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  • An interview with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) director Rob Letterman. Conducted by phone on May 3rd, 2019, and transcribed by Jeremy Williams.

     

    Chris Mirjahangir: How did you come onto the project? Was it in development or were you there in the beginning?

    Rob Letterman: It was in development, so Legendary Pictures and the Pokemon Company were already sort of set on making Detective Pikachu a live action movie. The game was also in development so it was kinda of a parallel track. So that was already happening when I got the call.

     

    Mirjahangir: How long did it take you to work on the story and everything before getting ready to shoot?

    Letterman: I first engaged like at the end of 2016. And then we started shooting in 2018. So I was on it for like a while. Like it was a lot of development, a lot of not just writing on the script but also just like developing the Pokemon characters in advance. You know we put a full year of work into the designs of all the Pokemon. Working hand in hand with the Pokemon Company to get all the characters right. And have that all set and locked in before we started shooting.

     

    Mirjahangir: Was it Legendary you worked with or was it also Legendary and Toho and Warner Bros? Like a big group effort?

    Letterman: It was a big group effort between Legendary and the Pokemon Company during the development and production phase. That was all integrated together and all the different divisions of the Pokemon Company, and you know for sure Toho and Warner Bros. during the whole marketing and distribution. And getting the word out, like everyone just sort of went big on this. It’s pretty amazing and humbling to see it.

     

    Mirjahangir: Were you a fan of the series and everything, the games and stuff going in?

    Letterman: Well I’m slightly older, so I just missed it. But my kids are huge fans, so I as a parent, I went deep on Pokemon. My kids love the cards, the toys, the games. The T.V. show was just hitting Netflix so they binge watched that and all the movies. You know I watched the Pokemon First Movie with my kids and you know, so, I was inundated with it via my children.

     

    Mirjahangir: Did you try playing the games as well to try and get a feel for it?

    Letterman: I played the games, my son and I play Pokken DX. He always chooses Mewtwo, I always lose. I mean it’s crazy. We’ve gone to the Pokemon world championship when it was in Anaheim. And you know it was, it’s fun as a parent to like connect on anything with your kids. So it’s great.

     

    Mirjahangir: Well this is suppose to… If I remember correctly, this is gonna be part of like an expanded universe. Are you in talks for another one?

    Letterman: I mean I would love to do another one, you know I’m very superstitious so I don’t want to jinx anything. The first movie has to work before that happens. But yeah, if we’re lucky enough to be able to do another one, I would jump at the chance.

     

    Mirjahangir: How did you decide which Pokemon would go into the movie and were there ones you wanted to put in but you couldn’t?

    Letterman: Well there’s… I mean a hundred I wanted to put in, but I couldn’t for budgetary reasons. We just we just ran out of money. But uh, you know the ones that are in there are a combination of them, because it’s based on the Detective Pikachu game, there’s a certain set of Pokemon that are inherent in that. Like Ludicolo and the Aipom are baked into the game. And then beyond that, I wanted to get a lot of the first generation Pokemon characters so that you know there’s a nostalgia factor for people in their twenty’s and thirty’s who grew up on it. And you know having the Pokemon that they remember and love being represented in the movie, and then you know just working with the Pokemon Company and all the original creators on kind of narrowing down the list and working with Eric, our visual effects supervisor, on which characters we could best represent in photo real live action. You know, just kinda combing through the list that way and it was a combination of all those things.

     

    Mirjahangir: Ryan Reynolds having him play Pikachu. I’m curious because you know he does a lot of, you know there’s a lot of jokes in there. Some jokes work, some don’t. You have a test audience to see what’s working. And I’m curious like what his process was cuz I saw he was on set for what, three days running lines?

    Letterman: Yeah, he was on set for three days and so the pivotal scenes that you know we thought we would need him there for just to get the chemistry between him and Justice right. But before all that, we rehearsed quite a bit and Ryan, you know, he scrubbed through the script to make sure that Pikachu’s dialogue was fitting with, you know, his ideas. So he played a part, um, in just the script stage. Then Justice and I worked with him, we kind of workshopped for two days in L.A., the script, and just try to you know land the characters and the chemistry that way. And see, you know, improv and let Ryan riff and let Justice riff and then I took all that and reworked the script so it reflected those workshop days. And then we had a… he was there a week before we started shooting and we did a full stage play with the… He had a facial capture helmet rig thing on. And then we just kind of went through the whole movie, let them act it out like as a stage play. With Justice, Ryan, Katherine Newton, and a mime. Um, and so by the time we had those days on set while we were shooting we had… there was a lot of work that lead up to getting to that moment.

     

    Mirjahangir: The stage play aspect I think would be a great Blu-Ray extra *laughs* just to see it.

    Letterman: You’re right, I don’t know why we…

     

    Mirjahangir: Just to see it that way would be great.

    Letterman: Someone’s got to dig it up! You’re so right, it should be in there. It would need to be like edited into something, but uh, the whole movie is, there’s a version of the whole movie with those guys just sitting in chairs, walking around, a weird mime performance, Ryan with a crazy thing on his head. It’s a strange version of the movie. *laughs* That exists.

     

    Mirjahangir: Can you request that, like you know what, let’s make this available for everybody.

    Letterman: Probably, but we’ll see how the movie does.

     

    Mirjahangir: That would be great.

    Letterman: If it’s worthwhile, maybe we’ll dig it up.

     

    Mirjahangir: How many versions of Pikachu were there in the design process? How long did he take to get right?

    Letterman: He took about a year to get right. There’s a lot that went into Pikachu designing. Oh my gosh, fur, no fur, short fur, long fur, different fur. You know all the slight variations of the color yellow. I mean endless work, I mean there’s what people probably never know is that there is a skeleton with muscles on it, a skin on the muscles. You know, the fur is every hair of Pikachu is interacting with every other hair and you know the eyes have like really sophisticated computer simulation with light that refracts, all real world physics are happening in there. It’s a really really sophisticated CGI character that took a full year to develop. And this is before we start shooting.

     

    Mirjahangir: Oh yeah I mean it looks great, yeah, oh wow! So did you hone it kind of a little more in post just to kinda…

    Letterman: A little bit but we had to nail it.

     

    Mirjahangir: Yeah.

    Letterman: Otherwise, the performance from the actors would be, if it was off by a millimeter it would just, the whole thing would fall apart.

    Interviews // June 23, 2019
  • Author: Tyler Trieschock | Banner: Tyler Trieschock

    [Continued from Match 245]

    Millions of stars glistened in the endless void of space. The only guidance given to a crimson comet which burned across the cosmos at an unfathomable speed. Solar systems flashed by for the being as he pursued a demon created by his absence. As a broken planet came in sight, the being within the aura halted his travel to gaze upon the destruction.

    Crystals and rock floated in what once was the upper atmosphere of a planet which held life. Now, thecorpses of the flora and fauna floated throughout the void of space. From his view hundreds of miles above the surface, the interstellar being watched continents crack away from the planet and seas bulge, creating juvenile deserts. No life existed on the helpless world from SpaceGodzilla’s wake, and Ultraseven felt his shoulders gain the burden of all the vanquished lives.

    The Ultra focused on the carnage, allowing it to embed itself within his memory which rivaled the life cycle of stars. In his absence on Earth for the last fifty human years, creatures of great power spawned. Monsters he could have killed if not for the great evil which challenged him and his garrison. An enemy once called friend.

    The Ultra slowly peeled his sight away and transfixed on a single glowing star. On a planet that orbited around that star, he would find the planet’s killer. SpaceGodzilla would partially terraform the planet, infecting it with his crystalline menace, but even in his fortress, the monster would fall before the might of an Ultra. SpaceGodzilla would perish for the injustice the alien abomination brought upon the universe.

    The Earth would never fall under Ultraseven’s watchful eye.

    *****
    Deck of the U.S.S. Cowpens – 7 Days After SpaceGodzilla’s Defeat

    Zone Fighter’s body flashed as he reverted to his human form, dropping down upon steel deck of the U.S.S. Cowpens as Ultraseven, his size now matching Hikaru’s human form, landed just beside him. Crewmen, their weapons lowered yet ready to use if the new being proved hostile, approached, but Hikaru waived them down before turning to Seven and bowing slightly.

    “You’re Ultraseven, correct? I’m honored. My father, Yoichiro, knew many of your garrison.”

    A flash overtook Seven, revealing black hair and pale skin. A blue, short sleeve, collared shirt covered his upper body while khakis and brown running shoes overtook his lower half. A smile formed on the very human face of Seven while his right hand stretched out.

    “The honor is mine to meet a Peacelander who still lives. My condolences for your people and your planet.”

    Hikaru arose and outstretched his hand, grasping the warrior of light in unity as the two alien fighters took delight in their meeting. The chatter of the naval officers behind Hikaru snapped him out of his daze and he signaled Seven to follow him into the interior of the vessel.

    *****

    The command center of the U.S.S. Cowpens, usually the center of activity for the ship, contained only a single member of its normal crew. The Captain of the warship, in his finely kept, wrinkle free blue uniform, stood speechless as an outcast in a group of figures that ranged from the understandable to the impossible.

    To his immediate right, Monique Dupre and Elsie Chapman stood in preparation for the coming meeting. The captain kept his eyesight away from Monique’s gaze, unwilling to test her fierce glare, and instead focused on the hand movements of Elsie. Her fingers insistently tapped on the console behind her. A tactic to distract her mind which, as the speed of the twitching increased, Cole could only assume was failing.

    To his right, one of the supposed guardians of Earth, Moll, sat upon a command console in a meditative trance. Out of the group, the five inch tall figure caused Cole’s heart to race. Her colorful kimono, fine jewelry and tranquil nature radiated a sense of peace, but all of her good intentions could never overshadow the monstrous being she worshipped as her god, which still persisted just outside the U.S.S. Cowpens.

    And to his front, the crimson humanoid alien called Ultraseven in a form that mimicked human appearance and clothing. His body seemed unusually rigid, his eyes unflinching even as he expressed a confident smile.

    “I’ve cleared my deck, now what are you?”

    Seven’s gaze pivoted to the Captain. “My name is Ultraseven. I’m a being from the Space Garrison, which you can think of as an interstellar defense force for all life. My directive is to protect this world at all costs, as it has been my goal for nearly five human decades. Sadly, I’ve been away most of that time fighting a being which threatened all life in the universe.”

    Cole’s eyes rolled from intrigue to disbelief.

    “This is going to be one hell of a report…”

    “For humans, you all don’t seem surprised by my arrival?” Seven commented as he swept his hand from side to side.

    “With your arrival, you’re actually the fourth humanoid extraterrestrial species we’ve run into, and unlike the last…” Elsie paused for a moment. “Actually, most encounters with extraterrestrial life, we’re happy you’re not trying to kill us upon first contact.”

    Seven’s brow raised in concern and the alien glanced toward the captain. “Are there others joining us? I would assume the Peacelander?”

    “Where is the last of your team and the other alien?” Cole remarked as he checked the antique watch on his left wrist. “I cleared my men for this, and I’m damn sure I want them back to their posts as soon as possible.”

    Moll’s head tilted slightly to the left as she concentrated in her meditative pose. “The teammates you call Randy Hernandez and Audrey Timmonds are overlooking your injured friend, Anthony Hicks. Hikaru Sakimori, the being from space you call Peacelander-”

    “I am here!” Hikaru shouted as he dashed into the room. As he came to a halt next to Seven, Hikaru’s eyes swept across the room with a look of remorse.

    “I went to gather the others, but the Major…” Hikaru’s words fell silent.

    Elsie’s brow raised in curiosity. “Why? What’s going on?”

    A single tear began to drop from Moll’s right eye as she felt the emotion of the duo a few floors below her. “Major Hicks has fallen unconscious. He is in immense pain.”

    Monique’s gaze remained focused while Elsie’s fingers stopped cold. The biologist’s eyes widened in shock and the scientist turned to depart, merely for Seven’s hand to block her exit. Elsie turned her head, her eyes unleashing a new rage as Seven’s smile tilted into a grim frown.

    “We need to discuss the events that have unfolded,” Seven explained. “I apologize for not arriving sooner. I could have ended this situation with far less death and pain for all, but to ensure this agony does not spread, please tell me what occurred so I can resolve what remains.”

    Elsie took a step back, the fury in her eyes subsiding slightly.

    “Where should I begin?” Elsie remarked as she placed her right index finger on her chin. “Right! A madman kidnapped me, my friend over here and another teammate. Our team leader, Nick Tatopoulos, along with the man dying a few floors down helped our escape. Sadly, we couldn’t stop him from calling SpaceGodzilla, who in his death destroyed the island and ripped two holes in space and time. How’s that? Oh,” Elsie emphasized as her harsh gaze moved to Hikaru, “and he’s the one responsible for shooting my friend who, as the priestess said, is in immense pain, which you don’t seem too concerned about.”

    An annoyed expression emanated from Seven before Moll recaptured their attention.

    “The tears that emanate light and darkness are not only the fault of SpaceGodzilla. In trying to save the past, I traveled with my sister through time, and upon our return, we were caught off-guard… The battle that followed created what now exists on the island and I fear has taken the life of my sister.”

    “I hate to cut you off, but you’re staying, Dr. Chapman,” Cole asserted before asking her, “Is what they say possible?”

    A scowl burned across the room to Cole, sending a well hidden shiver down the old man’s spine.

    “Maybe, I don’t know, sure! Why not? You keep forgetting, but I’ll emphasize it again. My doctorate does not apply to quantum physics and the manipulation of time. Put simply, my primary focus is on biology, and it’s why I’ve spent the last seven days confirming if it’s possible to safely pass through those anomalies. But yes, I agree the hypothesis that an exploding space-reptilian when too close to an insectoid deity exiting a temporal anomaly generates dimensional gateways.”

    “How do we close them?” Seven inquired, ignoring the scientist’s final comment.

    “Okay,” Elsie countered as she turned to Seven, “that I can help with. I think the anomalies are stabilized by the crystalline structures still growing across the island in some type of feedback loop. The growth of the anomalies and the crystals is increasing at a near exponential rate putting some weight behind the notion of perpetual growth, at least as long as the crystals gain access to new resources.”

    “Closing them is not the priority,” Monique countered. “Dr. Tatopoulos and his creature passed through the rifts and their retrieval is our concern. We shall be departing soon to retrieve them both if they still live.”

    Hikaru nodded in approval and stepped next to Monique. “With my help, we should be quick to rescue both of them, so I,” Hikaru noted as he gazed to Elsie, “can set the failures I’ve made right.”

    Seven’s smile faded as he heard the pair speak, drawing his attention to the agent.

    “I believe you fail to see the lives at risk by allowing these tears to remain open. I have seen what those crystals can do to a planet. If they continue to spread, the Earth will not survive.”

    Monique’s eye raised slightly in curiosity.

    “Is it not hypocritical to lecture on protection if you have been absent for decades?” Monique retorted as she took a step toward Seven.

    Seven took a step toward Monique. “I have been fighting an evil far beyond your comprehension, one I thought I could call my ally. It was not my choice to be absent, and I regret every moment I was away.” Seven’s fist clenched in hidden fury. “Every time Belial fought my garrison, I could have saved lives on this planet. Now that I have returned, I assure you this is my only goal.”

    “And the doctor?” Monique inquired as she moved her head to mere inches from Seven’s.

    Seven’s eyes remained still, unfazed by the agent’s actions. “The technology of my garrison is far beyond what is possible on this planet. I can request aid in retrieving your friend and your sister,” Seven noted as he turned toward Moll, “as I think it’s better than endangering the Earth. Would you not agree?”

    “Threading life-saving needles while the Earth is at risk is kinda what we do,” Elsie countered, attracting Seven’s gaze. “Look, I’ve been flying drones into this thing for the last few days. Both anomalies open approximately for two hours every twenty-seven hours on the dot. The next opening will be in less than forty minutes. We go in, twenty-seven hours later, we fly out. Do what you want with the island after, how’s that?”

    Seven glanced away from the group. His eyes twitched, thoughts flowing through his mind as he weighed both sides. As he began to open his mouth, a feminine voice echoed.

    “You fail to think about the consequences of entering the tears,” Moll noted as she remained still with her voice as loud as a whisper. “I know of this arrogance, and I will no longer let it blind me. As the guardian of the Earth, I should never have taken that risk, and even with all the guilt I feel, I cannot allow your group to enter the void.”

    Hikaru took a step toward Moll, blanketing her in his shadow as her face turned pale.

    “How can you stand aside and do nothing to save-”

    Darkness encompassed the bridge and all within the vessel. A resounding chirp echoed from beyond the U.S.S. Cowpens from a wary god, ready to unleash its fury if the alien took another step. As Hikaru gradually retreated from Moll, the great shadow of Mothra Leo parted as well.

    “I can,” Moll affirmed with tears swelling in her eyes. “As an Elias, a guardian of Earth. Mothra still needs time to recover, but Seven, do what you must.”

    *****

    Hikaru’s fist slammed against a metal wall, allowing the clang to reverberate across the medical ward. As he prepared to throw another punch, Monique’s palm intercepted Hikaru’s blow, halting his fist mere inches from the agent’s hand and the wall.

    “This will not solve anything,” Monique critiqued, lowering her arm.

    Hikaru stumbled backward, glancing across the room to all that resided within.

    Major Anthony Hicks lay unconscious to his left. His body remained motionless and nearly silent, only the sound of intense breathing from the oxygen mask over his face giving any sign he still clung to life.

    Beside him, staring at the dented wall, a man with curled, black hair and slightly lighter skin inspected the dent. The comical smile he expressed showed no sign of letting up as he commented, “Wow, I bet the Captain felt that one.”

    The joke deflected off of Hikaru’s frustration, forcing him to gaze upon a woman whose eyes showed as much rage as his surely did while also suppressing an immeasurable amount of anxiety. Audrey Tatopoulos’ long, golden hair ran past her shoulders, forcing her to move it as she gazed over Hick’s bedside.

    Feeling sorrow from looking at the wife of the man who saved him, Hikaru shifted his vision past Audrey, Monique and Elsie to a lone, old man who tirelessly worked in the back of the room, repairing his greatest creation. For two days, he refused to sleep, yet his movements seemed to be as fluid as the first. Hikaru’s right hand clenched shut, envious of Goro Ibuki’s resolve.

    “So, how do we proceed?” Hikaru inquired to the group.

    “Yeah, how we saving Jefe?” Randy reaffirmed as he gazed to Monique and Elsie for the answer.

    “With the priest’s approval, Seven will begin destroying the crystals in the next fifteen minutes,” Monique stated with ire. “He hopes to use his garrison to retrieve Nick, if he still lives, in the next month or two.”

    “We’re not waiting that long!” Audrey snapped with fury. “We need to go, now!”

    Elsie rubbed her temples in frustration. “Technically, the two aren’t wrong. These crystals are acting like a persistent infection. If they spread too far or too deep, things could get horrible fast. Not to mention destroying so many could have unforeseen results themselves. Anti-gravity distortion the most-”

    “Yo, I think Jefe is the focus. Not flying crystals,” Randy retorted.

    “I agree. The crystals would be easier to eliminate with Zilla, Jet Jaguar, Ultraseven and myself all focusing on the task,” Hikaru affirmed.

    “I got it!” Randy proclaimed with fanfare as he clapped his hands together. “Look, the giant moth is looking out for the incredible shrinking woman, right? So, all we gotta deal with is the red guy, and we got our own superman to punch him out.”

    Randy walked next to Hikaru, placing his elbow on the alien’s shoulder. “You knock him out, we go in. By the time he wakes up, we’ll have flown back out with Jefe and the Z-Man. We get yelled at by the military and red lantern, claim we’ll never interfere again, maybe cry a little in regret – actually, Mendel isn’t here so maybe skip that part – and float back to the mainland.”

    Hikaru took a few steps forward in silence. His head tilted upward, glancing at the metallic lights hanging from the ceiling.

    “If I fought Ultraseven, there is little chance I could win. Even with Jet Jaguar, I doubt I could do so reliably.”

    A blond blur entered the bottom of Hikaru’s vision. Gradually, the alien warrior lowered his vision to gaze into the eyes of Audrey. Tears overflowed their ducts while a certain rage coursed just underneath the look of grief.

    “Talk to him, fight him. Either way, all I’m asking is for you to try. Please, just… try.”

    Audrey’s eyes closed, desperately trying to hold back any sorrow merely for a confident hand to rest upon her shoulder.

    “Mrs. Tatopolous,” Hikaru asserted, drawing Audrey to look upward once more. “I ensure you, you won’t lose your world. I promise you this.”

    Randy’s hands fell upon Hikaru’s and Audrey’s shoulders causing both to look at him.

    “Now that you two had your moment, how we picking who goes where?”

    “Well,” Elsie exclaimed as she gathered everyone’s attention. “I’ve received no visual data from the drones I’ve sent, only basic atmospheric data due to interference. I can confirm that these anomalies, if they do displace space and time, lead to worlds that possess Earth-like atmospheres with temperate climates. Oxygen, Nitrogen and other gases are nearly equal in ratio to that of our own. I can also confirm that whenever they take place, it’s after August, 1945.”

    “Ahh yes! Obviously a lack of German in the air, or would that be too much?” Randy quipped.

    “No but, you’re close,” Elsie retorted, causing Randy to look at her with astonishment. “Atomic bombs dropped in that year released a certain radiation that I can pick up. It’s actually still in the air today, so I can also say the history of these times are similar to our own as well.”

    Audrey’s right hand rose as it spun in the air, her mind racing with questions as she decided the best to ask. “So, if it’s like our own, shouldn’t we be getting drones or things flying back through?”

    Elsie’s body leaned against the back wall. “Well, yes and no. The black portal’s carbon is in surprisingly low amounts in the air, suggesting that either humanity isn’t polluting the atmosphere, somehow removed it… or there is no longer any humanity.”

    “Is there really a choice among your options?” Monique rhetorically inquired.

    “Well, on that positive note,” Elsie continued, “the other is far worse. Radiation levels are consistently elevated close to the anomaly and a few hundred meters in every direction from it, to the point where prolonged exposure could lead to serious health complications. If Nick traveled to this one, he is easily already experiencing symptoms of radiation poisoning.”

    “Jefe’s got a fifty-fifty shot of being in that one though. He could be chilling in the other while the Z-Man eats some fish that glow in the dark. Probably way~ easier to catch, right?” Randy quipped with a grin toward Monique, her glare remaining unbroken.

    Monique’s eyes closed as she stated, “Or they are both in one rift or they could be dead in the other. We must be prepared for all scenarios.”

    Audrey’s face gradually turned away from Hikaru, stopping as her right eye focused on Monique, the agent’s eyes still closed.

    “He’ll be fine.”

    The elderly voice drew the group’s attention. The balding part of his head shined for all to see as the inventor continued to focus on Jet Jaguar’s socket. Without moving his gaze, Goro continued. “Your friend is right, you should be prepared for any loss, but I believe you will find him. Call me a fool, but faith always seems to defy even the most logical of arguments in my experience.”

