Review: ONMYOJI (2001)

"After much consideration, it has been decided upon to remove "submission" movie reviews from the site. This reasoning for this was several fold, although chief among them was that it became hard to edit them and still try to maintain the original sentiments of the author and also that the scale for "submission" reviews seemed to be different from the one that the staff used, as they primarily hanged at the 4/5 star level for the majority. So to get a better sense of the films, we have decided to abandon such reviews and will be moving to a all staff review system for films shortly. We do thank everyone who submitted reviews though through out the years. Miles Imhoff, who was hired due to his reviews meeting a certain criteria, found this idea particularly hard to get behind, but ultimately I felt it was for the best of the site. A few other things will change in the coming days as a result of this as well."

-Anthony Romero

Because of this, I am posting this review on this blog. This review was edited by Vega - who did so in a way in which there was no need to do a second pass. It was a most easy process. He got it right away.

Onmyoji is perhaps one of the more well known Toho films out there, appearing often on the ShoTime channels in America. Opinions on Onmyoji vary; however, it is one of the better films Toho has in their fantasy genre, more specifically the genre of New Jidai Geki (New Period Piece film). Along with Legend of the Eight Samurai, this is one of the genre's better films in the areas of acting, pacing, and plot. Though the special effects are passable, the musical score is great.

The story of Onmyoji spans over 150 years worth of history, with the meat taking place in the Heian era of Japan’s history. During this time, humans are depicted as living together with fantastical creatures. Some were Yokai, but the majority were oni, creatures often interpreted as demons. To rid human existence of oni were the Onmyoji, civil servants that worked for the central government. Not only were they tasked with exorcising the oni, but they also predicted future events using tools like the lo pan and the I, Ching (The Book of Changes). They predicted coming occurrences by observing the affairs of men and also observing changes in the cosmos.
In the year 794 AD, the Onmyoji claimed that the guardian of the city of Heian was about to appear, essentially portending ill fortune. One hundred and fifty years earlier, the authorities assassinated Prince Sawara under false accusations. His vengeful spirit could not be calmed until a mound was built, Shogun’s Mound. To make sure the mound was never destroyed, a certain woman, Lady Anoe, was made immortal and appointed guardian of the site.

Back in the "present", unrest builds within the central government. The instability caused by the result of the Mikado's romantic entanglements tips the balance of power, and the head of the Onmyoji, Doson, decides to help Fujiwara no Motokata, the Minister of the Right in the Mikado’s court, who was affected by the shift. His grand design is to create a sense of turmoil to further his brewing scheme of conquest, and resurrecting Prince Sawara is the key to his plan. The one in charge of bringing order out of all this chaos is Minamoto No Tadamasa, a samurai for the court. He teams up with an Onmyoji who, from an hierarchical standpoint, is under Doson. Nevertheless, this Onmyoji proves to be more skilled and powerful. His name is Abe No Seimei...
The direction of the film by Yujiro Takita pursues no other course than that of drama. Each scene is brought to life in a way that utilizes a dramatic cue in the right place at the right time. There is tension developed between the two protagonists Seimei and Hiromasa, and there is tension between the court officials; that is what a story of this nature thrives on, and Takita makes sure that we see the emotions that are racing through this intricately woven tale. There are also visual shots that are incorporated in such a way as to portray the traditionally perceived beauty of the of Heian era of Japan. This is not to say that Takita is one of the best directors around. Admittedly, none of these shots hold any metaphoric value. The tale is told with simplicity through and through. However, the cinematography is keen, with sets detailed to an exquisite degree.

The most interesting part of the film is how it interprets women (the underplayed sex of Japan’s culture from that era) as the movers and shakers of events. The film makes the point that women should not be purely used for political and/or personal gain. Lady Anoe was, and still is, in love with Prince Sawara. It is the presence of the Mikado’s new baby that causes turmoil within the court. His old mistress, Sukehime, is pressured for not being "good enough" or "beautiful" enough to keep the Mikado’s fancy, and yet she is still used... transformed into a Namanari in an attempt to kill the Mikado. There is no fury quite like a woman’s scorn, but it is even more dangerous when one is able to manipulate that age old chestnut for personal gain.

When it comes to acting, we are clearly treated with better-than-average fair. The two stars are Mansai Nomura, playing Seimei, and Hiroyuki Sanada as Doson. Nomura is one of Japan’s most formidable Kyogen actors who also was fortunate enough to work with the legendary Akira Kurosawa in Ran (1985). Sanada has seen said by some (most notably the director of The Last Samurai) to be the "Tom Cruise of Japan". Along with winning five Japanese Academy Awards, Hiroyuki has been part of the Royal Shakespeare Company, not to mention gaining early practice with a stage adaptation of Makai Tensho (based on the 1981 film in which he starred; both the film and the play were directed by Kinji Fukasaku). Two heavy weights giving their all in this film is a real treat.

Nomura plays Seimei excellently. It is mentioned that Seimei was rumored to have been born from a fox, and Mansai’s facial features definitely show off this side of Seimei’s personality. Seimei is a unique character, often a little alienating to the people around him, particularly towards Hiromasa. However, this is a character who does show laughter, worry, a sense of urgency, and deep contemplation. Mansai covers all the emotional bases very well. The viewer may be taken out of the film by his performance only when Mansai is directed to cry. It is a hit or miss for viewers, but for this reviewer at least, it was a miss. Other than that, he excels, especially when he has to do rituals that involve certain dances.

Sanada plays a classic villain. A manipulative villain who has a quiet class and reserve about him. Only during the last third of the film does he really show an "end of the ropes - anything goes" attitude. This is something to be expected from the actor, whose villainous characters have become more and more numerous since this movie (e.g. Rush Hour 3). There really aren't any idiosyncrasies in his performance that are strong enough to pull the viewer out of the experience.

The rest of the actors and actresses do their duty to one degree or another. Hideaki Ito, who plays Hiromasa, pulls off the comic relief, hamming it up with aplomb. Kyoko Koizumi is the shining star of the female troupe, playing Lady Anoe, a woman who is immortal and carries around the usual baggage. She helps to bring a solid layer of drama to the film. Yui Natsukawa, the Lady of the Full Moon, is the woman who suffers most of the torture that arises from the Seimei-Doson conflict. She doubles not only as a melancholy-laden mistress but also as the oni/vampire-esque Namanari. Playing Mitsumushi is Eriko Imai, whose character is somewhat superfluous, except to add dramatic force to a few scenes (which require her to go into her butterfly form).

The score for the film is masterfully composed by Shigeru Umebayashi. Although the orchestra isn’t as full as it would be in the sequel, it still proves to be more than functional and helps to cradle (and even magnify) the feeling and emotion in several scenes. The best thing about the music is that it has a distinctly Japanese flavor. Not only does the style reflect this aurally pleasing aspect of the film, but also the choices of instruments lend to the atmosphere. The best example is the theme that plays over the end credits. The use of Japanese woodwind, string, and percussive fair really accents everything nicely, not to mention the occasional (and welcome) vocals.

For kaiju fans put off by the mystical elements of films such as Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle (1999), Onmyoji is a nice place to start when gathering some cultural insight. While not a full history class on Japan, it does provide a solid starting ground on understanding Japanese mysticism and how it may have affected peoples' lives long ago in classical Japan. Careful directing, competent writing, shining performances, and a sound musical score (with a slightly addicting nature) make this film a winner. It may not be Kurosawa, but Onmyoji certainly stands tall on its own two legs.


DVD Review: Media Blaster's DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

Special Thanks to Lee Merritt, proprietor of Monsterland Forums for making this review possible.

This has been a great year for Godzilla fans. IDW doing three different lines of comic books, a good bit of DVD news, new board games, and a good bit of other stuff. The hottest topic would be the Media Blasters releases of DESTOROY ALL MONSTERS and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON. With DESTROY ALL MONSTERS being the less anticipated release, a good bit was still to be proven with it.
To set up a precedence, let’s go back to what James Ballard said when talking about the R2 DVD, which he gave 5/5 stars.

