In September of 2004, Toho Music started their ambitious release of all of the Godzilla films in six soundtrack boxes for the 50th Anniversary of the King of the Monsters. Titled the Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection, these boxes came with 6-9 CDs and covered 4-6 Godzilla films each. The series was plagued with delays, to the point where the final box was released in 2010, six years after the touted “50th Anniversary” line that it came with.
To celebrate the conclusion of the Perfect Collection line this year, we at Toho Kingdom are putting together a round table to discuss, highlight and talk about various features of the six boxes. We will go over our favorite and least favorite aspects of the sets, to give an overview of what we each thought were the best and worst parts.
To conduct this Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection round table, we have three writers lined up. Our first guest writer is Robert Storch, a contributor to this site and also Godzilla and Other Monster Music, who is a veteran collector that had managed to secure the original 1990’s Futureland releases of the Godzilla soundtracks to CD. Our second guest writer is Matti Keskiivari, another contributor to Godzilla and Other Monster Music, who has already published critiques and reviews for the box sets. Finally, we also have the site’s owner, Anthony Romero, weighing in as well. So without further ado, below are four basic questions followed by the responses of the three writers, before each gives an overall conclusion at the end.
Favorite Two Aspects of the Perfect Collection
Packaging – The packaging for Toho Music’s 50th Anniversary Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection was obviously inspired by the company’s earlier Akira Kurosawa boxed set line, and this same style packaging was also utilized for all six Godzilla boxed sets. While I personally still prefer the front “poster artwork” found on the earlier Godzilla Toshiba-EMI Futureland 20-CD set, I have to admit that the Perfect Collection’s “overall” packaging does add a bit of “class” to these Godzilla soundtracks, unseen before. Everything from the carefully thought out front heads shots, to the nice back inserts, better booklets that contain a lot of text and a few photos, to the sturdy boxes themselves helps to make this all an attractive and dignified collection. What I also think contributes to this is seeing the “Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” heading at the top of each booklet. It kind of gives each Godzilla soundtrack a new level of respectability. It should also be noted that each set comes with an oversized second insert, and a very large obi which wraps around one side of the box.
Extra Tracks – With the exception of a couple of soundtracks, most of these Godzilla Perfect CDs have been greatly expanded with a generous amount of previously unreleased tracks, and because of this aspect, probably makes the Godzilla Perfect Collection the one to own, even over the earlier 40th Anniversary Godzilla Toshiba-EMI Futureland set. As a matter of fact, the Perfect Collection contains many of my personal favorite tracks which are finally making their CD debut, such as the “Use of Handcuff’s” theme from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (G-005), the original rolling end title credits vocal song from The Return of Godzilla (G-016), two very obscure alternate vocal songs (by a different singer) from Godzilla vs. Hedorah (G-011) and the “Nichiei News” theme from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (G-024), just to name a few. The point is if you really add up all of the extra music found throughout the six boxed sets, you will no doubt find a lot of it. Not only is all of this extra music probably the single best reason to buy the Godzilla Perfect Collection, but it also adds value to each box, even more-so than the bonus CDs end up accomplishing.
Never Before Released Music – I have to praise Toho Music for digging up a lot of rare stuff for these discs, and I don’t mean just the bonus tracks. Two great examples are the soundtracks of Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (G-025) and Godzilla: Final Wars (G-028) from the sixth box. For both of them, it’s the first time the (almost) complete scores have been released on CD. This is especially true for Godzilla: Final Wars, as the original release from Victor (VICP-62936) didn’t really have all the highlights, like “Keizer Ghidorah Appears” (M35-1) and “Ebirah vs. the Mutant Forces” (M9), which is my personal favorite arrangement of Keith Emerson’s Earth Defense Force theme (or “Kazama’s Sacrifice” as it’s most commonly known as, thanks to the Victor release). Although not quite unreleased, these boxes also presented many rarities together for the first time, such as the inclusion of the mono and stereo scores found in the two disc set King Kong vs. Godzilla (G-003) that were packaged alongside each other.