    As he finished talking, Goro let loose a breath days in the making. Tools dropped from Goro’s hands. A ping which reverberated across the room as Jet Jaguar rose from the slab of metal he lay upon. The machine looked toward his inventor, a permanent smile which was countered by the toothless grin of his inventor.

    “Jet Jaguar is ready,” Goro affirmed as he turned and began to walk toward the door. “I’m far too old to go, but I’ll keep the captain distracted. No better way than the ramblings of a senile, old man with far too much time on his hands.”

    As he reached the door, Goro looked at the group with a toothless grin which seemed to expel optimism. “Good luck, my friends. I wish you all a safe return.”

    “And Hikaru,” Goro noted as he pointed toward the Peacelander. “Do not doubt yourself.”

    *****

    Seven’s body flashed with power, reverting from a humanoid appearance to his classic design. Bulbous, immobile eyes gazed upon the island from the command deck of the U.S.S. Cowpens before glancing at Cole.

    “Keep your vessel at a safe distance. Destroying these crystals may cause unforeseen effects.”

    Cole nodded and looked to the island. “Don’t have to tell me twice to stay away from this mess. You do realize the group below the deck isn’t too happy about the decision?”

    “Do you think it’s best?” Ultraseven inquired.

    “To be blunt, no. But what I think isn’t relevant. What I know is those things are a danger. If I were ordered to destroy them, I wouldn’t hesitate. And I doubt the seventh fleet will when it arrives tomorrow.”

    Ultraseven nodded in agreement and turned toward the exit.

    “Ultraseven. Would you have done this without my approval?”

    Ultraseven’s movement came to a complete halt, shifting his gaze toward the tiny guardian of Earth, whose eyes barely possessed the strength to open and look up at the alien.

    “With the Earth at risk, without question.”

    *****

    “So, we need teams, and since I’m making myself a leader, I call the robot!” Randy yelled as he walked over and placed his arm over Jet Jaguar’s shoulder. “Going to need to figure out a new name for yah, metal man. Jet Jaguar is a few decades out of date.”

    “Your preferences aside, we need to base our groups on dealing with either scenario,” Elsie affirmed.

    “Actually, we do not,” Monique noted as she opened her eyes. “The creature, while not Godzilla, still absorbs radiation. Therefore your surveillance would have shown signs of inconsistent radiation levels. Since this is not the case, he could have only gone in the black rift. The robot, Randy and I shall proceed through with our stolen transport from Winter. Hikaru will go through the other when he finishes his fight.”

    “What if he doesn’t? What about me and Elsie?” Audrey demanded.

    “You will do nothing. We lack a second, reliable transport and it is foolish to contaminate yourselves merely to feel better. You will only place yourself-”

    Audrey’s body twisted around in seconds, closing the distance between Monique faster than most people in the room could react. Her face stopped inches from Monique’s, meeting one cold stare with another while Audrey’s nails embedded into her own thigh.

    “-in danger,” Monique affirmed as she uncrossed her arms. “You lack training and are compromised with emotion.”

    Randy, Elsie and Jet Jaguar stood silently, waiting for an explosion of fury from Audrey while Hikaru took a few steps to break the pair up. Audrey’s palm bolted up, waiving Hikaru off as her glare remained steady, matching Monique’s.

    “You know, Monique, I don’t have those things. I’m not trained and stability… not on my mind right now. I’m just an ex-reporter, not a ruthless killer, but you know what that gives me? The ability to call bullshit when I see it and it’s coming from you more than anyone here. That and a shit ton of guilt.”

    Monique’s eyes dilated slightly, transforming the scowl on Audrey’s face to a slight grin. A smile she kept as she stormed out of the room in silence.

    “Dr. Chapman, monitor the crystals while we are gone and ensure Audrey stays,” Monique ordered, snapping Randy and Elsie out of their daze.

    “That was pretty cold, French Fry,” Elsie acknowledged. “You sure–”

    “I am,” Monique responded, leaving the room without another word.

    *****

    The whistling wind across the barren landscape made the only noticeable sound as Zone Fighter, in his powered form, touched down a few meters behind Ultraseven. The warrior of light kept his back to Hikaru, his gaze transfixed on the growing white plague which infested all the land in front of him to the ocean’s edge.

    “You’ve come to stop me?”

    “No. I’ve come to ask you for time.” Hikaru pleaded.

    “Anyone could have asked this,” Ultraseven countered as he pointed to Hikaru, “But only you could threaten me if you ask for restraint and fail. Restraint which could jeopardize the Earth. I will not take that risk for two lives which can be saved by my garrison after I do what needs to be done.”

    “And what if they don’t have that time!?” Hikaru snapped. “What if they both die?”

    Ultraseven hesitated a moment, his mind flashing to the helpless alien beings whose dead bodies filled the space above their broken planet. “I do not wish to consider that possibility. If they do perish, then it will my failure, and I will carry that burden as I continue to protect his world.”

    “A burden?” Hikaru whispered, clenching his teeth as the statement echoed throughout his mind.

    “What gives you the right to demine their life?”

    Ultraseven’s voice remained calm as he responded, “Tens of thousands of years protecting life from those who wish to corrupt it. I’ve never deviated from this goal, unlike yourself.”

    Hikaru’s fist squeezed ever tighter while Ultraseven waived his hand from left to right, extending it toward Hikaru.

    “A being too focused on your selfish path of redemption to see he will cause the destruction of another world he wishes to protect.”

    Hikaru’s eyes parted in disbelief. His fists opened while the wind blew across his twitching face. In a flash, the astonishment faded as pure rage overtook Hikaru.

    “How… How dare… Zone Double Fight!”

    A shockwave of wind overtook Ultraseven’s body before a flash overtook his sight. As the sensory overload ended, a fist far greater in size than him slammed perpendicular into his body, launching Ultraseven like a pebble across a lake. His body bounced repeatedly, shattering a few random crystals which blocked his trajectory before his arms extended toward the sky in defiance.

    “Dwuwah!”

    Ultraseven’s true size, over eighty five meters in height, crashed feet first onto the ground and continued to slide across the surface until the shattering earth beneath his heels finally subsided his movement. No longer affected by Zone Fighter’s blitz, the warrior of light stepped out of the trench his feet dug from the strike and faced his opponent.

    Ultraseven’s whole body ached from the force of the strike. If he hadn’t blocked the punch at the last second, the blow surely would have crippled him. No matter, he could still move, and if Zone Fighter wished to end their dispute with a sparring session, he would oblige the few moments it would take.

    A battle cry roared from Zone Fighter, whose sprint lasted a second before he brought his right fist down upon Ultraseven. With his right palm, Ultraseven caught the blow before taking a step backward and dodging a second move as Zone Fighter launched a palm strike aimed at the warrior’s head. Infuriated, Zone Fighter lunged forward, merely for Ultraseven to duck under the attack and thrust his palm outward. The warrior of light’s hit impacted Zone Fighter’s chest, launching him off his feet and onto the ground a dozen meters away.

    Zone Fighter rolled across the barren earth, recovering to his feet just as fast as his fall and propelled himself at Ultraseven once more with a high kick. Ultraseven’s head jerked to the left at the last second and the mighty warrior grabbed ahold of Zone Fighter’s legs before launching him at the crystal fields which sprawled behind the warrior of light. Zone Fighter spun in the air, colliding with a few crystal formations before rolling across the ground and stopping at the basin of another crystal at least thirty meters tall. Zone Fighter hands dug into the rock in frustration as he pushed himself upward, revealing an unnaturally bright green hue as his color timer’s light shined against the black dirt.

    What was he thinking? Ultraseven wasn’t a monster he could pummel with little thought. In fact, with their respective experience gap, he was the monster in the brawl!

    Ultraseven’s shadow draped over Zone Fighter’s unmoving form, his right arm extended in a show of chivalry. Zone Fighter eyes looked upon the good natured display, but his fists remained clenched. In defiance, a mighty scream echoed from Hikaru.

    “Meteor Jet!”

    A sapphire aura exploded around Zone Fighter’s body, catching Ultraseven off guard as the Meteor Man’s right hand slammed onto Seven’s face. Both warriors took off at a blinding speed, the inertia of Zone Fighter’s launch allowing him to thrust Ultraseven’s head through pillars of crystals. Each formation shattered with ease, exploding into a fine white dust until a shockwave of telekinetic power from Ultraseven’s palms launched Zone Fighter skyward. The meteor man rotated in the air merely to shout, “Meteor Missile Might!”

    Silver bracelets snapped onto Zone Fighters wrists, but instead of pointing his arms toward Ultraseven, the azure alien pointed his hands to the sky and unleashed the entire barrage in a single shot. An explosive blaze engulfed the air above Zone Fighter, who used the concussive force of the blast to launch himself downward at Ultraseven, his legs pointed to deliver a crippling strike. Yet as he approached Ultraseven’s body, still sliding backward from the initial hit, the scarlet being vanished into thin air. Dirt rocketed upward as Zone Fighter touched down, implanting himself in the ground up to his knees until Ultraseven reformed from his teleportation and collided back into the unaware warrior fist first.

    Zone Fighter skidded backward from the impact, but a sudden flash of blue aura quickly overtook his form once more. The distance between the two warriors vanished in the blink of an eye before Zone Fighter unleashed his Meteor Punch. A dozen strikes bombarded Ultraseven’s body, pummeling him to the ground and allowing Zone Fighter to extend his hand outward toward the fallen protector.

    “Meteor Freezer!”

    A stream of white, coolant-like material vented from Zone Fighter’s hand’s tip toward Ultraseven, who began to roll away from the substance. The freezing coolant spewed across the black earth as Ultraseven hid behind a crystal to regain his bearings. A familiar flash overtook the warrior of light and his body teleported behind Zone Fighter.

    The Meteor Man spun in disbelief.

    An extended long kick to his abdomen returned sense to Zone Fighter.

    Zone Fighter continued to counter-attack, but every miss gave Ultraseven the perfect opening. As his strikes tore into Zone Fighter, Seven couldn’t help but notice the difference in experience.

    How many sparring sessions against fellow Ultramen did he undergo in his lifetime? How many monsters fell before him in battle? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? If not for this, Zone Fighter’s superior strength and varied arsenal could have proved threatening. But in the end, if HIkaru thought he could match a veteran of the Space Garrison…

    Zone Fighter yelled in defiance as he launched his fist forward, slamming it into the palm of Ultraseven’s left hand. Rock splintered beneath the warrior of light’s feet before Ultraseven’s right hand slammed into Zone Fighter’s chest cavity, unleashing a gurgled gasp from Hikaru before propelling him backward at least one hundred meters. Alien energy swirled atop Zone Fighter’s forehead crest while Ultraseven took a knee in preparation for a Wide Shot.

    …he would prove himself to be a pale imitation.

    Steam vented off Zone Fighter’s battle damaged body as the bright light faded from the ray’s collision. His legs trembled, his muscles stressing just to keep Hikaru upright, but the azure alien warrior would, no… he could not yield! His back legs stretched out, striking something which caused Zone Fighter to turn and discover the edge of a crystal sea.

    Hundreds of crystals, roughly fifty meters tall, stretched a half mile until the ocean’s waves. A rhythmic glow flowed from one edge of the formation to the other, a sign of the power they channeled to the anomalies he swore to protect, but as Zone Fighter returned his gaze to Ultraseven, his failure revealed itself.

    Ultraseven stood confidently within a blackened landscape devoid of any crystal structure. Shattered pieces of crystals rolled in the wind, evaporating into dust over the span of seconds, but no crystal stood undamaged from the battle. Zone Fighter’s fists clenched in anger..

    If the battle continued, not only would he lose to Ultraseven, but the crystals would surely be destroyed in the resulting confrontation. He couldn’t lure Ultraseven away like a rampaging beast, and while the crystal’s power kept his energy reserves replenished, at some point, his body would physically give out to the strain. As Zone Fighter thought, he moved his right leg backward into a defensive stance, merely to feel his leg’s weight disappear.

    Ultraseven burst forward, his steps launching rocks into the air merely for them to hover as he approached Zone Fighter. Hikaru felt every footstep of his adversary, yet his senses were instead trained on his back leg. Zone Fighter’s Zone Meter flashed from blue to red, immense power channeling through his body in preparation for what he needed to do.

    Ultraseven’s fist flew forward.

    Zone Fighter’s hands slammed against the ground.

    “Meteor Proton Cut!”

    Energy waves erupted from Zone Fighter, fracturing the earth beneath his body before the ground cracked in every direction like broken glass. Ultraseven slid backward from the force, watching the rock fracture, upheave and bend like water. The crystal sea behind Zone Fighter flowed like a wave as the rock they grew from split apart, releasing dust clouds into the air.

    A weary breath escaped Zone Fighter before a swift kick propelled him against the basin of a crystal, revealing the Zone Meter which blinked a dire red light. Zone Fighter’s head gradually tilted upward, discovering an extended hand from Ultraseven for him to grasp, but Hikaru shook his head side to side, causing the hand to raise into a striking pose. With swift movement, Ultraseven brought his right hand down upon his fallen adversary, yet an expected cracking sound stopped his attack mere inches above Zone Fighter’s head.

    Ultraseven glanced to the landscape behind him, hearing the ground screech and moan as rock upheaved through the fractured earth. Further cracks erupted across the already splintered earth as rock and crystal gradually began to take to the air.

    “Meteor.”

    Ultraseven’s gaze shifted back to Zone Fighter, the forming fissures’ echos nearly deafening all other sound.

    “Storm.”

    A violent crack thundered around Zone Fighter and Ultraseven. In a dark flash, their vision became an endless wall of black.

    Rock overtook Ultraseven’s body, bouncing him around in every direction as it smashed against him. Cracks of light beamed through the ocean of rock only for the flowing earth to seal the breach as more fissures formed. With every second, Ultraseven’s body shook, convulsing as super-heated air flowed through the cracks. As a crystal smashed against his face, Ultraseven’s fists clenched. Energy surged through his being before he blasted through the earth around him. The concussive force tore apart the ground around the alien, allowing him to recover to his feet. As he arose, Ultraseven glanced in every direction to discover a sea of ascending rock.

    Chunks of blackened rock, crystal and smaller debris floated in the atmosphere like an asteroid field as far as his eyes could see. Some pieces the size of his fist while others dwarfed even Ultraseven, with large, crystalline structures attached to their form like an inorganic cancer. As the crimson warrior walked to the edge of the ground he stood upon, shock coursed through the being as he noticed himself now miles above the Earth’s surface. Shock gradually replaced rage.

    How could he let this happen? To risk the Earth to allow someone to vent their foolish rage. He was reckless in sparring with Zone Fighter, but wher-

    A steady yell drew the attention of Ultraseven to a massive chunk of floating rock a mile out. Red lightning swirled in the distance against a being growing in power. Shockwaves erupted from the blinding display, vaporizing chunks of earth floating too close. As harsh winds began to flow past Ultraseven from the display of power, the crimson warrior channeled immense energy into his right arm for the Wide Shot.

    Ultraseven felt sorrow in his actions, but he couldn’t hold back any longer. If Zone Fighter wished to escalate the battle, to endanger the world he held so dear, Ultraseven would regrettably oblige.

    Zone Fighter relinquished his scream, staggering forward while his head hung low. Glowing veins of crimson power flowed across his arms. His light timer emitted the brightest blue light he’d ever seen. Lightning danced across the warrior’s body, striking the ground and the tips of nearby, floating crystals.

    Critical Mass.

    There was no doubt within Hikaru’s mind he attained the form. A power he could use to rival an Ultra, to fulfill the promise he made to Audrey and ensure her world would not be lost. A few scattered tears rolled from Hikaru’s yellow eyes as he briefly remembered the promise he made to himself years ago. Gradually, his mind returned to the present, noticing the red figure of Ultraseven in the distance.

    Ultraseven was right. Selfishness did drive Hikaru.

    “Critical…”

    A colossal blue aura enveloped Zone Fighter, unleashing a shockwave of energy which launched pieces of hovering earth in all directions no matter the size. Red lightning intensified across the azure alien’s body, his muscles expanding as he focused his power, creating a constant stream of azure energy which flowed around his body like water.

    The desire to be a hero who kept their word. To ensure no human or creature felt the pain of losing all they cared for. He would be the only one to feel the sorrow of a world lost!

    “Meteor…”

    Zone Fighter’s body moved to a sprinting position. The earth beneath his back foot cracked violently from a simple step, sending fractures throughout the one-hundred-meter round sphere of rock he stood upon. The tears across his face evaporated into steam and flowed around the determined eyes of Hikaru who solely focused on Ultraseven.

    Ultraseven’s body snapped to a pose with his right arm pointed upward as his left arm touched his right elbow. Blinding power erupted from the length of Seven’s right arm, pushing the rock Ultraseven stood upon backward as it vaporized all in its way toward Zone Fighter, who remained as rigid as stone in a ball of uncontrollable aura.

    No matter the opponent, Hikaru knew he couldn’t turn away from this battle. If Ultraseven wished to challenge him, to test how far he would go to ensure no one felt the despair within him…

    “Jet!”

    The one hundred-meter round sphere Zone Fighter stood upon shattered like glass as he blitzed off its form into the incoming ray. The blue meteor trailed across the sky and struck the ray, yet instead of detonating, Zone Fighter’s form rocketed through the attack in a second. Ultraseven’s eyes went wide, an almost silent gasp echoing as time slowed to a crawl in the presence of the Meteor Man. Beneath the sapphire aura, the defiant eyes of Zone Fighter stared back. Hikaru swung his right arm outward, shattering the Wide-Shot in a single swipe and forming a fist, glistening with unfathomable power.

    …then he would regrettably oblige.

    “Meteor Fist!”

    *****

    Moll’s eyes burst open as she felt the agony of Ultraseven, pivoting her gaze to the darkened sky littered with rock and lightning. Her mind raced with questions and statements. Her eyes twitched, tears forming across the perimeters of her eyes before she reasserted her stern expression. The Elias’ eyes closed, a calm breath flowing softly from her mouth as she returned to a meditative position. As a second breath exited, Moll opened her eyes to discover her folded hands shaking ever so minutely. Without any further hesitation, Moll closed her eyes once more and focused not on the two battling warriors, but a figure thousands of miles away.

    Glowing specks coalesced within a cavern filled with little light and an overwhelming amount of mechanical contraptions. Robotic creatures, not active, but their insides spilled out for all to see, lay randomly scattered across the cavern floor as a lone figure, with short black hair draped over her goggles, welded armor. The female’s attention gradually focused on the forming light a few feet from her, and as Moll’s appearance formed, the mechanic pulled off her goggles and unleashed an annoyed glare.

    “Hello sis, wondered when you’d finally get back,” Belvera noted as she pulled herself from underneath one of her newest creations. Her hands brushed across her abdomen, wiping away dust which revealed long, embedded stains of grease across her over designed leather dress. As her uncaring glare returned to Moll, Belvera leaned against the machine she just worked beneath. “So, what mess you get yourself in?”

    “How did…” Moll stated with shock in her voice. Belvera rolled her eyes. “Look, I’m not dumb. You’d only speak to me if there was a problem or if you weren’t attached to the hip with…

    Belvera’s brow raised as she looked around her home before returning to the glowing form of Moll.

    “Oh.”

    “Fairy is no more. Lora’s gone, or she might be lost and to search for her could risk the world. I need your help, sister.”

    Belvera let loose an annoyed breath, her eyes closing from the overreaction as she walked to a damaged Garu-Garu. “No. You don’t.”

    Moll’s eyes widened, her face changing from sorrow to anger. “How can you turn your back on your sisters? How can you be this childish in the face of global-”

    “Shut it!” Belvera snapped, refusing to look at her sister as she looked over the damaged machine. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on. I honestly don’t care, but the childish one isn’t me, it’s you. Always been you.”

    Moll’s eyes focused, her fury increasing as Belvera continued, “The moment you lost Lora last time with Grand King Ghidorah, you decided to risk changing all of time by sending Mothra to the past. For someone so put together, you didn’t think to request aid of the humans or other guardians. No, risk changing all of time. Great plan, sister!”

    “Lora and the children would have died if I didn’t act!”

    “But you didn’t. You froze, sis,” Belvera asserted. Slowly, the dark Elias turned to her sister, her hand placed across her forehead in frustration. “You two rely so much on each other, you freak out the moment you’re not side by side. So stop talking to me and do something productive.”

    The fury from Moll’s eyes gradually vanished as a soft smile of appreciation formed across her face.

    “Thank you, sister,” Moll responded as she began to fade. Sparks of energy flowed from her form, deconstructing her essence as Moll stated, “I too hope you will heed your own words.”

    In a flash of light Moll vanished from the room. Light drained from every corner of the cavern with her departure, leaving Belvera staring off in a dark void. Without any hindrance, Belvera walked back to her Garu-Garu. Tools clanged as they dropped to the floor. A soft thud echoed as Belvera sat down and maneuvered beneath her mechanical companion, yet as her hand moved to grab a tool, a fist formed which smacked across the cold ground in frustration. As quickly as the fist was created, the priestess’ hand extended, allowing Belvera’s fingernails to tap against the floor while she thought.

    *****

    Randy looked to the sky in awe for a moment, watching red lightning encompass the congested blue sky, but the sound of helicopter blades spinning attracted his attention back to a sleek, black helicopter to his right. With a quick jump, Randy dived into the boarding bay which housed an already seated Jet Jaguar before the vehicle took off. A look of ire projected to the pilot, but he knew deep down she didn’t really care.

    “Trying to ditch me?” Randy yelled.

    “Take a seat,” Monique retorted without batting an eye.

    Randy climbed atop a seat merely to glance out of the ascending helicopter and spot a woman with flowing, blonde hair. Even as she grew smaller, the dot proved unavoidable to Randy’s sight. A breath of resentment vented from Randy who slammed his head back against his seat in visible protest.

    *****

    In a sea of floating rock, a cone-shaped void suddenly formed with Ultraseven at its apex, the impression of Zone Fighter’s fist still embedded into the right side of his face. Shaking off the attack, the warrior of light jettisoned into the debris field, unsure where his foe hid, until the sky cracked with thunder. Crimson missiles illuminated the floating rocks above Ultraseven, sending shivers down the warrior’s spine.

    The storm descended upon Ultraseven with unending fury. Fire and red bolts obliterated the debris field Ultrasven traversed through while the warrior felt the shockwaves ripple through his body, his flight mere meters away from the full explosive wrath of Zone Fighter. Bolts of energy lanced across his form, scorching his armor. Yet Ultraseven defiantly flew on.

    Seven’s eyes darted across the debris field for a place to turn the tide. He needed a place to get his footing, to think to… there! Ultraseven’s body spun ninety degrees, allowing himself to kick off a rock and jettison to the rotating chunk of mass below him while the debris field behind him vanished in a shockwave of fire.

