Manga: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla


Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

Japanese Comic Title

ゴジラ VS メカゴジラ
[Gojira VS Mekagojira]


Yasui Hisashi


Kawaishi Tetsuya
Kawaishi Tetsuya





Baby Godzilla
Baby Godzilla
Fake Godzilla
Fake Godzilla


By: Marcus Gwin & Nicholas Driscoll

It's time for another tag team review, this one featuring Marcus Gwin and Nicholas Driscoll as they share their thoughts on this manga adaptation of the 1993 Godzilla film.

Marcus Gwin
With the recent release of Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017), Godzilla has been properly introduced into the world of anime, (Edutainment OVAs notwithstanding). However, while Godzilla is a newcomer to the anime scene, The King of the Monsters is no stranger to anime’s print counterpart manga, with adaptations being released since the franchise’s genesis in 1954.

While I have not yet seenGodzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) I can safely say one thing: It is not what comes to my mind when the idea of “Godzilla Anime” is brought up. Godzilla’s design, the setting, the bizarre 3D animation… none of it conveys what I would imagine a Godzilla anime would be like. It looks more like a concept that someone like James Cameron, or Ridley Scott would use in a live action film. So what would I imagine a Godzilla anime to be like? Well, perhaps something more like this manga…

The story follows an engineer named Kazuma Aoki that’s aspiring to be a Mechagodzilla pilot. Aoki proves incompetent in the Mechagodzilla simulator, but he ends up going into live combat with Miki Saegusa and Commander Aso against Big G himself when Godzilla suddenly appears in Izu. Kazuma proves himself by decapitating the monster king, revealing that it was actually a prototype Mechagodzilla the whole time (Giving us a 70’s Mecha G cameo!). And thus, Kazuma officially becomes a pilot. However, when a mysterious egg that was being guarded by Rodan is retrieved from Adonoa Island, the real Godzilla is mysteriously drawn to it. Will Kazuma and the power of Mechagodzilla be enough to stop the Kaiju King once and for all?

If it wasn’t obvious from that summary, let’s make one thing very clear: This is a Super Robot story, through and through. It has all the tropes and clichés of the genre, from sequences of robots combining into more powerful combinations, to a hero full of burning passion. Furthermore, if it weren’t for the Kaiju, it would be a PAINFULLY generic Super Robot story. This is clearly the sort of thing Neon Genesis Evangelion was meant to be a subversion of.

Now all of the changes in this one are a bit of a double edged sword in my opinion: On the one hand, they’re all very unique and help the story stand on its own. On the other hand however, since the storyline is so drastically departed from the source materiel (to the extent of having a supplementary manga more accurate to the film called “True Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”), it somewhat exposes how by the numbers the story is in the Super Robot genre.

However, while I’m being very harsh on this let me make something clear: I greatly enjoyed this manga, and not in a “so bad it’s good” way. I ended up liking the characters a lot. Especially Kazuma.

One aspect of Godzilla manga I find especially interesting is the main characters. Most characters from the movies are fairly ordinary people, (and in the worst case scenarios, generic) so

I always am interested in how adaptations will portray them. Will they be faithful to their screen counterparts, or will they try to spice things up? As Nicholas mentioned in his Battle History of Godzilla vs. Mothra review, sometimes they’ll go as far as making the characters super detective warrior children! While this book doesn’t quite go that far, Kazuma is still no disappointment.

He’s a cocky mechanic who wants to pilot the mech he’s crafted. He has a massive crush on Miki Saegusa, and he’s got a lot more skill in combat than he has any right to have. He’s such a dorky character, and yet screams of passion and belief in battle. I love it! He reminds me a lot of Kamina from Gurren Lagann, or Ryusei Date from Super Robot Wars. Actually, Speaking of Ryusei Date, this manga predates any of his appearances, and the two look rather similar don’t they? Maybe there was some inspiration happening here…?

Kazuma Aoki and Ryusei Date from Super Robot Wars.
Kazuma Aoki and Ryusei Date from Super Robot Wars.

The art I find personally a little conflicting. It's all done very competently, and the action scenes have a very nice flow to them. What I find somewhat off-putting is how Kawaishi renders the living things in this book. From the humans, to the kaiju, and even Baby Godzilla, Kawaishi tends to draw proportions very thick, especially in the legs. This is probably most notable on Godzilla himself. Furthermore, Godzilla's chest is huge, while his eyes are incredibly tiny. Mechagodzilla on the other hand looks very good, with the base Mechagodzilla II design coming off as quite natural in this art style, and pretty badass in certain shots. It's like Mecha-G combined with Arnold Schwarzenegger! Overall, while it may not necessarily be my favorite art style for Godzilla, it works well enough within the book.

A policeman tries to walk a disintegrating man out of the park.
Mechagodzilla and Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator.

Another thing I like about this book is the writing style. Take the first chapter for example: “SIMULATION.” It opens with Kazuma presumably fighting Battra. Due to the title, you’re not fooled into thinking it’s a real fight. However, when the “real” Godzilla appears, and is beheaded for an instant you’re like “wait, what?” However, it’s then shown that the whole thing was a simulation, thus the title of chapter comes full circle.

All in all, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is hardly the height of storytelling, but for what it is, it’s very enjoyable. So if Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) leaves you desiring something more “anime” from Godzilla, go to Amazon or Ebay and order this. You won’t be disappointed.

Nicholas Driscoll

While I was not a huge fan of Hisashi Yasui’s Monster King Godzilla series of childish, ultraviolent Godzilla comics, I was still a tad disappointed that the series ended so early. Not that I was exactly clambering for more of Yasui’s take on the Big G (seeing so many iconic monsters get burned to nothing by Godzilla’s atomic breath—including classic Godzilla allies Anguirus and Roday—does not really engender good feelings in me), still it was great fun to see a new take and new stories featuring classic Toho critters with a twist.

