Manga: Godzilla

 

Godzilla


Japanese Comic Title

ゴジラ
[Gojira]

Authors:

Kazukuni Kobayashi

Pencils:
Inks:
Colors:
Language:
Release:
Publisher
:
Pages:

Fumio Hisamatsu
Fumio Hisamatsu
-
Japanese
2016
Kodansha
15, 12

Covers:

-

Comic

Monsters

Godzilla
Godzilla
King Ghidorah
King Ghidorah
Anguirus
Anguirus
Rodan
Rodan
Gigan
Gigan
Hedorah
Hedorah
Manda
Manda
Gorosaurus
Gorosaurus
Zone Fighter
Zone Fighter



Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

Over the years after the release of the original Godzilla (1954), the movies released skewed towards a younger and younger audience. Even with the original Godzilla, manga adaptations tended to appeal to kids more than the somber and dark film itself. We can see Godzilla stories appealing especially to the kindergarten/pre-school set with titles like the recent Chibi Godzilla, as well as the “Godzi-Land” straight-to-video educational cartoons and others. One more title to add to the growing-pile of materials aimed at the very young is Godzilla, a series drawn by Fumio (or Humio) Hisamatsu (who also did the manga adaptations of the Showa Godzilla vs. Mothra and Gorath) and written by Kazukuni Kobayashi (who also wrote the script for the Jun Fukuda-directed Comedy of Damashi’s Humanity and Justice in 1974). The series was published in the magazine Otomodachi (which is a polite way to say “friend” in Japanese) starting in October of 1972 and concluding in April of 1973. The manga was reprinted in volumes 7 and 8 of the Godzilla All Movie DVD Collectors Box series (which included DVDs of Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla Raids Again respectively).

Gigan shoots out his giant buzzsaw.
Gigan shoots out his giant buzzsaw.

Each episode of the series tends to be about four or five pages long, with liberal use of huge panels, and lots of monsters fighting. The stories are very much formulaic—some kids are doing something, a giant monster appears, the kids call for their friend Godzilla to save them, Godzilla appears and may briefly appear to be losing, then wins, and the kids congratulate the kaiju king and maybe patch up a few wounds. The language used is also very simplistic so that the very young can read it—even the katakana words have hiragana written over them, which I have almost never seen in other Japanese comics. (Japanese writing has three sets of letters, so to speak—hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Kids learn hiragana first in Japan, so to make for easier reading, sometimes katakana and kanji have hiragana written above them.) The stories also sometimes have very brief educational content, or even “warning: don’t do this at home” style caution text. Each episode concludes with a panel showing which monster will be in the next episode.

Let’s go through each episode quickly.

The first episode features Godzilla facing off against King Ghidorah, with the first page strangely featuring a mixture of original art by Hisamatsu and images of the suits for Godzilla and Ghidorah. All the other pages are fully illustrated, and in color. A number of kids are playing at a pool when KG attacks, and we get a little “educational” text asking readers to count KG’s eyes, ears, hands, and feet. Immediately one kid calls for “Godzilla, Godzilla, friend!” We then get the least developed fight in the entire series, with just two panels depicting the conflict, and the kaiju king winning with a “tail batting” (bash of the tail), and one of the kids thanking him.

The second episode features two kids (a boy and a girl) investigating a cave that apparently used to be the grave of a king (caution text warns kids not to explore mysterious caves on their own). The kids find what appears to be a giant coffin, and suddenly Anguirus smashes out of or through it. One of the kids calls for Godzilla, and in the next panel Anguirus is getting kicked in the head. Anguirus hits Godzilla with his spikes, and the boy gets hit by a small rock that was thrown up by the conflict. Godzilla blasts Anguirus with fire breath (it's red and looks like fire) and the spiny beast is defeated. Thank you, Godzilla!

Rodan appears in the next episode, which opens with a huge double-page illustration in which Godzilla and Rodan are facing off at what might be a fish market. Fish are flying through the air, and the educational text asks kids to name the fish etc. on the page. Rodan’s design looks to be based on the goofier design from Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. There are two kids, and the girl is calling out for Godzilla. While in the first two episodes Godzilla is not explicitly depicted as talking (it is sort of implied that he can in the first episode), here he speaks, complete with word bubbles—and thus Godzilla uses various tough-guy talk and fighting move names. Rodan pecks his eye, Godzilla uses “tail batting” again, and Rodan yells, “I’m defeated!” Then the kids use a floor cushion as an eye patch for Godzilla.

