Battle History of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah
 Shinichi Sekizawa, Kyuta Ishikawa, Taku Horie, Takeshi Koshiro
Pencils: Kyuta Ishikawa, Taku Horie, Takeshi Koshiro Inks: -
Language: Japanese Release: 1992
Publisher: Bamboo Comics Pages: 245
Colors: - Cover: Yuji Kaida
Monster Appearances: Aliens, SDF, & Misc Appearances:
Godzilla, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Mothra, Varan, Baragon, Gorosaurus, Minilla, Gigan, Anguirus, Manda, Kumonga, Kamacuras, Fire Dragon Shobijin, Kilaakian, SY-3, Kilaakian UFO, Monster Control Device, Space Hunter Nebula M Aliens, Godzilla Tower
Nicholas Driscoll

When Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) was released in Japan, unsurprisingly Toho was looking for many ways to snag some extra cash from Godzilla fans in addition to the considerable coinage minted from their overpriced movie tickets. Given the plethora of Godzilla movies that have featured KG over the years, Toho didn’t need a very active imagination to come up with some merch splurging—and one of the cooler ideas they came up with was a collection of G-manga featuring the many stories (manga adaptations of movies) in which Godzilla and the tri-noggin terror clashed over the fate of the earth. The resulting volume, Battle History of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (Gojira vs Kingu Gidora: Kessenshi/ゴジラVSキングギドラ決戦史), is a real charmer of a collection, a mega-treat for nostalgic G-fans with a taste for Showa craziness! Nevertheless, some of the adaptations are really short, and the collection itself is far from comprehensive.

Now, there is a lot to love about Godzilla manga in Japan. Toho Kingdom has chronicled many of the plot differences that Godzilla manga adaptations have featured over the years, for example, and those plot differences can reflect earlier versions of the script, or just the imaginations of the manga creators. Either way, they are really fun to spot, and the older Godzilla manga have these differences as well. Of course, manga over the years has changed in style significantly as well, and the Godzilla manga follow these trends, so some comic lovers may be put off by the often very goofy-looking art-styles of previous decades. However, my opinion is that there is a lot of awesome packed into those goof-tacular drawings. Old-school comics have a charm of their own and there is little point in decrying all older manga for not fitting current art styles. That said, on to the adaptations!

The first manga adaptation in the book, and by far the longest in the book, is the adaptation of Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster (1964), one of my personal favorite Godzilla films. The comic, by Kyuta Ishikawa (who apparently did a lot of animal-themed comics back in the day), takes up 159 pages—well over half the book. The art is delightfully cartoony and energetic, with a lot of clean lines and streamlined, distinctive character designs which do not seem to be based particularly on the actors. The villains, for example, are gloriously over the top, and the bum who swaps clothes with Princess Salno is drawn as… well, a horrible black stereotype, I guess! Given that the comic has some room to breathe, the story covers most of the plot points of the film—albeit with numerous tweaks and changes.

Finding the changes is where the real fun stuff comes in for us nerds who are obsessed with minutiae and trivia. Here are some examples of some of the changes: Shindo’s journalist sibling in the manga version is his brother, not his sister (so yeah, he’s not dating the scientist who goes to investigate the Ghidorah meteorite…). In the comic version, the game show in which the Shobijin first appear is even more surreal than in the movie. Here, a child appears who seems to be hopped up on some nasty cocktail of drugs or something, and the hosts ask the child to deliver a clue as to what celebrity he wants to see appear on the show. The kid makes some weird noises (“ichuchu”—the Mothra squeak, maybe?), and then a panel of judges made up of three influential manga creators (Shotaro Ishinomori, Sanpei Shirato, and—natch—Osamu Tezuka) make wild guesses as to what the child is referring to, presumably based on some of their actual manga characters. Osamu Tezuka, for example, guesses “Big X,” which was a comic series of his. Of course, the correct answer is Mothra, and the Shobijin dutifully appear and sing some tunes.