Sound Quality – In my opinion, the sound quality on the discs has been well remastered, for the most part. The soundtracks that received the best improvement are the original Godzilla (G-001) from the first box, All Monsters Attack (G-010) from the second box, Godzilla vs. Hedorah (G-011), Godzilla vs. Megalon (G-013) and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (G-014) from the third box, and The Return of Godzilla (G-016) from the fourth box. On these soundtracks, especially All Monsters Attack and The Return of Godzilla, you can hear the instruments more distinctly. The major disappointments, on the other hand, would have to be Invasion of Astro-Monster (G-006) and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (G-007) from the second box and the Ostinato (GX-7) bonus disc from the fifth box. Aside from those, I’m generally pleased with the audio.
Extra Tracks – Looking over these releases, it’s easy to see that the people at Toho Music are fans of this music themselves. Because of that, one gets a lot of material that other companies probably would never have included. Original stock music used in the Showa films, demo material, and a boatload of outtakes all readily fill the CD releases here. They aren’t perfect, such as with the 1992-1995 Heisei series content, but generally all of these releases contain more music from their respective films than any previous CD release. A lot of never before released, at least to CD, material was also included, as one really gets a feeling that the archives were cracked open to try and add in a wealth of content to these releases. In a sense, we all probably benefited from the previous Toshiba releases in the 1990’s, as they convinced Toho Music to really try and pack some of these releases with a lot of extra content and go one step above.
Godzilla: Final Wars – When thinking of something that Toho Music did oh so right, their deluxe treatment for the 50th anniversary film comes directly to mind. The original release by Victor (VICP-62936) was more of a traditional album, having movie themes edited and created for the CD release rather than presenting the score as it was used in the movie. Toho Music, on the other hand, opted to include both and more! The movie score, the album score, unused material and demos are all present here. Some really fantastic, previously unreleased cues were also included with this three disc treatment, such as “Commander Namikawa’s Abnormality” (M12 Mix), “Gigan Awakens” (M16 Edit), “Monster X Appears” (M29 Add) and many others. I was never a huge fan of this score in particular, yet many of these themes from the expanded selection made their way onto my iPod, making this without a doubt one of the best things about the six boxes.
Least Favorite Two Aspects of the Perfect Collection
Audio Quality – Without a doubt, my least favorite aspect of the entire Godzilla Perfect Collection is the overall mixed sound quality. I am not sure what Toho Music’s remastering methods are, but it appears that their way of doing it has somehow “normalized” the sound quality on their CDs. In other words, these so-called “Perfect CDs” now sound noticeably flatter (or a little dull) compared with all of the past releases from Toshiba-EMI, VAP, King Records, Kitty Records, and all the rest. Now, this will be more apparent for buyers who own the earlier CDs, and perhaps not so detectible for people who are purchasing these soundtracks for the first time, but there is a difference for those curious. It’s almost as if the score tracks (and all of the stereo vocal songs for that matter) were put through a program or a filter of some kind? Bottom line – I cannot recall ever hearing “remasters” that sound quite like this from any other record company. Now, fortunately, there are a couple of exceptions throughout the boxed sets where the soundtracks do sound nicely “restored” and the normalizing isn’t as apparent, such as Godzilla (G-001), The Return of Godzilla (G-016) and the stereo Biollante CD, but overall, most of the Showa scores do not sound as clear as they should, especially Invasion of Astro-Monster (G-006) and Destroy All Monsters (G-009). The Heisei soundtracks aren’t as sharp as their earlier Futureland and Kitty Records CDs either. Concerning the Millennium scores, as mentioned in Anthony’s review of Box 6, all of those CDs don’t measure up audio-wise with their previous CD releases. Also, if I had to single out the worst (or most disappointing) sounding track from the whole collection, it would probably be Track 1 from the Invasion of Astro-Monster CD (the main title march), as it sounds extremely soft and flat compared with the rest of that CD. Now, as mentioned above, not even the stereo record songs which are scattered throughout the collection could escape getting dulled down either, as they have now lost their clarity. When directly compared with their Toshiba and Kitty Records releases, as well as the remastered Godzilla Song Book (VPCD-81381), it’s pretty obvious that the songs on the Perfect Collection simply don’t sound the same. One of the worst examples here would probably be “Echoes of Love” from Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (G-021), while some of the songs found on the Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (G-020) soundtrack (as well as the GODZILLA 1998 David Arnold theme) sound much worse than their past CDs and CD singles. Unfortunately, the audio problems don’t stop there either, as the LP replica bonus discs also suffer from extremely disappointing sound quality.