In the next episode, some kids (a boy and girl again) are watching the skies through a telescope on top of their house, and they spot Gigan’s approach. Here, Gigan only has two back fins instead of three, and they appear like wings. Gigan actually shoots his huge buzz saw out of his belly and cuts the children’s house in half, and the boy calls for Godzilla, who headbutts Gigan. Godzilla then performs a spinning, flying “Godzilla kick” and breaks off the horn on Gigan’s head, apparently defeating him. “Thank you, Godzilla!”

Note the furry Manda and the kids patching up Godzilla.
Note the furry Manda and the kids patching up Godzilla.

Hedorah appears in the next episode, which is the first from the second volume included with vol. 8 of the DVD sets. Here we see a bunch of kids and a dog playing in a park when Hedorah flies overhead, wherein we see a large number of smokestacks. The educational text asks kids to compare the heights of the smokestacks. Hedorah starts shooting fire out of his eyes (according to the kids), and the boy calls out, “Godzilla, Godzilla, friend!” Godzilla appears and is hit by Hedorah’s fire beam, which sets his tail on fire. Godzilla declares he is angry, then hits Hedorah with a flying drop kick followed by his flying saucer throw. Hedorah, admitting defeat, then says: “I will work to eliminate pollution. Forgive me!” as he eats the smokestack pollution. The children patch up Godzilla’s tail and bottom. The final panel shows Manda will come in the next episode, but I only mention it this time because Manda looks more like a long hairy worm in the preview artwork, whereas in the final artwork in the next episode he looks much closer to how he appeared in Atragon.

In the next episode, some kids are going together in a bus and they comment on how there are flowers blooming even in the winter. Suddenly Manda appears from the ocean. The kids call for Godzilla, and the kaiju king appears—only to get encircled by Manda’s long body. “How do you like that? Are you done for?” taunts Manda. Godzilla throws a rock into Manda’s mouth, busting out the sea serpent’s teeth—and the educational text implores children to brush their teeth morning and night. Manda swims away, crying over his lost teeth, and the kids thank Godzilla.

In the final episode, a boy and girl are hanging out on the top of the Kasumigaseki Building when Gorosaurus makes an appearance, with Mt. Fuji in the background. The girl screams, and the boy calls for Godzilla. The educational text asks children to compare the heights of the Kasumigaseki Building, Tokyo Tower, and Mt. Fuji. Gorosaurus hits Godzilla with his tail while yelling, “How do you like my tail punch?!” Godzilla then sits on Gorosaurus and ties the dinosaur’s tail to his head. “Thank you, Godzilla!” The final panel shows Zone Fighter, and Godzilla declares, “From next week Zone Fighter is coming!” The end.

Obviously the stories are barely stories. Most of the kids don’t even have names (a girl is named Eiko in the first story, but that’s about it.) Every conflict is solved by calling Godzilla to fight, and the fights are over in just a few panels. Even the “educational” text is pretty insubstantial and boring. It’s not the most gripping stuff, folks.

However, honestly, I love the artwork. Hisamatsu sketches out Godzilla and his crew with exaggerated and bombastic facial expressions, and each monster encounter plays out with humor and cartoonish glee. I liked the touch in which the kids patch up Godzilla’s eye with a cushion as well. Plus it’s great seeing several more obscure monsters making appearances, and while I wish Gorosaurus could have gotten in his kangaroo kick, a “tail punch” is pretty great in my book. Of course my favorite attack has to be Gigan shooting out his buzz saw like a flying guillotine, spinning and cutting.

The Godzilla series from Otomodachi is deservedly obscure, but, like the OAVs and the utterly charming Go! Go! Godzilla-Kun puppet theater, open-minded G-fans can really enjoy this overlooked monster mash… if they care to shell out the money, and can tolerate the (sigh) terrible paper on which it is printed.