godzilla kaiju

With the latest reboot of Godzilla opening wide today amidst middling reviews, this would be a good opportunity to present a ‘Kaiju’ (Japanese for ‘strange creature’) that was one of his main competitors in the 60’s and 70’s, and may be ripe for a reboot of his own.

Gamera was created by costume designer Ryosaku Takayama for the Daiei Motion Picture Company in 1965 to compete with the Toho Studios’ Godzilla, long known as the ‘king of the monsters’ from his first appearance on the big screen in 1954. Gamera took the moniker ‘Guardian of the Universe,’ and, among other attributes meant to one-up the big guy, the tortoise-resembling kaiju had the ability to fly in multiple modes (and into space); an incredible resistant shell, and retractable spikes. Gamera also had a mind to politics, as another title he claimed was ‘friend to all children.’

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In a related development, Gamera made inroads on Godzilla’s popularity in the US via the small-screen, as many of his films were shown following Saturday morning youth-themed programming in the 70’s. Unfortunately, the two leviathans have yet to meet in battle or in friendship. Gamera did have a reboot in 2006 with Kadokawa Pictures’ Gamera The Brave, however it was only released in Japanese theaters, heading straight to blu-ray in the US.

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In FilmOn VoD’s Attack of the Monsters, aka Gamera vs. Guiron (1969), Gamera’s themes are in full effect. Two boys, Akio and Tom, are the cross-cultural protagonists of this classic, surreal film of the genre. The curious boys manage to get themselves transported to an alien planet halfway across the galaxy where time can freeze and water run backward, populated by aliens that view human’s brains as literal nourishment. They own a kaiju of their own, a giant dog-like creature named Guiron, who has a ginsu-like chopper in place of a snout, as well as containing a recess that operates somewhat like a throwing star heliport.

Gamera is pretty much immediately hip to the kids’ situation, however, and is setting out on a rescue mission, setting up one of the more unique battles in the series, if not the whole genre. Attack of the Monsters (aka Gamera vs Guiron) earned a deserved spot amongst the five Gamera films shown by MST: 3000 in their third season pomp (largely for its crazily translated English dialog, amazing even for this often easy target for humor). Also, for anime fanatics, some of those involved in this production, notably composer Shunsuke Kikuchi, were later involved in the ‘animanga’ Dragonball Z.

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