LP Replica Bonus Discs – Where to begin? First, couldn’t Toho come up with some better choices for the bonus CDs in the first three boxed sets (the three Makoto Inoue Godzilla Legend LPs come to mind)? While I initially liked Toho’s idea of miniaturizing the original “LP artwork” for each bonus CD, as it turned out, it was the sound quality that ultimately left me disappointed with all of them. Not only did Toho Music replicate the original artwork, but they also made a questionable decision to duplicate and preserve the “original LP listening experience” as well. Now, on the one hand, Toho Music decided to release Godzilla soundtracks that have been remastered of course, but on the other hand, they chose to include bonus CDs that wouldn’t sound on par with them. To be honest, I doubt that better master tapes even exist for the LPs that were chosen, but even so, while I can appreciate the nostalgia of replicating the packaging, this doesn’t mean that I want my bonus CDs to sound inferior or like an old LP. While some of them do sound OK, such as Godzilla 3(GX-3) and the two bonus discs from the fourth box, others, such as Ostinato (GX-7) and An Evening of Special Effects Film Music(GX-6) from Box 5 do not. What makes this almost a travesty, is that these two particular albums had already been released on CD before in the 80’s and 90’s with terrific sound quality, but because these versions are replica’s of their original LPs (not the CD pressings), Toho Music deliberately tried to adjust the audio on both of them (or mastered them from an inferior LP source), and the result turned out to be a huge disappointment as far as I’m concerned, with each CD sounding a bit too flat, dull and equalized when compared to their original King Records CDs. I’d even guess that the original LPs themselves sound much better than what’s found here. In any case, while it is still nice and nostalgic to get some of these original 70’s LPs on the CD format for the first time, like Godzilla 2 (GX-2) and Godzilla 3 (GX-3), I do not think that it was a smart idea on Toho’s part to try and take that nostalgia and apply it to the sound quality. In hindsight, it would have been better if Toho Music scrapped this “LP replica” idea altogether and simply picked different bonus CDs which could have benefited from state-of-the-art remastering.
Akira Ifukube Recording Archives – I have to say, quite sadly, that the bonus DVD, which was given if you’d ordered all six box sets, left me a bit disappointed. To start off, the first segment, which was recorded at the first-ever performance of Symphonic Fantasia, isn’t exactly what you’d hope to see. Sure, it is fascinating to see old footage of the maestro himself, and Akihiko Hirata, Tomoyuki Tanakaand Ishiro Honda, but unfortunately the segment tends to focus on the speeches they give about Ifukube. That leaves us with very little of the actual music performance. In fact, only the first minute or so of the “No. 1” part is shown. It would’ve been nice to actually see more of the performance. Also, the video and audio quality on the segment leaves a lot to be desired. The fourth and last segment on the DVD, the recording session of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, is another letdown. It only runs for about two minutes, so basically it’s just one cue being conducted by Ifukube. Again, it would’ve been interesting to see more of the session. I also find it odd that Toho Music didn’t, for some reason, add more segments than the four we got. For example, I know that footage from the recording session of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) does exist and can be found on the older German DVD of the movie, released by Marketing Film.
