0 Items | £0.00


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.


One Piece (uncut) Collection 13 (episodes 300-324)

was £34.99
Nami, despite her desperate dash, arrives at the station too late to stop the Sea Train, but she's relieved to learn that Sanji has stowed away on board the vessel and will stop at nothing to rescue Robin! With the storm of all storms bearing down upon them, Nami and Chopper risk their lives to save Luffy and Zoro from the rapidly rising waters. Back aboard the train, Sanji is aided in his battle against the CP9 goons by the arrival of the mysterious Soge King, a wandering warrior from the Island of Snipers!

As the scattered Straw Hats fight to reunite, fate draws them ever nearer the foreboding fortress of Enies Lobby. Will our heroes live to face the hour of reckoning?!



One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Bleach music: SID

Tom Smith on the band behind Bleach’s 14th Opening Theme
"The song is based on the singer’s own experiences of forming a band and the hardships endured while keeping the faith for a brighter future, with lyrics just vague enough that they could easily represent the struggles of Ichigo and pals, too."
MCM London Comic Con will be taking place on the 27th, 28th and 29th May at the ExCeL and, as usual, we’ll be running our customary Manga UK Booth for all of your anime purchasing needs.
Welcome back, in part two we'll be spending more time at Anime Japan 2016 and sharing with you some photos of cosplayers from the event.

Chinese Zodiac

Jonathan Clements on Jackie Chan and the Garden of Gardens
Jackie Chan’s films have often smuggled in the odd political nudge and wink behind the tomfoolery, but Chinese Zodiac puts it all front and centre. Rather nobly, it shies away from issues of race or one-sided nationalism, making greed itself the great unifier – ensuring that Europeans and Chinese can be found on both sides of the battle.

Sir Run Run Shaw (1907-2014)

Remembering a giant of Asian cinema
At their production peak, Shaw Studios sanded down some of the historical elements in their epics, concentrating on acrobatics and heavier violence. This, in turn, made them more palatable or at least accessible to non-Chinese audiences, and inadvertently stoked the fires of the Kung Fu Boom.

Naruto Music: tacica

Tom Smith on Naruto’s newest song.
Japanese duo Tacica won’t be winning the Manga UK Blog award for most original song title anytime soon, mostly because no such award exists. But if it did, they still wouldn’t win. Especially not with the title of their hit single and Naruto Shippuden opener, Newsong.

High School DxD vs RIN

Andrew Osmond says if you liked that, you might like this…
“Sometimes you are thrown complete curveballs. So you will think that you are watching a series about a bunch of schoolchildren fighting aliens... and then one of them will stick their finger up another one's bum..."
With Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters Season 5 out now, we thought it was the perfect time to share with you our favourite duels from these five seasons.

Yoshiki Sakurai interview

From a Hendon boys' school to writing Ghost in the Shell...
Yoshiki Sakurai has worked on everything from Stand Alone Complex to xxxHOLIC, from Evangelion to Redline. More recently he produced and co-wrote the acclaimed anime period drama Giovanni’s Island.
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.