0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

Godzilla: Too Soon?

Wednesday 9th April 2014


Andrew Osmond on disasters as entertainment



How soon is too soon? The question’s raised by the new Godzilla trailer, the first half of which seems to be all about recreating traumatic events as fantasy, just three years after they occurred. Specifically, the trailer opens with a disaster at a Japanese power station, before segueing into images of a giant wave sweeping into a town with devastating force. Both images seem less ripped than Xeroxed from the headlines of March 2011, when northern Honshu (Japan’s mainland) was struck by an earthquake which caused a tsunami, killing thousands, and the meltdown at Fukushima.

According to an article on the Kotaku website, the trailer has already drawn comment in Japan, with one critic arguing that Hollywood is going where today’s Japanese films can’t, and other tweeters finding the footage tasteless. Indeed, it’s doubtful that if there’d been a tsunami and nuclear meltdown in, say, California in 2011, we’d have a Hollywood fantasy blockbuster using such imagery so blatantly. A national tragedy looks different on the other side of the ocean.

But of course it’s more complex than that. As we’ve discussed on this blog, Godzilla has form – massive form – in bringing up the national traumas of the day, traumas so overwhelming that they dwarf those in the new film. The 1954 Godzilla, played utterly straight, invoked the memories of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the mass bombing of Japan in general, plus the scandal of the Lucky Dragon V, the Japanese fishing boat showered with fall-out from an American A-bomb test. (Lucky Dragon V happened the same year as Godzilla.) Wikipedia claims some contemporary reviewers took offence at this; but now the film is acclaimed as a serious, forthright fantasy, allegorising the nightmares of the age.



At least one Hollywood film before the new Godzilla tried something very similar for America. 2008’s Cloverfield was a found-footage monster movie saturated with images and collective memories of 9/11, most pointedly in its downbeat, un-Hollywood ending, followed by a Michael Giacchino theme over the end credits which was a clear tribute to Akira Ifukube’s famous Godzilla music. Again Cloverfield got flak for alleged bad taste, though it looks like the model of restraint compared to what followed – Michael Bay’s Transformers films, in which endless falling skyscrapers were just an excuse to f*** the frame.

Meanwhile, Japan used 9/11 to demonstrate the dictum above, that a national tragedy looks different across the ocean. In 2003, less than two years after the World Trade Centre came down, Toei released Battle Royale 2: Requiem. The film opens with the heroes destroying a Japanese landmark, the twin-towers Tokyo Metropolitan Building (the home of the Tokyo tax office, and hence a regular target for giant monsters). The script valorises ‘terrorist’ as a badge of honour and makes plain that America is the wickedest nation on Earth. Kinji Fukasaku directed the original Battle Royale and started the sequel before his death (it was finished by his son). I was told by a Toei rep that when the director had seen the 9/11 attack on television, he broke into wild applause.

Perhaps Michael Moore would have made Battle Royale 2, had he been given a blockbuster budget and absolute freedom, but even he might have gone quite as far. For another alternative Japanese take on 9/11, try the anime Eden of the East; though it’s far lighter in tone, it still revolves around large metal objects hitting skyscrapers, and the potency of such symbols. Judging by its director Kenji Kamiyama’s comments, the show was driven less by anti-Americanism than by Kamiyama’s broader interests in dissidents and ‘terrorists,’ Japanese as well as American. Kamiyama returned to the subject in Re: Cyborg 009, whose 9/11 imagery is in-your-face; the film starts with skyscrapers collapsing worldwide.

One difference, though, between these cases and the ‘tsunami’ imagery in the Godzilla trailer is that the latter was a natural disaster, with no inherent political dimension. In Japan, there was a period in the weeks following March 11 when some fiction and fantasy was deemed inappropriate, both in anime and manga. For example, Manga Goraku magazine suspended publication of a serial about a disaster at a Japanese nuclear power plant. The Animax channel suspended a repeat of the anime serial Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (first shown in 2009), even though the series took its subject completely seriously. Positing a quake in Japan’s capital in 2012, it was deemed too relevant by its producers at a time of national mourning.

Less sober anime were also affected, including an episode of a high school romcom that showed characters swept away by a wave, and a film based on the magic girl franchise Precure with similar imagery. No doubt if Ghibli’s Ponyo – which has a massive magic flood - had been scheduled for broadcast at that time, it would have been removed, as would a show like Paranoia Agent, whose deliberately disturbing title sequence (involving both floods and a mushroom cloud) would have been suddenly unacceptable.

himizuIt didn’t take long, though, for fiction film-makers to break the taboo. The live-action Himizu was released less than twelve months after the tsunami (it’s available in Britain). It was directed by Sion Shono (Love Exposure), based on a manga by Minoru Furuya; it’s a gruelling, cruel drama about an abused teen boy who in turn abuses his obsessed girl stalker. However, the film also includes footage filmed at tsunami-devastated locations, at Ishinomaki City in Miyagi prefecture, as Sono sought to rework the manga into a tortuous message for post-disaster Japan.

