I’ve never experienced a day when there are two Godzilla movies running simultaneously in normal, run-of-the-mill theaters at the same time. If you live in Japan, that miracle recently happened with both Godzilla Minus One (2023) and Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire (2024) featured in many theaters simultaneously. That’s right, as of this writing, Godzilla Minus One is still in theaters here six months after it was released as it got a boost back in March when it won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects, and this past week it still has been getting two showings a day in my small-town movie theater—both in Screen X. Godzilla X Kong, meanwhile, opened in Japan on April 26, so it’s still getting the kingly treatment with many showings, Dolby Atmos sound, big screens, etc. This past week was Golden Week here in Japan—a week of holidays for the hardworking denizens of the Land of the Rising Sun. I ended up going to the 1:55 showing of Godzilla x Kong on Friday, May 3rd, and the 18:05 showing of Godzilla Minus One—and both showings had their little surprises for me.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire

For one, the 1:55 showing of Godzilla x Kong was pretty packed! Of course, on a normal day, I would never expect a 1:55 weekday showing to be full but given that the MonsterVerse films tend not to be all that popular here (opening night was fairly sparse at the showing I attended—yes, I’ve gone twice now), I figured Godzilla x Kong on Friday afternoon during a holiday would be practically a solo watch. Maybe it’s because I went to a Japanese-dubbed version on Friday, but the auditorium was brimming with youngsters—probably most kids don’t want to read subtitles. That’s also the reason most theaters here only run Japanese-dubbed versions of animated films. I have gotten so used to watching movies here with just a couple fellow moviegoers or even alone in the auditorium, so it was disconcerting to me to sit and listen to the widespread popcorn-chomping crackle across the room due to so many happy Godzilla-watchers scarfing carbs. I arrived just before the movie started, and I had stupidly purchased a ticket for a seat in the middle of the crowd, which was hard to get to in the dark and with nearly everybody sporting drinks and snacks. I opted to nab a seat on the side, figuring the side seats would be the ones nobody had purchased—only to get chased out of my purloined butt-cushion moments later by the rightful renters! With the theater darkened and the movie starting momentarily, I just yoinked one of the other free seats to the side instead of tripping over feet in the dark and enjoyed the show.

As with Wingard’s last Godzilla movie, Godzilla X Kong is kind of a theme-park ride of a film, and on my second viewing I giddily turned off my gray matter (well, except to parse the Japanese) and allowed the bombastic nonsense to wash over me. I also noticed this young boy sitting nearby who was totally getting into every monster clash, as he would sit on the edge of his seat when Kong or Godzilla or whoever emerged for another colossal beatdown. As far as the dub goes, I thought it was fine—though you miss a lot when you switch to Japanese. You don’t get the Aussie accent of the kaiju dentist Trapper, and the African-American podcaster Bernie Hayes sounds absurd with a squeaky, enthusiastic Japanese actor’s voice. As the movie ended, as is customary for Japanese audiences, most everyone stayed for the credits—and there was a second set after the first just for the Japanese cast, complete with an original song. The Japanese credits song is “Rise Together” by Yaffle and Al, a Japanese rap song that features samples of Akira Ifukube. In fact, when the second credits sequence started up, the Japanese Godzilla X Kong logo was displayed with Ifukube’s Godzilla theme blaring, which really caught me off guard. This glorious moment is actually the opening of “Rise Together” since they sample Ifukube. As the credits continued, monster mayhem scenes from the movie played out on each side of the screen as the credits scrolled up in the middle. I think it was Godzilla mostly appearing on the left and Kong mostly appearing on the right, with guest appearances by other monsters. So far as I know, there wasn’t anything new—no bloopers or Easter Eggs or deleted scenes kept for the Japanese credits. Still, “Rise Together” is a jam, and when we left the theater, one kid kept enthusiastically humming the Ifukube theme over and over again. I was inspired to buy the Godzilla X Kong theater pamphlet, which is gorgeous, and the whole time that kid was still bopping away!

Two Godzilla Movies on a Normal Day

Godzilla Minus One

After a two-hour break, I came back for Godzilla Minus One. I attended the movie on the day it was released on Amazon Prime in Japan (which I have a subscription to, actually—I could’ve been watching the movie at home). That may explain the dearth of viewers—I think maybe there were five people other than myself in the theater. Still, the cinema staff gave me a shiny gold foil Godzilla Minus One sticker when I headed in—that’s more than I got on my first two viewings! (I think they gave me a cool poster card when I went to see the black-and-white version).

Two Godzilla Movies on a Normal Day

This was my fourth time viewing Godzilla Minus One in theaters, and I’ve read a good chunk of the novel, too, which has added to my appreciation of the story. Oddly enough, I liked Godzilla Minus One the least on my first viewing—something about it just didn’t click with me and it left me a little cold. On subsequent viewings, the drama of the characters has connected with me more and more, and the tragedy of Shikishima and his complex relationship with Noriko resonates deeply with me now—not least because I ended up watching it with a friend who broke down crying during the movie and related how one of his coworkers in a previous job was a kamikaze pilot who survived and who suffered immensely from PTSD. The reality of my friend’s real-world experience made the movie sting that much better, and the action feels that much more poignant and powerful with that added dramatic resonance.

That said, I am still not completely sold on Screen X showings. I think of Screen X as a poor man’s Imax, as certain scenes are projected wider across the walls abutting the screen, thus creating an illusion that you’re “in” the film (supposedly). Sometimes I thought the effect worked very well with Minus One—particularly when Shikishima’s Zero is approaching Odo Island. I also enjoyed the occasional glimpse at what other actors were doing just outside the normal shot, or getting a peek at the wider environment—but theater auditorium walls aren’t really designed for projection, and the additional projected scenes look unclear, warped, and weird. I’d rather save the extra five bucks or so.

Two Godzilla Movies on a Normal Day

Still, getting to see two Godzilla movies during their initial runs in Japan on the same day was a great treat for me, and I enjoyed myself immensely with both movies. So much depends on how you approach a film, what your expectations are, who you are with—and on that day, I knew what the films were that I was getting into, and I was just there by myself to enjoy them. I have qualms with both movies—but I also find a lot to enjoy in the delirium of GxK and in the piercing melodrama of Minus One. Sure, I may have a chance to see more than one Godzilla film again on one day if I attend festival showings, but probably not two films during their initial runs like this—and I literally just walked from my apartment to the movie theater. What a magical day for a big kaiju nerd like me.

Two Godzilla Movies on a Normal Day

Two Godzilla Movies on a Normal Day