Well, recently, I was chatting with my colleague Marcus about doing a review of a somewhat obscure alternate adaptation of the 1993 Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla—that is to say, not the better-known Takayuki Sakai adaptation. This GvM adaptation featured art by relatively unknown Tetsuya Kawashima, who has no Wikipedia page, and I could find little of his work on Amazon other than his Godzilla work and something called Chain of Wolf. It wasn’t until after I read both Kawashima’s adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)—and enjoyed them both quite a lot—that I looked closer and realized that these adaptations were written by none other than the aforementioned Hisashi Yasui!

And there are a number of story beats in this adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla that seem to reflect Yasui’s touch. This adaptation is extremely fast-paced and more child-oriented—his Godzilla vs. Mothra featured a newly-created psychic younger brother to Miki Saegusa, mirroring somewhat Monster King Godzilla’s hero Hideo, but his adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla has no child protagonist (unless Baby Godzilla counts). Instead, as with Monster King Godzilla, Yasui’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla features a huge focus on monster action. Monster King Godzilla featured a sequence in which the old 70s Mechagodzilla masqueraded anew as the monster king, and Yasui liked that classic plot point so much that he incorporated it anew into his adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. However, where Monster King Godzilla was extremely episodic, with a monster-of-the-day parade sequentially vanquished by Godzilla’s specium ray—I mean atomic breath!—Yasui’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla instead features one long story of accelerating action and stakes, culminating in a confrontation with a feral and ferocious Godzilla and a wrecked MechaG. Also, whereas Monster King Godzilla featured frequent gory battles (in which Godzilla’s chest was often skewered and ripped open), Yasui’s adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is mostly bloodless—except for a scene in which Rodan has a hole blasted through his body.

The art here is also far superior to Hiroshi Kawamoto’s work in Monster King Godzilla. While Monster King Godzilla often featured simplistically rendered humans, with a penchant for poorly thrown together stock poses, Kawaishi’s work is more refined, with better renderings of human figures (I find them similar to the character work in the popular manga Ushio and Tora), and very dynamic and exciting monster and mech work. I have never been a big fan of the Heisei Mechagodzilla design, which I have always felt looks clumsy and lacking in character, but Kawaishi has successfully reinjected the bulky robot with style and rage by drawing the teeth more like real monster teeth, adding what appears to be robot lips with a snarl, and a pair of eyes squeezed with anger. Godzilla also looks good, brimming with primal fury. While I do like Kawamoto’s Monster King Godzilla monster work, it looks more cartoony by comparison with Kawaishi’ s more mature renderings. Kawaishi’s art also looks good next to the more popular Sakai adaptation—I actually prefer Kawaishi’s rendition of Mechagodzilla here, given Sakai’s powerful but more stylized take. While I really like how Sakai used a lot of splash panels in his adaptation, which lets the art breathe and allows for punctuations of the action, Kawaishi never uses a full splash page, but still sprinkles in large panels and both artists know how to stage an exciting battle.

As Marcus mentions in his review as well, Yasui has taken a lot of liberties with the original script—so many in fact that Kodansha Comics (perhaps at Toho’s request/demand?) have also included a “real” manga version of the story that mixes manga art and shots from the movie to set the record straight. I am surprised frankly—Yasui’s Godzilla vs. Mothra comic also took huge liberties with the story, but it did not include a “real” version at the end. Sakai’s adaptation, too, was not always faithful to the source, to put it mildly. Whatever the reasoning, the addition makes for an awkward conclusion. For me, I thought the (many) changes to the script were mostly very fun, ratcheting up the action and paring down the characters to the bare essentials (Azusa Gojo is cut in favor of Miki Saegusa taking a bigger role). Sure, some of the drama is silly stuff, but at least in this book the Shobijin never hide in a lady’s bra like they did in Yasui’s adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mothra! Overall, I like the changes, and the story is more fun to read because of them.

One other addition to this manga book must be mentioned. Just as the second Monster King Godzilla volume included Street Fighter Godzilla, Yasui and Kawaishi’s book includes another surprise bonus manga called Goji Paro Lando, which I guess is short for Godzilla Parody Land. This comic—two four-panel gags—is by a different artist, simply called Karin, who apparently is better known for her comic about a detective who happens to be a penguin! Karin’s art style is extremely simplistic, with very few details—instead relying on basic shapes and very round, cute line work. The two gags are not very funny—both are about a dumb dude and a scientist trying to plot ways to defeat Godzilla. One of those plots features a giant banana peel, and the other features a bow and arrow. Each joke relies on word play, but neither is clever enough to make me laugh. Still, I love the addition of something like this in the back of the comic and I would love to see more work like this. For what it’s worth, bonus manga like this in which silly ways to defeat Godzilla are proposed go all the way back at least to 1958 with Shigeru Fujita’s adaptation of Godzilla Raids Again (1955), and four-panel gag comics like this can also be found in other manga collections like Outrageous Flying Mothra and The Godzilla Comic.

Of all of Yasui’s Godzilla work, his manga adaptation of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla may be the best. Paired with a strong artist, with one of the better stories of the Heisei era as a plot skeleton filled in with lots of additional action expertly staged, Godzilla fans have ample reason to want to track down this baby. From what I can tell, it appears that Yasui and Kawaishi never did adaptations of the next Heisei films, which is really too bad. Nevertheless, for fans who can read Japanese, the volumes that exist are relatively inexpensive (if you buy them in Japan as of this writing) and great fun, and so I recommend monster fans who also love giant robot action (that’s most of us, right?) to check it out if you have the chance!