"As you would expect, Toho's domestic DVD release of "Destroy All Monsters" is once again a pinnacle in the line of kaiju releases. The video quite frankly looks like it could have been shot yesterday. As far as I could tell there was absolutely no print damage, bar some very tiny specks of dust in once scene, and no signs of digital artifacts. On occasion there is some light grain, but really only noticeable under close inspection. The film remains consistently sharp with lush and vivid colors. The film is presented in it's original widescreen ratio, and is enhanced for widescreen TV's."

With such a fine print used by Toho for their R2 DVD, and knowing that what Media Blasters has presented to us is the HD print which was a basic restoration of the film, should it be the perfect print? Considering that I own the DVD and now the blu-ray, I’d say this looks as great as it is going to look on DVD. Is there a general softness? Yes. Is the color platte not as vibrant as what one would assume? Yes. That is to be expected. Due to Toho's restoration being just a general clean up, colors are not going to be as vibrant as what it could have been back in '68 (it has been mentioend on the net that a better colored print of the film is out there somewhere). But this is the best this film is going to look on DVD unless Toho finds a full restoration neccessary, which is not the case.

In comparing with the ADV DVD, you can see a lot of what was wrong with the ADV print. The coloring of certain things is maybe better on the ADV DVD, such as the sky in the clip above but other than that, the ADV DVD has one of the worst problems with rainbows a film could have, with the moment something in the frame shows itself as white, rainbows appear. Another problem would be the lack of color correction, which you see the real colors here with the Media Blasters DVD.

There are three audio tracks to the film, which the choices for the tracks are those which would be most relevant to American viewers. One Japanese track (2.0 and 4.1) and two English tracks (international and AIP).

Both Japanese and International tracks are on here and are flawless. They sound like any other audio tracks. Sure, it doesn’t stand out (though it may if you are watching this with a great set of earphones, which pretty much keep the sound waves up close to your ear drums therefore the dissipation of the sound waves isn’t a factor), but there isn’t problems really.

A big source of debate for this debate seems to be about the inclusion of the AIP dub, which should have been a great, great thing. For completists, the inclusion of both the international and AIP dubs makes the set feel more complete. Problem is that a cranking sound a long with some digital noise appears on the track (mostly in the beginning). You can tell that this is a problem that they tried to fix with the sections at the beginning being patched up via audio from another track, but the problems doesn’t last all that long. Still, a little imperfection could go a long way for some aficionados. Talk of an alternate source has been spread around, but that it couldn’t be used due to Toho granting permission to only use specific sources of materials for releases - one has to wonder what about other sources makes Toho not want to permit their participation (probably a matter of money).

Special Features:

In an interesting turn for the better, Media Blasters has chosen to do something a bit differently - the handling of special features. For past Toho titles, Media Blasters just copies what was on the R2 DVD releases. This time around, special features were brought onto the release which are not on the R2 DVD - a choice likely made because of the fact these are Godzilla films. Truth be told, Media Blasters is all too modest, for what is described on the back of their DVD cover for the film is truly an understatement.

The main attraction is the audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Godziszewski. Plugging their book here and there, they do stay on topic of the film and having been doing research for their book, it helps a lot. A lot of details and trivia revolving around the film were made freshly known to me, such as the actor of a stage play being treated to seeing the kaiju and an actress from the film. The only downside would be that there are a couple of parts of the commentary where Ed and Steve’s voice could sound a bit more dynamic, making the commentary sound more enjoyable to the ears. Other than that, they do the same good word they did with the films they commented on for Classic Media.

Follow the yellow Japanese Characters

The DVD is filled to the brim with a bunch of trailers, with space being saved by compiling whole trailers into one video track. Least of which is the trailers for other Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters films including GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, DEATH KAPPA, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, and (the brutally awesome) RIKI OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. Instead of having a page in which you can choose to watch each trailer separately, they are strung together like a little movie, though you can press the skip button on your remote to go to a specific trailer. Same thing is the matter with the "Promo Reel", which is the American trailer (in worse condition than what you can find on youtube), the Japanese, and French trailers for the films followed by four American radio spots. Also saving space by making it an easter egg rather start a new page for listing special features is the 8mm reel clips which feature AIP stuff on them. Not bad. So, let’s count that down - 4 non-DAM trailers, 3 DAM trailers, 4 Radio Spots, and 8mm movies. That’s 12 things right there.

The other special features consist of photo galleries - one being of posters for the film and another being for concept art and such. Both are great, though there is a case or two of repetition with the poster gallery. Regardless, both are great and it would be interesting to see these things on the blu-ray. In the meanwhile, the poster gallery just doesn’t show posters, but also theatrical programs (2 from 1972, 1 from 1968). It is a rather thorough gallery which non-Japanese readers can enjoy. It is great. It is even interesting to see stuff like Gappa being on DAM posters (like how Yonggary was on some German photobistura for GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and a VHS for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA). But, the DVD gallery bit I felt was a bit much. But it’s inclusion on here I hope will mean that such a thing will be included on the GODZILLA VS. MEGALON DVD for the number of bootleg VHS tapes that film has endured is nothing less than legendary and would make a great gallery for the historian in all of us.

If there was one thing missing from the film - one single thing - it is not the inclusion of the international and AIP credit sequences (Which the blu-ray has and those who already have the ADV DVD and a connection or two already have), but something simple - really simple seeing how the cover for the tape that this was on was on the DVD gallery bit - the alternate and extended takes from the 1980’s Toho SFX Tape. That would have been some of the easiest things to put on the DVD. There is about 10-15 minutes of material, not much. But, at least we got some stuff which defiantly trumps any Japanese release.

If this is a sample of things to come, I cannot say that I am not happy for what Megalon will bring. Great audio and visual content with a great bit of special features - particularly the concept art and story board galleries and the trailers/tv spots which are most interesting if only to get a glimpse at what the generation before us could have felt when they would watch these films at the cinemas nationwide in lieu of chance exhibitions at art house theatres. A great release which everyone should own. For an American release of a foreign film which is not being released by a big company, this is a spectacular release.



Citizen Hyung Rae and the Death of Younggu-Art

The 1,000 words photos tell would show that like most buisness transactions, there is more than meets the eye.

For some of us, we like bad movies. Bad movies can be entertaining. Thus, even though it would be a small one, there was an audience for films like 2001 YONGGARY and D-WAR: DRAGON WARS. For those who are American, you might even have a taste for THE LAST GODFATHER, the only English-language entry of Shim Hyung Rae’s Younggu series.

Sadly, we might have seen the death of his brand of Korean cinema, meaning the possibility of no D-WAR 2, which some wanted to see. If you check, the official website has been shut down (the main Younggu-Art side along with the official D-WAR and 2001 YONGGARY sites).

Late October, it was reported that 43 employees of Shim Hung Rae’s company - Younggu-Art - were suing him for $790,000 in non-paid wages. It was to be paid with money received from the auctioning of the 1,655 square meter building which housed the company. The building was sold by Hyundai Swiss Mutual Savings Bank, (Younggu-Arts’ collateral security holder) and was bought by a developer - the only bidder. 3 month’s wages and 3 years severance pays would be paid through the profit made from the auction, with the rest going towards Shim‘s debts. Turns out Shim had borrowed 1.1 billion won against his company, something confirmed by the Financial Supervisory Service. This could be one of many tales of company funds being used inappropriately. Stories of gambling addiction revealed by former employees aren’t making things better.

Turns out that this is not the actual death of Younggu-Art. That happened back in 2009.

Back on July 19, 2009, Shim said he was shutting the firm down - claiming to be $36 million dollars (41 billion Korean Kwon by today‘s exchange rate) in debt. That isn’t the worse of his troubles. In May of 2009, Hyundai Savings Bank filed complaints in regards to 4 billion won in loans/interest. Four months later, a high court made it that Shim had to pay 2.5 billion won. The case is pending at the supreme court. In separate auctions, Shim’s two homes (one being a Hyundai apartment in Apgujeong-dong and another being a Tower Palace apartment in Dogok-dong) are being sold. One of them is 244 square meters in land area.

