Manga: Godzilla vs. Megalon


Godzilla vs. Megalon

Japanese Comic Title

[Gojira tai Megaro]


Shinichi Sekizawa, Jun Fukuda


Takeshi Koshiro
Takeshi Koshiro


Takeshi Koshiro



Jet Jaguar
Jet Jaguar


By: Nicholas Driscoll

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) was the second Godzilla movie I saw as a youngster, and at the time I took my fanhood overly seriously. When my older brother dared to laugh at the fight at the end, I got really mad and scolded him for daring to mock what was to me a momentous occasion. Even though at the time I felt that the end monster fight was a little silly, at first I dared not laugh—though I felt embarrassed at my angry outburst afterwards, and look back on the experience today as a mark of an immature fan. For a long time I did not really care for Godzilla vs. Megalon because it was so silly and especially because of the grinning robot Jet Jaguar. It wasn’t until years later that I not only accepted the goofy nature of the film, but celebrated it, and Jet Jaguar became one of my favorite Godzilla characters. I love the less-serious Godzilla movies and am more likely to revisit them than some of the more dour entries. So I was absolutely thrilled to finally get the Godzilla vs. Megalon manga adaptation included with the Godzilla All Movie DVD Collector’s Box 19. While the manga would prove to be one of the overall less exciting adaptations, with relatively few interesting deviations from the movie, I still enjoyed reading it (as usual), and there are a few interesting bits that bear mentioning.

First a ludicrously overlong plot summary in which you can play “spot the differences.” Due to underground nuclear tests on Asuka Island in the Aleutian Peninsula, earthquakes and splits in the earth spread across a wide area, including Monster Island (where we see Godzilla, Anguirus, and Kumonga), and even Yamanaka Lake near Mt. Fuji, where Goro Ibuki, his kid brother Rokuro, and his friend Hiroshi Jinkawa are having a picnic. Just as Hiroshi is about to take a bite out of his rice ball, an earthquake hits, opening up a huge 50 meter fissure underneath the nearby lake and draining away all the water. As the trio drives home safely after the incident, a news report details the cause of the recent earthquakes, and Goro laments that just this sort of huge earthquake caused the destruction of the continent of Lemuria and the continent of Mu approximately three million years previous. Hiroshi is worried that the earthquake may have damaged Goro’s robot. Just as they arrive back at Hiroshi’s house, they spot two strange men emerging from the building and immediately suspect them of being thieves. The two suspicious men jump in a car and speed away.

Goro, worried about his robot, asks Hiroshi to chase down the crooks. Hiroshi, spitting on his hands with relish at the task, declares that he is a race driver and takes off after them. Goro and his little brother search the house to see if anything is missing, but find nothing stolen—just some red sand at the robot’s feet. Unfortunately Hiroshi is unable to chase down the suspects, either, due to a traffic jam. Still, they decide to have the sand examined by a friend who happens to be a geologist. The tests come back that the sand is three million years old and comes from strata three thousand kilometers below sea level, and is similar to sand found on Easter Island.

Goro and Hiroshi continue to talk, and they finish their work on the robot, christening the android with the name Jet Jaguar. While they are doing this, it is revealed that the mysterious men from before have bugged the laboratory and are listening in to what the scientists are talking about. They seem pleased to hear that the robot is finished, and amused by the name given the technological marvel.

Manga: Godzilla vs. Megalon
A rare look at the robo-innards of Jet Jaguar

Goro continues to describe the new robot, noting that the eyes have television cameras inside, and that the robot has a self-control unit that enables it to avoid any obstacles while walking, and that the robot has a “variety of other abilities” which he does not specify. As Goro is speaking, Rokuro enters the room—followed by the two suspicious men from before, this time wearing gas masks and bearing guns that shoot gas, knocking out our heroes. It is revealed that the suspicious pair are Seatopians working with their great leader Antonio, whom they radio for further directions. Antonio issues an order—that the robot will be taken, and that it will lead Megalon to attack an unspecified target, to which the citizens of Seatopia cheer.

Antonio goes on to make a speech about how Seatopia has had peace for 3,000,000 years, but that that peace has now been destroyed by the nuclear testing of the people who live upon the land above, and then calls for Megalon to strike back at those who would destroy Seatopia.

