Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58

 

Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58


Japanese Comic Title

ゴジラ漫画コレクション1954-58
[Gojira Manga Korekushon 1954-58]

Authors:

Shigeru Sugiura, Wasuke Abe, Shigeru Fujita, Shigeru Kayama

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

Shigeru Sugiura, Wasuke Abe, Shigeru Fujita
Shigeru Sugiura, Wasuke Abe, Shigeru Fujita
-
Japanese
2014
Shougakkan
383

Covers:

Wasuke Abe, Shigeru Sugiura

Comic

Monsters

Godzilla
Godzilla
Anguirus
Anguirus
Varan
Varan
Gyottosu
Gyottosu
Zottosu
Zottosu
Sugon
Sugon
Osorosu
Osorosu



Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

For Godzilla fans, everything starts with the first Godzilla movie given a wide release on November 3, 1954 (it opened in Nagoya earlier, on October 27). Thus it feels a bit surreal to read a Godzilla story that was published before the movie was released anywhere. Just like some movies today, Godzilla the movie had several adaptations, and back then, one of the more common forms of adaptation was the manga and the illustrated story. Godzilla (1954) had a number of these adaptations, and several (but not all) of them were compiled in Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58, which was published in 2014, likely as a celebration of the film’s 60th anniversary. The collection includes three adaptations of the original Godzilla (1954), one adaptation of Godzilla Raids Again (1955), and one original (and very unusual) manga that introduces several new kaiju. More on that later.

For this review, I want to cover each of the adaptations (and the original manga), with some comments on the deviations from the film (or perhaps the movie’s deviations!), as well as some of my thoughts on the art and storytelling of each comic/illustrated story. Let’s get started!

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
Godzilla roasts the mountainside in Wasuke Abe's "Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla"

First, we have “Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla” by Wasuke Abe, who provides the art and the text—and who, incidentally, also designed the original Godzilla. SAPSG was published in the magazine Omoshiro Book—or Interesting Book—in October and in November of 1954, and so predated the movie’s wide release—or at least part of the publication did. The story comprises 122 pages of heavily illustrated text—it’s basically like a particularly long short story with copious detailed illustrations done in a realistic style. Honestly, Wasuke Abe’s art is very appealing, detailed and dynamic, each drawing rich with shading and linework. Abe’s Godzilla looks very dinosaurian—moreso than the final design—with large nostrils and webbed fingers. The illustrations are not entirely consistent, though, and Godzilla’s head frequently changes shape, with its jaw shifting in size and proportion most noticeably. The texture of his skin also seems to change from shot to shot—while the drawing on the cover is from this adaptation and seems to be based on the movie suit, many of the other depictions are much more crocodilian, with bumpy reptilian skin. Some of the story beats featuring Godzilla are a bit different from the final film as well.

In the film, while Godzilla attacks and destroys multiple ships, we don’t get a proper reveal until he appears from behind the mountain. In the comic, early on we have flash forwards of Godzilla attacking Tokyo—maybe the writer was worried that kids would get bored waiting for Godzilla to show up! Also there is a scene on Odo Island in which Emiko sees what she thinks are huge boulders in the sea—but which turn out to be Godzilla as the boulders suddenly start moving! My understanding is that this scene is based on a sequence later excised from an earlier draft of the film’s script.

Later in the story, when Ogata and Serizawa and crew go out to hunt Godzilla with the Oxygen Destroyer, they find him… but initially Godzilla is lurking in waters that are too shallow to effectively use the weapon, at only 100 meters. As Serizawa explains it, if Godzilla can escape from the water, the Oxygen Destroyer will not be effective in destroying him—they must lure him into water that is at least 500 meters deep so he can’t just run away! Ogata and Serizawa go down together, and Ogata uses an underwater flashlight to attract Godzilla’s attention, eventually luring him deep enough to make the doomsday device work correctly. Presumably this additional wrinkle was added to make the climax more exciting, given that in the original, Ogata and Serizawa are never menaced by Godzilla or anything else, and Godzilla is taken down with a minimum of fuss, relatively speaking.