    Nearly five hundred meters in diameter, the largest chunk of what once was half the island rotated gradually as the small cluster of crystals across its edges sparked with cosmic power. The floating mound of rock shuttered as Ultraseven crashed upon its surface, its rotation stopping briefly from the force of the warrior’s impact before another impact reversed its rotation.

    Ultraseven’s gaze shifted to a sparkling, sapphire aura that encompassed all in front of his vision. For a brief moment, he watched as the azure field diminish, Zone Fighter’s piercing, furious glare burning the memory within Ultraseven’s mind before he burst forth and slammed his right, glowing fist against Ultraseven’s abdomen. Ultraseven gasped violently, bending to the gut punch, but the blow proved the first of many. A series of earth shattering punches in the span of a second slammed across Ultraseven’s body. Transparent, circular voids of superheated air materialized with every hit until a final strike against the Ultra’s face sent the crimson warrior cresting around the floating mound of rock and allowed the sonic booms which formed to violently echo like thunder.

    Ultraseven’s body circumvented the spherical mass of rock, his arms extended forward from the shear force of the strike, but with a turn, his flight became a sprint, running at full speed with a plan formulating on how to end his defiant foe.

    Zone Fighter’s head gradually crested over the rock’s horizon, acting as the target for Ultraseven who leaped into the air for a high kick. The Meteor Man’s right arm collided with Ultraseven’s strike, flipping and rotating the crimson figure through the air. Upon rotating to face Hikaru while upside down, Ultraseven detached the weapon attached to his forehead, the Eye Slugger, and launched it like a boomerang. The Meteor Man evaded just out of the weapon’s range, sidestepping the projectile to launch a fist into Ultraseven’s head. In a flash, the crimson warrior vanished, reforming behind Hikaru and continuing his body’s rotation, to slam his right foot into the back of Zone Fighter’s head.

    Ultraseven hit the ground rolling, looking behind himself to see the Ultra Slugger crest the horizon before turning to face Zone Fighter as he charged towards him.

    Seven seconds. It was all the time he needed.

    Ultraseven’s shoulders glowed as he gathered power, channeling it into his right arm which surged forth with an open palm and hit air, yet a dozen meters away, Zone Fighter stopped in place. Telekinetic powers froze the Meteor Man where he stood, but willpower pushed him ever closer to Ultraseven. Finally, Zone Fighter’s Meteor Jet returned with a surge, pushing him so close he could clearly see his shadow over Ultraseven, the red bolts cascading across his body singing Seven’s armor. With a simple hand gesture, the crimson warrior raised his left hand, lifting his fingers in unison.

    Realizing something amiss, Zone Fighter redirected his propulsion to the left side of his body, moving a dozen meters to the right before a familiar weapon burst forth from the ground beneath his feet. The Eye Slugger sliced open Hikaru’s chest, making the red lightning bolt on his armor run red with his own blood before it flew past the spot his head use to be.

    Hikaru screamed for the heavens to hear, staggering backward merely for Ultraseven to cross his slash by cutting across Zone Fighter’s chest from right to left. Another echo of anguish resonated from Hikaru before he fired a Meteor Zone Slice. The golden arrow struck the Eye Slugger’s energized blade, shattering upon impact into an explosion of sparks.

    Miniature projectiles blanketed Ultraseven’s form, piercing his crimson armor in dozens of locations. Beams of pure light that encompased his very essence shined out of the warrior of light while his Eye Slugger sparked with dysfunction, forcing Ultraseven to sheathe the weapon. Drained from the fragment’s damage, Ultraseven turned toward Zone Fighter as the Peacelandian slammed into him using his Meteor Jet.

    Zone Fighter’s hands clutched Ultraseven’s throat and squeezed with all his might, smashing the warrior of light through the endless floating debris field as they plummeted to the surface. With every rock which Ultraseven’s head plowed through, he smashed his fist against Zone Fighter’s body. A strike against the slash across his chest prompted Zone Fighter to release his grip, allowing Ultraseven to spin and slam his left foot forward. Zone Fighter’s body vanished into a dust-filled haze, prompting Ultraseven to slow his descent. Hikaru reappeared in an instant, grabbing ahold of Ultraseven’s head and launching himself downward once more.

    The warrior of light’s body flashed, fading out of existence and forming behind Hikaru, placing Zone Fighter into a chokehold. Zone Fighter’s right elbow slammed into Ultraseven’s side. Again and again the mighty blows struck Ultraseven until finally he gasped in pain. The choke hold’s strength melted away and Zone Fighter spiraled to deliver a mighty blow across Ultraseven’s face. Keeping pace with Zone Fighter’s strike, Ultraseven returned the blow with one of his own.

    Ultraseven’s left hand smashed across Zone Fighter’s head.

    Zone Fighter slammed his fist into Ultraseven’s nose.

    Ultraseven screamed in defiance, uppercutting Zone Fighter’s chin.

    Hikaru bellowed with fury, launching his knee into Ultraseven’s abdomen.

    The blows continued to trade, each savage hit more violent than the last. Rocks exploded from the two’s trajectory, each unwilling to focus on anything other than the other fighter. Ultraseven and Zone Fighter’s hands slammed together, each trying to force the other back, but sheer willpower kept both on equal standing. Each let go of the other, smashing their respective right hands into their opponent’s head before putting some slight space between their foe to unleash their signature weapons.

    Hikaru screamed in fury as the jewel atop his head channeled immense power, shining as bright as a star.

    Ultraseven bellowed in rage, forming an L with his arms that glowed with insurmountable energy.

    The Earth silenced them both.

    Two, monstrous plumes of dust trailed into the air while the island trembled from their respective impacts. Rock rained across the landscape, creating a thin cloud of dust just above the ground which now barely possessed enough land to stay above sea level. From the silence that encompassed the isle, a red humanoid slowly rose from his crater.

    The once stoic Ultra staggered onto higher ground, his movement sluggish compared to just a few moments prior. Seven gradually scanned the landscape for any sign of Zone Fighter, expecting to see him in a similar state or unable to stand within his own crater; however, as Ultraseven finished glancing over the area, he discovered no trace of the Meteor Man

    Surely Zone Fighter’s body couldn’t have been completely vaporized from the ensuing impact. Could it be another ability? Cloaking, perhaps, or speed great enough to to prevent-

    Ultraseven’s face snapped right. A shockwave of force rippled across his head while his body stumbled backward in response. The warrior’s arms flailed through the open air as he fumbled, trying to strike whatever hit him but as he recovered, Ultraseven glanced across the blackened landscape, watching a human-sized being wearing azure, alien armor touch down upon the Earth.

    An endless repetition of harsh breathing plagued Hikaru’s ears. He lacked the strength to stay in his monstrous form, but even without his size or Critical Mass, he still possessed the strength of Zone Fighter, the will to press his body far beyond its limit and the foolishness to continue a fight he surely couldn’t win. No matter the odds, for as long as Ultraseven still threatened the world he promised to defend, he could not allow Ultraseven to win. With a defiant scream, Hikaru jettisoned himself toward Ultraseven and swung his right fist in defiance.

    *****

    Inside the cockpit of a transport helicopter on the U.S.S. Cowpens, Audrey desperately searched for some type of guide or easy start up booklet for the craft she wished to commodere. She needed to understand the dozens of switches, buttons and levers across the control panel. If she didn’t Nick could… Audrey banished the thought and continued her frantic search.

    She only had a few minutes until some crew or Elsie found her, and she couldn’t convince them to join her. With the vehicle marked as hazardous from damaged rotors from Cyber-Godzilla’s attack and its filters infiltrated with remnants of ash, no sane person would dare fly with her even…

    “Hello, Mrs. Tatopoulos.”

    Audrey’s body spun ninety degrees in fright, slamming against the side of the craft. Terrified eyes looked over the tiny human who stood upon the seat next to her, but as quickly as terror entered her, anger returned in force. Veins popped from Audrey’s forehead as she leaned closer to Moll.

    “Give me one reason I shouldn’t throw you out of this thing.”

    Moll’s hands shook briefly. Her gaze remained unfocused, shifting with every breath but gradually her hands became rigid, her posture every more defiant.

    “I have failed as a protector of Earth for the days that have past. My selfish desire to avoid the mistakes I’ve made has placed lives, innocent and good-natured, in peril that I can not ignore any longer. To correct these mistakes, I will help you search for those that are lost.”

    Audrey’s face turned white in shock, but her composure quickly recovered, unamused at the shift.

    “How exactly, are you,” Audrey exclaimed as she pointed to the priestess with her index finger, “going to help me? Can you fly this thing? No, then how?”

    A confident smile appeared on Moll’s face, vanishing into a great shadow which blanketed not only the helicopter, but the vessel as well.

    “I would recommend you hold onto something Mrs. Tatopoulos.”

    Audrey rapidly strapped herself into her seat merely for the entire craft to shutter, shaking wildly as it flew off the ground in the grasp of Mothra Leo. The U.S.S. Cowpens swayed from the hurricane force winds. Men screamed in fright, with some firing their guns in self-defense, but the ship remained upright, allowing its members to watch the guardian fly toward the white anomaly with a helicopter in its grasp.

    Deep breathing echoed inside the craft from Audrey while the steel hull creaked from Mothra’s claws.

    “Wait, what about Hikaru? If Mothra’s carrying us in, who’s going to help him?”

    Moll jumped atop the console and glanced over the horizon to the crimson, humanoid figure in the distance. Her eyes closed once more in concentration, focusing upon Zone Fighter’s mind and the memories within. She could perform no action to help the struggling warrior, only words and they would need to be enough.

    *****

    Hikaru’s human-sized right arm collided with Seven’s right fist, creating a shockwave of air to erupt. The ground beneath Seven cracked in all directions from the force while pressure jettisoned Hikaru back toward the ground as a sickening snap echoed for both to hear. Hikaru touched down at an angle and continued to slide across the ground at a pace he couldn’t control, creating a dust trail as he desperately tried to slow himself with his extended left arm merely for a pile of rock to intercept his path.

    Jagged rocks smashed into Hikaru’s back and cranium. All the air within his lungs immediately vacated as blood spewed from his jaws. The mighty warrior fell forward, colliding with the charred earth without any attempt to catch himself.

    Harsh breathing escaped from Hikaru’s lips. Sight became nothing more to Hikaru than a constant blur. Blood seeped across the earth from his horribly fractured right arm and ruptured bruises across his body. If he could actually feel the full damage his body sustained, Hikaru couldn’t imagine the immense agony he’d experience. The warrior pressed against the ground in defiance, desperately trying to lift his minuscule weight with his left arm, but pain and fatigue chained him against the ground. Repeatedly Hikaru tried to raise himself, screaming against his inability until tears gradually began to fall from Hikaru’s eyes.

    How could a hero break the promises he swore with all his heart to uphold?

    How could he fail when so many needed him…

    Ultraseven watched Zone Fighter’s human body remain stagnant, a weary breath venting as he realized the fight was finally at an end. The battle was one he never wished to fight, proving far closer than he ever thought possible, but at last, he could do what the universe needed. The anomalies represented a threat to all life on the planet, and a single human or a monster could not compare to the billions of lives at risk. If Zone Fighter lived, Ultraseven wished he would understand. The crimson warrior of light’s shoulder guards began to glisten with energy once more, his gaze turned to the sky and power sparked across his arms. With one final blast of his Wide Shot, the crystal blight upon the world would be brought to a swift end and the anomalies along with them.

    The ground beneath Hikaru’s face began to sharpen in detail as the dizziness gradually began to fade and the pain, long dulled by his state of mind, struck him with the force of a tsunami. An earth-shattering migraine took control of the warrior’s mind, nearly deafening all of his other basic senses excluding the pain, so much so his body barely registered a gentle wind which blew past the fallen warrior.

    “You’ve given up?”

    Hikaru’s eyes widened from the voice. His mind briefly cleared from the question and his head jolted back in response. A being of light, one a few inches in size took shape in front of Hikaru who barely registered the new form. As the spirit finished forming, Moll opened her eyes to gaze upon Hikaru’s struggling form.

    “How? Why?” Hikaru mumbled at a loss of words.

    “Your mind is not clear. I am here to mend those wounds, to help the woman you desperately seek to protect from the misery you know so well.”

    Tears and droplets of blood struck the rock beneath Hikaru’s head which sunk in despair. “I couldn’t keep my word… I never could… ”

    The priestess turned away from the Meteor Man, gazing upon the crimson humanoid who stood ready to obliterate the floating field of crystals hundreds of meters above them.

    “I can not deny your path in life is filled with despair. The great loss you’ve experienced, I would not wish it upon even the most heinous being. But from your dread derives a gift not even I possess. In your memories, and even today, I can see no matter how desperate or hopeless a fight, you always stood for those that can’t stand for themselves. I, in my times of weakness, can not say the same.”

    Moll’s stoic stance broke for just a moment, eyes wandering to the ground in self-doubt before her pose returned, her head held high.

    “Now, like you’ve done so many times,” Moll asserted, raising her right arm upward with a clenched fist and a smile glowing with confidence. “Stand once more, Hikaru.”

    Moll’s essence faded into glittering sparks of residual energy, revealing Ultraseven’s figure in the distance to Hikaru whose eyes focused upon him like a hawk. A spark of resistance flashed within Hikaru’s eyes. The warrior smashed his left arm into the ground, fracturing the rigid earth for dozens of meters in all directions as he easily pushed himself up, agony unable to halt his movement. Hikaru staggered to his feet, blood dripping off his form as he took a fighting pose. With Seven no longer focusing on him and needing a boost of adrenaline, Hikaru grabbed his shattered right arm and pressed against fractured bone .

    Broken bone impacted torn muscle, unleashing a shockwave of pain from the corresponding nerves. The desperately needed boost of adrenaline flowed hand in hand with agony through Hikaru’s beaten body. His eyes bolted open. Teeth scraped against the other. Slight growls echoed as Hikaru desperately held his breath before he unleashed a yell with the force of a monster’s roar.

    “SEEEEVVVVVEEENNN!”

    Ultraseven’s gaze pivoted to the destitute landscape as a war cry echoed past him and an explosion of dust jettisoned skyward. The warrior of light instantly brought up his arms in the form of an X, ready to deflect the incoming assault. He couldn’t see his adversary’s miniature form, but he knew a strike would be imminent.

    Hikaru felt himself rocket through the air at a speed never experienced in his human form. His left fist condensed so tightly that blood oozed from the open wounds across it.

    One final punch. With his right arm shattered and his adrenaline fading fast, he needed one definitive strike against his opponent and as his target neared, Hikaru brought his fist down with all the monstrous force of Zone Fighter.

    Inhuman strength shattered the earth opposing Hikaru’s punch. Fissures split beneath Ultraseven’s stance. The warrior of light’s defensive stature loosened, parting the warrior’s arms as Hikaru’s form jettisoned directly up and glided mere feet from the warrior of light’s chest. Hikaru’s legs retracted, his eyes remained focused upon his target and as Ultraseven’s jawline neared, Hikaru unleashed one final warcry of defiance.

    “METEOR STRIKE!”

    The defiant Peacelander’s war cry echoed as his legs jettisoned forward, striking the bottom jaw of Ultraseven. Seven’s head jolted back instantly. The crossed arms of Ultraseven flung into the air like a ragdoll, his body momentarily lifting into the air before crashing back down, head-first, with a colossal thud. Ultraseven’s head rolled to the right, his fingers twitched and subconsciousness gradually took hold of the valiant defender of Earth.

    A mere blue dot rotating high above the ground, Hikaru’s body spun like a leaf caught in the wind. His bloodshot eyes looked over Ultraseven’s fallen body with terror but as he remained stagnant, a smile of relief formed on Hikaru’s face. Tears of victory rolled from the warrior’s eyes as a new sensation suppressed the pain of his shattered body, intensifying as he noticed Mothra Leo fly through the white anomaly.

    The satisfaction of a promise kept and a world saved from destruction.

    Winner: Zone Fighter

    K.W.C. // June 20, 2019
  • Often remembered in her country as “The Eternal Virgin” (as well as “The Goddess of Militarism” and “The Goddess of Democracy,” depending on which section of her career one wishes to focus on), Setsuko Hara first appeared on cinema screens as a teenager when she was cast in 1935’s Don’t Hesitate, Young Folks, produced by Nikkatsu. Two years and ten films later, she rose to immense popularity with The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai, a Japan-Nazi Germany co-production whose success sent her on an international voyage and—it was hoped—a career in the west. For German filmmaker Arnold Fanck, the young actress (who he claimed to have discovered on the set of Sadao Yamanaka’s 1936 The Priest of Darkness), evoked a pure “Japaneseness” ideal for his picture’s heroine*; for the domestic co-producers, however, she embodied an opportunity to inaugurate a more prominent stream of Japanese film exports and establish the most globally recognized Asian actress since Anna May Wong.

    To a certain extent, the producers’ hope was realized. Regular exports of Japanese film did not become a thing for a while and Hara never enjoyed a career in Hollywood, but they’d found a star and gradually got her recognized abroad. In 1937, the press scrambled to cover Hara’s visit to Germany, for which she attended the Berlin premiere of The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai, stayed at the luxurious Eden Hotel, and shook hands with several of Germany’s top film stars as well as the Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels. And even though the film was not shown theatrically in the U.S., she ended up traversing to America to meet Marlene Dietrich and Spencer Tracy, even celebrating her seventeenth birthday aboard the Queen Mary. In 1939, she was chosen to embody “the face of Japan” at the New York World Fair.

    Hara remained in the Japanese public eye throughout the remainder of the ‘30s, soon seguing into films championing militaristic politics (as international tensions were escalating into what became World War II). Since Japanese screen performers were not persecuted by the western occupying forces who took over Japan after the 1945 surrender, she was allowed to continue working into the postwar years, now appearing in films favoring democratic ideals pushed by the Americans; and when Japan’s first post-surrender print poster (a colossal color ad for Shiseido Cosmetics) appeared in the fall of 1946, it was Hara’s face that was used to represent “the emergence of the postwar modern nation of Japan, including the Japanese new woman.” (In all of this, we can see why the actress obtained the two “Goddess” monikers listed above.)

    But, of course, it was mainly through the exposure of her work in the 1950s that Hara attained true international prominence. Though much of it reached foreign audiences after her sudden retirement in the 1960s**, these later films were the ones that came closest to realizing the sort of recognition the producers of The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai had hoped their starlet would receive in 1937. To this day, Setsuko Hara has been the subject of considerable attention in numerous film events, including the 56th Berlin International Film Festival in 2011; and back in 2000, fifteen years before her death at the age of 95, she was chosen by Kinema Jumpo magazine as the greatest Japanese film actress of the 20th century—her six films with Yasujiro Ozu no doubt having been first and foremost in the voters’ minds.

    It is because of this default association of Hara and Ozu that I have chosen to exclude their collaborations from this list. Despite my immense admiration for Late Spring (1949), Early Summer (1951), Tokyo Story (1953), Tokyo Twilight (1957), Late Autumn (1960), and The End of Summer (1961), none of them will make an appearance going forward. Hara made a number of very noteworthy pictures with other directors in the course of her too-brief career (which lasted less than three decades), and it is a handful of those less-talked-about films which shall be saluted here.

     

    Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky

    #10. TOWARD THE DECISIVE BATTLE IN THE SKY

    The first movie to appear on this list is something of a nonconformist choice, as it is not a picture I would recommend to anyone on the basis of quality or entertainment. Like many of the “spiritist” propaganda films spat up by Japan during the second world war, Kunio Watanabe’s Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky (1943) is perfectly sufficient from a technical standpoint (well shot and put together) and boasts an array of very fine performances; unfortunately, it is also like many of its brethren in that it is cloyingly simplistic and so superficial in its “characterizations” that it ultimately proves to be ridiculous and, more often than not, simply boring.

    The story revolves around a family, the Marumatsus, who regularly receive visits from local military trainees. The cadets come by ostensibly to rest, but their primary purpose in stopping by is to share cheery stories from their training sessions—stories their hosts are all too eager to hear. The family is excited and proud to be in the presence of young men who’re not only prepping for war but who are actually excited to die in battle (as voiced in a song the characters themselves write***; none of these boys expect to come back alive). And in the picture’s absurdly jovial denouement, the Marumatsus beam with elation as the cadets depart for certain death in the Pacific—their pride further enhanced by the fact that the young son of the family has started prepping for military training himself.

    I chose to begin this list with a national policy film mainly to exemplify an important chapter in Setsuko Hara’s life and career. As touched on earlier, Hara was, due to her star status, a regular presence in nationalistic/jingoistic propaganda films of the ‘30s and ‘40s, and she even had familial ties to people with aggressive wartime politics****. (Another curious detail: unlike other movie stars of her time, such as frequent co-star Susumu Fujita, she never, in any document I’ve come across, expressed regret for her involvement in military recruitment pictures or movies championing the Japanese invasion of the Far East.) Her character in Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky is a textbook example of the Japanese “spiritist” woman: a movie stereotype of the time encompassing mothers, sisters, etc. who openly support the men in their lives (lovers, children, etc.) going to war—without expressing, even in private, the slightest ounce of sadness*****. These women are honored to see those close to them perish for the honor of the nation; when mothers cry upon learning of the deaths of their loved ones, they shed tears of pride, not sorrow.

    In the case of this film, Hara plays the oldest daughter in the Marumatsu family, whose unapologetic admiration for the army inspires a new generation of nationalistic fighters in the form of her little brother, himself transforming from a weakling into a proud soldier-in-training. Hara had played an imperial soldier’s sibling the year before, in Kajiro Yamamoto’s The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya (1942), but in that picture, she was confined mostly to standing in the background and had no influence over the narrative or anyone around her; here, she is up front and center—ostensibly the star—giving a vivacious performance, and plays an active role in persuading her bedridden sibling to man up and enter the services. Viewed with a certain historical context, the character—and the film—has an air of fascination to it; and on that level, I’d argue it’s one of Hara’s most important movies and, therefore, worth seeing.

     

    #9. HERE’S TO THE YOUNG LADY

    After the surrender of 1945, Setsuko Hara’s reign as “The Goddess of Militarism” came to an end. For the next seven years, every film she made would be subject to an entirely different set of political agendas. More details can be found in my article on Kurosawa’s Those Who Make Tomorrow (1945), but in short: when the Allied Powers (namely, the United States) took over the Land of the Rising Sun from 1945-1952, it was with the intent of “democratizing” and “westernizing” the country and its people. This in turn led to some major restructuring of Japanese society and the complete and total supervision of Japanese media. Until the end of the occupation, everything from literature to the motion picture industry would be scrutinized in great detail prior to being released to the public.