We then cut to a large truck carrying a metal box on a flat bed. One of the Seatopians rides in the front seat with two hired land-dwellers, who are curious about the strange job they have taken. Dump the box into the fissure that swallowed the lake? What is in this box? But the Seatopian refuses to say, stating that they are being paid well and shouldn’t ask questions. Jet Jaguar flies along above the truck, keeping time, and Goro and Rokuro are inside the container, bumping around but already freed from their ropes.

Back at the laboratory, Hiroshi is listening to the other Seatopian report on the progress of the mission. Hiroshi asks where they are taking Goro and Rokuro, and the Seatopian gladly tells him that the pair are being taken to Seatopia, a land which three million years ago was called Lemuria and sank beneath the sea. Luckily when they sank they were in a huge air bubble, and they managed to create their own air and an artificial sun. Hiroshi asks why a civilization with such advanced technology needs the robot, and the Seatopian claims that it is because they want to stop their enemies from destroying their peace and so they need this awesome robot (didn’t really answer the question, buddy). Hiroshi then pretends to be choking or sick or something, and when the Seatopian leans towards him to see if he is alright, Hiroshi jumps with the chair he is tied to, head butting the Seatopian in the chest and bowling him over. Hiroshi breaks the chair he is tied to, then dashes outside and drives off in his car in an attempt to save his brother.

Meanwhile, back at the dried up lake, a horrible sound emerges, inspiring the local masses to worry that there will be a volcanic explosion with lava. There appears to be some kind of explosion from the fissure—gas or water or possibly lava—which is closely followed by Megalon himself. Shortly after, Jet Jaguar arrives, and begins to guide the giant beetle monster towards Tokyo.

Back with the truck, the Seatopian and two truckers are listening to a radio program that reports Megalon’s emergence and march eastward. The driver decides to dump the container at the dam and then run away, but the Seatopian threatens the driver with a pistol—“If you don’t want to die, you will go to the fissure.” In response, the driver begins driving like a maniac to throw off the Seatopian’s aim, and the two truckers dump the Seatopian out of the cab so that he hits his head on a rock and dies, blood splattered and eyes blank just in case there was any doubt.

The truckers begin to dump the container off of the dam, but just as they do, Megalon appears and the two truckers, instead of driving away, abandon the truck and make a run for it. Hiroshi, who has been trying to chase down the truck all this time, arrives in his speedster, and the truckers wave him down, asking him to get them out of there. Hiroshi tells them that he is looking for his sempai and his sempai’s younger brother, not realizing that these are the truckers who had been driving the container vehicle. The truckers hold Hiroshi at gunpoint, steal his car, and speed away.

Hiroshi runs to the truck, which still has the container on it, albeit at a dangerous angle. Hiroshi tries to lower the container, chanting a prayer as he attempts to operate the machine, but accidentally begins to dump the container off the cliff! Just at that very moment, before the container can really fall, Megalon smashes the part of the cliff right under where the container was going to drop, nicking the container with his mighty claw and sending it rolling away from the overhang. Hiroshi rushes over and rescues the two trapped inside.

Back to Jet Jaguar, the flying robot tells Megalon (apparently speaking or possibly through radio) “Megalon, over there”. Rokuro sees what is going on and is dismayed. The young boy wishes that Jet Jaguar could go to Monster Island to ask Godzilla for help. Just then, Goro remembers he has a special gadget that he can use to control Jet Jaguar, but which can only be used if the robot is within sight—and Jet has just flown too far away.

Goro goes to the military and tells them of his plan to regain control of Jet Jaguar and send him to recruit Godzilla for help (it is not clear why the humans could not go to Godzilla themselves). Still, they decide to try to regain control of JJ using a helicopter. Goro flies up in a helicopter and confronts Jet Jaguar, which prompts the Seatopian controlling the robot to issue a command for Jet to destroy the meddling humans. Goro wrests control of Jet Jaguar from the Seatopians just in time and sends him to call Godzilla. Of course the Seatopians are upset, and in retaliation they call in Gigan for help from their friends, the Space Hunter Nebula aliens.

Megalon, now with no one to lead him, goes nuts (in this case by standing still and waving his arms). The military attacks him with multiple missiles and tanks, and the monster begins moving towards Goro’s house, where the Seatopian had been controlling Jet Jaguar. The Seatopian tries to escape, but Megalon knocks over an enormous tree which falls right on top of the villain.