Repeating Content – Like Anthony and Robert, I have some problems with the LP reissue discs. Now, generally I don’t mind their inclusion at all, even if they are compilations of tracks that are already on the soundtracks. For instance, it’s intriguing to hear sound effects being integrated into some of the cues, like the helicopter and the SOS signal on the “Sea Hawks S.O.S.” track of the first bonus disc, Godzilla (GX-1). The main problem I have with these discs concerns the “movie songs”, since I don’t care that much about most of them. For me, it’s enough that they’re included on their respective movie soundtracks, like “Godzilla and Jet Jaguar Punch-Punch-Punch” on Godzilla vs. Megalon (G-013), but do we really need to hear them again? The aforementioned song and a couple of others are heard on both Godzilla 3 (GX-3) of box 3 and King of the Monsters: Godzilla (GX-4) of box 4. It would really be a nuisance, if it weren’t for the extra songs on those discs.
“Movie Created Tracks” – These are the cues that were ripped directly from film sources, with the most glaring example being the mono score for the Godzilla vs. Biollante (G-017) release. When done well, they mixed in with okay results and added a bit of extra content. When done poorly, they either had awkward volume levels that dropped and raised while being played, such as with Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (G-025), or had faint dialogue that could be picked up if one listened to the track close enough, as is the case with Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (G-027). The worst example, though, was the Biollante material, which not only had the faint dialogue but also reduced a stereo score to mono. Overall, this felt like something I would see from a fan bootleg than a major record label, and Toho Music easily could have spent more time in editing the original source material themselves rather than going the quick and cheap route of ripping it from film sources with these problems.
LP Replicas – If someone has read any of my reviews, then my distaste for these LP replica bonus discs is probably well known. First off, the allure of LPs and traditional records is the format itself. Trying to repackage that for CD, if the content itself isn’t new, is largely a waste of time. Toho Music’s methods for doing so make this even worse. I’m not sure how they created these LP replicas exactly, but many of these seem to share the problems of the LP format… and the CD format. One gets the soft and muffled type of quality one associates with an LP to CD transfer, while at the same time its taking an analog format to digitial, meaning details are naturally lost. The lacking audio quality on these, along with all of the great stuff that could have been included instead like a complete score to Godzilla Island (1997) or any of the more recent video game soundtracks, make this a very large sore spot on the sets as a whole. I feel like I have tread this path a lot with my individual reviews, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but to reiterate: the idea of LP replicas that focus on compilations for material that is already present in these sets is worthless, especially given that the audio quality is notably worse on those compilations.
Favorite Box Set
Box 4 (GB4)
My favorite box would have to be Box 4, as I simply like almost everything about it. This was the first box to present color artwork for the CDs, while it also contained 9 discs. However, it was the overall sound quality and all of the previously unreleased music which really sold me on this box. The Return of Godzilla (G-016) and the Stereo CD for Godzilla vs. Biollante (G-017) in particular sound superior compared with their earlier Toshiba-EMI and King Records CDs. The real treat for me though, are a couple of rare tracks that are finally making their CD debut on Box 4, such as the original The Return of Godzilla ending credits vocal song (which is sung by The Star Sisters), and all of those unreleased songs and themes from The Return of Godzilla that can be found on disc 2 of the Godzilla vs. Mothra (G-019) CD. Of course, one of the biggest highlights from the fourth box is the inclusion of the Godzilla vs. Biollante double disc soundtrack, which instantly became my favorite Biollante CD. The stereo disc actually has a spatial ambience which is not found on either of the two earlier Futureland CDs, and it also contains a couple of treats, like the “Bio Wars” theme without the lead guitar and the three full-length Ostinato tracks. The 1993 Futureland CD only contained two Ostinato themes and one of them was even edited. Also, for those who happen to own Box 5, just listen to how great the Ostinato tracks sound on this Biollante CD, compared with those same tracks on the bonus CD…what a difference. Speaking of bonus CDs, the two that are found in Box 4 are pretty rare and interesting, making them nice to have, although there’s not a lot of music on them. My only real complaint with this set is the second CD from Biollante, the mono disc, but because the stereo disc sounds so amazing and includes a few rare tracks too, it’s not the problem one would think. Still, Toho Music does deserve some bashing for including a mono Biollante disc, which again proves just how “unpredictable” Toho can be when it comes to these boxed sets. Overall though, I can highly recommend Box 4…it’s a winner!
