Manga: Monster Picture Story: Godzilla


Monster Picture Story: Godzilla

Japanese Comic Title

怪獣絵物語 ゴジラ
[Kaiju e Monogatari Gojira]


Shigeru Kayama


Shun’ichi Iwaigawa
Shun’ichi Iwaigawa







By: Nicholas Driscoll

A few years ago I wrote a review of Godzilla Manga Collection: 1954-1958. That collection included several adaptations of the original Godzilla (1954), an original manga featuring some of the most bizarre monsters in the entire Godzilla canon, and an adaptation of Godzilla Raids Again (1955). One might have assumed that that collection would have included ALL of the Godzilla manga released in that time window, but such was actually not the case… and one of the most interesting adaptations, Monster Picture Story: Godzilla, was left out. Originally published on the first day of March, 1955, in an appendix of Bokura magazine, this particular adaptation was re-released in Godzilla All Movie DVD Collectors Box Vol. 1 in 2016, and unlike many of the other republished manga from the collector’s boxes, this one has pretty decent paper and even has colored pages akin to those used in the Kaiju Raban manga—that is to say, a couple pages might be published in blue ink, a couple in reddish, etc.

Let’s take a look at the story first of all. On the very first page Godzilla appears to the Bingomaru, which was one in a series of attacks on ships. The Japanese government quickly takes an interest in the incidents and dispatches a helicopter to investigate, including a stop at Oto Island—and they learn about the existence of the legend of Godzilla.

We are then introduced to basically our main character… an officer named Hagiwara. No, this time he is not a journalist. This Hagiwara has a younger brother named Shinkichi (age ten maybe?) whom the Yamanes take in or helped or SOMETHING. This part is not explained well… if the Yamanes are taking care of Shinkichi, like in the movie, it’s not clear why, since it doesn’t seem like he lost his family in this version (in the original movie, Shinkichi was a youth who lost his family to Godzilla). If Shinkichi did lose his family in this manga adaptation, it isn’t clearly stated. At any rate, Hagiwara consults Yamane about the possibility of a monster like Godzilla existing today. Yamane says that Godzilla may exist, and points to the example of pleurotomaria, an ancient creature which was once thought extinct but apparently was later found still living. Anyway, Yamane, Hagiwara, Shinkichi, and Yamane’s young daughter Fumiko (not Emiko, who is not in the story at all) go to Oto Island for further investigation.

On Oto Island, our intrepid heroes soon discover huge radioactive footprints. As Yamane and company investigate, Fumiko screams! Godzilla has emerged from a nearby volcanic crater. Yamane takes a picture of the monster, and Godzilla reacts by blasting at him with his nuclear breath, disintegrating some rifles and luggage. Then Godzilla disappears, and our heroes escape with their lives.

Yamane gives his big speech about the existence of dinosaurs, and the politicians and big wigs gather and gawk and so on. The theory is put forward that Godzilla was soaking in the hot water around the volcano on Oto Island after colliding with the ships at the beginning of the story. Yamane and Hagiwara are both against killing Godzilla, but when the giant monster shows up again near the Miura Peninsula, ships are dispatched to blast him with mines and torpedoes. After a brief skirmish, Godzilla disappears, and the Japanese believe he is dead…

Until the big G shows up again in Shinagawa and destroys a train, among other things, before receding back into the waters. Hagiwara is put in charge of devising a defense against Godzilla, and he spearheads the construction of a barrier of high-tension wires to block Godzilla’s next strike. As the barricade is being put together, we finally hear (from a random, unnamed military man) about Serizawa and his mysterious medicine/chemical product that might be able to kill Godzilla. Hagiwara also starts to prepare a lot of dynamite just in case the high-tension wires don’t work.

The high-tension wires don’t work. Hagiwara asks Shinkichi to go visit Serizawa, who refuses to help them but gives them a demonstration of the power of his invention, a special sort of substance that destroys the oxygen from water. Serizawa calls his invention the Oxygento. For some reason, it seems Fumiko is also with Shinkichi, and together they persuade Serizawa to go to the roof and gaze out upon the destruction that Godzilla is causing (the scientist missed Godzilla’s attack because he was so busy in his lab.) Serizawa, shocked by the sight, agrees to use the Oxygento against Godzilla.

