three cards at once. This is because it avoids times where you accidentally fumble and have the cards run a few seconds without a full combo in play.

    Pros

    • The quickest method to play cards

    Cons

    • Only useful in scenarios where you need to play a lot of cards

     

    Shobijin ’66

    Attack with 20% of DPS (+20% for each additional level)
    Produce coins worth 100% of Shobijin DPS every 16 seconds (+100% each additional level)

    When you first get the Shobijin ’66 their ability to generate income to upgrade units feels minimal. 20% of the city DPS is really not much money at all. However, after investing Moonstones and leveling them up they start to really shine. 500% of city DPS as money? Nice. …but what about maxing them out and producing 2000% of the city DPS as money? This ally really shines for speeding up the early stages of a run, rushing through parts of the game you can easily beat and not only that but set you up to do the next location in the run faster with money stored up.

    Pros

    • Fastest way to speed through the early stages in a run

    Cons

    • Require reaching level 5 and beyond before they become very useful

     

    B Tier

    B Tier: Shobijin ’03 and Kilaaks

    Shobijin ’03/Kilaaks

    Attack with 20% of DPS (+20% for each additional level)
    Produce 1 Moonstone every 180 seconds (+1 Moonstone at level 5 and level 10)
    or
    Attack with 50% of DPS (+50% for each additional level)
    Produce 1 Moonstone every 180 seconds (+1 Moonstone at level 10)

    Allies max out at level 10. This takes 24,055 Moonstones to bring them from level 1 to level 10. For players wanting to speed this process up, the Shobijin ’03 and Kilaaks are there to help. Their ability produces 1-3 Moonstones every three minutes. As the player progresses during their runs, the best time to unleash these is during the return visit to a location after stalling out on the Moon. For example, using them for stages 80-300ish on Tokyo up until the enemies get tough, and you switch to a combo of the Mysterian and the G-cell ally of your choice to take out the waves and bosses.

    As for which Moonstone ally is better, it depends. From level 1-4, the Kilaaks are better. They generate the same amount of Moonstones and deal more damage. From level 5-10, the Shobijin ’03 pull ahead as they produce more Moonstones, which is more valuable than additional damage for how they are used.

    Pros

    • Good way to squeeze a few more Moonstones from your run
    • Can start mining Moonstones at level 1

    Cons

    • Since civilians carry over from time traveling now, the rarity of Moonstones has greatly decreased
    • Three minutes is a long time to wait… and many times you will have the meter at 70-80% full and need to switch allies

     

    C Tier

    C Tier: Minilla

    Minilla

    Attack with 50% of DPS (+50% for each additional level)
    Attack with 150% of DPS every 12 seconds (+50% for each additional level)

    When it comes to damage, Minilla is at the top of the allies. While if you have every card in the game the Elias and Mysterian can deal higher regular damage, the standard 50% level will generally deal more damage for most players. Every 12 seconds, he can also hit the opponents for 150%-600%. This places him above other allies that focus on damage. …however, it’s not nearly enough to overcome allies with more diverse abilities, like helping play more cards or knocking off a percentage of the total health. The real negative is in almost every scenario there is a better ally. Early stages of a run? Use an ally that generates more money to help not just on this location but the next. Up against a tough boss? Use an ally that helps play more cards. Trying to take on tough monster waves? Use an ally that knocks off a percentage of the total health. Sadly there just really isn’t a need for damage only allies.

    Pros

    • DPS king for allies

    Cons

    • Damage only allies aren’t very useful compared to alternatives

     

    D Tier

    T Tier: Elias ’96, Black Hole Planet 3 Alien and Empress of Mu

    Elias ’96/Black Hole Planet 3 Alien

    Attack with DPS x0.5% for the number of cards owned (+0.5% for each additional level)
    Attack with 120% of DPS every 12 seconds (+20% for each additional level)
    or
    Attack with DPS x2% for the number of artifacts owned (+2% for each additional level)
    Attack with 120% of DPS every 12 seconds (+20% for each additional level)

    …did I mention there wasn’t really a need for damage only allies? Given that statement, it’s probably not surprising to find the Elias and the Black Hole Planet 3 Alien in the D tier, since they can’t compare with Minilla’s damage output. Sadly, neither is a really appealing option, although of the two the Elias packs a greater punch.