Shim’s fate just might be sealed when it came up that Shim was being investigated for illegal firearm remodeling. Even darker, claims have been made of Shim’s trying to influence political and business colleges via prostitution including what the Korean Herald said, "high-profile figures and young women" and even going as far as to deny investors refunds of investments back in Oct. 2009 with an illegally customized gas spray gun.

As of October 30, Shim Hyung Rae has been banned from leaving the country of South Korea. All allegations against Shim are said to have taken place from 2008-2011, the years in which Shim made THE LAST GODFATHER (Which failed at the box office in Korea and America) and was still producing MEMORY OF BREAD. Be watching, for SciFiJapan’s Korean correspondent Kim Song-Ho is to be writing a more in-depth article on this.

This is a sad day.





Film Review: HOKUSAI MANGA (1981)


For those who have pre-knowledge of this film and are feeling something akin to outrage or pure curiosity, you can find my explanation/reasoning at the end (this whole work is going to be divided into sections, so you can find easily at the end of the article). That being established, HOKUSAI MANGA is not one of the best films you’ll see but it has one of the better performances you will see from a Japanese film and is an interesting film overall.

HOKUSAI MANGA is the story of Hokusai - the famous Japanese woodblock artist. It is not a strict biography now, for it does tell a story with a central theme and a study upon said theme. But this film is much like the 1984 film, AMADEUS. The film begins with Hokusai (going by his real name at the time), enjoying a bath along with friends who would later become great artists in their own right (like the novelist Bakin). Hokusai shows that he has an ambition - to become a great artist (and not just a woodblock artist at that). His work initially seen as crummy. With the subject of many of his works being women - both clothed and nude - no one sees any value in them. It is called just pornographic abroad and his daughter sees them as too "logical", hence boring. This is a tough pill to swallow due to the fact that he dare get disowned by his father (who was a mirror-cleaning shogunate) just to learn to paint.

It is only when he meets his muse (a woman named Onao) does he start painting for real. Many events happen which are indirectly caused by the muse, and she eventually leaves. But once one of his paintings is sold to a publishing company, Hokusai becomes famous, doing paintings of cranes on rice, painting on large dining room-sized canvases, and even drawing Mt. Fuji from 30 plus angles at different times of day. We skip to the latter part of his life where he and his friend, Bakin, are old men. It is durring this time that Hokusai learns how to do tasteful nudes with substance.

This is one of the 36 VIEWS OF FUJI, this one specificaly shown in the film.

HOKUSAI MANGA has a point within it. It is all about women. Mostly because women are men’s muses. So, upon closer observation, this film has to do with the muse-artist relationship. A muse is an important thing to the artist (no matter what medium). It is the muse which literally makes a work "inspired". It is something they can rely on. Persistence. In that reliance, there’s something (their work) which can keep their memory going for years after they have gone. There is a scene in the film in which before the writer Bakin becomes a widower, his passing wife finally allows him to become a writer. That is who he is meant to be. As the writer Harlan Ellison said, " Posterity is the only reason to do this." (Harlan was talking about writing, but writing is an art form just as much as painting or directing).

But, there is something interesting in the muse/artist relationship. It is the sexual side of things. Most of the time, especially with male artists, their muse is a female figure of some sort. That, mixed in with a message of what a tasteful nude is, is what this film is all about. As the film shows, those who aspire to draw tasteful nudes have quite a way to go. The film shows that at the beginning of his career, Hokusai did paint nudes but they were disregarded as pornography. It is only later down on in life in which Hokusai gets the perspective in which he could do tasteful nudes such as THE FISHERMAN’S WIFE.

That is a battle of the human intellectual adaptation versus the natural animalistic instincts. When you are young, you lack insight and the animalistic side of you is king. This is shown to great detail as Hokusai’s father, who was strongly attracted to his son’s muse, ended up hanging himself just because he wouldn’t be with the woman. The sexual want is just too much. But with time, things get clear. It is because of this that most of Hokusai’s life from his late thirties to his late eighties were ignored. A good artist has perspective, and he gained it. That perspective is to illustrate the desires of a woman. Not to be pornographic but to shed light on a world untouched. To explore the world of womanly desires was a new idea back in Elden Japan. Japan was largely a male-centered country with a male-centered culture, thus to put such interest and care into what a woman’s interest is quite the perspective. Not to mention that the study of this kind of emotion is what Hokusai needed because while his early work was too logical, work like THE FISHERMAN’S WIFE is just the opposite because it deals with the most illogical thing around - human emotion.

Sad thing is that younger people may often confuse the two, art and pornography. Having done THE FISHERMAN’S WIFE later on in life with a new woman who looked like Onao, Hokusai was old but his new model quite young. She became admiring of Hokusai’s odd artistic choices but she showed that she didn’t understand his work. At her last appearance in the film, the new model starts having sex with a man. Just regular sex. Hokusai walks in on it and when she asks if he is excited and wanted to paint her in the act, he declined. She didn’t understand it and goes off.

For all of that above, this film cannot be called pornographic. There is a literal art to it. There is less than 20 minutes of nudity within the whole film (which is an hour 58 minutes long). To call this film pornographic would be like calling Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT pornographic.

Ken Ogata is, to Western audiences, best known for the 1980's Paul Schrader film based on another famous Japanese artist (one of the liturate field), MISHIMA.

As far as direction goes, the film’s direction by Kaneto Shindo (who also wrote the film) is nothing too spectacular for a Japanese film. It is notable though, particularly with this reviewer, that it was this film which finally made me realize why Japanese films linger with long takes of scenes with no camera movement. It makes it seem like you are watching a play. This is quite remarkable. Though the make up of the film isn’t anything that will make you think of Kabuki or Noh theatre (rather, the make up at the end is applied to the actors just to show a difference in age), it is an interesting perspective to put the audience in. It is stuff like this which helps makes scenes like a monologue by Ken Ogata (playing the elderly Hokusai) gain momentum by not only being potentially interpreted as a personal diary said aloud to himself, but also as a monologue he is saying to the audience directly. It is almost like a moment out of GOODFELLAS.

Now, this is an interesting piece to choose to review for a blog like this. Truth is, there is one shot that could be called tokusatsu. The particular scene which enacts the inspiration Hokusai gets to draw THE FISHERMAN’S WIFE is done via both a real life enactment and a showing of what is going on within Hokusai’s head. The two wire-clad Octopi props and such were done by a notable person who has worked within the realm of kaiju eiga before - and with this being a Shochiku film, it is only natural that the art direction and possible doing of special effects be done by Shigemori Shigeta - award winning art director for SPACE MONSTER GUILALA and THE LAST SAMURAI. It’s not the best scene (there is a wire visible in one shot) but it is an interesting look into the mind of the master artist. While the kaiju connection is being discussed, it is notable that one of Hokusai’s works was used at the end of a Godzilla movie, Banno’s GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH.

Bottom line, it is a well written film with pretty good directing with the strong point being Ken Ogata’s acting. For some, recognizing the renown actor may be easy, for me it was difficult being used to only seeing him play Miyamoto Musashi (which required a good bit of make-up) in MAKAI TENSHO. It is an interesting look at the life of an artist and a nice way to spend two hours. Just be prepared for laughable content (the octopus scene might look fake to some and due to Japan’s censorship laws in regards to nudity in film and art (which proclaims that genitalia is not allowed to go uncensored in any form of media) the strains in which the filmmakers try to cover up body parts might seem a little obvious if not desperate). This film is worthy of all the awards it won and was nominated for back in 1981.

Recognize this GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH fans?

For those interested in seeing the film IMDB has it avaliable legally via Hulu.


Those who wonder as to why I chose to review such a film on this site, you shall have your curiosity quenched. Going through youtube one night, I stumbled upon a clip of the octopus scene from the film posted. I was curious and once I saw the period piece setting and the fact there was a painter by the woman who had a octopus on her, I knew what it was right then and there (the things they teach you in 7th grade art class). Oddly enough, someone was going through my likes list and decided to flame bait myself. People assumed that I had liked the clip due to it being sexual in nature thus it was purely pornographic (though none of these individuals have seen the film), that I was not allowed to press the like button on such things (just because my channel’s content is that of which minors may look at), and that even if I liked the clip for it’s artistic merits, that was not the case for some claim they know me so well that it wasn’t the case.