    During this time, “feudalistic” traditions such as arranged marriages and miai (the practice of setting up meetings between prospective marriage partners) were frowned upon by the Americans (who wanted to push the idea of young people deciding on their own who they will marry—i.e., marrying for love as opposed to tradition), though there were some instances where films tackling these subjects could still receive a general release. The romantic comedy Here’s to the Young Lady (1949) begins with a successful automotive entrepreneur (played by Shuji Sano) being reluctantly talked into attending a miai. He’s 34 years old and needs to find a wife as soon as possible—or so says a business associate who hounds him into agreeing to meet the girl in question. Sano has no interest in marriage and shows up at the miai determined to make a disaster of it, insisting on an unromantic locale (a bar) and showing up in his work clothes. But when he sees the woman (Setsuko Hara) and is dumbstruck by her beauty, he rashly agrees to marry her and is surprised when she accepts his proposal.

    However, as it turns out, there’s more to this arrangement than meets the eye. The woman’s family, a once-wealthy aristocratic group, has since fallen into poverty and is looking to wed off their daughter in hopes of gaining an in-law who can provide a secure future for everyone. (Sano was chosen because of his success as a businessman.) Furthermore, the girl had a fiancé who died some time ago and, as she admits, she used up all her love on him and finds it difficult to express affection for anyone now. After many trials and tribulations regarding class and lifestyle differences, Sano, despite his love for Hara, calls off the wedding (but gives the family a check to save themselves) and departs for a visit to his hometown—only to have Hara chase after him, as she’s fallen in love with him as well. It might’ve been this portrayal of an arranged marriage being initiated by people interested solely in capital gain and the ultimate depiction of two people deciding to be together out of love that convinced the censors to let it get through. That the girl’s imprisoned father encourages her to ignore the family’s plans and find someone who makes her happy might’ve also played in the film’s favor. (Also possible is this unflattering portrayal came about per the censors’ suggestions, since the record shows they initially objected to some of the film’s subject matter******.)

    Here’s to the Young Lady marked the first and only time Hara worked with the versatile director Keisuke Kinoshita, and it is not one of her finest hours. While her unrivaled good looks certainly fit the physical demands of the part, Hara overplays (underplays?) the “ill-at-ease” aspect of her character to the point of not being very interesting. Instead, the strength of the film is evoked through the people surrounding her. Sano, in particular, is delightful, as is Keiji Sada as the brother with romantic woes of his own. The women who work at the bar where the miai takes place—which itself becomes a recurring setting throughout the film—are also quite likable. The movie ultimately fares as an enjoyable romantic comedy which just so happens to co-star Setsuko Hara—as opposed to an all-out great film exhibiting the actress at her peak.

     

    #8. THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

    Like a good many of the major Japanese film artists of her generation, Setsuko Hara had no childhood aspirations to work in the movies. Rather, her dream job in youth was to one day become a teacher; but, due to her family’s poor financial status at the time, she was never able to attain the education necessary for such a profession. It is strangely fitting, therefore, that fourteen years into her career, she would play a teacher in one of her most fascinating roles. Though one can only wonder: had her teaching career come to fruition, would she have become even half as progressive and challenging to the social norm as the educator she played in Tadashi Imai’s two-part drama The Blue Mountains (1949)?

    Based on Yojiro Ishizaka’s novel of the same name, the film stars Hara as a free-minded English teacher at an all-girls school. She works in a small town in which the residents are still reluctant to adopt the democratic views of the postwar era; this is a place where if two teenagers of the opposite sex are seen walking side by side in public, they become objects of scorn and mockery among their peers. When such circumstances befall one of her own pupils, Hara decides to take a stand, denouncing what she perceives to be the closed-minded views of the past; and this attitude, in turn, filters out to make the entire town question its own ethics and beliefs.

    The Blue Mountains was precisely the sort of film which would’ve appealed to the occupation censors: a liberal drama defiant of outmoded feudal values and loaded with unambiguous dialogue. Consider some of the lines used when Hara challenges the bullies in her classroom: “Walking with a boy or knowing boys is not some immoral act, and to think so is very old-fashioned. I would like you to stop thinking that way. Dating boys and being honest about your feelings is perfectly natural.” As the scene continues, she calls into question whether the tormentors went after their pupil for the honor of the school or if they used that antiquated notion as an excuse to bully. “To fetter individuals in the name of ‘the family’ or of ‘the nation’ [has] been the greatest wrong in Japan.”

    In another crucial scene, Hara is walking home with the town doctor (Ichiro Ryuzaki, who bears a certain resemblance to Toshiro Mifune) when he essentially speaks for the town with his conservative and nigh-misogynistic views. “I know there is a new constitution and new laws, but […] all the girls leave school and get married. Then they get bullied by their female in-laws. And their husbands will often hit them. They put up with this life, and just when they think they’ve got enough money to have it a bit easier, their husbands start drinking and chasing other women.” To which Hara responds, “It’s as if you’re saying you want to keep this town like that.” In scenes following their conversation, the doctor becomes an ally to Hara and fights alongside her in the struggle for acceptance and change within their town.

    Much like the wartime propaganda films of the early to mid-1940s, The Blue Mountains is a fascinating if not especially subtle time capsule reflecting political diatribes occurring within Japan at the time; but it’s vastly entertaining compared to many of those earlier films. The picture is full of lively characters, well-realized by the cast—which includes Michiyo Kogure and Setsuko Wakayama, who would later play the heroine of Godzilla Raids Again (1955)—and a vivacious performance by an adolescent Ryo Ikebe (far more impressionable here than in any of his science fiction endeavors). But most of all, there’s Setsuko Hara. Here, the actress is at the top of her form, taking what could’ve been a preachy, obnoxious character and rendering her into a truly fascinating individual. And in this we can see a fine example of her reign as “The Goddess of Democracy.”

     

    #7. THE BALL AT THE ANJO HOUSE

    In her first role after becoming an independent actress in 1947, Hara teamed up with the director Kozaburo Yoshimura for a story about an aristocratic family whose “days of glory” are coming to an end. With their wealth depleted by the postwar tax hikes and agrarian reforms, the Anjo family stages a final ball at the mansion that will soon no longer be theirs. For the father, Mr. Anjo (Osamu Takizawa), the ball is an opportunity to make some last-minute negotiations with a wartime associate in hopes it would allow him to keep his house and his way of life. His son Masahiko (a marvelous performance from the always dependable Masayuki Mori) seeks to humiliate his former fiancée (the daughter of that same man) upon discovering her father has no interest in Mr. Anjo now that his days of power are gone; mixed in with this is a subplot involving his affair with one of the family’s maids (Akemi Sora). The family’s oldest daughter (Yumeko Aizome) wishes the ball to serve as a final, lasting memory of her family’s noble past—but does not wish to see the presence of their former chauffeur, who’s continued to love her even after leaving servitude, and who is now a potential buyer for the mansion. A plethora of other stories intertwine within the narrative. And running through the entire film like a quiet stream of reason is the younger daughter, Atsuko (Hara).

    The Ball at the Anjo House (1947) is one of the most immaculately written films Setsuko Hara ever starred in and features one of her most well-rounded characters. From the beginning, Atsuko battles calmly and intelligently against the raging winds of arrogance, pride, and misguidedness within her home. The film opens with her adamantly opposing the titular ball and suggesting everyone simply accept the inevitable—in other words: try to make the most of their new life—while also being smart enough to recognize it might be tough, given most of them have never worked a day in their lives. She refuses to cling to the ways of yesteryear (brilliantly conveyed when a guest knocks over a suit of samurai armor—a symbol of Japan’s feudal past—and she tells a servant to leave it where it is) while taking serious the future. She acts against the wishes of her kin by trying to arrange their former chauffeur to purchase the mansion (knowing the father’s old associate has no interest in helping). And as the ball progresses and the various subplots erupt to climax, Atsuko regularly appears, constantly trying to keep things under control.

    The film’s final sequence is nothing short of perfect. After the ball has ended and the rooms have gone dark, Atsuko searches the home for her father and manages to stop him from taking his own life. After saving him, she pleads for him not to despair what’s been lost but to embrace the future. She turns on the gramophone and invites her father to one final dance. The picture ends with the father and daughter dancing as the morning sun comes up; and appropriately, the final shot is one of Hara venturing up close to the camera, her hauntingly perfect smile agleam, a glowing representative of Japan in a new age.

    The screenplay for The Ball at the Anjo House was written by Kaneto Shindo, but director Yoshimura claimed the idea came from his own personal experiences. As Donald Richie and Joseph L. Anderson recounted in their book The Japanese Film – Art and Industry, “The original idea was conceived when Yoshimura was invited to a dance party held at a peer’s mansion the night before it was sold, and many of the occurrences shown in the film actually happened that night. Yoshimura was so taken with what was happening that he stayed up until morning writing down ideas.” If the character of Atsuko was, indeed, based on a real person, one can only wonder how wondrous and inspiring her real-life counterpart must have been and if the girl was even half as charming and inspirational as Hara is in this picture.

     

    #6. TEMPTATION

    A year after The Ball at the Anjo House, Hara reunited with director Kozaburo Yoshimura for what this writer sincerely believes to be one of the most beautiful and touching movies ever made about a May-September romance. In my review for Takashi Minamoto’s Tokyo Tower (2005), I concluded with a recommendation: that readers skip over that picture and instead seek out Yoshimura’s Temptation (1948) for a superior story about love between people of different generations; and I stand by that suggestion to this day.

    From the beginning of Temptation, when a middle-aged father of two (Shin Saburi) runs into Hara, here playing the daughter of a colleague who died in the war, the relationship between the two is immediately fascinating. At first, Saburi holds no particular affection for Hara; he has sympathy for her becoming orphaned and feels obligated to look after her. As the story progresses, they spend more time together, their relationship naturally evolving from platonically mutual respect to special friendship to pure bliss—which comes through in one of the most romantic dance scenes ever put on film.

    In contrast to some of the pictures discussed thus far, Temptation is not overtly political. It contains some food for thought (a few observations regarding postwar Japanese society—such as poverty among the lower classes), but at its core, it’s a simple love story about two people who care for one another and who just happen to be separated by a few decades of age; it doesn’t sling mud at its subject or utilize it for a series of crass jokes; it just tells its story sweetly and sincerely; and it ranks with pictures such as Delbert Mann’s Middle of the Night (1959) as one of the most touching movies about such romances I’ve come across to date. The sooner a western disc/streaming label adds this lovely gem to its itinerary, the better.

     

    #5. NO REGRETS FOR OUR YOUTH

    I’ve written extensively about Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth (1946) over the last couple of years—including in an in-depth article back in January—so I’ll keep my thoughts here relatively brief. Although Setsuko Hara admitted to having had no particular interest in starring in this film (and likely only took the part due to being under contract to Toho at the time), whatever apathy she felt toward the project goes completely undetected in her simply remarkable performance. The actress’s versatility and Kurosawa’s interest in personal growth and self-discovery combine to form one of the most transfixing female characters in postwar Japanese cinema: an initially care-free bourgeois girl who comes to recognize the vapidity of her own existence and begins a quest to uncover a way to lead her life with meaning during one of the most intense chapters in Japan’s sociopolitical history.

    No Regrets for Our Youth is not one of Kurosawa’s masterpieces, but it is—I sincerely believe—his first truly special motion picture, and Hara’s performance stands firm as one of its most hauntingly perfect qualities.

     

    #4. SUDDEN RAIN

    In one of the best scenes from Mikio Naruse’s Sudden Rain (1956), Setsuko Hara, playing a lower middle-class woman trapped in a passionless marriage, arrives on a Tokyo rooftop, where she has agreed to meet her husband. When she reaches the roof, another couple starts advancing in her direction. The wife, she notices, is clad in elegant attire: quite the opposite of her own drab clothing which reveals her poverty-stricken lifestyle. Humiliated, Hara bows her head, clutches the lapels of her coat, and deliberately tries to avoid eye contact with the better-off woman as they pass one another (even after the other woman temporarily meets her gaze and gives her a long, somewhat contemptuous stare afterward). Poverty and loveless marriages were among the most recurrent subjects in Naruse’s oeuvre, and that’s true also of this extremely powerful film.

    Hara’s husband is played by Shuji Sano (of Here’s to the Young Lady) and this time both of them are at the top of their form as an impoverished couple who exhibit no love whatsoever for one another. The movie opens with them going through the almost comic monotony of their existence: he yawns, she yawns; he asks for his stomach medicine, she unenthusiastically supplies it for him; he complains about her cutting out recipes in the paper (leaving big gaping holes in the newsprint on the other side), she asks him to drop a letter at the post office only to find he abandoned it at the doorstep. When her niece (Kyoko Kagawa) comes by to visit and complain about the (very funny) nature of her not-so-happy marriage, the advice Hara and Sano offer results in them turning on one another, offering harsh critiques of their individual shortcomings. And then there’s the ending of the movie, in which the couple—having openly contemplated separation—engage in a juvenile game of toss, yelling and cursing as they swat a paper balloon back and forth (to the utter bewilderment of the children who accidentally knocked the toy into their yard).

    The neighborhood in which the couple resides is loaded with gossip and distrust; just about everyone spends their day griping about everyone else. Hara herself is hardly an angel and is rather prone to being critical of other people: about her husband, about her neighbors, about the proprietors in the town who only treat their highest-paying customers with any kind of special politeness. This recurring theme comes to a “climax” in the form of a town meeting, in which everyone congregates at the local school building, the adults squatting on the undersized chairs before engaging in another all-out complaint brawl.

    As all of the above description above would indicate, Sudden Rain is something of a comedy of manners, but more than anything it is an extremely bleak, pessimistic, and at times downright depressing film from the director who knew how to evoke such emotions like few others. The scenes depicting Hara’s loneliness and struggles with poverty are among the most gripping in the film. When her husband fails to return home one night—after she gives up waiting for him at the train station—she winds up sharing her dinner with a local stray dog. And whenever she ventures into the local marketplace, the entire world seems content in reminding her of her own poverty. The street vendors push her to buy expensive appliances she cannot afford, and while watching a salesman in action, she becomes the victim of a pickpocket.

     

    #3. SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN

    Continuing on a thematic note from the last entry: Setsuko Hara’s five-movie association with Mikio Naruse showcases the actress tackling a broad variety of roles and, even when working with scenarios that appear to be similar on a surface level, being able to evoke completely different characterizations each time out. As far as her work with Naruse is concerned: in the lost propaganda film Until Victory Day (1945), Hara was merely an entertainment act, someone who—literally—came popping out of an exploding “Entertainment Bomb” along with a plethora of other Japanese celebrities to amuse troops on a South Seas island. (For more information regarding this perplexingly bizarre project, see my article on The Lost Films of Mikio Naruse.) In the director and actress’s final collaboration, the 1960 color melodrama Daughters, Wives, and a Mother, Hara played a recently widowed woman juggling between love with a younger man and a more “compatible” marriage.

    And in between these two end points, Hara starred in a “miserable housewife” trilogy, if you will, for Naruse, in which she three times played an unhappily married woman whose drama often stemmed from a strained relationship with her husband (Sudden Rain was the third and final “chapter” in this series). However, despite some basic similarities between the three films, Hara didn’t replicate the same performance each time; no two roles or performances mirror one another in minute detail; each woman had her own assortment of personalities, agendas, and—most importantly—interactions with those surrounding her. For example, the protagonists of Sudden Rain and Naruse’s earlier Sound of the Mountain (1954) are diametric opposites of one another in many respects. To begin with the simplest of distinctions, the former resides in an impoverished, two-person household whereas the latter has married into a well-off upper middle class family; both are burdened by the duties expected of a Japanese housewife (in Sound of the Mountain, it’s because the family’s recently lost their maid), but that’s about it as far as similarities go.

    Now, consider the characterizations. In Sudden Rain, Hara played a blunt and at times censorious woman; the character she plays in Sound of the Mountain, by contrast, is meek, shy, and extremely vulnerable: too passive to make a stand or speak out against anything, even her own unhappiness. Both women have to deal with an apathetic husband, but they respond in entirely different ways. Rather than complain about her situation or argue her way into a possible separation, the non-confrontational housewife in Sound of the Mountain suffers silently as her husband repeatedly comes home drunk and later impregnates both her and a mistress—until finally she decides to abort her unborn child and untie her marital bonds. Because she’s not as outspoken as her counterpart in Sudden Rain, Hara evokes an entirely different breed of acting, relying not so much on dialogue and shifting emphasis instead to physical nuances—facial expressions and movement—to demonstrate what her character is feeling, even when she’s trying to “mask” her emotions (as Naruse cleverly indicates in a scene where a character observes a Noh mask and realizes the face of the mask can appear ecstatically happy when viewed from one angle and depressingly sad when viewed from another).

    The most fascinating relationship in the film exists between the housewife and her caring father-in-law (So Yamamura). As Catherine Russell notes in her book The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity, the further Hara’s husband pushes her away, the closer Hara and Yamamura become. And at the end of the movie, the father-in-law exhibits a very progressive attitude in encouraging her to free herself completely and find what little happiness she can still achieve. They have grown close and are sad not to see each other anymore but realize this is the only way she can go on. Naruse considered Sound of the Mountain one of his favorites from his oeuvre and had personally pitched the idea of adapting Yasunari Kawabata’s source novel to Toho, and the end results are simply mesmerizing.

     

    #2. THE IDIOT

    In 1951, Akira Kurosawa assembled what is unquestionably the single most impressive cast in his entire filmography. In adapting Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot for the big screen, he recruited the talents of several people he’d worked with before (Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Yoshiko Kuga, Bokuzen Hidari, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Noriko Sengoku, etc.) as well as adding some impressive faces new to his cinematic canon (Chieko Higashiyama, for one). The entire cast is excellent and brings a tremendous amount of energy to this unusual and intoxicatingly watchable film (as this intro might suggest, this is a picture I hold with considerably higher regard than most Kurosawa aficionados), but it is Mori, in the eponymous role of a prisoner of war mentally scarred by his experiences, and Hara as a sinister yet sympathetic “kept woman” who really stand out.

    Despite her sinister appearance (perpetually dressed in dark clothing with her hair slicked back—an appearance reputedly modeled after María Casares in Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus), Hara doesn’t play her character as a cold-blooded villainess, instead depicting a lonely person who has spent her life believing the world to be an unfriendly place completely against her and whose cynicism and at times unpleasant demeanor is a byproduct of said conditions. But at the same time, she is presented as still in touch with her own humanity and carrying a willingness to respond to someone capable of—or at least willing to try—understanding her and accepting of the truth that she did not ask for the miserable existence she’s stuck with. This becomes especially prevalent in the film’s marvelous “birthday” sequence: a twenty-seven-minute masterwork of cinematic storytelling in which the mentally damaged Mori converses with Hara and accomplishes what no “sane” person has managed.

    She invites him to her birthday party, having previously been touched by his innocence, and stands defiant of those scorning him. Over the course of the evening, Mori tells Hara about his experiences during the war and compares her to a fellow POW whose execution he witnessed; she reminds him of that twenty-year-old boy who seemed all alone and whose eyes, like hers, seemed to beg the question: “Why have I suffered like this?” In doing so, he sees straight into her heart and professes his belief that she is a good person who has simply endured a horrible life. “You see,” she tells him, “I’ve been waiting for somebody like you. Ever since I began this awful life as a kept woman, I’ve been waiting. I hoped and prayed, imagining someone like you. Hoping that a good, honest, kind man would appear [and say] ‘Taeko, it’s not your fault. I still respect you.’ How I longed to hear those words!” So moved is she that she ultimately decides not to let him take care of her. Even after all that has transpired, she still views herself as a damaged woman and doesn’t want to taint the life of someone so pure. Instead, she leaves with a man who has offered to pay a million yen for her “hand,” but not after taking the money and throwing it in a fireplace, burning it before the man who was to receive it.

    As with the movie itself, Hara’s performance in The Idiot is simultaneously unusual and electrifying: the actress consciously goes for an over-the-top acting style with exaggerated expressions and sweeping gestures while still maintaining control of her character. Although she had been cast against type before—such as in Hideo Oba’s crime picture The Woman in the Midst of the Typhoon (1948)—under Kurosawa’s direction, she completely sells the role, giving a much better portrayal of a promiscuous woman with shades of sympathy than she had in the dreary aforementioned Oba thriller.

     

    #1. REPAST

    Released in the same year as The Idiot was Hara’s second movie with Mikio Naruse and the first entry in the earlier mentioned “miserable housewife” trilogy. Based on an unfinished novel by Naruse’s favorite author, Fumiko Hayashi, Repast is one of the two or three finest Naruse films I’ve come across yet and is unquestionably the greatest film of Hara’s I’ve seen outside of the best of her collaborations with Ozu: a compelling character study revolving around a lower middle class woman so disheartened by the passionless repetition of her day-to-day existence that she ultimately tries to escape from it.

    Once again, on a surface level, all three films in this “trilogy”—Repast, Sound of the Mountain, and Sudden Rain—sound quite similar, but examined in greater context, we see three entirely different stories and three entirely different women. Whereas Sound of the Mountain presented the struggles of Hara’s character mainly through the observations of her kindly father-in-law (the actual protagonist of that film), the story of Repast is told predominately from the perspective of the housewife herself, sometimes in the first person. In the film’s beginning, she describes to us through voiceover her unhappiness as we witness the monotony of her daily life: relentlessly cleaning her cramped Osaka suburb home and tending to her husband (who mostly just lets her know when he wants something to eat). Every day is nonstop work for her, her life confined almost exclusively to the kitchen and family room 365 days a year. “I had hopes and dreams before,” Hara asks through narration. “Where have they gone?” (In one revealing moment, she takes advantage of an opportunity to get out of the house and meet with some old friends. One of them asks what she talks about with her husband all day, to which she replies, “I have a cat.”)

    The idiosyncratic details of the marriage in this film further distinguishes Repast from the other two Naruse pictures discussed thus far. For example, the husband in Repast is nothing at all like his counterpart in Sound of the Mountain. Both men are played by the same actor (Ken Uehara), but the characterizations are starkly different. Uehara in Sound of the Mountain was completely negligible, caring not at all about his wife’s feelings as he stumbled home drunk every night and regularly betrayed her trust in the arms of another woman. By contrast, the husband in Repast is, at his core, a decent and kindhearted person.  His central flaw is naïvete toward his wife’s feelings and his taking for granted the “duties” expected of a Japanese housewife. But he works hard and by the end of the movie becomes conscious of and more sympathetic to her unhappiness. And he no doubt becomes more appreciative of her hard work—which he initially took for granted—after she leaves home and he proves incapable of handling most of the household chores.

    In the third act, the estranged couple bump into one another in Tokyo. Uehara informs his spouse he’s been offered a better-paying job but won’t accept it without discussing it with her first—an acknowledgement of respect, that he cares what she thinks, an implication of willingness to treat her better going forward. (Meantime, Hara herself has gone through a journey of her own, being awakened to her own shortcomings—her brother calls her out for taking advantage of their mother’s hospitability—and witnessing first-hand the difficulties of surviving on one’s own in postwar Japan.) Before they leave for home, Uehara rubs his stomach and remarks “I’m hungry,” before suddenly looking up at his wife and apologizing, and they share a laugh.