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
Shinkichi and Emiko as they appear in "Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla"

However, perhaps the biggest differences between the film version and this “Picture Story” is the new prominent role of Shinkichi, and the way in which Emiko is portrayed. To be honest, I had forgotten all about Shinkichi. In the movie he appears to be a tween or teenager and is a resident of Odo Island, and he loses his family to Godzilla’s attack—at which point Dr. Yamane adopts him. In the “Picture Story” version, Shinkichi looks even younger—maybe elementary school—and he is in the process of becoming a professional fisherman aboard the Eikou Maru, which is sunk by Godzilla. He develops a burning hatred for the monster over the course of the story and wants to hunt the monster king down. Shinkichi is also adopted into the Yamane family in this story as well, but this time the Yamane family has another child his age… Emiko! Jettisoning all the romantic triangulations of the movie, Emiko here is just a little girl who gets caught up in all the action. She has little to do with revealing Serizawa’s secret, nor is she romantically involved with anyone. Instead, Dr. Yamane gets a heads-up letter from a German friend that Serizawa’s research may help to destroy Godzilla. Serizawa happens to be Ogata’s friend from junior high, and so Serizawa and Ogata go over to see him, find out about his Oxygen Destroyer together, and Ogata and Serizawa get into a fight, which is broken up by Yamane and Emiko. Yamane informs Serizawa about Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo, and they head up to the roof of Yamane’s residence/laboratory to look out over the devastation of the city (Serizawa was so focused on his research that he didn’t notice the entire city was being razed to the ground).

The story was a lot of fun to read, but challenging for me—it took me a long time to read through because of all the text. Still, I felt like I was working through a piece of Godzilla history, which made the process exciting. The changes to the story overall weaken it in my opinion. Putting Shinkichi in the center of the story makes little sense because he doesn’t have much to do. Emiko’s role is also neutered, and the loss of the romantic triangle surgically removes a lot of the pathos of the story. The decision to require Ogata and Serizawa to lure Godzilla deeper into the ocean does add some extra tension to what otherwise might come across as a bit of an anticlimax to some, so I will at least give them that. One of the interesting aspects of the story for me was watching how the formatting improved as it went along. At first, Wasuke Abe does not seem to know how best to mix the text with the art. Many times I just did not know what I was supposed to read next, and I would go back and forth trying to find the thread of the story. After the first chapter or two, though, Abe starts adding in numbers to indicate the order of reading, which helps immensely. Overall, a flawed, but fascinating, bit of Godzilla history!

 The next adaptation in the book is far less serious than Abe’s take. Published in Shonen Club in March of 1955 and titled simply “Godzilla,” this adaptation was put to paper via the oddball pen of Shigeru Sugiura. Sugiura is apparently known for his surrealistic storytelling, and some of that shines through here. Before I get into the story and its differences, though, I want to address Sugiura’s art—which is probably the worst in the entire book.

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
Godzilla appears in Shigeru Sugiura's Godzilla adaptation--is he emerging from an egg?

Sugiura’s art, at this stage in his career at least, is sloppy and squished, with panels feeling dashed together with little aforethought, with abundant word bubbles crowding the simplistically drawn, almost amorphous human characters into the corners. Emiko, again rendered as a child, looks especially awful, giving this sort of drunk smile throughout the entire comic. Godzilla, too, changes dramatically from one panel to the next. Sometimes he has twisted snaggle teeth. In one panel he almost appears like a serpent with fangs. Throughout the adaptation Godzilla is depicted in a humorous fashion, which matches the tone of the rest of the adaptation. After all, we don’t have to wait for Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)—Godzilla talks in this comic!

In fact, Godzilla is depicted as a braggart, bellowing out how he is the strongest in the world in the middle of trashing Tokyo. He is also mischievous, attempting to sneak up on unsuspecting fishermen. When the Oxygen Destroyer (here depicted as a liquid that can be administered via an eye dropper into the water tank) is used to destroy Godzilla, he complains as he disintegrates. As a member of the audience, am I supposed to laugh or cry?