Truth is, it wasn’t the case. I did like it for it’s artistic merits. It wasn’t pornographic, and in all reality just because the film is called EDO PORN in America doesn’t mean anything. It is a bad, inaccurate title for a Japanese film (and this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, anyone remember GODZILLA VS. THE THING or GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND) that isn’t about porn (and someone tried to use the inaccurate title as something against me, going as far as calling me a dumb f***).

I hope this clears stuff up. I was in the right and this is a film I would prefer. Watch and don’t judge. And I don’t care if Children watch.


JG2KM Reaction to Criterion GODZILLA DVD

Criterion's DVD cover was met with critisism, but was generally approved of.

Recently, Criterion surprised all of us in the evening a couple of days ago when we found their official page for their release of the first Godzilla film, a film they leased out from Classic Media (who released their own 2 disc version of it). So, what do we make of this news? The news of what special features will be part of the set coupled with a release date which is very, very close by (January 2012)? Well, let’s see…

First, let’s go through the special features. Both versions of Godzilla are getting an audio commentary by author David Kalat. Kalat is one of the more known writers on the Godzilla film. His most notable work is that of A CRITICAL HISTORY AND FILMOGRAPHY OF TOHO’S GODZILLA SERIES (with the original version being the best, the updated version was not well received for it’s cutting back on information to make room for the Millennium series of Godzilla films). His work, while containing some factual information about the production of each film, the manifesto does try to center itself on the subtext, meanings, and interpretations of the films.

This isn’t the first time that Kalat has done a Godzilla commentary though. He was employed by Classic Media to do the audio commentary for GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. Reviews criticized him for going off topic (no matter how informational he may be) and making simple errors in the form of generalizations. But he did make an impression as being quite enthusiastic about his work, thus he is regarded by some as a favorite.

Luckily, we can see to an extent what he is going to talk about in the commentary by viewing his book. For those who do not own his book, refer to it here:

However, particularly when it comes down to the commentary for GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, one cannot think that Kalat can out-do the Godziszewski/Ryfle commentary track. When the duo provided audio clips of interviews from people involved, there is next to no topping that unless he is allowed to borrow the audio clips for his own use.

Next, and this is easily the most important feature on the set, will be newly filmed interviews, particularly with effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai. This is most interesting, and one has to wonder about these individuals. When doing an IMDB search, we see that Eizo Kaimai was a person who had worked on Honda’s THE H-MAN while Yoshio Irie (unless there are two of them and IMDB doesn’t have a profile of an older Irie) is a fairly new guy, having worked on titles such as 2008’s ICHI... or so you would have thought! Thanks to Brett Homenick bringing this to my attention, turns out Irie is no stranger to interviews, including one which was done with some of the fore-fathers of the G-FAN/Kaiju Fan fanzines.


Next which caught my eye was the "New interview with Japanese-film critic Tadao Sato". This is a new name, at least to me anyway. According to Wikipedia, Tadao "is a prominent Japanese film critic and film theorist. Satō has published more than 30 books on film, and is one of the foremost scholars and historians addressing Japanese film, though little of his work has been translated for publication abroad." This is something which I am really interested in because - most for - the fact that the cultural barrier between America and Japan is such that there is a good bit more American audiences who are going to buy this title can learn. An interesting bit of which is a Japanese view of Godzilla which some claim was only around when GMK (2001) was made that Godzilla was a representation of souls lost in the Pacific theatre of WWII. However, writers like Norio Akasaka wrote that Godzilla was a, "representation of the spirits of soldiers who died in the South Pacific durring the Second World War… after coming from the South Pacific to destroy of the Ginza and the Diet building, Godzilla stops suddenly in front of the Imperial Palace, then turns his head right and heads back out to sea with this look of painful sadness on his face", and Akasaka would go on to compare Godzilla to a story by the famous Yukio Mishima (who Paul Schrader made a film about) which critique’s Japan’s moral after the world. More of this kind of material would be nice to hear, hopefully adding freshness to the usual "Godzilla is an allegory for the bomb" which long time fans may be all too used to.

You got William Tsutsui who works at a university in Texas... then you got Gred Pflugfelder who works at the New York-based Columbia University. Now, giving the set something which the British Film Institute product had which the Classic Media release didn’t have was a feature on the Fukuryu Maru AKA the Lucky Dragon No. 5. However, instead of recycling the BFI feature, Criterion decided to have Greg Pflugfelder(Director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University) do a feature titled THE UNLUCKIEST DRAGON (which sounds like a twisted version of a film children would watch) based on the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident which was one of the three main inspirations for GODZILLA. He's notable for having done a Godzila exhibit back in 2004 in New York. Here is a link to his page: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/faculty/pflugfelder.html

The last interesting thing is an essay done by J. Hoberman. A critic who works right now as a senior critic for THE VILLAGE VOICE, this BA and MFA-holding film critics might just be the most interesting person giving a kind of contribution as far as non-Asian contributors are concerned for Hoberman is 63 years old - he was eight years old when GKOTM was released into American theatres, 11 when GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER was released, so on, so forth. He might just have insight which is most interesting being older than Godzilla himself!

There are other special features on the set. Newly done subtitles which will hopefully give us the most accurate translation of the film since the legendary 1980’s bootleg tape, an interview with Akira Ifukube most likely ported from the R2 DVD set, and a mysterious featurette on the film’s photographic effects which I don’t know what to make of it right now (could be something newly produced or something which Criterion has loaned from Toho or maybe Classic Media?).

Can this be the definitive release of GODZILLA? When comparing it to the other releases, it might be film and special features wise. We’ll just have to wait and see.


Tomoo Hariguchi's Prop Collection

Many of us may see a picture of Toho's prop storage facility only to feel saddened that they are not keeping up with props, which seems weird thus the props are rotting and withering away and since they don't do anything with them, it is kind of a waste of space. But enter the lucky fan like Ed Godziszewski or the late owner of Monster Zero Information Site who might have a claw or a dorsal fin of a suit. Good, but those are only parts. To the rescue is some of the the special effects artists of kaiju eiga. Koichi Kawakita has his collection of props and such, but today, we are going to see through the lense of a camera owned by Japanophile Patrick Macias the prop collection of Tomoo Hariguchi. Some stuff will surprise you. Take a look!


IDW G:KOM Issue 2 Review

By Donny Winter

IDW Publishing’s next issue of GODZILLA: KINGDOM OF MONSTERS is definitely a step up from its first installment. While one of my main complaints during the first issue was the apparent instability in the characters not to mention some inconsistencies with art, Issue 2 definitely improves in both regards.

Immediately the second issue starts out with a Godzilla attack on Japan interweaved with various appearances in different settings--the main focus a man who is searching for his missing children. This man is actually one of the more interesting characters who’s appeared in the series up to date, and he’s seen all the way through the end of the issue. Secondly, not only do more fascinating human characters surface, but both Rodan and Anguirus appear in the story introduced by the death of animals and pestilence--providing a better sense of that apocalyptic feeling that really wasn’t evident in the first issue.

Issue 2 is not perfect, it does have its faults. At times the artistic impressions of the kaiju, most notably Anguirus seem a bit off. There are instances where he seems to look like he does in the movies, and there are other scenes where he seems to look more like a dog than a reptile. Other than that, both Rodan and Godzilla have very detailed representations.

Much like the previous issue, Issue 2 contains a significant amount of political nuance and we get to see frequent appearances from President Obama and the Governor of Texas. Naturally there is a bit of humor accompanied by these political figures, mainly the Texan Governor state wild radical notions toward the monster threat occurring in his state. Hopefully these political threads will continue to flow into future issues. Overall, while Issue 2 seemed a bit rushed when introducing the secondary kaiju characters and the inconsistent artistic impressions of Anguirus, it is quite superior to the introduction to this comic book series. The human characters are much more developed, and the build up toward the climatic monster appearances, while fast-paced, are pretty epic.