    In this we can see another quality distinguishing Repast from, say, Sudden Rain, whose protagonists simply tolerated one another and nothing more. Despite the bumps in their matrimony, the protagonists of Repast still love one another (the key word being still: in Hara’s opening monologue, she confesses she married her husband against the wishes her family, out of personal desire). They just need to work out their differences—i.e., the husband needs to be more aware of his wife’s plights. Hara agrees to go home with him not only because she’s run out of options, but also because she hopes they can still find happiness together, if they work at it.

    The emotional climax of Repast is one of the most uplifting and beautifully filmed sequences in the annals of cinema. On the train ride home, Hara sits by the window as her husband lounges sleepily in the chair next to her. She reaches into her purse and withdraws a letter—presumably one asking for divorce—before glancing over at her husband and then tearing the letter to pieces, smiling as she does. Hara’s wordless performance here is nothing short of immaculate; she acts with everything from her eyes to her hands—every gesture, every glance timed exactly right—complemented by Naruse’s simple yet mesmerizing camerawork and Fumio Hayasaka’s hauntingly romantic score. As the picture comes to a close, Hara’s monologue returns, this time voicing optimism. “My husband sits beside me. I see the profile of an ordinary man, with his eyes closed. He is floating in the current of life, exhausted from swimming. Still, he will continue swimming and struggle through the current. I stand beside him as we share our lives together in search of happiness. Perhaps that is what true happiness means for me. Happiness for women is perhaps to live life in just such a way.”

    The ending of Repast is quite unexpected for Naruse, who almost always ended his pictures on a pessimistic “life goes on” note—and this upbeat denouement likely resulted from the fact that Fumiko Hayashi’s source novel had never been finished, thereby allowing someone at the studio to create the ending for her******. The film does champion a “life goes on” message but with much more optimism than is expected from this director. And yet this ending still ends up working. For Repast is not about a neglected woman who has no choice but to escape from her circumstances or die miserable (as in Sound of the Mountain) but rather about a woman who mutually agrees with her life partner to try and make a better future by working together, caring for one another, not simply accepting the status quo. And throughout the film, Setsuko Hara never strikes a false note, validating once again her status as one of the most important and gifted film actresses of the 20th century.

     


     

    * Fanck’s original intention was to cast Kinuyo Tanaka in The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai. Tanaka was already an established star in her home country and her work had been seen, to an extent, in Germany, but this casting prospect was never realized due to contractual issues.

     

    ** Not long after making her final screen appearance—in Hiroshi Inagaki’s 1962 film version of Chushingura—Setsuko Hara withdrew from the motion picture industry, claiming she had never enjoyed being an actress and only took on her career to assist with her family’s financial difficulties, which were now resolved. Over the years, people have speculated there might’ve been other factors in her decision, but regardless, she never returned to the silver screen and spent the rest of her life in Kamakura, shunning publicity and living under her birth name, Masae Aida.

     

    *** Young Eagle’s Song, the song used prominently this film, was a popular martial tune during the Pacific War, reportedly selling more than 230,000 records. It has since been used in movies looking back on Japan’s wartime involvement, including Kihachi Okamoto’s Japan’s Longest Day (1967).

     

    **** Setsuko Hara entered the film industry through the assistance of her brother-in-law, the director Hisatora Kumagai. Kumagai acted ostensibly as her manager while she was overseas promoting The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai and later cast Hara in his 1939 production Naval Brigade at Shanghai. In that picture, Hara played a Chinese woman who initially hates the Japanese soldiers occupying Shanghai but later comes to admire them for their “true” intentions in invading the Far East.

    It has been suggested—though not proven—through some accounts that Hara’s personal politics might’ve been influenced by her brother-in-law, who was an outspoken nationalist and a purveyor of Jewish conspiracy in Japan during the war. Tadashi Imai, who also directed Hara in the 1943 film Suicide Troops of the Watchtower, recalled: “One night, Setsuko Hara visited me with a letter from her brother-in-law, Hisatora Kumagai. The letter went something as follows: ‘Just when Japan must pour all its energies into securing its strategic position among the southern countries, the Jews start an intrigue to divert our eyes to the north. Suicide Troops of the Watchtower is clearly part of this Jewish plot designed to throw us into confusion. The film must be halted immediately.’” On a side note, it is worth noting that anti-Semitism had been somewhat prevalent in Japan during the war years; one survey reported at least thirty-eight Japanese books were published about “the Jewish attack on Japan” in 1938 alone.

     

    ***** Wartime Japanese films which depicted parents saddened or concerned about their children going to war were often attacked by the government. Keisuke Kinoshita’s Army (1944), for example, pleased the nationalist authorities with its depiction of two parents shaping their son into a soldier but angered them with its final scene, in which the mother worriedly chased her son through the streets as he went off to war.

     

    ****** It is also possible the film was allowed to get by due to the occupation censors being more lenient with subjects such as arranged marriages. While they strictly enforced policies of banning nationalistic and militaristic material, they had a record of being less strict with movies tackling arranged marriage. For example, the script for Ozu’s Late Spring initially ran into trouble because of its subject of a young woman being married off to someone she’s never met and a line of dialogue reporting that the prospective husband comes from a well-off family (making him a good match on grounds unrelated to emotion). The censors instructed this line be written out but for reasons unknown allowed it to be reinstated in the final draft and kept in the finished film.

     

    ******* Screenwriters Toshiro Ide and Sumie Tanaka intended the film to end with the couple divorcing, but the front office at Toho vetoed the idea, resulting in Tanaka walking away from the project.

    General // June 17, 2019
  • As Legendary Pictures moves past Kong: Skull Island (2017) and looks toward the future of the MonsterVerse, naturally news is starting to build for the next appearance of Kong, as the character is set to tangle with Godzilla in 2020.

    June 12th update

    In an article published by Deadline, Warner Bros. executives Toby Emmerich and Peter Roth brought up the possibility of Godzilla vs. Kong being delayed: “[Godzilla vs. Kong] might come out later in the year, so we can deliver an A+ movie,” Emmerich commented, noting that they “will deliver for fans in the way they were looking for.”

    June 1st update

    An early advertisement for Godzilla vs. Kong has appeared at Licensing Expo, paired with another of Legendary’s movie projects, Dune (2020). The image shows Godzilla and Kong locked in combat, with a tagline that reads “ONE WILL FALL”.

    March 15th, 2019 update

    Alexander Skarsgård was recently video interviewed by Collider, with the actor expressing his enjoyment working on Godzilla vs. Kong and how it will be “tonally quite different” from other films he’s been apart of in the last 2 years. Discussion of the movie starts around the 2 minute 53 second mark in the link provided.

    November 17th update

    As reported by Deadline, Lance Reddick is the latest addition to the Godzilla vs. Kong cast. Some of Reddick’s more well known portrayals include Charon from the John Wick movie series, Cedric Daniels from HBO’s The Wire, and Matthew Abaddon from the television series Lost. Reddick is also no stranger to giant monsters, having appeared in an uncredited role as a soldier in 1998’s GODZILLA.

    November 12th update

    With principal photography finally underway, an official press release for Godzilla vs. Kong has been made available, courtesy of Warner Brothers. The notes also include a long-awaited plot synopsis.

    WARNER BROS. PICTURES’ AND LEGENDARY ENTERTAINMENT’S MONSTERVERSE SHIFTS INTO OVERDRIVE AS CAMERAS ROLL ON THE NEXT BIG-SCREEN ADVENTURE
    “GODZILLA VS. KONG”

    Director Adam Wingard takes the helm to bring the long-awaited face-off between these two iconic titans to the big screen.

    BURBANK, CA, November 12, 2018 – Following the global success of 2014’s “Godzilla” and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island,” and in the lead-up to the 2019 release of the highly anticipated “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Entertainment’s cinematic Monsterverse: “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Beginning production today, the epic action adventure will pit two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.

    “Godzilla vs. Kong” is being directed by Adam Wingard (“The Guest,” “You’re Next”). The film stars Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies,” The Little Drummer Girl”), Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”), Rebecca Hall (“Christine,” “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”), Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta,” “Widows”), Shun Oguri (“Gintama”), Eiza González (“Baby Driver”), Jessica Henwick (“Iron Fist”), Julian Dennison (“Deadpool 2”), with Kyle Chandler (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Manchester by the Sea”) and Demián Bichir (“The Nun,” “The Hateful Eight”).

    In a time when monsters walk the Earth, humanity’s fight for its future sets Godzilla and Kong on a collision course that will see the two most powerful forces of nature on the planet collide in a spectacular battle for the ages. As Monarch embarks on a perilous mission into uncharted terrain and unearths clues to the Titans’ origins, a human conspiracy threatens to wipe the creatures, both good and bad, from the face of the earth forever.

    Wingard directs from a script written by Terry Rossio (“Pirates of the Caribbean”). The film is being produced by Mary Parent, Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, and Brian Rogers, with Kenji Okuhira, Yoshimitsu Banno, Jon Jashni and Thomas Tull serving as executive producers. Jay Ashenfelter, Jen Conroy and Tamara Kent are co-producers.

    Behind the scenes, Wingard’s creative team includes director of photography Ben Seresin (“World War Z,” “Unstoppable”), production designers Owen Patterson (“Godzilla,” “The Matrix” Trilogy and “Captain America: Civil War”) and Tom Hammock (“The Guest,” “Blindspotting”), editor Josh Schaeffer (“Molly’s Game,” “Kong: Skull Island”), costume designer Ann Foley (“Altered Carbon”), and VFX supervisor John “DJ” DesJardin (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Watchmen”).

    Filming is taking place in Hawaii and Australia. A presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Entertainment, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is currently scheduled for release on May 22, 2020. The film will be distributed in 3D and 2D and in select IMAX theaters by Warner Bros. Pictures, except in Japan, where it will be distributed by Toho Co., Ltd.

    November 11th update

    Godzilla vs. Kong Storyboard TeaserCast additions for Godzilla vs. Kongcontinue to roll in. As reported by Variety and Deadline respectively, actress Jessica Henwick – known for her role as Nymeria Sand who first appeared in Season 5 of the popular fantasy/drama television series Game of Thrones – and Japanese actor Shun Oguri in his Hollywood debut will be starring in the 2020 sequel to Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Like most of the cast before them, their roles are currently not known.

    Meanwhile, director Adam Wingard recently posted on his Instagram account a storyboard teaser for Godzilla vs. Kong. The picture shows only a fraction of a storyboard sketch accompanied by text briefly describing Godzilla’s reaction to something presumably just out of frame in the photo.

    No specifics regarding the picture were shared, though the enthusiastic Wingard did note how shooting for the movie was to begin soon: “This is the only part of the Godzilla Vs Kong storyboards that I can share. We start shooting this week after more than a year of preproduction. It’s finally happening!”

    November 3rd update

    The cast for Godzilla vs. Kong continues to grow as Rebecca Hall of The Prestige (2006) and Marvel’s Iron Man 3 (2013) fame, alongside Baby Driver (2017)’s Eiza González, have joined the movie according to exclusive reports published by Variety and Deadline respectively.

    October 26th update

    In an exclusive announcement from Deadline Hollywood, Emmy Award-winning actor Alexander Skarsgård will be starring in the 2020 movie. Like the previously-reported Demián Bichir, Skarsgård’s role is currently unknown.

    October 20th update

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, actor Demián Bichir of The Hateful Eight (2015) and The Nun (2018) fame is slated to appear in Godzilla vs. Kong. Bichir will be joining Millie Bobbie Brown and Brian Tyree Henry as one of the leads, though his role is currently unknown.

    October 10th update

    As shared in a video via Gormaru Island, the production of Godzilla vs. Kong in Australia was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Village Roadshow Studios. Filming is expected to start before the end of the year, with the movie employing 500 full-time staff and 600 casuals.

    11:05 PM – Actor Brian Tyree Henry of Atlanta fame will be joining the cast of Godzilla vs. Kong, as exclusively reported by Variety. While his character’s role is unknown, he is said to play “a significant role” in the plot. Henry will be starring alongside other confirmed actors including Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison, and Kyle Chandler.

    September 14th update

    In the latest issue of Production Weekly courtesy of Gormaru Island, principal photography for Godzilla vs. Kong is slated to begin next month on October 1st. Currently, the only confirmed film locations are in Atlanta, Hawaii, and Australia.

    June 3rd, 2018 update

    As the project continues to develop, casting news is starting to come in. First off, Van Marten, who will appear in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Ziyi Zhang, Memoirs of a Geisha, are set to appear in the film. Ziyi will also appear in Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and will reprise her role from that movie. It’s also been announced that young actor Julian Dennison, from Deadpool 2, will appear in the movie as well in a yet to be revealed role.

    August 27th update

    Casting is still not revealed for the project, although director Adam Wingard noted that characters seen in the 2019 Godzilla film will also appear in the 2020 battle royale flick between the two titular monsters.

    June 2nd, 2017 update

    After moving Kong: Skull Island (2017) from Universal to Warner Bros. in 2015, Legendary Pictures announced the natural conclusion to that news in October of 2015. The company stated that a Godzilla vs. Kong movie was in the works.

    Since then, the company has focused most of their efforts on the 2017 King Kong film and the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters. However, with Skull Island released, eyes are now focused on the next movie to feature the character, which is coming on May 22nd, 2020.

    Naturally, some of the first news on the production is related to the staff who will bring it to life. The first major announcement came with the confirmation of the director. For this responsibility, Legendary Pictures tapped Adam Wingard, who has previously directed You’re Next and The Guest.

    Writing duties are being split amongst a writers room, which is being led by Terry Rossio, the scribe behind the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. He is joined by a huge group of writers, which include former comic author J. Michael Straczynski, who also worked on the Thor movie and World War Z. Lindsey Beer, who is an up and coming writer attached to assignments like Barbie, Patrick McKay, Star Trek Beyond, T.S. Nowlin, Maze Runner, Cat Vasko, Grrl Scouts, J.D. Payne, Star Trek Beyond, and Jack Paglen, Transcendence, are also in the writers room.

    News // June 12, 2019
  • Recently on a trip to Kyushu (one of the main islands of Japan, this one to the south of Honshu), I stopped over in Oita City to enjoy the local life and noticed there were a number of Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) posters scattered around the local mall attached to the train station—this particular one roughly translated as “Find the Legendary Four Giant Monsters! Monsters Rally Campaign.” After further examination, I realized that they were part of a rally promotion for the movie. These “rallies” are a common form of promotion in Japan, and they are often featured in museum exhibits as well—I saw one at the Yokohama Godzilla exhibit back in 2016 as well. At the Oita mall I visited, there was a concurrent rally going on for the newest Detective Conan movie, and when I visited another mall in Kokura to see Kingdom (2019) with my friend, I saw there was a stamp rally for Avengers: Endgame (2019), complete with standees of some of Marvel’s more popular heroes.

    But what is a “rally” in this sense of the word? Here we are dealing with Japanese English, after all. It’s not like a point-to-point race, and it is not a protest or the like. Instead, a rally in Japan used in this way generally means a promotion in which you have to wander about a particular space (such as a museum, train station, or mall) in which a number of stations have been scattered. These stations can amount to just posters with parts of a word on each, and participants have to put the word together by finding all the stations. They can also feature little tables with rubber stamps at each one, and you take a particular paper with spaces for each stamp to each station and, well, stamp the designated areas. At a dinosaur exhibit I attended at a museum in Chiba, these stamps completed a message. At an advertisement museum in Tokyo, the stamps actually overlapped, with each stamp contributing a different color, and once all of the stamps were applied they created a complete image—in this case, a kabuki character. The aforementioned Detective Conan rally challenges participants to complete a crossword puzzle. And sometimes the rallies can also include a further promotion—collect all the parts of the word or put together the phrase or collect the stamps, and then turn in the finished rally to a website to enter a lottery to possibly win some goodies. Even a school I have worked at featured this kind of rally at their yearly festival.

    For the Monsters Rally Campaign, there were four monster posters scattered around the mall, and each poster has one hiragana character that, when put together, spells out “kaijuu” (the actual word “kaiju” includes an extended vowel at the end, unlike how we in the West tend to pronounce the word), with the Godzilla poster featuring “ka,” the Mothra poster featuring “i”, the Rodan poster featuring “ju,” and the King Ghidorah poster featuring “u”. After putting together the word, a fifth poster explaining the campaign can be found in an attached movie theater, and on that poster can also be found a QR code at which the contestant can enter the assembled word and hopefully win something.

    The goods that participants can win include the following, with ten winners for each: The “A” prize is a Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) tote bag. The “B” prize is a smartphone stand that looks like Godzilla’s tail. The “C” prize is a copy of the recent Ganbare Chibi Godzilla picture book. The “D” prize is a Chibi Godzilla jigsaw puzzle. Presumably the winners are chosen at random.

    The rally is taking place between April 26 and June 2, and is presumably only available to folks living in Japan. Obviously the contest is very much aimed at children rather than adults (though perhaps the smart phone tail and the tote bag are aimed more at older participants). Given how easy it is to participate, the chances of actually winning something seem pretty slim.

    Now… when I was in Oita, I tried my darnedest to find all four of the posters on my own. I found Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan pretty easily, but for the life of me I could not figure out where King Ghidorah was hiding out. I must have walked around the mall for an hour carrying my rather heavy bag looking for the three-headed dread beast.

    Now, looking at the pictures I took for this article, I notice that the fifth poster that explains the terms of the contest also features a small white column that… tells where all the monster posters can be located.

    King Ghidorah, as it turns out, was on the roof.

    Luckily, when I visited the Riverwalk Mall in Kokura, finding all four monster posters was a snap, with King Ghidorah actually residing right next to the campaign explanation poster in T-Joy Cinema. The posters in Riverwalk, though, were much smaller than the ones I found in Oita.

    I haven’t actually entered the contest yet. I feel a bit like if I actually won, I would feel like I was yoinking a gift from an innocent Japanese kid somewhere who was really hoping for that Chibi Godzilla Jigsaw. Still, that tote bag looks pretty tempting, and the Godzilla tail would go well with my Godzilla-themed smartphone cover. I tried to enter the rally at the Yokohama Godzilla exhibit and got nothing. Maybe this time could be my lucky day!

    General // June 11, 2019
  • Author: Matthew Williams | Banner: Matthew Williams

    [Continued from Match 106]

    A calm breeze blew by a small red monster, who stood a few steps away from the edge of a steep cliff, staring at the rising morning sun. Pigmon, the only friendly creature that inhabited the Lawless Monster Zone, was very relaxed due to the soothing weather. This was his favorite spot to rest at in a time like this, not just for its gorgeous view of the vast ocean, but of its significance as a sight of remembrance.

    Standing next to Pigmon were three man-made wooden crosses, with noticeable lumps of dirt in front of each. Years ago, there had been a group of scientists that had visited this tropical-volcanic island to perform research. The team went missing, with all but one of the members perishing from the vicious creatures that lurked on the island. Pigmon knew that in one of these graves where the remains of one of his ancestors, who befriended one of the surviving scientists and was remembered by the Scientist Patrol for his heroic act in distracting one of the most feared monsters that roamed the Lawless Monster Zone. A fiend that had been brought down from his pedestal of power by the combined forces of the Science Special Search party and Ultraman, but would later rise again to threaten another group of researchers that made their expedition to this land. That time, his reign of terror would come to an end by a robot that had come to rescue the explorers, Jet Jaguar.

    Pigmon would always remember that day when he met that friendly, size-shifting machine, who had saved him from that violent monster. But he wondered how many days have passed since he last saw it, and how it was doing right now. He hoped that one day, the machine and humans would arrive again, hopefully well prepared for the dangers that lied within the island.

    After spending a few minutes watching the morning sun and accompanying the graves of the scientists and his own kin, Pigmon skipped away to return to the lush jungles, where he needed to be cautious like always.

    The peaceful sounds of birds chirping echoed throughout the overgrown jungle, while Pigmon wobbled onward. The friendly creature moved at a slow but steady pace, being careful with his navigation around the carnivorous plant life forms, Suflan. The sentient plant life had been responsible for the deaths of many Pigmons and one of the first groups of scientists that visited this place, for their vines could easily entangle around their prey and use the large leaf located on the tip to suck the blood from them like a leech. Pigmon kept a good distance away from the Suflan, not bothering to pick up the empty food cans and the blood-stained coat that the murdered scientist once owned. After a few careful navigations to get around the killer plants, the friendly monster was able to make a safe escape and hopped away.

    During his search for breakfast, Pigmon happened to stumble upon the spot that he tended to avoid, where the vicious monster lay buried within an avalanche that Jet Jaguar caused. Pigmon avoided that spot for good reason, for he feared that the beast would suddenly wake up at any time. Knowing the right decision, Pigmon turned around to waddle away.

    But only after taking a few steps, Pigmon squeaked when he heard rocks tumbling down from the cliff. Looking back, he saw the piles of rubble collapsing, with a familiar snarl accompanying it. A voice that Pigmon and any inhabitants of the Lawless Monster Zone dreaded to hear, echoing from within. The stacked-up rocks and dirt were launched into the air, revealing the awakening ruler of the island, Red King. Pigmon made panicked, monkey-like sounds when he saw the towering creature rising out of its supposed grave, flailing his hands as he retreated away as fast as possible.

    Red King didn’t notice the small, red creature, more concentrated in rubbing the dirt off his yellowish-green skin. The reptilian brute snarled in anger, remembering the day he was beaten for the second time. The day he was knocked out cold by Ultraman was embarrassing enough, but to lose to that colorful, humanoid machine was something he wouldn’t let go. He threw a tantrum by slamming his foot on the rocky surface beneath, shrieking in anger for how humiliated he felt. He now swore that he would resume training to become more powerful, and when the chance came if he saw either one of those two that defeated him, he would show no mercy to them.

    Red King’s tantrum soon came to a halt when he heard a shrilling cry, coming from a mile away. He had never heard this sound before. Perhaps from a new monster that he never seen before? The only way for him to find out was to climb his way up to the mountain and see for himself. Red King moved onward to find the source of the sound, but on his way to the top, he discovered the carcass of a Magular. Another species of monster that roamed the island that Red King had only encountered once. That individual met its end at the hands of the SSSP and their advanced weaponry, but something was off about this second specimen. Red King noticed several bite and claw marks across the underground monster’s motionless body, matching nothing he had seen from any of the island’s other residents. It was as if the killer had tried to strip the carcass’ flesh, but was unable to tear through Magular’s rock-like hide. Not only that, but Red King’s nostrils picked up a foul scent lingering around, and it didn’t take the brute long to find where it came from.

    The brute spotted a deep, cavernous vent a short distance away from the dead Magular. Falling in one of these volcanic openings would lead to a slow, painful death from the molten steam leaking out, and Red King was familiar of the dangers. But the foul scent seemed to drift from within the chamber, as well as several more unfamiliar scents. The trails of repugnant stenches made it seem as if demons had climbed out of the depths of hell and scattered about. Curious about this, Red King decided to follow one of the scent trails, which guided him across the valley to the broken body of Chandlar. Up at the top of his hill, Red King snorted when the gut-wrenching scent of the dead beast’s rotting corpse struck his nostrils. Lying in the exact same spot where he’d left it, the one-winged monster’s body had seen better days, with most of its flesh and skin rotted away. But for some odd reason, Red King noticed the corpse was twitching and shaking, which made him narrow his eyes.