Really, Sugiura’s “Godzilla” is a parody, most similar in tone perhaps to Tondemo Tonde Mosura or Mad Magazine. Curiously, though, this adaptation is more of a parody of Wasuke Abe’s adaptation than of the film itself! Once again, Shinkichi is the main character—but this time he sports goggles and a helmet with wings and a giant “s” on his shirt. If that’s not enough superhero imagery for you, Shinkichi also has a jet pack that he uses to fly around, and he lands on Godzilla (he has applied anti-radiation medicine to himself, so he is okay). He even dives underwater in Serizawa’s stead, gets directions from some squid, and then kills Godzilla with the Oxygen Destroyer—no heroic sacrifice this time, as Serizawa survives! Serizawa of course is not dating child Emiko—he just happens to be a local genius that Yamane and co visit suddenly near the end of the story. Ogata is not even in this story.

From my perspective, Sugiura’s story sometimes can be quite funny--I especially enjoyed a gag in which, after Godzilla appears on Oto Island, the natives capitalize on the event and the island becomes a tourist trap with Godzilla goodies for sale and local “heroes” posing for photos. However, with the lousy art and truncated storytelling, this adaptation is pretty weak and is probably the worst comic in the collection.

And it has a sequel.

This sequel, “Big Rampage Godzilla,” has been known in the fandom for some time. A few years ago, in preparation for reviewing this manga, I scanned images of the new monsters that appear in the story and shared them with a friend—and pretty soon I found them uploaded on a Godzilla wiki website! However, there have been some pretty big misconceptions about the story—and given that I really don’t want to read the story again, let’s take some time to just explore in some detail what happens in this very unusual side story from monster manga history.

The story begins with our protagonist, Shige-chan (perhaps a kid version of author Shigeru Sugiura) walking down the street and singing a song about wanting to get a part-time job. A man with thick black glasses and a shaved noggin overhears Shige’s song and leans out of his window to inform the enterprising young one that Dr. Sparkles is looking for an assistant. Shige heads over to Dr. Sparkles’ house, and, upon seeing the doctor, accidentally calls him Dr. Shiny. As it turns out, Dr. Sparkles is actually Dr. Yamane, and apparently “Dr. Sparkles” is just a rude nickname referring to his bald spot. Dr. Yamane hires Shige on the spot and asks him to drum up business for a special lecture he will be giving on giant monsters that very day. Shige props up a sign and yells about how important the upcoming lecture is going to be, but the only interest he gets is from a trio of kids who are hoping to get free cookies if they attend. In the end, only Shige goes to the lecture, sitting in the front row, and the young boy is showered by Dr. Yamane’s spittle as the eminent professor’s speaking style features projective saliva. Shige uses an umbrella so he can listen while dry. (The content of the actual speech is really nothing of note, though for some reason he identifies the height of Anguirus as 200 feet and never even mentions the metric measurements, which surprised me.)

At this time two representatives of the city barge into the lecture hall to call upon the services of Dr. Yamane. It seems a giant monster was seen by a local fisherman, and they want Dr. Yamane to interview the man and ascertain what kind of a threat they may be up against. The fisherman is waiting for them back at Yamane’s house. Inside, the fisherman looks at a series of pictures of truly bizarre monsters, but can’t find any that resemble the beast he spotted. At this point Shige holds up what seems to be a blank piece of paper and asks the fisherman if this was the monster he saw. (I think there must be some kind of gag here, but I just don’t understand what it is.) The fisherman immediately says that the paper indeed is a picture of the monster, and Dr. Yamane identifies it as Anguirus, a flesh-eating monster that is very dangerous. The military and representatives of the government are very concerned because they no longer have the Oxygen Destroyer to use against any incoming monsters.

The search is on to find Anguirus, and many bizarre-looking flying vehicles are dispatched to search for the spiny beast. Yamane and Shige also climb into a flying saucer to join the search, Dr. Yamane wearing a special camera hat so he can record anything that happens. They zoom over to Ganseki Island, where they spot a strange monster surfacing from the ocean and thus land to investigate. As they dash around looking for the beast, the monster sneaks up on them and says hello. The new monster looks like it has the body of an armadillo with a head shaped like a polka-dotted egg with giant fin ears, two eyes, three nostrils, and a big smile. Dr. Yamane and Shige run away, the doctor pressing the camera on his hat to take some pictures. They hide away nearby and name the monster Gyottosu, which comes from the expression “gyotto suru” which means to be startled. The monster likes the name and adopts it for himself (though all the monsters can talk in this manga, and apparently the giant monsters can understand the speech of humans, it is not clear if the humans can understand the speech of the monsters). Just then Anguirus shows up, and Gyottosu gets into a fight with the larger monster (it actually looks like he is giving Anguirus a hickey on the neck). Anguirus punches Gyottosu so hard that the smaller monster flies through the air, hitting his head on what appears to be a large boulder on the top of a nearby hill.