Definitely a worthy second installment to this series.


Japan's Celebration of MOTHRA's 50th Anniversary

With Mothra’s 50th anniversary coming up soon (July 30th), the Queen of the Monsters (an official title used on the deluxe laserdisc set for 1996’s REBIRTH OF MOTHRA) is enjoying some recognition of the occasion. First to mention is that the Humax Cinema theatre in Japan is hosting a triple feature of Mothra films. The first is the original MOTHRA, which not only was one of the biggest hits Toho had for a monster film but would have the basic formula rehashed in Mothra’s 1964 (Mvs.G) and 1992 outings. Next would be GODZILLA, MOTHRA, EBIRAH: BIG DUEL IN THE SOUTH SEA, a film which focused more on the natives of Infant Island and their being enslaved. Then we have Mothra’s 1996 trilogy-starter REBIRTH OF MOTHRA, which took Mothra’s nature loving attitude to a new level and was one of Koichi Kawakita’s final feature length films in which he was the director of special effects. This triple feature shall be showing on July 30th. For more information, check out the links below.


We here at the KG community wish Mothra a happy 50th anniversary. Don’t forget that the Starz channels are showing the Mothra trilogy along with GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK.



Trip Down Memory Lane - tokyomonsters.com

Believe it or not, I took this screen cap today.

To many tokusatsu otaku out there, this was one of the best sites you could go to. For me, between Tohokingdom's DVD section, DigitalMonsterIsland, and this site, this was the best of them. This was a site which taught me and a lot of other fans bits and more about not only kaiju eiga but also the many DVDs that were out at the time of these films and shows that we love so much. This is James Ballard's Tokyo Monsters, the premeir site for DVD reviews of most regions.

This site was important for numerous reasons. First and foremost, informative reviews of the films' DVD releases were some of the most detailed, both in text and in pictures. Second, it helped teach me (and some other people for sure) about DVDs and the terminology that went along with them. Third, the site was most important in that for download were subtitles for most R2 kaiju DVDs as well as a good bit of the R1 DVDs. These subtitles are painstaking works by bilingual fans for films released in America with dubtitles (GMK anyone?).

The important thing is that the site is not at all gone. Though the site has been let go of and, under normal circumstances not accessible. However, it has been archived. Here is a link:

It is not easy internet surfing, let me assure you. There is some times in which you would have to actually change stuff in the url address yourself to get to things like the Region 2 and region 1 DVD reviews, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. TokyoMonsters is still around thus I hope you will enjoy it.


Kiyotaka Taguchi: A Retrospect REDUX

What I have decided to do here with this one blog entry is post something I was going to submit to G-FAN about a year ago but didn’t since once after copying and pasting the text into an e-mail, the text got mixed up. What I tried to do here was resurrect the "film book", a feature early issues of G-FAN had which acted as a monetization for the film and had some history added on at the end. That is what I have done here.

ADDITION 6/4/11: Since learning about the print screen function, the article has had some additional editing along with added pictures (all making of pictures) - clear as possible from DVDs of GEHARHA and "G". What this article is trying to do is put Kiyotaka Taguchi's work into critical analytical context, such as what David Kalat did in his book, one which I look up to, A CRITICAL HISTORY AND FILMOGRAPHY OF TOHO'S GODZILLA SERIES. Enjoy.

FILMBOOK: "Geharha, The Long and Dark Haired Monster"
It was dark and murky that early morning, on the Japan Sea. Must have been around four or five in the morning. Most people were asleep without a care. Only a single, small fishing boat with two men were on the suspicious waters, taking a chance at being alone in the dark. One man was chugging a bottle of wine, already drunk for the most part. The other man was at the controls, monitoring the boat’s safety. We wait for something to happen, until the man steering (who we will assume is the captain) met the console in front of him with widened eyes of dark curiosity.

"Hmmmm…. That’s weird" said the captain.
"What is it" said the drunkard, bottle still close to the lips.
The captain exclaimed, "The engines aren’t working!"
The drunkard had put down the bottle. Resting his arm and head against the side window of the boat, he sighed, "Something must have stuck onto it." Outside, the water began to get more ferocious. Out of the left side of the ship, a big pile of hair started to submerge. The drunkard got serious. "What is that? Hey, come take a look!" The captain got up.

"What?" The captain made it over to his friend and looked out into the dark. The whole body of the hairy gargantuan arose out of the water. The drunkard started screaming with the Captain exclaiming with his final words, "Oh my God, it’s…. it’s…. HAIR!!!!!" The boat exploded, sending smoke into the sky. Over the crackling fire sounded a the ferocious call of a hairy daikaiju.
Later that morning, a female reporter donned the TV screen of Hideo, a married journalist who is also sharing a house with his grandmother in law. This matter intrigues him unlike any other. He watched anxiously, as he laid down in the kitchen area, dining cloth covering him like a blanket. The female reporter talked on. "Early this morning, a fishing boat exploded…" No sooner did the female reporter speak that Hideo’s one and only came in.
"Come on Hideo! Don’t be lazy and help me out!" She was carrying breakfast. Stepping over Hideo, she made the table ready for the most important meal of the day. Hideo wasn’t too content about this latest complaint about him.
"Shut up. It is really important for us journalists to check out news programs like this." Hideo finished his sentence as more interesting information came through. "Fisherman Mr. Tasaki is currently missing. The Coastal Guard has been making a rescue effort since this morning…" That last piece of news made Hideo think. Observing the hair left on the boat’s salvaged remains, Hideo made the assumption, "It looks like it was sunken by a hairy kaiju!"
"God, another "kaiju" story?" said the wife. However, joining in on the conversation was Hideo’s mother in law, who was also brining in food for breakfast. She sat down and helped set blue and white porcelain bowl while the wife buttered bread.
"There isn’t anything like that in today’s world" the mother proclaimed.
Hideo protected his claim, saying "Well, we are in the age of science. We have to uncover the truth." With that being said, he grabbed a piece a toast and put it in his mouth. After that, he got up and put on his coat and hat as he rushed out the door, trying to get the newest scoop on this monumental information. Hideo knew the first place he had to go: the government moderated hospital.
At the hospital, many a photo journalist there was. In a small bed, the drunkyard remained. Over and over again, the drunkard repeat the same word, "Hair… Hair… Hair…" The doctor finally came in, a voice of truth.
"His hair has strangely fallen out. He must have experienced something very terrifying." The nurse stood behind the good doctor with the IV being kept an eye on. Hideo watched as another journalist bent down to ask a question. "Mr. Murakami, what in the world did you experience?" The journalist looked up to see Mr. Murakami being just three feet away from him, peering down onto the victim.
"A sea-man could have done this. Or, we can assume that a Keukegen might have caused it. Anyways, go ahead and go through all the materials we have and conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause…" Murakami was going to finish his sentence. But he never got to. All of a sudden, the drunkard came up and started ripping at Mr. Murakami’s hair, screaming, "Hair!"
Later that day, Hideo walked up the tiring mountain path. He took a break to catch his breath. Upon looking up, he noticed a stone tori gate in front of him. By the side, a giant stone was erect, with the Japanese words engraved on it saying "Shrine of Geharha". Hideo started walking again. Louder and louder Shinto prayers were being prayed. Something had happened. Once there, Hideo opened up the door with a bang. Slowly, everyone turned around and looked at him. The onmyodo master had a malcontent look on his face.
"Who is this?"
Hideo took off his hat. What he was doing wasn’t looking for news directly. He was going to become the harbinger of bad news. "I heard you know about the Keukegen "Gehara", and there is something which you need to know." No sooner that when he told the tribe the news that he found out about the location of Geharha. Camera in hand, he raced through the village. The villagers were chasing him, claiming, "You must not go! You will be cursed by the great Geharha!" But the case didn’t last long. Hideo stopped at a cliff. The tribal members stopped also. Below and in front of them, the forest had been devastated.
"Oh, no… The seal has been broken! Nobody can stop the Great Gehara now." The village members look on as they lay witness to what could be the beginning of an apocalypse.