    Unsettling sounds of aggression was heard when the visitor of the Lawless Monster Zone revealed itself, climbing on Chandlar’s corpse while licking the disgusting blood off its face with its elongated, triple-forked tongues. Despite being smaller, the body of this odd creature was unlike any monster that Red King had ever seen. It vaguely resembled a black lizard with long frontal legs, but lacked any hind appendages. Instead, it had a very long, serpentine tail that could be lifted off the ground. What caught Red King’s attention, however, since he had been dubbed as ”the Skull Monster” at times, was the creature’s skull-like head that resembled that of a mosasaurs.

    Unsatisfied by the foul flesh of Chandlar, it saw Red King as something that’ll control his unsustainable hunger. Not caring what the towering monster was capable of, the Skullcrawler released the same shrilling shriek that Red King had heard. Without hesitation, the lizard leaped high in the air before Red King could do something. The ruler of the island backed away when the subterranean fiend latched onto him with its coiling tail, attempting to deliver a nasty bite. But since the Skullcrawler was a small monster and lightweight, Red King effortlessly yanked the reptile off before slamming him head first against the solid rock surface below. The Skullcrawler shrieked from the painful impact and squirmed about before being kicked by its prey, but it instantly recovered its footing and hissed in anger.

    The fearless Skullcrawler swiftly zipped between the bumpy creature’s legs to avoid Red King’s swinging fist and began hastily climbing the green brute’s bumpy body from behind. The ravenous lizard’s talons left shallow cuts in his back, but Red King ignored it and reached back, grasping the small fiend’s head. The hypervore shrieked as it was easily dispatched like last time and tossed to the ground, flailing its arms and tail in an attempt to flip over as it made one more cry that was the loudest it had ever spoken.

    The cry, along with its life, was soon silenced when Red King slammed his left foot on its throat. Not only was its windpipe crushed, but the force was enough to make its spine snap like a twig, thus ending the Skullcrawler’s life. Red King snarled in disappointment as he removed his foot. The intruder was way too easy to kill, and hardly had a fair chance to inflict any real damage to him. This infuriated the savage giant, stamping his feet against the rocky ground as he sought out something to unleash his fury upon.

    Climbing on the cliff behind him, another Skullcrawler shrieked before it swiftly lunged forth, biting down on Red King’s leg. The green skull monster shrieked loudly when he felt the raw force of the black lizard’s bite. Although not enough to draw blood, it did cause a minor stress fracture on his leg. Red King reached out to clench tightly on his ambusher’s tail and forcefully yanked the lizard away before throwing it to the side, in which he just happened to throw it at yet another Skullcrawler. The two lizards groaned when they lay on the ground before they both got up, letting loose vicious hisses in an attempt to look threatening.

    Red King would have grinned if he could. If there were more of these famished monsters raiding his island home, then they could prove themselves as worthy opponents, not by raw strength but in numbers. Flexing his knuckles, Red King shrieked loudly before he made his first move, kicking a boulder at the two Skullcrawlers. The propelled stone struck one of the skull-headed lizards while the other dashed in, only to be struck in the chin by Red King’s lifted knee. The Skullcrawler whimpered from the force trauma to his lower jaw before falling on his side, where Red King lifted it up and mercilessly slugged the monster in the face.

    The second Skullcrawler pounced on Red King’s back, forcing him to release its bruised packmate. The latched-on reptile lashed out with its whiplash tongue, wrapping it around its intended prey’s neck and squeezing in a constricting grip. Red King shrieked and swung his body around to try and remove the tiny naga-reptile, but the Skullcrawler made it even more difficult when its tail snaked around the green brute’s left arm, pulling it away so that it couldn’t reach its binding tongue. The other Skullcrawler ignored its aching jaw and lunged in to attack, by biting down on Red King’s tail and shaking its jaws roughly.

    Red King coughed and gagged as he tried to breathe. He could feel the elongated tongue squeezing his neck so hard that it cut into his windpipe. But no matter how hard it constricted, it would never weaken his strength. Red King’s right hand slowly reached out to the tongue and clenched onto it for a second, before he suddenly pulled away, ripping it in half. The Skullcrawler made an agonizing scream as the organ was shredded like paper and it collapsed to the ground, flailing and screaming. Red King chuckled at the suffering devil, tossing the yanked tongue aside before he twirled around, tearing the other Skullcrawler from his tail with the momentum and flinging it away, where it crashed into the Chandler carcass.

    Rage and agony fueled within the wounded Skullcrawler’s mind as blood gushed from its jaw. The reptile knew that it was weakened without his tongue, but its determination to feed overrode the instinct to flee. As its pack mate crawled off Chandler’s body, both creatures rushed in at the same time, releasing high pitch shrieks from their jaws that revealed dozens of jagged teeth within. Red King swiftly turned around, whacking the second reptile’s skull-face to knock it aside before faced directly at the other, catching the Skullcrawler as it tried tried to pounce on the fanged giant. Without any effort, Red King easily slammed the Skullcrawler down on the hard surface of granite, throwing up chunks of stone and clouds of dirt with the impact. The black lizard shrieked from the harsh impact, its ribs cracking under the intense force of the blow.

    Red King, being the sadistic monster that he was, pinned the injured Skullcrawler with his foot and grabbed onto the tail. The gluttonous devil scrapped the rocky ground with its taloned forelimbs in the desperate attempt to crawl away, but its lightweight body was unable to slip away from the fifty-five thousand tons of Red King’s sole. After a few tugs, the green skull monster cried out in victory as the pinned Skullcrawler’s long tail was ripped off, snarling with cruel glee as he listened to the worthless monster’s cries. The second Skullcrawler got up and recklessly zoomed in without caring, springing up and extending its claws as its jaws opened for the kill. Red King quickly jerked to the side and wrapped his arm around the ravenous predator’s neck, shrieking as he used his favorite technique to finish off his opponent. Being a smaller creature that he was, the Skullcrawler felt his neck being crushed without resistance in the chokehold, only able to make a weakening wheeze that soon turned into gurgle when foam oozed out of its jaws, stained to a bright red color by the blood that gushed out of the stump that once was the lizard’s tongue.

    Within seconds, the second Skullcrawler met his end from the suffocation and blood loss. When his lifeless body was tossed away, Red King then ended the other’s life by kicking the injured creature’s chest, shattering the rib-cage completely as one of the broken bones punctured the heart. The tailless Skullcrawler lay on his side, lifting his head to make a weakening groan before its movements ceased.

    Red King’s fists pounded his chest and he roared loudly. The fight was still a little too easy for him. As fun as it is to crush these annoying pests, it was too easy to overwhelm them. Despite their crafty tactic of trying to suffocate him, they hardly had a chance.

    If only they were about as tall as he…

    Soon enough, Red King got his wish, when he heard another shriek from another one of those skull monster wannabes. However, it sounded a lot more different than the other three that he slaughtered, having a deeper voice that carried a more threatening tone. Red King turned to face the Skullcrawler that made the cry, narrowing his eyes when he saw it.

    The fourth Skullcrawler revealed itself, standing taller than before. Although she was a few meters shorter then Red King, the subterranean beast was way taller than the previous three. Like the monitor lizards it resembled, the naga-reptile flickered her forked tongue to pick up particles in the air, before looking down at one of her deceased smaller relatives and suddenly lifted it up with her prehensile tongue. With no haste that showed her kind’s sickening and gluttonous true nature, the big Skullcrawler gobbled up the tongueless lizard without chewing, gulping the entire lifeless body down whole. The Skullcrawler cackled when she gazed at the disgusted Red King, who swept his tail as he emitted an intimidating shriek.

    The two titans stared off at one another, seemingly understanding one another for how much they are alike. Both are dubbed as “skull monsters” with their skull-shaped faces and their sadistic nature to attack and kill any living beings they come across, with the shared preference to any creature within their height range. As much as they were alike, they saw the one thing from within each other that set them apart – their ideals.

    Red King is a violent monster, infamously remembered by many for how ruthless and destructive he is. But the only reason he chose to be a merciless beast is to prove himself as the strongest, always challenging anything that he sees to prove he is the best, hence why he had killed so many for satisfaction and not usually for hunger. The alpha Skullcrawler, and many of her lesser kin too, were merciless killers, always stalking any prey they find before instantly going for the kill. But instead of having the same goal that Red King wished to achieve, they hunt only for food, much like any other wildlife predators in order to survive. However, their extreme metabolism required immense amounts of food, forcing them to always keep on consuming, making them just as dangerous, if not worse than Red King. Much like a king cobra preying upon rat snakes, cannibalism on smaller Skullcrawlers is common for the bigger ones, as well as fights between one another over carcasses.

    Red King flexed his knuckles while the mature Skullcrawler scraped the ground, with both savage beasts letting loose a battle cry. They charged forth and slammed against each other, grappling onto the other as the two reptile wrested for dominance. The alpha Skullcrawler grabbed hold of Red King with her serpentine tail, wrapping it around the green lizard’s waist as Red King grabbed the naga’s neck, pushing the armored head away to keep those gnashing jaws at bay with one arm as he wrestled to break free from the constricting tail with the other. The weight of the alpha Skullcrawler forced Red King to the floor, but the green bully refused to submit, viciously pounding her skull-face with his fist. The giant Skullcrawler then snapped at Red King’s right wrist to loosen his grip and swiftly crawled away from the brute, with her tail still wrapped around his body. The Skullcrawler turned on the spot to swing her loosening tail and toss Red King, watching as her enemy was sent hurtling through the air before crashing to the solid surface of granite.

    Red King made pig-like squeals when he landed on the ground, flinching from the collision for a brief second before he started to stand, but in the time doing so, the big Skullcrawler had already moved up close to him. The hungry monster’s open jaws bit down on Red King’s bumpy neck, driving a loud shriek of pain out of the giant as rows of sharp teeth sank into his hide. Blood spilled out across the bumpy skin of Red King, who screamed loudly from the intense pain. The agony was worse than the time where the first Chandler bit his arm, an injury which took several months to make a recovery from that. In a desperate attempt, the bipedal, saurian-like beast slugged the skull-headed freak as hard as he could, ignoring the pressuring pain when the jaws chewed deeper. Despite that his powerful punches were unable to cause a crack on the bony head, he was able to get the Skullcrawler’s toothy grip to loosen. Red King’s gripped the blood-stained jaws, slowly forcing them apart to release his neck before he shoved the lizard away. The Skullcrawler shrieked angrily and tried to snap at his throat, but Red King rolled to the side to avoid getting bitten again.

    Just as his prey was about to rise up again, the naga’s tail moved around and yanked Red King’s leg, causing him to trip and fall again. The king of the Lawless Monster Zone shrieked again when the Skullcrawler’s tail dragged him back, but just then, Red King reached out to grab his opponent’s leg and pulled it out from under her. The big Skullcrawler cried out as she fell, slowly being dragged closer to her enemy.

    Red King gave the Skullcrawler a wrathful glare, his crossed eyes staring at the frightening eyes of the intruder of the island. Despite his bleeding neck, he still had plenty of energy left to continue the fight, determination pushing aside the pain coursing through him. And since the wound could take a long time to recover from, he decided to make sure that the reptile would regret coming here in the first place. Letting loose a wrathful scream, Red King repeatedly beat up the Skullcrawler with his fists, growing more and more violent with each punch landed on the dense skull head and the durable, charcoal-black hide.

    As a concussion began to develop in the Skullcrawler, Red King held onto her head with one arm while he reached the tail that was binding his leg, but the limb jerked back and knocked the brute off his feet. The alpha Skullcrawler shrieked and shook her head, but Red King was able to get back up and kicked her, causing the hypervore devil to roll away before the green giant could recover. The mature Skullcrawler let loose an angry scream as she jumped in the air, only to be knocked back in midair when she was slammed by Red King’s bulk.

     About a mile away, Pigmon squeaked as he felt the ground shudder from the Skullcrawler crashing into the ground and make another haunting shriek. The friendly monster was full of anxiety, but not because the most feared beast of the Lawless Monster Zone was back. He was being watched. During the battle between Red King and the invading Skullcrawlers, Pigmon had encountered one of the skull-faced monstrosities – a smaller one roughly about the size of a bovine, which was currently after his own blood.

    Pigmon couldn’t handle it. The eye contact with that horrific monster was just about as scary as being spotted by Red King. That moment when he gazed at the creature’s face, it made his pulse race, feeling like he was about to die at any second. By some fortunate or dumb luck, Pigmon was able to get away from the Skullcrawler, but he knew that it wouldn’t give up that easily. He knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance to fight it, but he knew that someone else would…

    Pigmon looked around while he kept waddling, looking to see if that two-legged devil was still after him. When he turned around, he saw it, approaching from a few miles away. As an act of cockiness or foolishness, Pigmon waved his hands and emitted his monkey-like cries, taunting the predator that it couldn’t catch him. Seeing the mocking creature standing there like a sitting duck, the Skullcrawler immediately went after him, emitting that terrible cry that would scare off anything smaller than it. Pigmon instantly skipped away as quickly as his legs could carry him, constantly making panicking noises. He navigated through the trees, hoping that they would get in the monster’s way and slow it down. But even as a newborn, the small Skullcrawler easily shattered through the trees, closing in on its fleeing prey. Soon, the hideous being extended its whiplash tongue and lunged to wrap around Pigmon, dooming all hope of survival for the friendly monster.

    When Pigmon was about to be lifted and pulled into the nightmarish view of the Skullcrawler’s mouth, something latched onto the predatory monster’s neck. It was a vine tendril of a Suflan. The Skullcrawler’s tongue released Pigmon and tried to tear off the plant’s appendage, but several more vines of the living organisms reached out and wrapped around the lizard’s limbs to make it impossible for it to escape, like how an octopus would easily restrain its prey’s movements. Pigmon got up and looked at the struggling Skullcrawler, listening to its unsettling screams as the leaves of the Suflan began to suck away its blood. Pigmon sighed in relief that his idea had worked. He never thought that the most dangerous plant in the island could unintentionally saved his life.

    The friendly monster hopped away, leaving his pursuer to slowly die by the tendrils of Suflan. But as he advanced forward, he heard two similar cries of those skull monsters from afar, making him aware that he was far from being safe.

    Staggering back after getting tail whipped, Red King’s bumpy back was slammed against the wall of a cliff, causing it to shake with several rocks falling on him. This was exactly what the green-skull monster wanted. Even though this big Skullcrawler was far tougher and smarter than he thought she would be, it was something that would provide an exciting challenge. Red King quickly moved aside when he saw the two-legged freak springing in the air, chuckling when he saw her crashing against the solid wall of rock.

    Red King quickly stomped on the Skullcrawler’s tail, pinning it down while he reached out to grab the lizard’s neck. Red King constantly roared to reveal his savage nature as he repeatedly slammed his enemy’s bony head against the smashed-up cliff, enjoying the peril cries of his enemy. Above the edge of the tall rock, a smaller Skullcrawler crept up, looking down at the alpha being dominated by Red King. Remaining silent, the lesser lizard jumped off the cliff and grasped onto the green monster’s head. Red King backed away and shrieked in surprise, but quickly recovered and pulled the small Skullcrawler off. Bringing the squirming creature closer, he bit down on its neck. His teeth tore through the glutinous fiend’s charcoal-black skin and snapped the spinal cord as he started to gnaw deeper, silencing the squirming Skullcrawler instantly.

    Red King tossed the lifeless creature aside, getting a little sick of the crafty devils that continued to interrupt him. But with how small and frail they are, he had nothing to worry about asides for the big one. Red King turned to face the alpha Skullcrawler, where once again, he was surprised by the tall bonehead as she jumped in to attack. Red King was brought down and pinned to the ground by the naga, making the same pig-like squeals when his bumpy skin on his chest was pierced by the Skullcrawler’s lethal claws. The hypervore predator hissed with delight, pleased that she could finally end this battle and take down her latest prey, which was sure to satisfy her for a long time. But even through his movements were restricted, Red King still refused to let this creature take him down, as he raised his left hand to grab his enemy by the throat. The Skullcrawler screeched in annoyance as she was pushed away, unable to reach her living meal’s throat with his jaws. Red King tried to keep the creature away, but with the Skullcrawler weighing down on him, it was but a matter of time before his strength would finally give in. He would need to find something to get this monster off, and fast.

    Thankfully, luck was on Red King’s side, as he looked down and discovered the severed arm of Jet Jaguar. After all this time of being isolated in this barren no-man zone, it had remained intact, despite having a few dents here and there. Not hesitating, Red King reached out and grabbed the metal arm. Upon grappling the appendage of the heroic machine, Red King gave out a loud scream and he slammed it at the Skullcrawler, striking her right eye.

    The Skullcrawler rolled to the side after being struck by the metallic limb, making a painful screech after receiving a black eye from the punch, which seems to fuel her anger just as much as Red King’s. The two skull monsters soon recovered and rose, continuing their vicious clash that just wouldn’t end.

    As the two giants resumed their violent battle, Pigmon cried out in fear as he was cornered by the cliff, watching two lesser Skullcrawlers move closer. One of them moved in for the kill, but the other shoved it aside as it tried the same, the overwhelming hunger felt by both lizards refusing to let them share the meal. The two hypervore predators glared and hissed before they instantly attacked one another, with such feral behavior seen by Komodo Dragons whenever they fight over carcasses. The first Skullcrawler bit down on his rival’s neck, only to lose its right eye as it was clawed in the face, which only made the starving creature viciously shake his attacker. Pigmon took his chance to sneak away from his stalkers, seeing that they were occupied with killing each other. As he rounded the corner, unfortunately, he came face-to-face with another Skullcrawler, far larger than the pair behind him.

    The naga opened its jaws and roared loudly, but was then interrupted when the steep rock face next to the duo burst, shrieking when it was rammed by something else. The two Skullcrawlers halted their fight while Pigmon fell from the rumbling vibrations of the ground, surprised to see the Skullcrawler’s ambusher was a Magular, a subterranean inhabitant of the Lawless Monster Zone. The friendly monster was confused. He thought the thorny devil-like creature had been neutralized long ago, but it seemed that the rocky reptile was not the only one of its kind. But this wasn’t the time for Pigmon to think about it. As he got back up, Magular chewed on the Skullcrawler’s throat, his dark-gray teeth and tusks spearing through the dense hide. Blood spilled out of the punctured throat and the maw of the hungry monster as its jugular was cut off, resulting in a painful death. The remaining Skullcrawlers watched Magular, who stood up and screeched in triumph. Before the duo could do anything, they were crushed when another Chandlar landed on them, easily crushing them to death.

    Magular faced the winged creature, and then looked at the left as another tall, but still young Skullcrawler made a beeline for them. The two beasts of the Lawless Monster Zone gazed at each other briefly, seemingly agreeing on forming a brief truce, so they could bring down something just as dangerous as Red King. With Magular dashing in and Chandlar taking off to the skies, Pigmon quickly retreated away as the two giants took care of the intruder of their island home.

    The alpha Skullcrawler cackled as she caught Red King in the grasp of her lengthy tail, spinning around to drag the monster across the rough terrain before flinging him afar, watching as he crashed down at the entrance of the jungle. The green kaiju groggily got up and rubbed his aching head, now having lost all his patience with his enemy, especially when he saw three more of the lesser skull reptiles approaching. He didn’t want to do this since they were easy to kill, but since he was getting tired and in bad shape, he had no choice but to use his secret technique as his last resort.

    As the alpha and her lesser subjects moved closer, Red King pounded his fists on his chest, concentrating as heat energy channeled through his palms. During this, he spread his arms as they combusted in an explosion, taking the lizards by surprise. Flames leapt across Red King’s fists, with no sign of discomfort from the bumpy beast as he smashed them together. When the lesser Skullcrawlers charged in, one of them was instantly killed as Red King swung his fist into chest, shattering the ribcage when the colliding fire fist triggered an explosion. The second Skullcrawler wrapped its tail around the gremlin-like creature’s leg, but ended up having his entire spine shattered when Red King brought his burning hands down, swiftly killing it like the first. The third Skullcrawler foolishly bit down on Red King’s hand, only to scream in agony as the flames charred the insides of its mouth. The green skull monster almost pitied the savage devil as he flawlessly twisted its neck. It amazed him how reckless these creatures were compared to him, if they thought biting down on fire was a smart decision.

    Dread crept through the alpha Skullcrawler when Red King looked right at her, feeling a bit intimidated as her gaze lingered on the blazing hands and how they killed off the smaller members of her kind. Seeing that her enemy was now too dangerous to bother with, the hypervore hunter began to make a retreat. Red King didn’t tolerate the creature’s cowardliness. She didn’t deserve to live, not after all the struggles and injuries he went through from their fight. Red King cried out and kicked a nearby boulder, sending the huge rock high into the air before it fell, diving directly at the back of the fleeing Skullcrawler. Red King listened to the shrill cries of the alpha as it impacted, cackling as he moved closer to the squirming lizard so he could end the battle.

    As the Skullcrawler regained her footing, she didn’t have the time to evade or counter the fiery uppercut from Red King, in which she felt the merciless brute’s incinerating punch strike her jaw. The big Skullcrawler screeched in agony from the force of the explosion, causing him to shrill achingly, leaving the titan wide open for Red King to finish her off in whatever way his twisted imagination came up with. The ruler of the Lawless Monster Zone decided to make the giant Skullcrawler suffer by pummeling him with his explosive fists. With each punch delivered, the Skullcrawler cried out in agony from the blasts. Not even her thick hide or dense skull armor could aid her in enduring the humiliating torture.

    Red King delivered a powerful uppercut to the hypervore predator’s gut, causing her to regurgitate a stream of blood and stomach bile, along with the digested remains of the deceased Skullcrawler that she had devoured. The alpha couldn’t withstand much longer, her legs trembling in fear and exhaustion. But she couldn’t lose. The need to consume was overwhelming.

    Red King’s eyes narrowed in disgust when the tall Skullcrawler opened her jaws wide and let out a weak, but fierce roar. Deciding it was time to finish her, Red King briefly concentrated his aim, channeled the fire that coated his right fist, and thrust it directly into the invader’s mouth. A loud cracking boom was heard when an explosion sets off within the Skullcrawler’s cranium, bits of burning bones and flesh thrown into the air and scattered around. The vision blackened instantly for the prideful and mighty alpha of the invasive Skullcrawlers, who made a faint wheeze before Red King shoved her away and watched the naga’s lifeless body crash onto the ground, no longer making any sounds or movements.

    Red King ceased the flames emitting from his hands and looked around, not seeing any more of the skull devils approaching. The victorious skull monster roared in triumph. His fight may not be quite as satisfying as he hoped for with those smaller devils being crafty but frail, but the brawl with the big one and the injuries he received did made the fight feel at least worth it, and being another step of progress to become the strongest kaiju on this planet.