That boulder turns out to be Godzilla, who proceeds to karate chop Gyottosu in the head, and then (unwisely) stomps on Anguirus, filling his foot with spikes. Anguirus and Gyottosu find great pleasure in Godzilla’s discomfort—but strangely enough, Godzilla opts not to continue the fight, claiming he is busy and that he must go to Japan to avenge the death of his little brother. On his return, he says, he will continue with the fight, and he encourages the pair to practice their karate and wrestling while he is away. (At this point it appears that the human characters can understand Godzilla’s speech at least because they realize he is going to attack Japan.)

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
The back cover of the Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58, which features an ad for the Toho Special Effects: All Kaiju Illustrated Encyclopedia

Yamane and Shige return to Japan to warn everyone about the looming threat. Meanwhile, Anguirus and Gyottosu enlist the help of three more monsters to pursue Godzilla and take him down. Those three monsters are Sugon, a sort of three-eyed monster with what looks like a jellyfish for a head; Zottosu, a giant peanut with legs; and my personal favorite, Osorosu, a giant buck-toothed elephant thing with four nostrils and heart-shaped spots all across its body. For what it is worth, each of these names are probably derived from Japanese adjectives related to fear and power. Sugon is most likely derived from “sugoi,” which has a wide range of meanings from “great” to “amazing” to “awful.” Zottosu comes from “zotto suru,” which means to shudder or be disgusted. And Osorosu most likely comes from “osoroshii,” which means something like “terrible” or “frightening.”

Back to the story—it is determined that Osaka will soon be attacked by the monsters, and sure enough Godzilla starts stomping on the Osakans, followed by the five other monsters, who all have a really good time destroying buildings, snorting humans, and generally causing havoc. Soon Anguirus squares off with Godzilla, but the Big G just yanks off Anguirus’s shoulder fins/wings (I don’t know what they are) and then throws the dinosaurian beast all the way to Mt. Fuji before singing while banging the heads of Zottoso and Sugon together. Anguirus runs away from the locals near Mt. Fuji, and Gyottosu, Sugon, Osorosu, and Zottosu run away from Godzilla looking for Anguirus, led by Gyottosu and her fantastic sense of smell.

The monsters are all headed for Tokyo now, so Shige and the children of Japan’s capital hatch a plan to blow up a number of huge balloons and decorate them so as to look like kaiju in an attempt to scare away the real monsters. Anguirus and gang are faster than Godzilla and arrive at Tokyo first, but upon spotting the monster balloons they decide to fight the fake monsters instead of running away, and their strategy is a dismal failure. Tokyo citizens flee by the dozens, and Shige and the other boys who made balloons take advantage of the situation to eat lots and lots of bread at a deserted bakery. When the kids are satisfactorily sated, they hatch a new scheme—they will go and see Dr. Serizawa to see if he has any OTHER inventions that might help stave off giant monsters! (Remember, in Shigeru Sugiura’s adaptation of Godzilla (1954), Serizawa survived.)

