Manga: Gamera: Giant Monster Mid-Air Decisive Battle


Gamera: Giant Monster Mid-Air Decisive Battle

Japanese Comic Title

ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦
[Gamera: Daikaiju Kuchu Kessen]


Kazunori Ito


Kenji Takaya
Kenji Takaya







By: Nicholas Driscoll

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) might be my favorite Gamera film. I love it because it fashioned something new and exciting out of a monster that many felt at the time was a beast that had gone stale, successfully not only in challenging but in many ways surpassing most if not all the Heisei/VS Godzilla films. The movie is exciting, pacey, and fun, with killer special effects, and some great performances. I purposefully reviewed all three of the Kaneko Gamera trilogy some time ago because I thought they weren't getting enough attention here at Toho Kingdom, and also reviewed the relatively mediocre Gamera comics from Dark Horse. Now I am coming back around to review the manga adaptation of the first film, which, I can say with some confidence after reading it three times, stands up as a pretty decent monster manga—if perhaps not as exciting as some of the Shogakukan Godzilla adaptations since it still adheres pretty closely to the plot of the original film.

Manga: Gamera: Giant Monster Mid-Air Decisive Battle
Asagi calls for healing power for Gamera--see how young she is???

Now, it has been a while since I saw the film, so I may have missed some of the differences in the manga, but I can still point out some interesting bits. Note that I am going to cover spoilers, so if you don't know what happened in the original film, pull out now from this review and jet on over to the couch and watch the movie already!

Anyway, both the film and the manga deal with a race of bird-like monsters called the Gyaos being awakened on an island (Princess God Island) and going on a rampage, with a young ornithologist named Nagamine being called upon to help capture them for study. Meanwhile, a strange mobile atoll seems to be moving of its own accord in the ocean. When the JSDF manages to land upon said atoll, they discover strange curlicue rocks and an ancient stone sign-monolith thingee. The atoll disappears under the water. The Gyaos (three of them) are lured to a huge sports dome and are trapped inside, but Gamera (who was inside the atoll) appears and smashes the dome, killing one of the Gyaos, and freeing the other two creatures, which flee with Gammy in hot pursuit. There are a variety of shenanigans that take place, including a teenager named Asagi developing a psychic link to Gamera so strong that when Gamera is wounded she is too, and a scene where Gamera blows up one of the Gyaos and then blocks an attack to save the main characters trapped on a rope bridge. Eventually Gamera is blasted out of the sky by the military before they realize that the Gyaos, which can reproduce asexually, are the real danger. Gamera and the final, supersized Gyaos face-off in Tokyo, fly high up in the air, and Gamera gets apparently blown to bits in an explosion before reforming and blasting Gyaos to kingdom come.

All of these story bits are in the manga, but with a few tweaks here and there. While the movie, for example, establishes the connection between Gamera and Asagi via the power of one of the curlicue rocks, here she has a psychic thing going on in the comic from the start, having prophetic dreams about Gyaos and Gamera from page one long before the mysterious rocks are discovered. Asagi's powers also give her the power to teleport—when Gamera blocks the attack of the Gyaos at the rope bridge and gets his hand sliced open, Asagi not only gets her own hand sliced open as well, she teleports near to where Gamera is being attacked. At the conclusion, she calls on the main characters Yonemori, Nagamine, and Kusanagi to combine their qi in order to bring Gamera back through the power of the curlicue rock. She also is drawn to appear as if she is maybe eleven or twelve years old, if not even younger. She looks YOUNG.

Manga: Gamera: Giant Monster Mid-Air Decisive Battle
Impressive monster combat art!

The art by Kenji Takaya, who also did the manga adaptation of Yamato Takeru, is a bit simplistic when drawing the human characters. However, his renderings of the monsters are detailed and satisfying. As for the action sequences, some are put together a bit confusingly, such as the rope bridge scene, while others look fantastic, such as when Gamera pulls Super Gyaos up into the stratosphere. Overall I really like Takaya's art, even the simplistic parts. It just feels right.

For me at least, even without comprehensive changes ala the Shogakukan Heisei Godzilla manga, this comic is a great deal of fun—and it was originally serialized in the same comic that ran the Shogakukan Godzillas, Bessatsu Korokoro Comics Special, from February to April 1995. The Japanese is not especially difficult, making the reading easy and fun, and the art is good, the story exciting, so it is hard to really complain about much.

Readers looking for more creative license can look to Gamera 2 the manga, which introduces a new child protagonist. But that review will have to wait for another day.