    Red King looked at the side, snarling when he heard the victorious cries of Magular and Chandlar, as they too had managed to beat another Skullcrawler. Magular moved away and he picked up another Skullcrawler, dragging it into the hole he came out of, while Chandlar began to feast upon the dead lizard in front of him. Red King snarled at the giants that were like the ones he fought in the past, but did not rush in to attack as he usually would. He was feeling too sore to fight anyone, and would need to wait for the next few months so that he could make a full recovery. Red King limped away to the mountains, where he would hide so that he can heal his wounds. In time, he would rise and resume fighting to become the strongest of all.

    Miles away, Pigmon could see Red King’s figure disappearing into the mountains. As much as he feared him, he was glad that he won this grizzly fight. He would much rather have Red King roaming around then having the island being raided with the frightening Skullcrawlers, who would have eaten everything should the green lizard fall. Pigmon then skipped away, leaving the ravaged area so he could go somewhere far more peaceful and quiet.

    Deep in the seemingly bottomless vent, a series of shrilling shrieks echoed within the depths, as if the opening was like a gateway to hell where savage demons thrived. Should Red King have come across this, it would have been a hint that there were still more Skullcrawlers roaming down in the depths, slowly tunneling their way to a more suitable location with plenty of food to fill their empty stomachs. Should these devil-like lizards reach to the lands of civilization, humanity could only hope that Ultraman would come to defend them from the gluttonous swarm of the Skullcrawlers.

    Winner: Red King

    K.W.C. // June 10, 2019
  • An interview conducted by Toho Kingdom staff with Japanese artist Shinji Nishikawa, known for his work on the Godzilla series from the late ’80s into the early 2000s. The interview took place through e-mail beginning January 11th, 2018 and concluded later that year in November. A majority of the questions are one-offs, with the theme of the interview initially being about “lost projects,” though some of Nishikawa’s other works outside of Toho are briefly discussed as well. Translations by Noah Oskow and Joshua Sudomerski, and special thanks to Matt Frank for helping get this interview together!

     

    Toho Kingdom: When did you first become interested in drawing professionally?

    Shinji Nishikawa: I enrolled in university and joined a manga research group. In this circle there were many special effects fans, and a year prior to the release of The Return of Godzilla (1984), screenings of Toho special effects movies were being rerun in various parts of Japan as part of the “Godzilla Revival Festival”. Being in such an environment, I also became interested in Japanese special effects again. In my third year of university, I had gotten into manga and movies so much that graduating became difficult, so my father told me that I could “make a book as a condition to allow me to drop out of college.” So I made the doujinshi called “Godzilla Legend”. This book gained a reputation and soon offers from publishers arrived, and this opened the way for me to become a professional cartoonist.

     

    TK: How did you become affiliated with Toho?

    Nishikawa: Toho was planning a film adaptation of a novel called Toi Umi kara Kita Coo, and director Koichi Kawakita who had received the consultation was looking for a person who could draw “a cute child dinosaur”. Mr. Kazuo Sakutani, who had a close friendship with director Kawakita, introduced “Godzilla Legend” to him and mentioned me. In February 1989, I brought a picture of dinosaurs and “Godzilla Legend” to the shooting of Gunhed (1989), and this was the first time I met director Kawakita. Although the film adaptation of Toi Umi kara Kita Coo was cancelled, a few months later, there was a call from director Kawakita and I was asked to design Biollante.

    Biollante

     

    TK: What Toho project did you enjoy working on the most?

    Nishikawa: That’s a difficult question. The most exciting to work on was Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), as I participated on the development of a Godzilla movie for the first time, but because I was brought in during the middle of development, it wasn’t as satisfying. For Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), as I was able to draw many designs from the start, this one had the most sense of fulfillment. In terms of what I “enjoyed” the most, I rather liked working on the “Millennium Series,” where we increased our new staff, and where I started receiving production planning consolation with the directors.

     

    TK: Which monster design of yours would you say is your favorite?

    Nishikawa: I think that Biollante is good in the sense that I could present a new form that I had never seen before. However, as I was able to help the senior designer and modeling, I’d say “Kiryu” is my favorite character as I had the most control over the design overall.

     

    TK: What are some of your favorite monsters in general?

    Nishikawa: There are too many that I cannot narrow it down, but… basically I like the standard “dinosaur type” monsters such as Godzilla, Anguirus, or Varan, but monsters that deviate from traditional living things such as Hedorah or Gigan are also cool.

     

    TK: What was it like seeing Biollante being brought to life in a movie?

    Nishikawa: When I first saw the models for Biollante at the studio, I was deeply impressed by the size and realism of the molding. Compared to the impact of the real thing, I felt that the short ten minutes or so it appeared on-screen was not enough to really demonstrate its appeal. Still, some of those cuts had a real impact, and were really wonderful.

     

    TK: In your Godzilla art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you mention how Bagan was originally going to transform into three different forms. Do you remember any other story details of this early outline?

    Bagan (C)Nishikawa: I drew the three forms which were initially described in the plot, after which director Kawakita told me that I should “freely draw as many drafts images” as I liked, and I went about drawing quite a few different designs. The thing that most influenced me was being asked to use the head of the dinosaur Styracosaurus as a motif in my drawings.

     

    TK: In an interview, [director] Kazuki Omori said how Mothra vs. Bagan would have been the start of a new series of monster movies. Did you hear of any details about where the series would have headed, or what monsters could have appeared?

    Nishikawa: I don’t believe there were any concrete plans for a series after that. However, because the story of Mothra vs. Bagan began in Singapore, movies from that period onward might have taken place in other countries as well.

    ※ The story for Mothra vs. Bagan included scenarios in Japan, Singapore, Nepal, Malaysia, India, and Thailand.

     

    TK: Did you submit a story outline for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)?

    Nishikawa: No. But after receiving the synopsis, I made some suggestions and pointed out problems.

     

    TK: In your Toho art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you have a sketch of Meganulon from 1991. What movie was it considered for, and what role would it have played?

    Meganulon (1991)Nishikawa: I hadn’t made it based on any concrete assumptions regarding any movies. With King Ghidorah having been resurrected, we thought we were going to have a policy of bringing back monsters of the past rather than creating new ones. Rather than simply putting these monsters into the films exactly as they had been portrayed originally, I drew Meganulon with the intention of having him be a monster we knew from the past but whose appearance was like something we had never seen before, hoping to thus combine the appeal of newness with that of nostalgia.

    ※ The concept artwork for the 1991 Meganulon bears a heavy resemblance to the Meganula from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), a movie Nishikawa also contributed concept art to.

     

    TK: Did you submit a story outline for Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)?

    Nishikawa: While this isn’t the storyline itself per se, I did put forward some ideas, like how Godzilla and Mothra fighting only by themselves would be limiting, and how the mechanics on the human side would fight.

    ※ When asked, Nishikawa stated that he did not submit story outlines for Mothra vs. Bagan or Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994).

     

    TK: How did you enjoy working on Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go!?

    Nishikawa: I found it interesting in that the design orientation in regards to the Ultra Monsters was so different from that of the Toho monsters. As it’s a story that involves Ultra Q and Ultraman, I attempted to create designs that would not feel out of place amongst those of the kaiju designed by Toru Narita.

    Fantasy Tokusatsu Series: Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go! (Japanese title: 空想特撮シリーズウルトラ作戦 科特隊出撃せよ!) is a 1992 video game released for the PC-9800 series in Japan, with Toru Narita being a notable Ultra series monster designer.

     

    TK: Which monsters did you design for Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go!?

    Nishikawa: I designed all the monsters, though the combining monster Mido & Ronga was designed by a modeler.

     

    TK: Is Reborn Birugamera based off of one of your designs for Bagan?

    Nishikawa: The way his neck protrudes and the shape of his shell are some of the aspects of his design that I drew based on those I had made from when I worked on Bagan.

    ※ “Reborn Birugamera” (再生ビルガメラー – Saisei Birugamera) is a boss monster from the game. In his 2019 art book Shinji Nishikawa Design Works, Nishikawa would reiterate how the Ultra monster was based off of a concept he made for Bagan, its silhouette being like that of a beetle.

    Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go!

     

    TK: In your draft for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), was your version of Mechagodzilla a combining machine?

    Nishikawa: Before we decided upon “Godzilla  vs. Mechagodzilla,” I had put forth a project called Mecha-King Ghidorah’s Counterattack. This was based on an idea about how Mecha-King Ghidorah, raised from the seafloor, could be brought back to life as a combining machine. Besides my first drawings of Mechagodzilla, they were all drawn and designed as combining mechas.

     

    TK: Was Rodan included in your story outline for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)?

    Nishikawa: Rodan did not appear.

     

    TK: In an interview, Koichi Kawakita mentioned the name of an outline called Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: Metallic Battle. Was this your outline?

    Nishikawa: I think different.

    ※ Koichi Kawakita’s interview can be found in the Japanese book, Heisei Godzilla Perfection. In it, Kawakita refers to Toho monster/mecha designer Kunio Aoi as the writer for this draft. Aoi has denied this claim, however.

     

    TK: What were some of your inspirations when designing Kumasogami from Yamato Takeru (1994)?

    Nishikawa: I wasn’t specifically referencing anything in particular with that design.  Toho tokusatsu don’t tend to have many humanoid monsters, so I thought that creating him with the simple image of a titan made of lava would help to create some differentiation between it and the Godzilla series.

    Kumasogami

     

    TK: In your art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you have a salamander monster and a jellyfish monster in the section for Yamato Takeru (1994). Were these early designs for Kaishin Muba?

    Nishikawa: In the story within the draft script, the salamander was to appear in the first half of the story, meaning he was a monster who was scheduled to appear earlier than Kumosagami.

     

    TK: Did you hear any story details about Yamato Takeru II?

    Nishikawa: I don’t know about the second film, but I heard for “3” they wanted to introduce Godzilla into the trilogy.

     

    TK: In the book Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Completion, it talks about your story outline called Godzilla vs. Baraguirus. Did you make any sketches for Baragon or Baraguirus?

    Nishikawa: I don’t think I drew any.

    ※ Also in the same book is one of Nishikawa’s sketches for a Heisei version of Anguirus. This version of the monster was originally suggested by Nishikawa to appear in a story draft for Godzilla vs. Godzilla, with Ghost Godzilla possessing Anguirus as opposed to Little Godzilla and taking on a new monstrous form.

     

    TK: Do you mind sharing more details about “Baraguirus”, such as what caused Anguirus and Baragon fuse, or how the story ended?

    Anguirus (1995)Nishikawa: Since we talked about how we wanted to use a quadruped monster that hadn’t yet appeared in the Heisei Series, we also thought about how we wanted to have Moguera fight underground, and I came up with Baraguirus as a subterranean monster to fulfill that role. Although he possesses both of the special characteristics of Anguirus and Baragon, it’s not as though he was born from an amalgamation of the two of them.

     

    TK: Did you make any sketches for the new monster created by Ghost Godzilla and Anguirus fusing? And did it have a name?

    Nishikawa: No.

     

    TK: Were you involved in the production of the PlayStation game, Godzilla: Trading Battle [or] the Super Nintendo game, Super Godzilla?

    Nishikawa: No.

     

    TK: How was your experience working on the Heisei Mothra series?

    Nishikawa: Because I was working the TV anime series YAT Anshin! Uchuu Ryokou on the NHK network at the time, I wasn’t as involved as I had been with Godzilla. Because Mothra was a monster whose design hadn’t seen many changes up until that point, it was quite fun thinking up variations on her design. Also, since Dagahra was the sort of oceanic kaiju who hadn’t appeared in the Heisei Godzilla Series, I had a lot of fun drawing out its designs as well.

    Grand(father) Ghidorah

     

    TK: What were some of your inspirations when designing Grand Ghidorah from Rebirth of Mothra III (1998)?

    Nishikawa: Since he’s said to be a Ghidorah who has been living since the age of the dinosaurs, I had this image of him being quite aged. Our nickname for Grand Ghidorah was “Grand(father) Ghidorah.” I designed him with transforming wings that were well suited for flight, and rather than having him be monochromatic, I added black specks to his scales, but unfortunately these weren’t carried through in his molding.

     

    TK: How did you become involved in the development of the PC game, Godzilla Movie Studio Tour?

    Nishikawa: It was fun for me to draw in that cute super-deformed style. I was also quite happy when they included the partially animated pieces for the map screen that I had gone ahead and made by myself.

    ※ The animated “map screen” is a bonus program included with Godzilla Movie Studio Tour, with objects that can be interacted with via clicking. This includes Mothra Larva wiggling her tail, SpaceGodzilla summoning numerous crystals from the ground, a heat maser tank blasting Mothra Larva, King Ghidorah’s heads and tails moving while cackling, Mothra’s egg bobbing in the water, an MBT-92 firing at Godzilla’s face, and Godzilla momentarily glowing like Burning Godzilla.

    Godzilla Movie Studio Tour

     

    TK: In the game, there is a monster called Dogolas. Was that a monster created for the game, or was it meant to appear in a movie?

    Nishikawa: I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was a monster made for the game.

     

    TK: Did you submit any story outlines for the “Millennium Series” like you did for the “VS Series”?

    Nishikawa: For the “Millennium Series”, I wrote drafts for Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), but I don’t remember whether or not I submitted them.

     

    TK: In your art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you had a [Godzilla] skeleton on the moon from an early outline for Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). How did the skeleton end up on the moon?

    Nishikawa: I had drawn that based on a request from our producer, Shogo Tomiyama. He said it had come about as an idea from scriptwriter Wataru Mimura back during Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), but it seems Mimura hadn’t thought up any further plot for it beyond just that one image.

     

    TK: You created many designs for Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). What was your experience working on that movie?

    Nishikawa: Because we had designers with strong, individualistic personalities like Yasushi Nirasawa, Katsuya Terada, and others taking part, I ended up not being able to change much of the original monsters I was in charge of. Thinking back on it all now, there are some monsters for whom I think “maybe it would have been good to change them just a bit more?”

    ※ Nishikawa was responsible for creating concept art of Anguirus, Rodan, King Caesar, Hedorah, Manda, Minilla, Kumonga, Kamacuras, and Ebirah. Katsuya Terada, a character designer who worked on The Legend of Zelda for the NES among other games, made concepts for Monster X and Keizer Ghidorah. Lastly, Yasushi Nirasawa is a fellow veteran artist of the Godzilla series who made concepts for Gigan, the Xiliens, and the Xilien Mothership.

     

    TK: How do you feel about the translation from your work to the suits used in the films? Do you have a favorite?

    Nishikawa: My favorites are the Kiryu version of Mechagodzilla as well as Armor Mothra, who were both molded quite faithfully to the designs. For Biollante, there are some parts that are different from my design diagrams, but I still think it turned out well. Megaguirus is quite different though, isn’t it?

     

    TK: When it came to redesigning older monsters, did you have to follow strict guidelines?

    Nishikawa: There were no strict guidelines. However, I was careful not to change the way they looked too much.

    Kiryu

     

    TK: How did you enjoy working on television shows like The Gransazers or Super Star Fleet Sazer-X? Were you given more creative freedom?

    Nishikawa: All the characters in these shows were brand-new, so I was able to work with a good deal of freedom. They were fun, with so many different types of characters showing up.

     

    TK: Out of all the movies you worked on, which monster was the most difficult to design?

    Nishikawa: There aren’t any monsters that I would call especially difficult, but Mecha-King Ghidorah took some effort.

     

    TK: What are some of your favorite designs that went unused from any of the projects you worked on?

    Nishikawa: There were a few I quite liked from Bagan’s designs. I also drew most of Orga’s designs, so there were some of those I felt favorable towards.

     

    TK: How did you enjoy working with Bandai on “Chogokin Tamashii MIX Mechagodzilla“?

    Nishikawa: I had fun on that project since my contact person from Bandai had a lot of love for Mechagodzilla.

    ※ The aforementioned figure was based on Noriyoshi Ohrai’s poster for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), with the design in question originating from concept artwork by Nishikawa.

     

    TK: [By the way, we] wanted to let you know that we spoke to the designer of the new Mechagodzilla that appeared in Ready Player One (2018). The name of the designer is Jared Krichevsky, and he was sent the work of Noriyoshi Ohrai to use as a base for his Mechagodzilla design. When Jared was given the 1993 “Heisei VS Series” poster, he was told to “make Mechagodzilla like this.” We thought you might like to know!

    Nishikawa: Thank you for the interesting information about Mechagodzilla’s design. In an interview I had that was put in the Japanese brochure for Ready Player One (2018), I wrote that “I think that Mechagodzilla is based on the Ohrai poster,” but I’m glad to hear confirmation of this.

    Mechagodzilla from "Ready Player One" (2018)

     

    TK: Which of the doujinshi that you made is your favorite?

    Nishikawa: The first “Godzilla Legend” is my favorite.

     

    TK: How can fans buy some of your doujinshi, such as your Godzilla side stories and “Lady Franken”?

    Nishikawa: Nowadays they’re all out of stock, so buying them might prove difficult. I’ve been mulling over a new issue for “Lady Franken,” so I’d like to put that one out there again with the new issue attached.

     

    TK: Some of your Godzilla manga were released in “Godzilla Crazy Age”. However, there are other stories you have made that were published in TV Magazine and “Whole Godzilla Movie”, as well as “Godzilla Legend” and “Making of Godzilla Legend”. Are there any other Godzilla manga you have released in the past? If so, what are they called?

    Nishikawa: From Rippu Shobo Publishing Co.’s “Godzilla vs. Biollante Encyclopedia” to “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Encyclopedia,” I drew a Godzilla movie digest manga, a work called “Road to Canossa” in a volume from an anthology called “Godzilla Comic Counterattack” from Takarajimasha, a making-of manga about Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) as well as a manga called “Vindication of Kano” in NTT Media Scope’s “Roar of Godzilla,” and a manga named “Kiriko Kokiroko” in Keibunsha’s “Godzilla Magazine Vol.8.” This summer I put out a doujinshi called “New Generation Godzilla Legend.”

     

    TK: Regarding your manga “Monster King Godzilla,” how many chapters did you release?

    Nishikawa: I drew these three times for a monthly publication. They haven’t been compiled into a single release.

    Shin Godzilla (2016)

     

    TK: What are your thoughts on Shin Godzilla (2016)?

    Nishikawa: Compared to the Godzilla movies from back when I was involved in the series, it gives off this feeling of having been made within the context of a sort of unrestrained freedom. While I do think that there are parts of it that would be difficult to grasp for those without an understanding of the specific make-up of Japanese politics, as we have Legendary’s Godzilla (2014) which was made to appeal to the whole world, I’m glad that something like Shin Godzilla (2016) can exist alongside it.

     

    TK: What are your thoughts on the “AniGoji” series? (Planet of the Monsters, Monster Apocalypse, etc.)

    Nishikawa: The theory behind these films is quite divorced from that of already existing Godzilla movies or other kajiu films, but in a world where Legendary’s Godzilla (2014) and Shin Godzilla (2016) exist, I think it’s good to have a sort of distinctiveness.  I evaluate these films as bringing forth a new way of communicating the themes inherent in the “Kaiju” concept.

     

    TK: When did you first start joining exhibitions related to Toho? And what inspired you to join them?

    Nishikawa: I think it was around 2014 that the reevaluation of Godzilla and the the proliferation of these exhibitions began. I’m not completely sure what spurred all that on, but someone I knew from reconstruction and support activities from after the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami was planning an “Akira Ifukube 100th Anniversary Concert,” and the poster I drew for that concert was what lead me to the paintbrush art style I currently employ.

     

    TK: How have your experiences at these exhibitions been?

    Nishikawa: I was able to really feel valued, not only as “the designer of Godzilla,” but also as an illustrator and as an artist. I was also able to feel how popular the Heisei works are, as well the continuing alternation of generations of Godzilla fans.

    Akira Ifukube 100th Anniversary Concert

     

    SHINJI NISHIKAWA (西川伸司) – Since the conclusion of this interview, Nishikawa has published his latest art book Shinji Nishikawa Design Works, released a new doujinshi titled New Generation Godzilla Legend, and worked as a monster designer for the 2018 anime SSSS.GRIDMAN. He also runs a blog, which he updates occasionally.

    Interviews // June 2, 2019
  • Author: Matthew Freese | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    1954.

    An ancient colossus moved beneath the waves around the Bikini Atoll. This colossus was known as Godzilla, a mere legend of man proved true. Blackened burn marks covered his body, blood leaked from various wounds, and his internal supply of radiation was low. Godzilla sensed radiation nearby, filling him with hunger. He simply hoped nothing would interfere this time.

    In a bunker miles away from the Bikini Atoll, a group of highly esteemed people gathered. High ranking officers of the U.S. military, scientists, and high-ranking members of the group Monarch watched as Godzilla moved closer to the nuclear bomb known as Castle Bravo.

    “Are you sure this will kill Godzilla?” stated one of the Monarch officials, beginning to doubt the nuclear behemoth even could be killed.

    “Of course it will, this bomb’s the strongest we’ve ever made. Nothing could survive this one,” bragged a general, a cocky grin forming on his face. “That lizard’s as good as dead,” he added.

    Another Monarch official began to speak, only to be silenced by one of the scientists, holding a pair of binoculars, exclaiming “He’s surfacing!”

    Everyone clamored to the viewing window of the bunker, the one’s lucky enough to get there first grabbing binoculars. “Gentlemen, get ready to witness history!” proclaimed a scientist as he pressed the button to trigger the detonation.

    On that day, they would witness history. But not in the way they thought.

    Godzilla breached the surface, his head rising high into the air. He looked at the source of the radiation he sensed, a yellow object resting upon the shore. Godzilla groaned, fully aware of what would come next. He braced himself.

    A tremendous shockwave miles wide tore through the surrounding area, followed by a horrific wave of heat. Trees, along with whatever else was unfortunate enough to be nearby, on the surrounding isles were reduced to ash by the devastating power. An overpowering noise bellowed for all within miles to hear, nearly deafening the people in the far off bunker.

    “What the hell was that?” shouted the general, his ears still ringing.

    “There m-must have been a miscalculation somewhere, the bomb wasn’t supposed to be nearly that powerful!” stammered out one of the scientists. “A miscalculation!”

    An admiral cut in, enraged. “Do you realize the damage that had to have done? We’ll be lucky if we don’t die of radiation poisoning!”

    “Did it at least kill Godzilla?” questioned a Monarch official, receiving a multitude of angry glares in response.