“I had already written the script and was forced to change it,” Sono told the Independent newspaper. “Whether to shoot footage of the area was something I struggled with because many there lost their lives and many have still not been found. (The film) was supposed to be a light romance. When I began to rewrite the script, they begged me not to write an apocalyptic film but I couldn’t stop.”

Sono could have added that his approach – of filming in a real disaster zone – was only following other fiction films. For example, the last scenes of the American indy film Monsters (2008) were shot in a part of Texas torn up by a hurricane. Half a century earlier, Akira Kurosawa made his thriller Stray Dog (1949) round the bombsites of Tokyo. Kurosawa’s assistant director on Stray Dog was Ishiro Honda, who went on to make the original Godzilla. Monsters, of course, was made by Britain’s Gareth Edwards, who’s directing the Godzilla remake. As we said, when it comes to provocative blends of tragedy and fantasy, Godzilla has massive form.

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is in cinemas on 15th May.

Godzilla: Too Soon?

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Humanity Has Declined Complete Season 1 Collection

£22.49
sale_tag
was £29.99
For years, declining birth rates have forced what's left of the human race to cede more and more territory to other beings who have appeared to take advantage of the emptying ecological niche. Now, only a handful of humans remain among the remnants of civilization and Earth is dominated by faeries - tiny, ten-inch tall creatures of surprising intelligence.

But humanity's importance isn't over quite yet, as young Watashi learns as she makes the decision to return to her hometown and assume her grandfather's position as an arbitrator between the races. Unfortunately, the job isn't going to be anywhere near as simple as she expected, and it's going to take wisdom far beyond her years to achieve her most important mission.

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

The Marmite Nature of Haruhi Suzumiya

Matt Kamen weighs the pros and cons
God-like schoolgirl Haruhi Suzumiya may well have a near-religious following, but she’s got just as many atheists denying her merits. Matt Kamen embraces his bipolar disorder to examine the vices and virtues of one of the anime world’s most divisive series!

Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere

Andrew Osmond tries to make sense of Sunrise's mad new anime
As regular subscribers to Manga Entertainment’s podcast and twitter feed will know, there was some confusion about whether Sunrise’s new comedy-fantasy-action-fanservice series was called (deep breath) Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere or Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. We’re calling it the former in the UK, although releases elsewhere have plumped for the “in” option. Either way, it sounds less weird and Escheresque once you know that Horizon is the name of a pivotal female character in the series. But it reflects the inescapable fact that Horizon is, well, confusing.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

With MCM London Comic Con just round the corner, we thought we’d put together a guide to help convention goers. Here are five things you must know in advance.

The Weird World of Rotoscoping

Andrew Osmond on the history of animation’s corner-cutting secret
Rotoscoping and its descendants are an important part of American cinema, and recognised today. Many film fans know, for example, that Gollum, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the rebel anthropoid Cornelius in the Planet of the Apes reboot are all based on physical performances by one actor, Andy Serkis. Again, it’s common knowledge that the Na’vi aliens in Avatar were human actors ‘made over’ by computer – the digital equivalent of those guys wearing prosthetic foreheads and noses in the older Star Trek series.

Nura Rise of the Yokai Music: Monkey Majik

Tom Smith on a Canadian-Japanese pop outfit
Monkey Majik first shot to fame in Japan in 2006 when their second major-label single Around The World became the opening theme to TV drama Saiyuuki, an updated version of the famous Chinese tale Journey to the West. A fitting introduction for the band, considering the story is widely known as Monkey in English. Magic.
As 2015 is coming to an end, we look ahead to 2016. Last month we asked you which our upcoming releases you are most looking forward to.

On the Origin of Sushi

Tom Smith investigates the evolution of Japan’s best-loved fast food.
Sushi is serious business. Thought to be healthy, fresh and hip, the combination of vinegared rice with various toppings (notably fish) has become the food associated with Japan, and its history there stretches back almost as far as the country’s writing system. But if you thought the iconic delicacy was Japanese in origin – or even fresh for that matter – hold on to your chopsticks.
The official Shonen Jump website has started a Naruto Next Generation countdown. The website currently shows the silhouettes of Boruto and his friends.

Sword Art Online Music: Eir Aoi

Tom Smith on a singer’s internet fame
INNOCENCE, at the time of writing, has been Eir Aoi’s biggest selling, awarding her a peak position of six in the weekly Oricon chart.
From its epic 366 episode run, which Bleach story arc was your favourite? Cast your vote now.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Godzilla: Too Soon? from the UK's best Anime Blog.