Meanwhile, Godzilla finally appears. Narration declares that Godzilla understood Jet Jaguar’s sign language and now the pair are rushing to Tokyo. At this point, again it appears that Jet Jaguar speaks, this time asking Godzilla if it is okay for him (the robot) to hurry on ahead. Godzilla says, “OK!” (in English), and makes the “okay” sign with his right hand.

At that time, Gigan is approaching the earth at a speed of mach 400. We see Goro and Hiroshi back in the house with Hiroshi wearing an apron and serving tea, and Rokuro looks at the radar and realizes that Gigan has returned to earth. Jet Jaguar arrives at the house just then, and Goro says, “Let’s ask if he called Godzilla.” Before Goro can ask, however, Jet says (?) “OK!!” and makes the “okay” hand gesture before flying away to battle Megalon. Our heroes are confused as to what this could mean.

Megalon continues to go crazy by himself, but then Jet Jaguar appears, which makes the monster bug noticeably happy (and a musical note appears next to the monster’s head). At that point, with no real ceremony or drama, Jet Jaguar begins to grow, his enormous robo head emerging from the forest of trees in one memorable shot. Megalon is confused, and Jet clears things up by uppercutting the huge monster. Megalon attempts to return the favor, throwing a punch with one drill hand spinning for extra damage. Jet dodges the punch, and Megalon accidentally drills into the rock, giving Jet an opening to give Megalon a flying kick to the face.

The battle continues, with Jet Jaguar holding the upper hand, and our heroes look on, having driven pretty close to the fight so they could get a better view. Goro theorizes that Jet Jaguar managed to make himself grow through the power of will as a way to take on the baddies until Godzilla could arrive and mop things up. However, Gigan appears and dive-bombs Jet, which is followed by a blast from Megalon’s antler/horn. The blast here looks more like a spreading heat ray rather than the lightning it appeared to be in the movie.

Manga: Frankenstein vs. the Subterranean Monster
One of the best scenes to ever appear in a Godzilla manga adaptation!

Just then Godzilla comes running in carrying a huge tree as a club and with a telephone pole sticking out of his mouth. Godzilla spits the telephone pole into the back of Megalon’s skull, breathes his nuclear breath, and wildly swings his tree, bashing both enemy monsters in the head. Megalon then burns up the tree with his horn ray. Nevertheless, Godzilla and Jet Jaguar really continue to whale on the monsters. Antonio, realizing that the jig is up, orders the geothermic energy bomb corps to get ready to close off the opening to the upper world. Meanwhile, Jet Jaguar and Godzilla continue kicking major monster hinder. Jet has Megalon in a choke hold and redirects the beetle monster’s energy blast right into Gigan, which Godzilla follows up with a nuclear blast to the cyborg chicken’s crotch.

Gigan has had enough and flees into space, and Megalon returns to Seatopia, quickly followed by an enormous earthquake that closes up the fissure. A massive crowd of people has gathered around, apparently to watch the fight, and they bid Godzilla farewell—“Thank you, Godzilla!” “Be careful as you go home!” Godzilla waves goodbye to them as well. The crowd’s attention then turns to Jet Jaguar, with TV cameras rolling. Jet shrinks back to human size and rejoins our heroes, becoming a docile robot and losing his independent spirit. The huge crowd seems to have disappeared as well, and our heroes stroll forward, Jet Jaguar carrying Roku, and Goro hypothesizing that with the disappearance of the threat, Jet’s fighting spirit disappeared as well. He hopes there won’t be a need for that fighting spirit ever again. The end.