    “How could that have possibly not killed him?” yelled a scientist at the top of his lungs.
    Before the whole bunker could devolve into a bickering contest, they were all cut off by the almost timid voice of another Monarch official watching through binoculars. “G-guys, you might want to see this…”

    Godzilla’s eyes slowly opened. Every nerve in his body burned with agony as he slowly sank beneath the raging waters. If it hadn’t been for the insane amounts of radiation the blast released, he wouldn’t have survived. As his body absorbed the nuclear energy and healed itself, Godzilla began slowly making his way to the surface. The nuclear behemoth rose from the water, now seeing that the explosion had thrown him a great distance. He looked down, now realizing his chest armor had been scorched black. He began to swim forward, toward the source of the explosion and hopefully more radiation, when a horrid bellow struck his ears. Then the water a few hundred meters before him began to rise, as if something massive was surfacing. Another booming roar echoed across the waters, but its source was much further away and behind Godzilla, causing him to ignore it.

    “How is it still alive?” screamed the general, his fists clenched and shaking violently.

    “It’s the radiation, it has to be!” a Monarch official stated.

    “We’ll either need to produce megaton level explosions without radiation, or make a nuclear bomb so powerful Godzilla doesn’t have a body to regenerate,” added a scientist.

    “If we keep building bigger bombs, we’ll destroy ourselves before Godzilla ever gets a chance to,” grimly claimed another Monarch official.

    As the inhabitants of the bunker argued amongst themselves, a scientist watching the behemoth dropped his binoculars, his hands shaking and covered with sweat. His breathing heavy, he stammered out three words that gave even the hardiest men pause. “There’s two Godzillas!”

    Standing before Godzilla, there stood a smoldering monster of fresh creation, its stance upright. It had green scales charred black, small round eyes with pinprick pupils, and jagged dorsal spines jutting from its back. It was bulky, not quite as much as its counterpart, as he stood a head taller than the new creature, but it clearly still had muscle. The second Godzilla’s eyes darted back and forth, his head jerking from side to side.

    The primordial Godzilla carefully stepped forward, recognizing the roar of anguish from this new arrival. The first Godzilla considered interacting with this creature that resembled himself, but before he could do anything, another roar sounded just behind the original Godzilla, followed by a rising bulge of water. Before the primordial beast could react, a pair of short, muscular arms burst from the water and dug their claws into him. The water fell away, revealing another massive creature, its sharp teeth bared in a snarl. Its scales were black, and uniform three-pronged spines ran down its back. The third Godzilla continued pushing against the alpha-predator, who braced himself. Breaking away, the primordial Godzilla turned to meet his new foe. The alpha-predator let out a mighty roar directly into the face of the black leviathan, who responded with a roar of his own. The two titans collided, locking hands and shoving against the other.

    “There’s three of them now? Why, how?” an admiral stammered out.

    “Why do all three look different? Are they all separate species?” questioned a scientist.

    “The latter two may be evolutionary branch offs of the first Godzilla’s species, both awakened or attracted by Castle Bravo’s radiation,” exclaimed another scientist.

    “How do we kill them, that’s all I care about!” yelled the general.

    A Monarch official, watching the fight between the two Godzillas through binoculars, chimed in. “Just let them fight amongst themselves, they seem to be pretty territorial.”

    A scientist also holding binoculars, but instead watching the green Godzilla break away from the pair yelled, “Yes, but what about the one that’s currently fleeing?”

    The general contemplated both statements for a brief moment before immediately barking out orders. “Radio the fleet of ships we have nearby, tell them to stay out of the radiated zones and to keep the first Godzilla distracted until one of those two new ones dies!”

    Their shoving contest seemingly going nowhere, the ancient Godzilla threw his head forward, bashing it against the black leviathan’s own. The new Godzilla cried out in shock, the blow throwing his focus off long enough for the alpha-predator to rake his right claws against his face. The brown behemoth punched the dark dragon with his left fist, staggering him back even further. The ancient Godzilla opened his jaws, before lunging at his foe’s face. The black leviathan ducked beneath the attempted bite, before turning his body and ramming his shoulder into the alpha-predator’s torso. The new Godzilla dug his claws deep into the behemoth’s blackened chest, drawing strands of crimson blood, before beginning to pull his claws out. The first Godzilla screamed in agony as he felt two of the armor plates on his chest begin to be pulled off. The brown behemoth grabbed his foe’s arms, then with a cry of pain yanked them free from his body. Two noticeable wounds now scarred his chest, leaking small rivers of ichor. The new Godzilla bit down on his foe’s neck, the teeth digging into the alpha-predator’s gills, drawing even more blood. The original Godzilla cried out in agony, but the agony soon changed into something different.

    Rage.

    The alpha-predator slammed both of his fists into the sides of the black leviathan’s skull, the blows sounding like the crack of thunder. The new Godzilla stumbled backward, streams of blood pouring from his ears and visible, deep dents where he was struck. The dents on his head began to fill back up, an unseen regeneration already working. The alpha-predator grabbed his foe’s shoulders, shoving him toward a nearby island. The primordial behemoth threw his foe forward, onto the now wet sand of a small island. The dark atomic saurian landed on his back, his head almost fully healed from the attack. The original Godzilla marched up to his foe, stood over his body, and then raised his massive, elephantine foot. The alpha-predator stomped hard onto his foe’s chest, being rewarded with a cry of anguish. Another stomp, a subtle cracking sound. A third brutal stomp, a sickening crack followed. The alpha-predator brought his foot high, hoping to tear clean through the leviathan’s chest this time. He brought it down, but the atomic saurian caught the foot with his hands, barely keeping it above his chest. His regeneration already working to heal his chest and ribs, the new Godzilla shoved upward with all his might, staggering the original Godzilla and forcing him to stumble backward. Flipping over onto his chest, the black leviathan pushed against the ground as he got back to his feet. The two titans stared at each other, their clawed hands both flexing in anticipation.

    The fleeing Godzilla waded through the waters, hoping to find some kind of place to rest. One moment he had simply been resting, the rest of his herd nearby. His mate tending to their nest, all seemed normal and simple. Then, there was a horrid sound, accompanied a seemingly unending light. Then, they were all gone. His herd, his mate, his offspring, all nowhere to be seen. His own body, now twisted and terrifying in ways he had never thought imaginable. He hoped this was all some sick dream, that none of it was real, that he would wake up and all would be back to normal. As he moved, something on the water’s surface caught his attention. More things began to arrive, drawing closer. A human would recognize them as a small fleet of battleships, but to Godzilla’s primal mind, they were strange shapes that he had almost nothing to compare to. Suddenly, the ships opened fire, massive shells firing from huge guns aboard the boats. The hail of projectiles crashed against the mountain of flesh, earning growls from the colossus. The humans onboard mistook them for pain, prompting them to fire more. But the shells caused no real harm to Godzilla, only annoyance. Godzilla charged at the fleet, his growls growing more intense. He reached the front most ships, then let out a booming bellow of pure rage. The ships stopped firing, now attempting to flee. The titan kicked a ship just in front of him, sending the metal construct flying above the rest. Some of the fleeing ships shot at him, hoping desperately to halt the coming rampage. As the first ship sent flying hit the water, killing everyone on board, another ship was almost folded in half by a strike from the colossus’ tail. Suddenly, an explosion blinded one of Godzilla’s eyes. The behemoth stumbled backward, roaring in genuine pain. One of the battleships crews had the idea to fire at his eyes, seeing them as a weak point. Instead of driving the monster away, the attack had only made things far worse. Godzilla opened his jaws, causing a geyser of white smoke to pour from his maw. The geyser struck one of the ships, immediately causing it to glow red and melt. Godzilla began thrashing his head side to side, spraying the deadly mist over the rest of the fleet. Even if every ship wasn’t destroyed completely, the heat still instantly killed every man the attack passed over. Some of the battleships exploded, sending molten shrapnel in all directions and killing those who avoided the smoke.

    Within the bunker, all was silent. Everyone in the bunker somberly hung their heads, having just heard over the radio the final moments of one unfortunate crew.

    “What have we done?” Whispered one of the scientists, so quiet some wondered if he had even meant to say it out loud.

    The dark Godzilla charged forward, his footsteps shaking the earth. The original Godzilla waited. The black leviathan neared his foe, claws ready to tear into him. The nuclear behemoth turned swiftly, his long tail whipping into his foe’s shoulder. A loud snapping sound, followed by a cry of agony echoed across the land. The new Godzilla stepped back, his left shoulder dislocated and broken. Before the arm could heal, the brown behemoth lunged forward and grabbed the appendage, yanking it downward. More snaps and pops sounded as the original Godzilla attempted to rip his foe’s arm off. The black leviathan clawed at the alpha-predator with his other arm, but it failed to deter him. The atomic saurian flailed in his foe’s grip, but the flesh around his shoulder was beginning to tear and gush crimson ichor.

    The new Godzilla’s spines glowed a bright azure.

    A solid blue pillar of atomic power exited the new Godzilla’s maw, crashing against the original Godzilla’s chest. The brown behemoth was pushed back as a series of explosions blasted away chunks of armor and flesh. The atomic ray ceased, only for the black leviathan’s spines to flash again. The ray tore apart the ground before its user, before the atomic saurian lifted his head up and swept the beam up the behemoth’s body, forcing out a screech of agony. As the original Godzilla stood still, his body wracked with great pain, the new Godzilla slowly stepped forward, his lips parting in a vile grin. He didn’t know where that power had come from, but he didn’t care. The dark atomic saurian prepared to fire another blast, but a loud crackling sound caught him off guard. A similar blue glow began travelling up the original Godzilla’s spines. The brown behemoth gasped in air, before opening his jaws and firing a cascade of what looked like blue flames. The atomic breath struck the new Godzilla, scorching his chest charcoal black and pushing him away. The black leviathan’s feet dug trenches through the sand as he was pushed back, trying to focus long enough to fire back with his own atomic breath. The stream of fire ended, yet the nuclear behemoth’s spines still glowed. Before the alpha-predator could attack again, the new Godzilla charged forward, his spines now glowing. The two merely one hundred yards away, both released their atomic breathes. The two beams struck each other, sending out a shockwave that sent sand flying. As the two titans continued their struggle, neither giving an inch, a blue sphere began to manifest where the two rays collided. The energy sphere began to move closer to the black leviathan, only to be pushed back toward the brown behemoth. Putting more power into his beam, the original Godzilla moved the sphere back toward the center, the heat from both of their beams beginning to glass the sand below the sphere. Both colossi dug their feet into the ground, bracing themselves.

    The orb began to pulse oddly.

    The two Godzilla were thrown back by a massive explosion, one which shook the whole island they fought on. Sand was either obliterated or turned to glass, trees were burned to cinders, and radiation deadly to most lifeforms was spread throughout the island. The original Godzilla was sent flying into the water, while the new Godzilla hit the ground harshly, sending sand and chunks of glass soaring. The dark atomic saurian got up, his entire front scorched jet black. He immediately began running forward, and dove into toward the water. He wasn’t done with his foe yet!

    Submerged beneath the waves, the new Godzilla searched for his foe. He dove down further, knowing it would take more than that explosion to kill the behemoth. His ears picked up the sound of something large swimming toward him. Before he could react, the original Godzilla slammed into the new Godzilla’s side, bashing him against the rock wall beneath the island. Ignoring the boulders that fell from the impact, the alpha-predator began punching his foe’s face with his right hand. The black leviathan slashed his claws against one of the open wounds on his foe’s chest, but no cry of pain came. Instead, the brown behemoth grabbed the new Godzilla by the face, before slamming his head against the rock wall. Seeing a cloud of blood float up from behind his hand, the alpha-predator bashed his foe’s head against the rocks once more. A blue flash caught the original Godzilla’s eye, before another, brighter flash of an atomic ray consumed the thumb on his left hand. Pulling his hand back in agony, the brown behemoth saw that his thumb had been burnt down to the bone. The new Godzilla prepared to fire another atomic ray. The alpha-predator threw both of his hands forward, wrapping them around the black leviathan’s throat. The original Godzilla squeezed with all of his might, ignoring his foe’s thrashing and clawing. The alpha-predator lunged his body forward, crashing his foe into the rock wall so hard an indent formed. Foam began to fill the new Godzilla’s maw, his movements slowing. The original Godzilla lunged forward again, his foe almost halfway into the mountain. The dark atomic saurian’s spines flashed a deep blue.

    A powerful wave of energy erupted from the new Godzilla’s body, breaking the alpha-predator’s grip on his throat and pushing the behemoth back, along with melting the rock behind him. The original Godzilla could barely process the pain and shock he felt. The black leviathan charged up another beam, but this time azure strands of atomic power danced around his spines as he did. Having absorbed the excess radiation from his nuclear pulse, the atomic ray that the new Godzilla fired had white spirals surrounding it. The blue spiral ray lanced into the alpha-predator’s stomach, obscuring half of his body with a massive explosion. A colossal cloud of blood floated toward the surface as it was soon revealed that the blast had torn the original Godzilla’s stomach open, revealing bones and internal organs. The new Godzilla prepared to finish the job, but a loud rumbling stopped him. He looked up, realizing that the cavern he had created with his nuclear pulse, along with the heat from his spines during the spiral ray, was collapsing. He tried to flee, when an avalanche fell over the opening of the hole. He tried to blast the falling rocks away, but nothing would come out of his mouth. Godzilla cried out wrathfully as thousands of tons of rock fell onto his drained, weary body.

    Several helicopters landed near the bunker, ready to escort everyone on site back to America.

    “Remember, you all saw nothing here aside from Castle Bravo’s explosion.” Coldly stated a Monarch official. Nobody else said anything, just boarding their respective helicopters, everyone not associated with Monarch hoping they would be able to forget what they saw.

    The original Godzilla’s eyes slowly opened, horrid searing pain wracking his whole body. He wasn’t sure how long he had been unconscious for, but he did know that he had healed slightly. He looked down, seeing a thin layer of flesh over his stomach, slowly getting thicker as it regenerated. The alpha-predator began to slowly swim away, but he cringed as his muscles burned at the movement. Thinking for a brief moment, Godzilla decided to close his eyes again, drifting back to sleep.

    The black Godzilla burst from his cave, but he felt no sense of triumph. He felt empty, in multiple ways. His stomach felt empty, and something told him flesh would no longer fill that void. As the beast looked out into the endless abyss of the ocean, he felt a sense of loss, not of possession but direction. One moment, he had been a normal dinosaur, dying slowly on an island, alone. But then there was a gigantic sound and light, and then he was no longer dying, but his body was changed drastically and painfully. Filled with fury and desperate for revenge against the world, he had lashed out against the first thing he had seen. Now, he had no idea of what to do.

    The green Godzilla rested in an undersea cave, but he felt no peace. Part of him wondered if he’d ever feel peace again.

    Draw: Godzilla (Heisei), Godzilla (Legendary)

     

    K.W.C. // May 30, 2019
  • Author: Joshua St. Jean | Banner: Landon Soto

    Kamacuras flew over the city of Paris, its wings beating furiously as the mammoth mantis landed on the top of the Arc du Triomphe with a thunderous screech. Bodies of France’s citizens splattered across the sides of buildings from the shockwave, becoming piles of stagnant corpses for the invader. Kamacuras’ bulbous head twitched from side to side in ravenous excitement.

    So much to consume! So many to consume!

    A trio of jets flew by, launching missiles at the mantide monster… only for them to be taken off guard when a second Kamacuras uncloaked and swooped down on the fighters, slicing them apart with its great claws. Tank shells bombarded the two insectoid monsters, pelting them with unending fury, but they proved ineffectual as claws sliced through their steel armor with ease.

    The mantide monsters looked to each other, then at the city. Humans no longer annoyed them with their irritating metal defenders. For a city drowning in death and silence, nothing held the power to stop the Kamacuras as they moved to consume the mountains of dead.

    Time to fee…

    A low, thunderous stomp echoed through the city. And then another. The two Kamacuras turned their heads and shrieked in rage. They recognized this figure, and they hated it, for it would mean a pause to their feast. The new arrival responded with a loud, thunderous roar that shook the windows of every building around the gargantuan saurian.

    Godzilla, the Alpha Predator, had arrived.

    The two Kamacuras took a few steps back as the great shadow of Godzilla blanketed them both. The pair knew they were outmatched on their own, instinct recommending them to flee but a sudden rush of bloodlust overtook both of them. The duo split up, forcing Godzilla to divide his focus as greens blurs danced around him in chaotic fashion. One blur lunged from the side, expecting to skewer the beast’s abdomen only for Godzilla to catch the Kamacuras in his powerful arms.

    The insect squealed in agony, the sturdy exoskeleton which encompassed its body cracking from Godzilla’s claws. The other mantide burst forward in support and slammed his claws against the beast’s hide merely for sparks to splash in futility. The leviathan’s eyes focused on the struggling Kamacuras within his grasp, watching it squirm before the second one scored a strike on the beast’s gills, causing Godzilla to reel away and snap at the offender.

    That was a mistake.

    Noticing the weak point in the leviathan’s unbreakable armor, the other Kamacuras struck the other side of Godzilla’s neck, cutting into his gills and causing him to screech in pain and let go. The two mantides took turns, each slicing at the ancient reptile’s gills, disappearing from sight, trying to kill the leviathan quickly.

    Finally, Godzilla managed to duck, and both insects slammed into the other, each accidentally cutting a leg and spraying emerald blood on the structures below. Godzilla grabbed one Kamacuras as it fell by the abdomen and flung it away, flattening a line of structures to the base of the Eiffel Tower.

    Godzilla’s head slowly shifted to the other insect, its eyes focusing on the monstrous mantide as a low growl echoed from its maw. The Kamacuras lowered itself to the ground in fright, blending its body with its surroundings to disappear in broad daylight. Thinking it had retreated, the saurian moved forward to kill the other Kamacuras only to be pounced upon and clawed by the invisible mantis. Groaning in pain, Godzilla desperately struggled to pull the Kamacuras off, only for the second to join the fight once more.

    Godzilla moaned and struggled to strike at both Gimantis specimens, feebly trying to tear them from his side. The leviathan grabbed the second Kamacuras in his jaws and slammed it into the ground with a violent snap, eliciting a screech of pain from the insect. He attempted to smash its head into a gory paste by stomping on it, but the beast flew off, its fellow in pursuit, causing the prehistoric saurian to roar in anger. Both flew in different directions, turned invisible and charged at Godzilla.

    Godzilla stood perfectly still, only the deep huff of his breath audible, and an eerie silence washed over Paris. He was motionless, listening… waiting. The beating of wings came closer and closer. Godzilla tensed. Waiting… Unseen, the closest charging Kamacuras lifted its giant claws, prepared to impale Godzilla’s neck.

    Kamacuras swung up.

    Godzilla lashed outward.

    A death encompassed screech echoed for the city to hear.

    Godzilla’s claws ripped through exoskeleton like paper, sending Kamacuras into a wild frenzy. Godzilla grabbed the Kamacuras by the neck, his teeth punching into the weakened exoskeleton, then bit down and violently wrenched his head back.

    The Gimantis stopped struggling, its headless corpse striking the ground while its head slowly rolled from Godzilla’s jaws. The leviathan’s eyes shifted from the body at its feet to the surrounding landscape. A weary breath escaping its jaws in anticipation.  

    One bug left to squash.

    Hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface, a lone figure’s fists clenched with fury. Taking a breath, the black, leather laden individual scratched the top of his sunglasses. As his fists loosened and spectators within the room unleashed a breath of relief, the Xilien Commander screamed in rage.

    “Kamacuras, you shall kill the beast!” he commanded to the screens which displayed the ongoing battle. “Kill it! Kill it! Kill it now!”

    Kamacuras obeyed, swooping down to gore Godzilla’s gills. Stepping upon the mantis’ corpse, Godzilla answered Kamacuras’ charge with one of his own, hissing and moaning along the way to the Arc.

    Godzilla leaned down and swung his tail, smashing the Kamacuras to the side and sending it crashing into the Arc, destroying the famous monument and creating a fountain of rubble. A telltale, thunderous hum rang throughout Paris while Godzilla’s dorsal plates began to illuminate with power. The leviathan smashed his left leg into the ground, his jaws parting to reveal an azure hue as flames formed within his maw.  

    The Gimantis struggled to its feet, and lunged with its armed aimed for the beast’s throat, only for Godzilla’s silhouette, looming over the insect and the city, to unleash a stream of atomic energy. Kamacuras’ head detonated with explosive fury. Guts splattered all over the ruined remains of the Arc while its sturdy exoskeleton burned away to nothing but ash.

    Godzilla let out a mammoth roar, letting his voice echo to the heavens, before he shakily wandered off. He was exhausted from the onslaught of the brawl, and would need significant time to heal and rest before doing much else. After reaching the base of the Eiffel Tower, the mighty saurian collapsed due to his wounds, blood oozing from the slash marks littering his neck and shoulders.

    Meanwhile, the Xilien Commander snarled and screamed petulantly. He kicked and smashed his fists against the console. Subordinates in the room stood in fright, waiting for the rage to end after an eternity of relentless strikes. Finally, as his sunglasses fell onto the broken pile of machinery, the Xilien Commander halted his assault. His stance became unnaturally rigid.

    The Xilien Commander’s head twisted over ninety degrees to reveal a devilish smile accompanying wide, murderous eyes. Lightning sparked chaotically around his right arm.  

    “Time to get rid of all useless insects.”

    Winner: Godzilla (Legendary)

    K.W.C. // May 29, 2019
  • Hey everyone! Included in today’s huge Godzilla: King of the Monsters update:

    -Exclusive interview with Director Michael Dougherty
    -Exclusive interview with O’Shea Jackson Jr.
    -Exclusive Interview with Ken Watanabe

    -Press conference audio with:
    -Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch
    -Kyle Chandler and Bradley Cooper
    -Michael Dougherty and Ken Watanabe

    ***SPOILERS GALORE IN THE INTERVIEWS!*** If you are someone who has seen the film in an advance screening, go ahead and check out the content. If not, wait until after you’ve seen the movie. You’ll be glad you did!

     

    Audio Interviews

    Interview: Michael Dougherty

    The file is just under 10MB with a length of around 10 minutes. Click to download.

    -The interview begins with a brief recap of the Akira Ifukube question being asked at SDCC which was also mentioned in the interview with O’Shea Jackson Jr.
    -At approx 8:33, Mike alludes to the possibility of a MonsterVerse TV show
    -Small edits to the interview were made for flow

    Michael Dougherty interview

     

    All audio interviews recorded at:
    The London Hotel
    West Hollywood, California
    5/19/2019

     

    Press Conference Audio Interviews

    Click the images to download the audio files.


    Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Thomas Middleditch
    Runtime: 20:36


    Kyle Chandler and Bradley Cooper
    Runtime 20:20


    Michael Dougherty and Ken Watanabe
    Runtime: 24:47

    All press conference interviews recorded at:
    The London Hotel
    West Hollywood, California
    5/19/2019

     

    Video Interviews

    O’Shea Jackson Jr.

    -Small edits to the interview were made for flow
    -I missed an Easter Egg in the film which I had recognized while I viewed it yet slipped my mind during the interview

     

    Ken Watanabe

    -Small edits were made for flow
    -The gimbal I used to record started acting up so I had to adjust while filming

     

    All video interviews filmed at:
    The London Hotel
    West Hollywood, California
    5/19/2019

    Interviews // May 28, 2019