The children visit Dr. Serizawa, who happens to indeed have a kind of medicine he thinks might help—but the stuff has not been adequately tested to know for sure. The kids take the stuff anyway and drive off to talk with representatives of the military and share their plan. The military leaders agree to help. The kids then take off in a kind of flying bug-shaped vessel from which Shige hangs and sprays the medicine from a bottle into the monsters’ mouths. The monsters love the sweet flavor, and the medicine does its work—apparently it works as a calming agent which makes the monsters friendly. The result is that, in the end, all the newly domesticated monsters are put on display in a sort of amusement park/monster viewing area, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Although I was not a big fan of Shigeru Sugiura’s Godzilla adaptation, I found some humor in the thing, and the same could be said for the sequel… except I hated reading this manga! While the art is better than the previous story (albeit highly idiosyncratic and still often somewhat crunched together, with frequent cramped panel layouts), I am more referring to the text itself. Shigeru Sugiura’s writing style often employs somewhat unusual vocabulary, so I found myself looking words up a lot (he really likes the expression “tende”), but what is worse he uses slang, Osaka dialect, informal language, esoteric humor, and very few kanji, which makes reading the text (and there is a LOT of text) confusing and difficult to read. (It may seem strange to say that the manga is more difficult to read because it uses so few kanji, but try reading a Japanese text with nothing but hiragana and you will understand.) Even putting aside the frustrations of reading the text, the story is mostly played for laughs anyway, with no interesting characters, no deep themes, no suspense. The humor is mostly of the absurdist variety, because everything is absurd in this comic, from the fashion to the monster’s facial expressions to the crazy airplanes—but such absurdity can only take the story so far without much else of interest.

Still, I do like the extreme silliness to some degree, and I love that some of the earliest Godzilla opponents are these four incredibly goofy monsters with pun-infused names. I would love to see more Godzilla artists do their own versions of them, such as a Bob Eggleton Zottosu. Still, this is not my favorite Godzilla manga by a long shot.

One thing I was wondering about, though as I read—did Godzilla Raids Again (1955) happen in the time line of this manga? Dr. Yamane knows about Anguirus, yet Godzilla is not trapped in snow, and no one mentions the events of that film. Sugiura seems to be trying to create a bizarro world version of Godzilla Raids Again here, actually. Anguirus is first discovered by a fisherman wearing goggles like the protagonist from GRA, then Yamane and Shige see Godzilla and Anguirus fighting on a distant island before they menace Osaka. The essay in the back of the book seems to treat this story as an adaptation of Godzilla Raids Again, and states that the manga was not given that title so that it would not compete with the other publisher that also was doing adaptations of the same film. I am not sure, I was a little bit confused.

For many, the most interesting thing about this manga (whether considered an original story or as an adaptation) is its inclusion of the four original monsters Zottosu, Gyottosu, Sugon, and Osorosu. Apparently the names of these monsters did not originate with Sugiura, but rather from within Toho as a means of creating new monsters for advertising purposes during the period in which Godzilla Raids Again was being broadcast, according to the essay in the back of the book by Masumi Kaneda. Presumably, though, Sugiura still created the monster designs. To be honest, I was a bit confused by this essay, and I wondered if these original monsters also appeared in advertisements somehow, but Kaneda does not go into great detail.

Sugiura would go on to eventually bring back some of these monsters in another story called “Yellow Man,” wherein Anguirus, Zottosu, Gyottosu, and Sugon make appearances along with other monsters and even a guest appearance by Godzilla (no Osorosu so far as I can tell, unfortunately). A naked baby in a cape also features prominently for some reason. I am not looking forward to reading that manga.

The next two manga featured in the volume are adaptations of the original Godzilla (1954) and Godzilla Raids Again (1955), both by Shigeru Fujita, and were released in 1958—the year that Varan (1958) was released in Japan. Sure enough, Varan appears in both manga—in one on a poster for his own movie, and in the next as a monster in a book of dinosaurs. These two manga were released in tankobon form originally rather than in a weekly manga magazine, and both feature quite a few full-color pages. They are also a breeze to read, with numerous pages (about half the entire volume), and thus told with a more relaxed style, using many panels for action, and letting the stories breathe. For that reason, the final two stories are probably the easiest to read in the book. But how do they compare to the movies?

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
Godzilla takes a bite out of a building and spits rocks at the military in Shigeru Fujita's Godzilla (1954) adaptation

Given that it would take a very long time to describe all the events in each volume, let me go over some of the highlights. Starting with Fujita’s adaptation of Godzilla, Fujita adds a hapless reporter character that follows along with the action through much of the story, traveling to Odo Island and annoying the locals, and later attempting to get juicy details out of Dr. Serizawa about his experiments—and failing miserably. This reporter character so far as I noticed did not have a name, and for some reason wears a square monocle over one eye. I wondered if he might possibly be a reference to the character of Steve Martin from the American version of Godzilla since that would have been released two years prior to this manga’s publishing, and was released in Japan in 1957.