    Pros

    • None

    Cons

    • Damage only allies aren’t very useful compared to alternatives

     

    Empress of Mu

    Attack with 50% of DPS (+50% for each additional level)
    Produce coins worth 5% of DPS every 16 seconds (+5% each additional level)

    Poor Empress of Mu. Design wise, she looks really cool, but she will forever live in the shadow of the Shobijin ’66. To put the two in perspective, with the relation between their damage and money output, at level one the Empress of Mu generates 2.5% of the city DPS as coins while at level ten the ally generates 250% of the city DPS as coins. In contrast, the Shobijin ’66 at level one generates 20% of the city DPS as coins while at level ten they generate 2,000% of the city DPS as coins. The two just don’t compare well. The damage boost of the Empress of Mu is not even close to offsetting the amazing money generation of the Shobijin ’66.

    Pros

    • None

    Cons

    • Generates way too little money, especially compared to the Shobijin ’66

     

    F Tier

    F Tier: Dorat, Emperor Antonio and Cosmos ’92

     

    Dorat/Emperor Antonio/Cosmos ’92

    Attack with 50% of DPS (+50% for each additional level)
    Reduce base Production Speed by 0.4 seconds every 12 seconds (+0.2 seconds each additional level)
    or
    Attack with 50% of DPS (+50% for each additional level)
    Reduce base Production Speed by 0.1 seconds every 12 seconds (+0.1 seconds each additional level)
    or
    Attack with 20% of DPS (+20% for each additional level)
    Reduce base Production Speed by 0.6 seconds every 12 seconds (+0.1 seconds each additional level)

    Rounding out the tier list are the three production speed allies. Reading the description of their ability, it sounds like every 12 seconds the production counters should by slashed or run out. While this gives the mental image of a parade of troops coming out every 12 seconds, the ability doesn’t seem to work this way in practice. Furthermore, when doing a test of the Cosmos at level 8, dropping the production speed by 1.3 seconds, their ability accounted for less than a 40% DPS difference versus other allies. What does this mean? This means they are directly inferior to the DPS focused allies in the C and D tiers.

    Pros

    • None

    Cons

    • The worst of the bunch, with the Cosmos at the very bottom

     

    General // September 16, 2019
  • It’s been a while since Toho Kingdom held a contest on the site and I thought that it not only might be nice to have another one but also our biggest yet! To do this, we worked with Warner Bros., Kidrobot, NECA, Bluefin Distribution, Tamashii Nations, Diamond Select Toys and artist Matt Frank. As a result, we have a rich collection of prizes for the contest this year. These range from a poster, figures, Blu-rays/DVDs and a print with many items signed as well.

    Godzilla 2019 Contest Prizes

    • Godzilla King of the Monsters poster signed by director Michael Doughtery, and actors O’Shea Jackson Jr., Millie Bobbie Brown, Thomas Middleditch, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford and Ken Watanabe
    • Godzilla 2019 figure by S.H. MonsterArts
    • Rodan figure by NECA
    • Godzilla version 2 figure by NECA
    • Godzilla 1974 and Godzilla 1989 banks by Diamond Select Toys
    • Godzilla series one vinimates by Diamond Select Toys
    • HugMe Godzilla and Phunny plush Godzilla toys by Kid Robot
    • Signed Matt Frank Mothra 2019 print
    • Pacific Rim Uprising blu-ray/dvd signed by director Steven Deknight
    • Rampage blu-ray/dvd copy signed by motion capture artist Jason liles (who plays George in the film and is Ghidorah’s middle head in Godzilla King of the Monsters) and actor P.J. Byrne (who plays Nelson in the film)
    • Blu-ray/dvd copy of Ready Player One

    ***A small note about the poster: there are small creases on the sides and a small tear on the top of the poster. I don’t know how they got there but that’s how they were sent over. They Shouldn’t be noticeable if you frame the poster, however.***

    Entering the Contest

    As with other contests on the site in the past, to enter all you have to do is send an email with your name and address to: TKSummer2019@hotmail.com

    The contest ends September 19th! Enter today!