Meanwhile, the waves were crashing and the birds were chirping at the Yase Cliff, Noto Peninsula, where a young couple were trying to get their picture taken together. The boy friend asked the girl friend to get closer to the edge. However, the camera wouldn’t take pictures of the couple. Instead, something more monstrous would be having it’s photograph taken as it wiped the couple clean off of the face of the earth as the giant monster, the Keukegen Geharha came ashore.
In the days to come, reports of destroyed rail systems and national wild life reserves would come in, making countries such as India and the countries like Africa have to repeat the news of Geharha. Finally, the Japanese government made it official that it was a kaiju that was causing the melee. On the news, Mr. Murakami proclaimed, "We even thought it was done by the Gods, the old rulers of the earth. Considering all the evidence, it must be a monster. There is no question that this is all because of a kaiju.Japanese news stations then started making reports.

"According to the authorities, the monster - now named Gehara from ancient lore - has hit the shore of the Kanazawa region. The situation of the damage is still unknown, but it is confirmed that Gehara is now heading to an urban area. Local residents should stay calm."
The city of Kanazawa was now evacuating. In the large crowd of people, walking away from the city (with Geharha in the visible distance). Within the mass exodus was Hideo’s wife and her mother. The mother wasn’t all that pleased, especially with Hideo.
"Where is Hideo?" she said in the typical mother-in-law fashion.
The wife responded with a comment of peace, "I hope he’s safe."
At the same time, the Japanese Self Defence Force had set up base, dubbed the "MONSTER DISASTER HEADQUARTERS". In the main office lied a table with a with green lamps with politicians sitting at them. In the corner were three soldiers with equipment to monitor the situation. In the front were accouple of maps. Into the room walked Mr. Murakami and another soldier. It was quiet… to quiet. The soldier with Murakami whispered what he had to say…
"Will our weapons work on Gehara?"
"As long as he is a terrestrial being, his antibiotic must be the same as ours." Murakami said, keeping the same tone. Then the quiet was broken when a female soldier got off of the phone to report news.
"Gehara has reached Kanazawa!"
Back in Kanazawa, in front of a large dome/tori gate structure, foolish civilians who want a picture as well as a female news caster stood, waiting for the hairy leviathan’s appearance. The female reporter continued, "The Monster Gehara seems to be heading this way, demolishing building on the way. We can even hear his footsteps." Two teens ignorantly started dancing for the camera. All of a sudden, the great Keugen’s head reached above the building, roaring his roar of vengeance. People didn’t walk anymore, rather ran from the city. Geharha was on top of the dome now, peering directly onto the civilians. People started screaming, Geharha started stomping, making glass fly into the air.
The female reporter continued, "Gehara is now visible. It is extremely dangerous here!" Geharha was over the dome now. The male teen stopped dancing. "What, what? Going on? Oh, oh, oh hell, Damn it, run for your lives!" Geharha advanced, though due to his weight crushed the dome and turned over in a comedic manner. However, when he got up, he had part of a tower in his mouth. Geharha flung it into the air, ending the lives of the two teens and the news casters.
On the other side of things, tanks were being deployed. They were our last chance. Once in front of Geharha, they started firing. All the rounds had hit his abdomen, sending skin and hair flying. Back at the Monster Disaster Headquarters, Mr. Murakami looked on a television screen at the action.
"Yes, he’s gargantuan but his skin cannot be as hard as steel" he said.
More and more ammo was shot at Geharha. His hair flew and landed onto the ground. However, it wasn’t to last, the JSDF’s progress. The soldiers started to smell something… a fume given off my the severed follicles. The soldiers were in total disgust. "I cannot breath!" "He’s excreting gas!" "Retreat! Retreat!"
Mr. Murakami was in total bewilderment. The female soldier started giving more news. "Gehara is discharging gas from his fallen hair! Our personnel are incapacitated!" Another soldier butted in, "We can’t keep the defense line!"
"If we hit, he discharges gas. Plus, the long hair cushions the damage." said the soldier by Mr. Murakami. Mr. Murakami went to compare Geharha’s hair and the tank rounds to how… "A mud wall deads a cannon bullet." Everyone just shared at Murakami. Just in time though, came in an Americans scientist, terrible Japanese and all.
"I have a good idea! Why don’t we used the machine we developed?" Out on the table, the American scientist unrolled the blue prints to the new machine. In the meantime, Geharha continued to advance with a flock of birds fallowing him. All of the soldiers started evacuating.

However, Geharha turned his head. Down the street came another wave of planes and a strange weapon almost as tall as Geharha, the "Gas Vortical Device FUJIN". Over a radio, a female voice said, "Gas Vortical Device: Ready"
The American scientist back at the headquarters gave the orders. "Fujin, ignition!" The weapon, a giant fan, started blowing harder and harder, getting rid of the gas and moving the hair out of Geharha’s face. "Level Max!" said the American. Finally, the yellow patch of skin on Geharha’s forehead was exposed.
Mr. Murakami shouted out, "THERE IT IS!" The tanks started firing onto the spot. Everyone drew a sigh of relief, congratulating each other. Murakami broke the mood though.

"After all, humans are the scariest."

Explosives put on the Geharha Suit... damn that must sting.

Out of the debris came a pain-ridden Geharha, roaring with a steady stream of tears coming out of his eyes. Slowly, he made it out of the city and back towards the mountain area, through the vast forests. However, two F-15’s dropped bombs onto Geharha, making him fall to his death into a below lake where the tribe from earlier on was at. Everyone started getting a saddened feeling for the kaiju.
The soldier by Mr. Murakami broke the silence, "Is Gehara dead?"
Murakami responded, "More than likely, yes. Yet we have to remember that a second Gehara will appear soon unless we stop the environmental destruction."
Back at the village, the people lost something important to them. They lost what made their lives. They lost the magic and the mystery of their culture. The village onmyodo master cried out, "It’s not Gehara’s fault! It’s humans who are harmful!"
Hideo gave the final work, "Gehara is a victim as well." Dawn came, with the sun rising above the hills. Smoke was on the water and people just hoped that humanity had learned it’s lesson and that more pro-active activities would be ensued so that way they wouldn’t have to suffer another Geharha or another Geharha having to suffer the same painful, dreadful death as the one we just saw. This was the chance for humanity to be redeemed.

Shinji Higuchi is comming along for this ride ladies and gentlemen... and that's a good thing!

In the absence of Godzilla, Gamera, and Mothra from the Japanese cinematic scene (due to lack of interest in tokusatsu eiga in it’s native country), it seems that a lot of independent kaiju films have been made to fan the fire which is the want for new kaiju eiga not comming from Tsuburaya. Recently, one man has made two kaiju shorts in which got DVD releases and have become quite popular with the hard core fan base. The man is Kiyotaka Taguchi. Since 2008, he has made two kaiju short films, "G" (2008) and "Geharha: The Long And Dark Haired Monster" (2009).

Kiyotaka Taguchi is no stranger to working on Tokusatsu eiga. Kiyotaka became a Godzilla fan at the age of 4, first seeing "The Return of Godzilla" (1984, a film which involved a future partner in the business, Shinji Higuchi). His beginning on working in the genre was being an Assistant Special Effects director for the film "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack" (2001). At this time, he was a young 28 year old right out of the Nikkatsu Visual Arts Academy (who which everyone except two people involved with this production was involved with). Joining the Toho art department, Taguchi went on to help create many of the models and set up the stages for the last three Godzilla films. Since the end of the Godzilla series, Taguchi has gone on to work on other SFX films, including Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003), The Grudge 2 (2006), Norman England’s "The iDol" (2007), Monkey Magic (2008), and Shutter (2009). His work also includes the 20th Century Boys films, which include homage’s to kaiju and manga works.

Genesis starting with "G"
The first of his independent films was "G" (2008). The film was made over the course of seven years. "G" really was made with the least of resources, including that "G" was filmed using consumer grade camera equipment, non professionals as actors (save the theatrical actress Beniko). However, the film did have one aspect kept in quality – the special effects. Thanks to his work with Toho, Kiyotaka and his crew were able to make detailed models and suits which could be filmed and latter matted in with CGI work, done at Kiyotaka’s company computers after hours. For the suitamation filming though, Taguchi and his crew were allowed to use the Toho Built soundstage. The suit for the main kaiju, Garemon, was made using all store bought materials such as futon materials and the Robo suit was made by a friend of Kiyotaka’s from the Godzilla scene – Kakusei Fujiwara.