Another difference in this adaptation of Godzilla is the relationship between Ogata and Emiko—that is to say, they appear not to have a relationship as such. Emiko knows Ogata and even calls him “Hideto san” (rather than going with his surname), but they are not portrayed to be in a romantic relationship—nor is it ever mentioned that Emiko is betrothed to Dr. Serizawa… though again they know each other at the very least. When the aforementioned unnamed loser journalist goes to talk with Dr. Serizawa about his experiments, he gets nothing out of the scientist and storms out of the house before running into Emiko. Emiko asks him what is the matter, the terrible journalist tells her of his failure. Emiko decides to go and see if she can do better. Dr. Serizawa welcomes Emiko in and, with very little prodding, shows her the Oxygen Destroyer… So either Dr. Serizawa just is sweet on Emiko, or they are still supposed to be engaged here and it just isn’t mentioned (since the young audience of these books doesn’t want cooties). For what it is worth, for some reason Fujita draws Serizawa without the eyepatch—he just looks like he is constantly winking. It looks weird.

Godzilla’s first full appearance also proceeds differently from the final movie, and I believe follows an earlier version of the script. Once again, like in the illustrated story version in the same volume, Godzilla is first spotted in the sea by Emiko, and is first mistaken for a large boulder. This time Ogata shoots a rifle at the “rock,” and then not long after Godzilla appears over the top of the hillside, and this time uses his atomic breath to ignite the surrounding flora.

There is also a really bizarre interlude in which three nameless numbskulls (one who looks like a octopus-person and who spits ink) react to news about Godzilla, hitting each other or (in the case of the octopus-person) spitting in his friend’s face. The interlude ends with a surreal joke in which a television on display showing the military ships going out to drop depth-charges on Godzilla… and they suddenly sink in the ocean for no apparent reason. It is soon revealed that the cause was because the television is broken, and the owner reaches into the television to fish out the broken toy ships.

Other than that, Shinkichi, who was made so much of in the illustrated story adaptation, is completely absent here. For the most part, the manga follows the movie, with Serizawa definitely dying, and Japan saved for another day.

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
Varan and Anguirus appear in a dinosaur book, in Shigeru Fujita's Godzilla Continued: Anguirus Strikes Back

The next manga, as mentioned before, is an adaptation of Godzilla Raids Again, but is titled instead Godzilla Continued: Anguirus Strikes Back. From the title, I would have thought this was actually a sequel to Godzilla Raids Again, but no such luck. It has been quite a while since I watched the second Godzilla movie, so it is more difficult for me to pick out the changes, but I will give it a go here.

The biggest change is that, once again, all the romantic stuff is taken out of the manga version. In fact, the female characters do not even appear in the manga version. Not really surprising when you consider that the romance in the second film had less relevance to the plot than the love triangle in the first film.

As much as I would have loved to see it, nobody said “banana oil” in the Japanese manga version, either.

One of the most bizarre changes concerns the escaped criminals, and is more an artistic choice than an actual change in the narrative. For some reason, when the criminals begin their escape plan, suddenly their faces all turn black, and they stay that way until they perish. Presumably the blackness is a reflection of their criminal actions—it is not the shadows, because sometimes they are seen with other characters in similar lighting, but the criminals’ faces are the only ones blacked out. The artistic choice is pretty confusing to be honest.

At the climax, the military is planning to bury Godzilla in the snow and ice long before Kobayashi makes his sacrifice by crashing his plane, and so his sacrifice seems to have less weight for the story. Also, the gasoline barrels that keep Godzilla from escaping make a little more sense here because Godzilla is seen choking and coughing on the smoke. Still, why smoke stops him when electrically charged high tension wires wouldn’t do the trick never did make much sense to me!

According to the essay in the back by Masumi Kaneda, these two manga stories were released in tankobon (or in book form), apparently as a way to keep the Godzilla name alive in a period wherein the Big G wasn’t doing much in other forms of media. The style of the publication is very obviously different from the other reprints; there are no obvious chapter breaks, no advertisements along the sides, and the presentation of the art is very different.

