Book: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Big Encyclopedia

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Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Big Encyclopedia

Japanese Book Title

ゴジラ vs キングギドラ 大百科
[Gojira vs Kingu Gidora Dai Hyakka]

Authors:

Hisashi Honda, Ryosuke Wada, Yuuhachi Nakayama

Language:
Genre:
Release:
Publisher
:
Pages:
ISBN:

Japanese
Non-fiction
1991
Rippu Shobo Publishing
79
9784651016078

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Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

Godzilla non-fiction books released in Japan often have some fantastic little bonuses in them given that most of the books are licensed. That license allows the publishers to include some cool stuff, much like how The Godzilla Compendium included many fascinating articles and original art by Art Adams. In the case of the non-fiction books in Japan, some also include art from high-profile Japanese illustrators, behind-the-scenes photos, interviews, and—my personal favorite—manga stories! One of the most prominent non-fiction Godzilla book series to include manga was published by Rippu Shobo, and they published books covering each of the movies in the Heisei/VS series, appending “big encyclopedia” to the ends of each movie title. Today I want to talk about Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Big Encyclopedia.

 First of all, the title is a misnomer. This “big encyclopedia” is less than a hundred pages long. It also isn’t formatted like an encyclopedia as we think of them in the West—the articles are not sorted according to spelling. Instead we get roughly three sections—information about Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), a short manga adaptation of the film by Shinji Nishikawa, and a hodgepodge of information in the back.

 The information at the beginning of the book concerning what was then the newest Godzilla movie released, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, covers things like each of the monsters that appear and their attack moves and abilities, the vehicles that appear (such as Mother, Kids, and the Maser Tanks), the characters in the film (and their relationships to each other), a sort of synopsis of the film. some background information of the making of the film, and a one-page “catalog” of other Godzilla publications. Everything is written very simply, which makes the reading very smooth even for me, but information is also pretty scarce. If you have seen the movie, you’ll know most of the information about the characters, monsters, and machinery. The background information isn’t very detailed, either, and just includes things like “we used piano wire to suspend the monsters for flight scenes” and “buildings were constructed in such a way as to collapse just so, and it was very stressful because we had to get it right the first time or rebuild everything again.” The audience for this book skews young, though, so the simplified language and basic information would probably appeal to that audience. As for the one-page catalog, it just seems to take up space and includes a few pictures of books, comics, and posters that were released for various Godzilla films over the years, but with no real rhyme or reason as to what was included.

The manga by Shinji Nishikawa fairs much better for fans. Nishikawa did design work for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, including designing the monsters (other than Godzilla) and machinery, so his renditions of the same in the comic are absolutely spot-on. I like Nishikawa’s art of the human characters, too, which is cute and expressive, if a little bit lacking in detail. All of the art also receives a simple color scheme, which is rare in Japanese comics—here everything is colored in shades of orange. The comic is only 18 pages long, though, so it is a super-condensed version of the tale that nevertheless covers all the major story beats and even includes some stuff that the longer, more famous Shogakukan version did not include, such as Mike Saegusa. Most notably, whereas Kazuhisa Iwata’s version did not include the Godzillasaurus engaging with the American military, Nishikawa’s version does—and the Godzillasaurus even goes out to see and attacks the naval vessel, echoing Godzilla’s own anti-boat activities in previous films.

Book: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Big Encyclopedia
Godzillasaurus attacks the American navy ship
 

The fight with King Ghidorah also has a great moment where Godzilla grabs KG’s tails and swings him into the ground ala Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). However, we don’t get nearly as much deviation from the story as we did in Iwata’s version, nor do we get much of Nishikawa’s trademark humor. It’s fun to read, but leaves the reader wanting a bit more.

Book: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Big Encyclopedia
Godzilla blasts off King Ghidorah's head
 

The final section includes a series of short descriptions of Godzilla’s previous fights with King Ghidorah, a smattering of behind the scenes pics and info from seemingly random movies (Godzilla vs. Megalon and Frankenstein vs. Baragon???), information about Godzilla’s monster allies and foes, monster footprints, and a collection of shots from Godzilla pics with added word balloons to make them funny. I appreciated that they took the time to make a chart showing the relations between Godzilla’s allies, and I liked the idea of showing monster footprints. We get nine monsters with illustrations of their footprints: Rodan, KG, Godzilla, Anguiras, Varan, King Kong, Mothra larva, Mothra imago, and Ebirah. The Mothra imago has the weirdest feet. They totally cheat on Ebirah, though, and just show an illustration of his big claw.

The publicity shows edited with speech and thought bubbles deserves some extra attention here. The jokes for the most part are not that funny, but I still appreciate the effort. We have things like Minilla raising a paw and saying “hello,” or Godzilla standing over KG in Destroy All Monsters (1968) celebrating his victory and then saying “”but I am hungry,” to which KG thinks, “me, too.” The most interesting shots are from Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), in which we see Godzilla carrying a tree around like a walking stick—and speaking in exaggerated old-time Japanese. In one of these shots, we see Megalon and Gigan surrounding Godzilla leaning on his tree-cane. Megalon boasts that he will defeat Godzilla, while Godzilla says (in deep old-guy twang) “Ya’ll think you can take me down, do ya? I tell you, ya got no chance! Knock it off!” To which Gigan is thinking, “This guy watches too much television!” Some of you may recall that in the Godzilla vs. Megalon manga, Godzilla bears a huge log and uses a telephone pole as a cigar/weapon. I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but apparently (based off of a conversation I had with John LeMay), that sequence was a reference to a cut scene from the Megalon movie in which Godzilla would use a log like a sword. That cut sequence was apparently a reference to Zatoichi, and these shots of Godzilla talking in old-school Japanese and using a cane seem to confirm that! I wish they had left those scenes in the movie!

Book: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Big Encyclopedia
An image depicting a cut scene from Godzilla vs. Megalon
 

Finally, the last two pages of the book give some information about American monster movies, with a Nishikawa-drawn Goji saying “I have a lot of American buddies!” The monsters shown are: the original King Kong, Gwanji, a lizard from the 1960s version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Gorgo, the Rhedosaurus from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (the Japanese title for which was apparently “A nuclear monster appears!”), and some dinosaurs from 20,000,000 Years B.C. Again, not much information about each title, but I appreciate the inclusion.

Here we have an entertaining but quite slight Godzilla book. I think for fans, the comic adaptation by Nishikawa is probably the biggest draw given that not much can be found in the encyclopedia that isn’t already readily available on multiple online websites. Unfortunately sometimes the copies on Amazon Japan are ridiculously expensive. If you can get a cheap copy, though, I say go for it!