Meanwhile, as Godzilla approaches, Hagiwara has prepared tons of dynamite in the sewers. At just the right time, he detonates the dynamite, killing himself and driving Godzilla out of the city.

Manga: Monster Picture Story: Godzilla
Here we see Godzilla really needs to go on a diet.

Serizawa destroys all the notes he used in creating the Oxygento, and then goes out to attack Godzilla while the giant beast is still nursing his wounds at the bottom of the sea. Shinkichi accompanies Serizawa, but Serizawa won’t let the kid approach Godzilla. Serizawa sacrifices himself to kill the monster, and Shinkichi escapes. Our remaining heroes offer up a prayer of thanks. The end.

The story is pretty familiar, with most of the basic story beats remaining the same as the 1954 film. However, just as in some of the previous manga adaptations I have discussed, there are some huge differences. Just like in… all the other manga versions, the romance between Serizawa and Emiko is gone, but this time Emiko is also gone. In the Wasuke Abe version, Emiko was made into a small child to be a sort of compliment to Shinkichi, who was made one of the main characters. In this version, Emiko is replaced by Fumiko, who basically serves the same purpose as the Abe version of Emiko. Like the Shigeru Sugiura version, here Shinkichi accompanies Serizawa to the ocean floor, but in the Sugiura version, Serizawa survives, and in this version he does not.

Perhaps the biggest change is the surprising usage of Hagiwara as the hero. Hagiwara had a small role in the film as a journalist, but here he changes jobs and becomes a compassionate, brave hero who shares Serizawa’s sense of self-sacrifice. Since Hagiwara killed himself towards the end of the story, I expected that Serizawa would survive in his stead since TWO suicides seemed like too much… but I was wrong!

There are many other changes from the movie, such as Yamane taking a photo that inspires Godzilla to attack with his atomic breath on the mountain, the lack of Ogata entirely, and the bewildering change of the Oxygen Destroyer to the “Oxygento” (presumably a combination of the words “oxygen” and “agent”). But the changes are not limited to plot details. Perhaps most startling of all is the way in which Godzilla is illustrated.

Just looking at individual images from the comic, one could be forgiven for not realizing this was a Godzilla comic. The familiar giant radioactive lizard is here depicted as a pretty generic (albeit very fat) theropod dinosaur with scrawny arms ending in three claws. In some shots the dino-monster is so fat as to appear like an enormous egg with dinosaurian appendages (which may have inspired some of Sugiura’s artwork, though both appeared in March of 1955.) Serizawa also looks quite different from his final form, here having lost his eyepatch and simply wearing round glasses and unruly hair.

The artwork by Shun’ichi Iwaigawa is very impressive, being thick with intricate detail and lots of dark, gloomy pages. The figurework tends to be relatively static, but very realistic, betraying none of the stylization so recognizable in manga. If anything, the art most closely resembles the hyper-detailed illustrations drawn by Wasuke Abe in his “Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla,” though if anything, Iwaigawa’s art actually uses more lines and stresses more on the shadows. Personally, I was pretty impressed, but also I felt less sympathy for the characters. I prefer the stylized drawings for their emotional resonance.

For me, I actually found the 33-page read a tad dry, but still enjoyable for its various departures from the source material. The departures are more confusing, though, in this case, because Godzilla doesn’t even sport the iconic backplates, and the differing name for the Oxygen Destroyer is also a puzzle. Wasuke Abe’s version was the earliest, and Godzilla there looks closer to the monster as it appears in the film, and the term “Oxygen Destroyer” is also used in Abe’s adaptation. Iwaigawa’s version was released months after the movie came to theaters. So why the differences?

I don’t have the answers to that. Perhaps Iwaigawa’s version was delayed. Perhaps like Daiji Kazumine in his early Ultraman manga (see my interview for details), Iwaigawa had his own ideas about what Godzilla should look like, and just went with his gut, and Toho let him do it. At any rate, big Godzilla fans will find a lot to enjoy in this adaptation, even if the story itself is not the most dynamic and exciting version on paper. Recommended for the completists.