Box 3 (GB3)
For me, boxes 3 and 6 (GB6) rank as the highest, most well done releases in the Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection. However, if I had to choose one over the other, my number one favorite would probably be the third box in the series. Yes, it does have two of the worst Godzilla soundtracks, both by Riichiro Manabe, but one can’t deny the fact that Toho Music did a commendable job in remastering those two, and the rest of the box’s soundtracks also feature a better sound while adding a lot of extra content. Also, while I did complain about the Godzilla 3 (GX-3) disc a bit, I like many of the extra songs on it, like “Monster Christmas” and “Godzilla Folk Song”. However, the primary reason why this box is my favorite would be the soundtrack of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (G-014). The film has always been my favorite Godzilla movie, and I like Masaru Sato‘s music in it along with the stellar treatment it got for this line that added content and improved the audio quality through remastering it. So when I got the third Perfect Collection box, I was glad to finally own the soundtrack of that 1974 movie in its best form.
Box 4 (GB4)
The fourth box in this series was a clear favorite for me. It had a great selection of music, as it’s hard to go wrong with the 1980’s scores and Akira Ifukube, and felt like it was the most well rounded package. This was also the debut of the nine disc treatment, which is something that Toho Music should have started earlier. The music has also been nicely expanded for The Return of Godzilla (G-016), Godzilla vs. Biollante (G-017) and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (G-018). The Godzilla vs. Mothra(G-019) release loses out a bit when compared to the previous two disc set from Toshiba EMI (TYCY-5267/8) in terms of coverage of the movie’s score, but at the same time provides some unique content that make it a very worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection and a great companion piece to the Toshiba EMI set. What really draws me to to the fourth box, though, is that it’s great for both old and new collectors. I actually like the LP material in this set as well, as its unique and in some cases very rare. After a less than stellar sales performance of the first three sets, which were all limited to 1,954 units each and none were close to selling out, this box was delayed and Toho Music really stepped up their game to deliver something worth the asking price. Overall, this box gives the feeling that they really went the extra mile in collecting some of this material and makes this a set for both casuals and diehards alike.
Least Favorite Box Set
Box 5 (GB5)
After carefully considering everything, I would have to say that Box 5 is probably the set that I was most upset with. While I’m not crazy about Box 2 either, I believe that the disappointing audio quality is what really brings Box 5 down. Please remember that I am speaking from the viewpoint of someone who owns the original CDs (which sound better), but if someone doesn’t have them, they still shouldn’t hesitate to get this box, as it does contain a lot of great and essential music by Akira Ifukube and Takayuki Hattori, but just don’t expect superior sound quality. For example, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (G-021) in particular sounds a bit soft to me and the “Echoes of Love” vocal song just doesn’t sound good either. However, the biggest reason why this box probably deserves to be the worst one is simply because of the botched audio on the Ostinato (GX-7) and An Evening of Special Effects Film Music (GX-6) bonus CDs. I mean, we finally get two important bonus discs that a lot of people were hoping Toho Music would include in one of the boxes, but unfortunately, for those people who really care about audio quality, these are going to collect a lot of dust. Other issues are the fact that Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah sound much better and sharper on their original Toshiba-EMI Futureland 2-CD sets, while those earlier CDs also boast better presentations of their scores too. In addition, the Godzilla Singles Collection found on disc 2 of the Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (G-020) set doesn’t sound as good as what was originally released on those Futureland, Sony or Polygram CD singles either, as almost every song suffers from being too “normalized” and a bit soft.
Box 2 (GB2)
If I had to choose between the six boxes within the 50th Anniversary Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection, my least favorite is definitely the second box that was released close after the first box in 2004. My main reason for this is that, out of all the sets, this one had overall the least improved sound. As I mentioned earlier with Invasion of Astro-Monster (G-006) and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (G-007), some of these soundtracks lost out in terms of the audio quality that was already present on past CD releases. The only notable exception is All Monsters Attack (G-010), which has a great audio presentation, but that still doesn’t add a whole lot of value to this set.
