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

Ghost In The Shell Arise: Borders Parts 1 & 2

£17.99
sale_tag
was £19.99
In the year 2027, a year following the end of the non-nuclear World War IV, a bomb has gone off in Newport City, killing a major arms dealer who may have ties with the mysterious 501 Organization. Public Security official Daisuke Aramaki hires full-body cyber prosthesis user and hacker extraordinaire, Motoko Kusanagi, to investigate. On the case with her are Sleepless Eye Batou, who believes Kusanagi is a criminal, Niihama Prefecture Detective Togusa who is investigating a series of prostitute murders he believes are related to the incident, and Lieutenant Colonel Kurtz of the 501 Organization who also wishes to keep an eye on Kusanagi.
Freed of her responsibilities with the 501 Organization, Motoko Kusanagi must now learn how to take orders from Aramaki. When unknown forces hack the Logicomas, Batou enlists the help of former army intelligence officer Ishikawa and former air artillery expert Borma. Kusanagi also seeks to enlist ace sniper Saito and undercover cop Paz into the new Public Security Section 9. The two groups rival each other in a case involving a man who receives false memories of a refugee transport operation.

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

The end of Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society?

Andrew Osmond asks if it really is the end for Ghost in the Shell
Solid State Society is, as of writing, the last anime instalment of Ghost in the Shell. Will there be any more? Interviewed in 2007, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, co-founder of Production IG, suggested the franchise could be refreshed by a switch to live-action, with Kusanagi, Batou, Togusa and the rest of Section 9 interpreted by real actors. If it was a success, the franchise could return to anime later.

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Jasper Sharp on Oshii's Innocence abroad
Mamoru Oshii’s unashamedly esoteric sequel to his earlier global crossover Ghost in the Shell lent the most credibility to claims for anime as ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’, when it became the first animated film from Japan to be entered in competition at Cannes.

Mondo Does Ghost in the Shell

Strange things afoot at SDCC booth #835
On sale now at the San Diego Comic Con in a limited edition of only 325 prints, Kilian Eng's beautiful Ghost in the Shell poster for Mondo. It's a thing of beauty made specially to commemorate the 25th anniversary.

Ghost in the Shell: Live-action?

Will it be Robbie the robot...?
Hollywood blog Deadline reports that DreamWorks is in "early talks" with actress Margot Robbie to play the leading role in a live-action version of Ghost in the Shell.

The Impact of Ghost in the Shell

Andrew Osmond remembers the early reactions to Oshii’s classic
“What makes this such a cut above the rest is a set of senses-assaulting production values that equals anything Hollywood produces… Just make sure you see it on a big screen.” - Empire.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise

The latest incarnation of Masamune Shirow's classic
A new addition to the Ghost in the Shell franchise is here, but it’s maybe not the one everyone was expecting.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Fairy Tail Music: Daisy x Daisy

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail Part 7’s opening theme
Little Mika still has a long way to go, but since signing to Pony Canyon she has managed to have a crack at the anime universe, featuring heavily in one series in particular; Fairy Tail.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Helen McCarthy reviews Mami Sunada’s Ghibli documentary
Show, don't tell: the mantra of every writer and film-maker, and a particular challenge in documentary film. Every work has its own agenda, hidden or not: for director-writer-cinematographer-editor Mami Sunada, the challenge was immense. And she rises to it with unobtrusive magnificence.

Samurai Westerns

Andrew Osmond investigates the long love affair between samurai and cowboys
28th February sees the classic Hollywood Western go East. Yuresarazaru Mono has the English title Unforgiven; it remakes the celebrated 1992 Western of that name, which was directed by its star Clint Eastwood and won the Best Picture Oscar.

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.

Short Peace

Jasper Sharp on the anthology movie currently touring the UK
There have been three Japanese works nominated in the Academy Awards category for Best Animated Short Film over the past ten years or so: Koji Yamamura’s Mt. Head (2002), Kunio Kato’s The House of Small Cubes (2008) – so far the country’s only winner – and most recently Shuhei Morita’s Possessions (2013). For all that, it remains pretty difficult for most viewers who aren’t regulars on the specialised festival circuit to catch such examples of cutting-edge animation.

The Impact of Ghost in the Shell

Andrew Osmond remembers the early reactions to Oshii’s classic
“What makes this such a cut above the rest is a set of senses-assaulting production values that equals anything Hollywood produces… Just make sure you see it on a big screen.” - Empire.

Appleseed: Alpha

The CG movie reviewed
With a series of box-ticking MacGuffins, wandering-monster encounters and vaguely defined side missions, Appleseed: Alpha feels all too often like one is watching someone else playing a computer game, not the least because several crucial moments are bodged or oddly framed, so that it is not always clear what’s going on.

Dragon Radar GT 2

The second collection draws the entire Dragon Ball opus to a fierce close
Dragon Ball GT sees Goku and his allies fighting against some of the toughest foes the universe has ever seen. Take a look at some of the faces you’ll meet as the second collection draws the entire Dragon Ball opus to a fierce close!

Tokyo Night Life

Japan Underground's Tom Smith on how to rock and roll all nite in Tokyo
I wanted to see bands playing live music, experience local pubs and bar culture, and not get back to my hotel until it was light. Now, my nights in the city are as busy, if not busier, than my days. Here’s a quick look at some of the Tokyo hotspots worth hitting for music fans.

One Piece Music: The Babystars

Tom Smith on the band behind the third opening
Babystars may want to change their name; Two of the remaining members are now pushing towards 40-years of age, making them more middle-aged than babies. As for being stars, a lot has changed since their debut back in 2002…
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.