    Thanks goes to Warner Bros., Kidrobot, NECA, Bluefin Distribution, Tamashii Nations, Diamond Select Toys, and Matt Frank for being so gracious to donate prizes offered in this contest!

    Contest Rules

    ONE entry per person only. Due to shipping this contest is only for North America entrants. Winner will be randomly selected using an automated process by e-mails received. Date of entry has no bearing on probability of winning. No requests for bundles as winners will be chosen at random. The winner will be announced by September 24th, 2019. Contest ends September 19th, 2019. Toho Kingdom staff (forum and main site) are not eligible to compete. The site is not responsible for lost, late or misdirected mail when prizes are sent out. Toho Kingdom reserves the right to change these rules at any time.

    General // September 3, 2019
  • The Godzilla Certification Exam—Beginner AND Intermediate

    I have done a lot of really nerdy stuff for Toho Kingdom, and it’s kind of difficult to categorize what the “nerdiest” articles or projects might have been. Writing lots of book reviews is arguably really nerdy; writing about Godzilla’s love life is nerdy AND embarrassing; spending over a hundred bucks on Godzilla Valentine’s Day candy just to review them for the site is nerdy, embarrassing, and almost seems emblematic of the stereotype of an obsessed otaku who can’t get a date. I don’t just do embarrassing stuff for my fandom—I spend lots of money, then spend lots of time writing about it, and then post about it WITH MY REAL NAME on the Internet.

    But even I kept asking myself why I had spent 9500 yen to take a test on Godzilla knowledge. No, scratch that—two tests. Each an hour long, both on the same day. In Japanese, yet. I mean, who DOES this stuff?

    Actually, quite a few people, as I found out.

    So I took the first-ever Godzilla Kentei—the Godzilla Certification Exam. I spent the cash, got the papers, got the study book (and even studied it for about a half an hour or so), and went to the Tokyo site (fans in Osaka could go there instead) to see how much Godzilla knowledge I had up in my head. The Tokyo site was at the Takanawa campus of Tokai University. Having experience with the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect… The assigned seat, the assigned number, the rule that we have to put away our stuff during the test, the long explanations, etc. As anticipated, I was the only white guy there, at least that I saw. But there were a lot of things I didn’t really expect.

    For one thing… well, lots of people were there. Mostly men, but I saw a few women taking the test. (For once, during the break, the men’s rooms each had a long line, and the women had no wait at all.) I didn’t really think very many people would take the test, since the certification doesn’t really mean much, and people can take Godzilla quizzes online for free. I also expected more kids, but I saw fewer children than I saw women. For many test-takers, maybe it was the merch that lured them—the lines for merch were intense, but I just didn’t really care to buy another T-shirt and “clear file” and pin.

    I took both tests, but I thought there would be different crowds taking the beginner’s and the intermediate tests. However, in my room, the test-takers were virtually the same for both tests. I guess everybody else had the same idea as me—they figured this was their one big chance and they wanted to show how much they know. And it’s kind of fun, too.

    So how hard were the tests? Well, first of all, they were both in Japanese, obviously. Some questions had a little English (one question was about the acronym for MOGERA used in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla), but the test was designed for native Japanese speakers. I had to fully rely on my Japanese, and usually I could figure out the questions. Even with my somewhat poor Japanese, I had little problem finishing the first test within the time limit, though I had just a few minutes to spare on the intermediate test.