Box 2 (GB2)
Of the six boxes released in this line, the second always struck me as Toho Music’s weakest effort. It’s marked with largely unimproved audio, with Invasion of Astro-Monster (G-006) being on the weak side and All Monsters Attack (G-010) being one of the few here that benefited from the remastering. Lacking audio quality aside, the discs are relatively light on new content, having very little to offer over their previous releases on CD in the 1990’s. The bonus disc from this box, Godzilla 2 (GX-2), is also another lackluster compilation LP replica, containing content already found in the first three boxes and with rather poor audio quality. This box, by over an hour, also has the least amount of music of the six boxes released. Overall, this one is simply the hardest to merit from a price perspective, both to new and old collectors.
Conclusion: The real question is, should you buy the 50th Anniversary Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection? Well, after a careful analysis I would have to say, yes, as these Godzilla soundtracks are probably the best ones we are going to get for some time, but this really isn’t a “Perfect” collection either, as was touted by the company. While Toho Music has proven that they can release CDs and boxed sets with exceptional packaging, they have not yet demonstrated that they can be reliable when it comes to remastering this music as, unfortunately, it has been “hit and miss” with them (their recent Battle in Outer Space CD was a definite “miss” in terms of sound quality as well). The problem is that Toho Music lacks the experience of a major record company, and is in all likelihood just a very small department. In many ways, they more closely resemble an “indie label”, which has both benefits and disadvantages for consumers. Some benefits: the generous amount of extra tracks and attention to detail regarding the artwork and packaging. Some disadvantages: audio quality is arguably not as state-of-the-art as it should be, and some of their questionable decision making has forever impacted these sets. In hindsight, should Toho Music have even sold these Godzilla soundtracks in six separate, very expensive boxed sets? While this boxed set format seems to have worked out well enough for the Akira Kurosawa soundtracks (which were only three boxes), I don’t think that coming up with a six boxed set format was necessarily the best way to reissue 28 Godzilla soundtracks, as in the end, it took Toho Music 6 years to release them all, as they kept falling further and further behind schedule. In closing, if you are someone who owns a few or all of the Godzilla Toshiba-EMI CDs from the 1990s, then I would still recommend holding on to those for their unique packaging and nice overall sound. However, if you can only afford one collection, then definitely go for the “Perfect” sets, simply because they are the most expanded Godzilla soundtracks currently on CD, and the price per disc is actually very low when you break it all down. As a side note, for people who have purchased all six boxed sets from Arksquare, they will also receive a free Toho Region 2 bonus DVD called Akira Ifukube Recording Archives.
Conclusion: I think it’s pretty ironic that back in 2004 Toho Music announced that the Godzilla soundtracks would be released in six box sets, and it took them six years to release them all. In the end, the boxes are great to own, even though there are flaws in each of them. Most of the Heisei soundtracks, for example, don’t have the score as it’s heard in the movie. The older two-disc releases from Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) up till Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) had the complete edited score, so those are still worth getting as companions to these boxes. Of course, these sets are pretty highly priced, so it’s up to every soundtrack enthusiast themselves to decide if they’re worth spending well over 100 dollars for each of them or not. I’d say yes to that question. And now that I finally have all the 50th Anniversary Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection boxes, I’ll be looking forward to the other science fiction soundtracks released by Toho Music.
Conclusion: The Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection has wowed me, disappointed me, and overall left me satisfied across the six releases. There are things that could have been done a lot better, and should have been for the high price tag. Still, some things Toho Music knocked out of the park across this very large 46 disc series. Although I’m not a huge fan of the “Godzilla face” CD covers, the set is very attractive looking while some of the added content goes beyond what many would expect from a normal soundtrack release and the attention to detail is very impressive. Now while I do wish some things had been handled with more professionalism, I still find the Perfect Collection to be a great entry point for new soundtrack collectors and a good way for “old timers” to pick up some scores they might have missed while also getting extra content for those they already have. If I had to give the entire series, from disc one to disc forty six, a grade… it would probably be a straight B. It falls very short of the “perfect” moniker the series touts, but is still very much worth owning for more dedicated soundtrack enthusiasts and I’m glad to have many of them in my own collection.