Unlike in the other manga in the book (and most manga that I see period) that have panels shaped like boxes or other geometric shapes, all the panels in Shigeru Fujita’s manga as represented here have rounded corners, and often are pretty uniform in size, sometimes with more than four pages in a row with the same six panel layouts. To me, the uniformity reminded me of movie stills or storyboards, which may have been the intention, though it also makes the storytelling less nuanced and more straightforward. Fujita did many movie adaptations of Disney films as well, and would also do the tankobon adaptations of a number of Toho tokusatsu films ranging from straight adaptations of H-Man (1958)  and The Mysterians(1957) and Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972). He was also responsible for original stories, such as Rodan Continued and H-Man Continued, and he would eventually do character designs for the show Denjin Zaborger. Despite the relative unoriginality of his panel layouts, his art is consistent and sharp and cartoony. I like his Godzilla and Anguirus—they look like they could have jumped out of a cartoon, and they stay on-model, rather than morphing from one page to the next. I also really enjoy Fujita’s sense of humor, as he often puts zany things in his panels, from funny pictures hanging in the background, to a robot randomly sitting in a meeting, to the Catholic priest giving Godzilla last rites as he dies from the effects of the Oxygen Destroyer.

I also enjoy the fact that Fujita adds a little “omake” extra gag comic after the conclusion of each movie adaptation. The first is just a one-page splash panel in which Godzilla has a big ink brush and has written that his story will continue, and the second gag comic comes features a cartoony version of the manga artist killing Godzilla by reflecting his nuclear ray with a mirror! Funny to think that Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) and its Super-X2 was more or less predicted 31 years beforehand!

Manga: Godzilla Manga Collection 1954-58
Beastman Gorion as found on the Japanese blog 明治大正昭和大絵巻

As mentioned previously, the manga collection also includes an essay at the back by Masumi Kaneda, a writer who has worked on many Ultraman-related books and on Transformers adaptations. I sprinkled some details that Kaneda brought out in his essay throughout this excruciatingly long review, but I saved one of the most interesting for last. Apparently due to the great popularity of Godzilla at the time, as well as the anticipation of Half-Human (1955), Shigeru Kayama wrote another monster story that was to be made into a movie, and which was run as an illustrated serialized story in Shonen Club but was never made into a finished film. That project was Beastman Gorion, about a monster that is half gorilla, half lion. (While searching online for more information, I found that it is also sometimes called “King Gorion”) The serialized story was apparently finished, with art by Tetsu Shirai (his last name has several kanji readings, so just in case I got the reading wrong and you want to look him up, here you go: 白井哲.) Kaneda’s essay does not go into much detail about the story of Beastman Gorion, unfortunately. However, as I did a little digging, I found that Beastman Gorion was not the only serialized monster story that Kayama would write for magazines such as Shonen Club. According to a blog entry (in Japanese) on “Dawn of the Monster Man Library,” Kayama was asked to write a number of these stories, and apparently was so busy writing them that he got himself hospitalized from the stress! Those stories apparently included Monster Kariga (half crocodile, half rhinoceros—you can find images online) and a story called “Manmojiira,” which is described by the blog writer as half Godzilla, half mammoth!

Now that I have written over five thousand words for this incredibly long review, I should stop. I think you can see that, for Godzilla fans, this collection is a phenomenal resource filled with fantastic manga adaptations and a really interesting essay in the back! I really enjoyed reading through most of these manga (though Sugiura’s were painful), and it was incredibly fun to play “spot the differences” and just enjoy the stories. However, it should be noted that the title of the manga is a little misleading—there were other Godzilla manga released within the 1954-1958 window that are not included in this volume, such as the original manga story Last Godzilla (“Saigo no Gojira”), which was recently republished in a nice little booklet format with the Godzilla All DVD Collection Box release of The Return of Godzilla (1984). Nevertheless, this huge manga release was a massive blessing for monster collectors like me who don’t have the money or are just plain unwilling to spend copious piles of cash for all the originals. Now I am just wondering how I can get my hands on the likes of Beastman Gorion without completely going bankrupt…