Review: "G" (2008)
One of the reasons why people love the Showa series is because of the amount of "variety" the series had, mostly from the fact that over seven kaiju had their premiers in the Showa series with their own film or television series. Even Toei did one with Dragons and such. Make it eight if one wants to remember "Agon, The Atomic Dragon". There’s even more than that, if you count the other non-Goji kaiju films Honda directed and Tsuburaya did the SFX for. Now, that trend was abandoned in the Heisei series. The only kaiju which got their own films are Godzilla, Gamera, and Mothra with Yamato-No-Orochi appearing once in 1994. Now with the Millennium series going underway, we got the variety trend going on again.

It’s mostly because of this digital age which makes making films a lot easier. With this, kaiju eiga is not filled with only Gamera/Godzilla/Ultraman films anymore. There is now a growing series of independent kaiju films being made. Not including "Gamera 4: Truth", "Negadon" was the first of this wave. Of recent times, films like "Gehara", "The Fog Horn", and "G" have continued the trend and the most successful of these is Shimpei Hayashida’s "Deep Sea Monster" series (which currently runs with "Deep Sea Monster Reigo" and it’s sequel, "Deep Sea Monster Raiga"). The plot reads like this:

The movie starts off with three military guys running around in a forest in a flash back. One of the soldiers is gunned down. Now in present times, one of the military guys is still beating himself up for letting one of his partners die. Meanwhile, a lab experiment goes wrong as a scientist injects himself with a special serum. It causes him to go out on a "Quarantine"-esque rampage on a fellow scientist before escaping. Accouple of minutes later, the ground opens up with the giant monster "G" running amok in his Iris-esque-ness. The military tires everything and though the weapons do have an effect on the monster, G just won’t quit and continues to attack. The aforementioned tormented army guy decides to redeem himself of the mistake years ago by saving Japan from G by piloting a giant robot. Together with a misfit female soldier, a business man, and a military general, the robot takes down G leaving the sky to be years latter filled with numerous giant robots.

"G" is going to be quite a hit or miss for many kaiju fans. In fact, I bet some wouldn’t hesitate comparing the film to the likes of "Guilala’s Counterattack" in that not all of the comedy comes from lampooning the genre, rather toilet humor (more later). This movie first of all beats "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" (1974) as being the bloodiest kaiju film to date (which is something not every kaiju film can do, with the only one coming close in my mind is "Godzilla vs. Destroyah" and "Godzilla vs. Biollante"). G - the kaiju - is shot at so much that most of his body is skinless by the end of the film and we just have big, red blotches.


The comedy content with the film is a lot something of a shock (in a positive or negative way is the viewer to decide, though I think of it as positive). First, when was the last time there was a kaiju nut shot (yes, nut shot)? Last time, it was Ghidorah blasting at Godzilla’s in 1964. Well, "G" takes that cake when a military guy takes a bazooka and gets under G and blasts his nuts. It even gets weirder when in an act of desperation decides to take two JR cards and connect them, using them as nunchaku. Very odd, but in a good way which will get some laughs. The SFX and directing style is a little off but it is ok none the less. Overall, the film is not for the faint of heart. Those looking for a wild ride of a kaiju film less than an hour long knows where to look.
Overall: 3/5

The Reign of "Geharha"

Being a kaiju suit actor is hard work, even if you have helpers (kakari)...

But when you have Godzilla (Kitagawa) to help you on set, it 's all good!


The next film which Kiyotaka Taguchi would venture out to do would be "Geharha, The Long And Dark Haired Monster". The beginning of this project didn’t start with Kiyotaka. It started with Jun Miura, an entertainer and famous artist in Japan who has been said to be someone of cult status, being so recognized that he was given a bit part in "Guilala’s Countterattack" in 2007. Fast foreward to October 22, 2008. On a game show, the reknown artist had up on a board a lot of different kaiju/Yokai drawings/depictions. Out of this, it was revealed that the producers at NHK chose Geharha for a short film adaptation out of the over 325 drawings. Geharha was revealed to be a kaiju who’s name is a fusion of the Japanese word for beard (hige) and "Ra" from the ever so famous Gojira. Along with that, Geharha has been seen to have originated from many traditional Japanese folk stories, including the likes of "The Black Hair" (Kurogami, a tale which has been told on film time and time again in films like "Kwaidan" and "Exte"). Jun Miura wrote the original screenplay for the film. The original plot differs somewhat compared to the final product. According to August Ragone’s blog,

"The mysterious creature Gehara comes ashore during a monstrous typhoon, and begins to wreck havoc upon Tokyo. Eventually, the hairy beast is seemingly stopped by the Self Defense Forces’ Operation: Tokyo Drain. As a result, the beast is sucked into the city’s sewer system, but it begins to clog the works with its long hair, and ends up in a culvert. Left for dead, Gehara begins to revive, absorbing massive amounts of water beneath the streets of Tokyo’s fashionable Shibuya Ward, and it's long hair begins to grow… In the film, the monster attacks the city of Kanezawa."

The final plot would be rather different from that, with it taking more away from kaiju films of the past than what the draft synopsis above took.

"Geharha" marked a first for Kiyotaka Taguchi. Though his second directorial attempt, this was his first decently budgeted and promoted effort. Jun was the one who hand picked Taguchi for the job after seeing the kind of material Kiyotaka was able to produce after seeing "G" (2008). The other main person in charge of the film was the one person people could call "the second Tsuburaya", Shinji Higuchi (who would come on as an executive producer, who would visit the sets every now and then). Also hand picked was stock music from kaiju eiga maestro extordinare, Akira Ifukube. All Ifukube material came from King Records’ "Artistry of Akira Ifukube" series. The rest of the film is filled with other major kaiju talent from all different areas of the genre.
Auditioning kaiju actors

In the crew was Kazuhiro Yoshida, the man who plays the titular role. Yoshida’s most notable works of siutmation would be acting as Hedorah and Gigan in "Godzilla: Final Wars" (2004). In the end though, Yoshida had to audition against another man and a female for the role. It was not an easy task, getting the job to be the suit actor for Geharha. Yoshida was against two other people for the role: another man and a woman. Yoshida was the first to audition, using five boxes as buildings. Yoshida did a somber, lumbering portrayal, moving slowly but using his arms to knock down the boxes. The woman was second to audition, doing a lumbering but more emotive portrayal, using her feet to knock down the boxes. The third man did a "Final Wars" like approach with the boxes. Yoshida was the one to get the part. Among the judges were Kiyotaka Taguchi and stunt coordinator for the film, Tsutomu Kitagawa. Kitagawa is most probably known as the suit actor for everyone one of the Millennium series’ Godzillas except for the one in "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack" (2001). Also among the crew is a cohort of Kiyotaka Taguchi’s from "G" (2008), Kakusei Fujiwara.

The cast also consisted of some better than average talent, some of it also having had some part in kaiju eiga in the past. The two most notable names are Shiro Sano (who played supporting roles in "Godzilla 2000: Millennium" (1999) and "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack" (2001) and would later have a cameo as a vigilante) who plays Mr. Murakami - the government official type of the film. The other role would go to Kanji Tsuda (the father from "Gamera: The Brave" (2006)), the sole survivor of the boat incident at the beginning of the film. Other noticeable names come in, such as the actor for the reporter Hideo Akihara - Ken Osawa ("Samurai Fiction" (1998)). Another noticeable name is that of the JSDF commander, Hiroyuki Watanabe ("Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack" (2001)).

