Tag Archives: Shusuke Kaneko

Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999)

Until 1995, Gamera was the joke: about as low as you could go in the land of Giant Monsters…unless you went to the real out-of-the-way backwaters, like Hong Kong, or South Korea. He was, at best, a Godzilla rip-off, and even nerds like us look down on those. The fire-breathing clown palled around with the kids when he should have been out handing Tokyo its ass. Oh, sure, he saved the world…but from what? A giant salamander with an opal fetish? A telepathic shark from Outer Space? A star fish? I mean, c’mon. Even the Flash has better villains.

It was easy to pick on Gamera. It was fun. Not so easy any more. Because Gamera has become the pinnacle. The new high water mark in giant monster cinema. In Gamera 3, the wave broke, just in time for the Millennium. Remember when the world ended? Yeah, so do I. Remember how seriously we all took that? As if it actually mattered? Well, imagine how it felt to our Japanese brothers and sisters. There’s a palatable sense of impending doom throughout Gamera 3, adding weight and drama to the proceedings and turning this story (and its giant turtle protagonist) into more than the sum of their rubbery parts. {More}

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All Out Attack (2001)

Kaboom!Like most middle-aged men, Godzilla suffers from a deplorable excess of emotional baggage. After fifty years of high highs and low lows his identity has become erratic. Toho, Godzilla’s production company, is currently scrambling to field the movie that will return Godzilla to his rightful place as champion of the giant monster action extravaganza.

The Lizard King fall from grace began during his “hiatus” from ’95-’98. This gave the Gamera trilogy time to come along and redefine the boundaries of good Giant Monster Cinema (believe it, or not). The trilogy did this in many ways…which I rattled on about ad nausem in my review of Gamera 3. But most importantly (and I’m sure Toho’s executives would agree) the trilogy raked in an absolute shitload of money.

Never one to miss a wave, Toho revived the King of the Monsters for Godzilla: 2000. And the fans…kinda shrugged, really. I mean, sure, it was Godzilla, but…you can read the review yourself. {More}

Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996)

You're pushing it...shovin' me...A large meteor

Falls to Earth near Sapporo

Then the fun begins

As far as director Shusuke Kaneko is concerned, “Gamera 2 focuses on the war aspect of giant monsters.” A “kaiju big battle” is, for once, the main focus of a giant monster film. How revolutionary. There’s nary a moment spared for the idiotic, soul-searching¬† “character moments” that usually clutter these types of movies. This is a textbook case of good monster moviemaking, some of the best you’ll find on either side of the pond. And you can quote me on that. Not that you will, but whatever. The point is, against all odds, Kaneko and co. have taken the silliest big-budget monster in Japan’s vast Popular Culture and transported him into a serious film.

As I mentioned in the haiku, a swarm of meteors fall on Japan’s northern-most island, Hokkaido. One lands almost directly on top of Science Center Teacher/Technician/All-Around Girl Honami Midori (Miki Mizuno) and her brace of kids. Military personnel arrive the next day only to find the meteor gone, without so much as a note on the pillow. The military, commanded by Colonel Watarase (Toshiyuki Nagashima), scratch their collective heads in dismay. You think they might want to call a Scientist in on this? {More}

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

GameraLooking back, Gamera’s rebirth was almost inevitable. History repeats itself and the movie industry eats its dead. Inspired by the success of the modern Godzilla films (beginning with 1984’s Godzilla and ending, on a dower, cliffhanger-note in 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah), Daiei brought their own terrible terrapin out of retirement exactly nine months before Godzilla’s (latest) death. In black and white, as I’ve mentioned, Gamera can be somber, dynamic, dark…creepy in his own, lantern-eyed way. But the advent of cheap color film technology was no friend to the Friend to Children Everywhere.

Like the daikaiju genre as a whole, by the 1970s, Gamera grew down right silly. After all, we are talking about a giant, fire-breathing turtle who flies by projecting jets through his shell’s arm- and leg-holes. (Of what? Don’t ask. My sainted father always assumed it was flatulence. ) Thankfully, the makers of Guardian of the Universe made the informed and, dare I say it (dare, dare), enlightened decision to treat Gamera seriously. Whatever the shortcomings of the Heisei Godzilla series, they were never less than serious films, susceptible to all the snares and pitfalls of the Action/Adventure pictures they emulated. Guardian of the Universe, for the most part, avoids these thanks to its narrower focus. It wants (insomuch as a film can want anything) to be only what it is: the perfect giant monster picture, complete of its kind. {More}