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

Eureka Seven Ao Part Two

Spoilers for part one ahead, as Andrew Osmond gets timey-wimey
The show’s finale is squarely in anime traditions, combining heartfelt child-parent reunions, a boy’s resolution to ‘lift the curse’ of his origins, and an orgasmically explosive deus ex machina that lets a character write the end he wants – one that happens to have shades of another Gainax anime classic, Gunbuster. There’s fanservice for you!

Dragon Radar GT 1

It’s going to be a tough journey – but who’s along for the ride?
Dragon Ball GT presents an all new adventure for Goku and his allies, sending them on an interplanetary quest to find the mysterious Black Star Dragon Balls and save the Earth! It’s going to be a tough journey – but who’s along for the ride?

Mysterious Cities of Gold: The Game

Some day we will find...
The game Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is rolling out as a digital download across multiple platforms. This month it becomes available on the Nintendo 3DS and Amazon, following launches on the Wii U, iPad, iPhone and Steam.

Wolf Children Tweet-a-long

Join us on Wednesday for Mamoru Oshii's anime masterpiece
Join us on Wednesday 8th January to watch Wolf Children and tweet our own commentary.

JORMUNGAND: PERFECT ORDER

Hugh David calls Czechmate on the endgame
"The action scenes remain superlative, designed and executed in a way Western live-action directors would do well to study. The way character moments are woven within elevates them above mere technical exercises. The Prague shoot-out and Tokyo car chase are the sort of gems that prove that anime can still trump live-action in the same creative arenas when it wants to."

Fairy Tail Music: Jamil

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail’s 8th Opening Theme
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a fair chance that the idea of visiting Japan has crossed your mind a few times. American-born Jamil Abbas Kazmi had a similar thought, though he wanted to take it one step further by establishing a career out there.

Magi the Labyrinth of Magic

In search of the animated Arabian Nights
The literary history of the Arabian Nights that underlies Magi is fascinating. The one point that any Magi fan should know to sound erudite is that three of the show’s main characters, Aladdin, Alibaba and Sinbad, are named after famous Arabian Nights heroes. However, none of these heroes were actually in the original collection.

Kite: Live Action

Samuel L. Jackson brings Yasuomi Umetsu's anime to life
Kite the movie will be released on UK DVD and Blu-ray by Anchor Bay on 13th October.

Patema Inverted

Jonathan Clements on the movie that turns anime on its head
Boy-meets-girl has never been so strange as in this feature, in which the leads must literally cling to each other or fall away to an uncertain fate. Patema Inverted winningly plays with matters of spatial awareness, perspective and weight, regularly flipping its angles until the viewer literally can no longer remember which way is truly up.

Podcast: Scotch Tape

Necromancy, ten years of NEO, and the carrot of continuations on our 27th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by the fragrant Gemma Cox of NEO magazine, the pungent Andrew Partridge from Anime Ltd, and the newly doctored Jonathan Clements to discuss Scotland Loves Anime, the Boom Boom Satellite Distraction Device, and rogue robot tanks.
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.