"Geharha" (2009) would go on to take a little less than a year to make all together. With filming ending January 10th, 2009, the film would have it’s premier on the NKH channel and in an NKH theatre on February 24th, 2009 at 12:12 AM. The film would be subject to lots of acclaim from all sides of the kaiju fandom. The film would later make it’s way onto the internet unsettled for all to see on @nifty, a Japanese video hosting site (much like youtube)(http://roberthood.net/blog/index.php/2009/03/05/gehara-is-here/). The film’s response would be such that on September 30, 2009, "Geharha" would be released on DVD and Blu-Ray, being beaten by Toho just by twelve days as the first kaiju film to be released onto the Blu-Ray format.

What’s most interesting in Geharha’s (2009) case is it’s place historically in the kaiju and/or tokusatsu genre of films. Since "Godzilla: Final Wars" (2004) made the Godzilla series end, a lot of people who are fans of the genre have started branching out more to other properties such as "Ultra Q", "Ultraman" and other Tsuburaya Company productions as well as other henshin properties ("Kamen Rider", "Super Sentai", "Iron King", ect.).. This is a good thing. However, the more interesting thing about this time in kaiju eiga history is that since Godzilla and Gamera’s hiatus from power, lots of independent kaiju films can now be made without interference with the popularity and competition with a Godzilla or Gamera film.

It’s thanks to this time that Kiyotaka Taguchi could make "G" (2008), that Shinpei Hayashida can make his "Reigo/Raiga" (2005/2009) films, that Tomoo Hariguchi could make "Death Kappa" (2010), and Jun Awazu can make "Negadon: Monster from Mars" (2005), among other films. This has actually given the Millennium series a kind of mirror effect with the Showa series. This mirror effect, some could say, did start with the latter Millennium era Godzilla films, with connections to the Showa series, along with other "tips of the hat" (such as Godzilla’s breath not only making a tank blow up with his heat beam but also melting it, much like in the Showa films). This mirror effect not only draws on the omages to the Showa series, but also revolves around the newfound amount of variety of kaiju films that are being made now.

It is that connection which gives GEHARHA it’s biggest "identifier" (if you had to, without judging from the special effects or cinematography, guess during what period GEHARHA was made). Like "Negadon" (2005) or "G" (2008), GEHARHA serves as a big tribute or omage to tokusatsu eiga in general, which uses that as a source of humor. "Geharha" is most probably the one most littered with intentional omages to other kaiju eiga. However, among all of the omages to the old series which the film has, it does something which only "Negadon: Monster From Mars" (2005) had done in this new line of kaiju eiga – capture the feeling of a Showa film through way of similar occurrences with an underlying theme, but with being comedic like "Deep Sea Monster Reigo" (2005) and "Guilala’s Counterattack" (2008), putting it with the five main films of this new era of independent kaiju film making (though it should still be in the "Millennium" series, unless someone wants to claim that this series of independent ventures should be differentiated by using the long misused "Shinsei" moniker).

In terms of special effects, it is interesting in the way which Geharha (2009) is pointing. A very interesting this has happened in this period of kaiju eiga history (2005-2010), it is the CG evolution. "Mega Monster Battles: Ultra Galaxy Legends" (2009), "Always 2: Sunset on 34th Street" (2008), and Jun Awazu’s "Negadon: Monster From Mars" and "Planzet" along with other kaiju/yokai cross breed films like "The Great Yokai War" (2005) and "Big Man Japan" (2007) and even Shinpei Hayashida’s own "Deep Sea Monster Reigo" (2005) seem to show that computer graphic imagery is taking over the suitamation and models (albeit, slowly) which is a staple of kaiju eiga. Geharha (2008), instead (thanks mostly to the guidance of Shinji Higuchi as executive producer) does most of the same thing that went on with "Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle" (1999): mixing CGI and suitamation while keeping a pretty even ratio of each SFX technique and theory evident in the film. Many of the shots which are CG in the film are actually just shots involving complex matting of the film, such as the aerial shot in the faux trailer for "Geharha: Monster Martial Law" with Geharha’s hair growing to the extent which it takes out whole city blocks.


"Geharha" is a pretty interesting film. Though a short film, it does mean a good deal at this stage of the history of kaiju eiga. Not only is it a film which carries a lot of the traits of the 2005-2010 independent kaiju eiga boom, but it shows the quality which the future of kaiju eiga and what it could be. Shusuke Kaneko has long been seen as the only person who - with his creative team which is usually picked with him, was the only person to direct non-Tsuburaya Company kaiju film (the Gamera trilogy and GMK). However, thanks to Kiyotaka Taguchi starting to build a name for himself, he can easily be the Jun Fukuda to Kaneko’s Ishiro Honda. While the future of kaiju eiga is uncertain - specially in the King’s case - if Japanese studios continue to make kaiju films, they know who they need to hire - either Kaneko to Taguchi…

Production Timeline
10-22-08 - Geharha choosing announced on Japanese game show
12-14-09 - filming of crow evacuating from beginning of ground zero scene - Shinji Higuchi doing some camera work, filming of soldiers being effected by gas (Higuchi at camera),
12-15-09 - filming of chance scene with tribe; JSDF headquarters filming; filming of tribe at village set
12-16-08 - filming of beginning breakfast scene; filming of Mother and Wife scene in MONSTER MARTIAL LAW trailer, filming of Ultraman-esque scene from trailer
12-17-08 - Filmed beginning scene in the evening on a ship (while docked); filming of hospital scene;
12-21-08 - Geharha having hair blown away (two versions - blue screen and on set)
12-22-08 - filming of Operation Perm tank - Kitagawa present; filming of trailer scene of Geharha twirling with hair taking out whole city blocks,
12-23-08 - filming of SFX forest scenes showing post-Geharha destruction (at beginning, spliced in with international news reports; Geharha trembling shot six times), filming of Geharha on top of station and falling (rehearsed using a Styrofoam rendition). Some of the scene was filmed with model head (was a long shot in final film). Also shot was Geharha being blasted by tanks
12-25-08 - model ship is exploded in front of blue screen for beginning scene; fixing of Geharha suit; filming scene of Geharha’s head being shot at along with him falling backwards into the building behind him, also filming Geharha crying (model head)
12-26-08 - filming of soldiers at ground zero along with some model tanks up against a blue screen
12-27-08 - filmed Geharha in air moving his legs for the beginning scene with his first appearance; filming of station heading post-being thrown by Geharha (it kills the young couple and the female reporter), shot of Geharha with tanks in his hair; filming of Geharha going through forest in second half of film
12-28-08 - filming of Xilian-esque alien scenes
1-4-09 - filming of beginning scene by placing camera in water and having camera go under and above camera several times
1-5-09 - filming of soldiers hiding from Geharha (to be matted in with shot of Geharha’s tail with tanks in his hair
1-6-09 - filming of tribal scenes of dancing. Also filming of killing of young couple
1-9-09 - filming of real station (people and kaiju SFX to be matted in later)
1-10-09 - final day of production, consisting of re-shoots and filming of female reporter at ground zero (who gets killed at the beginning of main kaiju attack), filming of complex camera angle of first soldier who, while fireing, inhales the gas that Geharha’s hair gives off; filming of other soldiers being effected by gas via green screen

For those who watch the faux trailer at the end and want to see the anatomy of the cool city-wide attack Geharha uses, there is is above! All they do is matte it togeather.


Toho takes over FearNet On Demand!


June is Godzilla fan’s month with FearNet on demand! No less than 10 films Sony owns are on FearNet for one’s viewing pleasure. These films include:

Win for not using the DVD cover art as an image.

-Battle In Outer Space - widescreen; US version
-Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle For Earth - full screen with redone beginning card
-Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla - international print, not VHS print. Still has dub
-Godzilla vs. Destroyer - international print, with original ending credits
-Godzilla 2000 - VHS print
-Godzilla vs. Megaguirus - Sci-Fi Channel Print
-Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack - SciFi Channel Print
-Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla - widescreen with dub right off DVD
-Godzilla: Tokyo SOS - widescreen with dub right off DVD
-Godzilla: Final Wars - widescreen with dub right off DVD

Fail in more ways than one.

Battle In Outer Space will be available till 6/21 and the rest last till 6/30. With FearNet being a free On Demand system, there are periodical commercials through out the film, though they are less in quanitity than Crackle.com.