Release Anniversary: December 11 – Films From THREE Different Toho Eras

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Godzilla60thToho-LogoGreetings, Toho fans!

Ye Olde Dragon here, commemorating not one, not two but THREE original Release Anniversaries of Toho Tokusatsu (Special Effects Films). As many of you no doubt know, December has historically been a prolific month of releases for Toho Tokusatsu. In fact, today’s trio of anniversaries is the first of THREE such dates. What makes today’s entries special is that there is one from each of the three Toho “Eras”.

Human-Vapor-JFirst up, from the Showa Era, comes Ishiro Honda’s GASU NINGEN DAI ICHIGO (1960). Literally translated as GASMAN NUMBER ONE, this was released as THE HUMAN VAPOR in the US in May, 1964.

This was the fourth of Honda’s “mutant cycle”, which focused on people being mutated into strange, if not monstrous, beings. In this one, a librarian is endowed with the ability to transform his body (and luckily, his clothes) into a gaseous state. In this new form he takes to a life of crime to finance a comeback concert for a reclusive dancer and actress that he has fallen in love with. It’s yet another of what I call Toho’s “combo movies” – in this case, a Police Thriller embedded with aspects of Science Fiction.

godzilla_vs_mechagodzilla_1993_poster_01Next up, is an entry from the Heisei Era – 1993’s GOJIRA VS MEKAGOJIRA. Where in the past, Godzilla’s robot counterpart was either created by, or corrupted by, aliens, this time around he’s part of Japan’s Godzilla Defense Force. The robot was created using technology reverse engineered from the remains of Mecha King Ghidrah. The movie also features a new incarnation of Rodan, which is more like a Phoenix as opposed to “just” being a giant flying reptile. We also have the debut of the baby Godzillasaurus that actually ages over the course of the next three movies and will eventually become the “next” Godzilla.

godzilla-millenium

Finally, we come to the entry from the Millennium Era – in fact the very first entry. Takeo Okwara’s GOJIRA NI-SEN MIRENIAMU (1999) (literally, GODZILLA 2000 MILLENNIUM) brought Godzilla back after a four-year absence. His appearance was greatly altered, highlighted by his trademark dorsal fins now being colored purple and shaped like spiky blades. Toho also tried using composite shots being attempted digitally as opposed to traditional techniques which resulted in, in my opinion at least, highly dubious results. For example, when he wades ashore he seems completely out of scale and it looks like he’s walking on a projection of water as opposed to using the physical effects obtained so well in the past, utilizing Toho’s “Big Pool”.

The Millennium Era would go on to be vastly different from the previous two eras, which (naturally) garnered both praise and criticism from divisions of the fan base – unlike a somewhat tangible timeline during the Showa Era or the solidly connected story arcs of the Heisei Era, each entry of the Millennium Era would be a self-contained story, as if there were no other films after Ishiro Honda’s GOJIRA (1954). None of the stories would be connected to each other with the exception of GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002) and TOKYO SOS (2003).

I actually saw the American version when it was released in the theater. I wish I had simply waited for the DVD. No other millennium film would be released theatrically in the US, after it was such an abject failure at the box office, despite trying to cash in on the glut of “2000” themed/titled movies.

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