    The test questions were all multiple choice—just fill in the correct oval. The questions were not broken up into different question types really—it’s not like the JLPT with its grammar section, listening section, reading section, and so on. The questions of the Godzilla Kentei are sort of mixed together. Some of the questions had pictures in the test booklet, and these questions were usually about putting particular monsters in the order in which they grew or evolved—like the Mothra caterpillar, cocoon, and imago (I know, that one is super easy). However, the exam items with pictures were just mixed at random with the other question types. There didn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to the exam format.

    Many, many of the questions (with their exact wordings) were included in the study book, which I bought and studied briefly. I sort of wanted to see how far I could get with my own Godzilla knowledge, though, and was too lazy to study much. That choice would come back to bite me later.

    The questions pretty much exclusively focused on the movies—not the comics or shows. In both tests there was a heavy focus on Godzilla Resurgence and the original 1954 film, with Resurgence getting a lot of obnoxious (for me) questions such as where in Tokyo certain events took place (I just couldn’t remember). Nevertheless, both tests included questions about virtually all of the Japan-made Godzilla films… except for the recent anime trilogy. Not one question (out of two hundred) was about the anime films, nor the American films. Some questions in the study book were about the anime and American films, but the actual test did not feature them—the closest the test got to featuring a question about an American film was an image of Zilla from Final Wars in one of the picture items.

    A LOT of the questions were quite easy for me. Stuff like which specific monsters appeared in which movies, or the name of the evil organization in Ebirah, or how many films had Mechagodzilla in them, or even how many necks King Ghidorah has. Much more difficult for me were some of the questions about particular actors, many of which were from Resurgence again—and I just don’t know the names of most of the actors in that film. Some questions featured a lot of kanji, too, though usually the test included furigana above any kanji used.

    I liked the questions that tended to go a little more obscure, and was really pleased to see a question about Shukra and Mamagon from Godzilla vs. Gigan. The second test had a lot more of the somewhat obscure questions, or questions that just took longer to answer as I was trying to count movies (such as “what was the twentieth movie in the Japanese Godzilla films?”). One question that caught me off guard in the beginner’s test was about the year the original Godzilla was released in Japan—but calculated according to the Japanese calendar. I think I got it by calculating from my birth year (the Showa year for which I have memorized), but at first I was afraid I was a goner on that one. One strategy I used that proved especially helpful was to glance through my booklet at the intermediate level questions before starting the second test and quickly memorizing the right answer. Many of those questions I had quickly memorized were on the test, and so it helped me a lot… That decision probably actually enabled me to pass the test!

    And as much as I had second thoughts about paying for and taking the exams, it was kind of exciting to be able to sit down and take a test in Godzilla of all things. So often in school we have to take tests on subjects we aren’t especially excited about, and so it was quite a bit more fun to tackle something that I love—and doing it in Japanese, with a lot of real Japanese fans, and to STILL finish both exams with time to spare without much study prep was pretty satisfying. Hearing the fans chat with each other about questions they thought they got wrong, or lamenting that they just couldn’t remember during the test, was a lot of fun.

    I also met a guy at the test spot who was wearing a Godzilla hat made from balloons. He claimed he had made the balloon hat himself. I took a picture of him, and then he offered to let me wear the hat, and he took pictures of me. He was super nice!

    Some time later, I received the results. I passed the beginner test with an 87, and the intermediate (the certificate says “advance”) with just a 71. In other words, I almost failed the intermediate one, because the cut-off was at 70 points!

    So yes, the Godzilla Certification Exam was arguably a big waste of money really, and was… kind of pointless. The exam doesn’t really test Godzilla knowledge well, since it is so focused on the 2016 film and the test can be aced by just trying to remember the questions in the test prep book. But honestly I had fun, and the experience was quite unique. This year they had a beginner and intermediate test, but the book also had questions for an advanced test, though with the caveat that there may never be one. I kind of hope that there will be one—and that they will give some kind of a prize to those who get a perfect score!

    General // September 2, 2019