Book: Godzilla & Toho - Tokusatsu Pictorial Sketch


Godzilla & Toho - Tokusatsu Pictorial Sketch

Japanese Book Title

ゴジラ 東宝特撮ピクトリアルスケッチ
[Gojira Toho Tokusatsu Pikutoriaru Suketchi]




Hobby Japan


Back Cover



By: Anthony Romero

This giant publication is devoted toward the early and detailed storyboards that were done at Toho for their special effects productions. As the book itself points out, this process of creating more detailed storyboards was introduced to Toho by producer Iwao Mori. While this was the genesis of the concept, the book itself focuses on the films of special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya. The publication does not seek to cover his entire portfolio, but rather cherry picks 17 productions. While most of these are science fiction, three war films are among the group. In general, this book is both unique to the genre for Toho productions and phenomenal in its presentation. It’s amazing that these storyboards survived, given their age and some of the questionable archiving practices of Toho prior to the advent of home video, but it’s a joy to see them presented in such a detailed manner.

As mentioned, 17 films are included here. These are:

There is an asterisk next to Dogora (1964) which I’ll cover right now as I feel it’s the best part of this publication. What’s included is actually not for the 1964 movie specifically, but rather the lost project Space Mons which is a 1962 pre-cursor concept. Oddly, this section makes no mention of the fact that these storyboards were for an unused concept. What’s even more interesting is that the notations for these, unlike others, are all in English. This is possibly because Toho was shopping around the idea to US based companies for some additional financing, as that tactic proved successful in 1961 for them. Regardless, I can’t help but imagine that quite a few Japanese readers were puzzled by this section, since what’s depicted here is so wildly different from what the 1964 movie would become.

Anyway, the coverage per film is fairly good. Some of these are also in full color or partial color, which includes The Three Treasures (1959), Battle in Outer Space (1959), The Human Vapour (1960), Mothra (1961), The Last War (1961), Gorath (1962), Atragon (1963), Matango (1963) and the previously mentioned Space Mons concept. These are what sell the book, as the amount of detail given in the storyboards starting in 1959 is quite good.

Besides the surprisingly detailed storyboarding, for fans the other welcome element will be spotting differences versus what was done in the main film. For example the more feminine look for the Natarl aliens, the mole-like look for Moguera, or the more frightening initial appearance of Mothra. Speaking of the latter, the Mothra (1961) section is very well done here. It breaks apart the storyboards and features first the ones for the Giant Monster Mothra concept and then storyboards for the final film.

While the book does a lot right, there are a few complaints to be had. First, one would have a hard time classifying the Matango (1963) section as storyboards. It’s better classified as seven pieces of concept art, which don’t get me wrong as they are great to see and very rare, but break the norm of how the other films are presented here. The second complaint is just that… the storyboards for The Storm of the Pacific (1960) are very boring. Yes there are some good details in a few of them, but a lot of them cover the battles at sea which are hard to make the details out and go on for page after page. I realize that’s just how the storyboards are, and they are faithfully shown here… I’m just wondering why this particular film was chosen over another production that might have had more interesting storyboards.

Bottom line, if one is interested in movie storyboards, then this is a must. Again, it’s shocking both that these have survived but also the amount of care that was placed into their original creation. Hobby Japan did a great job of presenting these here too, with a big book that better showcases the images and nice layouts that make it easy to look over the many storyboards.