Manga: Godzilla vs. Gigan


Godzilla vs. Gigan

Japanese Comic Title

[Gojira tai Gaigan]


Onisuke Akai







King Ghidorah


By: Nicholas Driscoll

For those who remember, way back in 1976, as part of the advertising campaign for Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) in the USA, a short four-page comic was published and earned the distinction as the first licensed Godzilla comic in the USA (with the Marvel adaptation coming along shortly after). In Japan, many comic adaptations and original stories had been released as cross-promotions in manga magazines of the time since the very first film, though most I have read tend to be much longer than the Godzilla vs. Megalon comic adaptation released in the USA. Still, it was precisely that Megalon manga that sprang to mind as I sat down to write my impressions of the wee three-page manga version of Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) published back in the April 1972, issue of Fun Kindergarten (Tanoshii Youchien) magazine. Much like the Megalon comic that would come after it, Fun Kindergarten’s Godzilla vs. Gigan adaptation would take its liberties with the source material—only this time, the changes would be even more extreme.

Given that this is just a three-page comic (four if you count the introductory page), I will translate the entire manga and walk through the action. On the side of the first page there is an advertisement for the movie: “Godzilla vs. Gigan will release across the country in all Toho Theaters from March 12th to April 4th.” This factoid by itself really surprised me, since it implies that the entire run for the film was already decided before the film was released—regardless of how successful or unsuccessful the movie might have been. I know that’s not how things work for most films today.

The first panel of the manga proper has a narration box in blue that reads, “Here is Fun Amusement Park.” Three kids (two boys and a girl) are cavorting in the amusement park, and the boy wearing a polo shirt and black shorts has found a small flute or whistle on the ground. He says, “A strange whistle has fallen on the ground.”

The boy picks up the whistle and, in the second panel, says, “I’ll try blowing on it.” It gives a sharp “piiiii” sound.

Suddenly, in the third panel, Gigan and King Ghidorah appear, and they are destroying the park. Gyaaaaah! The other boy from the first panel, a tall bloke with a close-shaved head, says, “Waah! It’s King Ghidorah and Gigan!” The boy in shorts replies, “It was a kaiju-calling whistle!”

Manga: Godzilla vs. Gigan
The nameless boy finds a monster-calling whistle.

In panel four, Godzilla arrives with a great “Gao!” The children can be seen tiny at his feet, but only in shadow, and one of them cries, “Ah! Godzilla also showed up!” Another child says, “Godzilla, help!”

Panel five is an epic clash between Godzilla, Gigan, and King Ghidorah amongst the amusement park rides, with King Ghidorah getting the brunt of the attack, and monster screams filling the air.

Panel six includes another narration text box, this time in red. It states: “Godzilla tied up Gigan with King Ghidorah’s necks.” The panel illustrates just that, with KG and Gigan crying out in panic or pain or otherwise feeling rather lousy about their situation.

Panel seven basically is a straight up image of a smiling, malicious-looking Godzilla burning KG and Gigan in a sea of flames as one of KG’s heads cries out for mercy.

Finally, in the last panel, Godzilla has the kids up on his head, his shoulders, and his tail (one child seems to be hanging on to a loose scale or something). He is carrying the remains of one of the rides in one hand, and the rollercoaster (fully loaded) is now running around his body. The black-shorts boy in the foreground cheers, “Instead of the broken amusement park, we can do this instead!” The end.

Manga: Godzilla vs. Gigan
Godzilla entertains the kiddies ala how his cast-off skin became a playground in Dark Horse's "Godzilla's Day."

A few comments are in order. First, obviously, most of the story of the movie has been excised—including all of the human characters, as well as the cockroach aliens themselves. The manga artist and hippie and so forth have been replaced by a small troop of nameless children who exist to play, fall under duress via monster action, and call out for help. Anguirus, too, is gone (for shame!), as is the Godzilla Tower—though perhaps having Godzilla take the place of the amusement park rides is a sort of cockeyed reference to the tower weapon.
Only a few elements of the movie really are left over. Much of the action in the movie of course took place in World Children’s Land, which was the secret alien base of operations in the movie. In this comic, that park is replaced by “Fun Amusement Park”—presumably a riff on the name of the magazine. This park may still be the M Space Hunter Nebula aliens base, given that somehow somebody left a monster-calling whistle on the ground, which takes the place of the monster-control tape from the movie that the aliens had used to control KG and Gigan. Just like in the movie when the tape is played and Godzilla can hear it all the way over on Monster Island, when the boy blows the whistle the kaiju king also apparently hears the call and arrives to save the day.

Naturally, in both stories, Godzilla defeats his foes, but in this version, he has absolutely no trouble wiping them out, as neither the triple-headed terror nor Gigan manage to get in even one good hit on the Big G. I like the idea of having Godzilla tie up Gigan with KG’s necks, though what surprises me most about this version of the story is probably that the enemy kaiju come to a more brutal ending. Whereas in the movie, both KG and the Space Chicken escape into the air, here they seem to be burned to death ala Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again (1955). As this comic was aimed at kindergartners, and the art and conclusion are all so very cute, having monsters murdering each other in the middle feels tonally crazy.

My biggest frustration with this comic is just that I don’t know who drew it. The art seems similar to Kazukuni Kobayashi’s Godzilla series that ran in Otomodachi around the same time, but Kobayashi’s monster art is less detailed and more cartoony than what we have here—even though both comics featured abbreviated battles and comical ending panels (a memorable one from Kobayashi’s series had the kids bandaging Godzilla, while another had Godzilla tying Gorosaurus’ tail around the monster’s own head). The ending also reminded me of “Big Rampage Godzilla” by Shigeru Sugiura, which concluded with the crazy monsters from that story on display in a sort of amusement park stadium/aquarium, with a staff member imploring the audience not to throw candies to the monsters. But obviously, Sugiura did not draw this comic.

While I don't know who drew the manga, apparently Onisuke Akai (who wrote some of the scripts for properties such as Ultra Seven and Mighty Jack) was in charge. The attribution in the text I have basically gives as his position that he worked on the layout, but when I asked kaiju scholar August Ragone about this, he told me with great confidence that Akai would have been the one to write the script in such a case. The "layout" job would more-or-less be like saying "adapted by" in English, which I think makes a lot of sense.

At any rate, the Fun Kindergarten version of Godzilla vs. Gigan is barely a blip on the history of Godzilla. Like Kobayashi’s Godzilla series, the story is almost nonexistent, and it doesn’t even have that series’ original monster clashes, given that this is just a loose adaptation of the movie. Still, for completists, there are some minor points of interest, and it is one of the rare Godzilla comics in Japan that was published in full color—just like that aforementioned American Megalon comic. That’s worth something, right?