Probably I did not really need to go into such meticulous detail in the above summary, but I am experimenting with the format and trying to find the right balance between summary and highlights. With the Godzilla vs. Megalon manga, I found that the manga was much more faithful than many others I have read. Most of the changes are edits—scenes cut for time. We don’t have the strange water vehicle that Rokuro rides at the beginning of the movie, nor his little crotch-rocket motorbike, nor the improvised model airplane attack seen later in the film. These inventions (and the rocket-propelled rope at the beginning) added color to the story, and given that the opening now also cuts out the scene in which Rokuro is rescued, some of the excitement is trimmed away, too. Oddly, the fissure that drains the lake is caused by the underground nuclear testing in the manga rather than by the deliberate machinations of the Seatopians. Hiroshi escapes from the grasp of the Seatopians by faking sickness rather than provoking his Seatopian captor into slapping him, though the ensuing fight is longer and more exciting in the movie. The car/motorcycle chase is completely cut as well. The improvised model airplane attack was one of the dumbest moments in the movie (in my opinion anyway). Instead of that model airplane, Megalon accidentally kills the Seatopian by felling a tree on top of him as he runs away, eliminating the need for the secret airplane attack. In the movie, Megalon accidentally kills the Seatopian by flying about and throwing up big rocks, one of which just happens to fall on the baddie as he is running away. The manga actually manages to be relatively more realistic than the movie! Still, most of the changes are very minor, and barely worth mentioning.

Perhaps the most interesting changes are in the monster fight. Megalon seems to have lost one of his abilities, for example—he never spits the explosive fire bombs in this adaptation. Still, in the manga, the giant beetle can spin his drill hands independently of each other to make his punches more deadly. The energy blasts from Megalon’s antlers are also very different. Whereas in the film they resembled lightning (the better to match King Ghidorah’s gravity beams…), in the manga adaptation they appear more like a wide heat ray. Jet Jaguar, meanwhile, never uses his x-ray vision to try to keep track of Megalon underground. Perhaps most disappointingly, Godzilla never performs his infamous tail slide maneuver, which was always one of the best parts of the finished film. The final fight is generally much shorter than the one depicted in the film, with many scenes cut. The overall impact of cutting back the fight sequences underscores how much this is NOT a Godzilla story, since the Big G barely appears in the story until the end. Still, one change that I loved was when Godzilla marches in to the fight with a telephone pole clenched in his teeth and then spits it out as a weapon. I have seen pictures of the Mega-Goji costume in which a telephone pole is sticking out of his mouth, and I wonder if this scene may have once been part of the movie!

The art by Takeshi Koshiro is quite decent, and sometimes quite good. Koshiro was a frequent tokusatsu manga artist, having also done (for example) manga adaptations of Ultra Q such as an original story featuring Peguila and Gorgos and Zone Fighter, and would go on to do the manga adaptation of Terror of Mechagodzilla. For those paying attention, he also did the adaptation of Godzilla vs. Gigan that was included in Battle History of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. In my opinion, Koshiro’s adaptation of Godzilla vs. Gigan has stronger art overall—his Godzilla in Gigan looks more detailed, for example. Interestingly, if you go on to look at Koshiro’s Godzilla from Terror of Mechagodzilla, again, he draws the Big G with more detail there as well, fleshing out his skin with more texture. Still, the Godzilla vs. Megalon art work is far from bad. Jet Jaguar looks really great (though he never seems to fold his antenna close to his head), and very suit accurate. Megalon is less successful; from the way Koshiro renders the monster, he looks strangely squished, with his thighs sometimes practically reach up into his armpits. Gigan looks very similar to how he appeared in the Gigan manga, although again less detailed—for example, while Koshiro took the time to draw Gigan’s teeth in the Gigan manga, he can’t be bothered in Megalon. As for the human characters, Goro looks like a generic hero and thus is a bit boring—I much prefer Koshiro’s rendering of Hiroshi, with his big nose, pompadour haircut, and sideburns! Antonio is also great—sporting white hair and a big white mustache, which kind of reminded me of Dr. Bowen from the Frankenstein vs. the Subterranean Monster manga! Nevertheless, I came away with an impression that Koshiro may have been perhaps less inspired by the material here, or just in more of a rush to get it done, as the art does not quite match the higher quality of some of his other efforts.

Once again, though, I have to complain that the reprint here is on very low-quality paper that feels like it is going to yellow overnight and rip if you look at it wrong. I really wish the manga released in these DVD collections were printed on higher quality paper.

Overall, Godzilla vs. Megalon is far from my favorite manga adaptation, but I still enjoyed reading it, and it respects the source material. Of course, if you hated the movie (and many fans do deride the film), the manga will not inspire a new appreciation of the material. Nevertheless, for fans of Jet Jaguar and for those just looking for a fast-paced monster action manga, you could do worse than this.