There are a number of changes to the monster action, too. Ghidorah’s design doesn’t seem to be finalized, for example. I was hoping for rainbow wings like in early publicity shots, but his wings are jet black, and he only has one tail. Further, he shoots gravity beams out of his FEET as well as his three heads. In one scene, Ghidorah appears to be levitating Mothra with his foot-beams! Godzilla still inadvertently saves the Princess’ life by destroying some electrical towers, but this time G is just stepping on the towers rather than getting dropped by Rodan. When Mothra confronts Godzilla and Rodan about teaming up to fight Ghidorah, this time Mothra doesn’t mess around—she sprays them with silk, and then drags them up a mountain to get their attention! The end fight scene, too, is more violent and dynamic than the one in the film. For example, Godzilla bites KG’s central neck and then executes some crazy spinning jump move and manages to twist off KG’s middle head! Then Rodan swoops in and claws the eyes out of one of the remaining heads! Zoinks, KG really gets whomped, but still limps off into space.

For some reason, after the first comic, the collection completely skips over Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) and goes straight for Destroy All Monsters (1968)—but only includes one of the two manga adaptations that were made. The one included is about 14 pages long and was put together by Taku Horie for inclusion with the Asahi Sonorama for DAM—that is, the original comic came with a record. Horie’s art style is significantly more realistic than Ishikawa’s, albeit still very stylized, with heavy use of tones—especially on the monsters. Given the massively abridged nature of the comic, huge changes had to be made in the story, with many scenes just completely excised or glossed over in a rush. Still, Baragon really does destroy Rome this time, and Varan (looking a lot like a traditional oni) gets in a big punch against Ghidora. The final flaming UFO is different, too—in this case, the UFO actually changes form and becomes an enormous Asian dragon that flies through the air awash in flames and is instantly taken down by the SY-3’s ice cannon.

The last comic, by Takeshi Koshiro, is an adaptation of Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), and the style returns to a more cartoony, exaggerated style—albeit this time the characters appear to be based off of the actors. The design, too, is obviously from the 70s—it’s amazing what a difference just a few years can make, but 70s comics had a particular angular, big-eyed, somewhat more detailed look, and Gigan follows the trends. The comic is 46 pages of frenetic storytelling, which is a lot better than 14 pages with DAM, but is still too short to really tell the story in detail. Still, Koshiro’s page layouts are the most dynamic and exciting of the three stories—in comparison, Ishikawa’s panel layouts can come across as a little unimaginative.

Koshiro, too, exercises a bit of creative control in the adaptation, as there are quite a few plot changes throughout, even if the main beats of the tale are the same. Some examples: Gengo no longer has a girlfriend—instead, Tomoko is replaced by a butt-kicking manager who helps Gengo look for jobs. (The manager’s karate is hilarious in the comic—she really flies through the air as she fights, and in one disturbingly stupid scene, she gets elbowed in the chest by a fleeing baddie and squeals “Pervert!” with a little grin on her face…) Those on the hunt for original monsters will find several in this manga as well. For example, in both the movie and the comic, Gengo creates his own wacky kaiju designs and tries to sell them. Of the monsters mentioned in the movie, only Shukra is mentioned in the comic… but other original Gengo creations are mentioned as well: Myukura, Hedoronga, and Sumogguru. We see some of Gengo’s manga monster creations in the background, too, in a panel where he is busy drawing—but we are not told which is which. Some panels also show unnamed original monsters on Monster Island as well, including a sort of ceratopsian kaiju. There are numerous other small changes as well, so Godzilla lovers should find a lot of interest here.

The book ends with a short essay by tokusatsu expert Noriaki Ikeda, who waxes nostalgic about growing up in Japan reading comics and enjoying kaiju films, and he also shares some details about the manga creators. This short essay is followed by a list of all (?) the Godzilla manga up to that point—and even includes the infamous “A Space Godzilla” in the list! The list does not include Kaiju Raban, though, and the book includes a note that the Marvel run and other international works are not included.

The cover, done by Yuji Kaida, is fairly impressive. It melds all three titles together, giving a more impressive image than just Godzill fighting King Ghidorah as seen on the cover. The back cover features Gigan, Rodan and Varan for example. If one folds out the dust jacket, though, they get to see Kumonga, Baragon, Gorosaurus, Mothra, Manda and also Anguirus as well.

Overall, this is a really fun collection and a huge boon to collectors of Godzilla related memorabilia. The cover, too, is fantastic—it’s a wraparound painting with incredible detail and features quite the ensemble of monsters, which are rendered very impressively. However, the main draw is the comics, and for most fans, they are incredibly fun if you have an open mind—I just wish the chronicles were more complete!